I have this recurring nightmare. If you know me—I am a runner and I am a planner. I’ve loved running my entire life. I was in track and cross country throughout my school years. To this day, I continue to run and do races. I plan. I train. I want to be prepared and I love it.
Back to the nightmare. I arrive at the track for my quarter mile race, just one fast loop around the track. But as I set my feet, I realize I have on really really tight jeans. They are constricting. I can hardly move. And then, instead of my ground gripping spikes on my feet, I have on high heels. Then, as I am realizing I am not prepared for this run, I also realize, I have not trained for this race. I try to think of the runs, the repeats, anything I have been doing to help me through this event. Although it can be done in less than a minute, I realize this race is going to hurt like hell. And I have this nightmare frequently. Sometimes I am wearing the right gear, racing spikes on my feet and my breathable running attire; but in THAT nightmare, I am smoking cigarettes right before the starting gun goes off. Then, as I run, my heart feels constricted, like it will burst, and my lungs feel like thorns are being sucked into them, and they’re heavy like a boulder is crushing my chest. And I have had this nightmare over and over and over again. It’s awful.
I recently have had a different dream. I show up at the state cross country meet and I have been training for this race all season. I feel great, I am dressed appropriately and as my feet travel by muscle memory across the terrain, the time flies by. In some of my best days/races, I can do this 3.1 miles in about 22 minutes; a much longer time than the quarter mile sprint nightmare, but this race flies by. My feet are quick like a deer, I am light as a feather, my breathing is rhythmic and my heart is strong. I love this dream. It is utter JOY.
I am wishing for more of this dream, but I know that the nightmare will come.
My husband and I are training for the Bolder Boulder, a 10 K race that happens over Memorial Day weekend in Colorado.
So, even though I didn’t want to go today, I laced up my shoes, donned my breathable running attire and set out on my run. As I was huffing and puffing up the one hill on my route, I got to thinking about the nightmares and dreams we have. I wondered what my subconscious was trying to tell me…
You can prepare for something—plan, train, put in the miles and it goes smoothly—effortlessly. But also there are things in life, that you love, you show up for, you think you’re prepared for, but in reality, when it comes down to it, right before that starting gun goes off, you’re NOT prepared for the pain that awaits you.
As I went out for my run today, I felt like a boulder was on my chest.
February 14th, 22 years ago, someone found four pounds of white fur left behind in a field and took the tiny creature to the shelter. This is where little Dempsey found her way into my heart. I went there looking for a dog to run with me, and came home with this tiny creature that has covered me in her fur and has covered me with comfort in life. She has been with me through a marriage, a divorce, countless moves, ups and downs and all the in betweens. She would sleep draped across my head when it was cold or curled up on my belly. She loved rice krispies, edamame and bacon. She even licked away my tears and would put her paw on my arm when I was sick. She greeted me at the door every day when I arrived home for 22+ years. And Friday, we said good-bye to Dempsey. I had 22 years to love this little creature, so you’d think I was prepared. But the sadness constricts my throat and feels like I am breathing in thorns, and the emptiness of where her little white fur body was, feels like a gaping black hole.
Maybe the nightmare, my subconscious, was trying to prepare me for the pain of this life event.
But, Is there really anything that can help prepare you for the emptiness felt when something you love deeply is gone?
Dempsey would “help” me every time I was on the computer. She “helped” me make the bed by trying to sneak in under the sheets. She let me know how much she loved whatever I bought and had delivered by hanging out in the boxes left behind. She was a gift. Twenty-two years flew by and there was so much joy.
But Friday… and the tiny amount of time it took to say goodbye; it sears like a hot iron on my skin and is a boulder weighing on my chest.
And I know it will be recurring. There will be more times of saying good-bye to something that, even if it seems like it’s planned for, will be painful. Good-byes to parents, friends, jobs, health, beautiful things.
Almost to the point of not wanting to say hello to those things, just to spare the pain of the good-bye.
I read that deep grief is evidence of great love. I guess that’s why it hurts so much now.
I’ve also read that life is more of an endurance race than a sprint.
It’s almost been a week. And it hasn’t been that much easier. However, even with the physical pain of missing, remembering and wanting one more day, I wouldn’t trade all those years of love, comfort and “help” with her just to escape this heartache. I’m going to pray and wish for more of those endurance dreams—the joy, the stuff that keeps a heart strong—I believe its these events that count the most; the memories, the effortless, joyful, daily beautiful things in life that give us the endurance to withstand the pain of saying the next good-bye.
RIP Dempsey 2/14/1998- 4/19/19
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1