My plane descends into Detroit on a Thursday morning. One moment it’s sunshine and blue skies miles above the earth, and the next we slip under a thick blanket of clouds, into the dreary morning of a Michigan winter.
The airplane hums around me as I stare out the tiny window at the dismal Detroit River. It arches back and forth, with wild disregard for the miles and miles of neat, conforming squares of city blocks.
As the plane jolts onto the runway, the contradiction lingers with me: An inflexible grid of rules and systems interrupted by the unpredictable, defiant flow of nature.
I reached 5 miles with a smile. I turned at the half way mark, a pedestrian bridge across the Fox River, and I ran back down the ramp towards the riverside path.
And then it happened.
My ankle buckled. I flew with the downhill momentum. I landed in a heap, with a bloody knee and instantly swelling ankle. And I sobbed.
I had spent 5 months in the biting cold of winter, one foot after the other pounding the icy pavement, and now I was two weeks away from the half marathon I had signed up for in an effort to hold myself accountable.
I needed the winter running to stay sane. I refused to spend months of cold gray skies huddled inside, depressed and agitated. And so I ran. And it was awesome… until it wasn’t.
A year ago, I published my first blog post. I wrote out of the desperate need to tell my story, to share my grief after the death of my husband.
I wrote about how there’s something deeply human about imagining worst case scenarios.
A year later, in this 3rd year since Chris passed, I haven’t stopped imagining. And yet, that initial grief has shifted. What once tore me apart on the inside and made it hard to breathe has since calmed itself.
It lingers like a scar.
I didn’t expect to be afraid of dying. The terror crept up slowly like the dawn until all of a sudden it was blinding and hung over my day.
When I had planned out my life years ago, it was with youthful ignorance; predictable and familiar.
I did not expect to become a mother who, exhausted and emotional, reaches for cheerios for her kid’s dinner.
I did not expect to be searching for signs of my husband in the soft sleeping face of my son.
I did not expect to be offended by the rows of summer corn, growing tall as if nothing ever happened, as if time had not stopped.
I did not expect the dust to gather on his nightstand.
As the expectations collapsed, I was left with the bitter fear of my own death.
Did anyone else think they’d have life all figured out by the age of 27?
My shy, pimply 14-year old self thought 27 would be a magical age: I would be happily married, growing a family and publishing my first novel. We’d be living in our first house with a friendly dog and regular dinner parties. I probably would have figured out the meaning to life. Oh, and I’d have great hair (finally).
Instead, a year ago, I turned 27 and realized a harsh reality:
I was a widowed single mother to an only child.
I was burning myself out at work.
I owned a house that was far too big for 1.5 people.
I was sadly in need of finding my high-maintenance dog a new home.
And my hair was falling out with stress.
12 months later, I can honestly say the year of being 27 was the longest, most difficult year of my entire life.