April 18, 2013 § 3 Comments
If you know me, you know that I am nothing if not one that JUMPS in to the boat with people. If sympathy is to have feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune and empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – I am sometimes so empathetic that I need an intervention.
I think I may have shared before that in my younger years I was so disassociated with my own emotion I would hijack other people’s trauma. As an (ahem) adult I remain deeply empathetic- in part because of who I am, in part because of my upbringing, and in part because I don’t want people to feel alone. I would rather someone have to say “back up” than “I felt alone.”
I also know that a heart cannot harden itself particularly. Your heart is soft or it is not- you can’t foster unkindness and foster love – one corrupts the other, hopefully love wins. Since Monday I just keep asking myself how do I respond to this pain? How do I help those I know in pain?
Some of you may remember that I ran the Boston Marathon last year with Team in Training in honor of Marla and over 100 Fighters, Survivors,& Taken. I’ve run a lot of marathons & 1/2 Marathons. Austin, San Antonio, Dallas,all over New England, Berlin, Lisbon, Marrakech, Madrid… You get the picture.
I’ve never run a race like Boston.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times – the Boston fans are the greatest fans in the world.
They know what you need before you do. They come early & stay late, cheering is a sport, they love the charity runners as much as the olympic runners, they LOVE that YOU love their marathon, Wellesley & BC & BU have marathon cheering traditions – it is a right of passage as a marathoner to experience them. You mark your progress in the marathon by these things.
In the final mile of the marathon you pass the Citgo sign, run under the Mass Ave bridge, and up the final and most brutal (smallest) hill of the marathon. You run onto Comm Ave. which leads you to Hereford, and as every Boston Marathoner knows, it’s “right on Hereford, left on Boylston” to the finish.
Fans line either side of Boylston – their cheers echoing back and forth off the Brownstones and high-rises – lifting you toward Copley Plaza and the FINISH painted permanently, but freshly, on the road.
To say that you NEED those cheers, those people, that energy is an understatement – to run that street with anything less than superbowl level enthusiasm would be next to impossible. 47% of Boston Marathon runners finish between 3:50 and 4:10 hour marathons. I am so hurt that 5000 people didn’t get to finish their race. I am so devastated that someone would injure the greatest fans in the world.
I was sitting in a discussion section for my American Politics class on Monday when I got the text that two explosions had occurred at the 4 hour mark of race. Sarad, my coach from last year and dear friend, called from Heartbreak Hill where he was coaching… I left class to take his call. He couldn’t get calls through to anyone on the team.
My cousin was at the Red Sox game with her girlfriend. Were they safe?
My ears were ringing. I thought I was going to throw up. I was shaking violently.
We know so many people that finish in those moments. My family and friends were sitting there at that moment last year.
I was not just empathizing, I had jumped in the boat and set sail.
In the end – some of the news was good and some hard, as we knew inevitably it would be. Boston is a small community, TNT is strong and tight knit.
People who ran last year and were there to cheer were injured – there is permanent damage.
People we know we know were finishing as or immediately behind each of the explosions – you can imagine the things they have seen.
Someone we know used to run for BU, some friends came to watch him, one did not make it.
It is very, very sad.
I dreamt for two nights that I was running through the finish – I could see Justin & my friends & family & coaches but I was protected by an invisible shield as they were bombed – and the marathon officials made me finish and pick up my medal.
As I began to regain my focus yesterday, by sheer will, I saw that an explosion had occurred in West. Home of the spicy hot chubby with cheese.
West is north of Waco. It is where I bought my Saturn and sold my ’69 Bronco (a true sign of either adult responsibility or stupidity) – the most generous and forgiving boss I’ve ever had in my life lives there with her husband and daughter Paige. After some frantic texts I found out they are fine.
The devastation began to unfold and familiar triage stations were set up and ambulances lined up to carry away the injured as another city I formerly called home prepared to care for the people of West.
I felt all out of tears, as I watched the tiny town of 2000 burn.
Twitter raced to try to get news, and wrap their mind around the devastation. I was reminded of when I thought 12 had died in Boston… I gently assured them that only time can provide accurate information, despite our desperate desire to know it’s going to be O.K.
My friend Annie has three children and said that when Sandy Hook happened they turned off the TV had family game nights and explained to their children, as they attained information about the tragedy from the internet, that mommy and daddy were sad because something terrible had happened. On Monday they did the same thing, but she wondered how much more they would be able to absorb…
The impact of what happened in West to a community of 2000 will be felt by every member of that community many times over for years and years to come, it was a horrific accident, but it will not take long for people to begin to look for someone to blame… someone to sue… someone to hold responsible.
In Boston, there is a person who sought to injure, harm, and terrorize the most incredible people in the world – the fans of the Boston Marathon.
Immediately there were calls to ‘fry’ the person, and all sorts of other terribly horrific things.
When they get to the bottom of who is responsible for these explosions and we’re going to hold their feet to the fire and… and… and… And then?
I probably asked Justin why 20 times on Monday… Why charity runners? Why 4:10? Why? Why? Why?
As if knowing why would make what happened or the consequences any easier.
Nor will being angry.
So much irrational violence in this country starts with roots of anger. Anger at a government, anger at being marginalized, anger at perceived injustice or inaction on the part of some authority… Domestic terrorism rests in seeds of this kind of anger that was fostered through years and irrationality into rage.
I turned off my Facebook account as people began to argue about the marathon bombing and gun rights… it was not civil, it was angry, and my heart was too broken to bear the anger. I feel sad that we’ve lost our capacity for civil discourse. No wonder we’re stuck in political gridlock, we can’t even respond to tragedy without arguing and accusing in anger.
I often think of the Katherine Switzer (one of the first females to run the Boston Marathon) quote, “If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon.” Running marathons has always been the place I’ve gone to cleanse my lenses of the grit of of cynicism about humanity…
It’s the same reason I told people my motive for working in humanitarian aid was selfish, you really see the most giving- selfless part of community.
My friend Liz just texted me from the blast site in West where she and her son are sitting with survivors to comfort them as various painful, but minor, medical procedures are being performed – she told me, “People from towns I’ve never even heard of drove in last night and started helping.”
S0 the answer: how do I respond to this pain? How do I help those I know in pain?
We’re going to be angry. It’s a natural stage of grief.
I’m no person to tell anyone else how to grieve, how to cope – what’s the best way. I only know there’s no way around but through. Each person will have to travel their own journey.
As for helping those in pain I keep thinking that grief and trauma are a lot like a marathon and less like a sprint. Moreover, like the Red Cross while all donations are appreciated, there will be a continued need next week and next month – because a marathon is a long race .
Right now there are presidents, governors, and lasagna for 300. There are interviews, news coverage, front pages & tweets.
Next week there will be soreness, quietness, and a nation that has moved on to the next crisis and a gaping opportunity for sorrow to take hold and anger to root deep.
Physical and emotional wounds are not altogether different, if not tended to carefully they can cause longterm, irrevocable damage.
How can we help? As the world moves on, we can stay fast, like the fans on Boylston in 93 degree heat 5 hours into the marathon still yelling as if it were the Superbowl. When we need a little help comforting we can use handy tools like this one , or just send a little note reminding those who suffered that we’re still thinking of them. If words are not your thing, then serve. If you can’t serve then give, if you can’t give – make a sign . I assure you. We all have some love to offer.
I have been reminding myself that this is a crazy world, filled with evil, that can only be fought with Love & Truth. When anger rises, I remind myself that answers to the whys and vindication won’t heal the deep wounds… But Love. Love covers a multitude of wrongs.
I’ve also been humming one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs, “I know that this thirst will not last long, that it will soon drown in this song not sung in vain. I hear the thunder in the sky, I see the sky about to rain, and with the prairies I am calling out your name…”
April 30, 2012 § 1 Comment
This is the last day of my early thirties. I don’t know if it’s because I go to community college, or because of my chubby cheeks but I do not feel like I am about to embark upon my mid-thirties. I don’t really have an issue with age. I mean clearly – AM doesn’t look her age: She just looks young.
I am in shape. I am mentally active. I am about to embark upon a new health adventure. I just finished the Boston Marathon. I mean, essentially, I have the world by the tail – so there’s nothing to not love about my age. I am not sure what 35 is supposed to feel like, but if this is it, it feels great. This is the only thing. I can remember when my mom turned 35. As a kid I thought 35 was REALLY old. I’d like to slap that kid. (Just kidding KT, I don’t slap kids, I promise.) I’d also like to slap the kids in my class that look like they are going to faint when I tell them I’m 35 and they say, “No way, you look wicked young for 34.” Or there was the one that said, “Oh, my mom’s 34!” Now hear me, I understand she wasn’t wanting to have babies when she did, but the fact that it is HUMANELY possible for me to have a child that could be my academic peer makes me want to run to the bathroom and vomit.
All that to say. I am waving warmly goodbye to 34 and embracing my official mid-thirties. They are coming whether I want them to or not. Also. I am just so incredibly happy. What’s to resent. Incredible husband, getting an invaluable education (well – there is some way to value it – but I think it’s worth more!), we have great friends, an incredible family, and have so much to be grateful for. So this year intentional gladness, happiness, thankfulness, celebration, joyfulness, and compassion. It’s going to be great.
April 26, 2012 § 9 Comments
It’s a week and a half later and I am still only considering running.
My cousin Stace says that I look like a hungry t-rex in this picture – I can only tell you that this is somewhere in the range of the 20 miles… as in in the miles containing the Newton Hills, and that I wanted to die… Not like that happy lady in front of me. That’s my running buddy Karen in purple next to me; whom I would not have finished that marathon without.
For a week the feeling of the warm sun on my back was enough to bring about waves of nausea.
To say it was the most difficult race I have ever run would be the most gross under-exaggeration of my life… ” ‘Twas a rough night.”
There is still a man in the hospital trying to recover from a heat stroke – hundreds of people were taken by ambulance, thousands went voluntarily – I feel VERY, VERY, VERY fortunate to have finished in the condition that I did.
OK, I think that paints a picture for you.
No? We were literally already at an elevated heat WALKING to the start line.
By .25 miles in I knew it was going to be bad, we had slowed our minute mile down by 1 minute 30 seconds, we slowed it down another 30 seconds and committed to walk EVERY water stop, NO MATTER WHAT WE FELT LIKE.
Blah blah blah blah blah – we finished, it was terrible, hard, difficult, etc.
This is what I want to say.
From before we started running to yesterday at lunch people have not stopped cheering. (Explanation of this sign)
As I ran into every little village I would yell, “It’s good to be in ________”
In Ashland there was a rowdy biker bar, they – by far – gave the best rowdy yell.
Wellesley gave an expectedly polite, but enthusiastic golf clap. You get my drift.
Here’s the thing. It was REALLY HOT. Not just for us, we EXPECTED to be hot. People cheering were there by choice. They didn’t have to stand there. They didn’t have to clap. They didn’t have to hose us down.
They didn’t have to hand us oranges. They didn’t have to buy ice bag, after ice bag, after ice bag… There were people that would run with us to make sure that we got ice. When we were still running. FIVE HOURS IN, on Beacon Street people were standing IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET with ice, water, gatorade THAT WAS COLD (the water stations had luke warm stuff that was starting to make me gag – NOT THEIR FAULT, but REALLY hard to drink…)
I am crying typing this. When we got to the Fenway we were in the blistering sun, we were in so much pain, we were so hot… Strangers were yelling their hearts out, “We know it’s hard! Just a little farther! Hang in there! YOU CAN DO THIS!”, when we looked like we were going to fall over from heart sickness, “DON’T GIVE UP! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE NOW! REALLY!!!” When we turned onto Boylston for the last half-mile it sounded like the Superbowl, so many people yelling, it felt like the WHOLE WORLD WAS THERE. Six hours after the marathon started, NO ONE HAD GONE HOME. They followed the instructions on the signs also:
We SO needed them, and they just YELLED!
You guys, this marathon was awful, this is not the hardest course I have ever run, but it is ARRANGED in the most difficult manner I have ever encountered. MANY professional runners don’t finish.
It was so hot. It was so so so hot. It felt like we were cooking.
It’s mentally debilitating to watch busses of runners who have quit carted past you as you run, people hauled off on stretchers, and the constant sound of ambulance sirens. To turn onto Boylston just hoping that my little cheering team would still be there and instead I felt like I had just won the gold medal at the olympics – it was unreal.
I crumbled. I was so deeply thankful.
Those people just had no idea.
The people back in Hopkinton. The people on Hereford.
They had no idea.
And then we were done. And it has not stopped. When people find out I finished they just keep saying, “It was so hot! That’s incredible! You must be so proud!” and my immediate answer is, “I am, and I am so proud of Boston.” And I mean it.
I do not love this city almost 99.9% of the time, but April 16, 2012 has endeared me to this city forever.
(these are cheerers taking a break so that they can keep cheering – that’s how hot it was – and how incredible they were.)
This is actually not about the marathon though – WHAT? I know. Trickery.
This is about life.
I finished the marathon for a myriad of reasons. I had great coaches, a great Jillian, an incredibly supportive husband, AM/UK, and TEAM. I had friends who offered endless support, family who cared, and friends like Scott and John whose parents became sick along the way that reminded me why I was running.
I literally thought of Scott’s dad at least once a mile, and when I saw the Citgo sign at Fenway I vowed that he would go to games with his grandson at that ballpark on the tail of the research that this money raised would fund. What if Scott hadn’t shared his story?
What if that man and his wife hadn’t had that blue cooler on Beacon – and handed us cups – and told us to hold them in our hands to cool our core temperature.
What if Kendra and Tara hadn’t cheered for me RIGHT WHEN I THOUGHT MY ACHILLES was snapping?
What if the strangers hadn’t come out and stayed out?
We wouldn’t have finished. Literally. We needed every one of those water hoses. We needed every cheer. Every high five from tiny people.
And then this is what happened.
You take the medal off.
It’s too hot to wear your finishers jacket.
You don’t have the tell-tale post-marathon stiffness (I still kind of do in my achilles.)
Hello cruel world.
I’ve been doing the Blissology yoga videos for recovery (this is because trying to get in the class at the West Roxbury Y is like trying to get a ticket to Prada’s show at Paris Fashion Week.) Eoin Finn is a surfer gone yogi – definitely an acquired feel. As in, I don’t think Justin’s going to be able to deal with him. However, he talks a lot about our attitude toward the world around us and the impact it has on our happiness.
Also, I was driving recently, and instead of cheering for me, people were cutting me off and screaming at me for not letting them turn right from the middle lane (I am a jerk, I know.) And I had an epiphany.
How much easier would life be if we treated life like a marathon? If we recognized the truth, everybody is running a VERY long race.
Some moments are ebullient, and some are heartbreak - but what would happen if we treated everyone like they were running a marathon and cheered like this
In marathons people aren’t thinking about themselves, they are thinking about the end goal – EVERYONE FINISHING.
EVERYONE IS THINKING ABOUT THAT.
There is a cacophony of thank you, there is good will by all, there is kindness, deference, preference, and generosity.
Everyone is for everyone.
It comes effortlessly.
It’s a big party, people love it, entire cities are in a good mood, they are inspired, sacrificial, and united.
I believe it’s worth thinking about. Holding up our invisible signs for our fellow man, our fellow marathoners in life, handing out water when we can, cheering when possible!
And remember to keep our invisible, “You’re the SH*T” signs in front of us at all times – because hey – life’s not easy – and we can all attest to that. Way to go to anyone who’s making it on this journey! Have an orange slice, and keep your eye out for the Citgo sign – when you get there just two miles to go.
(Most photos borrowed from this incredible post on the Lulu blog)
I think this is especially important in our most important relationships. Karen and I had plenty of horrible moments in our 26.2 (actually my Garmin read 28.1 at the finish line) mile journey. We committed at the beginning of the race to each other. We just did. Leaving each other was not an option. There were points when it might have been easier for one of us to run, or one of us to walk, but in the end if we had we BOTH would not have finished. It spoke so deeply to me about my marriage and my dearest relationships. Sometimes it’s sweaty and miserable and sh*t, but you knew that was going to be the case when you started, stick with it. I promise you, at mile 15-25 I wasn’t easily convinced that mile 25.5-26.2 would make the previous hell worth it, but I am so incredibly glad that I didn’t give in. And I am so incredibly glad that Karen didn’t give up on me.