Oxygen Mask

“Oxygen:  a chemical that is found in the air, that has no color, taste, or smell, and that is necessary for life.”  From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

I’m lost in my thoughts, in the exhilaration of feeling my body move through the air, hearing my breathing   …..inhale …….exhale…..  when I see another runner approaching.

We give a simultaneous nod as we cross past each other….the runner’s nod.  I remember when other runners first used to nod as they flew past me, and I’d question if it was directed towards me.  Later, as I gained confidence, I became it’s initiator.

That simple gesture, carries a lot of meaning.  It says I see you, I acknowledge you as a fellow runner ….You made the choice to be out here, just like I did, each of us for our own reason.

It can say I know that you are running, so that you can face your day ahead of meetings, conferences, and expectations; you are running while reviewing and practicing your presentation in your mind.  You are running before sun-rise so you can go back to your kids as they wake up, re-fueled with energy and patience to give them.

Or you are running away the day that you already had; running away that review that was bad, the promotion that went to someone else, the feelings of guilt from losing your temper with your child.

You are running because you had to escape and leave your babies for just 30 minutes; half an hour to feel your body move and breathe and feel air against your skin unencumbered by another body touching it.

You had an argument with your partner, and it’s better to run through your thoughts and figure out what they really are before you spew out words that will be forgiven but not forgotten.

Maybe you derailed in cheese fondue and too many truffle fries last night, and you are burning off the calories.  Maybe you are going out tonight, and want to be able to relish that burger with grilled onions and mushrooms rather than defaulting to the salad.

You are running slow and sluggish and dehydrated, because you had one too many mojitos on your girls’ night last night.  This run is your detox; your fastest route to getting back to you.  Or you are running fast and excited, knowing you have a girls’ night tonight, looking forward to that extra wine and flourless chocolate cake that your run affords you.

You got the call from your doctor, it may not be good.  They need to do more tests, biopsies, CT scans, or MRI’s.  You are running with the worst-case scenarios and your anxieties before you go back to pick up the kids and shuttle them to their different activities, a task you usually dislike but now are furiously praying you can do forever.

You got the call, it’s good news.  It’s benign.  You are running wild and free with a fresh mind and fresh body; the universe and all it has to offer is yours for the taking.

You were the non-athletic girl, the one always picked last in PE, and finally you got old enough to not care or be self-conscious about being slow …. you decided to pick up running just for you.

You’ve always been the athletic girl, the track and soccer star.  Running is what you do, you don’t know how not to.

You lost a parent, a friend, a partner.  You are in mourning.  You joined team-in-training.  You’re bringing awareness to a cause.

You lost no one but yourself….no one but yourself.….the most important person of all, not to a disease but to the mad race of life…. to being mother, wife, employee, dishwasher, human milk machine, snot-wiper, vomit-cleaner, co-worker, lullaby singer, chauffeur, role model, teacher’s helper, dinner-maker, lunch-packer, work function organizer, listener, problem solver, ego-booster, budget keeper… and suddenly you were drowning, drowning, drowning…..suddenly you couldn’t breathe…..

And while you were gasping for air, you heard a distant voice of someone saying something about you need to put on your oxygen mask first, before you can put on someone else’s.

You run so you can breathe….You run so you can…. breathe……….Inhale……exhale…….inhale……..exhale…….

*This post was initially published on 4/14/15

Paria Hassouri