We walked silently side by side, the rain fluctuating from a light mist to a heavy drizzle, but neither one seemed to notice. Down the hill, past the fire station and by the park where we passed a small group of kids playing soccer on the lush freshly mowed field, their laughter piercing through the quietness of the neighborhood. We turned left at the stop sign at the end of the road, and continued our silent journey down the tree-lined path to the sleepy neighborhood mall, stopping briefly at the pizza place for soda water before completing our loop around the park and back up the hill towards home. We were two people walking together but lost in our own thoughts. Both hurting.Not only had I lost my mom unexpectedly leaving me stunned, emotions hanging and words left unsaid but, my husband Marc was watching his dad painfully lose his battle with cancer. With the end drawing near, the weight of saying goodbye every day left him emotionally depleted. We were barely able to get ourselves through the day, let alone be there for each other. So we walked, several times a day, while the kids were at school and practices, finding comfort in our silence. Aware that neither one of us had anything else to give the other except for space.
I walked because I could not sit still. When I allowed myself to have a moment of stillness, the walls began to close in around me, sucking the air out of the room, leaving me gasping for breath as if I had been underwater for too long and had just broken through to the surface. Outside is where I could distract myself by watching kids playing, dogs walking their people, and moms pushing strollers, their passengers blissful contentment bringing a wistful ache to my heart . I tried to lose myself in the life swirling around me so I would not have to think about the life I had just lost.
And that is how it had was for me, when life got tough, I got moving. A stressful job meant cardio classes. A tumultuous marriage meant long runs through the hills and being a stay at home mom without an outlet of my own resulted in hours on the tennis court. The movement was my coping strategy. Just like some may find relief in a bottle, a pill, or the internet, I too found the best way of dealing with unwanted emotions was to distract from them. To move until the threat of feeling anything uncomfortable subsided, and I felt numb. I knew it wasn’t healthy or helpful for me to stuff my emotions about the loss of my mom with more physical exercise, but I was too depleted to try and figure out another way to cope so I kept moving. Fearing that stillness would allow the grief to engulf me and my world would go dark. Unaware that only until I welcomed the darkness would I begin to see the light.