Thursday, June 4, 2015

What drives you to your finish line?

"A writer's job is not to say what we can all say, but to say what we are unable to say." Anais Nin

I recently had a conversation with a young guy that stuck with me. Ironically I started to blog about it at the same time I stumbled on a forgotten start to the memoir I'm attempting to write. In thinking about the conversation after reading the scrapped piece, so much suddenly made sense to me.  

(Conversation at a party I recently attended)
Me, struggling to find some appropriate casual small talk: Oh you have a Seneca 7 shirt on? Did you run that this year?
Young guy: Yea. I ran it.
Me: How was it?
Young guy: It was really hard, especially the end.
Me: Do you run many races?
Young guy: No. I'm not really into paying someone 25 bucks so I can run 3 miles when I can just run 3 miles.


Our conversation popped in my head at various points over the weekend. I wonder what separates me from this kid?  I'm so totally drawn to races. I'd run one every month if my body allowed me to. 

Am I unique? What draws some of us to sign up & fork over the 100 bucks while others are perfectly content $100 richer?

I love the feeling of running toward something but so much so that I feel compelled to run 26.2 miles? What's my "why?" I started wondering if it was the result of a lifetime of running away. Or maybe it's because it's a clearly defined goal. Then I came across this scrapped forgotten piece I had written for my memoir and I started connecting the dots. This is the condensed version. Hold on tight....

“Are you ok?” I hesitantly asked as I passed a guy at mile 14 on the canal path. He looked to be held up by a tree as he bent over in a familiar stance. He raised his hand to me unable to talk as he got rid of whatever he had downed pre-marathon. Poor guy, I thought to myself. We are only over half way done. I silently wished him well and added a little prayer for myself too. The truth was, I was moving pretty slowly myself, actively trying to ignore a creeping pain inching its way up the back of my right leg. It had started in my outer ankle and had been progressively moving up the back of my leg behind my knee. I tried to ignore it as long as I could until I finally stopped to stretch and rub it.

Oye vay, I thought to myself. This is not good. I immediately put the thought out of my head and started running again. I thought about my running partner. We had both trained together for today. He was running his first marathon in Europe and I was running my first here in NY. Our time zones were 6 hours apart so I knew that if all went according to our plans, he would be finished and hopping on a plane to Italy right about then. I was certain his victory text was waiting on my phone in my little running pouch.

Darcey, Remember. You are not looking at your phone until you finish. 

This was purely a mental trick. I was attempting to assert some kind of fool-hearty control over the marathon, my thought being that I would finish so I could eagerly read all about his success. As it turned out this plan didn’t work. I ended up peeking at a low moment and I am so grateful I did. The texts from my friends and family as I made my way alone down the canal path totally kept me going. My running partner's victory text stayed with me the entire way and simply said, "No retreat. No surrender. I believe in you." There is no greater gift you can give someone than believing in them. True that.

I was over halfway to the finish line. Boy had I come a long way to get to this place; halfway through my very first marathon. Quitting was not an option. I first started running in 2011 after the death of my mom. In life, my mom took a big part of me. And in death she gave back more than she took. In many ways I have just finally started learning to live. Running has been a big part of that.
          26 years earlier.....

         “Did he rape you?” she asked with a face of stone.
"He" being a 40 something 300 pound man. "She" being my mom. I sat there unable to speak, this teeny tiny 17 year old girl, crying as the priest that had talked me into this ridiculous plan of trying to tell her said, “Kathy did you hear what she told you? Listen to what she is saying.”

She could rarely hear me and today was no different. 

She completely ignored him and focused solely on me. It was as if he wasn’t even there. I could feel her stare as I sat there with my head down and my knees up to my chest, trying to make myself small enough to somehow disappear. Her questions came at me like the bullets of a loaded gun.
“Why were you at a party? You aren’t allowed to go to parties. Were you drinking? Who was there? How did you get there?

I remained silent, wishing I could take back all of it. I knew better than this. She would never understand.

We sat there silent for what seemed like an eternity. We only made eye contact once and I remember thinking I saw tears in her eyes but not a single one did she ever let fall.

She finally broke the silence. “If you say he raped you then we go to the police. Otherwise we never talk about this again.”  

And with that simple statement, my mom and I never spoke of it again, not for over 20 years, and not until her days on this earth could be counted on just 2 hands. Maybe time had finally numbed her pain enough. Or maybe it heightened it, I'm not sure. But in any case I found myself sitting on the back porch with her in the last days she would spend with me. The sun was warm and the wind was blowing a gentle breeze. I gathered up every bit of courage I could find and said, “You just couldn’t handle it, could you mom?"

There was no need to elaborate.  

“You were my baby.” she simply replied. "I just couldn't.." and with that her voice trailed off and she looked away. I remember wondering what it must have felt like to be facing death carrying such a heaviness for so long. It was in that moment that I think I finally forgave her.

At 43 years old now, I barely recognize that 17 year old girl. She ran away from people. She ran away from feelings. She ran away from guilt and shame. Just the same, I know that teeny tiny terrified girl is still in there and I bring her with me every run. We run in a new direction now. She no longer runs away. She runs towards her dreams and every finish line she crosses she gets just a little bit stronger and a little bit braver. 

What drives you to your finish line?

“A writer's job is not to say what we can all say, but to say what we are unable to say." Anais Nin