Grief and trauma have a petrifying effect on the human body. I remember clearly in my first year of widowhood how difficult it was to just move. If I was on the floor, moving to the chair felt impossible. I even struggled going outside to get groceries.
Sadly, I had not yet learned about the benefits of mirror neurons and how they can help you when you’re feeling stuck. (Learn more in my past post: https://hopeforwidows.org/2018/11/dont-forget-to-play/)
Dominos pasta bowls and hot lava cakes became a tri-weekly delivery to my apartment and the rest of my meals were comprised of stocked up frozen casseroles from my neighbors. In the back of my mind I knew my isolation wasn’t good for me physically or mentally.
I felt it was time to make my way outside for recreation and a change-up in the dinner menu. I especially missed jogging, but by the time I felt like trying it out, snow season was upon me.
I thought about joining a gym, but being a widow caused me to become introverted and I didn’t like being around people anymore. I was grateful my work was remote so I could continue escaping the outside world. The last time I was around people in large numbers was at my husband’s funeral. Avoiding anything that resembled the worst week of my life was key to my survival at the time. Now, of course, I realize how unhealthy that mindset was.
Like one of the countless God-hugs I’d been receiving, this idea came to my mind to buy a treadmill and it intrigued me. Just the idea got me out of the house and over to the nearest sporting goods store. The sales rep told me it could be delivered the next day, which felt like an eternity but ended up being a very good thing.
Wanting that treadmill immediately and knowing I was going to have to wait 24 hours for delivery to my third floor walk-up, gave me my first feeling of excitement and something to look forward to. That was a very strange moment, realizing time was indeed moving forward.
I then found myself doing something I knew would come at the moment it needed to – clearing out the second bedroom which held my husband’s personal items. I tucked those tangible memories away in an unused closet, which became a safe, small place to grieve and reminisce when I chose too.
There were certain items – favorite pictures, our stuffed monkey animal, etc., that I kept out in remembrance of him, but everything else was now behind a door that gave a needed boundary to my mental and physical space.
With the second bedroom bare, I looked at the peel and stick wall lettering I had recently purchased online and decided to spell out “time to relax” on the wall.
When the treadmill arrived I asked the worker to place it flush with the wall right below the lettering and halfway in front of the window that looked outside at a hill, that was not far from the military base my husband was stationed at.
With this placement, I could run towards sweet memories while simultaneously looking around the room and processing the odd reality of “now”.
The treadmill was delivered in the early morning and I already had my running shoes ready to go. I stepped up onto it and hit the start button.
The dashboard chimed to life and asked for my height, weight and desired activity level. It felt incredibly refreshing to enter information about myself that had nothing to do with my current situation (especially my marital status!).
I began with a slow pace so I could warm up and the rhythmic pace of my feet hitting the track became instantly meditative.
I WAS MOVING!
Like a child reaching for more halloween candy I increased the speed until I found a good jogging pace. Being so sedentary the past five months made this challenging, so I held on tight to the handle bars as I kept the speed.
I was lulled by the sound of the machine and my feet making rhythmic contact, and I decided to close my eyes as I held the handle bar and kept jogging.
Being able to simultaneously relax and let go in this way, while still moving, was fantastically healing and allowed me to drift away to wherever my mind wanted to go.
Often while closing my eyes, my mind would take me back to my jogging days before I became debilitated by endometriosis and far before I was widowed – a place where I enjoyed being a “normal” person who was jogging in a “normal” world. It was soothing.
Other times my mind needed to replay the events surrounding my husband’s death and by closing my eyes and taking myself to this moment, I was able to run as fast as I wanted to from those horrible moments and gain some mental control over the situation.
In later months I was able to add music to my jogging sessions. I had unintentionally stopped listening to my playlists and the radio during the first year. I’d occasionally listen to a few selected songs from my husband’s iPod but that was all.
I imagine that the endorphins produced from jogging allowed me to add back this much-needed piece of myself. I grabbed my iPod that I had stashed in the back of the sock drawer, put in my hot pink earbuds and played my favorite band, “The Beach Boys”. Those harmonies brought warmth to my soul and ushered in the welcoming of “more”.
It was so unexpected, this gift of a treadmill. I remember watching the faces of the men who were delivering it, and the immediate look of dread that overtook them when they realized they would be carrying it up three flights of stairs.
They had no idea that they were delivering an early Christmas gift to a recently widowed young woman.
They had no idea how it would profoundly help me and allow me to realign with time, sort through my husband’s belongings, literally move forward, begin processing past memories and “now”, gain mental control over events from the day of the accident by running, and bring “Good Vibrations” back to my soul – and nor did I.