It’s Enough To Make A Grown Woman Cry

New Year’s Eve, 2021. Portland, OR. Quality Bar. 6 pm.

This morning I ran 5 miles through my neighborhood and along the banks of the Willamette River. I pushed myself a bit, really tried to reach up, unweight myself, and push the speed, so that my footfalls became foot-feathers and the action was more like gliding along the ground than propelling against it. My wings were spread wide, my lion padded along beside me, and I could feel my heart unburden itself.

I was pleased with the result. 9:36/mile, which is closer to the 9:00/miles I was getting last spring and summer, before the marathon training started. 9:36 is a conservative figure, because I never stopped Strava, but did stop to take a few photos. So let’s call it 9:20 or so.

Stay with me here, Ghost, I’m getting to the point.

Then, in order to properly kick 2021 in its fucking ass on its way out the door, I also went to a barre class. Specifically, I went to the 45-minute “Barre Express” class, which is 15 minutes shorter than the regular class, which just means it hurts harder and faster.

At the end of barre class, feeling shaky and pretty exhausted, we were doing our final stretches, and it happened. The tiny breakdown I’ve been anticipating for months started to rise from the inky depths of my soul-husk. The trigger? They played Dire Straits’ Romeo and Juliet, one of M’s favorite songs, and the opening notes suckerpunched me right in my bruised heart. Unbidden, shockingly, and one hundred percent mortifyingly, the tears quietly started to fall as I lay there on my back with 25 other women all stretching our legs overhead.

I controlled it. Barely. I don’t think anyone noticed, or if they did they probably thought I was crying from the pain, or choked up from the effort. I got my things from the locker room and got the hell out of there as fast as I could. I didn’t even make it to my apartment before the shaking and sobbing began in earnest; it started in the elevator. Fortunately, this time I was by myself.

And then I spent the next god-knows-how-long on my couch, rocking and having a thoroughly ugly, snot-dripping, hiccuping, heaving cry. I played the song again, only once, in part because it’s his song, in part because I also love it and it can make me cry even on a good day, and despite my chaotic emotional state I was keenly aware of how badly I needed this release.

And then, finally, in the ensuing quiet, the shaking slowed, and there were a few extra private tearbursts while I texted a friend back on an unrelated topic. And then it all slowed some more. Then I curled up and fell dead asleep on the couch, with my dog tucked behind my legs.

I miss my friendship with him. I hope that he’s OK.

I made the right decisions. I moved on from something that wasn’t working for me and wasn’t salvageable. I allowed myself the grace of a new start. But nobody said it would be easy. I miss his dry humor and his familiarity. I miss BMX with him. I miss his down-to-earth logic that kept my impetuosity and boundless enthusiasm a little bit in check. In a few ways he balanced me well, and would probably have kept me from a future I can imagine all too clearly, which likely involves too many cats, a fear that painted utility markings on the sidewalk are gang signs, and a certainty that dowsing rods are a good way to find archaeological sites.

Tonight I feel pretty spent. I’m sort of glad that no one had to witness my mess today, but also wish I’d had someone to hug me while it was happening. Just someone to be there, not to say anything or try to fix it, it’s not their burden. Someone human. Someone besides a very worried 12-year-old Boston Terrier who didn’t understand and tried so, so hard to help, and couldn’t be more than just my dog, which is actually quite a lot. I love her so much.

The beauty of this crying jag is that I finally feel like I’ve reached a place where I can move on to the healing part of this journey. There may be more breakdowns ahead. I hope there are. I’m working on getting some professional help to make sense of it all and get some order back to my life and my way of thinking. I can’t work with my cracked-apart noodle anymore. I need to move ahead, even if it’s glacially.

My hope, then, for 2022, is healing. I hope that emotional growth will allow me to move away from the things that didn’t work and accept their demise. I hope that further expansion of my fitness boundaries will help to build back my eroded confidence. I hope that new connections with others will allow me to create a network of kind people with whom I can continue to grow and learn. Look how much has happened in the last year, the last six months, the last two months. What will my life look like in February? June? Next New Year’s Eve? As ever, I’m optimistic. Setbacks and heart-sickness notwithstanding, my life has improved and changed completely this past year, and I hope so much for a life in which I can thrive.

Suck it, 2021. 2022, bring on my bright future. I dare you.

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