An old boyfriend of mine way back in college once said to me, "I never want to feel that way again," after an argument we had. The problem was that after that, we, or at least he, didn't feel much of anything. Trying not to feel masks everything. Later that same summer after the heart-breaking breakup, I went on a business trip with a friend and she had sage Jewish wisdom. She said, "Aren't you glad you're feeling something! That means you are human, you are alive! Imagine life without feelings!" And of course we can't.
I went to the doctor a few weeks ago and they offered to prescribe something, but I think I'm okay. I mean this is like, um, depressing. So it's okay to feel a little depressed. I'm glad I had my brother. I wouldn't trade one minute with him to not have these feelings. It's just hard. It's painful. But it's real. I'm feeling something. Not to feel would mean that I couldn't feel the joy in my kids faces - and that's just when they are eating ice cream. Or watching Matt swinging on the tire swing. . . Remember that feeling? I think I'm okay feeling that.
There are a few different ways I've noticed that runners start their runs. One is, of course, from the blocks. The blocks allow the runner to push away, to launch off from the angled block without even touching the ground. Another that I try to do is a kind of jump. I hop for my first step and I can get into a good rhythm for the rest of my run. The third way I've noticed is slow, ever-quickening steps that gradually gather momentum and end up in a good run. But each way, no matter how you get started with your feet, you also have to Lean In. When we were paddle-boarding in Lake Tahoe this summer the instructor told us to build up that good momentum and then don't let it go. On a paddle board you have to lean in to maintain balance and speed. You will be able to ride farther and faster once you have gathered that speed. If you stop, you'll likely fall. If you don't lean towards the hill you are climbing, you won't make it up very quickly. If you are running you have to lean in to the wind to make it through. If you don't lean in to the relationships you are having, you likely won't be feeling anything.
Tomorrow is Austin's birthday. We are all gathering at the shore to celebrate and share our grief. I don't want to go. I want to stay home and distract myself with Halloween pumpkins and yard sales. I don't want to be reminded of what's happened. I don't want to watch my family falling apart around me, remembering and wishing for the days when Austin would pull up out front in his white Jeep and yell to everyone on the porch, "Yo, dude!" grabbing his nephews and throwing them in the air. But of course I'm going. I'm leaning in. I'm going and I'm going to feel the pain and the remorse we all feel. But I'll also get to see my baby niece. And we'll also drink some wine. And we'll also cook and laugh and walk on the beach. We'll eat a piece of candy everytime we pass the sideboard in the dining room. We'll make french toast at 11 and forget we already had breakfast earlier. We'll make nachos at four and try everyone's version of guacamole and compare it to the best we've ever had. There will be baseball games on tv and probably football too. People will smile.
For some part of the summer my friend and I often discussed why 50 Shades became such a popular book among so many different people. I think its because we all wonder how much pain we can actually tolerate. How much do we hurt sometimes because there is also love? We lean in and we feel and sometimes it hurts, but mostly there is love.
Austin's death hurts, but there is also love there. If we stop hurting, if we stop leaning in, we also stop feeling the love.