It's that time again.
The following is a post that I typed up nearly four weeks ago; I wasn't sure whether I'd actually publish it, but the more I let it sit the more I began to feel like it was important to put it out into the world. I want to be open about where I've been so that I can move on and be myself without feeling like I'm hiding my true identity, feelings, and experiences. So, here it is:
I often struggle to name my feelings, but I'm definitely emotional as I type this; that's a big reason why I'm typing it since, often, writing things down or putting them in print helps me to examine them through a different lens and acknowledge the feelings that I'm experiencing.
During my training to become a clinical chaplain, my supervisor shared something that has proven true; not only for me, but also for others I've encountered since learning of this. He said that research shows that when a person has experienced something significant in their life (could be a death, a major life change, a particularly challenging situation, an illness, etc.) the body/mind/spirit will "remember" that event each year, whether or not it is acknowledged by that individual.
For example, if someone close to you dies in April you will likely exhibit some sort of physical "remembrance" of that event around that time of year, each year, like feeling melancholy, sad, or even irritable; you might feel frustrated or overwhelmed and wonder why you can't figure out what's causing the problem.
For me, it begins in mid-March and lasts for about a month; it all started in 2013 (well, it really started in 2006) and I've never written anything about it. While many folks today, myself included, will remember and mourn the tragedy of the 2013 Boston Marathon, on that day, three years ago, I was boarding a Greyhound bus in Orlando, Florida, my first ever bus trip, with one of those boxes that contains reams of paper that you might pick up from your place of work when you need to move. That box held everything important that I'd had with me for the past 17 months, 5 days, and I was headed back to Little Rock.
My trip would include several stops; one of those was in Georgia (I have no idea where we were), and the bus station was quite nice. I had a layover for a little while, so I walked over to a snack bar and, with what little cash I had, got something to drink. There was a seating area, like you'd see at an airport gate, with several televisions mounted above our heads and a few of them were tuned to CNN; I paused for a moment, stopped in my tracks by the mention of the Boston Marathon, and I couldn't believe what was being reported.
I had no cell phone, so I walked over to the bay of pay phones and tried to figure out how to make a long distance call; I hadn't spoken with Jonathan in a while and I wanted to let him know that I was okay, that I was on my way. After we talked for a few minutes, I asked him if he knew anything about the situation in Boston; he was at work and said that he'd only heard bits and pieces but that "they're saying something about a bomb going off and injuring runners."
At this point in my life, I'd never run a marathon. I'd begun training for one a couple of times, for many weeks, and either cut it short due to injury or other obligations. But during the time that I was away from home, this 17 month period, I decided that I was going to do it, no matter what; I was going to train for and finish my first marathon if I could just make it through. That desire, that goal, kept me running around a 1/3 mile "track" made of, well, this:
Since it was tough for me to imagine completing a marathon, I'd certainly never dreamed of running the Boston Marathon; I knew enough to know that it was only accessible by fast runners and completely out of my reach. But, after my phone call to Jonathan, as I sat and watched and waited to get on that next bus, I started thinking about it. After what I'd just endured, I figured I could at least dream of it.
I was on my way home from prison...the federal kind. Have you ever heard of Orange is the New Black? That kind of prison, only in a different location; Piper Kerman was at FCI Danbury, in Connecticut, and I was at FCI Coleman, in Florida. The institution is the largest in the nation, so this is just a small section, but here sits my little slice of paradise:
There's the track! Isn't that wild? The track where dreams are made? Maybe. I hated that track, but I was also thankful for it; it gave me place to be me, to do what I love, just for a little while. It provided me with a space to think, to cry, to be alone, to dream (and worry) about the future and to hear the stories of other women who were, as it turns out, not so different.
As I'm sure one can imagine, there's much more to this story; if you stick around long enough, I'll share more of it. The great thing is that I already feel better after having written this out, a message to no one in particular. I'll definitely think about the attack at the Boston Marathon today; I can see that bus station as clearly as if I were sitting there right now and I remember the words of the news reporters vividly.
The day holds a different kind of significance for me since it was the ending of a journey to be survived, endured, remembered and the beginning of a time to dream, to celebrate, to acknowledge fear and insecurity and move forward in spite of them...and it still gets me, every year.