When physical and emotional running meet


So, there’s this guy…

I always wanted to start a story that way.  Did I get your attention?!

There are so many compelling stories that start out that way, and so many of us women are immediately sucked in by those four simple words.  But honestly, I think the reason they carry so much weight is because we all know just how much a guy, (or girl) can turn your world completely upside down.  I mean, aside from being caught in a hurricane, there are few other things in life that can wreak so much havoc upon us as a person of the opposite sex.   And we know immediately, when someone says, there’s this guy (or girl) that what comes next will be nothing less than a captivating story.

The story I am about to tell you now, is not about any guy.  It’s about THE guy.  You know the one.  Not the one as in soul mate, because you have no way of knowing.  No, he’s the second, or other ONE you think COULD be your soul mate, but for whatever reason, you know you will probably never know.

I think just about everyone can relate with me on this one.   I think we can all look back at our lives and find that we are still wondering about this ONE person and the big, “What If” that lingers there in the shadows.  That play of Romeo and Juliet that never happened, so to speak.   (But look at the bright side, neither one of you are dead.)  Yet, we wonder, if we had the opportunity to play it out, would it have ended so tragically?  We can’t help but look at some of our other past relationships and wonder if it too, would have failed so miserably as some of those other horrid mistakes you had made.  You know those ones where you looked back and wrinkled your nose, and said, “WHAT was I thinking?!”  yeah, no.  These people, we are somehow convinced they would not be that way.  Mostly, I think we like to believe that it wouldn’t, though.

I’m not convinced that any of us are immune to it, either.  Even my amazing friend who is so put together and has her PhD is still “in love” with this guy we both liked in Jr. High school. (I blogged about that too.)  She thought I stole this guy away from her and I didn’t think I had done that at all, because they had never even gone out.  I was up front with her and honest about the fact that I also liked him and the whole bit.   And like I said in that blog, if I had known back then what I know now: that he was THAT guy to her; I’d like to think I would have walked away and let it be.  (Which happened after just one date anyway.)  But I think even the most together, educated, person who has everything they could ever want still has someone from their past that haunts them from time to time.

I met my guy back when I was in the eighth grade.  I was still in Jr. High and he was in ninth and went to the high school.  I had only really had one boyfriend before him and we went out for a short blast, but I was so incredibly raw from that previous relationship, and disillusioned about everything.  I am not going to go into a lot of detail here when you can get all that from my first blog.  (Or one of the first, anyway.)

This guy is still involved in my life.  Albeit, not purposefully on his part.  At least not to the depths of which he would think he was, I suppose.  But he is still this gentle force that reminds me just how much I do not know, or that I am being silly or naïve.  He does it without even saying it to me, and he does not have to; but I see it all the time.  I see how much he’s experienced and understands compared to me and my small, simple life and I want to be better.

Then when things are quiet and dark, he haunts the hallways of my mind, my heart, and even my dreams.  For me this is a big deal.  I practically never dream about someone I know in real life.   I rarely even remember my dreams, and when I have dreams with other people in them I have no idea who they are.  I may know them in my dream-or at least act as though I do.  But in real life, when I wake up, I’m just like, “who the hell was THAT!”   So, when I dream of someone I actually know, it gets my attention.  When it’s him, that really gets my attention.   And It’s not that I even dream of him a lot.   I think I’ve dreamt about him three times…maybe four, or a couple more.  I’m not sure.  I only remember one now.   I don’t know where we were, but we were in a darkened room lying on the floor and there was a light coming from somewhere that was kind of blue and flickered, like maybe a TV that I couldn’t see.  And we just laid there and kissed.  Yep, my dreams are PG folks.  That’s how boring I am!  But it was the most amazing feeling, and I still think about it all the time, even though it was just a dream.  The way he smelled, the way he felt, the way he tasted.  The way he held my head, the way he touched me.  The memory of it was has been seared into my memory.   Ahhhh!

Sometimes, he just pops into my head for just a brief moment and I have a tiny day dream.  Like yesterday it happened when I was driving home from work.  I am exhausted and driving the windy highway home and my mind drifts off and for a brief moment, I feel like he’s there in my truck with me, touching my face and then he’s gone.  Yep, loneliness can be a dangerous thing.  But I am not convinced that even were I not so lonely, much would change.  He’s just always been there like that the last several years.

I mentioned in another blog that he always made me feel comfortable and safe with him.  He had a way of calming me.  This is a big deal in more ways than one.  I am a perpetual worrier, number one.   Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not that woman who starts freaking out over some rain thinking it’s going to flood, or anything like that.  But I worry about things.  So there’s that.

Another thing is that when I really like someone, I am just a COMPLETE idiot who fumbles all over herself.  There are some women out there who are just very comfortable with men, and are really good at interacting with them.  I am not one of them.  I have no idea how to flirt, not good with picking up on signals or hints…I mean, if a guy doesn’t hit me over the head and let me know he likes me-I’m probably going to miss it.  Then I will say (and do) the dumbest stuff known to man and run him off.   That’s how it typically works for me.  Case in point, I had a good friend come visit me from Texas and I took her to see our new library-which is quite impressive, in my opinion.  Apparently, this guy was following me around the whole time, but I had no clue!  She had to point out to me how oblivious I am .    But again, if I decided he was someone I really liked, I’d probably just mess it up.   Cuz that’s how I roll.   That being said, that is why my guy is best left in my dreams.  Why mess it up with reality?

In some ways, though, things are different for me with this guy.  This tiny part of me hopes things wouldn’t be so messed up in reality.  That maybe there was someone out there who actually GOT me.  Don’t get me wrong, I still say the dumbest crap and basically look like an idiot to him most of the time, I’m sure.  But when it counts?  When he sees that I am twisted inside…he comes through and calms me down.  He always has.  I really love that about him.  I have never met anyone else who could do that like he does, and that’s part of the fascination, I guess.   I wish I could just squeeze him sometimes.  Tell him how amazing I think he is.  We all know THAT ain’t gonna happen!  Cuz I’m too chicken!  But I think part of him maybe knows anyway.  Maybe.  I’m not sure.  But I think he does.  I think he finds it amusing maybe, or sweet?  Endearing?  I am not of the opinion, however, that it is reciprocated.  I am guessing he is most likely flattered, and so he is still nice to me though.  And as I have also said before, I have come to terms with that.  It took some time, but gosh I care about that guy, and I honest to God just want to see him happy and it really does make me happy now to see  him with an amazing woman who treats him well and makes him smile.

Now, onto my point.

So, several years ago, he kept talking about running and was running marathons and I was just SO impressed.  At first I did not get it.  At all.  Then he wrote a really great post about how when he was younger, he never thought he would grow into this man who would love running so much and I began to see just how much it meant to him.  I think that was when I began to see a different side of him.  (Not that it wasn’t there, but I had not been able to see it.)  One that was more real, to me.  I had always wondered if (or was afraid?) he was kind of like one of those shallow dumb bells that hang out at the gym with the dumb bells, ya know?   I was, and still can be, a real ignoramus.  Like I said, sometimes I have to be hit over the head with some stuff because I just don’t get it unless ya do!

Anyway, this guy inspired me.  It just happened to be that I lived 10 feet from a track, and I started going out there and trying to run around it and somehow, somewhere, found a drive to keep doing it.  I found an App called Couch to 5k and downloaded it on my phone and played the tunes in my ear buds really loud and MADE myself go out and do it.  There were times I got home and found myself sitting in my recliner with ice packs under each calf, on top of each shin and under each glut. I constantly reeked of Icy Hot and may have popped some serious Tylenol at times too.    It was honestly one of the most painful undertakings I had ever made up my mind to do.  You see, I never had to work out before.  I was really lucky in that I could maintain a certain weight quite easily.  Without having to worry too much about what I consumed, either.   If I gained a bit of weight, say after I had one of my girls, I would be more careful then, lose what I wanted and then go back to what I had always done before.  There were a few times as I got older that the pounds crept up on me, but I could just, say, stop drinking Pepsi, and within a few weeks, it’d be gone.

Then I turned forty.  I began to see that the weight seemed to creep up more easily and it wasn’t as easy to take it off.  Then by forty-three or so, I went into peri-menopause and put on 30 pounds in about two months, and I am not exaggerating either. I was completely devastated.  I was always proud of my figure and now I looked in the mirror and felt utterly disgusting.  I went to doctor after doctor over the last five years and they still don’t have it straightened out, though it is better.

But I digress.  I had put on all this weight and the guy kept talking about how great he thought running was and there were all these great pics where he was having fun running these marathons with other people and I began to think maybe I could do it too.  I knew when I was young, I was pretty fast.  In fact, when I was in grade school back in small town Kansas, and they had  Field Day, I went home with ribbons every year.   In fact, I was always the fastest girl in my class when we ran the 50 yard dash and the 100.   In the sixth grade, there was only one girl that could possibly beat me.  Robyn Russell, I love you but I hate you!  Look me up!   We were chummy pals, and we practiced for field day together and we were always neck and neck.  In fact, sometimes, she beat me, sometimes I beat her.  When Field Day came, I was glad we were in different heats.

When I was in the fourth grade and did the high jump, I jumped higher than any fifth grader.  When I was in the fifth grade, I jumped higher than any sixth grader.  When I was in the sixth grade, Mr. Buckholls said he wasn’t sure but thought I may have out jumped all the seventh graders too, but didn’t have the records on him cuz they were at the other school.  I absolutely loved to run and jump and was an extremely active child.

Then I started Jr. High.

I went out for volleyball and track and maybe a couple other things in the seventh grade, but I noticed the girls who had rich parents and were popular seemed to get the extra help and special attention.  I was all but invisible to coach.  We went to volleyball meet after meet and I was pretty good at serving and earning our team points.  But the coach never once worked with me to help me become the best I could be.  It was always the other, more popular girls.   I used to love being active and playing sports and after that, I didn’t.  I never went out for sports again after that except for swimming.   Swimming was different, and our coach was a different animal.  We all loved him so much and the other girls were more like sisters I never had than competition to me.

(If you like to read, check out What the Dog Saw by Malcomb Gladwell.  In it he discusses how all the great hockey players seem to be born in January (for starters) and how what is often interpreted as natural athleticism is actually just an older, stronger, more experienced child who is given more attention and opporutinites.  I read this a few years ago and imediately thought about Jr high.  I coulda been a contenda! If someone had just had faith in me and helped me, that is!  But I digress, the book is good.  I love his stuff.)

Anyway, one thing I noticed about that little stint in track?  The coach like to make me run long races.   I completely loathed it.  I was a sprinter.  I wanted the short races.  But she never seemed to listen to me or care.  Actually, I’m not sure she even asked.  That was the other problem I had though with running track.  I didn’t want anything to do with running very far!

Every year, when basketball season came along they begged me to play (Oh sure, NOW you want me to be part of the team!) since I was already 5’8″ tall.  I told them no.  Not just because I had become so discouraged by volleyball and track,  but I simply cannot run and dribble a ball at the same time!  It’s a fact.  A sad one.  But a fact, nevertheless.  Plus, I can’t stand strangers all up in my business and making body contact with me like that.   Like,  get away from me!  Ew!  You should see me at the grocery store in the check out lines, trying to act all cas, yet desperately wanting to protect my personal space.  It’s quite ridiculous, really.  So, yeah, no basketball for me, either.

Now here I was, over forty, and had never really had to work out a day in my life.  Don’t get me wrong.  There were plenty of times I did.  For fun.  I played on softball teams, loved to go out dancing, and would even take a step class or something like Zumba because I actually liked it.  It was fun.   But long distance running?  It sounded like hideous.

But there was a question in the back of my mind.  One I was always afraid to find the answer to.  Would I really have what it takes?

So, I basically started running with no clue what I was doing.  My guy-that’s-not-my-guy, was great.  There was so much I didn’t know.   I didn’t know any runners either, so he was kind enough to give me some pointers here and there, which I really appreciated.  Like, I had no idea you could go to a shoe store that caters to runners and they can have you run on a treadmill or something and then help you get the best shoes for the way you run.  No clue!  There was so much to learn and it was a challenge.  The kind of challenge I needed.

Despite the pain and the agony of “de feet,” over time, I got to where I could actually run for a few minutes without having to stop and walk, and it was such an exhilarating feeling to see my own progress.  To notice how my lungs adapted, how my calves began to define, and I began to CRAVE going for a run because I would always feel so accomplished and amazing after I did it.  When I ran, I literally felt like I was invincible and on top of the world.  I could not believe that when I was younger, I hated it so much.  But how can you love what you did not understand, nor have truly experienced?  What you did not bother to work through?

I lost somewhere close to fifty pounds, I think it was.  Right around the 30 pound mark, this guy paid me one of the highest compliments I think I have ever received.  I won’t go into the details here, but I mean, the fact that he noticed and acknowledged that and my hard work the way he did.  It was completely priceless to me.  He wasn’t that cheesy guy who gave you a pat on the butt and said, “Hey, looking good toots.  I’d tap that.”  (Insert cave man grunt here.)  I’ll just say that.  What he did was a far greater compliment to me.

Then Sir Lance-a-NOT came along.  Now this was another one of those situations where we knew each other in high school and we reconnected and kind of seemed to hit it off and whatnot.  This situation, and Sir Lance-a-NOT are in no way, shape, or form to be confused with THE guy.  There’s just no comparison at all.  Not even close.

But, I guess when you’re that lonely and you know you can’t have THE guy…you convince yourself of things maybe you wouldn’t otherwise.   Looking back, I didn’t even realize how lonely I truly was.  But for me to have endured what I did, that’s the only reason I could think of to explain why I let myself get involved with this man the way I did.  Well, that, and I genuinely wanted to help him.

Here’s another example of how incredibly naïve I can be.  FYI folks?  Alcoholics are NOT good partners, and even though they tell you they want to stop and want help-which may be true-YOU can NOT save them!  Walk away!  Do NOT go there!  They will tell you that you saved their life, and maybe you did, but it doesn’t mean a dad-gum thing.  It’s just manipulation and you’d do well not to fall for it like I did.

Sir Lance-a-NOT was not very good about hiding his crap.  Sooner or later it always came out.  Usually later, so I was continually knocked off guard.  It would be the most underhanded stuff sometimes.  We are taking a shower together and he reaches around and grabs my belly and says, “You still need to lose this.”    To a woman who had already lost almost fifty pounds and was back into a size ten!   I was on top of the world before he came along and boy, he just sucker punched me and I fell right off.

One day I was sitting at the desk in the living room working on the computer while he watched TV and out of the blue he said, “Have you put on weight?  Your stomach looks bigger.”  I looked at him with disbelief and daggers.

“You did NOT just really ask me that.”  I replied.

“Well, it just looks bigger.”  He shrugs, with a matter of fact look on his face and seemingly seeing no issue with what he said or even aware that he was being a total ass, at all.  Which I quickly made known to him, and he just as quickly forgot, every time he did this.

The one and ONLY thing Sir Lance-a-Not encouraged me to do was run.  The problem with this was that given his propensity to steal my money and run to the liquor store or get on some online dating site every time I left the house, (sometimes both) I was completely terrified to leave the man alone.  Ever.   Even worse, he kept making remarks about how a woman should be skinny to be attractive.  I knew that he seemed to think the weight I had already lost was not enough, and there was no way in hell I was going to lose more weight for that sonofabitch.

In just a few short months, I had learned to hate something I had once loved a great deal, and stopped doing it.  I didn’t hate it for the right reasons.  I didn’t even really hate it at all.  I just hated what my doing it would represent to this sorry excuse for a human being if I did it.

There was so much about running I did not even realize.  And now I am 2-3 years out of this horrible relationship, and still find myself jumping in fear when someone walks up behind me and startle so easily.  Sometimes I experience fear that isn’t always rational and my brother and my mother worry about how fearful I have become in some situations. But the good news is that while it may be slow, I AM healing.  I am finding my old self, the girl I miss and that she is still in there.  I am finding my sense of humor and learning to laugh again and have hope that this depression and anxiety will not last forever.

I had to lose contact with THE guy while I was entangled with Sir Not.  Not completely, but no more online games or chatting.  When he found out, he was a little less than happy about it.  Go figure.   And honestly, there was part of me that was kind of glad he saw right through me when I said he was “just a friend.”  I am such a horrible liar.  I’m sure he could tell I thought way more of the guy than I did him.  So, of course he threw a fit about online games.  Which was fine.  We were still friends on Facebook and even though we didn’t message or play games anymore, I still got to see how he was doing.  Watched him get married, have seen his kids grow like weeds and what great young people they are becoming and what a great father he has been and is.  That was enough for me.

When I was so out of my depth with Sir Not that my hands would visibly shake and the Xanax didn’t help and then he’d yell at me for having shaking hands; I could think of the guy, and go off somewhere in the corners of my mind where he was holding me and whispering in my ear that it was okay and I was going to be alright.  That I was still worthy of love and he loved me.  Whatever I needed to hear, he was there in the back of my mind making sure I heard it.  My feet never moved, but I was running, and he was running with me.

When I look back and think about how I just gave up running the way I did, I realize it was the one thing I should have refused to give up.  There were so many times before Sir Not came along that running had taken a crummy day and made it better again.  There were so many bad moods that running had turned to good again.  Running had not only been this physical challenge, it was this magical thing that had made me feel like a million bucks, and had changed me on the inside just as much as it had on the outside.

And running was not just something I did physically.  It was something I had done emotionally, quite well I might add, for most of my life.  Even day dreaming of THE guy is a form of my running.  But he had taken my hand and shown me HOW to run.  He showed me how in putting those shoes on and pounding each foot, one after the other, despite how much my thighs and my ass might burn, was taking all that running I did on the inside and through running on the outside, merging them together and forming something new.   Something better.  Less painful.  Less intense.  I could have more heart, but in confidence and not with fear.  It was like the physical running would somehow neutralize the emotional running, like a positive and a negative will cancel each other out.

As I continue to heal, I find myself driving along these country roads, only half realizing that I am inwardly taking notes that it is a quarter mile from our house to the mailbox and that it’s 1.2 miles from the mailbox to county road 857.   That from the end of the gravel to the country store on Jackson Highway is 5 miles, and where the most hills are.  Cuz they are everywhere.  My heart knows I want to run again, even though I have not yet put it into words or actions.

I put on my old Asics and look at them wistfully.  I had bought them for the sole purpose of running and had barely used them for that.  I finally decided there was no point in expensive shoes just sitting in the closet and started to wear them to work and other places.  But they still remind me of the day I went and ran on a tread mill at the store for runners and how excited I was when they brought them out to me.   They still remind me of how great I once felt and I can’t help but begin to feel hope again.

Granted, I look at the driveway and how it’s all uphill and think, ugh!  I don’t even want to try and make it that far!  Or I think about the pain and arthritis I have in my back, or I remember the times I hurt so bad I could hardly move…for days.   I think about how hard it is for me to move already simply because of my size and how out of shape I am.   But then I slowly come to realize that the hill up to the mailbox also goes down.  And that nothing I have done to get myself into this boat happened overnight, nor will I get it back overnight.  That while there may be pain involved, it comes with a sense of achievement and accomplishment and those feel so much better.   That I felt better than I had ever felt in my life when I was running and even if I never get back to where I can do what I did before, I might feel better.

My mind clicks back to the post he made about how much he loves running and I realize that it was during that time of my life I could say, “I understand.”   Because I never really did until I lived it, and felt what it was like to breathe the air of understanding of what he had exhaled.  I knew I loved him in a way I never had loved anyone before.  It was more than passion or how he made me feel.  It was more than attraction or keeping me company.  It was more than desire or even need.  In fact it was kind of the opposite.  He gave me a glimpse into my true being.  A look at who I always wanted to be and never thought I would or could be.  The woman I gave up when I was a girl who felt shame for being poor and not so popular.  He let me see this woman that was no longer all those things that held her back.    The woman who was no longer her excuses, but again that little girl who loved to run.  He gave me something no one has even given me.  He gave me glimpse of my true self.

I think about the movie Forest Gump and Jenny is dying and he is telling her how he ran across the country and how he saw the most beautiful things.  Jenny tells him that she wished she had been able to be with him and he explains that she was, because she was always in his heart and mind.  And I think about that a lot with this guy.  I can’t tell you the number of times I ran and thought of him, and I thank God he was there in that small way.   He didn’t ride up on his white horse and whisk me away to some castle somewhere.  He didn’t carry my books for me or defend me with a sword.  But he did rescue me.

He was a quiet voice inside my head that helped me hear my own.  He patted me on the back and told me I could do it, then took a few steps back.  I know I will probably never see him again or even have another actual conversation.   I know that he may never look at me like I do him and that he loves someone else. I really don’t care about that anymore.   But I think he would call me friend, as I do him.  And  I’d like to think he watched me go and cheered me on from the sidelines, proud of how I’d grown.  In fact I think he did.

They say that when you run a race you should never look back.  I don’t need to.  I know he’s up there ahead of me at the finish line, waiting for me to catch up and give me a high five for making it.

Baby, I was born to run.  Let me just get my shoes.

One thought on “RUNNING

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