my sister's dog stayed with us the week after christmas. she is used to a morning walk, and the duty fell to me to make sure this tradition continued. now, in case you're wondering, the week after christmas is in late december, and traditionally, in colorado, this week is pretty cold and pretty dark at 6:00am. but, once sweet scout licked my face and got me up, i got going.
i am so grateful for her stay because i have actually continued to get up each morning, and now the battle of the early morning walk is now not so hard. i first started walking and now am running my large, pregnant body through the cold air and around the park for a brisk morning exercise and clarity of mind.
this morning routine has given me much needed space to engage the other silent, less obvious battles waging in my head: from littler things like my changing body and new found pregnant addiction to every food i can see, to bigger things like the overwhelming depression i have been fighting for almost a year now. each morning on this run i wrestle with my inner life. things like my grandmother losing herself in her alzheimer's disease, my mom's cancer returning, our future baby's health, my marriage, my parenting, my work, my friendships, and myself. this morning time alone with myself (and God), while much needed, is also so very painful for me. i think i'm finally facing so many of the inside things i have been avoiding with the outside busy-ness of life. now the battle isn't getting up, it's just showing up to my own fight and not giving in.
each morning, i see basically the same array of people- most walking their dogs, many ambitious runners, and some just walking themselves. i have started to recognize my early morning compatriots and feel a silent but strong bond with them. my nosy self always wonders what house they tiptoed out of this early, what day they are about to face, what they will be going back to when they are done with this early morning commitment.
there is one man, in particular, stands out to me the most. he is always walking counterclockwise, and i am running clockwise. he wears (what i remember to be) a stripy, colorful hat, thick gloves and winter clothes. he is an elderly gentleman, and he walks with confidence and wisdom. and each time i pass him, he looks me right in the eye and gives me a solid half grin and an emphatic, solemn thumbs up.
and each time i meet his eyes and see his arm raise in this silent gesture of support, tears well in my eyes. the small and simple thumbs up makes me feel seen. like, he sees me not just facing a battle but showing up to fight it. it somehow communicates that my fight is not only seen, but is also being won and he knows it. i know this man actually knows nothing of my life, nothing of the heartaches and tears and joys and loves in my life; and i am sure he encourages everyone that passes by him. but the solidarity we have in our cold morning walk, together with his knowing eyes and raised thumb tell me it doesn't matter how many people he sees, because he sees me and he is cheering me on.
so now, when i feel a little slower to get out of bed, or when i try to talk myself out of the necessity of this time alone, moving my body to the rhythm of my own thoughts, i think of lacing up my shoes for one more battle: to prove to myself that me and my battles matter, and that someone else sees that. so i will keep running.
(or walking. because let's be real: pregnant running is like, so hard).