I push into the pack of runners, looking, searching, for my start-line crew. My brothers, Todd and Justin, and my sister-in-law (turned top friend), Abbie, were just with me. How did I lose them? Where did they go? The announcer is counting down the seconds to fire the gun. I look ahead, then behind me. It’s as if they have disappeared, and I am left all alone to run this race. In my gut I know that it is supposed to be this way. Instead of pushing forward to middle of the crowd, I weave back and forth till I am near the most average of runners, the back-half. The announcer sounds, “10, 9, 8..” I’m praying it doesn’t rain. I didn’t train for wet conditions. I trained in perfect weather. Miles and miles of running in the sun. “Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain,” I chant in my head. The clouds are heavy, the runners packed-in tight, and I am consumed with what this race means. Not mile after mile of endurance, but step after step of being, trying, fighting, hoping, believing, and surviving.
The first runner takes a stride, the clouds open up; the rain starts to fall. I plug in my music, zip my jacket up to my chin, and prepare for what I haven’t prepared for. Rain. Lots of rain. The first song on my playlist, is a song that Justin sent me, 11 months ago, as I went from a married woman of 17 years to a single woman of 1 day. This middle brother of mine told me in a text that he loved me, that he supported me, and would be here for me. At This Point In My Life, by Tracy Chapman carries me up the start of the 4 mile incline.
I’m running against the rain, dark clouds overhead, praying it will stop. The rain is saturating my jacket, my gloves are wet. I’m miserable and it’s just 1 mile in. Almost immediately I am rocked by the length of this race, 13.1 miles, in conditions that aren’t fair. Tracy starts singing to me, as if she’s reading my thoughts.
See its been a hard road, the road I’m traveling on.
I reflect and feel the pain of the months of last June…July…August…September. Of leaving my marriage. Moving in with my parents. The kids slamming doors, crying, sleeping on the floor, on cots in the basement, questioning the path of their mom. All the while, living above us, my two biggest champions, my Mom and Dad, working hard to create a soft place for us to land. I am thinking of days at work where I couldn’t fake my drowning sadness, crying in the bathroom, at my desk, slouched in the hallway with tears streaming down my face, falling apart in meetings, lunches with co-workers, and alone in my car each night before I left work.
I’ve had a hard life I’m just saying it so you’ll understand
That right now, right now, I’m doing the best I can
At this point in my life
My legs are so tired, my emotions weak, this race is too much. I didn’t train for this kind of run. I cry tears of living an apprenticeship as I ascent. Not of failing, but of trying so hard for 6,200 days that there was nothing left to try. My very heart slowed to an unheard beat. Not blaming anyone, just acknowledging that it wasn’t what I had expected. That it didn’t fit. It didn’t work.
Right now. Right now. I’m doing the best I can.
The uphill road is wet with rain, runners are stopping on the side of the road, stretching out leg cramps. I’m looking straight ahead.
You see I’ve been climbing stairs but mostly stumbling down
I’ve been reaching high always losing ground
You see I’ve been reaching high but always losing ground
You see I’ve conquered hills but I still have mountains to climb
And right now right now I’m doing the best I can
At this point in my life
I’m hearing in my head the untruths that are evident when something so significant dissolves. The rumors are just rumors; mimicking false reality. I look at my hands, my glove soaked hands, they are in front of me punching the air. I am the same girl. The same woman. The same.
At this point in my life
I’d like to live as if only love mattered
As if redemption was in sight
As if the search to live honestly
Is all that anyone needs
Running against the rain. It is trying to pull me down, trying to take me down, telling me I can’t. I won’t. That I’m a failure. But I am stronger than the rain, even so weak, I am stronger.
You see when I’ve touched the sky
The earth’s gravity has pulled me down
But now I’ve reconciled that in this world
Birds and angels get the wings to fly
There are so few cheering the racers this year, one woman is under a huge umbrella, sitting on her car, ringing a cow bell for each and every one of us as if WE mattered to her. ME! As if I mattered to her! I smile at her, she is encouraging me! I can do this, I can run in the rain, I can do it. I still have power in me.
Rachel Platten’s song, Fight Song starts to run through my head. I am alone in the ocean. The rain is coming steady, she’s not letting up. I pass a couple who has stopped to walk. She tells him she wants to give up, he tells her…”Keep going. You can do it.” I nod, and pump my legs past them. Rachel’s words sing to me.
Like a small boat
In the ocean
Sending big waves
I’m thinking of October….November…December…January. Of the days crushing me, but not killing me. Of finding my core friends, of finding my strength during morning CrossFit, of finding my laugh, of finding adventure in late night drives chasing storms with the kids just because they wanted to see how hard the sky water comes down when you dance in the middle of it. I am running with the rain. Not being beat. Not going down.
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
I adjust my hat, and zip my phone into a second waterproof bag. I am feeling determined to find a bright path in my life, of pulling people along with me who are good for me, who I will be good for. Of creating family love in our condo, a condo that feels like home. My wet legs are cold, strong, running. I am hoping my sisters and my Mom and Dad will be around the next corner. They believe in me, they see me, they know me. They feel my voice! They know the dynamite I had to use to blow up the wrong and put the right back together. Every inch of me is soaked, down through to my skin. The rain has become the race.
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me
I run through the tunnel, and when I emerge I see a neon green sign. My sign! My family. Cheering so loud, louder than the rain I run with, they are yelling my name and boosting my soul. This same family who has stood by me, cried with me, supported me with dinners, a clean condo, daily texts, love for my children, hope for my future. I run past them and the tears come heavy down my face, mixing with earths water. And a giant smile opens up on my face.
I run to the mile 11 marker, kiss my hand, and press it on the sign. My lucky 11. I am almost there. The rain is drenching me. The brim of my hat can’t keep up. I see rain all around me. Runners are sloshing through the street ponds, soaked, cold, and trudging along, all 3,831 of us have a story — and the rain is pulling it out of us. The lady who has stopped, doubled over, the boy who’s dad pushes him in a wheelchair, the sisters who are three across in their rain ponchos. All of us.
My ear buds have long been put away, but there is a song in my heart. A song my dear Abbie gave to me last June. Abbie, who has already crossed the finish line with her fast legs. Erin McCarley, There’s No Holding You Down encourages me. I no longer fear the rain, I am the rain.
Face whatever you fear.
I’m smiling at my story, its not perfect, its so flawed, but I am living it. I’m running through the rain. Running through the rain, the best I can!
We can write the story
You don’t have to worry
February…March…April…May…the sunniest spring in years. I have felt so much happiness, light, and peace. I’m ready to face the days ahead. I’m letting go of the regret. Filing it up with love. Seeing those in my life differently, with a deeper respect for living.
Press, let optimism
Find you, need you
In that crowded mind
That dangerous mind
The rain is hard and fast! My legs are strong. One mile to go.
There’s no holding you down
There’s no holding you down
And then I turn onto Grant street. My favorite. I repeat to myself between dodging runners, “I Grant myself happiness. I Grant myself peace. I Grant myself love. I Grant myself hope, friendship, failure, success, kindness. I Grant myself more. I Grant myself light!” This street, this mile, is the hardest, but I am facing it, with the rain I hate, the rain I love.
There’s no holding you down
No one holding you down
I see the finish line, it is there, so close. “I Grant myself ability. I Grant myself strong legs. I Grant myself compassion. I Grant myself time. I Grant myself small flights, and big flights, too.”
I’m sprinting, running as fast as I can, the rain skimming off the top of my hat. My wet feet numb and achy. My family is to the west of me cheering in the triumphant orchestra of love, I look over to them and pump my fists in the air. I did it! The finish line is steps away. My legs are writing a story, they are carrying my heart, they are pushing my limits, and they are not concerned if it is raining or sunny. They came to run a race, and run a race they did, taking me over the threshold.
From a distance I hear my name, with a medal around my neck I spin to see my two most amazing friends, Jessica and Jodi. My face! It can’t hold back! I love them! And when they hug me the crying can’t be stopped, cause they are tears of true friendship, for these two that have sandwiched my trial with their kindness. And they witnessed what may very well be the most symbolic day of my new life.
The rain, the miles, the training, the cold, was all worth it. For this. This moment of seeing-my-soul clarity – a light marching forward.
The finish line; my starting line.
Somewhere in heaven there are 99 horses, one for each of his years, following the lead of a great man who left this life on a Wednesday, three days from Sunday, three till Saturday, tethered to his one. He was married to her for 67 years, his one. The love of his life that he spent his days next to, walking side by side, resting in the wake of mother nature – finding life in the cyclical pattern of family.
I’ve thought much about the longevity of love in the past 11 months, why it works, when it works, and how it works. There must be a formula, a gift of giving one to another with no price or expectation, consciously giving with power of love. Because I am drawn to the number 5, here are a few thoughts I have been pondering:
1 – Respect the small moments.
God gives us an opportunity each night to share 6 minutes of sky painting together. Step outside, warm your hands together on a mug of tea, wrap up in a blanket and watch the sun hide until morning while the sky simultaneously fills with wonder. There is no need to have a conversation, just occupying the same atmosphere of time is enough.
I saw a couple last week, late into their years, holding hands as they waited to order their lunch. The simple dearness balanced the mundane of life with a soft whisper of hands touching saying, “I love you.” Out in public it is a bold statement declaring love and togetherness. In private, coping with life is easier when you are holding the hand of someone you are connected to.
3-Mark your path.
Give to her often in objects rich in sentiments, creating a bread crumb trail etched with your name. She will find you often, by the path you created with the gifts she can see, pick up, and wear against her skin.
4-Swim in her heart.
To give someone your heart is not necessary. Sharing your heart, now, therein is the real treasure. Sharing your dreams, your despair, your light, your gray. Sharing by swimming in the ocean together. And how do we learn to swim? With the life vest of kindness. Kindness rules truth in serving the one you love. The smallest acts trump all the words of promises.
Written words of love are the bible to a relationship, to be referred to often and with reverence. They easily dispel the hesitancy of the spoken word in a poetic and thoughtful fashion. Hand written, heart felt, soul driven words — mend bridges and remind us that we are part of a special journey together.
When Raymond’s 99 horses stop and rest tonight in heaven, they will sit under a large apple tree, one that is carved with a R + E. There he will wait for his one to pass to the other side of this realm. And when she soon joins him, he will leap to his feet, run to her and crush any loneliness that loss leaves in the race of mortality. They will share a moment of swimming hearts beneath a beautiful tree, holding hands, tracing the gift of wedding rings between fingers, speaking in a language of love that belongs in a new sphere of time.
Faith is not blind, faith is hope, and hope is love, and love that is long with giving…. lasts.