Tales of Grief and Gratitude

Today, it is November.

Today, after wrestling with a hip injury for the past few months, I was finally cleared to run.

Today, the big picture was that there was a shooting at LAX. This shooting at LAX was (yet another) unspeakably horrible moment in our country’s struggle with gun violence. I don’t have anything to add to the conversation here that would help make sense of the senselessness of this tragedy.  My thoughts are with the families of the victims, and with anyone who had to endure the terror of the experience at LAX today.

The very small, personal, wallet-sized picture was that my brother was due to leave on a flight out of LAX to get to NYC for the Marathon.  That fight was cancelled.  Everything in the LA-area was swamped and booked, and shut-down, and the airline, who initially offered to be so helpful about the Marathon, refused to understand that offering to get him into town on Saturday night was useless, because he had to pick up his bib in person using his own photo ID, and the race expo closed at 5pm on Saturday.

I managed to find him another flight taking off from another airport — a red-eye — with a connection through Phoenix, which was on-time 100% of the time.  Perfect.  Until that flight was so delayed that the connections were not going to be able to be made.

He called me to deliver the news while I was out, and I rushed home, sat at the computer and…wondered: Why? Why now?  Do I not want this enough?  Am I not trusting enough in the process?  What am I not letting go of that is preventing this good from coming to our family?

The reality was: I wanted it more than anything.  And the further reality was that there was nothing I was doing that could control this process.  But for the past few months, I had been battling a serious hip injury, which had left me cranky and distracted, and particularly withdrawn.  And it wasn’t until this morning that I was even cleared to run the damned race in the first place. 

Because of this injury, I have joked — I am wrestling with the Angel; I am seeking a blessing.

If you don’t know what this refers to — it’s the Old Testament story of Jacob wrestling the Angel; the tale of two brothers from the Book of Genesis. In simplest terms, it’s the story of Jacob, the second-born son, who takes his brother’s Esau’s birthright, and then many years later, apprehensive about an impending brotherly reunion, meets an angel by a river along the journey and wrestles him till dawn — demanding the Angel bless him. At dawn, the Angel concedes the fight, blesses Jacob, but touches him at the hip and lames him.

That’s an incredible oversimplification of the story.

But I’ve become particularly enamoured of it since I hurt my hip, as if I could find some greater meaning in a sports injury. So I asked my Armchair Theologian friends, in particular, the Yeshiva-dropout, and the Pastor’s Kid for advice.  Sad to say, I didn’t get a lot of answers to my medical problems.  I just came away with more questions.

What if these angels and demons and issues are just the worst of Jacob himself, and the blessing he’s seeking is just a reprieve from his own madness; his own doubt; his own insecurity and fear?

And what about the questions that I have been wrestling with?  For so long, and in so many ways, I have let doubt, and grief, and envy, and fear keep me from victory.  I have let these things become a thief in the night, stealing the joy that is rightfully mine, and distracting me from being a runner, a sister, a daughter, a friend and a girlfriend — preventing me from enjoying perfect moments and crippling me as I partake in the things I enjoy.

I have let doubt and fear turn me into someone who afraid to fight against this creeping ambivalence.

0(Pierre who didn’t care – Maurice Sendak)

It was time to fight.

Why?

I sat down at the computer, and by some small miracle, a single seat had opened up on a JetBlue flight out of Burbank, leaving at 9.30pm. That seat hadn’t been there all day. But suddenly, there was this one, mysterious, miracle seat that would get Matthew into New York on Saturday morning, and I sat down at my computer, pulled out my American Express card, and booked it.

Victory.

As he boarded the plane, Matt texted me: Things are looking up. They even gave me an aisle seat.

So.

Today is the First of November, and we are on the cusp of change, in the season of thankfulness. In the spirit of this glorious time, I have asked some friends to join me in writing about change, and gratitude; in fighting the fight for joy.  And I am thankful for my brother; for my friends and family. I am thankful for this fight; for this hip; for these blessings; for these victories to come.

2 Comments

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  1. “What am I not letting go of that is preventing this good from coming to our family?”
    Seriously. My life. There is nothing more frustrating than being trapped by circumstance and trying to determine what, exactly, I am missing. What it is that has turned me into a boulder in the middle of a river instead of a piece of flotsam that travels the course smoothly.
    The answer is not always to fight. But so many times it is.
    One more sleep.
    xx

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