The strangest things hit me when I’m running, halfway between darkness and sunrise. Today was a particularly good day, never out of breath, never choked up by the fumes of a car or the revving of an unhealthy engine. Most days, I run alongside busy streets and bustling intersections. The frenzied pace of the cars seems to dictate my own anxiety. Will I make the light? Can I cross before the next car comes zooming by? It doesn’t really matter. So, I miss the light. I’ll wait for the next one.
My penchant for stress and anxiety prompted me to do some thinking on my run this morning, however. I’ve been working for a while on the adrenaline overdoses that seem to pelt me constantly when I’m working out. Sure, a boost of energy here and there can be a good thing. For me, however, I completely exhaust my system by having my body on overdrive for the entire run, every run. So how do I fix in? I consciously affect a stride. I try to find a rhythm. I tune out the speed, the screeches, and the blare of traffic. I find my place, where I am in comparison to nothing. Because, honestly, that’s what this is about. Running alongside cars speeding at 45 miles per hour, I feel the strange need to compete. So I curb that urge, and just enjoy my run. Or try to.
Another part of my adrenaline rehab project is a concerted effort at alone-time thinking. When I’m out running, I’m in my element. I love to run, as long as I can put competition behind me. When I successfully find my pace, there is nothing more liberating than conquering five miles while sorting through the musty annals of the past week. What went wrong? Why? What went right? Usually, I focus on the negatives, but advice from friends has recently turned that around. I start—if I remember to—with questions about the good things that I did. Admittedly, it falls into the bad, but it began with good intentions.
This morning I had a series of great revelations on my run. Perhaps they’re nothing profound. Perhaps they’re nothing new. Still, they paired with my sturdy stride to create an powerful feeling of liberation. I think, actually, I was happy for the first time in a while this morning. And its apex, the jog down the 6th Avenue of Affluence (as I like to call it), was met beautifully with the pink glow of a Friday morning sunrise.
But enough of my delays and distractions. What were the revelations? The first, naturally, had to do with my sense of competition with traffic when running. I don’t know if I’m the only one that applies to, but it was certainly a powerful discovery for me. Second, I began to think about relationships, specifically my tendencies to latch onto a boy if he seems to be a “total package” success. My mind wanders with these boys, my imagination sores, and I begin to think that there truly is someone wonderful out there for me. Without even realizing it, I pour a world of emotion, hope, and anxiety into the possibility of a long-lasting relationship with him. Why? Well, everyone wants to be in love, yes? Everyone wants that stable relationship, a someone they always (or almost always) want to come home to. I’m no different. Plus, it’s a distraction from the other parts of my life that are still tenuous, floating above my head in a teasing, “I’m-not-figure-out-yet” kind of way. Perhaps I turn to the possibility of a relationship as a cure-all. In any case, this is exactly what I do.
But in recognizing my tendency to do this, I also realized how fragile my world becomes when I invest myself so heavily in one person. Sure, we all would like a loved one to say, “You are the world to me.” But is that really what we want to be for them? Now illumined, I know I wouldn’t want it for myself. Because, as happens time and again, the bubble I blow up in my mind and heart is popped by the less-than-sensitive truths of reality. Something gets in the way, something isn’t perfect, something fails, something falls apart. Or, someone just leaves. In any case, perfection isn’t found. I’ve been known to pretend it has even while knowing otherwise, but this only made my hole deeper. It took me that much longer to get out of it.
When this catastrophe hits and the slow-mounting euphoria of true love and perfect relationship falls flat on its face, what is my reaction? I get frustrated at the stupidest things, contrary even to what I believe at my core. For example, I remember biking to work one morning at the tail end of one of my painful relationship realizations, only to come to an intersection with slow-moving traffic. Now, if the cars had been moving a bit faster, I could have quickly biked into the right lane and joined the flow. As it was, however, they plodded along, leaving no real gap in the line of cars for me to go anywhere. It just so happened that this mounting frustration reached its climax as a Jeep Cherokee plodded along in my direction. I looked at the driver and saw an overweight woman looking at me with a look of seeming disgust. What did I think? I won’t lie. “Stupid fat lady, move it along!” Somehow, I had gone from frustration at slow-moving traffic, to an insult in my head, hurled at an overweight woman because she was, well, overweight. Was she really glaring at me in disgust? Probably not. She had no reason to. Chances are, she was (and still is) a good person and meant me no ill will. But I felt something in that moment that made me hyper-sensitive to everything about her that I have been trained to feel is ugly, disgusting, and less-than. I know better. I did then, and I do now. But I still had the thought.
So, I asked myself why. True, frustration makes me do stupid things, even think stupid things that don’t really make sense and rarely apply. But there was more to that situation than just a growing impatience at the flow of traffic. I didn’t know it then, but I was channeling my anger from a broken world, made so by the dissolution of my relationship fantasy. It may sound ridiculous, but the two were definitely linked. As were other outbursts in that time period that seemed without justification. No one likes to be fragile, broken, brittle, or vulnerable. Unless, of course, it is with someone they trust. In my case, I couldn’t trust myself to create a world that was both fragile and safe. Confused by the insensitive outcome that reality produced, I didn’t know who to blame or how. As is my nature, I refrained from lashing out against the boy with whom I built such a crazy, fantastical world. It wasn’t his fault. But then, I was still angry. It had to come out. And so it did—in the form of a mental slur against a perfectly good, innocent woman in the driver’s seat of a Jeep Cherokee.
So this is how I operate. Or at least, how I used to operate. How do I deal with this? I am certainly known for consulting with my writing, attempting to find solutions in words, and applying remedies on my own. Still, I know that one of my big needs is to find someone I truly feel comfortable opening up to. I hesitate to share my problems and concerns with friends because I’m honestly afraid of being a burden. But who else would I share these thoughts and feelings with? Not just a stranger, and certainly not someone I’m trying to impress. Though we say we don’t judge, often we do, and I would not want the broken parts of me to be the basis for a first impression. So, I think, I need an unbiased spiritual director—someone who really understands the faith component of my decisions.
When it comes to opening up, my inability to share my thoughts and feelings figures into my fragile worlds as well. So often internalized, my feelings become tired of being shut in virtual darkness—or at the most, being shared one-dimensionally through a blog—that they come out of their own accord and I am hard-pressed to stop them. Of late, this has really been a problem. I share things about myself that maybe I shouldn’t. I say things that might be better left unsaid. Why? Because I don’t have the energy to keep them down. The problem is, after each divulged thought, I feel a protracted sense of guilt. Why? I probably should have kept my mouth shut. So it comes to: divulge for my health, or repress for others? I’m not always sure.
I leave you now, on this beautiful Friday, to think about these things. They’re not light, I’ll grant you, but it was freeing for me to have them finally uncovered. In a strange way, it reminds me of the moment when a covered wound is unbandaged and allowed, finally, to breathe. Sure, it’s vulnerable. It’s ugly. It’s susceptible to infection. But it feels good just to have fresh air blow gently across it. That part of your wounded self feels like it’s a part of your entire body again. And fragile, broken, or wounded, it’s better to be whole than to cut off an appendage every time it hurts.