“But you’ll never find the answer/ until you set your old heart free.”
-The Oh Hellos
Lately, I’ve been feeling a little lost. For those of you who may not know, I’m in the midst of my most recent injury: a tibial stress fracture. Translation: 3-6 weeks no running. While I’m not particularly dependent on running for my happiness, something about this injury really irks me. I did everything right: increased my mileage slowly, used good shoes, and rested my body when it asked for it. I was FINALLY starting to feel in running shape again and like I could consider seriously competing again in my future. And now here I am.
I can’t shake the feeling of emptiness, fear and doubt. And its got me thinking about expectations – what I expect from myself, what others expect from me, and what I think others expect of me. Part of it stems from my stubbornness to feel like I constantly need to prove my self worth to others. Prove I can one day be fast again. Prove I can handle an injury with a smile on my face, and prove I can be everything I think others think I can’t be. That’s a mouthful. But what I’m getting at is this: in my eagerness to prove, I’m no longer living for myself.
In the early quiet mornings I stand in my kitchen, sip my coffee and stare at blank word documents. I want to tell my story but I don’t know how. I want to inspire, but I am afraid my story is too cold to warm others. I am afraid if I keep failing in the one thing defining most of my life my story will mean nothing.
I remember in 2012 when a knee surgeon sat me down in his cold office and told me I would never run again. My world collapsed. And while my walls fell down brick by brick on the inside, I stared at him blankly on the outside, saying nothing. My whole body felt numb and dark, and my mind screamed, I’ll show you, asshole.
So I ran a marathon the next year and qualified for Boston, and then I ran that the next year. The pain never ends or stops taking a toll on my training. I now have arthritis in my knee at the ripe age of 26 and I am for sure looking at a knee replacement in my (hopefully far, far off) future. But while my body deteriorates my running expectations only grow higher, I have to ask myself why?
If anything, my stress fracture is result of osteopenia and poor nutrition as of late. The number of medical mysteries plaguing me right now are endless and warrant one or two blog posts of their own. But the osteopenia haunts me like a sulking shadow of my past, always there to remind me of the unfixable mistake I made years ago. And while this is a story to tell another time, the pain aches now, deep in my heart and bones.
I don’t want to live for others’ expectations anymore. Many injuries have debilitated me in the past and I always felt the pressure to come back stronger. To prove I’m not some mediocre-always-hurt-once-runner.
This time I will grow. I will bloom. I will be exactly what I want to be in the moment and nothing more.
These changes don’t happen over night, I know. I will stumble and fall, ascend to beautiful vistas and descend blindly into dark valleys. But my soul is tired of trying to be a different person for each being in my life. I want to be me, whatever that is.
My old heart is scary, but a part of me. It may be scarred and ugly but it has grown me into the person I am today. But I’ve held it locked away for so long now, so deep inside me I can feel the poison seep out and run through my veins each day. And I’m ready to let it go.
© Allison Donaghy 2016 All Rights Reserved