This is the first Saturday in three months that finds me asleep at 5:30 and at 6:30 and still at 8:30. Today the team is doing ten miles, and I am doing none. After our 19 mile trek, I spent Sunday and Monday helping Dad move. I didn’t do much lifting, but I packed and cleaned and vacuumed and ran back and forth between his house and mine (in flip flops because I couldn’t put my poor feet back in shoes) from early to late. And by Monday night, both feet were sore and swollen. They weren’t even feet. My toes were gone. My ankles were gone. They were the pale paws of some chubby mammal. And they hurt. I could barely step on them.
Tuesday found us still moving, so I did what I could without walking too much. By Wednesday, I was in total meltdown…on every level. My feet were in crisis. My stomach was in crisis. And I simply could not stop crying. For the rest of the week (and into next), all I could do was sleep and cry. Ten miles is out of the question. Right now, ten feet is a challenge.
“You know, feet are about foundation,” says my chiropractor when I see him. “Your foundation just got rocked again; of course your feet went out.”
So I sleep, and I cry. And I soak, and I ice. And I’m scared. Desperately scared. I’ve been so worried about getting to complete San Diego; now I’m scared I won’t even get there. And the old stories come up: You see, this is what happens when you try to be an athlete. Who do you think you are to reach for this? And the mean stories come up: You’re going to let everyone down. All these people have sponsored you, and you’re going to fail them.
“You are an athlete,” says one friend. “This is what athletes do…they get injured.”
“Look what you’ve already done,” says another. “You’ve raised money for a good cause, and you’ve walked far enough already to satisfy anyone. No one wants you to get hurt.”
I realize that my stories are not helping me heal, so I start to take inventory. I have already walked up to 19 miles at a time. I have walked more than 270 miles to date. I have learned and changed. There is no failure here.
I go into the next week still crying, still resting, but also taking care of myself…massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, ice, heat, Epsom salt. Healing is a full time job.
It’s also an inside job. I think about how scared I was about the time limit in San Diego, how I was walking in fear of failing, how rigid that must have made me. I think about why I wanted to do this marathon – for me, for mom, for a good cause — and when did it become about failing other people? I think about what can be learned from getting knocked off my feet, from not being able to walk away from the grief of the moment. And I think about the questions that arise, now that my family will no longer live next door: Where do I stand? What is my own path, and how do I walk it? I’ve felt like a boat losing its anchor, but a boat without anchor is free to go anywhere. What life do I walk into now?
I keep soaking and icing, resting and stretching, and crying. I still can’t go a day without crying, feeling, with each round of tears, that I’ve lost pounds of old weight, not even sure what I’m grieving but sure that the emptying is essential.
It’s funny how timing is everything. In life, jokes, stories, the appointment of meaning. My friend Kevin sends me a link to a website that will tell you what song was at the top of the British and U.S. charts on the day you were born. I look mine up. Six months ago it would have been insignificant. Today it’s all irony. The day I was born, the top song on the U.S. charts was Run Around Sue (by Dion). And in Britain? A singer named Helen Shapiro with a song called Walkin’ Back to Happiness.
In 2005, I stunned myself by signing up to walk the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon on behalf of the American Stroke Association. This post is one of a series of reflections and Training Tales from that time. The whole series begins here.