I went for a run yesterday. I didn’t want to go. It was cold and I wasn’t in the mood, but I had already taken three days off so I knew I needed to do it. Rain poured down as I laced up my shoes and zipped my jacket and set my workout playlist to start with “Footloose.” Drops of water fell on my face as I stepped off my parents’ porch and made my way down to the drenched pavement. They splashed into my shoes and caught on my eyelids until no part of me remained dry. I placed one foot in front of the other, dreading the cold, knowing I was in for a struggle.
Then, as I picked up my pace, a quiet joy began to rise up within me, and I ran, and ran, and ran. Two miles. Easily and happily.
Growth has been sneaking up on me. One year ago–even six months ago–I couldn’t have dreamed of running two miles without stopping. Without dropping dead, for that matter. Even last week it was a struggle. But suddenly and without warning, I find myself stronger.
My growth as a person over the past few months is more difficult to sum up or quantify, but it is every bit as real. When I look back eight months to the beginning of my family’s journey with cancer, I can see that I have changed. This growth feels different than my ferocious fight to thrive post-divorce. In that situation, the goal was clear, and the battle more defined. I had an enemy, and a vision of who I wanted to become. But in this journey with my dad there is no empowering battle cry or happy end goal. My days consist of quietly being with my family and attempting to make my dad’s final weeks as comfortable as possible, to protect his dignity, to let him know he is loved. It is a slow process of unclenching fingers, releasing expectations, making peace with the process. When this is done, I will always miss him.
Yet somehow I feel that I am being carved out deeper and wider through the loss. I look inside myself and discover more steadiness of spirit, more quiet strength than I had when it began. I have found an ability to sit in the moments of difficulty and remain rooted. Six months ago I could hardly see my dad in a hospital bed without weeping. Now he lives in one, and I read with him, talk with him, hold his hand, bring him food or juice. I feel sad, but not shaken.
I choose to be a part of this process, just as I choose to run. I choose to continue placing one foot in front of the other, very slowly, until one day I look up and find I have come further than I thought possible.
Some days the sun is out and my feet hit the pavement with glee. Sometimes it’s a slog. Sometimes the sky pours on me, and it’s the best run I’ve ever had.