Below is a post that was written by my partner, Chris. You’ve heard about him from my writing on this blog. But try as I might, I was never able to get Chris to come and guest blog. I waited and prodded him to write something over the summer, but he was hesitant. I think Chris felt like it was my blog, and he was unsure if he had anything to say that would be of any interest to widows. I disagreed. I think his viewpoint is a unique and important one. Plus, I want you all to know him a bit more! A few days ago, he showed me the piece below, and told me I could publish it. I’m hoping there are more to come in the future.
Marjorie and I share a lot of things. One of them is how directly our mental/emotional state is tied to physical activity. Put more simply, if we skip too many days in a row of exercise, both of us begin to feel a little crazy.
When I was younger I ran longer distances and ran more frequently, but aging knees and my sometimes inability to balance work and life led me to stop calling myself a runner by my mid twenties.
Luckily, that was around the time that I rediscovered my bike. I had always ridden, but never with purpose, for exercise. During grad school I became an avid mountain biker, and that stuck as the main way I’d burn off a stressful work day, or give myself time to do real thinking. Then I started riding on the road, then doing gravel races, then cyclocross, then endurance bikepacking races…you get the idea – I was now a cyclist.
Then COVID happened, my knees mysteriously stopped aching, and I re-met Marjorie. And I started running again. First on my own, forcing myself to wake up groggily after a too-late-to-bed night up talking, in the early days of our junior high style long distance phone romance. And later together, after I showed up unannounced in her driveway. The morning after my arrival, in fact, the first thing we did together was go on a run.
Now, as we move deeper into our relationship, we keep running, but I’ve noticed that it has begun to feel a little different. Sure, I think we both sometimes still lace up our sneakers when we just “need it” because we’ve had a tough work week, or want a thirty minute grace period before the morning routine of kid’s breakfasts and teeth-brushing and getting ready for school and work — but I’ve also begun to notice the ways that running with Marjorie can feel like a sort of microcosmic way to express our care for each other – and maybe even as an opportunity to take refuge in each other, if for a moment.
Unlike the clear, direct, sometimes verbal signals that cycling necessitates because of the higher speeds and closer proximity to cars, running with someone feels like a more nuanced choreography. It requires you to listen, watch, feel the person with whom you’re running – give them space when the sidewalk ends, slow down to let them move ahead to pass an oncoming pedestrian (especially in corona times), be close to put a hand out when you know they don’t see that car blowing through a red light.
And this feels like perhaps the most valuable take-away for me from our runs together. Despite all the best intentions and lots of very open communication, I can’t fully understand the breadth of Marjorie’s experience as a widow. But what we’re doing as we navigate this new love together feels something like the silent dance that we do on our morning runs. Lots of listening, observing, caring, staying close when it feels right, giving space when it makes sense to, and both feeling the joy that comes with the start of a new day.