A mile (and back) of meditation

I ran a mile today. I took one of the dogs and we ran a mile out, then walked the mile back.

I thought back to the days–not that long ago–when I would zip past these half-mile markers, marker after marker after marker. Two years ago this month, I ran a half marathon on this very route. I let myself think about that, and then I let it go. Today, I had a mile in me. That is so pathet…. Wait. When people tell me to be gentle with myself, this must be what they are talking about.

I wondered how I could fit this into my schedule. Should I knock out a mile a day, everyday, as exercise for the dog? Should I work up to 3 miles 3x a week? I thought about that and let it go. Today, I was running a mile.

A few kind friends have offered to accompany me on a run. My active, vivacious retiree-age therapist really wants me to get out there. In my self-deprecating moments, I assume they are all politely urging me to lose weight. When I’m less petulant, I know that they know that this would be good for me. I am dutifully trying to do the things good for a woman my age–taking my fish oil pills, doing my yoga poses, eating my weeds, dicing ginger and garlic and pausing to appreciate their aromas.

I’ve had trouble explaining why I can’t run. In the early days of grief, I was so closed in that I couldn’t handle the enthusiasm. The first time I hiked up a hill and didn’t fall apart, I knew I was over that. But, still, I couldn’t run. Truth be told, I couldn’t handle the disappointment. What if I get into running and then I have to skip my runs because the kids need to go somewhere, or I had a sleepless night? Why get my hopes up? 

I’ve been so down lately, though, that it’s time to get my hopes up. It’s time to claim some time and space in this world for me. After hitting my recent rough patch, I don’t really have much of a choice. Less wine, more running. That’s the formula before me now.

As the dog and I walked the mile back, I thought about our little running group in Fall 2011. A few of us women would meet at 6am and knock out a few miles before our busy days. We’d watch the sun rise over the river. Gosh, I felt like I owned this town, carrying the secret of its early-morning beauty.

After those affirming runs, I’d arrive home, full of life, and open the door to husband and son yelling at each other. My heart would plummet. I stopped those morning runs so that I could stay home and intervene or just take over and get my son out the door in peace. That’s when I stopped running–November 2011 or thereabouts. Husband hit his nadir in December 2011, then it was a slog until May 2012. I didn’t know he was dying inside, I just felt the life force leaving me, leaving this home, this family.

Today, the worst I could expect upon arriving home is that dog’s brother, distressed from being left behind, may have pooped on the L.L. Bean rug. Not so bad, in the scheme of things. (Note: he did not poop, anywhere in the house. Good dog.)

Our lives are worse, and yet our days not as bad as they used to be. That’s a hard thing to explain. Our days were horrible, but there was hope that it would get better. Now our day-to-day life is less fraught, but it is lived out on a plane of indelible pain of loss and regret and questions that will never be answered. There is no going back, to the half marathon or to him.

Today I went for a run. I ran a mile today. And that was that.



Signs of spring are springing up all over the farmers market. I did not get the radishes this time, but I did make a pesto out of ramps. I supervised daughter’s baking of the first rhubarb cake of the season. And for lunch today, I ate a salad made, essentially, of weeds–watercress, dandelion, and arugula. Since there’s no salad dressing in the house, I topped it with a little egg salad. All of this food is slightly bitter, or spicy, or pungent, but after a long winter of the same ole’ cooked leafy greens, each bite was a revelation.

While eating my salad, I briefly considered how delicious salads will be when the berries and lettuce greens and herbs come around. But today, this salad was good enough, possibly better. It’s the first raw food I’ve eaten in months. I wouldn’t dare think of springtimes past, when son would forage a salad for us from the front yard, or we’d come home from the market and cook together, invite friends over. Nor did I allow myself to embrace the rebirth of spring, because this is the season that my husband left us. Spring is not all about hope for us, not anymore. All there was today was this salad. I appreciated it, for its bitterness, for its freshness.

Sad Widow is Sad

My dad died when I was a teenager, and I got used to referring to “my mom” as my parental unit. After awhile I started to call other people’s parental units  their “mom”. I only remember that because I’d produce this awkward moment when someone in college would explain that their mom and dad was picking them up at the end of the semester.

This is happening now with the feeling of being married. At first, I could hardly bear to be around married people. It was as if I was sitting at a table with them with a limb missing, and no one was saying anything. Now, I come to the table as myself. I only noticed this one night when I was at a literary reading with a friend who was worried if the reading would be done in time to pick up her daughter. Later, she realized that her husband would have been done with his own event in time to get her. Not once over the course of the night did I suggest that her husband pick up the daughter. I honestly forgot that there was another parent who could pick up the slack. 

I’m less than a year out, and I’ve forgotten about all that negotiation and communication that partners do. That was the life I lived, my whole adult life, and–poof!–in less than a year, it’s as if it’s all in some book I read. I’m so used to being solely responsible that this is feeling normal. 

It may be normal, but it doesn’t feel good.

I’m sad.  Sometimes at work, I’m plugging away, and a wave of sadness suffuses me and I stare at the screen, pleading my body not to cry, pleading with it to get back to work. But no, I’ve opened the door to the emptiness, and it opens up inside me like a gaping yawn.

Recently, I was defeated by a doorknob. I tried to do some household repairs on my own. I installed a new doorknob and the door got stuck in the frame because the new latch wouldn’t turn. I consulted some You Tube videos on how to unscrew a door’s hinges. I was on the floor with a crowbar, trying to remove the door. When that didn’t work, I took a hacksaw to the doorknob mechanism to try to remove the latch. Surrounded by a hacksaw and a crowbar and WD 40 and hacked-off pieces of doorknob in front of the implacable door, I felt trapped in a world where the doors won’t open and I just don’t know how to do this. I tried to walk away from the problem and found myself collapsed in tears on the landing of the stairs. There is no walking away from this. 

I’ve deleted a few posts and written numerous drafts that I don’t publish. I like to document my progress here, but I don’t want to overshare. I’m doing all the things I should be doing, and appropriate progress is happening, but the more I move forward, the emptier I feel inside. My children are growing and developing and they are beautiful. I know that I have done good by them this past year. Decent house. Rewarding job. But the good stuff doesn’t fill the emptiness. I watch myself disconnect from caring people. Each time a person fails to recognize my struggle, thinking I’m making small talk and, oh! they have that problem too, I feel the veil come over me, hiding me from them. I turn more and more into myself, nurturing my pain, protecting it from the people who fail to see it. That sounds really unhealthy, I know. I have a sick relationship with this pain, but the pain is my only witness. As everybody else tells me that I’m “doing great,” me and the pain are only ones who share this terrible secret.

This post has taken a turn, hasn’t it? Don’t worry, I’m okay.

I’ve practically written an invitation to meditate, haven’t I? 

Also, this is probably a good day to hop in the kayak.

Shame and Silence. Also, Hawks.

There was a women’s poetry reading to support the local women’s shelter. The poems celebrated strength and voice against shame and silence. My friend, the poet, who read last year, was not invited back to read this year. (An oversight, maybe?) She still wanted to attend to hear her friends read, but it was an embarrassing situation. I went with her. In this past year, I’ve had friends who “got my back” when awkwardly going out in public. For once, I got someone else’s back.  I was quietly chuffed when audience members approached her, wondering why she wasn’t on stage, and sharing that her poems were the most memorable from last year. She needed to hear that. 

One of the poets read about her husband’s suicide. She was, funny and quirky and smart, and she just read those poems out loud in front of the town. I had no idea there were fellow travelers here. I got to see a woman explain that her husband committed suicide, and I pretty much just felt bad for her. Now I know how it comes across. I needed to hear someone say that.

I brought my daughter, and she heard it, too. With the subject broached, I talked about it on the way home. I inelegantly said it felt good to hear there was someone else out there, and the poet just talked about it, as a matter of fact, and with honesty. “Well, I can’t say I feel good about that,”she countered, “it’s not a good thing that it happens to anybody.” So precise with language, my children are. So right these children are. I conceded that none of this is good, but I was….heartened to know that we’re not the only ones.

Daughter contributed to the cause by buying a bookmark that had an image of a hawk’s claw. Since finding that hawk under our car, she (a) peeks under the car every time it snows and (b) searches for the hawk in the yard and the neighborhood. The hawk is her animal of this spring. She laughed, “and yours is a rat,” implying that her spirit animal ate my spirit animal. Let’s hope so.

Silence and shame are produced in all sorts of ways. We can shame one another without meaning to. Sometimes we help each other break the silence without realizing how much we have given.