It was early—too early by normal human standards—and I had already been running Forest Park for an hour. It was Friday. It had not been a good week. I had cried more than I had laughed. I had worried more than I had rested. The ratio of good moments to bad was not in my favor.
And then I made the right turn from Skinker onto Lindell.
With a long stretch of path before me, still dark beneath the trees and a sky not yet fully awake to the day, I watched the sunrise over the Central West End. It bathed the skyline in vibrant pink and orange and yellow. It was still and beautiful. I caught my breath and soaked in the colors, so bold and hopeful against the shadows.
And in that moment, I was refreshed.
I imagine there is a great and hidden exchange taking place at all times. It happens in our minds, though over it we have very little control and sometimes no control at all. It is a marketplace of memories, commodities not so much bought and sold as traded in a delicate and frenzied balancing act. Moments are added and removed, like a puzzle, or twisted and turned like a Rubik’s cube, in an endless search for wholeness and symmetry.
This wholeness, of course, can never quite be reached, at least not permanently, for we are alive and our existence is dynamic and changing. We live in moments. We weep and rejoice and grieve and fight in moments. We rest in moments. We die in moments. And so we swap and barter, holding on to some and letting go of others. Some moments cut deep, stinging and bruising. Others heal and soothe. Some are heavy. Some relieve burdens. Some open our eyes, while others cause us to become shortsighted. Or even blind. Some moments tarnish and age, turning irrelevant with time. We outgrow them and can no longer relate. Others are indelible, and we try to erase them, and when they can’t be erased, we try to overpower them, and when they can’t be overpowered, we try to bury them, and when they can’t be buried, we simply wait and hope that one day, they will fade, as all thing do.
So we collect and store these moments, hoarding and fighting for those that bring us joy and crying “Sell! Sell!” to those that bring us pain. But it takes time to sift through such matters. The process is not quick. It is slow and never-ending. And sometimes the scales tip in favor of moments of joy. And sometimes the scales tip the other way, and no amount of crying out can shift the balance.
And still, there are moments and moments and moments. This is the great exchange.
We live in a busy world, and the enemy of moments is busyness. Work and play, soccer practice and grocery lists, meetings and games. We carry our busyness with us always, in our pockets and purses, never more than an arm’s reach away, and usually closer. We go and go, so long as our minds are not still. Distraction, for better or worse, steals moments.
People often ask why I like to run. And there are a thousand answers from which I can choose: the physical exertion, the mental release, the escape, the excuse to consume more calories, the runner’s high, the challenge, the sense of accomplishment, the community of other runners, the harmony with nature, the emotional therapy, the short-shorts. And, yet, often I forget to mention—perhaps because I take for granted—one of the sport’s greatest gifts.
Running nourishes moments. It preserves them and cultivates them, acknowledging those that have wounded us—those we have struggled so greatly to ignore—and tenderly offering us new ones to help heal. In the stillness of the morning. In the quiet of the night. Alone. With friends. To build strength and confidence. To calm and to reassure. To grieve. To laugh. To help make the balance right.
This is the great exchange.
Amy L. Marxkors is the author of The Lola Papers: Marathons, Misadventures, and How I Became a Serious Runner and Powered By Hope: The Teri Griege Story. Click here to receive Amy's weekly article via email.