Saturday, November 11, 2017

Days like these

Nobody told me there would be days when the sun stays in bed. Wakes up, sure, but pulls the covers far overhead to keep the waking from overcoming the sleeping, too quickly. Days where the grey wind makes its way down wide city streets, pushing hearty cyclists either forward or back and bundled-up pedestrians deeper into their winter puffies, muted tones moving along like leaves on a mission.

Of course, this would be the day I return to the Windy City - this the day I stand with others grasping for our best memories of our best friend. The last time I was here, more than a year ago, was for a wedding. This time, of course, a funeral. Surprisingly, in one week, my heart hasn't stopped hurting; this void a new, tangible addition to my day-to-day.

The nature of my grief manifests itself as the pain of my cracked ribs, cracked from the car crash I lived through the day before I learned my friend had died. I can't inhale deeply without pain radiating across the left side of my body and down to my elbow. Which is poor timing, as I would like to be able to inhale to fuel the sobbing I occasionally give in to. But my heart hurts; why shouldn't my ribs hurt, as well?

I don't know how to process this type of grief. I know broken hearts, but those crimes' perpetrators still live on, somewhere, oblivious to the small scars they caused. This is a different beast, altogether. This brokenness won't be salved by online creeping and reassurances that his new woman isn't really all that attractive. For heartaches past, I've numbed the pain with sugar, caffeine, exercise, cigarettes, whiskey, repeat. But I'm learning that self-medication isn't the best option for me. I haven't had a cigarette in nearly 10 years, and I can't hold my liquor like I used to (nor do I want to). Caffeine makes me anxious and shaky, and while I still run and love it, that whole rib thing. My fail safes have failed for now, and I'm left questioning best next steps in light of these considerations.

Will your memorial service bring some solace or only more pain? I'll know one way or the other, in a few hours. For now, I'm so nervous and so close to my edge. And I stupidly put on mascara this morning. At least some bit of me will be running today.

My dear friend - thank you for being a part of my world, however briefly. Thank you for all you brought to this world and the impact you had on everyone you met. My heart breaks further to think that you didn't know how deeply you were loved by so many. But I pray that you've found some relief, wherever you may be. And I know you'll always be with me in some way, riding on that wind and pushing me to adventure and release of inhibitions. You're totally right - they're not always a good thing.

I love you; I'll miss you; I wish I could have said goodbye.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Three-mile run and a Giant turkey sandwich

Bald eagle on the trail.
Hard to see, but (s)he's there!

Three weeks ago, I ran one mile for the first time in an embarrassingly long time. It was short, and it was slow, but it happened. I went for a run. Over the past three weeks, I have run a few more times - still slowly, still not very far.

I first started running in highschool, when I was 15 or 16. I have never been fast, but I do consider myself a Runner. Running has been many things to me over the years: the enabler of my eating disorder in highschool; a way to lose weight and forget about my broken heart in college; proof of the resiliency of my body after cancer; and recently, a faster way to explore the trails and wild areas of my beloved Colorado. Also, and most importantly, it has always been my primary method of decompression. I turn to running in times of stress and distress, and it is perhaps the only thing I still rely on for my own health and happiness, as various other strategies and coping mechanisms have come and gone again.

I have had a number of running-breaks over the years, most notably during that whole cancer thing. But I slowly jogged my way back to health, and even went and limped through a marathon two years after finishing two years of cancer treatment. Somehow, I hobbled through another marathon, a year and a half later. So the last marathon I ran was in April, 2012. I have run a few more trail races since then, of which I am most proud of finishing the 2014 Imogene Pass Run.

In 2014, though, the strangest thing happened - I got a corporate desk job. I launched into a career with one of the biggest companies in Denver, blindly assuming that this is what I really wanted, what I was meant to do! Never mind that I left Boston, DC and Chicago to get away from high-stress, high-pressure companies and the individuals who value work as the end instead of as the means to an end. I have been at this job for almost three years, and I have begun to draw a few correlations between that job and my overall health and happiness. Let's just say that I believe my job has had a direct, negative impact on virtually every aspect of my Health.

But this post is about running. I'll save the story of the sad, stressed and sick Caroline for another day. Today, I ran straight through for 30 minutes. Well, to say I "ran" is incredibly generous. I felt like I was shuffling along a dirt trail, barely more than jogging. And yet, I was surrounded by prairie dogs, prairie hawks and a glorious bald eagle, and there were no other humans on the trail. For the past three weeks, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I am truly and unavoidably starting over. All of my Healths - mental, emotional, physical, etc. - have slowly been destroyed over the past three years. Perhaps not least of all, I have barely run in over a year. Finally, sadly, I have reached my rock bottom. The good news is that I didn't end up in the hospital, but I think I would have, soon.

I am changing my life. I am putting myself first. Among many other things, this means that I am running again. Slowly, and for only a few miles at a time, I am running again. I refuse to give up on myself and the "being-aliveness" that I love so dearly, and I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and remember to stop and take a picture of the nesting bald eagle because how often do you see that on a run??

Stay tuned because I have a whole lot more to share as I head down this particular life-trail. I am so scared, but I am so excited because, finally, I am going to acknowledge and prioritize the one person I can never escape - myself.

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This is the most Me I can be.