One morning last weekend, I awoke early, my mind swirling half-conscious down into a spiral of gloom. Overcome by sadness and grief, I found myself enveloped in a sharp ache of loss and loneliness so palpable that I thought it might knock me out of bed. Instead, I cried myself into the day.
I was by myself, but I wasn’t alone. I’ve spoken with three friends who, within the span of those same few days, felt a similar sense of devastation and cried their way through it.
My days are full and my life filled with blessings. Compared with a lot of people, I am lucky. And yet there are days when loneliness seeps in through every crack and crevice in my life. Yours, too, I’m betting.
What are the empty places that eat at us? An absent parent, a true love lost, a life-altering mistake – too much, and we lose things far more precious, like trust or hope. To cope, we try to fill the emptiness – with food, maybe, or alcohol, sex or drugs. Those are the unhealthy paths of escape, but I know a lot of distance runners who, whether they admit it or not – and some do – are running away from something.
Mostly, my attempts to fill the holes involve the racing of my mind, not my feet. I analyze, reason, argue, defend, console; I engage in “what-if.” I replay, I project – back and forth, around in circles, and still the emptiness lingers.
I’m reading a book that argues, essentially, that resistance is futile: the only way to escape the hole is to stop running and make peace with it. My own goal is acceptance, that whatever has been and will be is all part of some greater plan, that I will embrace it or overcome it, depending on the life lesson I need to learn. Most of all, I know that I need to arrive at a place where I stop resisting – where I can just be, and let go.
These are things I do not know how to do – yet. In moments both dark and light, I turn my life over in my head and in my heart. I struggle to overcome my fears, to make of my life something treasured and unique, as we all do. My sadness comes and goes; that’s just part of life. I have to trust that, eventually, it will come along with me, as a friend, to a better place.