Monday, August 8, 2016

Reasons to Run

I've started my training for the Princess Half Marathon. Slow and steady, I've been following the Galloway method and running and walking in one minute intervals. So far, I feel like I am being successful. I've only worked up to 3.5 miles, but I can keep a fairly good pace - a full two minutes ahead of the required max. You all know that I am running it in honor of Kenley for her 4th birthday. That is true. However, there are deeper reasons to why I am running this race. It's more than just remembering my daughter on her birthday. It's about forgiveness, reconciliation, and survival. I'm running this for her - but I am also doing it for me. Because I have to. Besides honoring Kenley, there are two main reasons why I am running this race.

Reason 1: Surviving February

It's no secret this past February was really hard for me. If I'm going to be honest, it was absolute hell. Every day was a flashback to horror. Every day felt impossibly heavy and painful. I really wasn't sure I was going to make it through without losing my mind. My fellow loss moms helped immensely. Other people in my life did their best to be supportive, and I am extremely grateful for all of the notes and messages and gifts. But, all of that really just kept my head above water. I was still drowning.

I can't do that again. I can't continue to do that every February for the rest of my life. I am not strong enough. Her birthday was simply a countdown of pain, and that's not fair to her. She doesn't deserve for her birthday to be filled with pain. She deserves to be celebrated. She deserves to be remembered with joy. And, as of this last February, I am completely incapable of doing that.

When I was at the Princess Half waiting for my sister to cross the finish line, I noticed there was a buzz in the air. Excitement. Anticipation. Triumph. Joy. People crossed the finish line and threw their hands up in the air. They smiled and laughed and hugged each other. As I watched them finish, I could tell which runners had just accomplished something meaningful to them. Sweaty and exhausted, they still had the energy to dance with joy. They had done something amazing and were celebrating it - and everyone knew it and celebrated with them. As I recall these moments and write them here, I am crying. I am literally crying right this minute because I desperately need a reason to celebrate in February. I need to feel that joy like I need to breathe. Grief is suffocating. It pushes all the air out of your lungs and squashes you flat. It makes you feel like you will never be able to breathe again. And I need to breathe. Most of the time, I can keep grief off my chest. I have my bad days here and there, but I have gotten to the point where I can shoulder this weight. Not in February. In February, I feel like I am dying. And, really, parts of me are. February is so horrible, I am willingly running 13.1 miles at one time to make it more bearable. I need to reclaim February for something beautiful and triumphant. So, I run. I run to have a reason to breathe again. I run to celebrate an accomplishment I NEVER would have accomplished otherwise. I run because I can't continue to face February without something amazing in my pocket.

Crossing that finish line will be something worth celebrating. Months of training down to that moment of triumph. I will cross it with a victorious heart - a heart full of love and joy, as it should be.

Reason 2: Reclaiming My Body

For most of my life, I seriously struggled with body image. I remember thinking I was fat as early as 7 years old. I remember thinking I was disgusting and fat around 12. I remember feeling unworthy of human affection due to my disgustingness around 16. I never developed an eating disorder. Honestly, it was simply because I didn't have the willpower to not eat and I hated throwing up. There were actually times when I was angry at myself for not being able to go a whole day without eating - and days when I tried to think about what would be the most comfortable way to trigger my gag reflex. It was a serious issue. An issue I never really talked about with anyone. I struggled with horrible body image well into my twenties. Around 24, I just got tired of hating myself. I came to a crossroads where I could either stop living - or find a way to bear being alive. I chose to live. I journaled. A lot. I filled pages and pages of journals with automatic self-conditioned words of hatred and slowly and consioulsly, turned them into words of self acceptance. It took me years. YEARS. It wasn't until I was around 30 when I finally got to the point where I liked what I saw in the mirror. From 7 - 30. For 23 years, I hated my body with a firey passion. Then, I had a happy 4 1/2 year span where I actually felt comfortable in my own skin. I was beginning to appreciate my body. I remember thinking "So, THIS is what it's like to not want to claw at your own thighs. Nice!"

And then, my body betrayed me in the most awful way it could. It killed my baby. And just like that - I was back to square one. I plummeted headfirst into a deep, dark abyss of body hatred. I couldn't look at myself anymore. Everything about me was wrong and hollow. I ate to fill the holes that were left behind, but obviously, those holes can never be filled - and definitely not with food. I gained weight. I got pregnant again and gained more weight. Even giving birth to a healthy baby girl couldn't restore my trust. My body was not my own. It was a foreign object. A meat suit I wore - a meat suit I hated. I didn't buy myself new clothes. I didn't wear make-up. I didn't care about looking good or feeling good. I lied and blamed being a new mom. I could feel myself barreling towards that crossroads again - and I wasn't sure if I would make the same choice this time. So, I decided I had to take action. I had to take my body back. I had to reclaim it for myself. First, I had to forgive it. I have been doing A LOT of work on that. I will always feel guilty for her death. I know I can't do much to help that. But, I can no longer blame myself. I need my body to be mine again - not this dull glob I hate so much. Reconciling with my body is one of the reasons I run. I run to feel the power in my legs and the air in my lungs. I run to push this cluster of cells farther than it's ever been, to know that it can accomplish great things. Every time my foot hits the pavement in my training, I feel a little freer from the shackles of self hatred. I run because crossing that finish line will be my victory over it. I will be me again. I NEED to be me again. So, I run.

We all do what we have to do to heal. Right now, what I have to do is to run 13.1 miles on February 26, 2017. I am determined to make this happen. For Kenley. For myself.

It is time to take it back. Her birthday. Feburary.  My body.  My joy.
I will do this.

Run, Kenley, Run.