I feel scared.
I feel guilty.
I feel like I need to run.
I run a lot these days.
Ten years ago I married one of the finest people I have ever met. Today I’m getting divorced. It is as amicable as such a thing can be. This relationship is changing from a partnership/marriage to what I believe will be (what has, in fact, always been) the most profound and loving friendship I will ever know.
I know this is true: It could be a lot worse.
I know this is true: On the other side of this things will be good for both of us.
I also know this is true: Even an “amicable” divorce sucks. It is sad and it is painful.
And I also know this is true: It’s my fault.
Our separation is not acrimonious, but it was my decision. I am leaving. I have chosen to step into this void. Very soon I will leave Austin. I will press further west into the frontier of personal and professional unknowns. I will leave my clients. I will leave the patients in the infusion center. I will leave my new friends and colleagues. I will leave my cat. I will leave the person who has been my partner, who has loved me and whom I have loved, the person with whom I have shared every day of my life for 18 years.
I sit with this leaving and with my choices. I sit with fear and sadness and guilt and ten thousand other emotions. I sit with the feeling that perhaps I am small and weak and not a good person.
And when I can’t sit any longer I run.
I run until the burning in my lungs eclipses the aching in my heart. I run until I can no longer tell if I’m trembling from fear or from exhaustion. I run until the sweat pouring from my face hides the fact that I’ve been crying.
And then I run some more.
My usual route takes me past a church called Outcry in the Barrio. It’s a squat unremarkable building with a large parking lot that contains a huge tent like the one that was erected for my backyard wedding party. There are about two-dozen folding chairs and a couple picnic tables beneath it. It seems clear (at least to me) that while all are welcome, Outcry specializes in saving the souls of (former?) gang members and addicts.
On many mornings the tent and the parking lot are full of tough-looking men with buzzed black hair and hard black eyes. They all wear t-shirts with the sleeves cut off or white tank tops that my brain insists on calling “wife-beaters.” Their arms, necks, and faces are all resplendent with tattoos. Many look like the kind that can only be made with the end of a paperclip and the ink from a broken ballpoint pen. I imagine a thumbtack dipped in cigarette ash mixed with spit. Some days they are singing/chanting and clapping. Other days they stand with their eyes closed, palms and faces turned to the sky. They sway and quietly moan like trees, like bamboo, like men awaiting forgiveness for terrible acts.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider religion at least as dangerous as heroin and handguns. And I’d be the first to say that the addict who turns to Jesus is trading one drug for another, still searching outside himself for the soothing balm he can’t find within. But there is something beautiful happening in that parking lot that strikes me every time. And when those men are singing I can’t help but adjust my pace so that my feet hit the pavement in time to their clapping. And on the still days, I hush my breathing and moan quietly along with them as I run past. And I try to imagine something bigger, something more glorious and forgiving than what lives in the confines of my raw and wretched self.