On Tuesday night, I had the beautiful and terrible honor of having dinner with two friends who were grieving the loss of people they love to cancer. It was the 6th anniversary of J’s sister’s death, whereas N’s friend had succumbed to his illness just two weeks before. We huddled together at a sturdy wooden table with peeling paint and spent two hours talking about death, cancer, anger, grief, and loss. We drank wine and remembered the people we love. We laughed at the ridiculousness of their lives ending so tragically early. We shared frustration over a world that has the audacity to keep spinning when your life has been so jarringly interrupted. Sometimes we cried, other times we laughed, but mostly we were just in disbelief that we could even be talking about this at all. Cancer is a motherfucker, we agreed.
At the end of dinner, I raised the last of my wine and looked into the sad eyes of two beautiful and kind women. “It’s a shitty club to be in, y’all, but I’m so thankful I’m not in it alone.” And it’s true. It helps, knowing there are people in the world who understand what it’s like trying to operate when your pain level is at 45, who understand that the pain never goes below a 3. I hate that they understand but I’m so glad to have them.
After dinner, I took my time walking home, wandering the streets of my neighborhood and feeling my feelings. I miss Kim, y’all. I’m doing all these new things in my life and I want nothing more than to run into her room, jump on her bed, and tell her everything that’s been happening. I want to talk to her about boys and writing and running. I want to tell her how weird it feels to realize I existed in a walking-sleep state for almost 6 months after she died. And now that I’m finally waking up, feeling more alive than I ever have before, I ache to show her that I’m not wasting my life, that I’m taking chances, running as fast as I can to find new experiences, meet new people, do things that scare the hell out of me, because the only other option is to go back to that awful sleep-state and waste the time I’ve been given.
Last night I had the best run of my life. 45 minutes on the streets of the neighborhood I love. And you know what else? I actually ran for 20 consecutive minutes at the end. I found a magical rhythm and pace and my breathing felt effortless and the songs shuffling on my iPhone were perfect and the ground felt soft under my feet. And at the end, when I was a few blocks away from my house, my favorite sprinting song began to play. So I sprinted. For almost the whole song, y’all. I sprinted past cars and trees and houses, past people walking to dinner and a dude on a bike, who cheered for me as I blew past him, shouting at me to, “Get it GIRL!” It felt like I was flying. My lungs were burning, my legs were shaking, there were bright spots dancing in front of my eyes, and I felt awake, alive, and strong, like there is this force of nature trying to break through the surface of all the lies I’ve layered inside myself for years. “I’m not good enough. I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’ll never be a writer. I’ll never find love.” Those lies are being driven away by this newfound determination, this Make it Happen attitude, my desire for More, Please, More.
I’m awake, y’all. Every day I notice something new, something wonderful. It’s like my lung capacity expanded and I’m breathing in more life and fewer lies. These are the things I’d tell Kim, if we were lying on her bed together. And I think she’d be as excited as I am because that’s the kind of friend she is, one who feels your triumphs as though they were her own. Live to the point of tears. It’s good advice because it keeps you awake, keeps you moving, feeling.