Haiti has been on my mind these past few weeks — and not just anytime I watch the news. I think about Haiti and Haitians when I’m running because I wonder how the country and its citizens — many of whom have had their lives forever changed as a result of the earthquake — are making sense of it all. Where do you begin when you lose everything? How do you stay sane and not go, or be, mad at every_one or every_thing? Where does the reconciliation process start? And how will the surviving Haitians ever be able to answer the question, “why was I saved?,” from the earthquake’s force?
It’s fitting that I think about this on my own runs because it’s there that I often find peace– not only with the nearly-meaningless, meager happenings and discomforts of my own life but also with the world’s misgivings in general. One of my favorite, and most influential, teachers in college was a woman named Victoria whom I had for two different freshman writing classes and my GLBT lit class. She was dynamic, had a fiery personality, and boy, was she impassioned about social justice. She once said, “If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.” And it is so true. Local, national, or international headlines, on a daily (if not hourly) basis scream of the glaring inadequacies rampant in our world, and for someone to be able to go about her day, void of any frustration or anger or whatever, would seem to imply that she’s just not aware — or just not paying attention.
Of course, mental health professionals will probably say that harboring such intense feelings of anger, desperation, and the like would wear down a gal, and consequently, finding an avenue for relief and escape would prove to be essential for maintaining a sense of balance and perspective. This is where running can fit in. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, that part of running’s beauty is its simplicity. You put one foot in front of the other, and you progress. Much like the grieving or “making sense of the world” process: you take it one step at a time.
When I run, I think about things that I read in the news–like Haiti, like Kenya’s corruption problems–and things that hit more close to home, like my mom’s stroke or why two of my friend’s three kids died at such a young age (and not even a year ago, that same friend lost her long-time partner to a sudden cardiac emergency). The unfairness aspect reigns supreme in all of these instances, and the subsequent rage and frustration we (specifically, I) can feel can be blinding and repulsive. Rather than commiserating with myself in these feelings, I try to put their energy to a productive use — through running — and it is in this process that I can simply come to terms with life’s (mis)givings. I know that que será, será, but I think I need to first have the mileage behind that sentiment before I feel fully at peace with lo que pasó.
My heart (and obviously, my ruminating mind) goes out to Haitians both here and there. I cannot begin to imagine the reconciliation processes they all will endure. My only hope is that they can all find a positive outlet, like running, to help make sense of it all.