Several times a week, for at least the past six months, the boys and I drive past a woman we’ve taken to calling “The Running Lady.” In cold weather or warm, rain or shine, she runs. Her outfits are coordinated and weather appropriate, and always she wears a backpack.
Perhaps it’s a Camelbak, carrying water so she stays hydrated. Maybe it’s a standard pack that carries first aid supplies, her phone and keys, or sweat towels. It could even be a stamina-enhancing device; run with weight, train harder.
She is always red-cheeked. Often, she looks tired, as if her exertions are just that: exertions. Her shape is not perfect. Her runs don’t look easy. I admire her perseverance.
I have come to count on The Running Lady, as a basic, trustworthy symbol of dependability. I appreciate her commitment, I enjoy seeing her; it’s as if we are friends, but she just doesn’t know it. In a very basic way, I rely on her. I would like to meet her some day. The boys and I have discussed writing her a card of appreciation or admiration, but then we decided that would probably be weird.
I am grateful for rocks like The Running Lady. Like my boys waking up between 6 and 6:30 each morning and my husband coming home between 7:30 and 8 each night. My cat nipping at my ankles if I’ve not remembered to refill his bowl of kibble. February being the suckiest month of the year, each and every year.
I am grateful that my favorite recipe for bread always rises, that Nanny’s cranberry sauce makes everyone smile. I’m grateful that my sons are healthy and bright, that my car starts each morning, that I love my parents and sister and my in-laws too, that the Soda Stream was invented.
I am grateful for good food and wine, for writing, for my friends. I give thanks for my sons’ school and for the endless beauty that is everywhere, if only we open our eyes and look. For strong boxes and packing tape, shredders and bubble wrap.
These rocks constitute the foundation on which I root my life, my future, my sense of the world and my place in it. And yet I know that in many ways, those rocks are illusions. Tenuous, they could slip at any moment. An aggressive tide could wash in and sweep a cornerstone away.
Life is never sure, never fully in control, never wholly known, no matter how much we wish it so. That truth is a tough pill to swallow, but as we grow older, it’s worth remembering that even concrete and diamonds crumble under the right pressure.
People die too soon, by their own hands or those of others. I’ve lost acquaintances to both this month. This month. Goodbyes to homes, pets, finances, friends and family are forced upon people in our midst all.the.time. To pretend otherwise, to ignore the truth of those losses, weakens the foundation on which we all live; it debases the communities we could and can, do and need to share.
I am grateful for the people in my life who are there for me regardless of how I present myself. Who pick up the phone to my glee or tears or wonder and say, “Bring it on. I’m here.” I’m grateful for all the friends who let me be that ear to them.
Not everyone has that, or thinks they do, and that is a shame of epic proportion. Let people know you love or value them, for every reason or none at all. Reach out, show compassion, write the note, look around. Even a stranger might welcome an admirer or friend.