Thursday, July 29, 2010

Self-Inflicted Punishment?

The other day, I went for a run. As often happens, I started to get tired on the backstretch. Like always, I powered through to the end. I remember looking at my Garmin wrist unit when I started to get tired, and at that point, I still had about 1.5 miles to go. That can seem daunting when you're already hot, sweaty, and tiring, but I also know it's something I've done before and can do again.

To keep myself going, I thought, "Just keep going. Put one foot in front of the other. Pretty soon a quarter of a mile will pass, then a half, and so on, until I get my 4 miles in." I know I've written about this before, but this is a little different than the usual running posts.

I started thinking -- as I've expressed -- that my life from here on out will be like one long training run. It will be hard, it will seem long, and there will be times when I have to actually tell myself to keep going, keep taking it one step at a time, and that I will need to motivate myself to not give up. But there will also be times when I hit my stride, when a nice breeze comes along to cool me down, and when I feel strong and accomplished. I wish I'd gotten a life that was a Caribbean cruise and not a long distance training run, but those are the cards I was dealt.

I starting wondering, "Why? Why did this happen to me?" There are all kinds of theories floating around about fate, karma, religion, a creator, reincarnation, etc. I can't claim to know who is right and what ultimately determines certain events in our lives. Clearly, there are things beyond our control. If it were up to me, Brian would still be here. I know we don't entirely control our own I started to think about the reasons for the events that happen in our lives that are most definitely beyond our control, like death, illness, and other's actions.

Why was I chosen for this life? Am I being punished for things I did wrong in another life? Things I did wrong in this life? Is it because I am strong and I can handle it? Is it because I am supposed to take this tragedy and use it to help people? Who? How? Did God (or whoever is in charge of these things) see that I've run 3 marathons, put myself through college with 2 majors in 3 years, completed the 3 years of hell that is law school, and taken 2 bar exams? If so, I'm sure "God" thought I actually enjoyed punishment and torture and was probably "rewarding" my apparent self-loathing with the worst form of torture and pain imaginable. Did I unwittingly sign myself up for this by continually biting off the most I could chew?

I guess I'm finally hitting the pity-party, "Why me?" stage of the process. I didn't want to do this; I wanted to grieve with admirable strength and grace. I thought I was doing that, but now I feel like the mask is coming off, the wheels flying off the wagon.

I'm angry. I thought we were doing everything right in life. We worked hard at our jobs and our marriage, we gave money and time to charity, we tried to be good friends to everyone we met, we enjoyed life. Why did this happen to us? To Brian? Why not me? I don't get it. I'm sure part of this is because of the way he died -- there is no explanation for the blood clots that went into his lungs. Such a terrible, unpredictable, and rare tragedy. Why did God put such a brilliant mind, loving heart, and joyful soul into a body that was doomed to fail? A serious design flaw, I have to say.

Now, for me, the one who lives with the guilt of survival and the pain of loss, the hard work continues. I thought we'd reached a point where the hard work was over -- we had stable jobs, had adopted our cats, our marriage had hit the 5 year mark and was better than ever, we were starting to amass some savings, our social lives were in full swing, and we were casually discussing children (though our biggest reason for not jumping into that was that we didn't want to change anything about our blissfully perfect lives -- I know, it was sickening how happy we were). Sometimes Brian would talk about wanting a bigger house or something of that sort, and I would always tell him how blessed we were. We had each other, our health, we loved our cats so much it was ridiculous, we had best friends that lived nearby and visited often, we enjoyed great wine/food/music/company, we were fortunate enough to go out for a "nice" dinner pretty much whenever we wanted, and we did enjoy those luxuries. Quite simply, we were in a very good place. I was on cloud nine, and I counted my blessings aloud. Did God hear that and think I was gloating, or that it had been too long since my last life challenge?

For whatever reason, I'm now facing the trial of my life. The cruel irony is that it's the first time I've had to face a hurdle without Brian cheering me on from the sidelines, or picking me up when I fall. I've never had to face anything really difficult without him. I'm not alone -- there are others in my life who are helping me along the way, of course -- but it's not the same without him. Who do I hug when I cross the finish line of this journey? Oh, wait -- there is no finish line. This is a challenge, a pain, a process, a label, a scar that will be with me my whole life. I guess, then, I'll get to hug Brian at the finish line.

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