We all talk about being “real,” we encourage each other to show our true selves, show the grit, the pain, the heartache. That’s a bunch of bullshit. We say it like we are going to open up our shell and share together all kumbaya style. But, in reality we want to see it from others, so we can feel better about ourselves, make our shit that we hold close to the lapel seem not so shitty.
Within the past year or so, I’ve shown some real stuff. If you are close to me, you have seen some of it first hand. I feel as a woman, as a runner, as a coach, as a friend, as a human. I owe that to myself and to anyone who may be watching; looking for some sort of common denominator, to feel less alone. I am not a bullshitter, I am not a sugar coater, I am a straighter shooter and you see is what you get. I have walls that can’t be repelled. I have a lifetime of compartmentalizing practice, and my name is a synonym for the word strong.
In that same time period I experienced some pretty fucking amazing firsts. I set goals for myself to travel solo, say yes, buy ridiculously expensive plane tickets on a whim. Surrounding myself with some of the best people I know, being uplifted by pure kindness and empathy.
I also ran one of the hardest races of my life, while losing life. I had lost my mom and hadn’t dealt with it properly. My marriage had been over for sometime and we both knew it, and neither wanted to be the one to admit it. And that course was real hard. Shortly thereafter I lost my dear friend, who has been gone now for over 6 months and I can’t think about him without crying.
With the recent attention on people in the limelight with suicide, a friend recently posted something that really hit me in the feels. It simply said:
“Check on your strong friend.”
For about 6 weeks prior I felt as though I had been hit by almost everything I think I could have taken. All at once. Right in the face. No warning. I was having a hard time dealing. I was then mad at myself for not sucking it up and moving on. This isn’t me to wallow, or to cry, or to sleep all day and not run. Who the fuck was I? It wasn’t me. I have been through way worse and come out the other end unscathed.
I had a friend recently tell me that she knew I needed help, but didn’t know how or what to do, so she avoided. I do not blame her in the slightest, I was a fucking wreck. I would have backed off too. We talked about this in some depth. I thanked her for her honesty and courage. I explained to her that I thought I was strobe-lighting to everyone asking for help and I felt abandoned, not just by her, but by everyone. At one point I drove to her house unannounced for a simple hug and lost it. I was lacking physical touch in the sense of comfort, someone to hold me and tell me it would all be ok.
See, people don’t know what to do when the person they count on, the strong one, loses their shit. It is foreign and uncomfortable to everyone. It’s easier to do nothing.
So my strobe-lighting that I thought was so obvious, was overlooked because I’m strong, and I’ll be fine. Which I truly understand as that is my motto. “I’m fine, it’s fine.” For the first time in my life, I didn’t know if I was going to be fine and I felt as though I had no one to turn to.
At some point in the year, I wrote down some words, some words that I remember almost threw themselves on the page:
” “I’m good.” It’s for the best, I’m fine, really. That seems to be about 85% of the time. Why am I crying on an airplane headed to a weekend of fun and laughter? How can I be so confident one moment and doubt everything the next? I’m lonely, I have been for much longer than it may seem. It is possible to be in a relationship, have a partner, and feel utterly alone. This is the hardest part of it all. Almost the ultimate betrayal. Being lonely while still having a person to touch, even without the passion and the intimacy you crave. Physical touch in itself is an addiction.
Stay busy they say, it will cover it up. Fuck that! If I stay busy I’m avoiding, I’m running away. I have to feel, I have to feel everything. I’m a little hollow right now, I feel gutted. That love and adornment I crave: I am scared is gone forever. I doubt my ability to be taken at face value and taken for what I offer and accepted with open arms. no judgement. Just acceptance and understanding. I will NEVER be lonely in someones company again.”
I had mourned my marriage emotionally previous to that writing and it wasn’t entirely about that anyway. This writing reminded me in that dark time not too long ago, why I suffered more than I had before.
My primary love language is physical touch, with a close, almost tied second of words of affirmation. Have no idea what I am talking about? Take this quick quiz. The Five Love Languages
. No, I have no affiliation to it whatsoever, but I am a cheerleader for it. I think it is beneficial in romantic, platonic, work, and friendships. Learning what you crave from others and how they receive it, I believe is crucial in any successful partnership.
So I guess the whole point of this is: Life is messy, it’s hard, it sucks, people are cruel. Life is also amazing, it’s beautiful, it’s full of joy, people are extraordinary! Don’t be afraid to show the spilled milk, the shirt you’ve been wearing inside-out all day, the kid you took to school in their underwear, your tear-stained face, the fall before you get up.
IT HAPPENS TO ALL OF US!! Seriously.
Check on your strong friend, and check again, and again until they fess up. Remember, we are the strong ones, we can take it. We need it, almost more.
I get asked why I run ultras. This. All of this and how I got to this point. What made me strong and the path I took. That’s why.
P.S. Don’t worry, I’m good. For real. Just a little speed bump in this thing we call life. I just needed to learn why it was on a steep incline.