Chugging up the track, the roller coaster pulls me up higher and higher and higher. I look out over the landscape of my life. Friends cheering me on, Ash smiling happily, the ocean stretching out to the horizon of forever. The wind whips through my hair; I smell the salty spray of the life-giving sea. The seagulls are crying, echoing through the opened chambers of my soul. I am airing myself out, I am open, I am free. I lift my arms to the heavens, grateful and calm and content.
I reach the top, the coaster pauses. My breath catches, there is an endless moment of anticipation, expectation, resolution, faith. I plunge down, down, down. Fast, faster, fastest. I can’t breathe, I am whipped to the side, then the other side. I am scared, I am overwhelmed, but I know I chose this course of action. I know I thought about it long and hard before I got on this ride. I am here and I know I am going to be okay. I am solid and secure in my choice, even though I want to cry and scream and rage and hide.
I let my breath out, an overwhelmed, keening wail of grief over the loss of safety in my life and let it go. The wind takes it, whips it, disperses it.
I reach another hill, and I am chugging back up, up, up. A moment of respite, a moment to gather my thoughts. To ground myself. To check in and listen. Is this still the right course? Am I still making the right choice?
Yes, I am. I know it, through to my bones. I am doing the right thing. This is wild and crazy and scary and overwhelming and oh, so right.
This year of running, of courage, of pushing my body farther than I ever thought it could go, this year of choices and listening to myself and learning how to move through pain, this year of leaps of faith, of learning I can choose to do what I want and still be okay, this year of strength and emotions and fragility and changes…this is an epic year of beauty and pain and change and extraordinary growth.
I learned how to live. I learned how to live according to me, my thoughts, my desires, my needs, my intentions. I learned how to have courage. I am still learning courage. Weeks like this past week test me. Nights like last night are painful reminders that I never said staying true to myself would be easy. Loneliness makes itself known on more occasions than I care to admit. I reach out and grab emptiness. Quiet stillness in my tiny apartment where my pantry also houses my shoes and half my closet, where the other half of my closet hangs for all to see in my living room, where I don’t have a couch, I only have a futon that I can’t fold into a couch because it’s too difficult to do by myself, where a giant wooden table hugs the wall, with my TV and computer on it and art supplies – paint and mod podge and photos and mosaic tiles and pastels and beads and paper – strewn across it. I lie on my tummy on my bed, on this maroon and blue and green paisley quilt given to me on my wedding day by my mother, and bury my face in my pillows, hoping to drown the sounds of car doors slamming in the parking lot outside, the sound of happy people talking after dinner. I smell the sweet spicy smell of gingerbread from the house Ash and I made, the pumpkin smell of a favorite candle. A string of orange lights casts a muted glow in this space – my own space for the first time in my life. So empty with just me. I want touch, arms around me, the comfort of another person’s breath on my cheek.
I am still learning how to keep myself company. I am still learning how to rely on me. Now that I am on my own for the first time in my life, I am learning how to pay bills and keep the house clean and go to work and take care of my son and still find the time to shower and shave my legs and wash my face.
I’ve learning that I’m rebellious and I don’t like that. It’s not living life according to me. It’s living life according to other people – by being the anti-whatever-they-say. (Or, more accurately, the anti-whatever-I-think-they’ll-say.)
I decided last night I don’t like that.
So this next year? Further exploration of what it means to be me. Of listening to me, not others. Part of that means not running ultras – at least for now. It means writing and painting and creating and dancing. It means lonely nights, and putting myself out there for rejection and judgment, and letting people know what’s going on inside me. It means telling the truth – to me and others. It means continued trust in myself, in the idea that I am going to be okay, no matter what happens.
No matter what. I am going to be okay.