Monday, August 15, 2011

Miles to Me

"The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become."
-Charles Dubois

Happy Monday night, friends :) I hope that your week has been wonderful to you so far; and that Monday has treated you kindly. I hope your ‘last week’ was a good one, too! Filled with sunshine, new vices (uhm, I totally just discovered the show "Damages" ... and I'm HOOKED) & farmer's market goodies (you can absolutely taste the difference in "fresh from the garden produce") and punctuated by quiet, peaceful, lunch-break picnics... my past week has been a good one for sure.

...With, perhaps, the exception of this pesky post that has been hanging over my head for the past couple weeks.

I'd just like to take a minute to say (and I know I'm preaching to the choir here): sometimes being a blogger is hard. Like, really hard. A blog is a journal of sorts, meaning that first and foremost you are writing for yourself -- but it's also an online journal that is meant to be shared --read by others. And sometimes, that means applying a filter. A filter to preserve the sanctity of a relationship: whether it be a marriage, a friendship, or an unspoken treatise with your own spirit. I've been struggling for the past couple weeks especially over the phrase "year of honesty"... which I loftily promised to all of you way back in January.

Perhaps I should have begun by apologizing... because there's been a huge heartache that I've been battling for months now... and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how and when … and if... to share. (To quash any rumors: my family is fine. I am healthy. My marriage is a blessing that I give thanks for every day, and God is so good... even in the midst of my struggles.)

Writing has always provided catharsis for me, and so it seemed natural to me that I would write about it. It was perfect in theory: I would write about it and put it behind me... shed a few tears perhaps, but pick myself up and move forward with purpose. And so I wrote.... (pages and pages which will never even make it to the "post graveyard") and I prayed. ...And I waited.

And for an awfully long time, I waited in silence. I don't know if I was asking the wrong questions, asking from the wrong place, or if perhaps, the silence itself was the answer. Maybe it was.

At any rate, I'm sure it probably seems like I'm rambling now... but all this to say, writing this post brought all this back to the forefront. And it's back in the forefront because my marathon journey has provided a startling resolution-- and I'm trying to discern how best to give my story justice. Do I need to spill forth everything in order to make the conclusion more satisfying? ... Especially if, despite my best efforts, in the unpolished telling of the story I say something that could hurt someone I care about? Will this really be something I am proud of? Something I can honestly say I put out into the world to make it a better place? (Which may sound trite... but really? Why do any of us blog? It is to fulfill a longing of our heart to create... and an equal longing on our heart to reach out and connect with others.)

My answer? ... No. (Thus the posting delay and multiple drafts sitting on my desktop...)

Romantic as it may be -- ultimately, my redemption will never come from 'spilling my guts' in a blog post. Actually, I tried that in January. ... and while my final effort is one that I am quite proud of, the post I published was a censored & watered down version of reality ... penciling in the happy ending I longed for when, in fact, my heart was not ready to let go and make it a reality.

No, my redemption came, ultimately, when I recognized it was okay to love myself, even in my imperfections. Peace came when I allowed myself to recognize the truth of the situation... grieve , and say, "It's okay, Amy. You're okay. I forgive you."

But, let's start at the beginning:

At the end of last year I was pretty depressed. I believe perhaps it was the culmination of a lot of little things at once -- but in the end, I don't think it matters why. The truth of the matter is that suddenly I was brought to my knees my an aching desire that nothing could fill. And, coming swiftly on the heels of that desire, a deep, searing guilt. I felt incredibly selfish, and dared not speak of my longings to others, for fear that they would judge me. ... or quite frankly (& ironically), tell me to grow up.

And so it was that I plodded along, with a heavy heart, through some of the darkest months in my recent history (as I recall, middle school was no picnic, but I survived that and have been working diligently to forget it ever since :) I didn't see it then, but I recognize now that dealing with this gave a tremendous beating to my self esteem. Eventually, you heart starts believing what your brain is telling it... and mine was telling me that I was selfish, immature, and worthless; that I never finished what I started, and worse: perhaps I never would.

Sometimes it takes something radical to pull us out of the pit-- a radical change, a radical love, a radical promise. And that's what running this marathon became for me: a radical change, a radical love, a radical promise.

Not that I realized it at first, of course. Quite frankly, the only thing on my mind the day I signed up was, "I really need something to do to take my mind off this other stuff..." I knew it was going to be the most challenging endeavor I'd ever taken on. And-- truly? I kind of wanted it to hurt. While I wanted so badly to believe that I could do it, there was a part of me that counted this as my penance. At the time I felt overwhelmed by my failures & shortcomings... and I desperately needed this to be my discipline. I knew it was going to be good for me... but I KNEW I wasn't particularly going to enjoy it.

...And then?...


It started when I fell head over heels in love with my running group. The way these people care for each other is absolutely breathtaking. Whether it's in homemade pb&j's served with a smile after long runs, kind words of encouragement throughout the week, or running a couple miles on your day off so that your friend doesn't have to run alone-- this is Community. I was able to join a weekday morning running group, and the ladies I run with have been a special blessing to me.

So, I was loving the group... loving the running (which was a feeling I was scared I would never get back...) And slowly but surely, I gained the courage to fall in love with me again, too.

I am my own worst critic-- and that's something I've always known. But it occurs to me that in recent years, I've been critiquing more than I've been crediting. Running a marathon allows you ample opportunities to critique -- that's part of the beauty of running, an intensely personal sport-- but it also allows ample opportunities for awe. My body can do SO much more than I had ever dreamed. And, perhaps even more importantly for me: my mind can do more than I ever dreamed. I am capable of rising above negative self talk that says, "You're too slow. You're carrying a few extra pounds and you're out of shape. There's no way you can run these miles." I am capable of sheltering & kindling the fire in my heart that burns with the truth,"Oh, yes I can."

I always used to think that I was in the best shape of my life when I was running with the high school cross country team (ulp. 11 years ago...)-- but now I know better: with MiT not only am I running farther than I have ever run before in my life... my approach toward body image and exercise are better than they've ever been.

I knew running a marathon was going to change my life, but I had no idea how much. I had no idea of the changes would rock my world in the months preceding my 26.2 mile trek to the finish line. Today, I am proud to say that I have logged over 200 training miles in my quest toward self discovery. ...And by the time I cross the finish line on October 16, I will have logged many more. And with each step I run, I know I am moving closer & closer to becoming the person I was created to be. I know with absolute certainty that this is what I am supposed to be doing now. It sure isn't easy (I tell you with conviction that running 14 miles was the hardest thing I have ever done. EVER.), but, you know? The most satisfying rewards are those you work the hardest for.

And so, what started as a punishment has become a blessing. And, keeping promises to myself, I keep running; faithfully logging those miles.

Miles to me.

"The true runner is a very fortunate person. He has found something in him that is just perfect."

George Sheehan