Nine Mondays: Stretch
In the fourth grade, we went as a class to gymnastics at the YMCA once a week. There were people finding life one day at a time at the Y. It was a busy place. I remember the smell of the cafeteria. Food smells, books, pools, gymnasiums, couches, chairs, beds -- all of this at the YMCA.
We were a tiny class from a tiny school and it must have been part of our P.E. requirement. The girls in my class surely took gymnastics outside of our P.E. requirement because they were bending and jumping and flipping and balancing all over the place. I was pretty excited about the foam pit and the trampoline, but not the split, not the flip, and definitely not the balance. At ten, this was not natural. This was hard.
Fast forward thirty plus years. Stretching and bending is a regular part of my life. I set the alarm early enough for space and time to drink coffee, pray and stretch. Maintaining core strength is crucial. Muscle care is a must. Muscle recovery, at this age is absolutely essential. It's all about a slow and steady hold and bend. I pay attention to all the muscles from head to toe.
The more often I make time for it, the more flexible and relaxed those crazy tight muscles become, and the stronger and healthier the core carries on from day to day. It is crucial. It is the backbone - literally of this crazy crave to run long distance. It helps me to stay able, present and active. If my neck hurts, I stretch. If anything feels off -- hips, arms, legs, head, fingers (not a joke) toes - oh yes, feet, ankles, calves ... stretch it out.
Flexibility. Easier said than done. It has become a twenty year commitment to move and bend and shape each muscle.
And here it comes! Oh yes. This lesson is too easy. Isn't life this very thing? Isn't it all about bending and flexing? It is a daily letting go of the what feels good - "the easy" - and leaning into the challenge. It's a push against the discomfort and attempt to rise above. It is a discipline. It is a choice. It isn't hard. It can be as easy as a two minute commitment to reach for the sky, to reach for the earth, to reach into what is around you and feel the stretch. And this little commitment leads to big achievements.
As a 10 year old at the YMCA, I was confused about what this stretching was. At 43, it isn't confusing at all, it is routine. There are 1,000 pieces of this life that I wish the routine would seep into. Pieces that aren't flexible at all! I'm stiff as a board and awkward like a fourth grader at the YMCA on the balance beam. But, I'm gonna wake up and drink coffee, and pray and stretch, and hope that I can keep stretching in all those stiff places and reach further than I ever even imagined possible.
So for this week. I encourage you to stretch. Stretch your body. Stretch your mind. Stretch your heart. Stretch your work and your words and your ideas. Stretch your patience! Oh my word. I have four kids. My patience is stretched everyday and I'm still stiff as a board at 5 p.m.! But, if I'll just stretch my patience a little bit, if I just look around and see the puzzle, the project, the play, and the perseverance of a five year old. If at that point I can smile and be glad at the disaster and the undone everything, then...that is real flexibility.