Miles 15 & 16

26.2 A SERIES

Everyone has dreams. Since I was about 16 years old, one of mine has been to run a marathon. When I cross the finish line in NYC on November 5th, I’ll likely do so with a recorded time of between 4 and 5 hours. In reality though, it will have taken me much longer to get there. There are things inside and outside of us that bring us closer to our dreams. There are also things that delay us, that push us so far away from our goals they are sometimes out of sight. If we are lucky, little by little, we are often able to transform those stumbling blocks into building blocks–they become the foundation for our strength, resilience, and ultimate determination. This series aims to uncover my long journey. Each week, I’ll share the people, places, and things that have brought me to the place I am at today, and that I hope will carry me from the starting line in Staten Island, to the finish line in Central Park. Mile by mile–this, is my 26.2.

 

Miles 15 & 16-It’s my Race and I’ll Cry if I Want to

A couple years ago there was some lame Facebook game everyone was playing where users were prompted to select three characters from a movie or show that they thought best represented their own personality. I think some people were picking their own while others enlisted help from friends and family who knew them best. While I had no desire to participate in this game myself, I was at some point compelled to comment on my sister in-law’s post. I think I must have remarked on who she chose for herself and added that I had no idea what characters I would pick. To my surprise, she returned rather quickly with suggestions that her and my brother had come up with on the spot. They were:

  1. Daenerys-for general bad-assery
  2. Ratatouille- because I like to cook
  3. The Crying girl from Mean Girls who “doesn’t even go here”–cause you know, I have a lot of feelings.

While I was flattered by #1 and found #2 endearing, I had to search Youtube to find out how I felt about #3. Everyone seems to love the movie Mean Girls, I never did and couldn’t remember it well enough to know who my sister-in-law was referencing. That’s when I found this:

 

Needless to say, I was pretty insulted by this comparison. But soon after I was able to put away my anger and hurt feelings over their comments. The whole thing got me thinking. I realized, I’m actually super grateful to be a person that can express their emotions.

There are seven days in a week. I’d say on average, I cry more days than I don’t. Most of these cries are not big snot-filled wails, but sometimes they are. My hubs gets to witness those. More often, I can be seen dabbing under my sunglasses as I’m moved to slight tears by something I see or hear. I well up at least once a week walking or running around my neighborhood. It feels almost impossible to look to my left at my neighbor, the Brooklyn Bridge, and not well up with awe and gratitude that I get to live where I live. When I feel the strength of my body pushing through the streets, I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have the both the desire and the fortitude to challenge myself and do things that are hard.

I also get emotional quite frequently when I’m riding the subway. Again, it’s an overwhelming appreciation for where I live that comes over me. My morning commute is so incredibly diverse–there’s got to be at least twelve different ethnicities represented on that train. On one ride through Brooklyn I’ll hear English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Farsi, Polish, Russian. You name it, New York has got it. While the city can get crazy, sometimes there is something so magical about a morning subway commute–it’s like an around the world symphony–everyone knows the tune and harmonizes together. Sometimes I feel scared and overwhelmed by what’s going on in our country–it feels like there is so much division we are going to break. But then I jump on the G train to go to work and all these people of different colors, with different backgrounds, and different incomes, are living together peacefully. Sometimes you’ll see the hum of the car lull a tired rider to sleep. I can’t tell you how many New Yorkers have let a stranger doze off for a minute on their shoulder. There’s humor, there’s compassion, and every once in a while, even some patience. It’s more than enough to overpower my fears and doubts about our world, and it almost always inspires some salty discharge from my eyeballs.

I wasn’t always this way. For years the only way I could manage any type of emotion was if I drank. Unfortunately though, my drunken ramblings and sobs never actually released any real emotion or worked through any of my feelings. Instead, my behavior usually added to the pile of things for me to feel ashamed or guilty about. People needlessly and often unintentionally hurt each other’s feelings. It wasn’t until I got sober and was called out for a thoughtless comment by my then boyfriend (now hubs) that I began to understand that these words matter–and that we can call attention to them and try to be better for the people around us. When he told me that something I said hurt his feelings, I was furious. You heard that right–got angry at him. The fact was, the truth was hard and uncomfortable, and almost unbearable. It was difficult to hear that I had hurt someone I cared about. Why couldn’t he have just done what I and every other member of my family had done my whole life and kept that hurt feeling inside–his truth was hurting me, and it was awkward.

I feel incredibly fortunate that over the years I have remained teachable–I know I’m never “done” and I’ll always have stuff to work on. I’m also so glad that I found a partner who insisted on being in a relationship where we talk things out, and where we are honest about how things make us feel–regardless of how uncomfortable the conversations can get. I think living in this more forthcoming environment has brought me closer to who I am at my core–a strong, confident, and emotional woman.

It’s important for me to claim all those other attributes along with emotional, because I think our society likes to tell us that they don’t go together:

“Stop crying, you’re acting like a girl.”

Don’t be a pussy”

Women are too emotional to…”

Not only am I strong and emotional, I believe I am a strong woman, because I am emotional. This doesn’t mean I’m falling apart at work or breaking down in stressful situations. It means I have compassion. It means I am a better partner and co-worker and friend and family member because I allow myself to feel and comprehend the meaning of other people’s word and actions. My empathy and understanding is powerful, and this awareness has given way to an immense sense of gratitude that I hope I’ll always work to cultivate.

It’s easy to be afraid of our feelings. Why would’t we be? The truth is, when you open that door, you let the bad in with the good, there’s no way around it. In order to feel the very best of life’s most incredible joy, it’s inevitable that we also know it’s impossible pain. It’s no wonder that so many of us resign instead to live somewhere in the middle–to forgo the possibility of experiencing ultimate happiness to save ourselves from the depths of despair. It’s a choice I understand–but one that I could no longer accept for myself. I can’t put a screen over life; I don’t want it dulled, even if sometimes that makes it easier to look at.

I imagine tears are going to be flowing from me at a number of different points during the marathon; there’s going to be so much to feel. I’ll be happy to let them fall, because through them, and even because of them, I see a life that’s bigger and brighter and more dynamic than I ever thought possible.

 

 

header image: morgan basham

 

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32 thoughts on “Miles 15 & 16

  1. Yes, it’s funny how certain things you stop and think about, and realise there’s not a good reason why this exists/is enforced/continues.

    Very kind of you to say, but please don’t apologise! Your posts are good reading and frequently encourage a lot of good discussion from many readers. I’ll always leave my thoughts if I think I have something meaningful to add and it’s always good to get a dialogue/conversation going. I do tend to ramble on in the comments (easier for me to reel off paragraphs in text rather than speech!), but I’m plenty satisfied just having it read and/or adding something to the discussion!

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  2. The cities in the UK are typically lot smaller than the major US ones, but Cardiff is one of the larger: it’s the capital of Wales and a major student destination, so there is a huge amount of diversity. Although I often take it for granted as it’s my home, I do forget sometimes that it’s a vibrant place to live. The diversity of people and events is great to be around and gives perspective: it’s more difficult to get that in remote towns.

    It’s great that you’re continuing to find that balance within yourself. I think it’s a very strange time: we are expected to be confident, outgoing and well-presented at all times. Those are certainly positive qualities, but the value of being humble, self-focused and pursuant of substance-over-style can be frequently overlooked.

    It’s even more complicated when you consider traditional gender characteristics and how they are changing. From my experience as a man, there is generally an expectation to be seen as confident, driven and ambitious: this is great, but it doesn’t take into account the particular individual’s characteristics if they are a more methodical/quieter/introspective type.

    It’s all a little muddled in my mind; I accept that there are different expectations placed on genders, but I think base values/characteristics are more important. Almost like how cooking has in the past (and maybe still) been seen as a woman’s role: I think the ability to prepare food for yourself and others should be a universal thing. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, being able to sustain yourself (and family if you have one) is a strong and nurturing thing no matter how I look at it.

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    1. I think I’ve accepted that there are different expectations placed on genders my whole life and I’m just now starting to not accept it and think it’s bullshit. Lately I’ve had the feeling that so many of our norms are bullshit and limiting and offer a narrow view of the world that I have no interest in.
      I wish I could offer you more than that right now Paul after such a thoughtful comment from you, but I’m wiped and that is all this brain is managing right now!! Thank you for your wonderful insights as always–I’m sorry I’m failing to reciprocate!!

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  3. Pingback: Love, Blood, Sweat, and Tears are My New Foundation – petecoserjr

  4. I used to cry fairly easily but since having kids it’s gone to a whole new level. Crying at some point on a long race is standard practice for me so be as snot-filled and teary as you like I say!

    Haven’t been to New York in over a decade – still one of the most amazing places I’ve been lucky enough to visit and I will be back one day.

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  5. Ha with “Ratatouille”. The end credits instrumental from the movie is a mainstay on all of my long run playlists.

    Your diverse commute made me think about what has been going on in this country over the past few years. It is funny how, for the most part, NYCers can thrive with different folks. Yet, you have folks in middle American constantly spewing hatred against immigrants, muslims, gays, nonwhites, etc. who never have interacted with different people, because it will make America great again.

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    1. I think about this everyday Kwame–and funnily enough, I think about it the most on the subway, because I see so many different kinds of people living in harmony with each other. Because of what’s going on in our world I get really discouraged, and sometimes I even judge the people around me. I sat next to this Russian guy the other day who was man-spreading and I thought, “he probably hates black people.” Then this little black boy and his mama came on and sat on the other side of him. By the third stop, he was laughing with the mom and giving the little boy high fives. New Yorkers surprise and give me hope, every day.

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  6. Love your honesty, passion, and vulnerability. Takes a lot of courage to open up to and fully embrace all parts of our humanity which includes the emotional part. Living numbed out or in a stone cocoon is no life. I’m sentimental and full of gratitude many times too, but I’ll take it over not feeling at all. Best wishes as you get closer to marathon day!

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    1. Thank you so much for this. You’re so right about living numbed out– I did that for a long time, and even though in some ways it was more “comfortable”, I never want to go back to it. Maybe the lows didn’t seem quite as painful back then–but the happy wasn’t as joyful either.
      Hey thanks for being here, I am really happy to have your voice sharing!!

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  7. This is one of the precise reasons I call my blog “Running Is Ceremony”. When my folks go through ceremony, it’s a time of cleansing, purification, and resiliency. The result is we find peace within ourselves. Part of it is going through emotions so we come out as better people. I get emotional thinking about the people I’m running for, life’s trials, and the sacrifice put into my run. Great insight my friend.

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    1. It’s funny Pete–I know sleep is one of the smaller sacrifices we make, but your comment hit home thinking about how hard it was to get up to workout this morning. I don’t remember the last time it was this hard–I mean, it seriously hurt! So much that I felt EMOTIONAL. I seriously thought I was going to cry, i just felt so tired. But i did it, and i got up, and i got my strength training and my 4 miles in, and i thought about how i would probably remember this morning. It was so hard and I pushed through, and i am going to remember that sweat on race day–that the work was worth it, that the pain was worth it.
      Always love your comments Pete! x

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  8. You write so beautifully Cat. Several times during my marathon yesterday I was tearful – thinking of the journey, my family & friends, those no longer with us. My dad. He passed away in 2001 and I miss him terribly. I’d rather be a person with emotion, with empathy, than without. Thanks again for a great post x

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    1. Aww, thanks Ali. It’s quite moving to me that you say that about your Dad. When I was little, i always prayed that my parents wouldn’t die until I was at least twenty or so. I know that sounds crazy, but for one, i thought 20 was really old. And two, I thought that the way life worked was that you got to a certain age and you could handle things–they wouldn’t hurt anymore. Now I know that that is not the way life works, and we can really miss people even long after they are gone.
      As I get older I understand more the inevitability of pain–but I no longer feel like i have to run from it–maybe through it, but not from it. Congrats again on the 26.2 Ali–so happy for you.

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      1. That’s a lovely way to put it Cat – run through it rather than away from it. I like to use the term ‘lean in’ to it, accepting the pain or uncomfortableness – it’s amazing what we learn when we can do that.

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  9. Kind of loved this… In a big way.
    Leaving Wanderlust this year I asked my partner in crime ‘If anyone asks, it’s OK to say I cried… but maybe we leave out how many times I cried??’ (it was well over double digits over the course of two and a half days)
    Some things can hit us in pretty profound ways – whether it’s a pretty butterfly in a park or a conversation that hits you at the core – but those are the moments we live for, aren’t they?? 😉

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    1. They really are what we live for Bobbi. I think it takes a lot of vulnerability though and self awareness though to realize that and get to a point where we can feel comfortable enough in that spot to stay in it for a while.
      I wish we could change the whole dialogue and thinking around emotion–i think it takes so much more strength to be vulnerable and let yourself feel than to stay tight and stoic. Just even the idea that it is our instinct not to want to tell people that we cried or how many times–I wish it wasn’t that way!!
      I am glad you were in double digits at Leaving Wanderlust though–I think that is awesome ;).
      Oh yeah–and how about when you are laughing and crying hysterically at the same time? Have you had that one? That happened to me and my hubs when his mother died two years ago. Now THAT, is life right there. x

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  10. I think we’re secret sisters 🙂 I cry all the time, and I’ve really come to love and embrace that side of me. I often feel overwhelmed with gratitude and awe – for things I have, for things others have, for the experiences we have access to. Marathon training seems to bring out more tears than usual (I’m sure there’s some physiology there), but that same vulnerability and awe will carry you on wings if you’ll let it. Let yourself absorb every piece of your experience on race day and let it fill your heart with wonder. xoxo

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    1. Yes! I love it!! Overwhelmed by “the experiences we have access to.” THIS! So much. I cry almost every day that my husband and i travel–we were in Portugal a few months ago and every beautiful view and meal and story just overwhelmed me, I couldn’t believe how lucky we were to be there.
      You do realize on race day i am totally going to be crying about you and my other fav bloggers right? It’s so incredible that i have gotten to share this experience with you–it’s been an unbelievable ride and i have felt so loved and supported the whole way.
      I’m gonna do what you say sister–let my vulnerability carry me on wings–all the way through. You left me with so many good ones here!! x

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  11. I always feel the tears start coming during most non-funny Disney songs. I try not to actually cry (my husband would tease me mercilessly), but it’s difficult.
    I also cry when I’m really angry, which I hate, but I’ve learned by now that it’s kind of unavoidable. I used to think it was embarrassing (I mean, who wants to cry when they’re REALLY pissed about something), but now I try to look at it differently; every time I have cried because I was super-angry it ended up diffusing the situation I was angry at… usually, because people start to freak out when a gal starts crying. So maybe it’s adaptive…
    Anyways, I couldn’t agree more; you have to allow yourself to feel everything if you want to be able to experience true joy. The trick is that you have to learn how to process emotion in a healthy and productive way. Vulnerability is terrifying if you don’t know how to navigate emotions well (which I’d be willing to bet a lot of people don’t). I sure didn’t know how to until I got sober, and even now I still let my emotions take over and run things sometimes.

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    1. LOL, people are their Disney man, I love it. There are definitely a few Disney films/songs that might to get to me. It’s funny, I have this habit that I have discovered (thanks to my hubs) that i get from my Dad. If I know a movie makes or will make me emotional, I either avoid watching it, or I have to be ready to watch it, it can’t just be at any old time. It drives my hubs a little crazy. My dad does the same thing-only he is worse than me. There are movies that he LOVES that he won’t watch cause they make him too emotional. I will watch them–at least once a year, but i have to prepare myself!

      You’re def right about learning to process your emotion in a healthy and productive way. I might have glossed over that a bit here as if people should just go ahead and feel. It is definitely scary and even dangerous at times to just let your emotions take hold of you. Now that you’ve said this is think that i am realizing that i found that part difficult to write about–not letting your emotions rule you–mostly because i was trying so hard to emphasize that being emotional does not have to be a negative thing. Always more to explore right?

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    1. Oh my gosh, so exciting Wendy, how are you feeling!? I love half marathons, you are going to have a blast. Make sure you take in every moment, it’s going to be something you will want to remember I think!! Thanks for reading Wendy 😍.

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  12. As usual, I love this post! I think I was always quite a ‘feeling’ person but am even more so as I get older. And I think it makes me a better person for all the reasons you’ve said. The alternative scares me – every time I watch the news, I think how different the world could be if everyone could just develop large doses of gratefulness and empathy. It’s something I try to instil in the 10 year olds I teach in the hope of making a little difference to their future lives.

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    1. Gill that’s so amazing that you try to instill that gratitude in the kids you teach. I think it was a concept I understood when I was younger and learned from my parents, but I lost sight of it in my teens and early twenties. I was really a victim and was sure the world had shit on me 🙄. Young and foolish!!

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    1. Oh man, that must have been stressful…I loathe Times Square, I can’t imagine having to go there everyday! But yes, diversity like nowhere else, very appreciative of that! Thanks so much for reading Dawn 😊.

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