I feel a little bit like Lucy Pevensie when she walked through the wardrobe for the first time. Narnia felt exciting and mysterious. And while Lucy spent hours in this mystical land, when she returns to the Professor’s country house, time seems to have stood still. Two worlds existing at the same time but never coinciding. She is filled with equal parts astonishment and confusion.
Maybe it was the drugs, maybe it was the much-needed sunshine, maybe it was not being in my usual environment, or maybe it was the holiday excitement that propelled my mood forward for the last few weeks, allowing me to find the joy in the season. But, whatever the reason, I was more present this year than in years past. We spent two weeks in Texas with DW’s family for the holidays. It was good to be able to sleep in, lunch with old friends and watch my children play with their cousins. There was also a sense of peace rather than anxiety since I wasn’t staring at my house, with its laundry list of “to-do’s”. And, amazingly, having a smaller wardrobe even made the days simpler. I basked in the sunshine, relishing the feel of freshly painted toes and flip-flops, forgetting it was the middle of December.
But as the vacation drew to a close, my anxiety reared its ugly head. I started to panic about all the days I had missed blogging. I worried about all the projects left undone at home and I felt overwhelmed by all the friends I had not been able to see.
On the last day of our vacation, January 1st, I ran in the SARR Cobweb Chaser 5k with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. I had always planned to run this race. It seemed like a fantastic way to start the new year, full of fresh air and attainable goals. Plus, it was one step closer to my 2012 goal of running a half marathon. However, the closer the event came, the less I felt excited about the run and more desperate. Now I needed to run. I needed to push myself forward into the new year and not look back. I felt desperate to be stronger both physically and mentally. My hope was to break my personal best of 37:31 and run this 5k in 36 minutes flat. DW took pictures and waved as the three of us started our Sunday morning trek. The chilly wind nipped at our heels. My brother-in-law is an athlete and my mother-in-law runs/walks miles a day, while I, on the other hand, would still consider myself a novice runner. I haphazardly get my weekly workouts in between carpools and housekeeping, and yet I wanted so badly to keep up with them.
Our pace was consistent and rhythmic, our feet hitting the pavement simultaneously. My breath felt hot against the cool air.
“How are you feeling?” asked my brother-in-law.
“Great so far, ” I said between breaths. “Do you think I’ll meet my goal?”
He looked at his watch and laughed, “Yeah, I do. You just finished the first mile in 11 minutes.”
I looked at him dumbfounded. That time seemed impossible. Soon my mother-in-law moved up a few paces and left our side. I watched her move with ease and grace effortlessly while I felt breathless and sweaty. My heart tightened. My mind wandered as I started to hear that all too familiar voice in my head say, “you can’t do this, why are you bothering?”
“If you want to run with your mom I understand,” I said. ” I don’t want to slow you down.”
Without hesitation my brother-in-law responded, “I’m running this with you. We’re going to finish together.”
I continued to pump my legs and focused on the path in front of me until our pace sounded more like one again. One foot in front of the other.
At mile two I started to feel a cramp in my side. I’ve never experienced such a sharp pain during a run and wondered if I was just dehydrated already, so I guzzled a cup of sour Gatorade. This put me a few steps behind my running mate. I watched his head dart in between other runners as I worked hard to catch back up. As we rounded that last bend together, the cramp ached and pinched my stomach. I worried the Gatorade would come back up, spilling over my resolve, slowing me down. I stopped abruptly, doubled over to catch my breath. I could hear DW and my brother-in-law calling my name.
“EMILY – don’t stop. You’re almost there!”
I looked up and spotted the orange cones and flags marking the finish. I ran again, and as I caught up to my brother-in-law he shouted:
“Don’t slow down, sprint to the finish.”
So I did.
I sprinted in long graceful strides, crossing the finish line in 33 minutes flat.
It’s hard to explain the kind of joy and relief I felt when I saw my time, it was somewhat dreamlike. DW seemed as excited as I was as he came bounding up to me, grinning, and embraced me in a tight bear hug.
Unfortunately that feeling was short-lived, disappearing mile by mile as we drove back across the country for two days. Walking through our kitchen door yesterday it was clear that reality stood still while we were gone. The piles of chaos and disorganization bred this year while I have been battling depression were still waiting for me. I could feel my chest tighten and my shoulders tense. The memories of sleepless nights, camping in the hallway between my children’s rooms, because I was convinced someone was going to break into our house came flooding back. Thoughts of crawling back into bed after everyone went to school and work, sleeping and eating away the hours, taunted me. I immediately started worrying about reliving months of melancholy.
But then I read this post by The Blogess, The Fight Goes On. Usually known for her crassness and raw humor, this post is an honest portrait of her battle with depression. She says,
Regardless, today I feel proud. I survived. And I celebrate every one of you reading this. I celebrate the fact that you’ve fought your battle and continue to win. I celebrate the fact that you may not understand the battle, but you pick up the baton dropped by someone you love until they can carry it again. I celebrate the fact that each time we go through this, we get a little stronger. We learn new tricks on the battlefield. We learn them in terrible ways, but we use them. We don’t struggle in vain.
On January 1st I ran through the cramp. I didn’t drop the baton that day. I continued to push forward and run the race I pictured. I ran it with conviction. When I crossed the finish line I felt a little stronger. I did not struggle in vain.
And that, is how I plan to face every day in 2012.