Forgiveness Without Remorse

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about relationships and forgiveness. This past week was an anniversary of sorts for me, marking a year since I decided to stop drinking. Although I’d already started to make other changes like running more and eating better, the decision to stop drinking was when everything started to click. But it didn’t come without a cost. I stopped drinking because I didn’t like who I was when I drank. I stopped because I needed to prove to myself and to others around me that I could. I stopped because I never again wanted someone I loved to use alcohol as an excuse (and it was an excuse, not a reason) for turning their back on me.

An important part of changing my life in 2012 was learning to forgive myself: for drinking too much, for not being richer or prettier, more successful or married or finished with my Ph.D. But forgiving myself wasn’t really that hard, because I had felt so awful about my faults and misdeeds (real and imagined) for so long that, looking at myself with compassion, I understood it was time to let go of that suffering. What do you do when it comes to forgiving someone who isn’t sorry?

Visual aid

The other thing that made me think of forgiveness tonight is that I learned this week that my former fiance has moved to Algeria. It’s been nearly nine years since we met, just over six since we broke up, and about that long since we’ve had any form of communication. We still had a mutual friend, and I would occasionally get pointed feedback from her about how he was living in the same apartment, working the same job as when we broke up. My reaction to these reports was something like Schadenfreude mixed with validation. He broke up with me in a cruel way. He took his time doing it, and in the meantime he spent nearly three months verbally and emotionally abusing me. I was called fat, told that I was unattractive, and he told me he was embarrassed to go to nice places with me because I didn’t dress well enough or have good table manners. He disappeared on me for days when it was convenient. He made me believe that my plans to get a Ph.D. would ruin him financially, and made it clear that he thought I was keeping him from some better future. These things would be terrible to say to anyone, but to say them to someone who had just been through a rape and a trial less than a year earlier–events he knew full well of–were ruinous to me. When it was finally over, I was suicidal. A friend literally drove me to a therapist on my lunch hour because I believed I would kill myself. I believed that I was totally beyond redemption, damaged to a point where I would never be loved by anyone. It has taken me years and many other bad relationships where I put up with bad treatment to get past some of these statements… And even now I still believe some of it might be true, in my darkest hours.

He never apologized to me for what he did. He never showed any remorse, not even to mutual friends. In fact, I found out months later that he’d led his friends to believe that had been the one to break up with him. Years later, I don’t know how to forgive that. I had a lot of emotions when I found out he’d left the country. While he was still living in my hometown, there was always a chance our paths would cross again. I’ve long since left behind any feelings I had for him, but I always had the hope that maybe some day I would see him on the street or at a party, and he’d apologize. I wanted to believe that a person I once loved was capable of empathy and remorse for what he had done to me. But it seems our paths are unlikely to ever cross that way again. In some sense, I was happy that he was gone. I regained some respect for him knowing that he finally did take a leap and do something with his life. But can I forgive him? Sometimes, in life, actually saying the words “I’m sorry” is the only form of justice we get. It’s the only thing that truly heals a wound. Sometimes, forgiveness just can’t be given without being asked for.

One year ago, something else was broken. It was broken by both sides. I apologized for what I did wrong because I knew it was the right thing to do, and I changed. But, once again, I never heard the words that I wanted to hear. I always want someone I loved to redeem themselves. I want to take that cloud off the memory of our time together. I want to know I wasn’t wrong to believe that the other person had a heart, or that it hurt them to break mine.

Perhaps I should just give forgiveness freely. I reflect on my resentments every time I meditate. But some resentments are as hard as stone, and wear away just as slowly.

Once in a While…

…it occurs to me that I could walk into the bar I used to go to any time and order a cheeseburger and a beer and they would give it to me for a nominal fee. Absolutely nothing prevents me from going back to who I used to be a year ago. When I am at home alone again, when a “friend” has cancelled plans with me again, when I wonder if I will ever be loved again, I very often miss the taste of a beer and a late night burger. Only my own willpower stands between me and this.

What holds us to the paths we choose, in the end, is almost nothing.

Thanksgiving Cross-Country Classic 5K

Yesterday turned out to be a decent Thanksgiving. I ran the Thanksgiving Cross Country Classic 5K, organized by the Southern Arizona Roadrunners Club. The SAR puts on a lot of great events which I am rarely able to attend, but the registration fees were reasonable at under $20 and, at the time I registered, it seemed like a good way to force myself out of the house on Thanksgiving. It was also hard to resist the appeal of a cross-country race that boasted hay bales and water jumps.

 

I hope to have some pics from this race as soon as my father is able to download them from his camera. The end results:

  1. I got a time right around 28 minutes, which is not too shabby on a tough course like this. Loads of hills, obstacles, and uneven terrain.
  2. I had a great time and did something fun and interesting on Thanksgiving.
  3. I saw a handful of people I knew, and promptly tried to hide from them all.
  4. I fell in a ditch and twisted my ankle. Again. This brings me to the point that people with recurring ankle problems perhaps should probably not be running x-country races through ditches.

So… my ankle is several colors and all kinds of swollen today. Walkable, but no good for running and my hopes of getting any significant mileage this week are shot. A couple of days’ rest might not be a bad idea, given that I am still trying to catch up on work and to deal with entertaining my unexpected houseguest. Dad and I had a great Thanksgiving meal at Pastiche here in Tucson; he went with a traditional Thanksgiving meal and I got something more friendly to my dietary needs. However, the task of finding things to do with him, finding things to feed him, and getting my own work done is still sapping my energy a bit. My parents are so settled in to their lives in small-town NY that everything here is overwhelming to my Dad, and everything at home seems to overwhelm my Mom when she’s alone. More on that later, I’m sure. Some big doings are planned for tomorrow…

Cheesecake and Suicide

Well, despite skipping a long run this past weekend I still managed to get in just over 22 miles this week. That’s about the only good news I have to report.

This has been a rough week. Very rough. I hesitate to write about it because I think this will come across as a cry for help. The real problem is that I just want to say what’s on my mind, and I have nowhere else that’s a “safe” place to say it and no one to say it to. My roommate told me this week that he is moving out on me mid-lease after 3.5 years to get a place with his girlfriend who apparently “can’t do the long distance thing” for six more months until we both finish our Ph.Ds.

Seriously, aside from the completely asinine nature of his move, having him move out on me just reminds me of how alone I am and how little my life has really changed, for all of the work I’ve done this year. I lost nearly 50 pounds, I run faster than I ever did, I’m a vegetarian again, I’m a coach, I stopped drinking. And yet, almost exactly 11 month ago I was crying every day because someone I loved had run out on me, because I was spending the holidays alone, because I felt isolated and worthless. I have cried every day this week. I still feel isolated. I feel worthless. I have had this discussion already with my parents but, aside from them, there is not one single person in my real life that I feel comfortable picking up the phone and calling to say, “I’m having a crisis.”

I had suicidal thoughts. This week, I chose to eat cheesecake instead.

I am ashamed to write this on a blog. I am ashamed at who I am, and how far I still am–at age 32–from everything I wanted to be. I feel like a let-down to myself and others, and I feel like this will never change. How many therapists have I seen since I first went to therapy for depression as a pre-teen? How many combinations of anti-depressants, therapy, exercise, whatever, have I tried without success in an attempt to treat this? When I’m at or near bottom, as I’ve been this week, my therapist and my parents are fond of reminding me that these bad times are never permanent. But the in-between times are never permanent either. I never seem to reach any true, lasting happiness or security and life always, cruelly, has a way of reminding me that somewhere up the road is another cliff for me to plunge off of. If you are not depressed, just try to imagine how it feels. Try to imagine the anxiety, and imagine always doing it alone. Coming home at night to no human companionship, friends who don’t return calls and never want to hang out, family who doesn’t seem to care that you spend the holidays alone. You’d think I must be a horrible person to deserve this. I think I must be a horrible person sometimes, though I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. Sure, I used to drink a few too many beers. And for that I deserve this?

I’ve become so convinced that I’m of so little value to anyone that I don’t try to reach out much anymore. When I spoke with my parents last, I pointed out to them that if something were to happen to me I likely wouldn’t be missed for very long at all by anyone. The fact that I would say this to my parents just shows how detached I’ve become. Things that once seemed like reasons for living now seem like things that would go on without me. I’m not threatening suicide, but I feel like I’ve known for a very long time that this is how things will end for me. I am convinced of these truths:

  • There is no great, romantic love waiting for me.
  • The longer I live, the more of a burden I will become to those who are forced to deal with me.
  • Eventually, I will get tired of this life, I will run out of hope, I will feel I’ve done all the good I can possibly do, and I will realize that nothing but loneliness stretches out in front of me. That is when I will end it.

This isn’t a cry for help. It’s just me trying to make a clear statement on what my life with depression is like. Maybe these words will ring true for someone else with depression; maybe they will help someone else understand all the things that go on in my head when I’m saying nothing at all. I don’t think this will make any difference for me, though. A handful of people who know me in real life know of this blog. I am betting none of them will read it and care enough to say anything to me. That’s how convinced I’ve become of my own invisibility.

But I really wish I wasn’t spending another Thanksgiving alone.

Chavalina and the Night Hike of Doom

This week, inspired by a desire to be social and participate in a Halloween-themed activity, I went on a night hike in the Tucson Mountains. The planned route was to climb Wasson Peak (the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains) along the King Canyon Trail, starting early in the evening and continuing through to about midnight under the full moon. This hike was organized through the Outdoor Adventures program at the University of Arizona, which for a nominal fee ($18) promised guidance along the 8-mile planned route, transportation to and from the site, and headlamps. Sounds like a good time, right?

Here’s what really happened.

For one thing, I should have known we were in a bit of trouble when our “guides” (undergraduate student employees from the University) couldn’t find the trailhead. Sitting in the second row of seats in a 15-passenger van, I could hear them debating whether or not we’d passed the trailhead as we drove slowly up and down the roads just outside Saguaro National Park (West). Once we got to the right place, we set out happily along the winding trail. Hiking at night was cool at first: we saw some birds, a spider that no one could identify, and once the full moon was out the landscape of the mountainsides was beautiful. We gladly trudged along for a half mile, a mile, a mile and a half as my Garmin ticked away. The trail got quite sandy and we started having to scramble up rocks. Then we reached a 15-foot high, impassible wall of rock and realized we were at a dead end. The guides squinted  at their black and white paper print out maps and expertly determined that we were no longer on the trail. Hmm, no kidding.

After a half-mile of backtracking, we found the sign post that clearly indicated where we went wrong and started up the correct trail. This detour was no big deal to me, and the group of five other hikers was still pretty sanguine at the time. A mile or so of uphill hiking later, we reached the saddle between Wasson Peak and the next peak over, offering our first cool view of Tucson by night.

The next mile or so of climbing from the saddle to the top was the most strenuous part of the uphill trail. It’s certainly doable for someone of a good fitness level, but walking along narrow trails with steep drop-offs might be scary for some, especially at night. This was where I discovered that one of my fellow hikers was afraid of the following things: birds, snakes, geckos (!), “anything that slithers,” and heights. So… maybe a night hike up a mountain was not the best idea? Judge for yourself. We reached Wasson Peak after just over 4 total miles of hiking, including the brief detour. I have to say, the payoff here was great. These pictures clearly don’t do justice, but from the top of the peak in the full moon you can see all the neighboring mountain ranges, all of Tucson, Marana, and the little town of Three Points on the opposite side of the mountains.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be both literally and figuratively the high point of our journey. On the way down, the guides offered us a choice: go back down the way we came, or take a different route down the back of the mountain. Some of the more intrepid girls on the trip (and we were all females, except for one of the two guides) spoke up and wanted to try something new, but there was obviously dissent from the two ladies in the back who were already tired, wearing ridiculous footwear, and were complaining of blisters. No one listened to them, though. After all, we were promised that this back route down would be: 1) Easier, with a more gradual decline; and 2) more interesting, with an abandoned mine shaft along the way. Both of these things were lies. I mean, OK, there was a mine shaft. But it wasn’t interesting.

At any rate, we started down the mountain and got about a mile before the guides realized we were on the wrong trail again. Now, I’ll give anyone a free pass on one wrong turn. But the second wrong turn, 5-6 miles into the hike and as the night was advancing, was something I had less patience for. It also came out in this exchange that, of our two guides, one had only taken this trail once and the other had never been on this particular route. I kind of feel like the primary job of a guide should be to know where the hell they are going, which wasn’t the case here, and that a guide should never take hikers down a trail they are not completely familiar with and especially not at night, in the dark, without the aid of a GPS device or even a compass. I got a little angry at this not only because I was hungry and tired and because I felt I had wasted my $18, but also because I twisted my ankle as we were backtracking on the trail again, walking along a section we shouldn’t have been on in the first place. To his credit, the male guide walked a little more slowly with me as I walked it off, but our female guide just kept plowing on ahead. I should also mention that at no point did either of them take ownership or apologize for guiding us the wrong way twice.

Yeah, sorry. I didn’t get any good pictures that look like much of anything here. Because it was dark, and I was pretty pissed off.

Unprofessionalism continued once we were back on the proper trail again. It turns out the “easier” trail we had been promised was a complete lie, as the “correct” trail was uneven, eroded, and covered with loose rocks. Given that we were already seven miles in, were not close to being back at the van, and that I was walking unsteadily on a hurting ankle, it’s no surprise that I completely wiped out on the trail somewhere along here. To my anger, the female trail guide (who was walking alone 20-30 feet ahead of the rest of the group), just turned and stared at me. I had ripped out the knee of my pants and cut my knee and my hand on the fall, but she didn’t even ask me if I was all right or offer to slow the pace. She just kind of watched as another hiker helped me up (by the way, I wasn’t the only one stumbling along this trail), and went right back to walking along ahead of us at a brisk pace. I almost lost it.

Here’s what that last climb felt like.

Finally, finally, about nine miles into what should have been an 8-mile hike, we crossed a dry creek bed and found ourselves just a short distance from the parking lot. Just a short distance from it, and below it. Yep, our “moderate,” “easier” back route finished with a scramble up another 12-or-so-foot rock wall. As our female guide scrambled up, I turned to the male guide and said, “You seriously expect us to do that?” Two other girls, one of whom had been struggling with blisters and foot pain the whole way down, were giving him the same look but they clearly just wanted it to be over. The guides had to help us all get up the wall, and mercifully it was only about a tenth of a mile from there to the parking lot. In total, we clocked about exactly nine miles.

Overall, I would say this: I really liked the King Canyon Trail and I’m interested in going up in the daytime, when I think the views would be great along the way. Round-trip, heading from this trail to Wasson Peak and back would probably be under 6.5 miles round-trip. But I will certainly never again spend the money for a “guided” night trip with amateur guides who don’t know the trail and don’t seem to care about the pacing and welfare of their hikers. Unsurprisingly, I was promised we’d have the opportunity to evaluate this trip through Outdoor Adventures. Two days later, I’m still waiting for that evaluation form in my e-mail. I’ll also be waiting a while to run or hike again, since my knee is quite bruised and my ankle doesn’t feel so hot, either. But, hey, at least I tried something new and had a real Halloween adventure. Let’s hope my next hike goes a little more smoothly!

 

 

Gloomy Sunday

I knew today was going to be a lousy day when I started off with a lousy run. Well, actually it started a few hours before that when I was awakened around 3AM by the sirens and shouting of police breaking up a neighborhood Halloween party. I got up a few hours later to run on too little sleep, too little food, too little motivation, and some knee pain left over from last week. Unsurprisingly, I struggled and cut things short just shy of 6 miles, much less than I was hoping to run today.

Though I tried not to be too hard on myself after the poor showing this morning, I failed at that too. Nothing with me is ever as simple as, “I had a bad run, I’ll do better next time.” A day like today reminds me of how out of shape I used to be. It makes me feel like a pudgy girl again. It reminds me of when my fiance, who broke up with me almost exactly six years ago now, told me I’d put on too much weight and how I was unattractive and lazy. It reminds me of how much heavier I was when I was drinking, and how the last guy who broke my heart told me he didn’t want to deal with me because I drank too much and had too many “issues.” Maybe it doesn’t make sense that I lump these things together, but if you’ve been depressed or know someone with depression, I think you’ll understand what I mean. It’s hard to forget those words. Even if you believe they aren’t true or if you’ve moved past that point in your life, the messages never go away. In your worst moments you let them attack you over and over. What is said can never be unsaid. And even a bad run creates the opening for those voices to remind me how worthless and damaged I am, and the extent to which I have failed to create the life that I wanted.

Today I meditated on the disordered thinking. I tried to practice forgiveness for myself and compassion to others, even to the guys who have hurt me and left these messages that haunt me. I cooked myself a good meal. I managed to get just a little work done. I gave some old clothes to charity. I’m not going to say I turned things around, but I survived that one little moment where I wondered if life is worth living. I had a bad run. And now I move on.

What Makes a Run Good (or Bad)?

Yesterday I had one of those mornings where I just did not want to run. I got up, snoozed the alarm, let the dog jump into bed with me, then let him drag me all over the neighborhood while I procrastinated. I did eventually get in my 9-miler, and the first 3 miles were just me being whiney, tortured, etc. Then it turned into a good run and I finished strong. I wondered afterward why some runs are “good” runs and some are “bad” runs, and why some runs turn around in the middle. Here’s some of what makes a run work (or not) for me.

1. Rest

Last week was a weird week for me. I felt bored with running and tried to switch up days/distances, had an incident on Wednesday where a driver almost hit me and it cut my run short, and then I did Friday’s run in the evening and faster than I should have, which left me not well rested for my weekend run. I could feel the soreness in my knees and thighs on Sunday when I got up, and I felt it through the first part of my run until I hit my stride.

2. Stress

Stress can be a reason to run, when you need to pound the pavement, gain confidence, or get an endorphin burst, but as Meghan Rabbit over at Runner’s World warns, it can also make us too tense or make us run too hard. This goes hand-in-hand with item 1, but I’ve definitely been channeling some other frustrations into my running which results in doing too much and making me tired.

3. Fueling

I do pretty well with nutrition and with fueling along the way, but cramming down a greasy veggie and bean burrito at 9PM the night before waking up to do a long run may not have done me any favors.

4. Goals (and getting them met)

Getting my pace faster but keeping it controlled has got to be a goal for me. This is a tough balancing act on long runs. I’ve managed to keep the overall pace under 10:00/mi on my long runs since the Arizona Half Marathon, and that was the goal that kept me going necessary. But sometimes I race a bit unnecessarily. For instance, charging up a hill at 9:30/pace yesterday after I’d already run 8.8 miles was not smart, and my knee is not happy about it today. Speed and hills and distance do not need to happen all at the same time–no matter how awesome I feel in the moment. I’m hoping that a swim and limiting time on my feet today will have me back up and running tomorrow!