Hi, everyone! #51 in the works. And it's been less than a week since my last blog entry, so hey, progress already!
I'd like to paint a mental picture for you all - may seem a little strange and somewhat comical if I'm successful, but please do bear with me for there is (almost) always a method to my madness as far as thoughts go.
First off, I am picturing the New York State Marathon. I am a native New Yorker and have seen this event both in person as well as on TV. If you've seen this event televised, that may help formulate a 'starter' vision. The marathon in New York City takes place usually the first weekend in November - usually on a Sunday morning. Upwards of 50,000 runners gather in Staten Island and run through all five boroughs, a total of 26 miles, before finishing in Central Park in Manhattan. Although fall is well underway by now, the ambitious runners are usually dressed in either spandex pants made out of bathing suit material or those too-short shorts resembling the speedos my father had NO business wearing whenever we'd go to the beach when I was a kid, and sleeveless tank tops. These runners would get warm regardless, some would even overheat, so I definitely understand the need for 'light' clothing. Some runners stop for water breaks along the way; there are 'stations' set up for runners to rest and recharge and re-hydrate. There MAY be some people running the marathon competitively - it's perhaps a dream of every runner to be the first to burst through the finish line tape, but finishing the entire 26 miles, even if it takes all day, is the true achievement. Some run the marathon because they CAN. Some spend months or years training before attempting this feat. Either way, it's a journey - a test of resilience, strength and endurance.
I like to think of our healing journey as being our own personal marathon. Although we're not doing much, physically, it certainly DOES test our mental and emotional boundaries. And it matters not where we are in our journey; what matters is we are all on that same crowded (and bumpy) road that leads to where we want to be, and we're all 'traveling' at the speed in which we're most comfortable. While the NYC Marathon has a pre-set distance, our own finish lines take different amounts of time to reach, and for some, the mere existence of a finish line is questionable. All we can truly count on is making it through one checkpoint at a time, as quickly or slowly as necessary.
And like in the 'real' marathons, you've got your different types of runners, just as we have come to realize that there are different types of healers, too.
Note - the following descriptions are only set forth only as examples and for reason of differentiating between different types of individuals and providing mental images. I do not claim to be an expert on marathon wardrobes or the actual reasoning behind it. So, without further ado:
Runner A: I think the runners who choose to wear the skimpy, short speedos are the most confident. Let's face it...I'm guessing that if they're gonna wear THAT, then they certainly are NOT going to let themselves feel ashamed of what others see. They're comfortable with the image they're presenting, regardless of what they're feeling on the inside. They're collected, focused. There's absolutely nothing getting in their way. These are the ones who throw themselves into healing 100% - but this is, of course, not without risks. Moving too fast makes it too easy to burn out sooner. Some can prevent it, some can't and are forced to slow down. Either way, these are the ones with only the finish line in sight - and their determination can be what makes them succeed as well as what can potentially derail them before they arrive.
Runner B: If they're wearing the spandex skin-tight pants, they're still confident, but they're also cautious. They don't plan on running as fast, they're going to slow down often enough to analyze what hurdles are ahead rather than run right into them. They're going to make sure they CAN clear any roadblocks before they do. They'll push themselves to the point of impending burnout, but will also know when it's time to sideline themselves for a little while and revitalize before proceeding. Sometimes this particular runner will feel that temporary burst of speed just before their next 'break;' but they'll be quick to recognize their limitations.
And finally, Runner C: The third type of runner is more like a walker or occasional jogger. They will be dressed in sweat pants and a sweat shirt. Why? Because these are the overly cautious ones - it's November and it's COLD. And they don't want to take the chance of becoming too cold or otherwise uncomfortable to finish the race. They know they're not going to be proceeding fast enough to work up a sweat, and so they plan on the slowest and safest approach - wearing the sweats with perhaps lighter clothes underneath for when they're ready to shed layers and pick up the pace. These are the ones who make frequent stops, too, in order to regroup. Quitting is NOT in their agenda - no. Their plan is simple - they are going to finish that race, but they're going to take their sweet-ass time in doing so.
Now, make no mistake - there's NOTHING wrong with being runner A, B or C. There are probably in-betweeners out there, too. In fact, there are probably D's, E's, F's, and enough types to assign every letter of the alphabet to - it's that wide a variety.
But one thing is for certain. We HAVE to keep running. And we, as survivors, know that this is true - although we often wish that there were shortcuts or simply an easy out. Unlike the 'real' marathoners, we didn't sign up for THIS - this is something we've unfortunately been forced into by circumstance. I think that when we do stop and rest, we're going to encounter a myriad of other survivors. Some are going to be running past us, trying to get to THEIR next checkpoint, some are going to also be resting while they figure out what their next hurdles are. And in the process, we will observe each other's progress, we will share tactics, we will pick each other up when we fall, we will encourage each other to proceed. I find that we are truly learning about ourselves in the process of learning about others. And it doesn't matter if you're an expert runner or you're this is your first rodeo - we don't even really need to know the other people we encounter - just having that common understanding of the course ahead is vital to completing it.
All that being said, my finish line still is a ways off. But I have discovered that for me - there's indeed a pattern that is most consistent with Runner B, with some in-between qualities of Runners B & C.
You see - I'm realizing that I personally require a 'regrouping' every ten years. I've had experiences (or otherwise life-changing epiphanies) at 19, 29 and now at 39. I'm hoping that before 49 comes along, I'll have figured out my shit or at least have made it through the tape.
Now, this is not because I had a choice in the matter. It's simply how the hurdles presented themselves within my own personal race. There are SO many different reasons for our getting off-track and I think it's of high importance to be able to identify when and WHY we do. I don't think it's completely avoidable, either, I believe we all travel off-course a few times during our journey. We're human, it's only normal for us to trip or stumble over whatever hurdle is thrown at us that we can't avoid.
For example - I experienced my first (this too is questionable, since I'm convinced more and more every day that there are repressed memories that I've not come to understand completely yet) trauma at the age of 17. This will be the point in which I was handed my 'marathon clothes' and my 'number,' let's say it's 17 - symbolic of when I started the whole process. I am actually not able to picture myself in any of the above mentioned outfits - cotton basketball shorts and a tee-shirt and a bra that actually KEEPS my girls tucked away is more my thing than spandex anything.
Then I started running. I took several risky paths...stupid paths. I did this because I was searching for nonexistent shortcuts. I wanted OUT of this race. I mean, what the hell!? There HAD to be easier ways of getting through it than THIS! I mean, I was huffing and puffing right out of the gate - the mere thought of there being SO much more to go was exhausting!
Then, at age 19-20, I met the wasband. Not sure if he represents a checkpoint or my first sideline - either way, he was NOT wanting me to take part in this race. No, instead of running, he preferred that I remain at home with the children, that I focus completely on being a wife and a mother and I leave the past where it belonged - in the past. And so that made me slow down and stand off to the side in wait for the next nine to ten years. He never actually told me that I wasn't allowed to proceed on my healing path - instead, using words and very nasty facial expressions, he made me feel as if it were a weakness, a drug addiction, a FLAW. It was something to be ashamed of wanting or needing to address. It was something that tainted me - and it was also something I wasn't supposed to allow others to see. And that kind of mental conditioning can be VERY difficult to erase. And so I dutifully placated him - I suppressed, I buried, I continued to push the inflatable ball underneath the dark waters, regardless of how many times it'd bob back up above the surface and back into my line of sight. I focused mostly on being a mother to my children and ensuring his meals were hot when he got home and that his work clothes were washed, dried and ready for him to slip into in the mornings.
I never lost sight of the race, though - I knew it was still going on in front of me and would be there forever. I simply sat on the sideline and watched others pass me by, feeling almost envious that they had the freedom to search out THEIR next checkpoints. Hope of finding my own 'next step' began to dwindle until that fateful day when he came home and told me that he thought it was best that we separated. I was 29 then.
At this point, not only did I have the stuff I'd 'put away' for the ten years just to keep him content and allow him to hold onto the illusion of a happy family - I now had more to sift through because being mentally and emotionally abused by him for the entire time we were married had only succeeded in flinging me further off course. Now, it felt as if I were back at the starting line, destined for an entirely different path than the one I'd initially been prepared to take. Because now, I wasn't dealing with just one trauma anymore - I now had his parting gift to me - the unwanted effects and burdens of domestic mental and emotional wreckage.
Our divorce was neat, amicable and quick and with a minimum of arguing - mostly because by now, all I cared about was being rid of him and his nonsense; I was just like, 'where do I sign?' He was quick to move onto courting wife #3 while I was anxious to tie up my sneakers and proceed on the forbidden journey - because now, I was in control - the dominant role of being the 'obedient wife' had finally been taken off the table and replaced by a new goal.
And, so, that's exactly what I did - I took off from that brand-new starting point and for the next ten years, was able to balance healing and a budding romance (with another runner, imagine that!) and although along the way, there were some brief stops and pauses, I have finally come to terms with the sexual assault I endured at 17. I no longer blame myself for that and have placed blame solely where it belongs - on my assailant. I've done a lot of work toward self-forgiveness (not for what happened, but rather for how I saw fit to handle it by making poor choices) and strides toward reaching my next checkpoint. In the meantime, I've found the happiness that I was never before able to recognize because now, I am with a partner who truly understands the race and rather than telling me to sit it out, she's always encouraged healing and promoted the nurturing of my emotional needs.
Now, at 39, this is where I sit....not sidelined, but simply pausing at one of those rejuvenation kiosks off to the side - regrouping, re-evaluating myself and the course that lies ahead, which is now clearer and more tailored to suit my own personal needs and desires for the future me that awaits near the finish line. Now, I can't say for sure there IS one in sight right now - but this likely the steepest part of the race and it's on an incline - for dealing with matters of the body is, for me, easier than dealing with those of the mind; my latest task. It is now time to deal with strengthening my emotional reserves and building those back up. Now I am to turn another winding corner and begin working on breaking down the person my ex-husband taught me to be and rebuilding into the person I choose to be.
I don't know about you, but my seemingly cluttered brain could not handle the task of processing two different (although related) situations at the same time. I'm not sure if my organizing/categorizing and dealing with stuff one-by-one and only as soon as it was safe to do so was self-taught as a means of survival and self-preservation but I am thinking it has everything to do with it.
Either way, I know this - I've gotta keep moving. I know that it's okay to stop or to pause when I'm tired, weary, emotionally drained. This mandatory marathon isn't going anywhere; it will forever be there to test me in every way. If it ends up being determined that there is more ground for me to cover, it will simply extend my journey - but now that I've figured out how to temporarily disconnect in order to gather my bearings when faced with something new, I will not allow for it to impede my view of where I need to end up. I think, for me, the finish line, even though I can't see it clearly yet, has stopped appearing to be so unreachable with the passage of time. Before, it was as if with each sprint forward, the line would extend backwards by the same distance. I had been running aimlessly, without any idea of what my own personal checkered flag looked like; without an inkling of what would represent progress. Progress, which is only made when you actually advance toward this end point. The end of the race doesn't seem so imaginary anymore - I know it does exist. Not just for me, but for everyone - and with each of our small victories, we are closer to it.
Perhaps the next ten years will clarify it even more. I know I've still got quite a bit of distance to make up for, having sidelined myself for as long as I did, as well as additional obstacles to clear - but that's okay. I'm still going to finish this damn race, even if it takes me the rest of my life!
Onwards, and until next time!