I talk to God when I run. In my head…and not at first. When I start my brain is like a clenched fist. My thoughts are everywhere. Sometimes I simply don’t feel like it…but I know what’s good for me. Eventually I find my pace, my breathing becomes steady, and after about a mile I can feel my mind soften and relax. Between all the cluttered thoughts about the future and the things I have to do that day I hear a voice that I have come to believe is the soft whisper of God.
Sometimes God gets me a little too excited.
Like the other day when I decided to take a short-cut up Yorktown Boulevard because there was construction on my usual route. Yesterday, I had been glad to run by the constructions workers…they seem nice. I made eye contact with each of them as I ran by and said “hi.” Seeing them laughing with each other in asphault stained hands and hard white hats had made me feel glad to be part of the world. Today, however, my mood had shifted and the site of the construction conjured images of carcinogens. So, instead of heading down my normalf stretch, I turned right, then climbed the steep hill that led to Yorktown Highschool.
That’s when I saw them. A peppy group of about seven or so seniors crossing the street.
Right in front of me.
Like deer in my crosshair.
I was high on my run but frustrated. The change in my route had thrown me off. The answers that usually settled on my heart like warm butter had dug in their heels. That morning on our drive to school Elle told me she didn’t have anyone to go with to Prom. In the right mood I would have told her it was no big deal and moved on. But that morning my feelings were in full armour and ready to step into the ring. My expectations for her, some based in reality, and some my imaginiation pulled from the script of Highschool Musical had been torn to shreds. I had spent the first part of my run praying for a positive outlook and the second part villanizing the world. I was knee deep in my musings when…they just appeared. It felt like fate. So, I took my headphones off and asked if I could talk to them for a second.
I can’t remember exactly what I said (I tend to black out when I’m that excited). I think I asked them if they might pull some strings for me. I might have mentioned that prom was probably going to suck anyway….that being nice was far more important. I might have thrown in the f-bomb for effect (because sometimes I do). My speech was quick. I swear. I only took a moment of their time. When I finished my brief rant we just stared at each other. One of the sweet girls of the group broke the silence by saying, “I’m on it.” As she spoke I read the look in her eye which clearly said, “Beat it Mrs. Monticello you look like a crazy lunatic and I’m trying to get you off the hook before this gets on snapchat.”
I realize what I felt at that moment of enlightement was very, very different than what I looked like to a group of teens out to get Starbucks. I’m pretty sure the only thing they saw was a sweaty, scary, feverish wrinkly old mom.
I put my headphones back on and ran away. I put some pep in my step thinking that maybe, somehow, if I was in shape and fast I couldn’t possibly be as crazy as I felt. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin. I ran down the stairs to the track inside the highschool stadium and sat up against the concrete wall. Then, I waited. Like I have many times before, I waited to feel the onset of insanity to finally settle in for good. I have always thought it would come…like a pit viper in the grass ready and waiting to release it’s poisen. Mabye, I thought, it would course through my veins and settle in like a stranger At times like this I welcomed it, craved it. Crazy meant I was sick and sick meant I am no longer responsible for my own feelings. I wanted to let go of the rheins…and crumble. So that is what I tried to do.
But instead of feeling the sweet grip of insanity I just felt lonely and sad.
So I called my big sister Holly. When push comes to shove…and there is nowhere else to go between my unrelenting, desperate self and the steep edge off the side of a cliff…that is what I do.
I am the middle child. However, for fourteen years, almost my whole childhood, I was the youngest. When we found out Emily was on the way we were all shocked. When you have a 20 year old brother, a 16 year old sister and you are 13 the last thing you expect to find in the junk drawer is an itemized receipt from an obsterician’s office.
I grew up watching my big sister Holly. I never wanted to be like her. Her favorite article of clothing was a light blue Captain America Tshirt and I lived to play Barbies in Hilary Russo’s attic any chance I got. She was always captain of the neighborhood football games. The only times I ever remember seeing her cry was when the scabs on her knees dried to her tube socks…and when my mom made her wear a dress to a birthday party.
We are so different, yet when I reach a dead end I call her to help get turned back around.
So I confessed. I told her everything and then I cried. I cried because I didn’t understand life. I was feeling totally out of control. I had the feeling that I have been doing every last thing in my life totally wrong. She just listened. And then she explained that everything that happened was okay. Everything was okay she said, because the world needed to know…those teens needed to know…that people hurt inside. The way she saw it, I did them a favor. She told me she loved that about me…a gift she said….that I could feel as much as I do.
It reminded me of being seven, riding my bike a thousand miles an hour down Valley Lane with my big sister beside me. She was so cool…her hands off the wheel dangling at her sides. I would ride a Pink Huffy Rose and she would be on a pimped out Mongoose dirt bike. I looked too hard to my left and my steering would start to get wobbly…before I’d know it I’d be on the ground…blood streaming from the scrapes on my legs. Holly would pick me up and tell me it was okay.
It reminded my of the muffled sound of my parents screaming down the hall. The certain desperate, high pitch of my dad that meant our lives might change. When Holly used to tell me to kneel down and pray.
When I hung up the phone I felt different.
A small space had cleared…just big enough that I could love myself again.