I shut down my computer and tucked my chair under my desk. Despite another hard day’s work, I’d barely put a dent in all that I’d set out to do when I walked through the door in the morning. Christmas shopping weighed heavily on my mind and there seemed to be no end to the clamoring for the few remaining dollars in my wallet. A Lungfish lyric rattled around in my head: “The bills were piling up.”
The temptation to just get home and retire to the couch was drowned out by my body’s want to shed the burdens of the day. Clothes and shoes were swapped for running attire. With the sun long since set and an ice storm looming, I pulled on gloves and donned a hat and headlamp.
Tumbling out into the dark, my first few strides were overshadowed by the mental replaying of the missteps of the last few days.
Monday had marked a hectic and short-handed start to a busy week of attending to disgruntled customers and scrambling to address inventory and shipping issues. The “joy” of the holiday season has apparently been lost on all shoppers amidst the preparations for the big day and they are in a combative state. Though I’ve been “blessed” with an ability to mitigate it doesn’t mean I actually enjoy putting that talent to the test over and over again. Christmas seemed a long way off and the need to devote more hours to the workplace between now and then made me feel the guilt of thieving that time from loved ones at home.
As my heart rate quickened and my lungs started to warm to the task, I continued to wrestle with the budget-balancing act of a newly increased mortgage payment, the rising cost of electric in my beloved Keystone State and the general strain of keeping up with what often feels like a never-ending parade of arriving invoices. The bills were piling up.
My legs fell into a steady rhythm that subtly encouraged my mind to let off the worrying and come along for the ride. A quick sidelong glance at a passing gas station revealed that fuel prices were on the way up, up, up and my thoughts momentarily tilted back towards more fretting.
The gas pumps faded into past tense and the tunnel of light thrown from my headlamp drew me fully into the run. A few sparse, swirling snowflakes reminded how much I enjoy being out in the elements freed from the confines of the four walls of buildings and vehicles. I couldn’t see through the dark windows of passing cars, but I knew that I wouldn’t trade places with those inside.
A grin grew as my legs involuntarily picked up the pace and propelled me along the otherwise deserted sidewalks. My heart beat happily in my chest and embraced the task at hand. Christmas lights cheered my efforts, blinking and twinkling in support.
I climbed a brief but steep section of hill that left town and its ambient light behind me. Traffic dwindled and the sound of brakes and motors was replaced by footfalls and steady breathing. With each progressive step, the stresses of the day seeped further and further away.
In the few moments that my mind wandered from my run it found its way only to the expectation of once again seeing the wonder of Christmas through Lily’s eyes and watching Piper Bea take in the spectacle for the very first time…and the grin grew.
Having rounded the final corner and reached the driveway, I stepped up onto our front porch and remembered a later line in that same Lungfish song: “The world vanished in a gentle breeze.”
Bills? What bills?