Why can't you run? Madeleine asks. What she's really asking is What's holding you back? At six years old she can't fathom this, a limitation in your own body that prevents you from doing what you want to do. What you say you want to do. At six years old she adores running and I watch her fling herself down sidewalks and hills with abandon, arms flying off to her sides like a soaring bird. Her muscles sing with potential, the very core of her sings with potential.
I point to a spot on my ankle, the spot that pings and aches all day long sometimes, off and on. "There's a tendon here that I pulled twice a long time ago, and it never healed right," I tell her.
"What's a tendon?" Violet asks, peering down at the permanently swollen area of my ankle.
I draw a line from the back of my ankle to the bottom of my foot with my fingers. "Tendons connect muscle to bone," I explain. "Mine got pulled, which means it just got stretched too far, so it hurts me a lot."
"See, Violet?" Madeleine asks. "That's why mom can't run anymore."
Something in me prickles at this. Because I can run. I just....haven't been lately. And the tendon is part of it, but it's not the biggest part. It's. It's. I'm at a loss and flounder for the words. "I can run," I tell the girls. "Just....sometimes I can't." A lame finish.
The girls don't question it, but I do, later, mulling over the question Madeleine intended to ask: What's holding you back? A tendon, yes. That connection between bone and muscle, the connection between what keeps you solid and what keeps you strong. This question and this connection are both at the heart of everything lately.
Why aren't you running? Because sometimes it hurts. Because sometimes I'm tired. Because sometimes the idea of that effort is exhausting, and I can fall so easily into a book and a cookie and a quiet office. Why aren't you writing? I just don't have the words. Because the idea of that effort is exhausting, and I can fall so easily into a book and a cookie and a quiet office. Why aren't you happy? Because sometimes it hurts. Because sometimes I'm tired. Because lately I don't have the words. Because sometimes the idea of the effort that goes into being happy is exhausting, and I can fall so easily into a book and a cookie and a quiet office.
What kind of madness is this, the kind where you see so clearly the path toward better things and you are paralyzed right where you stand? What kind of atrophy is happening, when the connection between what keeps you solid and what makes you strong is so weak, is weakening by the minute? Every minute you stand there, sit there, despairing over the way things are and hurting over the way things could be, if only. If only. If only.
Every morning I get out of bed and step down on that ankle. And sometimes it pings and sometimes it doesn't. And I take that first step. Every morning, the first steps out of bed, the blind stumble into the bathroom, squinting even in the dim light filtering through the blinds. I'm like a baby learning how to walk, every single day. Or I should be. The tendons are looser then, more flexible as you learn just what it means to be strong and solid on your own two feet.
Here's a first step, and then another. I'm grabbing the wall for support, I'm letting go, I'm letting go, I'm flying, if only.