Running is my time to think about everything and, eventually, nothing. Finding Zen in those moments makes my early mornings stuffing lunch sacks through my late nights up with a sick kid, all worth while. It’s not that I run out of things to think about — it’s getting to that place where I am thinking solely about the NOW. How do my knees feel?
Is that left calf loosing up or is it still tight and messing with my stride?
Look, that lime green light seems to bounce off the pool of water next to the trail!
I tend to be a reflective person by nature, finding Zen whenever and wherever I can. Looking back and learning from my mistakes is common practice for someone who makes a lot of mistakes. It makes me feel better about going forward and not making the same mistakes twice. Well, definitely not three times.
This particular time in my life, I have a lot to think about. My birthday being close to Father’s Day offers a unique challenge for retrospection. Before children, my birthday was a time to think back on the year and what changes I wanted to make moving forward. Father’s Day was a time to think about my dad and celebrate all of his accomplishments.
That all changed years ago when I first became a father. Now, when mid-June rolls around, not only do I get to think back on what kind of a person I am, but I also get to ponder about what kind of a dad I am.
The heat had finally broken here on the East Coast and I was about three miles into a five mile loop. I was deep in thought, not quite to finding Zen yet, but close. I was still thinking through the tough morning we had trying to get everyone up and moving.
It is difficult to move quickly when you are 5 years old. The concept of being late is still foreign to the young pre-K student we have living with us. She is a “stop and smell the roses” kind of girl. I love her to pieces. But she needs to learn about at least making it appear that she is trying to move quickly or her poor old dad will lose his poor old mind. Seriously. Mix this morning with the fact that I just turned the big 4-0 (thank you) and you have the makings of a deep, introspective run.
Back to Mile Three …
I was looking forward to this afternoon when I could sit down with my daughter and talk about why I was so angry and why I yelled at her this morning. It was really eating me up. My first day as a 40 year old and I have already yelled at my sweet little one because I slept in and ignored the alarm. It was unfair to her, and I knew it.
That’s when I saw the dog, off-leash, running toward me. This is nothing new. People break the leashed dog rule all the time. I generally stop running, wait for the owner to apologize, give them a few choice words, and head on my way. But this time was different. The dog owner was very concerned about me not moving until he caught up to us.
“I don’t trust this dog,” he yelled.
Well, that’s good! Let him run free then, why don’t you?
He finally made it in between me and this snarling mutt that didn’t seem too happy with the fact that I was enjoying a nice run toward his owner. I assumed the dog had no ideas on how to talk to my daughter about the stresses of being late in the morning or how learning to wake up early and be prepared for life is a good quality.
“I’m so sorry, didn’t think we would see any …”
That was the moment when I felt the strength of the dogs jaw clamp down on my big cushy ass.
“OW! Hey, what the f@*! man!” I screamed in pain.
“Are you OK? I’m so sorry! Are you bleeding?” he said.
I pulled down my running shorts to reveal a nice row of small bruises forming. No blood.
“What if I had my kids? What if they got bit in the face? Keep your dog on the leash!”
We stared at each for a few moments, his dog still growling. My instincts told me it was time to go. I turned, giving one last farewell involving a few more choice words, and continued through the empty woods.
I was still in shock with what just happened when I stopped to look at the bite again. It wasn’t that bad but still, a bite is a bite. It hurt like hell. I had to finish my route not only because I wanted to keep running, but I needed to get back to the car.
Then it happened.
My mind was clear. I was in that Zen place.
I was thinking about the bruise forming on my posterior and the heart rate that was finally coming back to normal. More importantly, I was immediately thankful. Thankful I didn’t have to go to the hospital. Thankful my kids were not mauled by a dog in the woods. Thankful I was a dad. Thankful I was able to keep running and now it’s just a story to be exaggerated at a later time by yours truly. Thankful to be alive.
The dog brought me into the NOW.
Happy Father’s Day to all the other dads living in the now.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bryan Grossbauer is an actor, musician, former teacher and full-time stay-at-home dad to two children. A member of our NYC Dads Group, he and his family live in New Rochelle and enjoy traveling, hiking, and live music. A version of this piece first appeared on his blog, Dig it, Daddy-O.
Finding zen on the trail photo: © kovop58 / Adobe Stock.
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