My personal path


While living by myself in a little cottage on Mount Bonnell outside Austin in the early nineties, I was without a significant other for the first extended period in my life. Fortunately (though I didn’t think so at the time) I had the solitude needed to turn my attention toward my own wants and needs rather than those of a mate. And I had the opportunity to become very clear about the attributes I wanted in my next relationship. The list I created during those five years was long and very specific, and around ten of the desired characteristics were non-negotiable—physically attractive, athletic, willing to be authentic and vulnerable, dedicated to spiritual/psychological growth, belief in equality for all, intelligent with sense of humor, among a few others. About the only quality I didn’t specify was age, which as you’ll discover, was probably fortunate.

Near the end of my five-year retreat at the age of fifty-two, I joined Austin Fit, a marathon training group, with three goals in mind: (1) complete a marathon; (2) find some running buddies; and (3) meet attractive, athletic women.

Austin Fit Green Group

Austin Fit Green Group

Between twenty to thirty runners in the intermediate-level Green Group met early each Saturday morning at Town Lake. It was summer, and as usual, hot as Hades in the capitol city of Texas—highs in the upper 90s to lower 100s. Of course, Austin runners (approximately ten percent of the city’s population at that time) were accustomed to being thoroughly sweat-soaked by the time they hit the quarter-mile mark during the summer. With the encouragement of our coaches, we ran increasingly long distances on the trails around the lake (ultimately up to twenty-plus miles) in preparation for the Austin Motorola Marathon that would take place on February 18, 1996.

After running together week after week for longer and longer distances, the size of our group dwindled to seven runners. My initial impression of the single remaining female member of our group was of a very attractive, assertive woman of indeterminate age who looked pretty damned good in running tights. Her name was Shonnie Lavender. (more…)

Saturday morning, alone in the mist and drizzle. Stillness envelops me. No sound but my footsteps, the drip of the moisture from the trees, the occasional songs of the birds. How blessed I am to live in this part of the world—hundreds of miles of mountain trails, all within easy reach.

Though I usually run with a group of folks, including my wife, Shonnie, today I’m on my own. Perfect. No one to keep up with. No one to slow down for. Just a nice, steady pace—my pace.

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Don’t mess with Texas runners

I’m running on the Shut-In Ridge Trail, a single-track trail that parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway. Departed from Sleepy Gap and heading south. Not too many years ago I ran on this trail for over four hours. Today I’ll do about an hour and a half, still a stretch beyond my comfort zone. It would be easy enough to run around my neighborhood or to do some laps at the local college track. But this trail challenges me to be present in the moment as I pick my way through roots, rocks, and limbs. And while I expend a lot of energy, I am somehow energized in the process. (more…)

“Don’t trust anyone over thirty,” I arrogantly proclaimed during the Sixties, when I was twenty-something and imagined I was bulletproof and would remain forever young.

I’m now more than four decades beyond that imaginary line of demarcation. When I look in the mirror it’s clear that I am aging—and I struggle to accept the reality reflected back to me. My hair is almost entirely gray and thinning. Facial wrinkles are becoming more pronounced, and I’ve got the dreaded turkey neck syndrome. My vision continues to decline, and my hearing is not what it once was. Plus, I’ve shrunk two full inches, now down to just under six feet tall. It’s equally clear I am not yet at peace with this terminal process, especially as my inner critic accuses me of heading down the slippery slope toward becoming feeble, incompetent, forgetful, and defenseless.

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My days as a UT Vol football player

My image of myself is built on being healthy, strong, athletic, and able to take care of myself and those around me at all times. After all, I played football through my college years, and I’ve played handball since I was thirty or so. I took up running and volleyball a few years thereafter and began to do daily pushups and sit-ups around the time I reached forty (in part to avoid the Falstaffian paunch that afflicts so many men in later years). Since I hit the half-century mark, I have played in competitive handball tournaments and run marathons, as well as arduous trail races. I continue to play handball a couple of times a week, lift weights, and go on occasional trail runs. (more…)

Shonnie, Brad Brown & me at WOW

Shonnie, Brad Brown & me at Way of a Warrior

The other day, I apologized to my wife Shonnie three or four times for various instances of inconsiderate behavior, including speaking disrespectfully to her. I’d certainly recognized and owned up to what I’d done, however, after the final apology, I was reminded of a quotation from my mentor, Brad Brown: “I’m sorry,” said often, easily, and without tears, is a sure sign that we will do the same thing again soon.”

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