18. Full Circle

18. Full Circle

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

Full Circle

The wheel is come full circle, I am here.
 ~William Shakespeare

“I’m going for a run,” I said loudly as I went out the door and down the stairs of the apartment where my mother, brothers and I lived. I was in a bad mood, and needed to get out of the house, to put as much distance as I could between my family and me. Things were pretty bad as far as my relationship with my mom and brothers was concerned. As a teenager I kept to myself and seemed to find fault with everything they said or did. We were all trying to make things work, but the pressure of trying to support each other through some very hard times was beginning to get to me.

So I began running. At first I would just take long walks to get away from everyone and everything. But the pressures and worries that filled my head and heart seemed to stay with me on those walks. I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that my family was falling apart and that I was only making things worse. My classes were a burden that I could hardly bear, and the part-time job I held at a donut shop felt like a dead end to me.

One day I just couldn’t take it. I ran. I ran down the street and across the block and past another block and another. When I couldn’t run anymore I stopped to catch my breath, bending over and feeling my chest heave with the effort of my crazy dash. Then I noticed that my head was clear, and that I hadn’t thought about anything negative while I was running. So the next time I stormed out of the house and went for a walk I ran halfway through it. I ran until all thoughts of home and family and the miserable situation we were in faded from my consciousness. I found my mind clear and settled. I had found an answer. So I started running.

Things at home and at school and work didn’t seem to get any better. As a matter of fact things seemed to get worse, as I pulled almost totally away from the people around me. My running became my release from all the stress and negative feelings I connected with my family. I went out running almost every day, no matter what the weather was like. If a day at home was really bad I’d go out more than once. There were days that I had to run and run and run to leave my problems behind. It was an escape that I turned to again and again.

Then one night I reached the lowest point in my life. I argued with my mom and brothers over things I should have been trying to help make better. Instead I blamed them for everything, and swore I was never coming back again. I went out and ran longer and faster than I’d ever run before. I ran until my lungs were on fire and I could barely see past the sweat that poured down my face. Overhead the moon followed me like a giant, unblinking eye.

Clouds rolled by. It started to rain. I ran past houses where soft lights shone through curtains and I could see people moving about. I imagined the families inside those houses laughing and listening to each other, offering help and hope to one another. I ran past the little neighborhood church where my mom liked to go on Sundays, and remembered how her last prayer at the end of each service was for her family. I ran past a couple walking the other way, holding hands and whispering to each other. The look on their faces was one of love and devotion. I ran on and on.

But this time instead of running until I could run no more and then stopping and slowly making my way back, I found that I’d run in a huge circle around the neighborhood, covering the endless blocks, the rain-slicked streets right back to my apartment. As I stood breathing heavily I looked through the living room window of the apartment, watching the shadows of my family as they moved about, picking up the pieces I’d left behind. I stood and thought about all the good memories, all the joy that existed there because of the love we had for each other. I realized I had to stop running from my problems, that I was responsible for helping my family, and that I needed to give them the love and support that I was looking for in them. I went back upstairs, listening to the sounds of the voices on the other side of the door, knowing I could make each voice a little happier, take away some of the sadness, if I tried hard enough.

Things got better. Those times that often seemed like they would never end changed, and our family grew closer as we held each other together. I still run. But now I run to think about all the wonderful people and the gifts that fill my life. I run to come back full circle to those challenges, those frustrations, those blessings and miracles that are mine to make the best of, not run away from. I run because I have a destination now: Home, and everyone there who’s waiting for me.

~John P. Buentello

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