These have been hard years.
This really occurred to me when my brother knocked at my door on the morning before the Marathon — after he escaped the Nightmare That Was Los Angeles Under Siege: These have been very hard years.
I talk about them in the abstract; we talk about them in terms of Drugs, Heart Failure, Jail, Divorce, Eating Disorder, Loss, Et Cetera. I talk about them in terms of Redemption, and What I Have Learned. It has all been one, long, horrible Life Lesson — a very shitty Afterschool Special that Kristy McNichol might have starred in if this were the ’80s…
…and in which she might play someone’s mom if she were still on TV.
So my brother showed up at my house, by way of a miracle flight, on the Morning Before The Marathon, and I thought: The hard part is really over.
(I am not really sure why I had that thought, because I still had an entire New York City Marathon ahead of me.)
We ran the race, but I barely remember the race.
We got to the finish, but I barely remember the finish.
We arrived back at my house, and then I remember opening the door to a house full of people I love — people who were screaming SURPRISE, and who were passing a tray of Champagne around.
At some point this year, I think I stopped fumbling. At some point this year, our little urban tribe hit The Bottom. And perhaps that sounds silly, because one thinks that things “can always get worse,” but on the morning before the Marathon, I discovered that The Bottom is not always the worst place to be. I thought: Why do we have to be such pessimists? Sometimes, The Bottom is merely the point at which you make your Revelation. It is the point at which you are Redeemed.
Together, we have survived the worst kinds of losses, and crises, and all of the kinds of things that most people don’t ever encounter in a lifetime. Together, we have weathered the kinds of things that tore my marriage apart. We have sat together in hospital rooms and kept watch; we have rushed across state lines to be together. We have celebrated victories, and cheered accomplishments.
We have shared secrets; we have found safe spaces. We have laughed, and cried, and climbed mountains. We have run the hardest races and still reached the finish.
I think that the scariest thing about relationships is not knowing whether you will be loved back — not knowing whether, if when you leap, that the net will appear.
We have been each other’s net.
We have held on.
What have I learned? What life lesson has come about?
I have learned that sometimes, one has to lose everything in order to Start Again.
I have learned that I do not have to “behave” in order to be loved.
I have learned this because, years ago, I invested in many box-sets of After School Specials. Someone had copied them all to DVD, and was selling them on Amazon. I bought the ones where Rob Lowe is a teen father, and he figures it out. I bought the ones where Kristy McNichol is a wayward teen orphan who learns how to love and be loved. I even bought the one only available on VHS where the Edward Hermann (aka Richard Gilmore from Gilmore Girls) is a widower who buys his kids an electric grandmother who teaches his motherless children how to open their hearts.
I don’t think I knew, back when I purchased this treasure trove of complete nonsense, that it would have a purpose. Did any of you watching those specials back when they aired believe that they would be The Light that guided you out of the Shitswamp?
I did not.
But I guess what those shows were trying to teach — either by accident or maybe on purpose — was resilience. The Main Idea is that if you fall, you can get back up. If you leap, the net will appear.
The race is long, and the miles will be hard, but at some point, you rise to the challenge, and you learn to live again.
I did not think I could ever be so grateful for these years I have spent in freefall.
Throughout the month of November, I will be posting stories of change, gratitude, forgiveness, and grace — both my own words, and the tales of carefully selected guest voices.