Letting Go (part 2)

When I go for a walk with my husband, we hold hands.  If it’s cold, I hold his arm and we keep our hands tucked into our pockets.  If I walk down stairs and there is a rail, my hand is on it.  Drunk, I find myself holding on to the nearest wall or counter top, careful to remain standing.  I do this without any feeling of self-consciousness.  I find comfort in securely attaching myself.

This body behavior translates easily to my mind and emotional dependence.  I remember both people and events that support me or hurt me and hold onto them with the same instinct and intensity that keep me upright and holding on in times of physical peril.  So, when we planned our vacation this winter, choosing to skip Christmas and all its decorating and consumerist entrapment, I planned and mapped out running routes for the Caribbean vacation we chose instead, only to discover, once there, that I would not be able to run.  My mind gripped tightly to my plan, despite the  evidence piling up against it.

“Well.  You actually run six miles a day?”

I tell our host that is true, that there are many days I run much farther than that, and I cannot wait to try the intense hills on this tiny island, St.  John, known in part for a run called 8 Tuff Miles, where a thousand runners line up to race up and down steep, ravine lined narrow roads of questionable pavement and unnaturally perilous cliff edges.  She smiles at me, adding a skeptically raised eyebrow.

“Well, you can certainly try.”

I show her my route maps.

“Oh.  I don’t think it’s a good idea to take these routes.   You could try…”

And she begins to name roads and routes.  I furiously scribble her words onto a piece of scrap paper, desperate to catch the instructions.  I stop suddenly when I hear the word dogs.

“A lot of the locals keep pit bulls.  You should be really careful out there.”

“Pit bulls?  Well, they’re on leashes or chained, right?”

“No.  We don’t have a leash law.  But, as long as you’re careful, you’ll probably be fine.”

My husband asks if I brought my pepper spray.

“Are you kidding?  I wasn’t allowed to bring in a bottle of water!  Do you think I’d try and bring pepper spray on a plane?”

My shoulders tense up and I feel panic rising in my chest.  How am I going to survive the next week without running?  My suitcase is in the master bedroom of the villa as we speak, loaded with clean summer running clothes— my naked shorts!— and I wore my running shoes to the airport and on the plane in case my suitcase got lost, I would still have my shoes and be able to run.  My carry-on bag holds only my Kindle reader and an extra running outfit, instead of the miniature toiletries and bathing suits my family has packed in theirs.  I WILL RUN on my vacation.  I will SUMMER RUN on my vacation.

Or not.  Our host continues to explain how the hot tub works, the best way to skim the private pool on the lower deck of the villa, how the tap water is potable, even though it’s rain water that has been collected in a cistern.  Here are the beach towels.  The beach chairs you may use.  This is the best view of St. Tomas at night…Miss Lucy’s has great food, the local market is….pit bulls.  Pit bulls!  I have to let it go.  I give myself a new mantra for the day, for the week if necessary.


We unpack and begin to explore the island.  One day we do a five mile hike— two and a half  steep miles down, the opposite back up— steep, steep jungle and palm trees and old sugar mill ruins and later,  a waterfall surrounded by ancient petroglyphs carved into the rough stones.  We drink cold local beer with lunch.  We rent snorkeling gear and shimmy beside coral reefs wearing swim fins that make me feel like I am both the Little Mermaid and also Jaques Cousteau’s personal underwater assistant.  Carnival-colored fish swim beneath my seaweed hair, oblivious to my snorkel breathing and humanness.  Every night my husband, son and I submit ourselves to the hot tub on the deck beneath the winter constellations, sipping cocktails and grinning like fools for our good fortune this holiday.  My daughter spends the evenings in her own room at the villa, desperately trying to catch up on her AP History and AP Spanish reading, falling asleep in the warm night air, books open, light softly pooling around her face relaxed in tropical slumber.

The days slip by.  Item by item, bathing suits, tee shirts, shorts and towels pile up to be washed.   My running clothes remain strapped into the bottom of my suitcase, unworn, fresh for next summer’s excursions out into my own neighborhood’s heat.

We do laundry and pack on our last morning.  I am surprised to see how little room a week’s worth of running clothes take in the bottom of my suitcase as I roll presents bought for my parents tightly into the thin fabrics.  I slip into socks and my Nike Free shoes, ready to take the ferry back to St.  Thomas, then to fly to Puerto Rico and Boston.

We had a perfect vacation.  I only needed the mantra for the first day!

I held my husband’s hand on the plane both ways.

Explore posts in the same categories: Run notes that run into life

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One Comment on “Letting Go (part 2)”

  1. […] If it's cold, I hold his arm and we keep our hands tucked into our pockets.  […] kindle – WordPress.com Search Bookmark on DeliciousDigg this postRecommend on Facebookshare via RedditShare with […]

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