The One Where She Ran
If you read my inaugural post, you may remember that I confessed to being too intimidated to join any of the RMR runs because it’s a large group of fast and furious runners that are much stronger and fitter than me. I promised that for every comment anyone made committing themselves to doing something they were afraid of, I would join one RMR run this year. Well, this week I attended the first one facing that all too familiar fear of “I’m not good enough”.
The Monday run is about 6.5 miles with 2500 feet of gain, with Green Mountain summit. I knew my friend and regular running buddy Devon – aka athlettuce – was going to attend this run. Note that this is not so much about needing a safety blanket as it is about safety in numbers. We’re in mountain lion territory and running Green alone at night is a fear for a different day. Side note, only four evenings prior, we encountered two mountain lions on a loop that I confused with another loop and led her on a few wrong turns.
There were a pack of five of us bringing up the caboose. One was having a tough mental day and decided she would turn off at the next junction for a shorter loop. I had assumed that one of the others would volunteer to do the shorter loop with her or that we would collectively encourage her to do the whole loop in an effort to help her end her day better than it started. To my surprise, when we got to the junction, BOTH of the others volunteered to accompany her down, so for the second time in a week, it was just Devon and me on a dark, snowy trail and we still had a ways to go just to hit the summit.
Once we made it back to the parking lot, we admitted our mutual discomfort and fear on the trail, and thus, our bravery by continuing on by ourselves. I’m going to go ahead and claim badass status for the two of us. Maybe not by Boulder standards or by having overcome some insurmountable obstacle, but for living our lives one trail at a time in the pursuit of relentless forward progress. Having both moved to Colorado from other cities, it’s fun to think about how crazy our way of life might seem to “normal” people, that we go run uphill in the snow and dark after work for fun.
The One Where What Didn’t Kill Her Made Her Stronger
I debate how much to share here and how personal to get. Then I think about those instances where someone made the choice to open up and share a vulnerable part of themselves, how it served to inspire hope and empathy in me, and I feel the right thing is to err on the side of yes. Just because I largely choose to focus on the positive choices I make doesn’t mean the uglier stuff goes unacknowledged in my life. I am human and so are you, presumably. Bad days, disappointments, sadness and loss will all affect us at one time or another and it’s okay to talk about it sometimes.
I try to opt for things that will make me more resilient. I want my legacy to be one of positive contribution, so I try to shine a light on things that would’ve helped my younger, angstier self. Do not be fooled, sharing my experience here is perhaps more for me than it is for you. Writing in a structured way is both cathartic and helps me put positive thoughts into words, which is one step closer to manifesting them in life and hopefully it offers some inkling of a positive influence on yours, if only for a moment.
And now, I inhale deeply and share this. A few months ago, my relationship of seven and a half years ended. I have only told a handful of people, maybe to avoid the reality of it, or maybe because it’s none of their fucking business and I don’t have to explain myself to anybody. I’m not here to share the details of the relationship or those of its demise. I am here to tell you that the things you think will wreck you, will not.
The decision was made at the end of September, and I have to admit, shortly thereafter, I felt free. There are so many things I want to do that are important to me, that I couldn’t move forward with because I was in a holding pattern in ways I don’t care to explain. In an instant, I was free to buy instead of rent, free to spend my time exactly as I pleased without compromise, free to imagine new romantic possibilities. I was borderline manic for the last three months and barely shed a tear. In fact, after he left, I couldn’t shed a tear. I felt so free and hopeful at all the new and exciting possibilities while simultaneously worried that I had become some kind of sociopath, no longer capable of feeling emotion at a deep level.
Before the actual moment, I felt like if we were to break up, that it would kill me. We were together for almost 8 years, traveled to six countries together, moved to Colorado together. We were partners. He is and will always be one of the most genuine, generous, and kind people I’ve ever met. Loving him was easy. Being his friend was easy. But love does not conquer all and we parted ways.
Little by little over the last couple of weeks, a gentle sadness has started to creep in as I start to digest the fact that I’ve just gone through a major transition. The other night I dreamed that I was hugging him. I could feel the warmth of his neck on mine and it felt so real. I awoke with tears running down my cheeks. Since then, the tears have started to come easier and more frequently. But I’m being gentle with myself, just like the advice he would give to me.
There seems to be some kind of internal mechanism that is controlling the amount of sadness and grief released into my consciousness so as not to open the flood gates and drown me. So now, I am still happy but I am also sad, and the two coexist within me. I’ve never been able to sit with discomfort the way I have lately and I attribute it all to my trail running habit. I’m not trying to run from anything, but sticking my feet in the dirt, or the snow, as the case may be, keeps me grounded so I don’t get swept away.
I always bring it back to trail running because it is what carries me through times like this. Trail running is about the physical and emotional feeling I get when I move my body through the woods, fast or slow. It’s a tool for coping with the hard shit, it increases my physical fitness, my emotional stability, and psychological wellbeing. The stress of work, the pain of loss, these are things that would wreck me without a healthy outlet, a moving meditation, or time in nature. So here I am, facing the fear of getting older and having to navigate the world without a partner who has my back. I am alone, I am not lonely, but we are all alone, existentially speaking.