How innocent are you right now? How content?
I thought I’d ask because I never fully realize when I’m in it. I try to. Here:
Right now, I am relatively comfortable sitting on a sofa cushion placed on the floor, with only my friend Allison’s donated body pillow and Stacy’s purple quilt between my back and a concrete wall. My feet rest on an air mattress. Lucy is curled up next to me, which she could never do back home because my couch cushions there were actually on a couch and her long, 11-year old back prevents her from jumping onto furniture. When I say her name she gently smooshes her head into my hip.
The Friday evening before the storm, I had friends over. I’d cleaned the whole house. We laughed and ate. I allowed myself one more blissful night of living like Sandy was not storming up the coast. Then Saturday, Steve and I began to prep. We thought it would be pretty bad—like Irene the year before or worse. After that storm we had spent all our savings on a complete drainage system, which we were fairly confident would handle Sandy. The company had guaranteed we’d “never see another drop of water.” Still, we thought it best to move everything in the basement to the upper shelves.
Sunday morning we had bigger fish to fry. It was the day of my first 5K! This is a much bigger story, but for now suffice it to say I needed to run this race. And I thought that if I didn’t, I would get to the other side of the storm, and have to find another race the next weekend. But I’d already had to reschedule once. And what if I get a cold? What if my back hurts? Who knows what things will be like next week?
Who knows, indeed. It’s a good thing I ran that race. The landscape of my life changed the very next day. But before that happened, I achieved a once unthinkable personal goal and ran in honor of a little boy who had inspired me.
Later Sunday and Monday we put sandbags around the water heater and the boiler downstairs, as well as the front, back, and cellar doors. We were preparing for the worst, but we could not imagine that it would happen. I was on a runner’s high. I’d turned forty several months before and had now completed my trifecta: Polar Bear Plunge, skydiving, and my first race. My year was defined. I had no idea.
How innocent am I right now? What is it I don’t know about tomorrow, next week, next year? Have I done what I need to do for myself, for others? Have I remembered? Spoken? Honored? Forgiven?
The father of a lifelong friend is battling cancer. We spoke of longing for those innocent moments before she knew, before her family knew—when Jimmy made a corny joke and you rolled your eyes and laughed without wanting to cry. The little boy I ran for lost his life to cancer. What his parents wouldn’t give to go back to the day before Ty’s nightmare diagnosis—to see him flying around the house, a superhero in his own mind—not a real superhero in the fight of his too-short life.
In the book I wrote about my mother’s illness and death, I named the day when everything changes. Here is an excerpt:
Some days are hinges that fold a whole year in half. A door closes in and opens out, and a new room appears. Early on October 12, 2005, I entered because I had to.
In retrospect, the morning of a hinge day takes on a new significance. The routine appears greater than the sum of its parts. That blessedly regular morning would become the final picture of life before, its newly framed splendor tragic and dear now as I looked back through the doorway. Were showers really that invigorating back then? The Italian Roast coffee that savory? Is it possible that I leapt from one to the other with the all-consuming exuberance I seem to recall?
How good is your coffee today? How cozy your house? How amazingly functional your body? How funny your dad? How healthy your child?
Thinking about all the possibilities for Hinge Days can deposit me in one of two emotional extremes. There is the anxiety, the fear. I woke up the other morning close to a sheer panic. I had a feeling it was a Hinge Day. I rose from my air mattress with dread and checked my texts, voicemail, email, and then the news.
Is this normal?
The fear dissipated after awhile, and before the end of the day I was almost all the way back to the joy and gratefulness. Yes, anything could happen, Jenn. Don’t fear it. Live what is happening now. Live! Honor! Love!
We are all reminded of how fragile life is. I would love for that knowledge to consistently help me resolve to live better, but sometimes I experience the opposite effect and move toward limiting myself in some way due to fear. In today’s survey question I ask you to think about this. I welcome a discussion, and hope that these questions help all of us just a little. Perhaps merely starting the discussion can help us to take another step away from fear and toward love.
Please keep Jimmy in your thoughts/prayers, and visit Superty.org to learn more about the little boy who inspired me. Pictured: Steve and I on race day in our SuperTy gear.