Tara looked at her running shoes on the other side of the room. They look like new but had been in her possession for many months. “There’s nothing like the feel of a new running shoe under my feet,” she thought. It made her smile. She glanced out the window at the road that she had run so many times. Running was freedom. It was a longing and an attempt to maintain forward motion. She loved it.
The Chicago Marathon was less than an hour from starting. Even with the warmth of the 70,000 people around her and the buzz of excitement, she was cold. But she had waited a long time for this. She had trained a long time and through a lot of humid, hot miles. It was her first event of this magnitude, and it would be the highlight of her 40s to finish it.
In fact, her 40s seemed like a marathon. The death of her best friend, a divorce and the loss of the job that she had loved for 15 years knocked her off her pedestal of success. But inside, she felt that she was a better person for it. She’d learned how to ride the waves of grief, reinvent herself and ask for what she wanted. The muscle of her soul felt stronger. She’d chosen the marathon as a way to help her outsides match the badass strength of her insides. Every mile gave her the confidence that she was gaining ground.
Looking up at the condominiums on the other side of the park, she wondered what it was like to live there. Would she want to lug her stuff down 15 floors every morning to go to work? Slogging through snow and ice to catch a train could be an adventure if you looked at it that way. She thought of the empty space in her future where her dreams used to live. Could this be a future she’d love? Her heart jumped a little at the thought of it. She could see herself as a city girl.
The miles slogged on the roads through weather of all kinds was just a metaphor for her life journey. And her shoes lay on the other side of the room, discarded… a reminder of what she hadn’t done more than what she’d accomplished. After the marathon, she’d almost given up on herself. It was a great accomplishment, but it somehow brought on a pause instead of a celebration … a depression instead of joy.
She had wanted that 26-mile journey to be the start of something new. Instead it felt like an ending. It was the hard stop of the life that she had known before with a fist shaken in the face of defeat. The energy it had taken to get there – physically and emotionally – left her depleted. Her much-needed physical rest turned into a surrender to life. The grief was gone, but the hole left by her dreams seemed bottomless. Those almost like-new running shoes lay right where she had left them that day 6 months ago. When you don’t know the next step, who needs shoes?
She looked at the road again. The sound of her footfalls and the sight of her frosty breath on a cold day seemed like a gift. She thought about that morning in Chicago when she was so hopeful and inquisitive about her next steps. “Every journey begins with a single step,” she whispered. She breathed in a big breath shifting the weight of the depression weighing in on her chest. “Maybe I could start with a walk,” she bargained. “Yes, I think a walk would be good.”