Have you ever broken someone’s heart or had your heart broken? Is it possible to have a broken heart from watching your own parents break each other’s hearts? Divorce almost seems to be a past time these days, a casual separation of once upon a time lovers. As a family shatters, a greedy lawyer could be laughing all the way to the bank sipping a latte on your hard earned dime. Children are left with unanswered questions and a faulty model of what love really means, forced to figure it out on their own. It is amazing to me that something so natural and essential to human development can be equally dysfunctional and destructive.
The truth is, I was a blissful sophomore in high school amidst a whirlwind of hormones and young love that is being fifteen. This is when my world came crashing down on me. Divorce? My parents? This had to be a nightmare…or a really sick joke. We were The Mills, and we had decades of family traditions and fun with hundreds of happy photos to prove it. I had spent countless nights reflecting on the endless memory reel of our family and used it as my compass for someday creating magic too.
Almost instantly, I lost my confidence and free spirit. I walked through the halls in silence, sat in the back row of class, and only spoke when spoken to. I was truly devastated. Ask anyone who went to high school with me and they will probably say, “not many people really knew her. She was so quiet.” And I was. This quiet time in my life though allowed me to step back and see things in people. It became my passion to analyze my fellow peers and their motivations. I was often envious of their ever-blossoming social lives, but being like them was a foreign concept to me. I wondered how they were capable of laughing at such trivial things, things I thought were plain stupid. But stupid or not, they were laughing…and I wasn’t. I feared that I had lost my sparkle forever.
Alcohol and drugs were never an option for me. Instead, running was my drug. On the trail I was in my element and on the track is where I belonged. Unlike my parents divorce, everything made sense when I laced up my shoes and hit the road with my team by my stride. Nothing gave me the exhilaration that running and racing gave me. I liked to see myself as a Native American, and my competitors as my tribe. I would race with them rather than against. I found great pleasure in the sheer exhaustion of running my heart out and giving every ounce of myself to the race. I knew if I set my mind and feet to it, I could do great things with running…it was just so natural to me.
I loved how my effort determined my success and this is what I still love about it. It is in my control. I am in a relationship with my sneakers. In fact, sometimes I think it would be so much easier if I could date my Asics Gel Nimbus or my Nike cross country flats…or both! How magnificently scandalous! But I bet they would be okay with sharing me, realizing that I need them both to be strong and be the best runner I can be. Without the seventy mile weeks logged with the Asics, I would never have run to a fifth place finish at nationals in the Nikes. My shoes would just appreciate how they both have contributed to my accomplishments rather than be jealous of the adventures I may have had while wearing the other pair.
Actually, rather than representing a steamy love triangle, my shoes better encompass my parents, and every child’s parents. A mother and father each offer unique gifts and lessons to their child. But when those sneakers acquire rips and holes and fail to produce PR’s at races, let it be a lesson to not rely solely on those shoes. Design your own race, your own course and your own future.
Peace, love, running,