I absolutely LOVE the show “Friends.” I watched all 10 seasons live when they were originally aired and then watched all 10 again during my young widow insomnia spell of 2016. Those 6 friends became a happy distraction when exactly zero good things were dancing around in my head at 2am. There is this great episode where Jennifer Anniston (Rachel) doesn’t want to jog with Lisa Kudrow’s character Phoebe because she’s embarrassing and runs like a kid. (Actually, she looks like some sort of cracked out Muppet). It’s pretty funny stuff!
I might relate to the episode because I love to run. Please understand I’m not one of those girls who runs marathons or even mini marathons. I don’t even own any type of fitness tracking device. I’m more like this girl with a blonde ponytail in her Target (PLEASE pronounce it TarJay) workout gear who takes off with Flo Rida blaring in her ears and runs until she had to be home to drive a carpool. That’s me. Nothing fancy but I love it.
Anyway, after my husband died, I didn’t run for a couple of months. Grief can exhaust a person unlike anything I’ve ever experienced (and I had a child who didn’t sleep for 13 months so this is not my first exhaustion rodeo.) Grief exhaustion is physical as well as mental and the funny thing is…you can never actually sleep.
So here I am…this girl who used to run, binge watching “Friends” and beyond exhausted. Then one day- I think it was in October but who knows- I put my shoes on and I ran (more like limped) around my usual running path. It was not fun or enjoyable but I knew that it was ultimately an important first step to get back to some kind of physical normal.
Then there came this gorgeous Saturday a month or so later. For some reason my running shoes called so I laced up and went loping down the street. As I ran my usual path, I realized that my body was just heavy. Not physically heavy but heavy with grief, with responsibility, with emotional pain. I looked up at that beautiful sky, took a big breath and I ran like Phoebe. My arms flew out, I smiled with my entire face and my legs propelled me as though I was some sort of actual athelete. I ran until I was breathless, until I could barely make my legs move. It was this spiritual, burden freeing moment.
I went on to finish my run (like a normal person) but I felt noticeably lighter. Inside me there was a very tiny, but very real spark of joy. It was magnificent! My running became more regular after that day which certainly led to more positvity in my daily life. Endorphins are very real and very helpful.
That fall day was certainly not the only time I’ve run like Phoebe- oh no. I ran like Phoebe when my basement flooded, when I experienced rejection and heartbreak and after dealing with sick kids. I ran like Phoebe when my kids were grumpy, when I was fried from my job and when I was so lonely I could hardly take it.
These days when I run, I typically take in the beautiful surroundings, enjoy my music and let my mind wander. However, on those super tough days when the week seems extra long, when my problems are extra heavy and it all seems too much… I throw back my head, lift up my arms and run like Phoebe!
(A brief apology to all my nearby neighbors who witnessed this or any of my other weirdo running moments since November. Also, you’re welcome for all the stories you can now tell about the nutty blonde lady…I’m sure there are more to come.)