There is something wonderful about having the excuse of being out of service to step away from communicating with the communities of which I am a member. For a week, my phone remained off. I simply enjoyed the company of family and friends at my in-laws’ lake place. That said, I also enjoyed returning to service and re-connecting. When my phone found service, I had an email with the subject “Blog?” and the message simply “I miss it” to which I replied a photo of the lake at sunrise.
Part of my relaxing vacation included a 16-18 mile run. The lake circumference just happens to be 17 miles. Courtney and his sister, Tiffany, had completed the run years before as Courtney prepared for the Rut Ultra Marathon and he advised me it was a bit hilly, but beautiful. Courtney lovingly agreed to meet me at mile 10 with encouragement and a fresh supply of water. The night before my run a house guest questioned, “What do you think about when you run for four hours?” My response, “It is more what don’t you think about.” Perhaps it was her question, or the dense Western-Montana underbrush that made me more aware I was alone on a trailwith nothing but my thoughts, but the majority of the run I thought about what I was thinking. Four hours also gave me a lot of time to overanalyze and critique most aspects of life.
When you run by yourself, it is easy to get creeped out. I only saw a handful of cars during my run and most runners can tell you stories about the eerie feeling distributed by slow moving cars even if they turn out to be early morning newspaper delivery drivers. One white car slowed down a good distance from me. My quick evaluation established it may be better to show the driver I saw him and politely step off the road, even though there was plenty of room for him to pass me. As the car passed, the driver extended his arm out the window and gave me a thumbs up. It was such a simple gesture, but it reminded me how much genuine encouragement means, especially when I am tired. For me, the same is true with grief. Knowing I will be ok, but being reminded it is ok when I am a mess is part of what keeps me going. The driver could have sped past me leaving me freshly dusted with gravel and sand. He could have extended another finger, but he didn’t. He took a fraction of a second to encourage a random stranger. It is this type of community I need both as a runner and in other elements of my life. Courtney and I have been fortunate to have support from many communities as we navigated life with Josh, as well as now, navigating life without him.
One community I am thankful to be a part of is my group of running girls: the Go Go Girls. We started running together in 2013 so I often forget they never met Josh, but they have welcomed me and my memories of Josh with open hearts. We are a diverse group of women, but put us together on a road run and it gets pretty silly. These girls are a huge part of why I have continued to run. As I trekked up yet another hill around that beautiful lake, I wished they could have joined me because the hills never seemquite a huge when I have company. Well, that isn’t true. They would have seemed just a huge, but at least there would have been another voice besides mine cursing under her breath as we climbed to the peak and rejoiced on the other side.
Farther into my run, I had the unnerving sense I was being watched. Knowing more than likely no humans were hanging out in the brush I decided to take action by singing out loud for a few miles. My out-of-breath rendition of Brandon Heath’s “Wait and See” and Old Dominion’s “Stars in the City” effectively scared away my fears of whatever, or whomever, was lurking in the underbrush. My marathon training playlist is a bit random, but it works for me. One of chorus lines of Heath’s song is “There is hope for me yet.” There is something about this verbal reminder that I can keep going, even when I am tired and want to stop. Old Dominion’s piece reminds me “There can be beauty in the broken if you open up your mind.” It too, pushes me to look at life through varied lenses. I can no longer go back to how I viewed the world before Josh, but I can take the altered perspective I have as a result of being broken to find ways to heal.
One funny part about my run was I literally ran in a circle. I reflected on how much of my life I feel like a hamster on a wheel. Frequently I am unsure where I am going and often feellike I am getting somewhere only to realize I am still running the same circled track. A coworker asked me this week where I see hope. I have hope, but I am not sure where it comes from. Perhaps it comes from those around me who keep reminding me to keep going, even if it feels like I am running in circles, and even if the person is only someone who entered my life for a fleeting moment on a dusty road.