I will bite my tongue
even when my heart’s aflame.
Silence is safer.
“They believe women,”
The man claims, skims the story.
I wish he’d been there.
The question sits there:
How many unheard voices
live between these lines?
I will bite my tongue
even when my heart’s aflame.
Silence is safer.
“They believe women,”
The man claims, skims the story.
I wish he’d been there.
The question sits there:
How many unheard voices
live between these lines?
Hush, look up in awe.
See the redwoods rise,
and feel the breath in
your chest lift to meet them.
Put your palm on the base,
shocked at how soft the bark
feels underneath your hand.
The crevices are so deep
and dark, they looked like
they were carved in stone.
This is no cold stone, though.
This is teeming and alive,
rough and supple under your palm.
Spiders weave delicate and
intricate webs inside the
places where the redwood’s
small, dark slabs layered over
like a thatched roof, dips
dark into itself. Mossy
softness, like streaks of
paint, a child’s hand across
the canvas, runs up and along
the massive body of the tree.
The rustle of leaves
makes you look up,
makes you realize just
how small your hand is,
your whole body and being
are, really, in this place.
Still, the treetops call,
invite you to see the decay–
cracked, brown, broken leaves
slowly turning dead to
fertile– at the roots, all
the way up to soaring
branches above that weave
shadow-green lace, ‘God’s
kaleidoscope,’ you marvel.
You stand there, wondering,
as the redwoods ask you
to look at your own supple
softness, to see the places
turned brittle, let them fall
and feed your roots. They
ask you what you will let
die so you can meet them
I’m on the second day of the OnBeing Gathering, and I am already in awe of the number of connections, spiritual fulfillment, and pure grace I have gained here. Every time someone has joined me at a meal or started a conversation, I have been so grateful to be pushed outside of my introvert zone and made some truly fantastic connections.
One of the benefits of this has been the space to refocus and start clarifying my own purpose and desires. I’m beginning to realize, very quickly, that I really love writing— poetry, prose, short, long– I want to write more.
So, beyond giving up coffee, I’m going to write a poem a day for the rest of Lent. I have some making up to do, but I’m excited to push myself in this way. It won’t be perfect, I know many of them will be bad, but I know I need to start rehabilitating and rebuilding the muscle.
Anyway, here’s the first.
When the last, best thing
spills forth from
your lips, what will be
the image that you paint?
The story that you tell?
You have lived a life on
the cusp for years now,
so carefully dipping
that funny toe of yours
right the buoy marked, “SAFE.”
You have reached around
that barrier trying to
find some sign saying to “GO.”
Can you see beyond yourself?
Can you find the place
in you that is pure
movement? That bubbling
red blood in your gut
that fuels the body
to movement, to action?
Can you ride that river
to the sea that called
your ancestors, as it
once did to you? Can
you find comfort in
the raging currents,
see the beauty and
not fear the white-foamed
wave that swallowed you?
See your rabbit-heart as
the paddles of your ship,
the curve of your hip the
rudder of riding the current.
Know that the last, best
thing you say or see will
be found on the side of a buoy
or ever be the safest route.
Go, now, knowing the best
thing will be to set out
and find yourself home
I wrote this as a follow-up/interlude to this piece, which at the time I said was fiction. And in a way, it is, just like this might be fiction too.
But story-truth is still rooted in the actual truth– we are always telling the stories of our lives. So, as I am learning to become my own storyteller again and finally feeling stability for the first time in a bit, I am also reclaiming the stories that were too hard to face a few months ago.
The shock is visceral. Later, when so much work has gone into cutting this body, this cancer of ill-fated memory and stomach-churning hindsight, out of your life, trying to remember the fork that decided the life you chose feels foreign and jarring.
Now, though, the moment wakes you up at night, catching you in your sleep like a cold draft when you’ve left the window open. Something in that moment, where you knew each small step would determine what came next, still haunts you sometimes. Are you terrified of it? Is remembering it simply a pilgrimage, a gauntlet, a way to ensure you will never, ever find yourself in this place again? Or is it a deeper question than that– one that forces you to look back and ask yourself how, just how, you let things go this far and become this broken?
You see the white flash and the photos you found– wait, no, scratch that. It’s not the photos themselves– those have faded from memory. What is painfully vivid– even now– is the feeling of finding them. The quiet thump when you fell to your knees on the cold, wood floor. The search for something, anything to cover your nakedness, as if a cotton dress could protect your body from betrayal. It coursed through your system then– icy and choking– and you sat back on your bed, back against the wood wall, trying to catch your breath.
The thought of it all as you sat there– broken as everything has was– made you angry, yes. It also made you vaguely sad, oddly appreciative, pre-nostalgic in a weird way as you were already seeing how this story will wrap up. You were already writing, re-writing, and finalizing the obituary of this thing you had helped create.
You played the film through to the end and tried to take the best course of action. You looked at your lives in parallel, what they could look like– if you wanted :
You knew you could try and capture this moment, this body, because it will never be the place you call home again. That safety, that sense of knowing how the world worked and the rules that governed the way the universe functioned, are gone now.
You could lay down beside him, quietly pressing your forehead into the space between his shoulder blades, knowing that this is it. This is the end. This is the last time.
You know and he does not know you know but you do, and in knowing you also know everything is over. The dramatic irony of it all catches in your throat– you know heartbreak has arrived, and all you can do now is try and ride the wave of what is to come– but not just yet. He still hasn’t woken up yet, and so for the next minutes, you can still pretend like everything is okay.
You could take a second, shut your eyes, and breathe. You ache to both try and remember everything about this– the final farewell, the last breath before the death knell– but also try and forget all the things that brought you here.
You could feel the warm skin of belonging and smell the familiarity of partnership but also know that all those things are lies now. They are broken. The body next to you fills you with disgust and rage and sadness and longing and you didn’t know you could love something so deeply and then 20 minutes later hate that same thing just as much– not a cancellation of love, but the yang to its yin, the dark to its light, both churning in your chest and stewing deep within you. You didn’t know the two could live together inside your heart, ripping you down the middle as you say goodbye.
So, for a moment, you could lie there. You could try and recapture everything– all the love and safety and happiness that once lived inside that body for you– before having to let it go.
But you knew that to do so would only make the killing of it that much more painful, that much more tragic. It would be like kissing the criminal before dropping the axe– it might bring you a second of joy, but would the high only make the pain that much worse in the end? You knew that you have to do this, kill this, end this now before you are too weak to stare it in the face for what it is. Now. It’s the only time you would be able to.
So, even after weighing all the options and watching all the scenarios, you knew what you must do. You watched yourself reach over to his leg instead. You hovered your hand above it, taking a moment longer before jumping off the cliff, then you grabbed his ankle and gave it a shake.
“I need you to wake up now.”
It’s funny how life works. I wrote this years ago, but phrases still come back and hit me square in the gut again. Learning is cyclical, I suppose.
Anyway, I know I’m due for a life update or something. Soon.
After years of being out at sea— the twitch-muscles in my calves
are so used to the constant swaying of shaky hands and fluid commitments
that the stability of feeling safe is so foreign it is almost dizzying.
My internal buoy has been measuring the up-downs of surrounding ebbs and flows
for so long that simply sitting quietly while he holds
my hand is a level of sea-glass calm that
skews all of my previous internal measurements.
It’s ridiculous how quickly the body adapts to a stormy climate,
and I have been living solely with sea-legs for so long
that I’m still waiting for the ground to move with every step I take.
I am unsure how to stop trying to calculate the moment when the sea will sweep
my foundation out from under me and I will have to readjust my footing once more.
He mentioned that he was surprised at how much I tossed and turned at night,
and I realized that it’s because I’m so used to sleeping on turbulent currents that
my body is unable to rest with the term “smooth sailing” anymore.
It’s as if the only way I have measured how much I am cared for is
by calculating the force with which my heart has been
plunged into the barrel of the waves.
I’m terrified that, in my attempt to get back to my idea of equilibrium
I will throw him into my hurricane heart instead.
I fear he will get sucked into the current of
my tossing and turning and get swept out to sea.
I don’t know how to broadcast
that I am used to raging weather storms,
that I spent so many years as the storm-tossed maiden
at the bow of the ship my ability to show my feelings
has been eroded away with each pounding of a crashing wave.
Seeing this many storms has taught
me it easier to show nothing, even
untrusting of the steady stream of warm-aired affection
he uses to try and move this boat forward.
I don’t know how to stop thinking the gusts of
warm air are just signs that the storm is coming.
I don’t know how to stop looking for the
black whirlpools hidden along this new course I am supposed to chart.
I don’t know how to untie the knots in my tongue
that were trying to keep this ship together, but I am scared
that if I do not I will just get blown back into old storms
I have already navigated.
I do know that I am tired of looking at
the backside of a lightning bolt and saying
“Ah, yes, I have been struck this way before.”
As I continue to keep moving straight into it.
So I am relearning to navigate by the stars
instead of by misguided internal compass.
I am trying to give up my fear of sinking
in hopes that I can learn to jump in with both feet.
Besides, after this many storms, I’ve noticed that the sky’s blue
is only more vivid after you’ve shut your eyes to hold out salt-water.
Yes, you will have to blink away the drops of past-waves
that were pounding into you, but the darkness in that moment
may make the light of the next one that much sweeter.
I’m going through a month-long healing phase after my body has finally shut down from a two-month manic period. With that time, I’ve discovered the writing I created but was too scared to edit and publish.
She has been practicing her sleight of hand for years now.
It’s almost second nature, at this point. She smiles, catches their eyes with a snap and a whip of her fingers. It appears all flash and no substance, but then she makes the card appear when it seemed impossible The audience is astonished. Bamboozled, really, because they were so sure they could not be fooled. That there was no way she’d actually get the right card.
It doesn’t really matter, though. She’s moved onto the next trick.
What they don’t see is the hours of practice that goes into the moment where the Magician makes something out of nothing. They do not notice the red-rimmed eyes, tired from staring into the mirror and watching the same trick over and over again. The Magician is trying to make sure it is perfect for the audience. It has to be perfect for the audience.
They do not hear the ringing in her ears from years of listening to cries and catcalls instead of the sound of her own breath. They have failed to notice her skin, dull and red, from the make-up she wipes off in streaks each night, slumped over her dressing room table, barely able to move. They do not care that there are times where she is unable to focus her eyes before going on stage– she knows the gauzy film between her brain and the world it should be perceiving is problematic, but she also knows that she has to go out and perform.
The audience needs its show. They must be entertained.
So she goes out, night after night, honing her “craft,” learning to read the room. When she feels like she’s losing them, she slap-dashes something together and throws another coin into thin air, pulls another rabbit out of her hat, changes the mark to a more forgiving body on stage with her. It doesn’t matter what it takes. Stand on the back of the bucking horse? Sure! Swallow swords, eyes watering as she wide-grin-smiles toward the crowd? Of course! Anything so that she does not lose them. She cannot lose them.
Because she knows what happens when the crowds go home, and she is left in the dressing room, alone.
She sinks, slowly, into the chair. The table is in disarray– make-up is strewn, long smudgy splashes of color on a faded, white, wooden top. The makings of a face finger-painted on to a splintered canvas– the metaphor is almost too painfully obvious, even to her, who has lived without subtlety for years now.
There, in her solitude, when the memory of the crowd roars in her ears like the ocean, there is no one to distract her, no one to look at, no one who she must bamboozle. She is in a standoff only with herself. There is nothing to face but her own existence in that moment.
The question sits there, unmoving. No sparkle, no flash. There is no magic trick that will satiate the audience who is witness to her own brokenness. There is no bucking bronco or sword to swallow that will turn her gaze away in the mirror. There is only the heavy question, the ball and chain tethered to her. She sees it reflect back at her in the shine of her eyes, the creases in her skin.
She sighs, tears the question away from the mirror and places her head in her hands. Instinctively, her fingers reach into her chest pocket and pull out a card. It’s one of the few times she can ever answer anyone properly– showing them the card they were thinking of.
She holds it up to the mirror, tries to fake a smile.
Is this your card?
She flicks it to the floor, reaches in, and grabs another.
How about this one?
She flicks that one away.
She stops mid-reach. Her eyes finally connect back with her self.
Her card will never be pulled.
Photo by Calamic Photography.
You know, at some point I’m going to need to stop burning my life down if I want to keep anything.
Sorry, that was for me. I was looking back on my writing, and noticed that I’ve used the analogy a couple of times in the past few years. I keep insisting that things have to burn and break if I want to inevitably grow in any way.
And that’s true. I’m a firm believer in that. Still, I’ve realized that I’ve probably done quite a bit of demolition work in my life these past few years. I’ve cleared the field a few times, looking at the way my life was turning out, shaking my head, and firmly saying, “…NOPE.”
I don’t regret it– I’m a little frustrated with myself, at times, for getting into situations that I so clearly need to leave, places that were unsafe and unstable, that have been a huge emotional suck for me– these past few months especially. I know that these personal things have gotten in the way of my career, my work, my ability to be the person I wanted to be.
Yet, I’ve come out on the other side and I feel stronger and more like myself than I have in a very long time. Yes, everything burned down, but I discovered so many beautiful things in the process. I realized that I could stand on my own and say no when I needed to. I realized that I was stronger than I previously thought. I realized that, in the end, my gut had been trying to tell me things I already knew. Despite what I’d been told– I could trust myself and my instincts.
In the aftermath, I was immediately surrounded by so much love and support that I was frankly a little blown away. I have struggled with asking for help in the past but this time, when I reached out, I had a number of people hold me (physically and metaphorically), validate me, encourage me, and let me know things were going to be okay.
And they were. Even though there were times when my stomach wouldn’t stop aching, where I couldn’t sleep, where it felt like I couldn’t breathe, things inevitably got better– as they always do.
On New Year’s Eve, I was standing out on a black sand bay in Kona, at a mellow get-together that was warm, inviting and full of good food. I had danced and smiled. I walked out onto the shore, the full moon reflecting off the water and the lava rocks, everything looking like silver had been painted over the world.
And I laughed. I looked back on all the ridiculousness of my life and that was all I could do. What a farcical, unexpected, tumultuous journey I had been on! There have been a few times in my life where I’ve said that, if you’d told me where I’d end up, I would’ve laughed, but this time I had to actually laugh.
Then, I smiled and said a silent prayer of gratitude. As ridiculous as it had all been, this past year had also brought a number of wonderful, beautiful things and people into my life. I was grateful for the friends and family that had been there for me from the beginning, I was grateful for the people the universe had conspired to bring into my life when I needed it most, and I still feel very blessed that I had been given so many wonderful opportunities despite it all.
I had chosen, perhaps, the path most ridiculous, and I was still able to come out the other side with a smile on my face.
There are worse things, I suppose. In the end, I am the girl who looked at the ashes of her life and laughed under the moonlight.
So, what’s happened this year?
I posted this update on Twitter, and I actually find them to be a fairly succinct view of where I have been:
When I look back at my resolutions for last year, I got 3/5? Sort of?
BUT! I have hopes for the new year!
So, 2018. Let’s do this. I’m moving in a few weeks (a few blocks away from my current place), I am happier than I deserve, and I’m seeking joy and laughter in every moment I am blessed to live.
The warm, squishy body wriggled in my arms for a few minutes. Penny, my aunt and uncle’s dog, let me snuggle her, and then looked up at me as if to say, “Dude, it’s loud in here.”
And it was. I was home for Christmas for the first time in years, and my father’s side of the family had all come together and raucously filled my aunt and uncle’s house. The number of cousins is in the double digits, and that doesn’t include their significant others, children or my grandmother and our aunts and uncles themselves. The dining room was packed full of people who have known me since my birth or theirs.
It was, to be honest, perfect. It is kinship of the clearest kind– forged through years of laughter and heartache, built on a strong foundation of finding love and joy within each other, even when it felt impossible.
I love Christmastime for lots of reasons. Beyond the surface-level, it’s a time to remember to love as puppies and babies do— without restraint or judgement, and with a full-hearted sense of wonder and awe.
This Christmas, though, I was in mass reflecting on the nativity. I was praying with imagination and imagining myself in the stable. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve normally seen myself in awe as one of the shepherds or wise men.
This time though, for reasons beyond my understanding, I imagined myself as Mary. Don’t get me wrong– I hold no lofty illusions about my own lack of sin or greatness in the world. I was just sitting in mass, thinking about her in that moment, and realized that Mary must’ve been so scared.
I mean, pregnancy is scary. Motherhood is scary. Doing all of those things, at a young age, when you didn’t even conceive the kid but instead because some angel showed up and said God wanted you to? Like, how even? Now, to top it all off, everyone in the neighborhood is being the worst and you have to birth this kid in a stable, one of the coldest and grossest places one could birth a tiny human? That is truly some shenanigans right there.
In all seriousness, though, I imagined how helpless I would’ve felt in a moment like that– how out of control everything would’ve seemed, how my body would’ve, perhaps no longer felt like mine.
And I got a little teary because I have certainly felt that way this year.
Then, in all that fear and helplessness and pain, I thought about how Mary looked up and saw people around her— a husband that stayed with her through the most ridiculous of circumstances, random folks from the meadows who were told that they needed to come through. And I remembered a line from Fr. Boyle’s book, Barking to the Choir: “If love is the answer, community is the context, and tenderness is the methodology.”
In the middle of the worst conditions, the birth of a child created a community of warmth and love. For one night, that stable was an enclave of joy, laughter, love, and light. In a time of struggle, tenderness rallied these people together to create something much stronger and more powerful. Much like the dining room of my aunt and uncle’s house, they found raucous, bubbling kinship in each other, even when the world outside felt less than hospitable.
In my own time of personal struggle this year, when I felt helpless and out of control, was it not my own community that made me feel like I could overcome and reminded me that I was loved? Was it not the friends consistently at my side supporting me, the people the universe conspired to bring into my life, the family who loved me unconditionally? Earlier this week, I spent time with people who I had no blood connection with, but who had known me for nearly twenty years. Some I am still very close with, some I hadn’t seen in ages, but no matter what I was welcomed with open arms and laughter.
Ultimately, what staves off fear and helplessness is connecting with and loving each other, even when it feels impossible, even when the connection may not seem visible. It may be your blood family. It may be your chosen family. It may be the dude who you were arranged to marry and some shepherds who followed a star.
You never know how and when community will emerge though. The question is, when it comes, will you be ready to accept it? Will you be ready to turn your back to the harshness of the outside world not to forget it, but to seek to improve it by turning towards each other and rejoicing in the presence and light of others?
So, as we move into 2018, I am eager to continue finding the communities of kinship, and rejoicing not simply in all things, but trying to rejoice in all people. I am hopeful to try and focus this year not just on love, but on community and tenderness too.
For a savior was born unto us for one real reason: because, above all else, we are loved.
The first thing that gets you is the lack of sleep.
Well, it’s not inherently a lack of sleep. It’s actually the fact that you have to wake up early now. Very early. Long before the sun comes up, your alarm is blaring whatever iPhone sound you’ve chosen (some days it’s something soft like ~Bamboo Forest~ but most days it’s that one that sounds like the submarine alarm because you know that fooling your body into thinking we’re on the brink of nuclear disaster is the only way you’ll get up).
You groggily reach for the phone, hit the button, and look at the time. You groan internally. You’ve never had to get up this early before. Years of college have softened you, and you’ve been living in the magic land where you create your own schedules and can ditch class when you really need to. Your body still thinks that if it crashes at 11:45 PM after just-one-more-episode of Stranger Things, you’ll be able to skate through your alarm clock to get the 7 or 8 hours of sleep you know you need.
That’s not an option anymore, though. Now, you know that at 7:45 AM, for better or worse, 32 sets of eyes will be looking at you. 32 heads will be craned towards you, wondering what they’re supposed to be doing next. Now, unless you want to stand there, mouth agape and unknowing, you have to get to school by 6:30 at least to handle the myriad tasks necessary to try and engage 32 adolescents in whatever shenanigans (and, yes, even the best, most effective plan becomes “shenanigan-esque” when 32 kids get involved) you have put together.
You roll out of bed onto achy joints. Maybe you stretch a little first– the whole “walking the room” thing does, in fact, work for classroom management, but it’s doing a number on your legs (“At least you get your steps in,” your friends muse at you). You crunch your toes into the rug before slinking across the room. You go through your shower-clothes-coffee morning routine and grab your bags– always more than one, always one with papers/supplies/books– and head out the door.
This time in your car is some of the only solace you’ll have for the rest of the day, so you try and enjoy it. Some days, it’s a hilarious podcast to take your mind off things, or NPR to help you understand why you do this work. Some days, it’s just silence– you let your mind wander at the million-hour pace it now functions, crunching numbers, figuring out activities and assigning the minutes they’ll need, wondering what to do with that one student. The stoplights and turns are on autopilot now, and before you know it, you’ve parked your car in the parking lot.
Stop. Close your eyes. Breathe. Again. Good.
Here we go.
The day passes in a blur. Your body, in some ways, is a machine now, or at least it has learned how to be efficient. You have learned the time it takes you to run to the bathroom hurriedly in between classes. You can eat your lunch in 22 minutes while walking around monitoring a make-up quiz, listening in on the small anime club that meets in another corner of your room (sometimes, that “lunch” is leftover Halloween candy bars from the break room). Your vocal chords finally adjusted a few weeks ago– up until then, the consistent projection they had to produce caused them to crack by 6th period. You shake out your arms from hours of jazz hands, reaching to the top of the board, tapping on a kid’s desk, handing out papers or receiving the high-five from someone smaller yet so much stronger than you.
By the end of the day, you finally flop into your chair. The squishiness in the seat is sinking, but it feels good to relax in that moment, to feel your low-back and legs release some of the tension they held. You rub your eyes for a second and hear your phone buzz. Your friends will want to go out for a drink tonight. It is a Tuesday. You know you will have to decline. The most you might squeeze in is a quick run or a hurried dinner with a coworker. Then it will be back to the grind.
As you hear footsteps fade down the hall, you cannot help but notice the way your life is different now. This job is not at all what you thought. You see you friends and a partner– if you’re lucky enough to convince someone to stay through this with you– less. You are more drained at the end of your day.
It’s physical, yes, but it’s emotional and mental too. Your mind works harder than you ever thought it would– the knowledge is there, but you are forcing yourself to re-remember how it got through to you in the first place. You now learn how to deal with being “on” for the majority of your day, often unable to take a minute to yourself, except for a few hurried breaths in the bathroom. The stakes feel higher (even if your paycheck doesn’t show it).
So, you sit at your desk now and think about these things– the changes, the struggle, the process. Then, you hear your door open, and a kid peeks their head around the corner of the door, and waves at you.
You smile, genuinely. An inquisitive kid is always the sweetest image, and it fills your chest a little.
“Hey kiddo, how can I help you?”
They smile and bound up to your desk with a question, a comment, a thought.
A veteran teacher once told you that, when you are a teacher, every morning your alarm goes off, it’s a call to lead. You didn’t fully understand the sentiment at first, but now it becomes clearer.
It’s not a call to “lead” so much as it is the space to “guide”– every morning, you know your work is to create space and clear the way for your students to shine, to grow, to question and struggle, perhaps even to fail so that they can rise far higher than they thought. Every morning is a new one that fills the space in your soul with some of God’s purest joys– the laughter of children, the pursuit of discovery, the warmth of community.
So, when the kid comes into your room at the end of the day, you can’t help but smile a little deeper into your heart. And, when someone asks you how you’re doing, you can answer honestly: My body is a little tired, but it is well with my soul.
A confession: I’ve been hurting the past few days.
Nothing crazy, but I’ve been waking up feeling particularly tight and painful. I couldn’t figure out why: did I have rhabdo (I clearly didn’t.)? Did I need to break in my shoes more? Had I pulled something? Of course, at a certain point, it hit me that three months of three-a-days with very sporadic rest wasn’t a particularly healthy strategy and that the amount of strain I had put on my own muscles was likely just catching up with me.
So, after a painful 5k on Thanksgiving morning, I took the day off yesterday, since I knew that I had to go out and do my twenty-miler sometime this weekend. I rolled out last night, went to bed early, and prayed that this morning I’d magically feel better when my feet hit the road.
Spoiler alert: I didn’t. At least, not at first. I woke up feeling fine and, despite gusting winds and periodic storms, the cool weather boded well for me. This was a good day to go out and do the damn thing.
I was bummed to discover, though, that after a few miles I was still tight. My shins were screaming and my hips ached. What is going ON?! I mentally wondered to myself. I kept having to stop every half mile to try and stretch out to make the pain go away. I kept trying to breathe into my muscles, but I was really struggling to make this run work.
Then, right around mile 3, my arm grazed a pole in just the wrong place, tearing a huge hole in the sleeve of my favorite shirt. I groaned and stopped. “BRUH!” I yelled at the sky, at God, the way only a young, Catholic, CrossFit asshole can. What’s the deal? I asked. Do you want me to stop and turn around? What do you WANT from me?
I stopped, stretched, and breathed for a second.
I heaved a heavy sigh, and the questions came back to me: Are you present? Are you here? Are you listening?
And thing is, I knew the answer: No. I was caught up in my head, stewing in anger over some things happening in my life that had nothing to do with the run and, frankly, were out of my control. I had been holding all the anger and sadness in my body for days now, and was parsing through it during those first few miles.
I shook my head, frustrated that all this negativity was still affecting me. I shook out my body again, and continued to parse through my thoughts. After a few minutes, I came back to two questions for myself:
As I looked at these questions, I knew what my answer had to be. Even if I didn’t feel like living up to them, I knew that the only way I could stay true to myself was to recenter myself with these questions as the compass. I knew that, if I could say yes to these things, I would be okay, and able to come back to the place of unfettered love and joy that makes me who I am.
So, I prayed for strength and grace, and began to run towards forgiveness. It wasn’t easy– forgiveness encompasses all the sadness and frustration of grieving.
As I ran, though, I thought about the rainbow I had seen that morning. In Christianity, the rainbow is the sign of God’s promise to His people after the great storm. It reminds us that, even when the rain comes for forty days, we ultimately believe that the universe will bend towards justice and good. It’s a reminder that, in the end, things will be better.
I kept running. In a lot of ways, forgiveness is an act of hope. It’s moving with the belief that hurt has occurred, but does not need to be dwelled in. It’s understanding that the only way to move past pain is with love. It’s knowing that we can move past pain in the first place.
With each step, God asked if I trusted that things would be okay. With each step, I affirmed that the answer was yes. Each step was a silent prayer of gratitude and hope, a testament to my faith that things would get better.
As I ran, my body loosened up. My hips settled a little more. I breathed a little more deeply. I knew that, even if this wasn’t going to be easy, I was going to get through it. I was going to be okay.
So, what’s next?
Well, I have two marathons within six days of each other, because that’s what I like to do. I’ll be running the Honolulu Marathon and then, later that week, run the inaugural Hawai‘i Bird Conservation Marathon. Since the latter is an all-downhill course (I know), I’ll be taking Honolulu nice and slow to see what I can do later that week.
Of course, I haven’t been training for any of this. I’ve been running, sure, but until today my longest distance has been 10 miles. Today was hard and painful (running into the wind for those last 6 miles didn’t help). So, honestly, if I can finish both of them with a smile on my face, I will be amazed and happy.