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Monday, October 15, 2012

Take Your Bow

Number 12. I worshipped Deron Feldhaus.

It was Halloween. I sat at my desk in my gold and black basketball uniform, feeling a nauseating combination of sick and scared. The air was thick with the smell of floor polish and burnt heating coils from the recently ignited heating system. All around kids were either in dress down day clothes or in uniforms from sports teams or the cheerleading squad. There were only two sounds that could be heard.

The popular kids discussing the "cheer scale system" and the nervous shuffling feet of those who knew they would be its victim.

That afternoon there was going to be a pep rally. Every athlete for every sports team was going to be individually announced. It had even been rehearsed. There was an element to the festivities that hadn't been rehearsed, though, but was being widely discussed in every corner of Lexington Traditional Magnet School.

The popular students were going to institute a "cheer scale system", whereby everyone would grade how cool a student was by how loudly they applauded for them at the pep rally later. There were even lists filtering around and unspoken warnings about what would happen to those who did not comply.  Being one of the most bullied kids in the school, I wasn't privy to the discussions or the lists.

Only the dread.

Oblivious or otherwise indifferent teachers led their classes into the massive gymnasium that afternoon. Lexington Traditional Magnet School used to be a high school in Lexington, so the gym was particularly cavernous and looming compared to other middle schools.

As the festivities got underway, the "system" began to grind its cruel gears with even more brutality than I'm sure the elite kids could have hoped for. Up first, the cheerleading squad. Thunderous ovation for each bouncing girl, until a chubbier member walked up to take her bow.

A slow, smattering of patronizing golf claps echoed through the gym.

I broke out in a cold sweat.

"Please, God. Please just let this be over fast. Just let a few people clap for me."

The football team. The soccer team. The baseball team. Cross country.

Over and over, kid by kid, the merciless vetting continued.  In hindsight, one of the more disturbing aspects of this day was how painfully obvious it was what was going on, but not one adult tried to put an end to it.

By the time it was the girls basketball team's turn, the only thing keeping me in that gym was the weight in my stomach and being paralyzed with apprehension.

A tall popular set of twins' names were read.

Thunderous applause.

A blonde girl who was cousins with some of the more popular kids went up.

Polite applause.

A husky center walked up.

Golf claps.

My heart was racing. My palms were sweating.  I just wanted it to end.

"Ann Bransom. B-Team. Forward."

No one clapped.

I hung my head down and concentrated on the floor. Tears welled up in my eyes and fell no matter how hard I tried to will them back. The silence seemed to stretch on for hours, even though it was only a minute. I don't remember how long I had to stand there or even what happened the rest of the day.

I just remember the silence. And the shame.

That night, I told my mom I wasn't going trick or treating.

"I'm in seventh grade," I told her. "Trick or treating is for little kids."

That day, I gave up being a kid. I gave up athletics, which I had loved since first grade.

Worst of all?

I gave up taking a bow.

When I started running last year, it was 100% for myself.  With two kids, I desperately needed the me time. It was also nice to not have anyone depend on me.

If I flaked on a run?
Oh well. It's just me.
If I got injured?
No biggie. Just me.
Can't hit a distance milestone?
Who cares? No one. It's just me.

And if there's no one in the bleachers...there's no one to not clap.

It's a hard line to tow. On the one hand, if you're running to please other people, you'll never really enjoy it. Believe me, I've spent hundreds of hours in therapy trying to overcome my people pleasing tendencies.

On the other hand, if you have never fallen into the arms of the run community, you are missing out on some of the most healthy, positive, compassionate, nonjudgmental, healing folks I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Friends, I have a confession. I have been sick with dread over this half marathon. Not for the reasons that most people are. I was not afraid of falling and breaking a leg. I was not afraid of getting explosive runners trots and spray painting the Midway scenery. I was not even afraid of coming in dead last.

I was afraid I wouldn't finish, and then nobody would clap for me.

In the days and weeks leading up to yesterday's half, I have found myself right back in seventh grade, hearing the phantom whispers of people who not only didn't want to see me succeed. They were actually looking forward to seeing me fail.  Those voices have been battling with all the voices belonging to my new run friends, who have gotten me to this point over the last year.

I am so glad that the latter won out.

A gift from my sister when I started training. Worn during the race.

I have had so many texts and posts cheering me on leading up to yesterday morning. The folks who gave me my race packet even recognized me from LexRunLadies and offered their encouragement. The day of the race was even better. First I saw D.J. in the mile long porta-john line. I immediately felt better seeing a familiar face. Then I saw Krissie's sparkling face & giant shiny hand, and I knew that whatever was going to happen, I would be supported.

Katie caught me goofing off around Mile 11.

One of the benefits of being one of the slowest people out there is that you get to see all your favorite people jogging toward you after the turnabout. Nathan hollered out at me and gave me a thumbs up. Then I heard, "TEAM SHARK!!!" and saw Kelly and Brooke's excited faces. April gave me a clap as she passed, and I was able to pay it forward to LaTonya and Katie after I made the turn around. I passed Eric and the look I got told me he was proud, which meant a lot coming from him.  The LexRunLadies water station looked like they were about to burst into song, they were so happy to be out there cheering for everyone.  Our times spanned the gamut of under 2 to over 3 hours, but we were all out there together.

Team Shark sprinting it in with me.

Then there were the people who weren't even there, but were talking in my ear through RunMeter. Erin has no idea how much it helped knowing she was following my little dot and telling me how close I was to each mile marker. Glenn, Kristina, Alan, Stacy, and Jimmy made me feel like I had people carrying me mile after mile.

Then I got to the finish area. And there were my babies and my parents and my husband.

"Mommy! Mommy! Go Mommy!"

Then I see Brooke and Kelly. Team Shark. They came back to run it in with me.

Then all the LexRunLadies and LexRunDudes were at the finish line for big hugs.

Team Shark!

Then holy crap. The phone.

Bing. Bing. Bing.

I had over 100 tweets, FB likes, comments, and text messages yesterday from people congratulating me.

What my mom posted on my Facebook wall.

I've spent 18 years believing I'm not worthy of praise. Of affirmation. Of friendship.

I've got 99 problems, but a half marathon ain't one.

Not worthy of taking a bow.

Yesterday I got a standing ovation.

I'm not sure I'll ever be good at taking a compliment. Or taking credit for my accomplishments. And I'll probably never not be devastated by being told I've failed at something. Or being snubbed by people who just don't get me.

But I ran a half marathon.

Dammit, I ran a half marathon.

I'm going to take my bow.

"It" doesn't get better. YOU get better.


6 comments :

Heather said...

I am just so damn proud of you right now. You're amazing.

courtney markham said...

HI,
You go girl! I have followed your blog through Krissie B. I dont get to come to many Lex run Ladies events but enjoy reading about it and hope to come to more. Your post is wonderful and I saw you out there yesterday and you looked great and you so deserve a bow! I am like you and run for me. I have kids so your sentiments about why you run are so similar to mine. I love your necklace- where it proudly- you earned it!

Anonymous said...

I know that I haven't been as supportive or good at giving you credit for what you achieve or even what you do on a regular basis but I want you to know that no matter what you see or hear or feel- I, as well as our kids, are extremely proud of what you have done in the short time that you have given yourself to do it. You truly are a stronger person than I am. We love you mommy!

Anonymous said...

You go girl!

azteclady said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you--for being you, for not giving up and not giving in, and for articulating it so well: "It" doesn't get better. YOU get better.

Yes.

Mike Kayser said...

Great job. I haven't been checking your blog for a while, too many of my own issues to deal with, but you're amazing.