Ten years before, I was a 20-year-old college kid with barely a worry on my mind. I was absorbed in the learning, new experiences, and…well…the self-absorption that often goes along with being 20 and a college kid. I was having the time of my life.
Ten years after, I am a 40-year-old Dad, happily married, some semblance of a career, and two (mostly) happy, healthy daughters. My life is full and fortunate, even as I can get consumed by the weight of my responsibilities, and occasionally long for the opportunity to be self-absorbed again. I am having the time of my life.
The temporal fulcrum for these reflections is my Dad’s suicide. I was 30, and, candidly, don’t remember much about my life at that time – at least for a year or so. It’s all a bit scrambled. (I have written more about my experiences in previous blogs.)
As I reflect this year, however, 10 years out, I am drawn to the memory that we often celebrated my Dad’s birthday by watching the Nashville marathon, which happens to run right by our house. It’s always within a few days of his birthday. We aren’t a “running” family, but we would gather a blanket and some food and have a picnic in celebration of Dad and in awe and inspiration of the runners who passed us, roughly 20 miles in.
This late in the race, some runners are still cruising along just fine, but others are hitting a wall. You can see the stress on their faces. You can see bodies slowly breaking. Some are even bleeding. You wonder where they are going in their minds to overcome the trauma of their bodies. You wonder how they will ever make it to the finish line. And yet, most of them do, in fact, in one way or another, make it to the finish line.
10 years. 20 miles.
In remembering my Dad, in living with suicide, I can take cues from these runners. Indeed, I have to run my own marathon (we all do). At times, I have relied on my body to take me places when my mind and my heart would go nowhere. At other times, I have relied on my mind to transcend when the trauma invaded my muscles and bones. But, like these runners, I keep going, keep running (hopefully toward my life and not away from it). Sometimes cruising; sometimes struggling.
10 years from now, I will hopefully still be running this marathon. My pace may change. The mental and physical tools I rely on may evolve. But, I will be running. There is no other choice. I want no other choice.
I will be 50. It will be the time of my life.