Before we get into the heart and bones of the heavy things I want to write about, I must say that I’m back running distance, and I’m doing the hard work of marathon training.
And that leaves me looking for inspiration.
I don’t know if I’m burned out on running, or I’m just in a weird place therefore I’m not finding the same kind of comfort in running that I used to find. But the truth, too, is that things change. I’m not where I was in 2009-11, when I had an axe to grind, and a point to prove, and running was my one constant. It was what I had to do to survive.
Frankly, that’s a good thing.
Right now, I’m struggling to redefine a purpose in doing something I’ve always done. This is a Transition Time. A time when everyone’s having babies, and getting married, or remarried, and I am not. Instead, I’m wondering how much money I need to make and save to pay off my law school loans and consider raising a child on my own if that’s ultimately what happens. (Dramatic? Maybe. Remember…I’m a worst-case-scenario kind of gal.)
Anyway, running. How to find joy again in the mundane; the extraordinary?
Then I recalled this:
I had told Strand late last year that all I wanted for my thirtysomethingth birthday was to see her cross the finish line at the Napa Valley Marathon, which we were running over my birthday weekend. That moment above is eee and me watching Strand finish the Napa Valley Marathon (eee and I had, by stroke of fate, crossed the finish line together). I don’t know how to describe the joy I felt watching Strand have that first marathon experience. I always talk about the “finish line moments” — those perfects moment of suspended animation, of being present, of simply being at the end of a race. That was one such moment.
I’ve thought about those “finish line moments” quite a few times this summer.
One of the hardest things about working through not relapsing was the trouble of Being Present. That meant spending a good deal of time alone, because I was dealing with Feelings in Real Time. When you are fighting so hard against the temptation to subsist on nothing, there isn’t a lot of joy in it. I knew that would happen; I hadn’t expected this to be particularly fun.
Sometimes it was hard because friends made snide critiques about my work-life balance, or how I was communicating or coping, instead of offering any support. Sometimes they’d say Suck it up! Stop doing things the hard way, or at least, stop talking about the hard stuff and you’ll stop attracting it! I don’t think they were being malicious. I just don’t think they necessarily understood ways that were healthy for me to process difficult experiences.
Which, often, is to talk about the difficult, pick it apart to its bones — even if that takes a long time. Even if it seems complex.
In my view, to deny that hard things happen; to pretend that I don’t have to encounter them and wrestle with them would be to deny the presence of a loving God and a sore hip. Or to deny a Higher Power; or a Flying Spaghetti Monster; or whatever you, personally, believe.
I am the eternal optimist; I have an unshakeable faith that things will work out. But sometimes, guys, things are shit. I am okay with admitting that: the Bluesdays; the existential ennui; the reluctance to change; the breathlessness of work; the underlying fight with every meal. Those things don’t negate the bone rattling joy of living — but that doesn’t mean there is happiness inherent in surviving the hard stuff.
So it has been…a summer. Of protection and care. Of long conversations with friends in every timezone. Of seeking inspiration and joy. Of talking to hear myself talk. Of cherishing the good stuff and being frustrated with the bad. Of tolerating the triggery things.
When we ran in Napa, I learned that, while running is a solitary activity, in running I wasn’t alone. That’s been a much, much harder thing to accept in the context of recovery. But last night when I flipped through pictures, I remembered the finish line; the mountain top; the concerts; the confusing moments and heartbreakingly delicate conversations, and there was no question that I could go on.
The ultimate point here is that I saw the sweaty pictures of myself at my last marathon and I remembered, too, what a crap race I ran. I remembered how good it felt to hit that finish. And I knew, then, how healthy I had to be and how hard I had to work to get to where I wanted to be in Central Park come November.