Since 1976, I have commemorated my personal New Year, my birth-day, by running a lap for every year at a local track. I mentally divide the lap into the months, and review what I was doing each season as I run through my life and review it all.
This year, my throat was rough and breathing was difficult, so I chose to run around the casting pool in the lower Arroyo Seco. It’s certainly not as big as a typical ¼ or 1/5 of a mile lap at a school, but it still took me about two and a half hours to run the 53 laps of my life.
When I got there last Friday morning, it was a bit overcast, and I thought it wouldn’t work to run around this artificial body of water. But it was actually a remarkably pleasant and uplifting experience. There was a bit of mist in the air from the water, and leaves were everywhere. It was quiet, and birds were in the trees. It was very much like running in a forest around a lake, though I was not far from downtown Pasadena.
In the early years, up to about age 11, I was struck by how great an impact "older people" had on me. I don’t think most adults realize how much influence we actually have on very young people, but I knew that I was strongly influenced, for better and worse, by parents, older brothers, other parents in the neighborhood, friends of older brothers, and even unknown people who would tell me something, or command me to do something.
I didn’t feel closely supervised or mentored in any specific way, and I realized that allowed way too much time for trouble to occur—which often did. While I ran, I was feeling how I wished I had been firmly guided into a very strict environment. Of course, I know I would have initially rebelled but would have reaped the rewards today of such a youthful discipline. But I wasn’t doing too much analyzing as I was running – I was simply trying to see it all again, to live it all again and to see what I should learn.
It was clear that many of my life patterns and habits were established in these first ten years, a point probably well-established to psychologists, but one that I hadn’t felt personally.
Interesting, I ran though my school years, moving to the farm, my interest in plants, writing, and various jobs as an objective observer. I saw my mind come up with great plans and great ideas, some achieved, some not. I saw how life just goes on. You make a goal, achieve it or not, and if you do achieve it, that plateau is never as interesting as the struggle to get there. So you go on. I ran through marriage, and divorce, and various places of residence, and I cried at my own lack of understanding of others in my life.
When I was done running, I felt that the major insights this year were that I should continue to work with young children, who are so impressionable, and I should do my best to provide good guidance in a truly insane world. I also felt that, beyond such goals as money and work and career and homes and all that stuff, what really matters is how I deal with the people around me. It was all very humbling, because I have vast room for improvement.
Run done, I went home, added herbs to my bathtub along with bath salts, and soaked and reviewed personal goals for the next hour.
Even though my body was a bit on the sick side, and I was nearly in a dream-state much of the time, it was a wonderful and uplifting day because the run enabled me to look at myself, and to look for ways to improve.
I thought you’d enjoy hearing about my experience. There are other details about how to do the Birthday Run – let me know if you’re nterested