At night, I dream I run. My legs pumping and my feet pounding the pavement in rhythm as my skin glistens in the air of a warm day. In my dream, I don’t feel the weight of my body or the sensation of bones breaking. I am not bent with fatigue and wasted muscle. It is such a sense of freedom, encapsulating physical capability and the ability to transcend my daily reality. On the days I wake after this dream, I am sometimes devastated by the loss, the betrayal of my body to do the things I want. Other times, I just lay there in bed, reveling in the glorious moments and feeling energized.
There is a distinct line drawn in the life of someone like me. Before, when I was well…or relatively well-ish. After, when I no longer had control over the shell I live in. There is a sense of betrayal and anger at one’s own inability to do what has always taken for granted. It wasn’t that I was a perfect specimen of lean sinewy muscle, or that my body was my temple in The Before. Rather, I was able to hike with my family or clean the entire house in one day. I put off things for a day or two, because I knew I could easily catch up in a few hours. In The After, my days are dictated by specialists, doctors, medication, and spoons. Spoons? Yes, spoons. Welcome to the world of Spoon Theory, by Christine Miserandino (learn more my clicking on the hyperlink).
Every day, I start with an imagined number of spoons, based on my pain level, fatigue, mental state, and how much quality sleep I received. Some days, I start with two fistfuls and other times, I might have barely one hand filled. Each spoon represents my energy, or the ability to accomplish something; spoons are resources. Each task, from showering to making dinner, takes away a certain number of spoons. When I am out of spoons, I take to bed to sleep and recharge. As you can imagine, spoons need to be rationed carefully and it is always important to have a spare in case of emergency. Life becomes less spontaneous in The After.
The After is not an endlessly gloomy day where the barren trees heave and shudder in the wind. It is not catastrophic or necessarily even filled with sorrow. What it is, is different. Given time, The After becomes a new opportunity for change. The After has increased my compassion. It has challenged my assumptions about people I meet. It has changed the way I interact with my loved ones and made my life more intentional and one where I am more aware of the importance of time well-spent. The After has also created an opportunity to connect with people and start living a life filled with greater purpose and meaning. While I do miss The Before, some days more than others, I am okay. I hope that you are okay, too.
And so, I return to running. Many popular culture interpretations of running focus on it as a method to get away. We run away from darkness and uncertainty; we run from the fearful monsters that give chase. We might even run from ourselves, our own hidden pain. But what if, when we dream of running, we are running towards something? What if, instead of weakness and suffering, this small dreamed act is one of defiance? What if it is something that represents our internal strength, our refusal to accept defeat even when the odds seems stacked against us. What if we dream runners choose to run towards The After and embrace our own experience? Embrace the experience of spoonie, of patient, of passionate advocate for our own inner voice. While we may not all be able to run outside of our dreams, when we are awake, we all have the opportunity to soar if we choose it.