Romance and I run differently through life. I run off trail. I leap over downed trees, cross rivers, climb up mountains, and slide down glaciers. I’m never exactly sure where I’ll end up and I love the adventure of it. Romance runs on the sidewalk; the path turns to the right and dating greets you, the path turns left and there lives marriage in a house with a white picket fence, and around the next corner kids run out and block the path. It all sounds so dull. Sidewalks just aren’t my style.
Being off trail does get lonely so occasionally I do run on the sidewalk with romance. Usually it’s unexpected. I’ll be running through the woods and suddenly a sidewalk will appear so I decide to follow it for a little while and eventually romance and I find each other. Sometimes I get scared and run back into the woods because running off trail is far less painful than the cement romance runs on. Other times I’m ready to handle the pain and romance and I run together for a short time, but we always part ways. I love the company, but no matter how lonely I get, I can’t be away from adventure for romance’s uninteresting sidewalk for too long because the cement hurts my knees and there is usually an exciting creature luring me to chase it back into the forest. The problem is that once I run with romance for awhile, it reminds me of how alone I am and how much more meaningful the run is when I have someone to share it with.
Recently, I took a turn and got a glimpse of a sidewalk. I started jogging towards it, but to my surprise, I collided with romance before I even hit the sidewalk. I thought that romance had finally gotten gutsy enough to wander out into the forest, but it turns out that it was just cutting trail to get to someone else’s sidewalk; someone who was a lot more shiny, blond, and witty. Romance used my section of forest and shoved me in to the mud on its way out.
Since I was younger, I’ve been programmed to believe that the “perfect girl” is shiny, blond, skinny, smart, witty, always knows what to say, and runs on sidewalks (growing up in a Mormon town and too many Disney princess movies I guess). Whatever mold that was, I didn’t come from it. I’m an off trail loving granola bar; I like my plain jane style, pounds of makeup make me feel clown-like, sports bras are way more comfortable, and my brown curly hair is easier to deal with in a pony tail. If I could be outside all the time hiking, climbing, and swimming in lakes, I would be happy. I’m also really spacey, I say things that make no sense, and I can be awkward. This is who I am. I’ve tried to be something different, but it just makes me unhappy. The truth is if I have to change to be with romance, then I’d rather be alone. I’m not going to switch to sidewalks or put on an unpractical snazzy outfit just to get romance to chase me into the forest.
I’ve learned that romance isn’t my running shoes. I don’t need it to keep running, but it’s a good companion and it’s nice to have when it’s around. When it does shove me in the mud, I can get up, dust off, and keep running. While skimming through Blue like Jazz (which I often do when I’m looking for some wisdom), I came across a line where Don Miller states that “love is an opposite of loneliness, but not the opposite.” Sometimes we get coaxed into thinking that romance is the only way to deal with loneliness, but it’s not true. Friends, family, and community all provide that companionship that we all crave. They can even be more satisfying because they don’t create the expectations that romance does. The key is not looking for romance to use as running shoes or dragging romance along, but instead running into romance and it wanting to join the run. Be content with yourself and find someone you can share the off trail adventure with.