I ran with the women.
It has always been my privilege to remember.
It often feels like a chore or job that I’m yoked to--documenting every detail with my mind and heart so that everyone can rely on me for the faithful retelling. I witness moments the way a good journalist does; I visit without total occupation or immersion.
I am enamored with connection created in moments of collective expression, when every single soul decides to come as they are, no pretense or agenda: the decision to be present seems intuitive to everyone. It never looks like a choice, but a natural, organic act like smiling.
The consummate reporter, I show up on behalf of the moment, not my self: I am connection-adjacent. I get close, toe the line between “out here” and “inside”, occasionally reaching an open hand into the fray to collect a handful of the belonging and acceptance that separates us. I pull it back the second I am found out, my lonely hand turned visible by the light that only comes from the joy and love that is inside—in there.
I do not belong in there. This is not for me. I am not like them.
I repeat these lines shamefully, rehearsing.
I don’t go in and, if I do, I don’t stay. I don’t engage. I am not allowed to be inside shared moments because I don’t believe that I bring any value.
I show up to the potluck of life emptyhanded.
In my mind, my worth is tied up in what I can carry in my hands and heart and mind. If I can’t carry anything in my hands—if I’m not comfortable being inside and seen and belonging—I’ll stay out here, but I’ll provide you this service: I’ll keep a record of every moment for you.
What it looked like from here when you sang the wrong lyrics together.
How it sounded when laughter erupted.
I’ll be here watching, waiting for you to want the story of your night or your life.
I live on the outskirts of moments, keeping time and crystallizing moments in my memory for the ones who don’t walk through the layers of terror surrounding vulnerability and shared time and space.
I convinced myself that all of this was true. One morning, without warning, I stopped rehearsing the story long enough to allow for an alternate reality—one that required my participation.
The telling of this story would be impossible if I hadn’t run with them. Without my face in the sun, my feet slipping over hot sand into redemptive waves, my arms and legs keeping pace with the bodies of the women beside me, I would be a different person. I would have stayed the witness.
Before it happened, we sat in a circle on the shore on borrowed blankets and towels. We all closed our eyes, agreeing to go inside ourselves and find our thieves and saboteurs. Confront our villains. See them for who they are and how we have allowed them to keep us scared and cowering. I was only able to venture into these places in my heart because I was surrounded by the sacred love of my sisters, all of whom were wading into and bringing forth their own pain. I wasn’t pain-adjacent or moment- approximate: I was in my heart and in the circle. I could be both. I could be BOTH AND.
I'm with them.
They're with me.
I heard her voice tell me that we were going to run into the ocean together. We weren’t passively letting go of the demons—we were drowning them. We were going to hold our individual and collective pain tightly in our fists as we ran into the promise of healing. We were going to heal ourselves together, and it was going to require me to make a decision: do I run, too? If I want to heal, and I think I deserve to stop performing a monologue made of manacles, I have to run. I have to. It wasn’t simply for the appearance of belonging—I could run and it would seem like I belonged with them. I had to run and keep walking in.
I had to run and believe that it was time.
I am worthy.
She counted from three to two to one and I felt the exigence emanating from inside my clenched fists and the center of this circle turned scatter plot line of women, all of us aching, all of us alive. I thought about stopping until I felt them next to me, felt their feet pounding into the sand and the wind whipping their faces turned relentlessly toward the waves.
All shoulders squared firmly toward a force of nature capable of destruction.
All hands and arms pumping furiously toward a blue expanse of everything they have ever wanted for themselves: to be undeniable, unapologetic, and infinite.
They became we.
We were running.
I stumbled and fell forward, let my body be immersed, then kept going forward.
I wish you could have seen us.
Fourteen women, burning alive with pain and the need to be free, marched lock step into the waves. Fists turned into open palms slicing through unfurling water. Spines arrow straight. We were fire in water, forever in a moment.
I ran with the women. I am forever changed.
I wasn’t on the outside dipping a toe in, begging to belong. I decided I was worthy of being in there, and now that place lives in me.
I will remember this moment for all of us for as long as I live. If any one of us forgets the divinity or the power, I will hold this image—lift it higher, move it lower—so we can continue living on purpose, like we mean it.