I never really liked running. Never really saw the point. For exercise? Sure, but I’d much rather play a sport or go swimming or do just about anything other than feel the pounding of my flattened and worn-out feet, screaming for mercy against the hot and unforgiving pavement. Or feel my knees hurting and buckling and cracking with each breath, showing their severe weakness and obvious disapproval of this evil form of torture.

People who run claim that it’s “freeing.” I don’t know about that. To me, it feels the opposite, like a never-ending prison sentence filled with sweat, horrible cramps, and nausea. The only thing freeing about running is maybe the part where the race or the dash or the charity sprint or whatever other forced form of hell has ended, and I am now free to go and grab a drink and a burger somewhere.

Me and Don – in the life I knew

Despite this, I have been running for just over 2 years now. It’s not the kind of running that requires good sneakers, or keeping hydrated, or carrying a stopwatch. No. That sort of thing is for amateurs. This is much different. It’s much bigger than all of that, and much more complex. This is the kind of running that takes over your life, and that is caused by death.

I began running at approximately 6:30am on July 13, 2011, when I received the series of phone calls that would jar me awake, give me the worst news of my life, and change me forever. My very first sprint was the one that took me from the inside of a taxicab, into the ER section of the hospital, just down the street from where we lived in West New York, New Jersey. My run from the door of that car to the doors of that E.R., I can honestly say, was the fastest I have ever moved in my life. I don’t know what all the rushing was about. He was already dead. Then again, I didn’t know that at the time. Until, of course, I did.

And since that time, that day, that hour – every piece of my existence has been about running. Running from pain. Running from hurt. From loss. From love. Running as far away from the memories as I can, because memories sting and they stab and they reinforce what is now gone. I am not ready for memories. Memories are for 5 years, maybe 10 years from now, when I can feel them without intense sorrow, when I can “cherish them”, which so many people who have not lost their husbands keep telling me to do. Running from pictures, and triggers, and trauma. Running from my heart. My soul. My “before.”

San Diego paradise…

Like the time I packed up everything I own and everything he owned, and finally made the decision to move out of the New Jersey apartment where we shared our entire engagement and marriage and life. The 7 years that we spent there began to eat away at my skin and engulf me – the walls were closing in on me after 8 months alone, facing the nothingness of a life that was now over, a time that would not come back.

So I ran away from the homemade birthday cakes at our kitchen table, the small dinner parties and hang-outs with our core group of friends that shattered into bits of glass, the friendly neighborhood store owners that all knew Don and looked at me with sad eyes each time I crossed their path, post-death. I ran from the hospital where he died, and the other hospital where he worked as an EMT, and the Pet-smart where he collapsed on that cold floor, alone, while working his second job to help support us. I ran from the familiar-looking ambulances with his hospital’s name on them, and the uniforms I would see around town, on other tall men resembling my husband. I ran from our special bench where we would sit at night, and stare at the city skyline, laughing and dreaming and being. I couldn’t get away fast enough from the local restaurants we used to eat at, the movie theatre we used to spend Sunday matinees at, the tennis courts he would play tennis at, just like he did one day before he suddenly died.

So after 8 months of sitting inside of it, tripping over the piles and the stuff that used to be our life, I ran. It was either that, or stay there and be further suffocated by things and objects and items – when the person that made them come to life, was no longer breathing air. And the person that I was now, a widowed woman with only one, small paycheck, could no longer afford to pay rent and live alone. So I left.

But it wasn’t enough. Running or walking or crawling or kicking and screaming away from all those things helped, but it wasn’t enough. The pain was still there. Lurking. Hiding. Approaching. Waiting …

So I ran some more, and started to add new things into my new life, thinking that new things would hurt less than old and familiar things, things that I did with my husband. I have added lots of things, big things and small things, important and mundane things. Like the new comedy class I now teach in NYC. Or the new writing gigs Ive picked up. Or my new apartment, and my new roommate (my 2nd new roommate, and 2nd apartment, since his death). Or my new membership with ZIpcar, instead of our car, which I was forced to sell and get another, safer car, which I was also forced to sell, due to my new “broke widow” title in life. Or performing stand-up at Camp Widow. Or eating and making new foods for myself that I dont associate with foods that he loved. Taking a new walk to a new place that he never saw or went to. Seeing a new film, hearing new songs, thinking new thoughts. Making new friends, breaking new ground, facing new fears.

Me with my “new” Network Comedy Class, outside Gotham Comedy Club, NYC.

But none of that was enough either. It helped, but it wasn’t enough to make the stabbing pains go away. It still wasn’t enough to take the hurt and the grief and the why away. So then I started replacing painful things, with better things, thinking that the good would eventually outweigh the bad. Like, if I felt a panic attack coming on while driving down a familiar road or seeing our exit on the Turnpike and instantly flashing back to that life – that death – I would pull over and try to breathe and think about something else. Or drive a new route next time. When the nonstop image of my dead husband’s body in that casket would appear in my heart out of nowhere, I would try and get rid of it by posting pictures of us together on Facebook, or in my blog. Happy pictures. Pictures of him alive and smiling and being. Or when I couldnt sleep at night or kept waking up with the  sweats and the panic and the anxiety, flashing back to that morning or the night before or the days after – I would get up and make myself some tea, and watch something silly on TV, like Three’s Company, to make the bad thoughts go away.

But that didn’t always work either. Well, it worked momentarily, for a short time. For now. But the panic and the stress and the thoughts of death and the cruel images would always, always return. They are burned into my brain and stamped into my skin, like a tattoo that I can never remove, and that I don’t remember asking for.

moving (running) out of our apartment …

So then I have thought to myself – I need to think bigger. I need to run away. What If I just left New York? Left my life altogether? Left my teaching job of 11 years, left my familiar, left my problems and my clutter and my stuff – and went somewhere new? What if I went somewhere else, where I wasn’t the widowed girl? I could run away to California or Colorado or The Moon, and just start the fuck over, right? What do I have to lose, when I have already lost it all? And really, anytime that I go anywhere, I instantly feel somewhat better. Lighter. Happier. The sadness still lives inside me, but there is more room for the joy whenever I go somewhere else. My week in San Diego at Camp Widow was so relaxing, so freeing, so healing. And I felt so close to my husband there, closer than I have felt to him in a long time. I slept through the nights, and I felt a sense of peace and comfort around me. New and beautiful surroundings created new and beautiful things.

But that’s the problem. If I am visiting San Diego, or anywhere else, they are new surroundings. It is a vacation. It is temporary. If I lived there, then the new surroundings are eventually no longer new – they are simply the background to where I live. And although moving away sounds nice, it only sounds that way because whenever I go anywhere for a short period of time, it is time away from what is the norm. It feels exotic. It suggests “better.” But it’s not. It only feels that way, because I don’t live there. If I moved somewhere else, my New York issues would just turn into San Diego issues or Moon issues or wherever I ended up issues. I would have their bills and their traffic and their stresses and their problems, instead of the ones I have now. On top of that, I would be losing the very things that help to keep me sane in my new and unwanted life – my old and lifelong friends, my NY connections, my comedy buddies and clubs, my job that is secure and mostly rewarding, my counseling sessions that fuel me with coping skills and hope, my family that is 4 hours away instead of much, much further if I were to move out West. I would be trading in problems for different problems, and Im just too exhausted to deal with that much uncertainty right now.

me, with one of my many new friends in the widowed community, Beth – San Diego

Like I said in my first sentence, I never really liked running. Never really saw the point.

There is no purpose to running in circles. No reason to marathon and finish where you began. No meaning to a race that cannot end.

I cannot run from the truth. I can’t run from the pain, or the hurt, or the grief. Whether I go to San Diego or Hawaii or stay right here in my new apartment, all that shit comes with me. It is inside of me, the same way that my lungs and my veins and my breath is inside of me. It is an unwanted presence, a giant scar across my face. I can keep washing it off my face, and it may appear to have gone away for awhile, but it never truly leaves. I can’t run from it. I can’t fight it. I have to live with it and through it and sit near it side by side, and learn to look myself in the mirror and not hate that ugly scar.

There is some good news though. The ugly scar and the pain and hurt and trauma and fear are inside me, yes. They go with me. They are me. But if they are a part of me, then so is the hope. So is the love. The laughter. The joy. The birthday cakes and the Christmas mornings and the walks along the Hudson.The music he played. The chords he strummed. The pets he loved and the people he touched. The lives that he altered. My life. The beautiful, epic soul that is my husband, that is now me. It is all inside me. All of it. Every single cell of it. Until the end of time, and then miles and miles beyond that  …

I just need to stop running.


(p.s. Been meaning to say this for awhile to my regular readers and anyone reading this now – I . LOVE. COMMENTS. If you read this blogpiece or any of my posts, please leave a comment if you can! Each comment is like a little Christmas present to me, and I love getting them. Lately, when my email informs me I have new comments, they end up being 90% spam that I have to filter through and delete. I love getting real comments from people. It lets me know that you are out there and reading and hearing me … and thank you for doing that. Thank you.)



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22 thoughts on “Running

  1. I certainly understand your need for comments. You are exposing your bare soul, your inner feelings. I love reading them. Your progress through this tough times. I didn’t run away. Couldn’t, to tell the truth, plus like you, I absolutely hate running. Have always hated that. In life, the end of your run turns out to be nowhere.; or you just somehow go back to the starting point. Pretty useless ham? Don’t run. Just move slowly forward. Like you said, he is inside you, like mine is inside me. Wherever we go, they go too. Hugs, peace and that you may have love all around you.

  2. I’m in your blog! I love you my dear. I’ve also thought this for awhile. If I just go somewhere new I won’t have to share my story. I’m just a single chick with the other single chicks. Then it hits me, what happens if I have a trigger there? There is bound to be triggers everywhere. Then I’ll have to tell my story. The biggest imprisonment is myself. I can’t run from me. Thanks for making me realize I’ve been running too. I’m glad we’re running buddies though.

    P.S. Every time I think about running all I hear is, “Point?! Point?!” haha!

  3. I hate running too! So much of what you said i can relate too. I tried creating new tradition and meeting new people. It helps but its still always there. The grief and the missing him never goes away .

  4. Keep doing what you’re doing, and please keep telling us about Don. Like I said earlier, everything I learn about him makes him feel more and more like he’s a great friend who I haven’t met yet.

  5. So amazingly powerful, than you for putting into words what so many understand. Don must have been a great person and you were lucky to have each other. I relate to so many things that you talk about. Driving anywhere in this town is hard for me. I end up crying while driving alone past all the familiar places. I too feel like, Where would I GO? My feelings are there and I have to deal with them. And by the way, it hurts me to run also. Love your words, Carole Harris

  6. Yeah, running sucks, especially when you’re running on a treadmill and not really going anywhere, which sounds exactly what you’re doing. Even with good running shoes, a cute outfit, and some great music, it still sucks most of the time. I wish it was better for you!

  7. Ahh, running. I have run u t I could no longer move when everything crashed. Then it turned into not being ABLE to run. I was spent, done, exhausted, sick and no further in my path of grief. This imposed (not by choice) stillness helped me to process. Now I am on the other side of the pendulum; that of forcing myself to live again. It is always a work in progress. I love reading your blog …. I appreciate the honesty. Thank you.

  8. This is the first of your blogs I have read. Thank you for sharing your run with us, I to am a runner, and I am so tired. Thank you for reminding me that always they are inside us, with us always and forever <3

  9. I hate running too but for the same reasons as you,I don’t. Jim died in our home and for some people that would make living here unbearable but my home has become my cocoon. Sure there have been times I have run from it but for the most part it is my safe place. I live in a small town so the triggers are
    EVERYWHERE! You are so insightful about what your new needs are and I see you slowly making progress since I briefly met you at CWE a few months ago. I applaud you for getting out of bed every day and making someone laugh!

  10. Insightful as usual, beautiful as always. Lately I often find myself remembering that the obstacle is the path. It doesn’t make it any easier. It just reminds me that there is no benefit to running. Sometimes stillness is the very best move. Love you and all you do.

  11. Kelley,
    You are such a gift to me. Each time I read your pieces, I cry my heart out and identify fully. Imagine that. I too write but not as “eloquently” as you. I would love to meet you and just give you a hug and chat. My journey too has been long. I have written before and told you I lost my Doug suddenly after being in a hospital for what we thought was food poisoning and then three months later I was run over and BACKED off of by a person texting and driving an SUV. No insurance…but I lived…WHY. They journey crippled me in so many ways. I lost my Soul Mate, Freedom to Walk and be mobile and Teach Kindergarten as I did. I live on a limited income and go figure cry all the time. The most uplifting part of my day is the Ellen Show and your Blogs.
    Thank You. May peace creep in between all the emotions and Don embrace you as he would were he here. HUGS dear lady. Genuinely, Ellen Brant Houston, Texas….I’d give you a standing ovation, but it’s painful to try to stand so I will cheer you ON!

    • Wow Ellen. Your story is really touching, heartbreaking, and inspiring. You may hate hearing this, because I know sometimes I hate when people say it to me too, but you are very brave. (as if you have a choice, right?) Thank you for your constant support in reading what I write, and for your kind words. I wish we could all fix each other’s worlds just a little bit more. You should write to Ellen and tell her your story! You never know …

  12. You.are.brilliant. This post is a perfect, perfect explanation of where you are, and therefore where so many others have been or will be… Keep writing it out. This book is gonna kick “why bad things happen to good people”‘s ass.
    Love to you lady,

  13. Running sucks. I don’t even think runners like runners. They’re just trying to convert everyone else to think its great so they don’t have to do it alone. Was feeling sad reading this but at the end I was happy. I’m glad you can at least acknowledge the good even if it does come with painful memories. Thanks for sharing Kelley.

  14. As always you are incredible and you speak the truth for so many of us. You make me smile, laugh and even sometimes cry when I read your blog, but I know it is the truth spoken clearly for those of us that haven’t the voice to speak the truth.

  15. Hi. I’ve been following your blog for a while now. I always get a little lift when I see you’ve posted something new. Your pain is so real and so deep and yet you are still here and trying. That really moves me. You have a real talent with words and writing and it makes me feel like I know you. I think of you often in my day to day life and sometimes I’ll even see a man who reminds me of Don (from the photos you posted) and it makes me think of you. I believe Don is still with you and taking care of you! I wish you all the best in life. I really, truly do.

  16. wow! what an amazing blog post Kelley, I am a huge fan of your comedy and I appreciate the fact that you have noticed that by following me on twitter. But the main thing I like about you is how inspirational you are and the fact that you stay strong and have not ran away from the trouble like so many others would do.

    All the best Kelley

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