It’s Okay to Be Like Everyone Else: A Five-Miler

I’m in a crowded room and then I’m in a bathroom.  I’m holding my breath.  I see someone. He’s carrying this biological terror inside him, this virus that he’s going to unleash on the world, so I take a deep breath and slip out the back door.  I end up in a bathroom, and there’s no toilet paper on any of the dispensers, so I dig under the sink and grab a handful of rolls, which I’m handing to several strangers.  And then I hear my name. It’s him again, and  he’s screaming for me.  Come help me, El, he says, so I go to him, and he’s fallen in this shallow pool with tiles on the bottom.

I hesitate.  I’m scared.  Then I see blood dripping from his mouth and eye, and I leap in there and grab him.  I lead him by the elbow to the infirmary.  But then I must leave.  I’m the only one who knows how to stop the virus.  The secret is orange juice.  The scene changes, and I’m sitting in the back of a car watching a long line of cars queued up for gas, trying to get the courage up to run inside and buy orange juice.  I must buy it, and save myself, and then save everyone else.  But first I gotta get out of the car.

I wake up, shivering.  It’s 6:55 AM and it’s time to get the kids off to school.  I make a mental note to buy orange juice.

It’s 9:45 AM.  I zip up my red running jacket and tap my Nike sportsband.  It’s 38 degrees, so I’m wearing shorts but once I get a mile under my belt, I’ll be warm enough.  My body is tired but my mind is not.  As I jog along, slow and steady, my thoughts flit and fly about and I let them be without trying to control what comes into mind.  I don’t have any agenda when I run today.  I just run.

My run follows the trail along Burke Lake.  Light brown leaves hang from tall pen oaks above me, and many more leaves obscure the soft dirt underfoot.  It smells like burnt wood and mold and dirt and lake water, which for me is what Heaven must smell like.

Last night, I stayed up until three AM working on draft two of I Run.  It occurs to me now that I once ran to keep from drowning under the sea of troubles I then was facing.  There was something almost superhuman in the miles I covered, but even as I ran and ran from my pain, I ran my body almost into ruin.  I smile, gently, thinking of the odyssey of healing and faith I was on, and thank God I don’t have to run like that anymore.

An old man wearing gloves nods at me, and I wish him a good morning.  I need to go to WalMart on my way home from this run because we’re out of laundry detergent.  It’s not the worst task I’ve ever faced it, but I’d rather be outside running past the birdwatchers clutching binoculars than negotiating the blue aisles of a discount store.  I sigh, and allow a small half-smile, because I’m happy now.

But when I ran fifty, seventy, even ninety miles a week, as I did in the pages of I Run, I wasn’t so happy.  It was never enough to be average, or good enough, or middle of the pack.  It wasn’t enough to run 15-20 miles a week, or get Bs in school, or less than excellent reviews as a young lawyer.  If I wasn’t perfect, I wasn’t enough.  I needed that external proof of my own value; I needed it like a woman needs oxygen, because I did not have my own source of self-value.  I knew not the unconditional love that God’s grace provides.

An Oriental woman runs past me in the other direction, and we smile at one another.  Fast or slow, tall or short, we’re all runners, and we’re in this together somehow, even if we never see one another again.  I used to be afraid to be like everyone else, “in it together with them,” because without trophies or a high enough salary or a low enough average running pace, I would be left with just me, my essence, my very being, and that could not possibly be enough.  After all, how could anyone love just me, without a good reason why?

I check my watch.  I’ve run 2.5 miles, and it’s a good time to turn.  A five-mile run is nothing heroic, and that’s okay.  I don’t need to be a hero.  I’m healed now, healed from so many things, including this sick sense that I have to accomplish anything to earn the title of being lovable.

Because that is what I am.  You see, I’m just like you and the next man or woman.  God loves us all, just the way we are.  I smile again.  He loves me.  And as I head back in the other direction toward my Mazda, I think about picking up the orange juice.  Today is my day to be like everyone else, and if that includes making a trip to a discount store, then I’ll face it with a smile.

33 Comments on “It’s Okay to Be Like Everyone Else: A Five-Miler

  1. Another great essay. I so relate to this: “A five-mile run is nothing heroic, and that’s okay. I don’t need to be a hero. I’m healed now, healed from so many things, including this sick sense that I have to accomplish anything to earn the title of being lovable.”

  2. Just be human and real and safe, too. I especially like that safe part, but people really seem to dig human and real…so keep doing that, too! Love you!!

  3. The right post at the right time, and beautifully written. It feels like a gift, so I’ll say thank you: Thank you.

  4. I’m so glad TTK shared this! Your blogs don’t end up showing in my inbox OR my reader, although I follow it, and I’d have missed this one altogether. Yes, yes, yes, and . . . I’m glad I didn’t wait until tomorrow to read this, because it’ll be beautiful food for thought to which to fall asleep.

  5. You are a hero and much loved. Five miles or no miles, you are a hero for showing up and gifting yourself to the rest of us. For me? You are a hero for going to WalMart which I can’t survive.

    I love you

  6. Isn’t it a relief, actually? I remember early in sobriety cherishing the idea that I didn’t have to be eternally unique anymore. I could just be “one of many” and that was wonderful. All of a sudden a great sense of pressure came off my shoulders and working on staying steady rather than being better, best, or even different became the key to sanity. It’s easy to still allow the feeling of pressure to creep back in, especially if I get caught up in comparing myself to others, but eventually I crawl back into the comfortable arms of knowing it isn’t necessary, and as you said, God loves me for me. Wonderful post! Thanks, El. XOXO-Kasey

    • Yes, yes, you hit the nail on the head Kasey!! To be one of many and for that to actually be okay–yes!! And it is really easy for the sense of pressure to creep back in, but it is also getting easier to see that creep and let it go. And yes, God loves us!! xoxo

  7. Ooops. From my perspective five miles does indeed make you a hero. And given the mountains you have climbed it seems right and proper that I consider you a hero. Have a wonderful day.

  8. I will never look at orange juice the same. It represented a healing component in your dream. And just like the words of acceptance and grace you spoke of, your message was like water to my soul. I love stopping by because I always feel nourished when I leave!

    • Yes, absolutely — the OJ represents a healing component — kind of cool, eh?! And thank you re the water to your soul remark. It means so much to me to know that my words are touching you!! I hope you’re having a lovely weekend!

  9. Whoever makes the Walmart run, receives the reward of nothing else required of them in the way of home chores. I’ve even taken to paying my son to do the shopping for me there. It can be so stressful and I always wonder why they have twenty rows of registers for check out, with only two or three operating. Tis a mystery, no?

  10. I read a few blogs, and it humbles me to see how we human’s all so different and unique from one another, and at the same time are all very much alike, striving for acceptance, love, and along the way, somewhere into adulthood, we forget what’s real. We feed off these unimportant things, we detach ourselves from nature, and everything that grounds us, and focus on the exterior or away from ourselves. For some it takes a lifetime to retrieve, re-connect with their roots, some never, and when we are really really fortunate, we realize it before it’s not too late, and that it’s inside, from within that happiness begins. Your story was just what I needed to hear. I look forward to more.

    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful words above! And yes, for sure, we need to reattach ourselves to nature, to those things that ground us both in ourselves and in those things that truly matter, in order to remain happy and healthy!! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. This line right here is a profound realization and sums it up best: “because I did not have my own source of self-value. I knew not the unconditional love that God’s grace provides.”