Peeling the Layers


Just before my book was released into the big wide world, more than a few scary thoughts flooded my already soggy brain. I worried if it would sell, of course, but that wasn’t primary. I worried that despite my best efforts, my sweat-inducing revisions, my laborious consideration over certain turns of phrase, my waffling about decisions as to which incidents to include would produce not a readable little tome but, rather an unreadable mess of letters and barely construed sentences.

I admit, I worried a little bit about sounding like a SNL cheerleader gone horribly awry. I’m not generally a rah-rah type, and yet, I am aware of the passages that are clearly “inspirational” in tone and message. I am at once both proud of these passages, because I know what they represent, and embarrassed by them for their rainbows and sunshine, you can do it positivity. I mean they practically hum with optimism. Which is so not me. Or not how I used to be.

But what I’m finding is that I’m embracing my inner cheerleader and no one is more surprised than I am.

My sweet friend sent me a short note. It said, “I think I’m going to start running. I need this. For me.” I sent her a copy of my book. Not because I like myself. Because I like my friend. I thought she’d giggle at some parts. I thought she’d shake her head in empathy at others. She read the book in two days and texted me: “I ran. In public. By myself. Twice around this park. This is going to be good for me.” She told me, later, that an abusive history is one of many weights she carries daily.

Most people who run have, as part of their reasons for running, physical health. Which seems a pretty natural and reasonable goal. What I didn’t expect, and I am guessing what my friend didn’t expect, were the mentalhealth benefits. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I’m serious. There’s a thought I can’t escape, neither now nor when I was writing the book. It’s this:

As the miles slipped by, and some weight slipped off, other things slipped away, too. Layers of depression. Shrouds of other people’s expectations. Gauzy and spent dressings of self-limiting thought. The sticky residue of anger, pride, judgement, even wrongness, peeled away like the skin of a rotting onion. 

I did not want running to be about mental health. I did not want to be just another clanging gong of revival tent testimonial lather. I didn’t really want it to be anything, and I sure as heck never foresaw myself turning into some run-vangelist. And, to be sure, I’m fairly confident it’s not actually running that did the trick. I’ll probably continue to try to define IT: the thing about this act that made such an impact on me, the thing I see making such an impact on others. Until I nail it down, I’m pleased as punch to have found what I’ve found. I watch in awe and understanding as my friends and acquaintances push themselves only to be astounded by their strength.

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