Secrets of a runner




I’m a runner. I run for health and fitness- although I used to run to win the race. I’m a runner now. I run and I run and I run.

But I have a secret …and it’s a big one. I bet you can’t guess what it is.

I’ll give you a hint, it hurts on the inside, it feels like a burning fire and it’s close to burning down the entire forest. Fires can burn for a long time and they destroy everything in their path; they tend to take down everyone around unless they run away. It’s coming and it’s coming fast. I’ve been pouring buckets of water on it for years to shield everyone from its intense heat, but the well has run dry. There’s nothing more I can do to stop it.  It’s a raging wildfire now. It crackles and pops, leaving no leaf unburned. As with any fire, it’s inevitable that I will either soar above it or it will kill me; I have no idea which it will be. I lay awake at night, my eyes streaming a river of tears, but the tears can no longer hold back the fire. The river itself is on fire now, almost beautiful it it’s rage. It carries its fierce flame within the river banks, dancing above the current, suffocating what little life might lay beneath it.

 

I was a good girl; I followed the rules to perfection. I did everything I was asked and I did it better than expected. I sat up straight in my chair, I socialized with everyone, I was always welcoming. I smiled and nodded, I never caused a stir and most importantly… I never had an opinion. Good girls don’t have opinions. I was the perfect extension of my parents. I was my father’s daughter, a sally-do-gooder. I was my mother’s daughter, only my magical mask was smaller at the time, but it was growing. I perfected the image of perfect so well that my friends at school would laugh and ask if I listened to classical music and drank tea by the fire. That was the image I portrayed; it was like something out of a book or a Disney movie perhaps. I was the beloved star of the family because I had become everything they had dreamt me to be. They loved me for what I had become, for being a rule follower, for being theirs in every sense of the word.

 

It was perfection. Growing up in a traditional white middle-class Catholic family, the standard of idealism had been set. My mom stayed at home while my father would enter from a day of work, plop down in the center chair of the teal kitchen table and wait to be served his home-cooked dinner. Red meat and unlimited butter filled the plates of our mid-western home.

I’m a runner. I run and I run and I run.

But then I fell in love…

But I had to run from my family and friends because….

I have a secret. I run and I run and I run. I run and I run and I run.

I’m an adult now. I’m a writer, an activist. Mom, dad- can you see me? Can’t you see me? I’m a philanthropist. I’m a photographer.  Can you hear me!? Mom, Dad, here I am. Look at me!

But they can’t hear me. They can’t see me. They don’t want to… It’s not what they want from me.

They want image. To them, Image means marriage. Marriage to the “right” man or what they call a “good man”. They want perfection. They want me to stay at home with children.  You have problems? They beg, they want it to be true.

You have problems? Just get married, and it will all be okay. Marriage will make It all okay.

But I have a secret. I’m in love. Do you know my secret now?

I run and I run and I run. I just keep running.

I have a secret and it’s killing me. I’ve built a thick stone around me to protect my heart, I’ve built it to save myself from their smears. I wear a mask to give them what they want. I wear a mask that is theirs, but my heart is still mine. I hold them both tight. 

 

I love her. I love her. I love her.

Now you know my secret. I love...

her.

I run and run and run. I hide and I run. I run. I run. I run.

When I picture myself as a child standing by my own adult-self, I have so much to say to that little girl. She’s wearing her favorite white skirt with the little purple hearts, I loved that outfit. Her big brown eyes are filled with genuine hope and love; I don’t want to see that fade away. I would hug her and kiss her cheek to show her the feeling of real affection. I would tell her to always speak her mind, have an opinion- it may get you in trouble sometimes but it is worth it. I would tell her …” always be brave, follow your heart and never let anyone silence you, ever.”

I would run my fingers through her soft brown hair and tell her that she can be anything she wants to- anything; an author, a lover, a film-maker, an artist, a philanthropist- the only thing that could ever stop her is… herself.

“Do you hear me?”

She can love anyone she chooses and be anything she dreams. I would assure her that everything will be alright if she just stays true to herself, just be who you were born to be. I would make her promise me that she will never let the naysayers bring her down or control her path- promise me to listen only to your own intuition and follow your heart. Remember, promises aren’t to be broken. Please remember this.

But I run, I run. I run. I don’t know if I can win this race.

I don’t know how much longer I can run.

Do you know my secret now?