I have two favorite times to run: in the rain or snow at night. I love watching the world glisten. It’s almost trembling with the potential and possibilities of the fresh new day the dawn will bring. There’s clarity. The darkness conceals scars beneath a blanket of quiet. The liquid air can swallow up tears in the night like stones in a stream during a flashflood. Think about it for a moment. When you see someone pounding the pavement, you might have observed/judged their attire. You may have chortled at their gait or stride. Envy or admiration may have coursed through your veins. I doubt you’ve ever noticed a runner out on the road crying. Things don’t cease to be just because you don’t notice them. For me, running at night can be like looking at myself in the bathroom mirror without turning on the light. I can tell it’s me there, but I don’t have to see the mess.
I was exhausted starting off on my run last night, but I was not alone. In an age of instant communication, I feel profound statements are often lost, afloat in the cyber sea with their layers of meaning adrift forever. A line of text, hastily written, sent and read within twenty seconds, could perhaps have taken what would have seemed like a lifetime to say from one face to another. Someone shared with me yesterday, “I’m a bit broken.” One small line of text in countless characters haunted me for the rest of the day. The apparition tailed me on my run. I had a route planned, but when I started, I knew this was going to be painful and it would have to be longer. No short little jaunt through the city was going to suffice to process this out. I got the sense my friend felt completely alone in his feelings of brokenness. There were so many things I wanted to say. Immediately, I went to a place of, “I can fix this.” I knew from personal experience I was wrong and that words can feel cheap in such situations. I’ve found the best thing is to acknowledge that there just aren’t words.
When in a pit of despair, no matter how deep, it’s always nice to know three things. One, you’re not the first person to be down there. Two, you’re not down there alone. Three, there are people down there and up here who want to help you out. Everyone is broken. Last Sunday, while driving home from the Hope Express/Ragnar Relay event, I cried a large portion of the way. I left important people behind, was driving toward people I didn’t necessarily want to see and left a clear sense of accomplishment and self for uncertainty and struggle. I left feelings of usefulness, meaning for an existence wondering if I really make any difference at all.
Why does all this matter? For my friend, it means I need to relinquish the notion that I have any control over fixing this for him. I need to understand I’m one of those people in and out of the pit, offering to just be there.
For me, it’s all a part of explaining how I, just another broken person in this world, put myself back together between life’s instances of shatter. In a world where each individual controls little more than his or her immediate reactions to situations, running is something I can control. I pick how fast or slow, long or short, hilly or flat, hard or easy a run will be. I control it all. Whether I’m taking in the amazing architecture of 100-year-old houses that were invaluable to individuals striving for freedom through the Underground Railroad or padding it out along winding tree-lined roads, I can get a handle on the world, my life and incomprehensible thoughts. Things come together and make sense. Issues I can’t square away day-to-day come together out on the road. So when I’ve had a bad day, have a dilemma or want to reestablish my sense of self in the world, I hit the road putting myself back together one piece, one mile, at a time.