You may think I wrote this post if you’ve read about my Go Fund Me campaign. I’m training for a marathon in Somaliland, to be run this winter. (funds also go toward a full University scholarship for a Somali student – almost to halfway!). But, I didn’t write it. It simply came into my inbox at the perfect moment.
I’m in peak training weeks and I feel it. Mostly, I feel it in my hunger and in my attitude. Once I’m on the road, I feel good, but rolling out of bed when it is still dark and then stumbling back home after my teenagers have woken up means I’ve spent a looong time running. And I’ve been internally grumbling about it.
Then I read Kathleen’s essay and it was right on. Running while tired. For so many reasons. And yet, we run on.
This is a late addition to the Strong in the Broken series. Enjoy!
The sun casts long rays on crimson tipped leaves. The September sky invites me out but I’m tired.
I’m tired of nights spent ping ponging between beds too small, in rooms deemed too dark or alternately too light. I’m tired of my heavy sneakers. I’m tired of rushing from home to work, to the bus stop, to the store, to the dinner table, to the bath. I’m tired of trying to start running again after too many years spent idle and too many false starts. Still, I tie my laces and start to run.
I start slow and decide to take the short route. It’s been a while. I wonder if my legs will remember the easy tempo that used to come naturally, if my lungs will remember how to adjust, if my mind will remember to unfold.
The first half mile is uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I want to stop. I am already tired.
I’m tired of the relentless march of age and time and hormones. I’m tired of biting my nails, feeling soft and caring what people think. I’m tired of judging and being judged and making excuses. I’m tired of my mind running faster than my body. I’m tired of feeling like there’s not enough time.
I open my stride. My muscles tighten, my breath quickens, my feet find the beat of the pavement. The streets are narrow and winding so I forego music. Instead, I set small goals: make it to the red mailbox; keep going until the black fence; stay strong until the middle of the hill. I give myself permission to walk.
Seven years ago, I never walked. When I went for a run, I ran. The road stretch long and lean ahead of me and my body responded in kind. I ran in rain and snow. I ran in the mornings or at night. I ran alone or with friends. I ran when I felt great and when I didn’t.
But now I’m tired.
I’m tired of my kids asking for another snack while I’m making dinner. I’m tired of needing to plan an extra 30 minutes to get out the door, of stepping on Legos, of the Paw Patrol. I’m tired of trying to follow the latest research on car seats, screen time, homework and hugs. I’m tired of the mundane worry that’s settled into the space deep within — the space that first exploded open when I met my baby boy and then, impossibly again when his brother joined our family.
I walk up the steep hill and when I near the top, I start running again. The shift between walking and running is subtle, like a change of cadence. I concentrate on lifting my feet higher and moving them forward faster. Looking down makes me feel dizzy so I let the thoughts go with each exhale. I try to think about the satisfaction I’ll feel when I’m finished. But in this moment, I can’t help thinking, I am tired.
I’m tired of walking into my classroom and being greeted by bored teenagers waiting to be entertained. I’m tired of applying new technology like a band aid knowing it could never cure what ailing the American public education system. I’m tired of trying to fight the inertia of the pendulum swing I know is inevitable, test scores to creativity, standardization to individualized learning, content to skills. I’m tired of grades meaning everything and integrity meaning nothing.
I check my watch and immediately regret it. Ten minutes feels impossibly long and impossibly short. I crowd out thoughts of turning around with blinding positivity. I try chanting: every step forward is another step closer; just keep running; you can do it. This starts to feel silly (and useless) so I think about my to do list. My muscles waken like my kids from a nap cut short: groggy, cranky, annoyed. I abandon my to do list and start to craft this essay because I still can’t stop thinking about how tired I am.
I’m tired of watching the world burn and quake. I’m tired of waters rising, ice melting and deniers denying. I’m tired of too much talking, too little listening and misguided rage. I’m tired of seeing fear disguised as power, money guiding morals and leaders not leading. I’m tired of sound bites and platitudes and bullshit. I’m tired of fake news and real news and celebrity news. I’m tired of guns and bombs and disease. I’m tired of seeing the world default to competition over cooperation. I’m tired of feeling helpless.
My feet are heavy against the pavement and I worry my body is too old for this kind of abuse. Cars race by me with mechanical ease while my own gears grind. I know I’ll be sore tomorrow and I wonder if I’ve pushed too hard too soon. But I don’t stop.
I tuck my worries and exhaustion into the tiny pocket of my shorts and listen closely to the trees whisper into the expanse of blue above.
I keep running until I reach home. I don’t look at my watch, I don’t check my distance. My heart reminds me of its function. My face is fiery. My skin is wet. My feet hum. My tiny pocket is empty.
Later, I will watch my son’s chest rise and fall and wonder what thoughts run through his resting mind and which stay to lay with him. I will review my lesson plans for tomorrow, knowing that some kids will remember what I say, others will focus on how I say it and others won’t hear a word. I will turn off my phone, the news, the world outside and turn toward my husband, thankful for these things I can control.
When I finally lay down and close my eyes, I think about the days piling up like layers of an endless canyon of exhaustion. My legs are achy and sore. But I will run again. And again. I run to grow stronger against the weight of the days and to remember the whispers of the grass and trees and sky. They echo in the valleys of my body.
I’ll keep running towards the canyon. Running is a kind of religion. I have faith that when I reach the edge, I will fly.
Kathleen Siddell is a teacher and writer living in Connecticut. She and her family returned to the US in 2016 after spending four years living in Asia. She hopes her tired legs will lead them on another adventure soon. You can find her drowning in the Twitterverse @kathleensiddell.