What can I say to a group of hearts I understand so intimately?
I know from experience I can’t take away your pain with words. I know from experience that no amount of understanding and empathetic head nodding will heal your broken heart. I know each of our struggles are both very different and yet very much the same. Our children are different and we are different because of it, and that is exactly what makes us the same regardless of the specifics. Whether you were given a shocking diagnosis in a small sterile room, or you always knew something was wrong and actively searched for an explanation, or your child was completely healthy until one day he just wasn’t–we are all traveling the same long road.
It can be such a lonely, overwhelming, and painfully joyous road. It’s a road filled with such deep lows and such great highs that there are no words to adequately explain it. But I don’t need to explain it to you because you have been there like I have. You’ve seen the monsters in the trees. You’ve felt the wind forcing you backwards. You’ve tripped and stumbled over some of the same roots I have.
And like me, you’ve stood back up despite the fact that it would just be easier to lie there on the road and wait for someone to come rescue you. You stood tall, gritted your teeth, and kept going with no real destination in sight.
Thus is a parent’s love. Endless, enduring, always moving forward even in the wake of fear, pain, and doubt.
Having been a very dedicated distance runner for about nine years, I had loved running for a long time. I knew who I was when I ran, I knew where I was going, I knew what I wanted to do in this life, and I was so sure of the road ahead of me.
That all changed when my one-year-old son was diagnosed almost two years ago. I was blindsided. Life fell apart around me. Even more so, I fell apart myself. But I kept running, day after day, out of a sense of obligation to my old life and my old self.
I was going through the motions until one day I felt a spark of hope. I found power I didn’t know I had and I found the feeling of freedom at last. The road stripped away all of my defenses, all of my pretending, all of my noble intentions of being “strong” and exposed me for the truest person I was underneath. I could run as hard as I wanted, cry until I couldn’t catch my breath, scream in anguish, pray desperately, collapse on the ground in the dirt, and then get back up and do it all some more. The road didn’t judge me. It didn’t matter what was wrong, only that I was out there trying to lose myself in the miles.
But when all was said and done, I didn’t actually lose myself or anything else out there on the road. I found my new self in those miles. I uncovered the person I am today. I ran into her, almost literally.
The freedom offered in running is intoxicating. If you let it in, running can transform you, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, too. The wind in your hair, the sound of your footsteps, the sights blurring by, even the pain in your legs can become a trusted companion. With each step you take, you are stronger, braver, and more capable of overcoming anything in front of you. Everyday life and situations can be seen in metaphor and in relation to your running.
A new perspective born out of every mile and light at the end of the tunnel.
When so much of your life is devoted to taking care of a child who is not well or has special needs, it can be hard to justify doing something for yourself. It can be downright scary, too. We spend so much of our life facing the great, big unknown, but what if this specific unknown could bring you to a new place? What if this specific unknown could change your entire life? How will you ever know it can’t if you don’t try?
What lies ahead on the open road is vast. It is there for the taking. You just have to be willing to reach out and grab it. Doing something for yourself, especially exercise, is a great stress reducer, confidence builder, and can give you the courage to face your day. I know it’s hard, but I encourage you to get out there and just put one foot in front of the other.
Start small. If you believe you can do it, then you can. We must love and nourish ourselves in order to best love and nourish our children. It’s for us, but it’s also for them.
Thus is a parent’s love. Endless, enduring, always moving forward, even in the wake of fear, pain, and doubt.