I returned home from an incredible trip to Europe and found that I had brought back a new woman. I felt confident, happy, capable and ready to take hold of my life. I was cast a major role in a play and a short film, my coworkers made me feel right back at home in a place I love to work, I reconnected deeply with friends and family at a beautiful service for my ever deserving grandmother. I took hold of my love life by cleaning house of all selfish, negative mooches and felt excited to be alone. Things were great, I was unstoppable.
The clue in to this flow of constant wins not lasting must be that I’m using the past tense to describe it all. The truth is, it was real, I am changed, I am happy; yet no trip or event or play could hide the gaping hole I have without my mother. It’s the broken record of my writing, “my mother died”, “time doesn’t heal”, “I need her”.
I talk about it less and less with a majority of people because I don’t want it to be the thing that defines me outwardly even though it is still the thing that defines me inwardly.
This unchanging and constant ache functions as both a motivation and an obstacle, it just depends on the day.
I started to fluctuate heavily between productive days and motionless days. I call it a motionless day because I lay still for entire days sometimes. I get up to find food or shower and my body feels immobilized and heavy. My head swims, I consider fighting it and going outside but I can’t on these days and I just lay back down and go to sleep. On the good days I explore my talents through acting, comedy, auditions for new roles, sewing classes a countless sea of friends I get to call my family, dates with one of the kindest men I’ve ever met and an intensely active social life. I am a force.
I’m not one to get caught in a cycle so manic or unreasonable. I overthink everything and in this case it stopped me in my tracks to look from the outside at how dramatic the daily shifts were.
The answer, it turns out, is small for now. Find the balance each day, on high days, find moments to to grieve, cry and feel. Listening to music in the car, calling Lisa or hugging the cat a little too long are all good options. On the low days, find just one thing to do that makes me feel proud. Not productive, not happy, it’s more than that, it’s about pride.
Today I woke up and thought about a presentation my friend Cait gave this past week about running. I could see and feel her pride and I remembered how much I used to feel that when I ran. So at 7:00 am, instead of going back to sleep for two hours before my day had to start I lept out of bed, threw on my gym clothes and said out loud, “I will run one mile. I will not stop.” It’s amazing how much can happen in a mile.
The first few blocks I felt incredible. The weather was sunny, dry with a slight breeze; summer had never created a morning so perfect.
When I got to about a 1/4 mile my lungs felt like they were being lit on fire, suddenly the sun was no longer my friend, he was the asshole in the sky turning my face into hot lava. I thought to myself, “I can run part of the mile and then walk the rest, I will still be active and I will still be proud” I made the executive decision that I was allowed to stop at any time I needed to because it was very clear I wasn’t going to make it a whole mile. I saw a funeral home and knew that I just had to make the one last block to get there and then my run could die. It was the appropriate place. Then I saw a sign a block past the funeral home (a “one way” sign to be exact) and I can’t explain it, but I knew could run just to that sign and then I was allowed to stop. I heard my mother telling me years ago that on her runs she used to do the same thing, “commit to one small block at a time and tell yourself you can stop whenever you want. Just to that big tree, then just to that cafe then just to that street sign and then before I knew what happened I had run all the way home.” I actually remember where I was sitting when she said that to me.
I was recommitted. I could make it to at least a 1/2 mile. Then as I ran past the liquor store an old homeless man was outside, I recognized him because he is often at that location and so I smile as I chugged by, gasping for air but still running. He looked at me, smiled back and then began to clap. He was actually applauding me. I leave room for the possibility that he was patronizing me, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like the exact boost I needed and the universe and that man were giving it to me. I never lose sight of the fact that I have always been lucky in that way, or at least always willing to see things in life through that lens.
When I reached a 1/2 mile I knew I was going to do the whole thing. I still wanted to stop and things were starting to hurt more, but I knew it was a cop out to not make it. I woke up and thought “just one mile” so I couldn’t let myself down. I was determined to make this mean something; to make this the first mile of many more to come. I was changing the pattern of my life and nothing that big ever comes easily.
I needed to focus my attention on anything but the fact that I was still running. I saw fresh West End dog poop covered in flies and thought a few moments about how nice it was that they were so happy. Nature really does have a way of giving gifts in unexpected ways.
Then I felt a surge of nausea and instead of worrying I decided I would just barf if need be and then keep on running. I never did puke, but the pain in my stomach from poor life choices last night intensified. I said out loud, “physical pain is no more impossible to handle than any other pain, and you are the most capable girl I have ever known at handling pain. You know pain, you embrace pain and then you push through it and beat pain.” The diners outside the breakfast place must have seen a crazy, red, sweaty, crazy person talking to themselves and clawing for air. In my mind I decided to pretend like I looked like my running friend Cait, adorable and effortless. Imagination is a beautiful thing; all that mattered was how I saw myself.
I rounded the corner of my street knowing that my runkeeper would announce that I’d reached a mile at any moment. It happened under a beautiful shady tree just next door to home and the moment I heard it in my headphones I doubled over and burst into tears. I had given myself the opportunity to just let it out. I was sad, I was happy, but mostly I was proud.
I had traveled thousands of miles to start my new adventure and discovered almost as much within one half mile radius of my home. I see the value in both now.
In her presentation, Cait had mentioned that she took a photo on each of her runs while training for a marathon, and in the moment I was pondering this during my cooldown walk I saw it. The marquee at the theatre across the street from my apartment was my last sign. So here it is, the photo from my first of many more runs. It was only one mile today, but it was the first and it was the hardest and it was the best.