i ran, i run

There's a particular feeling I get each time my plane circles, and then drops into Logan Airport. It's a beautiful landing - second only to the D.C. entry that takes you over the National Mall -, where it seems as if you're dipping down into the Harbor, tiny green islands dotting your horizon, the city peeking out over the expanse of water, the sapphire glimmer dotted by small, white boats.

I've witnessed more than a few passengers, unable to see what's ahead of the plane, look around in panic. Are we going to hit the water? Then, the runway appears seemingly out of nowhere, the wheels hit the ground, the familiar roar of the taxi fills the cabin - and I'm home.

The feeling I get is one of being at peace. It's a giant exhale, a relaxing, a warmth. It's an inner pulse that knows I'm where I belong.

 

Sunday will mark six months since we lost Becky. It feels like yesterday. It feels like six years ago. In so many ways, I'm still ticking moments of my life off in relation to February 14.

First summer without swapping beach stories.

First August without making a fall race plan.

It's thrown particularly into sharp focus as my body heals. Becky was the kind of person that would have wanted texts of every little detail of recovery : first step without crutches. First step without a limp. First major setback in physical therapy. First lunge. First squat. First jumping jack. First rude question about my ability to date with a broken hip. First new sports bra I buy once I'm confident I'll need them again.

Instead, I imagine I don't need to tell her these things because she knows. She's championing me on, mad when I don't stretch and proud when I do. In those moments where my soul feels at peace, when I'm home - that's when I feel her most, too.

 

 

At my last orthopedic appointment, my doctor told me to try running again when I felt no pain. Could be July, he said. Could be August. Could be November. 

I had to be honest with myself, he cautioned me. One overstep could send me tumbling back months, return me to crutches, assisted sitting and nights spent crying myself to sleep because it hurt to lie down.

But what will I do when I decide it's time? I asked him. How do I trust my body again? How do I start? How do I build my strength back?

His words, instructions for a return to physical activity, could have been a blueprint for moving through the murky world of grief.

Listen to yourself, he told me. Take small steps. Slowly shuffle into a jog. Test your leg. Forgive yourself when it hurts. Walk in those moments. Celebrate when you feel strong.

 

 

I was too scared to try. Each time I looked at my sneakers, I remembered my parents lacing their fingers together to carry me into the house. I remembered lying awake at three in the morning, staring at the ceiling, wondering if I was going to walk again.

But then I came back to Boston. I'd woken up every day for a week straight, and walked to the shower without the familiar pain shooting down my leg. I'd planked. I'd lunged. I'd squatted.

 

 

It was gorgeous out on Monday morning. The sky was clear. I had the familiar sense of being home - something I've referred to as soul calm. I decided to go for a walk in the Common. And then I decided to run.

I took the first few steps the way you get into the ocean water early in the summer - slowly, wincing, expecting the cold to knock the breath out of you at any moment.

But there was no pain. No other shoe was waiting to drop. It was me, my music, and the pavement. No unwelcome hitchhiker, no limitations. 

It was soul calm.

My conditioning is pretty much shot, but I followed a path I knew well. All the way down Commonwealth to Charles, cutting through the Public Garden and slicing to Newberry before I hooked a left to Boyleston, where I stopped at the Marathon Finish Line.

I'd wanted so badly to be there in April. I found a journal entry from April 10 recently, where I wrote : It feels like life will go back to normal once I cross the finish line. I'll carry Becky across with me, I'll celebrate my accomplishment, and maybe it will help shake this unending season of grief.

 

 

Instead, I was standing in front of the finish in August in the midst of my first run in four months.

I was moving slowly. I probably can't make it three miles right now, let alone 26.2.

I'd experienced more pain than I ever thought possible. I'd cried more than ever before. I'd learned to walk. I'd learned to trust my body.

I'd learned to run again.

While construction workers watched me (and probably laughed - hello, Massholes), I touched my Team Becky bracelet and bent down to tie my shoe, trying to keep everyone else from seeing my tears.

Then I carried Becky across the finish line and ran home.