… making mistakes is part of what we do, it’s how we go about fixing them that matters.
My driving force for a while seems to have been the want of recognition, the want of being special, the want of people to notice. Those wants can quickly turn in to needs… they can quickly control our thoughts and our behaviors and our relationships. Until finally, we realize we have to do for ourselves — because it’s what we need and not because someone will validate our worth based on our actions. So, today… I did something for me. I did it alone. I did it without needing someone at the starting line or at the finish line. I did it knowing that I was enough.
I fell asleep fairly easily last night… that part I can do. I awoke a few short hours later, once again ruminating about the things I can not fix, the words I can not retract, the hurt I can not let go of. I watched the clock go from midnight to 1 to 2 to 3… my alarm was set for 4. I laid there, thinking of why I needed to stay there… why I couldn’t get out of the bed, why I wanted to hunker down in my self-absorbed pity and remain elusive, out of sight… yet secretly hoping I would be noticed. I got up. I showered. I put on the clothes I had so meticulously picked out to carry me across the finish line and I drove away from my home… is was 5:30am.
I reached downtown and a parking spot I was familiar with by 6am. I thought some more about why I needed to leave… go home… pretend I never thought this was a good idea in the first place. The streets were empty — no one would have noticed if I just ran away.
I stood beside my car hoping for a flood or a tornado or a large fire… instead I turned to see a woman walking towards the starting line as confused and alone as I was. I immediately walked towards her and started a conversation — I do that sometimes, a lot actually. We talked and walked and talked some more. We laughed at how lucky we were to have both parked at such odd places so far from the start of the race… otherwise, we would have missed each other.
We turned a corner and saw thousands of women, over 7000 woman, just like us… alone, together, proving a point, seeking approval, declaring their life’s not a mess, brushing off hurtful words, laughing together, encouraging each other — breathing and leaping and learning and evolving. Women can be so strong for each other — if we just let ourselves.
My new friend and I took a picture together and I realized I didn’t know her name and she didn’t know mine — I knew she was married and had two kids and lost 30 pounds last year and this was her 13th half-marathon and she lived in a town near me and she was a teacher… but I didn’t know her name. Strange, isn’t it? We can learn so much about each other without really knowing each other — it felt good when I learned her name… we were connected. We parted ways and wished each other good luck and made plans to attempt to see each other in the next race. And I was alone again. But, it felt okay to be alone — it felt like something I needed to do alone.
The race started and I was filled with the euphoria of Jo Dee Messina singing the national anthem and the DJ calling for the thumbs up over the PA and the crowd of women who surrounded me and I ran. I ran for the first mile at a slow steady pace — 12.46 minutes. Then, like a bowling ball being tossed at me from a tree high above… it hit me. The lack of sleep, the lack of food, the hurtful words, the stress of life, the anxiety of not being able to say what I know I need to say… the lack of understanding… and I cried. My legs slowed, I could barely keep them moving forward and I walked. I walked most of the second mile — 28.54 minutes total time lapsed.
The last mile… my tears were dried up but I became angry… pissed really. Pissed that so much energy had been wasted seeking approval that would never come, pissed that I allowed hurtful words to penetrate my being, pissed that all I wanted was a chance to fix a mistake but instead I got threats and I ran. I ran hard for about 1/4 mile. Then another wave of emotion crept in… the happy. I passed an older man waiting in the crowd to cheer on a loved one and he called my name and put up his hand for a high-five as I ran passed… I smiled. Then I passed a woman in her 60’s who had suffered a stroke and she was running, determined. I raised my hand to her for a high-five and told her I was proud of her as I ran by… and we smiled at each other. Then I saw a woman approaching in the opposite direction who was struggling. Her weight had clearly gotten away from her over the years and she walked, slowly, determined. I raised my hand and reached across the barrier and gave her a high-five and told her to keep going… no matter what, do not stop. And we smiled at each other.
And there it was… the finish line. Strangers lining the street, calling out the names of the runners as we came down the final stretch, the DJ cheering over the PA, a band playing off to the side — it was all right there. The good in people… it was all right there — and I took a deep breath and filled my lungs with it, and it was over. I cried again, hoping to leave the hurt and the pain out there… on the streets. Maybe I brushed a little off, maybe time and space and distance is necessary to correct some wrongs… maybe I’m sitting here now — just imagining the possibilities.
Not sure who Jo Dee Messina is? A Nashville badass, and here’s one of my favorite songs by her — fitting I’d say.