Friendship and a 5K

This morning I woke up early and ran my fourth 5K! My friend Jen and I ran together. It was her first.

And I think it was my favorite one thus far.

Because neither of us cared about our time or being competitive.

We were just doing something to be healthy and to hang out together.

Plus, it’s sponsored by Guardian Angel Services, an organization both of us care about. We’re both in social work.

Jen and I have been friends since freshman year of high school– 1995. That’s 20 years! Holy cow.

The event was called Angels Against Abuse, and before we ran there was a speaker. She talked about how she found the strength to leave her ex-husband, the man who was “the father of my children.”  She repeated that last phrase emphatically– and I got it. Wouldn’t that be the primary arrow aimed at any woman trying to move on and escape an abusive relationship? Aren’t women always pressured to forgive all because they are expected to sacrifice not just her happiness, but her own well-being and safety in the name of keeping the family together? She said she knew if she didn’t leave, one day he would kill her. The most incisive moments for me was when she read excerpts of the love letters he would write her after the abuse. The promises, the begging, the hope he would spark that he really did want to treat her better. Her belief that *she* was the one who could heal him– he’d had a rough life.

She credited her counselor with helping her manufacture courage to start her own life with her children– safely. That counselor was her advocate at each court date, all the way until the divorce was finalized.

Afterward, they hugged. I was definitely tearing up.

And subsequently, the race stated.

There were times she needed to slow down and walk, and there were times that I did. And both of us are happy to comply and wait until the other was ready to run again. We’d talk a little.

And she was always positive, always fun!

It was equal. And both of us suggested running again to the other and encouraged each other to keep going.

We were also laughing because we got hit with not just substantial wind resistance, but rain!!

It was really coming at us! Luckily I had a hoodie from the event, but I was soaked. My toes were squishy in my shoes.

I joked that we were “hardcore” runners now! I I felt like such a bad ass.

Crossing the finish line was such an achievement!! I’ve never had to deal with so much weather in a run.

I did see my time at the end,  but didn’t make particular note of it.

Then we grabbed some refreshments and snacks, thanked each other for a great race,and went our separate ways.

Neither cared about how we ranked. We had achieved our goal!

And now it was time to go home and enjoy it.

In two weeks we have another 5K, in Chicago. Cannot wait!!

Taking Back the Night in Will County: Marching with a Drum

Tonight was my first time marching with a drum during Take Back the Night.

My friend Jenny and I both attended– it was her first event.

We chose to sit near my friend Sandy, who was going to be leading the march with a drum. She had told me earlier to find her if I wanted to participate, and I did. We were on the right side of the gym– the event was moved inside because of weather. I knew I probably wouldn’t hear the speakers anyway, since PA systems are tough for me. I’d rather be where the action was and be able to participate somehow.

I didn’t catch anything that was said, sadly. Hearing-aids don’t work in every situation.

But I saw the dignity of the women speaking.

And as they spoke, I read the survivor stories in the program. I read about women who tried to fight back within the courts but who were exploited by their lawyers– I can’t imagine. You PAY someone to protect you and they still take advantage? About a woman living with PTSD, a survivor of DV (domestic violence)– who laments that no one has empathy for her. They all want her to just “get over it,” when she still deals with a nightmare.

One by a woman whose ex is an NFL player– and she is afraid to come out about her abuse because of his fame, titled, “Sports Stars Above the Law.”

She writes, “It all seemed to start off like a fairy tale, but it was far from that in real life. If he had a bad game, I had a day full of bruises, pain, despair, tears and hopelessness.”

The most intense story was a letter called “Dear Sister,” and this is the light at the end of the tunnel:

“I am proud to say that I did marry again and that we are raising that lovely little girl in a strong stable environment. So don’t panic and think there is no one else for you, there is a way out and when you get there the possibilities for your life are endless but you have to take control, not be controlled.”

Sandy told me one thing she’d heard that stuck with her: “Danger is real, fear is a choice.”

I thought about how right now, I’m coming up on my fourth week in a self-defense class. I felt proud.

I chose to empower myself because at 4’11”, I’m tired of men feeling they are entitled to flirt with me or pick me up (literally) or asking for a hug because they think I’m cute. And some of these are my male “friends!” It seems like such a small thing, but I have given hugs that I didn’t want to allow just because in that moment, I didn’t feel comfortable saying “No.” A hug seems so harmless, right?

Even a hug demands consent. This class is teaching me to use my voice and enforce my own physical boundaries– so that I can feel safe anywhere. So that I know I can protect myself.

I saw the women and men and children who were there to witness survivors of domestic abuse and sexual assault.

I saw a table for, founded in memory of Alisha and Ava Lucille Bromfield. And that they were giving away small plastic baggies containing purple woven Rosaries, containing instructions on how to pray the Rosary, a Jesus icon card explaining the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy, and the Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who Recite the Rosary.

I put the purple Rosary on and began marching.

I was happy to see prayer represented– and the Rosary– as a choice. As a show of solidarity. As hope.

I was wearing a navy Gamma Phi Beta shirt, it was my mother’s when she was in college. I’m a Gamma Phi legacy, though there was not a chapter at my college. I just received it from my aunt and uncle in Kansas. They gave it to my parents for me and they gave it to me last night. I washed it today and it fits perfectly. I felt like I brought my mother with me, in that way.

I thought about my friends over the years who have been in abusive relationships. Some have gone on to healthy relationships and success– others haven’t; they’re still fighting. Some become advocates. And some remain trapped in a cycle of abuse, with new partners.

Sandy gave me a plastic bucket and we took the front of my program and stapled it on there. The bucket came with two sticks. I had no idea how to keep a rhythm.

But after a few tries, I found my own. I held the stick in my left hand like a drum stick, and hit it once. It was in sync with a few others’. We mostly walked in silence.

There was a boy walking behind me– he had a sign I’ll never forget:
“Because of my Grandpa, we’ll never know my Grandma.”

Wow. That brings it home. It seemed to be a family thing.

Jenny and I had orange balloons– and when we returned from the march, everyone let them go.

She took pictures. I’m glad she did.

I’m glad she walked with me.

I’m glad all of us gathered and marched and listened and prayed– to Take Back the Night.