I’m sure I’ve already written a post entitled Running.. but here goes..
I started running again recently (literally, not metaphorically). I used to run a lot when I was younger, I was good at it (literally and metaphorically). I loved the surge of adrenaline it filled me with and the feeling of space in my hips as my legs worked in the sprint. I could have gone professional by the time I was 17. But I didn’t have the physical or emotional capacity. The frequent visits of the dark figure and a toxic boyfriend drained the energy from me. But I was very good at running metaphorically from my problems, running from the dark figure, running from the sadness of home.
So now, in these old halls of this old university, I can feel my body crying to run again. To feel the adrenaline pump through my veins and the space in my hips. My studies are hard, I’ve never worked so hard in my life. And all I want to do is run.
I run almost every other morning now. I love getting out before my housemates, feeling the cold against my skin, seeing my breath against the pink sky. And when I run, I think about that dark figure, I wonder where he is and what he’s doing. I think of my mother, and I think of those dark and difficult three years while I was working and commuting. My mind fills and fills until I think it might burst, and so I run.
I’ve not given Saffron much time lately. I’ve been enjoying temporarily living without her, pretending to just be me, stripped of all the nonsense. But I know that I can neither push Saffron away, nor ignore the nonsense forever…
I’ve managed to find safe places and ways of keeping the dark figure at bay. Quiet corners of the huge university library; drifting slowly beside the river to the sound of the rain; forty minutes on the treadmill; talking with friends for hours. The dark figure does still visit when it’s dark and I’m lonely, but he doesn’t linger as he used to.
I have a lot of love to give to Xavier, which gives me a lot of strength. Looking to our future is something that keeps me pushing through. But this coming year, I want to be able to focus on the present. I want to savour it and enjoy it as if it were the last moment I have. Rather than instinctively wanting to run from it.
Wishing everyone a peaceful new year.
I’ve been thinking back over the last two years, in which I spent a lot of time writing on The Secret Life of Saffron. With the distance and the space I have from the darkness now, it’s easier to turn towards it and take it front on.
I remember the pain of trying of hold myself together. The sheer effort felt more tiring than the darkness itself. I’d drag myself around, at work, at home, in the city. It felt like I was clutching at my very flesh as it loosened and fell apart in lumps around me. I’d often see these pieces of flesh around the office at work and home, lying in the kitchen sink, wobbling on the train, waiting at the doorstep. They glistened, their redness burning into my eyes. I would hurriedly try to quickly scoop them up and push them back into my sides and stomach as I went about, hoping no one noticed that I was falling apart.
Now, my sides and my stomach feel more solid than they have done in two years. From this November vantage point, the view looks clearer up ahead.
So, I’ve moved to a new city and abandoned the life of trains and pre-dawn starts. It’s amazing.
My studies are incredible. I’m surrounded by old stone walls and creaking wooden staircases. Huge lecture theatres fill with hundreds of students. And it’s autumn, my favourite time of year. The leaves are burning orange and brown. They fall in flurries over the cobbled roads and narrow streets.
I can’t quite believe how different my life is now. I refused to consider returning to study before. Let alone start over in a new city. But I’m here, and I feel alive.
I had my final session with my therapist today. The most consistent thing about these last two years has been seeing T every Thursday. So unsurprisingly, I’m feeling sad.
It was a strange feeling, walking up to that big black door today. I thought about how it felt the first time I pressed that buzzer. Everything was impossibly dark and heavy then. Even my own limbs felt heavy. But today, I felt clear and light. Sad, but light.
T did more than just help me find my light. She showed me I could conquer my own mountains, I can brighten the darkness and I can find strength in the lowest of places. And all she did was hear me.
I felt like a ghost when we first started our sessions. I felt translucent: like I was watching us from a distance or from deep inside myself. After a while it was the only place in the world where I felt solid. Between those four walls, with the soft beige furnishings and the candles on the mantle piece, was a safe zone.
And now I feel strong, I feel joy, I feel optimism. I feel myself, solidly and completely myself. Without the translucency or the ghostliness. I feel whole. For that, I am forever grateful.
I’m sitting outside in the dark warmth of the early morning. I can’t sleep, my mind is back tracking to those early years with Mum and Dad. A montage of childhood memories drenched in sepia sadness is on loop behind my eyes. Xavier is peaceful inside, he always sleeps well, breathing heavily, blissfully unaware.
I slipped out silently, and crept outside to breathe a little. My plan is that Xavier will wake and realise I’m missing, he’ll find me out here, he’ll run his fingers through my hair and hold me, and the memories will wash away.
My dream of a family and a home, though somewhat stereotypical, has really set recently. I’ve always wanted boys, perhaps because the women in my life are so unpredictable. But I’m terrified of ending up like my Mother. Cold and detached, at breaking point every day, weak. She was never able to fully love us.
All of a sudden Xavier is outside. He’s woken to an empty bed and stumbled out here. I’m telling him not to worry, but he’s not interested in my protests. His arms are around me, hands running through my hair, pulling me close.
I’m concentrating on breathing. In and out. I won’t make the same mistakes my parents made. I have Xavier. He is my warmth, my goodness, my strength.
I revisited the dark figure this week. He bubbled and frothed and writhed out of us, spilling out through our words.
He lives for the family politics. He jumps and leaps, laughing hysterically as we descend into chaos.
The madness in my parents, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins and my sibling is the legacy of my grandparents. And it is all encompassing.
So, I build relationships with my family on my own. The support of my parents has been missing for some time. So, when the chaos ensues, I get caught in the firing line. I’ve become a master of letting myself burn in the madness, in the desperate hope of making a connection.
But my burns are aching now. Perhaps we’re better off abandoning those connections, to protect ourselves. To slip out of that darkened townhouse and out into the fresh air.