Normally, I trail run on the weekends, but earlier this week, I treated myself to not one trail run, but two trail runs, after work. It felt downright decadent to escape into the woods, as the trees provided cool relief from the blazing sun and a break from the mid-week hustle. During one of these runs, the trails provided me with a poignant reminder about resiliency and strength during the weakest and darkest of moments.
There is a spot along one section of the trails that requires passage over a small creek. It is not difficult to navigate, but you need to watch your footing to avoid slipping on the rocks that are literal stepping stones to the other side. I had no idea when I first ventured down these trails that these rocks would become my figurative stepping stones of sorts.
During the summer of 2011, I went trail running nearly every day to prepare for a half-marathon in October, but there was much more to those runs than that. I was struggling to recover from depression and anxiety and in the process of getting a divorce, and those trails played an integral part in my healing. It was the one place where I felt safe, strong, and free, and it was the place that taught me that sometimes, I guess, there are enough rocks.
During one such run that summer, I stopped for a much-needed water break before I made my way across the creek. As I surveyed the beauty all around me, I noticed all of the rocks in and around the creek. Seeing those rocks reminded me of the scene in Forrest Gump, when Jenny threw rocks at her childhood home, where unspoken atrocities apparently had taken place, and she did so until she collapsed in tears on the ground. At that point, Forrest uttered the quote that leads off this blog.
From that day on, I would think of that particular scene from the film when I came to that spot. That is, until I replaced it with a scene of my own.
On a particularly difficult day, I headed into the woods to try to outrun my pain, but it followed me. I could not calm myself and felt like I was coming out of my skin, and I did not know what to do. Until I came upon the spot by the creek.
When I paused, before gingerly making my way across the rocks, I instinctively reached down and picked up a small rock and hurled it upstream. That rock was followed by more rocks. I threw those rocks at a variety of invisible foes. Depression. Anxiety. People who had hurt me. Fear. Insecurities. Feelings of not being good enough.
With each throw, tears fell down my cheeks, and intense emotions rose to the surface, in the hope of being exorcised. When I played softball, I was always an infielder, but that day, I became a pitcher with the toss of each rock. I threw rocks until I felt my body and mind release the anger, sadness, shame, and fear that plagued me. They were not gone for good, but in that moment, they were.
Over the last seven years, that scene has been replayed numerous times, but a new scene was created this week. When I came to this sacred spot, instead of instinctively picking up a rock, I picked up my phone and took a picture of myself there to share with someone, who quite simply understands my journey better than anyone. Later, when I looked at the picture at the spot, it took on a whole new meaning.
In the picture, I am a sweaty mess, but I am smiling. I am smiling in a place where I used to sob uncontrollably and furiously throw rocks. I am smiling, even though I still face challenges and experience episodes of anxiety. I am smiling, because I survived. I am smiling, on that day and today, I am smiling.
That’s another story. .
Categories: That's Another Story