I listened to a country station in the car this week. Shh… don’t tell my dad.
My mother loved Simon and Garfunkel and ordered the latest K-tel record album with all the pop hits. I listened to Jim Nabors croon “The Impossible Dream” on our hand-me-down hi-fi, and after a brief silence while the record player dropped the next vinyl disk, Roger Miller sang, “King of the Road.” That was about as country as it got.
But then there was my father…
Dad grew up in the southern part of the state with banjos and overalls and liked the country music station with songs about dead dogs and tractor trailers. He tortured us all with that music, holding us captive in the old blue Chevy and chain-smoking during the hour-long trip to visit my grandparents while I tried to sneak the back window down and gasp for air.
I didn’t particularly embrace my redneck roots.
With the recent surge of genre crossover music that plays on both the country stations and the pop stations, I surprisingly find myself downloading more and more Nashville tunes. The lyrics ring of honesty and I much prefer the sound of real instruments to the synthetic pounding of today’s growing club music cult. And even if I’m not the flag-waving, bible-thumping girl I used to be, I understand those people better than most.
Besides, I think a little country twang fits much better with the surrounding farmland ambience.
Four months. One-third of a year. That’s a long time to be quiet.
I’m so disconnected with myself that I can’t even put a thought together. That’s not good.
I don’t have a race. I don’t have a plan. Every morning I wake up and make a critical decision about whether to get a run in or sleep more and run later – maybe. Usually sleep wins, and then the guilt chases me around all day. Even if I do run later, I beat myself up for not doing it “right.” No matter which choice I make I’m exhausted because I woke up early to fight with myself. Again.
And my runs aren’t what they used to be. I’m almost always struggling. All my parts argue with each other and I can’t seem to find real peace.
As go I, so goes my run.
I need to get myself together.
I have forgotten everything. All the lessons. All the ah-ha moments. I’m living in a brain fog and my wires are all disconnected.
My body has been screaming at me for months, but apparently my personal translator fell down on the job. Lyme Disease. Anxiety. Asthma. Vocal chord disfunction. Menopause. The infamous “hmm…” from the doctor, and a handful of assorted prescribed poisons.
But it won’t quiet down.
So I exist in a screaming body with a disconnected brain. And I’m so uncomfortable.
But Love holds me hard and tight and my soul has never felt more relieved and safe.
When I was young, I used to delight in going through my mother’s sheet music and plunking out the melody lines to songs from her past on our badly out-of-tune piano. I would croon my way through classics from Carmen, The King and I, and Porgy and Bess. She had stacks and stacks of beautiful, well-worn music, each song a treasure.
But one of my favorites was that gut-wrenching blues tune called, “Stormy Weather,” and I would dig deep inside my soul and belt out that song with every bit of passion my tiny voice could muster. I felt it. And I wished I had a huge, big voice that could really express all of the feelings it evoked in me.
The weathermen warn us – sometimes. Sometimes it strikes with no warning. It rages and swirls around us and pulls us into its gloomy gusts, making us feel powerless and hopeless. We fight for a while against it, imagining ourselves to be invincible and calling on every bit of stubbornness and determination and strength that lies within us. But the storm looms large and tosses us around until we feel so banged up we think we’ll never get up and walk again. All we can do is let go and wait it out.
And when we’re in it, we feel like it’s never going to end and that surely it’s the most awful storm in the history of the world.
Until it’s over.
And the beautiful, lovely, heart-opening peace that comes after a storm is worth every war behind us.
It comes. It always, always comes.
I wound slowly through the cold, quiet countryside this morning as most of the world was still waking up. The sugar maples lit the path like street lamps with their neon-yellow canopies and carpeted the earth with layers and layers of gorgeous yellow leaves.
Somewhere in the second mile the tears came, and my emotions spilled out all over the country road leaving a long trail behind me. My whole life flashed in my mind like a movie trailer. All the hurts and disappointments – in myself and in others, the joys and discoveries and sweet lovely moments…
Fear – childhood pain, desperate decisions, the awfulness of being trapped in a bad situation and not being able to see a way out… Then… Love – hope and light, finding my voice, feeling cherished…
And the beginning of this running journey – treadmill walks that sometimes turned to brief jogs. A slow huff around the block. Longer… and longer… And…
Now I face my 6th marathon.
The runs have changed me, as they do. Running is dying. Running is living. The lovely harmony of my mind, body and spirit moves me and reminds me that if even one of those things is off-key, the entire song suffers. My heart opens wide and I have a moment of illumination when I see the Universe clearly and everything makes perfect sense to me.
My old self is crucified, and all the Fears with it. The suffering and pain is all for something bigger and more important – but it has to happen this way. There is no other path from here to there. Ridicule. Accusations. They only see from their limited view. They don’t understand.
And from death, Life.
Over and over and over again. Just like the farms, so goes the world.
“Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” ~ Luke 17:33
The bright moon hung suspended in the lavender sky by an invisible wire, spotlighting the rolling farm tapestries of gold and green. And as my body floated down the winding roads on happy legs, my heart swelled with the magic of this beautiful evening scene, and I released gasping, tearful sobs of joy in the third mile.
The rest was just a lovely dream, leaving no trace of the pain and agony of last week.
My body was wrecked – destroyed – by lack of sleep and trying to squeeze too much activity into each 24 hours. Every cell revolted and stubbornly sat down and refused to carry on the nonsense, forcing me to bed and to my favorite chair for a whole weekend of mindless nothingness. I felt my life draining away from me even as I tried to save it.
But today, the Universe restored my soul and filled me with the Love I’ve come to depend upon for my health and happiness.
And this… this is how I choose to live. I choose Love. Every fucking time.
“Tell me what you feel in your room when the full moon is shining in upon you and your lamp is dying out, and I will tell you how old you are, and I shall know if you are happy.”
Gosh, I haven’t written here in so long I feel like a complete stranger to my own blog.
I’ve been exhausted.
My weekly training mileage is getting extremely challenging; to find the time is maybe more difficult than finding the energy. A 4:30 alarm is about the earliest I can stomach, and even that doesn’t always leave me room to get to work on time. It’s dark. It’s getting chilly. And 4:30 is fucking early no matter what time you go to bed.
But every two weeks I’m surprising myself with new records, and as trashed as my body feels at times, I’ve never felt stronger in my life. It’s a journey, full of adventure and lessons and doubts and exhilaration and… Love. Race day will almost be a let-down at this point, because it will mark the end of my trip. Well… this trip.
It’s all relative, I remind myself constantly. I have certain friends who run my weekly miles for breakfast. But this isn’t about them. It’s all about me. My legs. My lungs. My pace. My fears. My stubborn determination. My open heart. My lessons.
All the parts of my life melt together into the run. The can’t-go-another-step part, the my-god-I’m-a-fucking-badass part, the finally-feel-loved part, and the what’s-going-to-happen-in-the-next-mile part. And I just keep going, with relentless forward motion, until it’s time to stop. And so it goes. Mile after mile. Life after life. Love after fear.
I can’t imagine going back there unless one of them is gravely ill or dead.
I’m so done.
It’s not their fault, I guess. It’s not mine, either. The Universe threw us together into this thing called a family, which somehow takes on this “till death do us part” kind of promise, which is completely unfair when we don’t get to do the choosing.
So a lot of us suffer through these awful, dysfunctional, outgrown relationships for the sake of having a guest list for Thanksgiving dinner and people to buy useless Christmas gifts for, or because we feel some sense of social obligation to these strangers who share our blood line and our name.
Throw in a shitty childhood and tell me why I should ever have to return to the scene of those crimes? Now that we’re all adults I’m supposed to just forget the atrocities and play nice because my parents probably won’t be around much longer? And because they’re family?
Fuck that shit.
But it’s hard not to have a family in this society. Better to be homeless or terminally ill than not have a family. People are sensitive to the homeless and the sick. No one seems to care if you don’t have a family.
I have completed my obligatory visits for 2014. And it may very well be my last trip, at least for a very long while.
He did it again.
It seemed like the middle of the night when I thought I heard a knock at the door. I wanted to ignore it, but my son was sleeping on the sofa bed and I went to check it out.
There he was – my son – receiving instructions in low tones from my father, who had decided to take him fishing. My dad then turned to me and started babbling about my youngest sister closing on a house this week. I glared at him and reminded him I was still half asleep and that this might be the only day in my 18-week training schedule when I didn’t have to get up early to run or go to work. So much for sleeping in.
And I hated him all morning for that.
I started thinking about all of the stupid-ass things he did to me when I was young – waking me up by pouring water in my face or tickling me with my feather pen until I was annoyed into opening my eyes, leading me to believe Santa left me that bundle of switches outside my bedroom door because I was such a bad kid. It dawned on me that if he were born today, he might be diagnosed with some sort of social disorder like Aspbergers, because he really doesn’t know how to deal with people sometimes. Maybe he does have some issues. I just always thought he was an asshole.
So the boys went fishing and the girls hung back and hot-tubbed, read, and watched the rain roll in. Damn it.
The fishermen arrived around lunchtime with photographic evidence of their day’s efforts. My son looked happy and seems to tolerate my father in a way that I cannot. Or maybe I used to, once upon a time.
He left to clean up, then returned to take us all to dinner. He rattled on about this and that, not listening to a goddamn thing anyone else said. I started to tell him about my job, but he just doesn’t hear me. He interrupts to tell me about my cousin’s husband who finally got his citizenship and now has access to some classified something or other. Seriously, I can’t have a fucking conversation with this man.
I understand now why I never felt loved. I understand why I hated him. I understand why I felt like nothing I ever did impressed him or was good enough. Because he never acted like he heard me. Ever. Still doesn’t. I think it’s just the way he is. He has his own agenda. He doesn’t give a shit about yours.
And all the while, I’m wondering if my kids will hate visiting me one day as much as I hate visiting my family.
I finished out the day with another round in the hot tub and a glass of cheap Chardonnay from the Tiki Hut convenience store up the road. My head hurts from too much sugar and fat, and while I hope we get to boat again tomorrow, I’m really ready for my own bed and my regular routine. There are many things I miss this week, not the least of which is my gym time.
Friday will be a colorful (I’m certain) visit with my great Uncle Dick, and an uncomfortable (I’m even more certain) evening with my sister and her family at my mother’s before we
escape head home on Saturday.
And that will be the end of this year’s family torture. I’m going to put a note on my calendar to remind me to read these posts if I am stupid enough to consider it again next summer.