Seven hours. Seven hours is about two-thirds of the way through an Ironman for my husband. Give or take a bit depending on the course. As I write this, Rob has two hours left of his seven hour chemo infusion. He’d be on the run portion by now.
This past week has just about bowled me over. Reading about the Stanford Survivor, learning about the Orlando Nightclub Shooting and grappling with my own stuff — I keep finding that I have to work extra hard to fight the impulse to curl inside of myself and cry. There are so many things zinging around making me feel vulnerable, it’s hard to stay in the moment and to keep showing up.
This morning before leaving for the hospital Rob went for a run. He got up and he was kind and funny and gentle-spirited to all of us and then he put on his sneakers and he ran. As I sit here, on the seventh floor of the hospital — in a room labeled Infusion Center — watching compassionate nurses care for patients and witnessing people showing up to life, I can’t help but wonder why? Why would I curl up when life holds so much promise? Why stay small when I can run? If we can wipe the grime off of our lenses and see without the smudges in the way — there are things that warrant celebrating. Ourselves included.
But somehow people get lost on this living path, don’t you think? I mean how else can we explain the hurt and heartbreak we inflict upon each other and sometimes even upon ourselves? I think when we let our pain consume us the smoke engulfs the flame and instead of being bright lights we can be shadows. Lost in the dark.
There are all kinds of people in the world and one of the bigger questions often asked is whether we are born good or bad or if life imposes one or the other upon us? I certainly don’t have the answer to this existential question. And perhaps even more fundamental to me is this question — Why is it that some people who have survived unbearable pain, loss and heartbreak turn their suffering into goodness and others harness the bad and perpetuate it? Once again, I’m just not sure.
The only answer I can come up with is, choice. Whether we like to own this or not, we have the power to choose. In order for us to even begin to feel that we have a choice about how we want to be in the world, we have to tend to our own pain. Our suffering. We have to find a home for it and that means working with it. Not ignoring it. Wounds unaddressed are like the vomit you try to hold down. If you’d simply dragged yourself over to the toilet when you thought you might have to throw up, it would most likely be manageable. The toilet would have caught most of it! But in trying to swallow it, we run the risk of projecting it all over everything and everyone near us. I believe we all suffer, it’s part of being human. It’s what we do with our imperfect human experiences that matter. Our suffering doesn’t give us permission to be cruel. It doesn’t.
Seven hours are winding down. I’ve just learned that today is Rob’s nurse’s birthday. He’ll stay late helping and caring for his patients; smiling and making them laugh. He’ll be here until he’s too tired to go and celebrate — yet he does this with grace and love. He touches people’s lives every day and he experiences meaningful goodness in that. And maybe that’s one of the biggest parts of leaning in to goodness — connecting with other people. It is in one another’s eyes that we can see and hold our own raw-selves.
If you’re in the dark, step out. Puke into the toilet, not the periphery. Find people to connect with — you just might encounter some bravery, some goodness, some humility and some honest fear. And, in the messiness and beauty of it all, you might be reminded of your own power to choose.
Rob will be back in two weeks for another seven-hour infusion. And then he’ll do it again in six months. In between these seven hour windows, he’ll live his life wholeheartedly. He’ll have stress and fatigue, joy and vulnerability. And a million other things in between but he won’t curl inside of himself and he won’t be mean or angry or volatile. He’ll lean on us. We’ll lean on each other. And we’ll be close to our friends near and far because it is in connecting to each other — in bearing witness to each other’s honest living — where we are reminded that we can always choose to keep the light bright.
Categories: Tri-Umphant Living