Stop Running & Listen To The Trees
By Russ Weeks
I spent most of my twenties and thirties running. Running to the next social event, running to stay caught up at work, running to visit all of my family and friends as much as I thought I was supposed to (this was a LOT), running to be good, RUNNING towards people’s expectations, and — perhaps most of all — running from myself. If I stayed busy enough, I wouldn’t have to pay attention to or deal with that still small voice inside.
I think I used to fear that if I stayed still and quiet long enough, I might have to face hard truths lurking in my subconscious that might make me uncomfortable. Society seems to have become a culture of busy. If you’re not busy and hustling for your worthiness (thank you Brene Brown), you must not be doing it right or working hard enough.
The best part of my life has been settling into my forties, and one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is that the need to stay busy and hustle for worthiness is a colossal myth. I’m still busy, but I’m learning more every day when to say no and when to take some time to be still. I love being the first to leave a party or spending time alone on a Friday night. There was a time when this would have felt lonely.
I am no life coach or expert (far from it), but the greatest advice I could give anyone at any age is to find your happy place where you can spend time alone, and to go there on a regular basis.
My happy place is the Katy Trail right here in Dallas, Texas. It is my home away from home, and it brings me joy. I used to go there for exercise, and that’s still part of it. But it has become more of a sanctuary for me. I go there to dream and relax and to leave everything else behind. I make a conscious effort when I’m there to empty my mind of all the clutter and to leave sacred space. Listening to the wind whispering in the trees is the greatest answer I’ve ever heard to any question. I guess it’s a sort of meditation. I think everyone deserves and needs such a space to call their own and to be alone and at peace with one’s self — mind, body, and spirit. You owe it to yourself to create space for God and/or the purest truths to be born or realized.
Sometimes when I’m walking on the Katy Trail, clearing my head, poetry enters my mind. I used to write a lot of poetry, but life got in the way. My happy place creates space for that. Last week, I was walking on the trail, and these words popped into my head, so I took a moment to sit on a bench and jot them down on my phone:
I held no words to capture that moment of truth
When leaf buds pushed their way out —
Living emerald finite flecks
Against the immortal sapphire sky — refusing to call it quits.
I walked on for a bit until I realized I should stop
To honor the leaves and listen to the whispering trees
And then I remembered
How words emerge from death and trees
Like new beginnings once again.
Being still in our minds is a gift we can give ourselves. There is such power and liberty in growing older and into and out of ourselves and embracing every part of who we are.
I still “run” often. It’s the nature of my job. I am also a singing member of the Turtle Creek Chorale, and it keeps me running. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I enjoy being active at my gym and attempting to stay fit (I love to eat!). My alter ego, Aunt Marge, spends many Saturdays throughout the year “performing” at drag brunches, raising money for Prism Health North Texas, LifeWalk, and Turtle Creek Chorale. I have a fulfilling, busy life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m still not sure why God and the universe bestowed me with such a blessed network of family and friends, but they surround me, and I love spending time with them. However, when all of that consumes my life at the expense of my happy place, I know I must extricate a piece of my life’s puzzle and make some room.
I was in the American Writers Museum in Chicago just nine days ago, and I saw a bookmark with Willa Cather’s picture on it and a quote from her book O Pioneers that I read a lifetime ago: “There are always dreamers on the frontier.” It brought tears to my eyes because it reminded me of myself when I read that book over twenty years ago and myself now. The frontier is not just a wide open space of land, but also a grand, breathtaking landscape in our minds. It is important to explore both and to never stop dreaming.
Find your happy place, and go there often. If you are too busy to go to your happy place on a regular basis, it’s probably time to remove something from your landscape, and create some space to dream.