I used to sprint in the frigid winter air until I couldn’t breathe anymore.
It would be past eight o’clock on a school night when I would race through the dark neighbourhood, starting at a pace I knew my legs couldn’t keep up with. I would run and run and run until I was forced to stop at a lamppost or mailbox and wait for my lungs to refill. Every time my (self-diagnosed) asthma would createa throbbing in my chest that I could never cough away, and each exhale felt as if it would not produce another inhale. I would end up walking back home with chattering teeth and snow covering my sneakers, soaking my socks all the way through.
As a child, I believed I was invincible. My parents would yell at me to “get down from there” or to “leave it be”, but I never listened because I thought I couldn’t get hurt. For me, pain was mythical, it was something made-upinstories we read in kindergarten as we all sat in a circle. Pain was a consequence of falling off a jungle gym or tripping on shoelaces - it was a child’s game that was abandoned once I stopped climbing on top of everything and learned how to tie proper bows. Yet, just as I started to become deaf to my parents’ warnings, hurt would snap me back to when I stubbornly chose ignorance, resulting in scabbed knees and a snotty nose.
Now, the difference was that pain ceased to be cured with a Band-Aid. A kiss before bed from both of my parents was not enough to heal both sides of my shoulders that ached from future’s expectations digging its nails into my back.A hug from my best friend as I left for school faraway was not enough to shrink the distance or soreness that permeated behind my eyes. Before I realized it, pain existed everywhere. It became the status quo for me to run until my body screamed at me to stop moving, but I ignored it and kept going until I reached that certain sidewalk corner.
Running through those familiar icy streets was my source of pain. I needed to experience physical anguish in order to reassure myself of my strength - the coughing fits and tight frozen ligaments on the way home convinced me of my hardiness and ability to handle discomfort. It seemed this pain comforted me in a way that no hand hold or eager compliment ever could. Every time I cleared my throat to run to the next intersection, I felt stronger. One foot in front of the other, gliding block after block through these cold, black evenings convinced me that my invisible hurt could be manifested into something I could actually feel. With my legs cutting quickly through those crisp winter nights and my lungs strugglingto keep up, I could not accept that I was attempting to imitate the pain in my head.
I used to go on those runs because I wanted to believe my pain was temporary. As I sprinted away from my house, joints already yelling at me to slow down, I basked in the comfort of knowing that my body would feel fine as soon as I stopped moving. That’s the way I wanted everything else to feel inside as well.
I believe there is a part of every person that thinks pain will notlast forever. We want to believe that we can still experience pain as a child does - tears and stomping around for a minute, then laughing and rolling around on the carpet the next. Unfortunately, as we get older, we realize that throwing a temper tantrum every afternoon will not get rid ofthe surmounting pressure inside to succeed. A temper tantrum just isn’t enough to encompass what we feel. Eventually, we come to understand that pain reveals itself in more forms than one, and it strikes us down as soon as we turn our backs away.
I finally discovered that my internal torment does not need to be translated into pulled muscles and frozen fingertips. Though my pain has not entirely disappeared, it has shape-shifted into something I can recognize whenever it monopolizes upon my weakness. As much as I mourn my adolescence, I recognize I am not a child anymore. I’ve learned it takes more than a hug and kiss to fix my messes, but it doesn’t take a sprint in the middle of a snowstorm either.
It’s past eight o’clock as I watch the winter winds picking up speed outside my window. The snow swirls, dancing and whistling as if teasing me to come join it. My running shoes are in my closet, but I stay in bed, letting the light shine through my window. Winter doesn’t touch me at all.
It has been almost a year since I’ve escaped on one of my frostbitten runs.