I have a favorite run. It is on Mt. Tam Watershed,15 miles of good, not too easy, not too hard, dirt and it seems like everytime I run there I get to really thinking about things. I have had several experiences where I have literally run straight back to my car and driven straight to the shop to buy a notebook to write down the thoughts that seem to come so easily on that trail (you would think by now I would just remember to bring a notebook, but alas no). Today was no different. Or maybe today was, since I am actually blogging about it. Most of the time, the thoughts I have on this trail stay between me, myself and I.
I have been known to cry on occasion while racing. Usually about 1/2-1 mile away from the finish line of a longer or more epic race/run. Thanks to the nature of ultrarunning, usually nobody gets to see it. Today was the kind of day where I was very thankful for the solitude of the trail, thankful there was no one to see me suddenly overcome with despair. Imagine, if you can, me running up a steep hill, suddenly (and seemingly for no reason) sobbing. You'll have to just imagine it because there are very few people in this world outside of my mother who have ever seen me truly despairing (except for the occasional person causing me despair, which has been very rare in the past 5 years).
I don't mean crying, most people by now have seen me cry at least once. I use to be a big cry baby, now I find myself crying when I am happy or blissed out on the trail. But there I was (thinking WTF) on the trail, deep in despair (but running quite fast up a hill nonetheless). And I know why and the subsequent miles washed the tears away and replaced them with happiness and resolve and joy.
I don't talk about it much anymore, I don't often need to on my own accord. Occasionally though someone stumbles upon THE article in the Seattle Times and brings it up (more often than not people have read it and don't tell me which is fine too). I don't talk about it because my road to recovery, to survival, back to life I have kept it close to my chest. I don't want to be defined by something that is (while very significant) just an event, a time, a bad thing that happened. I have done so much self-work to survive, I have left no stone unturned in making sure that a bad thing that happened didn't dictate or define my life. I thought for a long time that there would come a point in my life where it didn't affect me or influence who I am. That is wrong, it was a significant event in my life and it was a catalyst for immense self-work and introspection. It was probably a catalyst for a lot of floundering, sadness and self-deprecation too.
Today for the first time in a long time, I cried about it. It's been 2 years probably since that happened and then it was because Lance, Tony's brother, walked into my library and (again) changed the course of my life and career. Today I cried because it has been almost exactly 9 years since my escape from that situation. It's been 9 years since someone finally asked me what was going on and the truth came out. I remember sitting in my car with J, having driven two hours, talking the whole time before he finally asked what was really going on. I told him, then I smoked a cigarette while sitting in a parking lot in some small random town on the Olympic Peninsula. He told my mom the story that night, I couldn't. I never had been able to tell her, why would that change. She never asked. They gave me a choice, do nothing or do something. I decided to take the hard path. I did something. And in the same breathe, I decided: I will not let this destroy me. I will survive. I will recover. I took the hard route and said, I want this to be a bad thing that has happened to me, not a bad thing that dictates, rules and ruins my life. I want to find a way back to myself. I want to understand everything.
That day, 9 years ago, my life changed. I completely changed directions. Where I had been on a path of becoming a star D-1 basketball player, a cocky bastard who deep down was as insecure and afraid as they come, that day I changed everything about my life and ultimately who I have become nearly 10 years later. I can imagine the person I might be and it would probably be startlingly similar to that same frightened, beaten down 18 year old. On that day, I started an ultra harder than any we could ever imagine. Run a 100 miler every weekend for 5 years (if you could without dying, ha) and it probably would still be easier.
I am glad that 9 years ago my life changed. As I ran today, I let myself feel whatever came up. I thought about everything. I am at a point now where I can look back and see everything clearly, remember the journey to where I am now and look hopefully towards the path I will go forth on now. I remembered the first 3 years where I despaired greatly, no one saw and no one comforted me. I cried myself to sleep for 3 years. I hated myself, my life, I questioned everything I knew. But I faced every dark and scary corner and even when my hope was barely a faith shimmer, I held on and just kept going. I knew I just had to keep moving forward, a lesson I have carried into my running. Keep going, it will get better, I promise. In those 3 years, I also was really strong for other people. As you can imagine these things don't just affect the victims, they affect EVERYONE. I was a pillar of strength for my family and friends even though no one had been strong and protected me. I let them off the hook, I forgave even though no one asked for forgiveness. I took the hits that were doled out, like getting lost of the trail, and just accepted them, setback or not and moved on. I did so much self work and in 3 years, I made it back to ground zero. I dug myself out of the hole that situation created in my heart, soul and psyche. I made. I transitioned. I moved on. I am and was proud of that. I checked and rechecked, made sure I'd covered everything. I allowed myself the space for things to come up in the future, for feelings to occur as they did (for instance when I had a strong reaction to Lance coming to the library. That shook me to the core, it scared me and I would be inhuman if I didn't have a reaction). But for 99.9% of it, I thought I had closed the book on that part of my life. I moved to Pittsburgh, I changed my life (in that 3rd year), I started off fresh, new outlook, new city, new everything.
I realized something today though. While I have continued with the self-work over the years, I never thought about things this way until today. I realized that the place I got to "ground zero" after those 3 years, that getting back to neutral was not enough. That was a place where even before the Players Only/Giles situation, that I was an insecure, afraid, little girl, desperately looking for love and attention. People often tell me, its not my fault that happened and yes I know that, but I also know that there was something about the way I felt about myself, something about what I needed and wanted from the world, some underlying something that stopped me from ever protecting myself or from valuing myself enough to think I didn't deserve that. Neutral was not good enough. I needed to do better and thankfully, even though I never thought about it that way, I have continued the work, the struggle, the real digging for the past 6 years.
I took up running 7 years ago, almost exactly. I was living in South Africa and my roommates and I trained and ran the Cape Town half marathon. I never stopped running after that. What I realized today was that the growth curve of my life and the growth curve of my running are one. I realized for the first time what running has been to me all this time. I think about all the hours I have spent in contemplation while on the run, sure that is obvious. Running is definitely a cheap form of therapy. But the less obvious thing, is that through running I have learned to value myself, I have learned how to take care of myself (mentally and emotionally- which is key in ultrarunning), I have developed confidence. And to say I have developed confidence is PROFOUND since until even a year ago, I lacked confidence in a lot of ways. Running was the way I learned to manage my life, to make my life better. Running IS NOT life but it has given me a chance to have a better life. Even if I never raced or had any success, it would still do that. I realized that today. On the trail today, I despaired and rejoiced in the matter of a mile. I came full circle and said, the period of my life that ended 9 years ago was significant, it will never not be a part of me, but let it be the creator of the best parts, let my life now be born of the fires I endured to survive it. I have been running all this time, running towards my self, running to become me.
I actually got quite giddy after the top of that climb where I despaired. Because I understood for the first time, my own healing and self-growth curve. I finally could see the interconnectedness of some of my current behaviours as products of the process of survival (like being overly introspective, being really hard on myself, being a high achiever and having high expectations of myself and never letting myself fail or be weak) and was able to let go of them. I finally see and understand. As I ran, I felt a lightness of being, I felt a burden lifted off of my shoulders. If this makes any sense, I finally said to myself I can be weak, because I know I am strong. I can stay here and feel this, because I know I have truly moved on.
9 years. 9 years and today I feel like I am a different person. I feel like today I took the scaffolding off my psyche and saw *hooray* everything held. I know it has been for a while. I am not that despairing 18 year old I was 9 years ago though she is a part of me. I am not the sickened frightened lost 15 year old I was 12 years ago when this all began, though in my mind I hug that girl, that child that never had any comfort or voice. And today, I decided I should give her a voice.
Over the years many have said I should write about my recovery, write about what happened to me, I always thought "well maybe". I realize I was too afraid to go back into those fires to retrieve the story. I never wanted (or want) to be defined by that part of my life and writing about it made me fear being seen that way. I realize now, I don't care because its not the truth. I feared that because I feared that I was self-defined by it. I realize now there is much to be said and shared. It is not just about that situation, really it is about all the things that come after that. That is the real story.
I have decided to tell it. Tell the story. For better or for worse. No one can imagine the things I have seen, the places I have been, I have never shared the details that weren't necessary to make the case. I am going to write the story, write the book. I don't care if it never is read by another human being, it is important to me.
Next year will be 10 years (oh yeah I can do math!) and for that significant milestone, I literally, figuratively and everything(ly) will put that book on the shelf.
(how's that for putting myself out there!?!that was a leap my friends. this was not an easy one.)