She looks like Quasimodo
I was a bit bored but otherwise enjoying myself when I saw something that rocked me to my core.
I knew running would be hard, but I didn’t think it would be physically debilitating and emotionally humiliating. I began, as I always do, with a heightened sense of self, underestimating the difficulty and overestimating my ability to persevere. What’s worse, I truly think I look like someone on the cover of Runner’s World. Yet as I jiggled along, feeling the occurrence of shin splints before even making it one block, I was reminded of a video I watched of a family gathering. My brother-in-law was filming my nieces and nephews playing a game in the living room, as my parents watched. I thought I looked really good that day. My makeup was on point, my hair had great curl, and my outfit was nice and flattering. At the end of the day, we all sat around to watch the playback of the video. I was a bit bored but otherwise enjoying myself when I saw something that rocked me to my core.
It was me, in the background. Eating chips. And dip. All by myself, in the kitchen.
I suppose if I had popped one or two chips in my mouth, this wouldn’t be worth mentioning, but I was hitting the tray up hard. My legs were wide, my back completely hunched over, and my hair draped down as if I were a witch stirring over a cauldron. I scooped up huge dollops of french onion dip, opened my mouth wide like a python, then slowly wedged the chip in. Chip, after chip, after chip, interrupted only by dip landing on my shirt. This forced me to pause, wet a rag, and wipe my shirt clean. Some dollops took more elbow grease than others, but I’d go right back to the bowl in due time.
While watching the video, my family was so enchanted by the children, no one noticed me at first. But I did, and I sat in shock by what I was seeing. What I viewed on the screen certainly wasn’t the reality I’d experienced. Is that really how I look when eating chips? I wondered. My sister snapped to and noticed me. “Look at Anna in the kitchen eating chips!” she pointed, laughing. Before long, the whole family roared. I wasn’t bothered by the laughing; the visuals were hilarious. What alarmed me is that no one said, “Isn’t this bizarre? In person she looks stunning, but in the video she looks like Quasimodo!” No, they didn’t say that, because that’s what I look like in real life eating chips. I’ve just had to accept it. For most of my teen years and adulthood, if there’s a photo, usually of people smiling with their arms wrapped behind each other’s backs, I’m in the background, somewhere, hovered over a chip bowl. Sometimes it’s like finding Waldo, but just keep looking. You’ll find me.
My point is, how I think I look doing a thing and how I actually look doing a thing are usually two different things. As I began my training program, I saw myself as a fit, cute, competitive runner, but my nausea, swollen sausage fingers, and the fact I was physically suited to be a competitive quilter rather than competitive runner, told a different story. But the damage was done. In my mind, I was a runner. Everything else, as far as I was concerned, was a lie.
The pull to run came from someplace deep, and I wasn’t changing my mind. Even if the whole exercise was a waste of time. Even if I looked silly or as if I didn’t belong. I told myself I wanted to simply be in the best shape of my life, but what I really wanted was to be consumed by something new. Something so challenging there wasn’t room for much else. Rob and I had just experienced our first miscarriage. At eight weeks, one week before my scheduled sonogram, a debilitating migraine swelled and thumped against my temples for three long, miserable days. And at the end of the third day, I went to the bathroom and lost the baby.
My sister had experienced a couple miscarriages. Several of my friends had experienced one, in some cases multiple. I knew they were common. I knew it would be alright. I’d heal and move on. But the moment Rob and I laid eyes on the positive pregnancy test, we had a dream for who this
baby would be. And when the dream died, I didn’t know where to go. So, I did all I could think to do.
I laced up my new $140 ASICS and ran.
This is an excerpt was from Anna’s hilarious new book, I’m Not Ready for This. Pre-order here, then claim your exclusive gifts here. Rave reviews are already coming in, so be sure to reserve your copy.