Often I run because I’m training for an event. Or to keep fit. Or just because I happen to be in the mood. Those times, I’m running towards something, be it a PR goal or simply an endorphin rush.
But I have found the most important runs are those that take me away from something, as each run since Friday morning has done. When moments become too enormous to process fully; when my heart needs a purpose other than simply breaking; when every other task is a reminder…it is then that I run away.
I run until my thoughts are only on my legs and lungs. I run until my shins pinch and the bottoms of my feet ache. I run until my body has used up so much energy that my brain is forced into calm. I don’t need to go outside to do it, though it’s preferable. I have never missed the paths and roads of my previous training quite as much as I have in recent days. There is simply something sweeter about runs surrounded by nature. You may think me cliché or overly sentimental…but I believe I am closer to God during these times, that I can feel the warmth of His love wrapped tight around my heart. Some go to church; I run outside.
Sometimes when I run, I cry. Tears that have only been threats become actuality and mix with sweat on my cheeks and lips. These are the most cathartic cries I know, when my body and soul combine for a release I simply can’t allow myself any other time. Sometimes, I hold it in because I want to wait until I’m alone. Sometimes because it just isn’t convenient. I’m not a public crier and cringe at the thought of dramatic episodes sans privacy. I need my privacy, even if it’s a back road where anyone could drive by and catch me should they choose to do more than glance my way. I don’t feel as though I am in public when I run; my world consists of myself – my labored breathing, my sweat-drenched hat, my straining quads – and the way the light hits the tree branches or corn fields I run past.
It can happen on the treadmill too. It tends to be more sudden, more surprising to me when it does. But I’ll certainly take whatever I can get, because this is my therapy. I haven’t spoken to anyone other than my husband and my children about the events at Sandy Hook, nor have I voiced much of an opinion via social media. Too many posts are focused on anger and fingerpointing, treating this tragedy as though the solution lies before us in stark black and white, when in reality, everything is a smudgy shade of brown. As though that morning can be solved with a singular sentence or healing can be gained with an insult hurled at the other side.
I have a lot of opinions on the situation, most of which I have possessed long before the shooting even began. I feel angry. I feel sad. I feel helpless and lost. And I do not wish to thrust any of my own personal drama onto any of my social media followers.
So I run.
And when I am done, my heart, though it remains broken, is calmer. The tears don’t wait to be shed and my temper is fully in check. Here is what I feel after I run these days:
I am lucky. I will watch my beautiful daughter wrestle this Saturday in her first tournament. I will watch her make awful decisions with her lovely blonde hair, wear questionably matched clothing, and have her first fight with her best friend. I will watch her stomp up the stairs to clean her room and then listen to her singing when she forgets she’s mad.
I will watch my handsome sons shoot imaginary webs from their wrists, open car doors for girlfriends, and marvel at the seemingly endless hiking paths in our backyard. I will listen to the older reading Shel Silverstein to the younger at bedtime, listen to the younger imitate the older at every turn, and refrain from rushing to their sides when they stumble in front of their friends.
I will spend less time fretting over dusty end tables and dirty dishes. I will allow whole days to pass without a single chore done and I will hug them tight to me every time I feel the impulse to do so. When I’m attempting to work and my toddler climbs into my lap, I will watch laughing baby videos on youtube as long as he continues to laugh along. When my seven-year-old explains yet again the intricacies of the Avengers’ relationships, I will ask questions to show my interest. When my eight-year-old requests an in-house spa night, I will light the candles and fill the tub with blue foot soak.
I will not attend any vigils or post photos on my Facebook page. I won’t be scouring the internet for the latest updates or taking part in any debates about guns or mental illness. I’ll be too busy, you see, not missing the moments that matter. In my heart, after all my running, I feel the biggest tribute is to step back and treasure the moments our children have the chance to live.
I’m not done running away yet; my throat closes and my eyes fill just typing this. And something could happen tomorrow, or next month, or three years from now that fills me with a need to run farther and longer.
I’m just thankful I have those blessings to run to when I’m done running away.
*Beautifully written post by another mom counting her blessings: