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:
- Daenerys-for general bad-assery
- Ratatouille- because I like to cook
- 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–I 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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