Articulating the Pain 15


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Here I am approaching the Finish Line

Welcome to the first and probably last segment of Deep Thoughts with Jen. You may have followed along as I trained for and ran my first marathon. Your attention to this weirdness is to your credit, or discredit. You may even be suffering along with me in what I refer to as PMD: Post Marathon Depression. For me, it is manifested in irritability, moodiness and restlessness the likes of which my beloved has of course endured before. Trust me: he knows how lucky he is.

But for you, perhaps it is manifested in your complete distaste for more of my “lessons learned while running” nonsense. If this is the case, step away now, because I’m about to drop some awesome. I can sense your fear.

I wrote last week about how my friend Bea met me on her bike at mile 17 or 18 of the marathon. She called my name. I cried a little bit. Then I finished running the marathon. Later, as we walked to the car, we talked about the last 8 miles. I confessed to being the tiniest bit irritable and slightly discouraged by my slow slow slow time.

She said, “Jen.” I love when she says my name. She has this sort of chopped up, precise way of speaking, as if too many syllables is against her religion.* She’s French. “Jen.” She said. “Never once did you complain. Never once did you even look like you were thinking about stopping.”

Shows how keen her powers of observation are. I was trying to decide for seven miles which aid station would have the clearest route to Shametown, or barring that, as least some cute, young EMTs who would be overwhelmed by the majesty of a sweaty forty-something in tights.

I reminded Bea. “No, remember? When I first saw you? And I stared to cry, and kind of hyperventilate? Remember how I said, ‘I can’t do this?'”

“Yeah. Fine. But you only said it once. Then you ran.” See why I like her?

When I attend births, this is often the pinnacle for mamas. I tell every one of them before they go into labor that it is likely to happen; that they will reach a stage where they confront the beast of Can’t. The funny thing is, Can’t is a terribly weak opponent. It is a cumbersome, unarmored attacker, a shadow puppet that is much smaller than it appears on the wall of our imagination.

The best weapon for Can’t is articulating the pain.

Saying “I don’t know if I can do this,” out loud, to someone I trusted triggered something fierce and undying in me. Articulating my doubts and fears and the ever-so-small panic attack pulled back the curtain, revealing in the same breath how small Can’t really is. I only said “Can’t” once. One time. Because as I said it, it dissolved. Vanished. Faded with a blast of light; of course I can do this. I trained for this. I am doing this. I will continue to do this. And I did.

I totally did.

I think we avoid stating the hurt, pain or doubt because we think once we say it, “It’s out there.” We can never get it back. It takes on a kind of debilitating power we think we won’t be able to control. I have found, however, than when I open the gate to doubt, it flies away and I am filled instead with purpose.

How about you? Do you articulate or suppress?

 

*I realize that “Jen” is one syllable.


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15 thoughts on “Articulating the Pain

  • Alise Wright

    People who know me know that I’m not one to keep opinions that I have to myself. However (!) if it’s something that I’m not sure about or is just a developing question, I get a lot more timid. Because I have such big, loud opinions, I sometimes worry that if I ask a question, it will be seen as an opinion (and I’ve had that happen more than once, so it’s not a completely unfounded fear).

    I’ve LOVED reading your deep thoughts about your marathon!

  • CMendoza

    I sit here this morning planning to write after months of being off and I am feeling all of those same “I can’t” feelings. But this post has helped me to remember giving birth to my son and not allowing myself to say those words. As a contraction would start, i would think “i can’t do this” but instead i would say “i CAN do all things through Christ!”
    So – I can write today!
    Thanks Jen!

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      I did that, too. Same verse. I think there is power in saying it, because it really dissolves. I also see the wisdom in changing the song in our minds. Of course you can write. You know why? Because writing is merely putting words in an order. It is much much easier than having a baby! Get it, girl!

  • Stephanie

    “If this is the case, step away now, because I’m about to drop some awesome. I can sense your fear.” Love this and great writing style…

  • Paula

    Thanks for the wise advice and fair warning. Signed up for my first full in December. :)) Expect way too many facebook posts.

  • Maile

    Jen, you brought tears to my eyes. So so proud of you for doing that marathon, for sticking with it to the very end, and defeating the “Can’t”. Such a great reminder for me as we reach a new phase of life after this trip. With home still a month away, already I’ve found myself saying, “I can’t” when clearly, “I can”. Thank you, thank you for this post.

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      Maile, you are so good to me! I understand your tenuous emotions. Reminds me of when my kids were little, and the days seemed soooo long, but the years sooo short. We live in this tension, don’t we? We could talk about this for hours. You CAN do it. xo.

  • szcinski

    Maybe it’s me, but seems your writing has gotten even better since the ‘quest’. A certain clarity and efficiency about it I find. But I was thinking, the ‘syndrome’ could have easily have been Post Marathon Sadness also?? We need to find out from Mr. Kurt and the kiddos which they like better. Just a thought.

    • Jennifer Luitwieler

      1. Thank you for the kind words about my writing. I wonder, too, if it has something to do with what I’m working on project-wise? If the tone of my work changes based on what I’m thinking about/doing in other areas? Just a thought. 2. I see where you’re going with this, and I will remind you when you get a nasty case of PMS in October. 😉

  • Kristin T.

    I love this for its deft perception and truth:

    “Can’t is a terribly weak opponent. It is a cumbersome, unarmored
    attacker, a shadow puppet that is much smaller than it appears on the
    wall of our imagination.”

    And this? It’s genius:

    “The best weapon for Can’t is articulating the pain.
    Saying ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’ out loud, to someone I trusted triggered something fierce and undying in me.”

    I feel so blessed to be your friend and to be able to read your words of wisdom when I can’t sit at a table with you (which is far too often!).