When I heard I would have the chance to participate in TWLOHA’s Run For It 5k this year, I immediately wanted to sign up. I don’t know why. I’ve never considered myself a runner or even enjoyed running. I’m not so sure that I enjoy running now. But that week, I started a program called Couch to 5K, which takes you slowly from walking to running a 5k. The first day, I only had to run 60 seconds at a time, and I completely hated it. On the second day, I hated it more. And I hated it just as much on the third.
So why did I keep going at it? It’s partially because I am incredibly stubborn and hate starting something without finishing it. But I think there was an even greater reason. I recently had the privilege of participating in this year’s AFSP Out of the Darkness walk in Orlando. It was one of the most sobering and humbling days I have ever experienced. That day, I walked for friends I’ve lost and for friends I’ve seen walk through loss.
But when I run, it feels like it’s for a different reason. It feels like maybe it’s for me.
When I’m running, it’s not exactly fun. It’s hard to breathe, my heart hurts my chest, my legs scream out in pain, but I keep running. It feels good to keep pushing my body to places I didn’t know I could get to, and it feels good to take care of my body afterward. There was a time in my life when I didn’t take good care of myself, when I hated this body I have. I didn’t appreciate this body I was given; it felt like a gift I wanted to return. But when I run now, I experience all the great things this body can do. It’s not always easy or painless, but I realize how incredible my body is. I am thankful for this gift, and I am grateful for the fact that I have gotten to a place where I take better care of it.
I felt selfish the first time I realized the “it” I was running for was myself, for the celebration of my recovery. It felt wrong, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s OK to celebrate myself. It’s OK to celebrate the days and weeks and months and years I’ve spent clean, to celebrate the recovery I’ve seen. It’s OK to celebrate the fact that I’ve gotten to a point where I feel healthy now. It’s OK to celebrate that I don’t feel so sad anymore. It’s OK to be proud of myself for that.
So come April 18, I will be running for myself. My only goal is to run the entire thing without walking. I don’t know if I’ll get there, but I hope I do. Today, I ran for six minutes, and I still felt like giving up. But I didn’t. And that makes me think of all the times I haven’t given up: all the hardships my story has seen and all the times I have gotten up and said “not this time.”
Perhaps it’s OK to be proud of ourselves, to be proud of the paths we’ve walked. Perhaps it’s OK to say, “Look how far I’ve made it!” In the midst of constantly seeing how far we have to go, I think it’s OK to think that. I think it’s OK to be happy for ourselves, for the incredible stories we are living. I don’t think it’s selfish.
I hope that you can run for yourself. I hope you can run for your story. I hope you can celebrate the victories in your life – the trips to the grocery store, the creation of something new or beautiful, the first or the fiftieth appointment with a counselor. I hope you understand that you are worth celebrating, that your story is worth celebrating, that your victories are worth celebrating. I hope you look at your story and you consider it a victory that you are still here today, fighting for better days. I hope you feel strong. I hope you feel proud. I think that is courageous – to be proud of ourselves.
See, courage doesn’t always look like screaming and fighting battle after battle. Sometimes courage looks like asking for help. Sometimes courage looks like helping a friend in need. Sometimes courage looks like getting up again. Sometimes courage screams, but sometimes it whispers. Sometimes it walks. And sometimes, it runs.