Saturday, January 26, 2013

I recently had to attend a support group for people with depression and bipolar illness.  It was for school and my psychiatric rotation, and I chose it in part because it was an area I am intimately familiar with.  But as I looked around at all those drawn faces, I found I wanted to gather them all up to form our own running club.  "Listen," I'd say.  "Running cures everything.  We can run and cry and laugh and feel the adrenaline surge...and we can get better.  C'mon!  Lace up, let's go!"

When I run, I forget everything.  I am lost in this turbulent sea of breath and blood.  It is heaven.  When I can't run, like on a slippery, snowy day like today, I feel a little bit like screaming.  I have to do something else, something indoors, and it never feels quite sufficient.  And as it goes, I did some crazy strength-training workout and now I cannot turn my head to the right, and sigh...

My feet on the pavement are a metronome.  I run up to the nearby cemetery and loop around it.  Sometimes it is empty, and it's just me and the birds, squirrels and groundhogs...and several thousands souls.  Sometimes there are other walkers, runners, bikers.  Sometimes there are mourners.  During my run last week, I witnessed a group of people, heads down, circling a grave.  Further down the road, I saw an older man get out of his car and walk through the rows.  It was that hyperemotional time, when my hormones were dropping and disappearing, and I cried while I ran.  The body, though, has no additional room for any other act that makes breathing difficult.  So I stopped to walk and wipe my face and catch my breath.

I like to think that running in a cemetery makes me less scared of death.  My brother-in-law is buried in another cemetery, close to a statue of the Pieta.  In the aftermath of Newtown, I thought of all the mothers and fathers holding their children, like the bloodied Christ in Mary's arms.  There is no Pieta where I run, but there are crosses and Bible passages, and I feel a strange kind of love there.  Sometimes I say the names of the dead, people who've been gone for decades and decades, and I like to think they appreciate the nod and the heavy whisper.  I haven't forgotten them.  Some day, someone might say my name in the same way, or wonder about me.  What a weird and wonderful way to go on. 

Sometimes it is hard to see Christ in anything.  I know that he's always there, but still.  So much awfulness lately.  So much death and violence.  When I run, I am temporarily inoculated against it all.  There is just my heart working overtime and my feet going pound pound pound pound, and I know my running is like a prayer: faith and relief and joy and some sadness.  I believe in it.  I really believe in it.