Articulating the Pain 15


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.