when the runner walks.

I’m feeling anxious scared about my move to Portland. 

I used to be a really good mover; every few years, I’d pick up and go. It’s been a long time since my last one, though, and I’m out of practice. There’s so much practical work to be done just to make it happen, and it’s expensive, and I’ll need to find a new job. In the meantime, the sense of living half in one place and half in another makes me feel like I’m always away from home, and that’s exhausting. 

What really scares me is this time, I’m not running. My last two moves, I was running in one way or another. When I moved to Nantucket, I was running from a man I loved who was marrying someone else. I wanted to be as removed as possible, so I moved to an island. In the winter. Never say I can’t work the symbolism for maximum effect. When I moved back to Chicago four years later, I was leaving a dead end life that felt toxic. I could have gone anywhere, but Chicago had the lure of the familiar, so I came back. That was running, too, of a different kind.

This time, I’m not running from. I’m not running to. I chose. I’m leaving a comfortable life that isn’t the right life. I knew more than two years ago that Chicago wasn’t home anymore, and I started looking at new places that might be home. I worked through a list of possibilities based on specific things I wanted and ended up with Portland. By the time I made that decision, Shana and Shawn were already packing for their move to Portland. My brother and his family are also moving there next month, and it will be amazing to be able to see him. That gave Portland an extra layer of appeal, but I’m looking for a place that can become home either with or without people I already know. Portland might be that. It might not. I’m not going to know until I’ve been there a while, and that scares me.

Here’s the thing about running: it’s easy. It doesn’t leave you any room to doubt yourself. When you run, you think everything will be better someplace else. By the time the doubt comes, you’re already in the thing and doing it. The not running hurts. There’s so much time to think about my decisions and wonder if they’re the right ones. This time, I’m not trying to outrun myself; every fault and uncertainty and bad habit is going right along with me in the full light of day. That’s actually amazing personal growth for me, but I still catch myself trying to do yet a third kind of running: sprinting ahead to the next decision. If I get there and this wasn’t the right decision, what’s the next plan? That’s a bad way to think. So I keep having to turn around and go back a short distance to the place where I’ve made a decision, and learn to live in the uncertainty. 

I don’t mean to suggest that I’m not excited about moving, or that I’m thinking of changing my mind. I know this is the right thing to do right now, and I can’t wait to get there and meet all the wonderful people I’ve already begun to know online. I’m so grateful to have chosen a place that seems to welcome me before I even arrive.

Over the past several months, I’ve transferred my energy for emotional running into physical running. I’ve never been an exerciser; I am a curler-up-in-chairs-with-books. But lately I’m almost addicted to working out, and I think I’m doing my running on the elliptical so I can stand still and breathe in other parts of my life. When I work out, I can see out the window to the pool at the park, which has stenciled signs all over the concrete apron: WALK, Do Not Run. I’m working on it.

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