And so I chose to run.
We'll ignore what running meant metaphorically and instead focus on the fact that running was my private version of hell. I had never been an athlete. I didn't believe in sweating on purpose.
And yet, each evening after work, compelled by something I didn't quite understand, I would lace up my running shoes and set out. At first, it was all I could do to run a block without feeling as though my heart was going to pound out of my chest and I was going to die right there on a busy sidewalk, with my new sneakers barely worn in.
So I made it a game: I would force myself to run to something I could see ahead – a certain car parked on the road, a lamp post, a stop sign. Just that far, I would tell myself.
I would run to the car or the lamp post or the stop sign and when I didn't die as soon as I reached it, I would choose another car or lamp post or stop sign and run to it. Always, always I could go further than I believed I could. Some evenings a bit farther, some evenings a lot farther. Eventually I could run 10 kilometres that way. And then, I could run 26 miles that way.
It hurt. It hurt like hell. My legs burned. My feet ached. My back occasionally spasmed. There were many times I honestly thought I might die. I imagined heart attacks. Aneurysms. Strokes.
None of my doomsday scenarios happened. Instead I got strong and lean and powerful. Instead I got brave. Instead, the pain gave way to not pain. To ease. To joy in the running.
When I first learned that my husband had cheated on me, I couldn't imagine how I was going to survive the next five minutes, let alone the days and weeks and months that I knew lay ahead. I wanted to die. Scratch that. I didn't want to die, I wanted the pain to end and I couldn't imagine that happening any other way than for me to end. I fantasized about head injuries that would erase my memories and let me start over. I fantasized terminal illnesses that would let me die without guilt. I lived in darkness, stoking my pain and assuming this was my lot for the rest of my life.
But then I remembered my running strategy. Just get to the next...moment, morning, weekend. And then, when I'd make it, still heartbroken but nonetheless alive, I'd focus on just getting to the next. And the one after that.
It reminds me of the old writing adage from E.L. Doctorow:
"Writing is like driving a car at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make your whole trip that way."Change writing to "healing" and you've got another truth:
"Healing is like driving a car at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."It's excruciating to not know what's around the corner. Will he cheat again? Is he cheating still? Will I still be in agony? Should I leave him? Will I find someone else? And on and on and round and round we go, asking questions that can only be answered by time. Time feels like the enemy. Night would stretch out like black ink that swallowed me, leaving me alone and terrified. Morning was no better. I was expected to behave like someone capable, someone rational, someone whose world wasn't shattered. How was I supposed to pull that off?
When you, m beloved BWC club members, write in with your pleas – "when will this stop hurting?" – I wish I could give you a date. It will stop hurting on July 13 at 7:12 p.m. Hang in there, sweetie. Instead I can only tell you that it will stop. I don't know when – it's different for each of us – but I know it will stop. But whether healing comes in months or years, it will come. And it will come in moments, not a sudden bolt of lightening. It is happening, moment by moment, even when you can't see it. In the meantime, it hurts like a motherfucker.
And so...this is gonna hurt. And it's gonna hurt for a whole lot longer than we'd like it to.
But each of us has the strength to endure. Even when we feel broken open, when we feel we just can't survive this heartbreak another minute, we can. And we will.
Because what other choice do we have?
We will choose to make it to the next...minute. The next morning. The next weekend. We will choose to cling to the promise of those who've gone before us that the day will come when this is behind us.
And as we heal, as time mends the cracks in our hearts in stitches so delicate but so sure, we will acknowledge the bravery with which we're handling this.
We can trust our headlights to take us as far as we need to see right now. And with that, we can make it the whole way.