Several months ago I had a dream that I was running on a freeway. I was in the middle of a lane, amongst the cars, as if I were a car.
It made about as much sense as any dream, but what was significant was how I felt. I felt great. I was breathing deeply, my body was strong, I wasn't tired at all. I felt like I could run forever.
When I woke up I thought: I want to feel that.
It was several months later before I actually went for my first run. I was out of shape and my energy was low. I could only run for short sprints. Mostly, I walked.
I kept at it, though, and little by little, I began to run more and walk less. It was slow going. I had been diagnosed with anemia, and then my thyroid levels went screwy. But I worked to correct both and as my fatigue lessened, my distances grew.
I don’t know why I thought I could run. I’ve never been a runner. When I was in high school, I had surgery on my right leg – they made a clean cut through both the tibia and fibula -- and I was on crutches for six months. I still have a metal plate and screws in my leg. Ever since then, the one leg has given me trouble. It aches. It’s weaker than my left leg. It's prone to shin splints.
When I started running I didn’t think I would stick with it. I thought it would be too hard. But for some reason it was important to me to keep at it. With everything else falling down around me, I wanted something that I could succeed at, something I could overcome. And I wanted to feel what I felt in that dream.
Now I can go three to five miles at a stretch, though I still alternate between running and walking. I run three times a week. I’ve lost twenty pounds since January.
Today, my son wanted to go up to the track at the nearby school so he could play in the sandpit they use for their long jump. I readily agreed.
When we arrived he started building a castle and moat and I took off around the track. There were some dark clouds moving in and I kept an eye on them. As I circled the track I could hear a few claps of thunder.
Each time I passed the sandpit I would admire his progress. After about two miles I felt the first drops of rain. My son looked up at me when I passed, wondering if this meant the end of the castle-building fun, but I just shrugged and kept going. He smiled and kept building.
In just a few months, the two year mark would come (and probably go) on Jim’s criminal case. Still, there were no charges. I never dreamed it would drag on this long. It felt like a suspended free fall.
Time had made him more confident and he seemed to be finding more and more ways to litigate, accuse, withhold, obscure, harass. He tiptoed around the edges of the restraining order, looking for an opening.
A few more laps and the rain began to fall more steadily. I was breathing deep, but I wasn’t out of breath. My legs were tired, but I wanted to keep running. It felt good. I felt good.
As a hit the straightaway on the far side, the sky opened up. I smiled and looked up. My life was in a shambles, but in that moment, I felt free. For the briefest moment, as I ran down a track at a high school in suburban Kansas in the falling rain, I was free.
I finished my lap, gathered up my son and walked home in the rain. He danced along beside me, stopping occasionally to show me how he could catch drops in his mouth. When we got home, I stood on the driveway and stretched in the rain as he twirled around me.
The sky was growing darker and the rain falling harder, so I motioned for him to come in. He ran up to me and gave me a spontaneous hug. “Mommy, this is the best day ever.”
I laughed. Sometimes I forget the immediacy with which children live. All that matters is that very moment.
We retreated to the shelter of the garage, but neither of us really wanted to go in. For a few minutes, we just stood there, side by side, and looked out at the rain.