Have you guys heard the brilliant, beautiful Tig Notaro stand-up set about the worst year ever? The gist: Notaro, a comedian, was diagnosed with cancer; lost her mother to a freak accident; survived a breakup; and almost died from an intestinal condition. Then, she stood up on stage and talked about it all, turning the most awful parts of it into comedy. In the set, she says that given all that’s happened, she simply couldn’t stand up on stage and talk about a bee going down the 405 (one of her more popular jokes).
Similarly, I feel like I can’t sit at my laptop and tell you about how my first couple of runs back were tough, but how, golly, things are getting easier now! That’s true (yesterday, I managed my first post-injury 30-minute run without stopping), but my heart’s just not in it.
I was actually all set to write about that first run today until I read Katie’s most recent post on Run This Amazing Day. She writes about how her blog, which started as a place for her to talk about running and injuries, and to poke fun at her own inadequacies, was turned upside down, along with her life, when she faced a tragedy of her own last summer.
“I was overwhelmed by the graciousness of the human spirit … that situation dragged me out from under my rock and pinned me to the wall, naked, an apple on my head and a bulls-eye taped square over the softest part of my heart.”
If life is full of loss and tragedy and sadness, then the thing that keeps us afloat, the barely-visble upside, is the fact that we get to experience the kindest side of human nature in the aftermath of those losses and tragedies. We also find a more tender, compassionate, authentic self waiting to emerge to meet that kindness.
Take, for example, the (relatively minor) tragedy of the broken elbow I’m now rehabbing. Here are a few examples of the graciousness of the human spirit I’ve experienced as a result of my (relatively minor) struggles:
The lifeguard who offered to loan me his goggles after I angrily threw mine on the pool deck upon realizing my arm didn’t work quite yet on my first day back in the pool after elbow surgery; and the fact that this lifeguard has applauded my progress every day in the pool since then, saying things like, “Wow! You would never know you’d had surgery!” The brother-in-law whose post-injury message was not a light-hearted joke meant to minimize the situation, but a heartfelt: “You’ll get through this. You’re one of the strongest women I know.” The friend who cancelled her dinner plans to spend some time on the couch with me when she heard I was laid up. The barrage of cards from my mom at various stages of my recovery.
And yes, it is also the feeling of victory after the first time you run 30 minutes in a row without stopping after a long hiatus, or the first time your injured arm can manage a feeble, blessed stroke through the water.