Juggling baseball games, and bike races, Big Sis and I tried to schedule a run together while she was in town. She was trying to do me a favor in the sisterly kind of way, but as it turned out, Sis needed to run a lot more than I did.
We met at my house, changed, and left the kids with her husband, Carlos. Again, pushed for time, we quickly headed out to the ranch for a hill run. Time was limited, as we had dinner reservations to take my Mom out for an early Mother’s Day feast.
Out of the van, we were running almost as soon as our feet hit the dirt. By the time we hit the uphill portion of the run Big Sis had changed her tune. No longer was she cheering, “Hurray! We *finally* are running together.” Instead, her own version of loss, sadness, and frustration began to pour out. She began venting, slow and careful at first. The first of many stories came as we worked the hill.
We continued upwards. Her words began to flow out with more fluidity. It seemed that the story was picking up speed and intensity, and Sis’ steps kept pace with ease. With Sis just a few steps ahead of me, I was working to keep up. I strained to follow the story, trying hard not to interrupt her, ever aware of it’s importance. I was also acutely aware that we were not in my long run pace. My body was straining to keep up.
Periodically, in the middle of the story, Sis would offer some tips on form. “Use your upper body,” she would say, and then she would return to her story. It almost didn’t register as different. I tried to find the context to the story. By the time I figured it out, she was back with another serious of helpful hints. But I was cooked, and I was fine with my efforts. I would have blocked her out to focus on the hill, but the rest of the story was to follow.
Mile after mile, and story after story, our run would provide much more than a workout. It was clear that I had been managing my stress and pain through my running. It was a different story with Sis. She had initiated this run for *me*, but it was evident that she needed to be as persistent to giving a run to herself.
Stress, painful experiences, frustration, and loss are a part of life. It sucks, but there it is. The experiences are different for each of us, but the reaction is equally important. How can you care for others, such as your family, if you haven’t taken care of yourself?
A consistent undercurrent in the stories was that Sis had allowed others to vent and pour out their critical observations of her actions and choices. They had disagreed, but that didn’t mean that her way was wrong and theirs was right. It was just different. The problem was that Sis had internalized it all and held it. I think that she did this because she loved them and didn’t want them to feel the way that they were making her feel. And “they” were just reacting to more pain and loss of their own.
As I passed on some of my wisdom, I could hear it for myself. She and I are so similar in more ways than just our looks. “Run,” I told her, “Run not for the goal, for others, but for *yourself* and your health.”
The amazing thing was that I felt better in the process of helping her. Letting Sis vent forced me to forget my own sadness and emptiness — for a little while. We had a great run, and then returned to the rush of time constraints and the stress of finding a teenager who was, apparently, away from his cell phone. *sigh*