I am a runner. Well, I WAS a runner, and then I had a total colectomy. Prior to my surgery, running was as natural to me as showering –I did it about six days a week. During the times I was not training for something, I averaged about 30-40 miles a week. I was a bit of an addict.
If practicing and teaching yoga is my yin, running was my yang. Yoga is all about awareness; the linking of your breathe to subtle movement, allowing your body to open gradually and organically.
Running, on the other hand, was about getting in the zone and then pounding the shit out of it. I loved it. It made me feel tough. I listened to Eminem at a full blast and blew my nose in my shirt. There were times when Phil saw me running that he thought I looked a little scary and intense…kind of like Robocop in a pink running skirt. In retrospect I guess it is true that my Running Self felt a little like an alter-ego – I mean, I can’t think of any other time in my life besides college where I would change my tampon behind a tree.
So I knew that my surgery would put me on the DL for a while, but I was pretty confident that I would be lacing up my Mizunos by racing season. After all, I had bounced back from two pregnancies, how different could this be?
Uhh, pretty damn different. The main purpose of your colon is to maintain your body’s fluid balance. So, unless I stay up all night ingesting Gatorade intravenously, running a few miles now feels like waterskiing on the Sahara. It ain’t easy. I tried to stay optimistic, but when at six months post-surgery I still couldn’t run more than a mile, I wanted to set my sneakers on fire started to get a little discouraged. Maybe it was time to admit defeat and start going to Zumba.
Then, ten days ago, my sweet, brave, loving, practically perfect Aunt Terry died.
It’s hard to grieve while at home with two little kids – you can’t cry in the bathroom if your kids always follow you in. Plus, Emma is so high strung intuitive she can sense the pain of people in Uganda. I have been trying to keep up this sunny charade, but my stuffed sadness seems to rear its ugly head in the form of throwing out the boxer shorts Phil leaves NEXT to the hamper hostility.
Last Wednesday, after eating the last piece of candy involving the magic-that-is-chocolate-and-peanut butter out of Phoebe’s Halloween pumpkin, I decided I needed to stop the insanity and at least attempt a run. Maybe not even a run, maybe a walk, a shuffle. No expectations, no judgment, no angry playlist involving the Insane Clown Posse.
So I loaded some of my new favorite (soothing) music onto my IPod and set off on my low pressure walk-run excursion. Not 10 minutes into it, the weirdest thing happened. No, I didn’t pass out or poop my pants.
I started bawling. Not crying, SOBBING. While running. Down the street. A street with cars and people.
At first I wasn’t sure what to do. I literally could not stop this deluge of tears and boogers emotion…and I couldn’t go home and freak out the family…so…I just kept crying. And running.
Crying + Running = Crunning
Can I patent that?
I actually surprised myself that in the moment I didn’t really care that I looked like a freak stumbling around a suburban development doing the Ugly Cry. Rumi says “the cure for pain is in the pain,” and as much as it sucks, you have to let it come up when it wants to come up….kind of like bad sushi.
The problem is, when you are in the thick of moving through the pain, it totally sucks. You feel like there is no way you can possibly feel this bad and still survive it. The first 48 hours after my surgery, I was in so much pain it hurt to blink. I remember thinking to myself, “Well, this will either get better or I will die, because there is no way it can stay like this forever.”
Maybe the same theory applies to emotional pain. Writer Geneen Roth says, “The answer to I have no idea how I am going to get through this is to allow yourself to sob, to heave, to feel as if your heart has a boulder crashing through it…and then you notice at the end of the day that you are still alive.”
So when all the chocolate has been eaten and all the wine has been drunk, you muster up the strength to make the slightest first movement toward life. You peel yourself off the bathroom floor, you walk down the stairs, and then maybe down the driveway, then the street…and you start to shake up all that pain stuck in your chakras or lodged up your ass crack or wherever the hell it goes. You give yourself permission to release it little by little, like freeing little sips of air from the frothy bottle of Fresca that dropped out of the bottom of the grocery bag and rolled down the driveway. Maybe this how you slowly start making your way back.