With just 9 hours before the new year, I head out to my favorite thinking spot. I sit perched at the window seat, inhaling the fumes of the many Starbucks aromas, with my laptop keeping the tips of my fingertips warm and the confidence that I am exactly where I should be.
The original plan was that we would spend New Years in Boston with my husband’s family, yet an unexpected pain in one of my ribs lead to a doctor appointment that didn’t quite fit the traveling schedule and I gave them the go ahead to leave without me. In hindsight it was divine intervention; the work of my mom in heaven perhaps, knowing how badly I needed this marathon to end.
I call it a marathon while I sit feeling rested and grounded, but am clear that 26.2 miles of pavement would be easy compared to this…this whatever it is I have been doing. This running to nowhere without the proper running attire.
New sneakers. Yea, maybe that was what I needed. New sneakers. Maybe then my shins wouldn’t be aching, my feet would feel less blistered and maybe, just maybe, it wouldn’t feel like lead weights have been placed in the soles of my shoes. Maybe.
February 23rd, just 10 short months ago, I let my moms hand fall from mine, taking a picture of our hands together so I would never forget the sensation of being held by her. I kissed her cheek slowly, inhaling the scent of her soft, sweet skin and told her the words I uttered every day I was beside her for 3 weeks: “I love you mom. I will see you tomorrow…”
I left the hospital that night and knew that tomorrow was not going to look like today. I walked slowly to my car, savoring the life she had given me. Tomorrow was not going to be like today. Not for her. Not for us. Which was when I began to run.
Though not clear about my destination, I ran anyway. I ran from my fears, my sorrow, my questions about life and death. I ran from worry about my own mortality, my children’s life…my own life. I just ran. Sometimes I felt I was running in hopes of finding her. Other times I felt I was running from myself. But I just kept running. I felt winded, bruised, tired, beaten…and while I could not seem to find the mile markers anywhere, I was sure I had been stuck at mile 20, the Wall, for quite some time. While not sure just how much time I had been stuck there, it was long enough to know that the more paralyzed I felt, the more exhaustion I felt as well.
You know that reoccurring dream about being literally stuck somewhere and while you scream as loud as possible, no sound comes out?
That has been my year of 2016. An exhausted silent screaming for help for a solid 10 months. A journey that teeters between feeling desperately lonely and somehow empowering, often in the same breathe. A journey that has felt like a lifetime, yet when I glance over my shoulder it appears I have not moved at all.
And so, accidentally being sidelined for the weekend without my family, has left me feeling lonely in a way that actually feels healing. Not at all like a lifetime loss, but instead simply the kind of temporary lonely that provides just the quiet needed to see that I don’t have to run at all. That there is no finish line to cross. That in fact, in the depths of all this quiet, I feel nourished. That in the depths of the quiet I also feel empowered to have survived such a challenging year and feel grateful for the many people in my life that have helped me on my darkest and brightest days as well.
It is in this temporary state of alone that I welcome 2017 with an open heart, an open mind and a stillness in my soul. Because after all, being still is actually the one place in our life that we can hear our own heartbeat; where we know for sure we are alive.