said Buddha…and I had become my worst version. Looking in the mirror, I no longer recognized the woman staring back at me.The battle with the demons in my head were winning, again and again. It is not a pretty story…the fall of oneself. The endless moments on the bathroom floor, wondering if I would ever rise again. So consumed with the darkness of the past, I couldn’t see a way out. “Who are you?” I yelled in my mind. WHO are you?? I didn’t have a clue. However…sometimes, if I laid there long enough, quiet enough, still enough, I could hear her. The young girl, the courageous young girl who survived her childhood. The brave adolescent girl on the stage. I could hear her…whispering, “Get up Jenny…you are love. You are light. Get up…” And I would. One more time. But how long could I continue this way? I couldn’t. I had a responsibility to my children, my job, my family. There were people who loved me that were depending on me, whether I believed I deserved it or not. I looked long and hard at myself in the mirror that day. The woman who was emotionally and spiritually bankrupted staring back at me. I gazed back at her in silence for a long time. Silence is a funny thing, the more silent you are, the more you can hear. And the harder and longer I silently gazed into the mirror, the stronger the voice within became. I was not going to succumb to my worst nightmare. The fighter, the survivor, the little girl whispering, “Get up Jenny” was in the pit of my being, locked up tight…and she was fighting to get the hell out.
She sat, staring at a blank piece of paper. The late 30-something year old woman. Fear. Fear is at the center of everything dark. So she wrote…wrote every single thing she was afraid of. She gave each Fear a name. Everything she couldn’t control, she couldn’t do, she couldn’t remedy, everything “she couldn’t” was Fear. Fear told her she wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, happy enough, liked enough, strong enough. Take a seat, Fear instructed. Lies…the lies that speak through fear. You’re too emotional. Too much to handle. Too sensitive. You laugh too loud. You’ll never make it on your own. Fear fought hard in her mind and seeped into her soul. Sit down, Fear said. The brave little girl, deep inside, decided to fight. Fight back, finally. It was time…
… for a new pair of shoes. Running shoes. The irony of this decision was overwhelming. People in my life actually laughed at the idea. And they were right…at the time. A runner I was not. I had “run” a few 5K’s here and there. And by run, I mean jog…jog slowly…walk. I mean I basically walked them. People were walking faster than I ran. I signed up for those events basically to hang out with my friends.
What you think, you become. I was defeated before I even began…I wasn’t a runner. The girl in middle school and high school who had to walk the mile in PE class, that was me. A dancer, yes. A runner, not even close. And at this point in my life, I wasn’t even a dancer anymore. The vicious lies the demons spoke through me challenged my self-worth, my self-respect, my “greatness.” You are nothing but weak, they would taunt. You don’t have what it takes, they would chide. Why bother, you won’t reach victory, they would persuade.
What you think, you become.
I allowed those demons to control my mind for about a year or so…and then in 2013, I ran my first 5K without stopping. In 2014, I ran a 5K with one of my best friends, Melanie. She suggested that we run a half marathon. I laughed. Fully belly, all out laughed! “Have you seen me run?” I questioned her. Of course she had. She just ran with me. But still…a half marathon?! 13.1 miles? I barely made the 3.1 miles I just finished. I was in the 30-39 age group at the time…finishing in a whopping 37:27 minutes at a 12:30 pace. Not a runner. But that brave young girl inside, whispered, “Keep going Jenny…you are strong. You are light. You are love.”
And so I did. I ran. The more I ran, the stronger I became. My mind began to fight back. With every run, with every stride, I purged the poisons inside. Running became the war that waged against who I’d become with the young girl trying to break free. I ran. When I ran, I was brave. When I ran, I was strong. Purge. Purge. Purge the poison. When I ran, I had begun to recognize the woman in the mirror again. I knew her….I KNEW her!
I finished my 1st half marathon in September 2014 at 39 years old. At my mile 8, a torrential downpour hit. Heavy, heavy rain. I pushed on…through the pain. I broke down in tears at mile 12, trying to push through. It was personal. A personal battle I waged against myself. I refused to fall. I refused to give in. A friend of mine, Juliana, saw my struggle, ran up next to me and whispered in my ear, “You got this. No one messes with a girl who runs 13.1 miles just for fun!” I found my stride again, and the dancer in me came out, as I literally leapt across the finish line! Breaking down in tears, I did it! I finished the race in 2:37…but I finished.
I ran my 2nd half marathon in April 2015, again at 39 years old. Time: 2:34. There was a section of hills that ran through the cemetery for miles 7-10. I thought I had died. Literally. Again, a friend of mine had crossed my path at just the right time. Sarah, a strong woman inside and out, was my angel in that cemetery and pulled me through! It was unusually cold on that April morning. My finish wasn’t graceful, as I basically hobbled across the finish line. But I finished.
I ran my 3rd half marathon in September 2015, at 40 years old. Time: 2:15! My fastest half yet. And that best friend of mine who suggested we run a half marathon, ran this race with me the whole time. I am humbled and grateful for the amazing, empowering women who have touched my heart and soul. They all have guided me on the path I was yearning to walk now. What you think, you become. I had become a runner. A runner who runs to be free. Not to win. To.be.free. A runner who was learning to embrace her journey.
And once again, a pair of shoes had saved me. The demons had left. Darkness still falls..but that is true in life no matter what. Without darkness, there is no light. Fear still puts up a nasty fight. But at least I was in the fight. Finally. Finally! I WAS IN THE FIGHT! I fought for my sanity, I fought for my kids, for being mother, for being a woman of grace, for forgiveness, for wholeness, for peace. The brave, courageous little girl inside had been set free. She could look into the mirror and be proud of her reflection staring back at her. A woman, made of both light and dark. The battle took almost 3 years…and the journey was far from over. The path had just begun. Soul work. Healing. Forgiveness. Understanding. Peace. Dancing was my heart. Strong heart. Running healed my mind. Strong mind.
My soul…needed a new pair of shoes.