Dragging Myself Home
Updated: Jun 11, 2020
This is another piece I wrote during my writing class with Martha Beck. A conversation with a fellow musician today reminded me of it and I thought it was a good time to share it.
The rental is perched midway up a steep mountain. I put on my running gear, grab my earbuds, and step outside. I run past well-maintained, colorful, houses that line both sides of the narrow access road.
The sun is shining. My music is loud. I feel great.
Minutes later, I see a “Pedestrian Trail Access” sign. I’d rather be off the street, so I take it. The chipped bark feels better on my legs than the asphalt. The trail bends towards town and cuts through a plaza where lift tickets are sold. It is early, so few businesses are open. After about a mile, the trail saddles up alongside a small, but strong creek carrying snow run-off. Sunlight filters through the trees and dances on the water’s surface. I remove my earbuds to listen. Birds are chirping and the creek is actually babbling! Fresh mountain air fills my lungs as I drink in the moment. Earbuds back in, I relax into my run and get lost in song and thought. At mile 4, my labored breathing wakes me from my trance. It’s time to head back. I turn around to face the majestic green-coated mountain. Suddenly, it strikes me: for the entire run, I have been working my way down a barely perceptible decline!
I take a few steps toward home. Then a few more. After several minutes, my legs feel like lead, my heart is thumping out of my chest and my lungs are screaming for air. I need to rest, but I can’t stop here. I have no water and soon the summer heat will be unbearable. After a quick rest, pity session and motivational speech to myself, I get moving and drag myself all the way up the trail, through the plaza, past the well-maintained, colorful houses on the steep narrow hill and back into the rental. I don’t know if I have ever been so happy to drink water, eat a banana or sink into a sofa.
I sit on that sofa for a long time, reflecting on this experience; my trance and my struggle back up the hill. And then, I sit some more. Something about it feels all too familiar. Something about it is too familiar.
I have been in this position before. I have been caught at the end of a decline so gradual that I didn’t notice until it was too late.
I spent 25 years perfecting the skill of putting everyone else’s needs ahead of my own. Life was in such a beautiful space. I had everything I thought I needed for happiness: a loving family, a meaningful job, good friends. Life was busy. I was busy. I felt content and fulfilled watching all of the growth around me. Busy and happy enough that I didn’t notice my internal stagnation: I disappeared so slowly that I didn’t feel it happening until I was gone.
When did I stop writing? When did I stop having a favorite song? When did I stop having an image of my “perfect day?” When did I stop taking time for myself? When did I start disappearing?
Once I saw my truth, it took another 18 months to come to terms with it and start making different, better choices.
Today, on vacation, I made time for a run. I put myself first. I gave myself time to reflect and, in those few moments of stillness, saw the parallels between this run and my life. Others had to wait.
As the future unfolds, I will need to be vigilant. I will need to pay close attention. I will need to protect myself. I am still a work in progress, but I am making progress!