Thursday, October 7, 2010
From my earliest recollection, I was running. Mind racing, blood pumping, gazing the horizon for something different, something better, something worth running to. I literally ran out of the womb. It didn’t matter that it was ten weeks early. At 3.5 pounds I was restless. And ready to move.
My mother was restless too. At the impulsive age of 18, she clung to my father like a life raft. He would get her out of the misery of living with a French speaking - war scarred- mother, and an equally wounded vet of a father who sought solace in the bottle.
But as I said, mom was restless. Dad with his bell bottomed jeans, kind heart and willingness to please couldn’t keep her. She ran. Ran to the interesting, brooding man who also liked the bottle. He also liked to hit. We ran from him. Ran in the middle of the night, hitched a ride and relied on the kindness of acquaintances. She then found another man. He liked the bottle too.
By the time I was nine, I was living with my aunt and uncle. It was hard to breathe in that house; stifling with rigidity and forced smiles. I was to be seen and not heard. I understood that. After almost a decade, I knew how to play the game.
I didn’t fit in so well in my new school. Most of the students were fairly privileged. I knew more, understood more, had seen more. Looking back I can see that to children’s eyes, this didn’t make me interesting. It made me strange, and perhaps a little frightening.
When I was in seventh grade, a PE teacher reached out to me. In a moment that was likely insignificant to her, she said “you are a pretty good little athlete.” Oh how that simple sentence of praise and encouragement made me glow from my insides. Perhaps, despite it all, I had value in something. I was soon running my first track race; the 1200 meter run. Three full laps where I had the undivided attention of my coach, my teammates and the spectators. Though the other girls were much more experienced, I had to beat them. This was my one shot at significance. I won that race, and no one but my coach knew that to achieve it, I pushed so hard that I urinated on myself. That is desire.
Running became a rebirth for me. I was no longer the girl with crappy lineage, uneven teeth and discount jeans. I was a runner. I continued on; I ran myself to newspaper articles, to state championships, to a college scholarship 300 miles away.
Circumstance and a predilection for interesting, brooding men threw my running off course. While I had always been running toward something, I found myself running away. Running away from abuse, abandonment and rejection through promiscuity, bars and sleep.
But my mom didn’t raise a quitter. I found a life raft in two friends whom I will never let go. I found a husband with the kindness of my father. I found strength in a career that lets me reach out to kids who know more, understand more, and have seen more.
I still run. I step out my door and run for pleasure, for health and to decompress. I find myself racing around the globe, trying to learn more, experience more, impact more. Still running. Always running. Forever running.