It takes a bit of pushing to make myself leave the warmth of my house to run in the dark, which I don’t love to do but sometimes it’s the hour that I have the time to go. At first, I don’t have much gas in me, and it’s a slog. It feels like I have way too long to go—and it seems unending. My legs feel tight, and my pace is slow. But of course it makes sense that the beginning would be the hardest since it’s the point where I am furthest from the end.
But there is a point—it’s about a third of the way through my running route—where I turn a corner, figuratively and literally, and it all starts to feel manageable even though I have more than halfway to go. I always think to myself at that point, I can do this. And then I do.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about that point in my run—that place where I make a turn from I’m-not-sure-if-I-can-do-this to believing I can. I’ve been battling the winter blues these last few months, on and off, and there are days when I am perfectly happy, and then other days when I cannot see the end of the emotional darkness. Sometimes my old tricks don’t work: stay busy, dive into work, keep moving, call a friend. Sometimes the darkness ebbs in beneath the doors I shut to keep it out. Sometimes the blues are triggered by an event, and sometimes they just find me for no discernible reason.
I have a book that I often turn to that is focused on getting through these times, and one thing it advocates is not looking ahead, but focusing on this moment and then the next and the next: all you have to do is get through the next few hours, and then all you have to do is get through the day.
I took my run today and it felt easier than other days, but still, I was wanting to reach that corner, that place where I make a shift. I ran down a hill and then up another, and that second hill was long and steep and hard. But I did it, knowing up ahead, not too far away, was that corner. Suddenly I was there, and though I had two-thirds of my run left, I thought, I can do this. Though it was dark, light shone in the houses’ windows, and the cold made me feel alive, and I ran until I could finally see the end up ahead.
Shuly Xóchitl Cawood is a writer in Johnson City who teaches online writing workshops. Learn more at shulycawood.com.