But I wasn’t too sick. My lungs have gotten stronger, between asthma medicine and allergy shots and all the running I’ve been doing. And so I decided on Wednesday morning that even though I was coughing and feeling ragged and couldn’t speak above a whisper, I could still run.
So I ran. Not long, but hard. Because I could. And because my body, even though it let me run, felt tight and tired and unwilling, and I wanted to escape that feeling. Because, also, I’ve been feeling soul-tired in a way that I can hardly stand, and I wanted to escape that feeling, especially.
So after giving myself the gift of sleeping in, I took my unwilling, tired body for a run in bright sunlight for once, instead of in the dark of pre-dawn. And then I countered my hard run (because that’s what it was, given my unwilling, tired body and restless, soul-tired self) by running hard.
* * *
When I first started running a year and a half ago it was with the knowledge that it was part of a fight against things that wanted to overwhelm me: stress, depression, frustration, anger. It felt good. It cleared my head. It calmed me, helped me deal with things. Made me feel stronger.
It wasn’t long, though, before I noticed that running also shakes things loose. Trapped things break free when I run—they jostle against each other, burst open, start flying. Thoughts, feelings, fears, ideas, dreams—they come out into the light. They find their voice. And running for me no longer means just a strengthening of the body, but a strengthening of the heart and mind and soul, as well.
* * *
The thing I am learning about strength is that it is something you have to use. And I don’t always want to. I know exactly how Middle felt, that one-morning-among-many that we were struggling to get to school, in danger of being late, and she was pedaling so slowly up a particular hill I thought for sure her bike would tip over. I tried to encourage her. “Come on, Tigress, you need to show your power!” And she roared back at me, “I DON’T LIKE TO SHOW MY POWER!!!”
I get that. Using my strength is not necessarily the glorious thing I want it to be. More often than I would like it means pushing myself when I feel ragged, fighting when I no longer want to fight, keeping on when I want to stop.
And yet I’m sure it’s there to be used.
So I ran hard Wednesday morning—knowing that I would shake things loose that had to be dealt with, knowing I still had to fight when really I just wanted to crumble. Counting on the fact that I had more in me than I thought.
I was right—that day I did have more. I averaged a pace, over 4 miles, that was my fastest ever. It’s a pretty decent number for somebody who never considered herself fast or athletic. It’s a number I’m going to hold close, regardless, because it speaks to me about things I didn’t think I could do, and strength I didn’t think I had. A small victory in the grand scheme of things, but it’s one I’m going to keep like a trophy, like a promise that there’s more there.
And my voice? Not gone. Hiding, maybe, but not gone. I plan to keep using it—counting on there being more behind it than I once believed possible.
|Photo by Amanda Truschinger|
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