Boston Marathon Day: Self-Care & Healing

by Jessica Pratas
Dear Boston,
 
I know it’s been awhile.
 
It’s been three years, actually. I left you after almost 8 years in the summer of 2013 for Los Angeles and then I went on to Atlanta. This is my first Marathon Monday back in Boston since April 15, 2013. So I wanted to check in and touch base.
 
Actually, I really just want to talk about self care, Bostonian generalizations, and this coming Marathon Monday.
 
I still remember the feeling of dread I got that day when the CEO of my company stood on a chair and asked if everyone had gotten in touch with loved ones. I was the only one who hadn’t. It took hours before I was able to get in contact with my boyfriend at the time. I remember walking home with a co-worker since we were too afraid to take public transit. It took us almost an hour and a half from Allston to Roxbury and all the while I was sending texts to friends, old coworkers, family and ex-boyfriends. My boyfriend ended up being okay, his phone had lost service after the second bomb detonated. My friends were physically safe, but some had suffered loss that day.



Once the chaos had calmed, and we knew who had done this to us – even if we weren’t sure why  – it finally began to sink in. It was all over the news, and I cried every single day.  I cried for Sean Collier, Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, and Martin Richard. And later, for Dennis Simmonds. I cried for people who had suffered horrendous injuries that would change their lives forever. I cried for the first responders, who did their job so brilliantly, but who will carry this experience with them for the rest of their lives.
 
So here’s the thing Boston. I’m going to be honest with you…because I trust you. I cheered as loudly as the rest of you when Big Papi told the world “This is our f-----g city!” I cried tears of joy when Adrianne Haslet-Davis danced across the finish line last year. But I’m not sure I’m as Boston Strong as everyone expects me to be.
 
While I was living in California and Georgia, I’d get the same ol’ jokes. You know the ones. I’d be asked to repeat the phrase “Pahk the cah in Hahvad yahd.” I fielded questions about The Departed, the Red Sox, Whitey Bulger and Tom Brady. Typical.
 
There were times that it was hard for me to be spoken to like I should be the tough, loud, outspoken Bostonian on each anniversary of the bombing. People expected me to be covered in blue and yellow and shouting from the top of my lungs “Boston Strong!” It weighed heavily on me. It still does.
 
That phrase, “Boston Strong” was something that seemed to happen overnight. It was used as a call for solidarity across the country. It united runners, civilians, first responders, and survivors. It was comforting. It’s still comforting. I’m proud of my city, proud of its strength in a time of unspeakable violence. I’m proud of how many of you opened your doors to stranded runners and their families. Those of you who ran from the marathon to the hospitals to donate blood: that was Boston Strong.
 
I’ve come to find that self-care is crucial but I know it’s not something Bostonians are necessarily known for. We’re not LA. We’re not known for being a city with over-the-top luxury or for having this idea of self-care woven into our culture. I’m not even sure many of us could define what that word even means.
 
To me, self-care is when a person takes specific and deliberate actions to do things that make them feel happy, healthy and whole - not just one special day a year, but every day. It can be as superficial as deciding to get your nails done every week. It can also be as long-term as beginning to practice meditation and mindfulness.
 
Personally, self-care has meant that I meditate every night, even just for 10 minutes. On days that I really need a break, it means unplugging. I shut off my phone, even put away my music and I venture out into the world. Sometimes I’m quiet and I don’t talk to anyone. Sometimes I make it a point to pay a compliment to every person I interact with. That often takes grumpy baristas by surprise...and it does us both good.

Bostonians are known for being loud, brash, and energetic. We’re known for being fire, for being unstoppable both on the football field and in the fields of Lexington. The media will expect it from us on Marathon Monday. So will the rest of the world. They’ll expect Boston Strong.
 
But I’m tired and I’m still heartbroken, and I still get sick everytime I walk past the finish line on my way to work or to grab a coffee. Even three years later. And listen, if you’re tired too, it’s okay.
 
This Marathon Monday I want you to know that if you rather be quiet today, if you rather shut off the news, turn down an invite to party down on Boylston Street – it’s okay. It’s more than alright. I think the loudest act of rebellion to this terrorist act would be to take the time to take care of ourselves in every way possible, in whatever way that manifests itself.
 
For me, I’ll be spending the day with my 12 year old sister. I’m going to sleep in. I’m going to conduct an interview with a female restaurant owner for my food blog and I’m taking my sister with me. I love surrounding her with images and examples of powerful and independent women. I’m going to unplug, and I won’t connect again until I feel ready. Last but definitely not least, I’m going to light a candle, meditate and pray for everyone running the race. I’ll send good vibes to everyone in the city that day.
 
I guess what I’m trying to say, is that I love you Boston. And I want you to do what’s best for you. I want you to run the last runners across the finish line if that’s what makes you feel good. I want you to sit at home reading a good book or seeing friends outside of the city if that’s what you’d rather do instead.
 
In a world that constructs its expectations of us based on their preconceived notions of what they think we should do or how we should act – our greatest stand is staying true to ourselves.  That’s Boston Strong too.
 
With all my love,
 
Jessica
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