What is run can never be unrun
It’s tempting to run to music. Stepping in time to someone else’s tune is usually much easier than setting my own.
It’s easier, but it’s also less fulfilling. Tonight I ditched my music, donned my new Vibrams, and began running.
The quiet felt eerie at first, until, step by step, I decided it was an empty page of sheet music waiting to be scored.
My path took me across a decrepit corner market. Bags of chips and bottles of hairspray competed for space on the cluttered shelves. I saw them for only a second before I was running back through time, and stepping into the market around the corner from my childhood home.
I handed the clerk a dollar bill for a bottle of Dr. Pepper and waited for change. Instead of returning my change to me, the clerk said, “What your mom does, it’s not right. She should take better care of you.”
“You have no idea what my mom does. Just give me my change.” I glared at the clerk before thrusting my hand her direction, silently demanding my change.
“I’m not saying this right,” she said, looking genuinely flustered. “I was like you growing up. It was hard. I’m just trying to help–”
“Wow, yeah, I can tell. You’re helping so much, making life so much easier for my mom, my siblings and me. We don’t need your kind of ‘help.'” I turned and stalked out of the market without my change, only seldom to return again. I had to be fierce to survive, both inside and outside of my home.
Back in May 2013, I saw I’d run a couple of blocks through the past. Returned to the present, I smiled at the teen texting while skating so slow I kept passing him. I listened to Korean karaoke and wondered if my neighborhood might not be the home karaoke capital of the world. I shook my head at the lady who kept pounding a crosswalk button, opting to do something instead of nothing, because although the end result is the same, it feels more productive.
I’d cruised dozens of steps past her before I realized she was me. I spent six months in an unhealthy situation, telling myself that I could end it if I could just find the right words to make someone else understand my pain. “I just haven’t found the right words yet,” I told myself, pounding the button. “Maybe these are the right ones?” Pound. “Or these ones?” Poundpoundpound.
It took someone else’s flippant comment for me to realize there were literally no words I could say to them to make them understand. I’d tried dozens if not hundreds of combinations, but none of them sank in, because–here’s the kicker–no one in this world can make another person understand.
I decided it was time to chart a new course. I stopped idly pounding someone else’s buttons and stepped away.
I was frustrated with myself as I ran and remembered.
‘”Six whole months, Deb. Six months. You couldn’t figure it out sooner?”
I couldn’t help but chuckle, though, picturing the lady pounding away at the crosswalk button in hopes of a green light come earlier by her actions.
Yes, I was slow on the uptake. No, I can’t change the past by beating up my past self for her actions. Somehow it’s easier to see this as I pound the pavement, step after step after glorious step.
I once plowed through the heartaches of my youth. They hurt, but they made me stronger. I pushed my way through irrepressible loneliness in South Korea, law school and Japan, in that order. I did many things right and others very, very wrong, straight up through this very evening run.
I would never have heard these tunes converge with my ears turned toward someone else’s stories in song. I would never have seen with such clarity how I have run through heartache, hardship and loss, somehow managing to gather speed instead of slowing.
Step after step after step, I run. I will never be an Olympian in the outside world, but in my inner world, as I run through past, present and future, there are no medals equal to the sheer beauty of striding through strife and into ever-increasing strength.