Last night should have been any other unremarkable run. I set out after work cheerily, making my way down the street I chose for its festive lights. This street is dripping with Christmas cheer, and its exactly what I need. Its been a long week, I register slowly. My body and my brain are becoming vaguely more aware of this. I haven’t gotten an abundance of sleep.
Headlamp bobbing, layers layered, I try to settle into the rhythm. Shivery, my breath hangs and lingers around me to mingle in with the fog forming slowly on the street. This road is not terribly familiar for me, but I’ve decided I’ll make a stop off at my brother’s house. I’ll take the long way, past the golf course. Along the way, families are returning home in the brisk early evening, arms brimming with packages, toting gifts and grins as they make their way.
I start my list. This is something I do when runs give me a hard time: I start a mental tally of all the people and things I’m grateful for. It started a few Thanksgivings ago. I like this not only because I need to do a better job of cultivating gratitude, but also because I find it makes difficult runs go by faster. It helps to get outside the irritating aches and pains, the things that stress me out, when the movement itself just isn’t enough. I am thankful, dammit! For my family, my friends, my colleagues, the runner on the other side of the street moving inexplicably gazelle-like and outpacing me like I must be standing still. Yep, him too. I am grateful. I am. It’s not always as easy as I know it should be.
I’ve managed to make it past the golf course, and for some reason I’ve started ruminating on spills I’ve taken while running. I think it’s a function of probability, given the clumsiness of my person plus the frequency with which I run, the result is a least a modest number of humiliating tumbles. I twist up the road, past the college, now more aware I’ll be passing a spot which was the scene of one such incident, though a while ago now. Mindful of my feet, careful of the crackling sidewalk, I’m getting closer to my destination. More listing, who else? There are normally more than enough people I’m lucky to have in my life to get me through even longer runs.
In less than a split second, everything goes absurdly haywire. I turn down the block, so close.
Its abrupt, definitive, and unrelenting, the force with which I make acquaintance with the ground. Its unforgiving, the sidewalk. I can’t quite pull together what has happened, only that I’m spasmodically splayed out on the cement like crime scene chalk.
Mayday! My brain is just now catching up. Nice of it to join the party. Miraculously, I’ve somehow managed to get my forearms out before the finality of the collision, something my front teeth are very grateful for (adding to the list.)
Then I’m crying. A lot. I’m ashamed of myself for expelling tears with such raucous abandon, but I can’t stop them. Cursing follows (naturally). It hurts. Everything. All over. All at once. My knee a lot worse than the rest. I’m terrified, have I broken something (again)? I find I can walk, and in keeping with the theme of this run, I have, thankfully, brought my phone along. I don’t, as a rule. Recently however, I locked myself out of the house on a similar such cold, dark night. (Experiential learning seems to be the one thing that does reach me.)
I am thankful. In full shock and awe, I dial up my brother (to whose ever-patient soul this post is dedicated). I just need someone to hear me. My sobs are short and with jagged breath I’m trying to explain I’m sure I’m just fine, convincing myself as much as anything.
“Where are you? Can we come get you?” I’m so close to their house, just a few blocks. Also, thankful.
I had wanted to do a festive post, wishing you all very happy holidays with some (hopefully) inspiring words filled with Christmas spirit and such. But what I have settled on is this, my gratitude.
The last long dark blocks before me are filled with good thoughts I force out for probably almost everyone I know. Burying the ache with a conscious stream of appreciation, it helps me focus on what isn’t hurting.
Thank you. Foremost, for being here, sharing this place with me. I’m glad we’re in it together.
Thank you for reading.
I wish it sounded less shallow, these words of thanks, because they are deeply, deeply earnest.
Thank you, thank you, thank you and warmest, most sincere wishes from me for happy, joyous holidays and a new year filled with new things to be grateful for.