Leaning In



I had to go for a jog this morning.

I hate jogging. I’ve never experienced a runner’s high. But I know that I need to force myself to jog at times. Especially when I need, as my therapist has advised me, “to get back into my body.”

I’m up in my head a lot.

And drugs aren’t my ticket out.

I’m in a rough place. I have absolutely zero spark, joy, lightness. I feel heavy. This morning, I looked at myself in the mirror and, at the corners of my eyes, where one can usually see delight—only wrinkles. No light. And, while I know this will pass, eventually, I don’t know when, and it doesn’t feel like soon.

Last night I picked a fight with Jane.

I didn’t mean to.

I didn’t think I was.

I just did.

At the time, I thought she started it. I thought she was being unreasonable. But, now, much later, by the light of day, I know I was about 90% at fault—blinded, unreasonable because of my dark mood.

I follow through on my commitment, for mental health, to jog the one-mile perimeter of Grant Park.

The dogs and I are about a quarter mile in when my godsister Lisa calls. I happily slow to a walk to take a whack at verbal processing.

“This morning,” I tell Lisa, “I’m not even certain Jane likes me.”

Lisa laughs. I too know that it’s funny because I know it isn’t true. I know it intellectually, at the least. I know Jane adores me. But, at the time, I feel completely abandoned by Jane.

Lisa knew to call and that something was up because before the jog, while sitting on the stairs not yet lacing up my sneakers—dogs waiting somewhat patiently at the garage door—I texted her and some other dear friends.

Dude. I seem to have slipped into a bit of a funk. Lost my delight. The end of August is really hard. I’ve lost three best friends who all were born at the end of August. The 26th (Mark), 30th (Michael), and 31st (Shauna).

Reaching out, especially when I feel like isolating, helps.

Lisa listens with a compassionate, non-judgmental ear.

When the dogs and I reach the route’s halfway point, I say, “I’m going to get back to the jog.” Lisa tells me that she loves me, I reciprocate, and the dogs and I go back to jogging.

I get back to the house for a virtual Zoom coffee at 8am with Molly, a mutual friend of my dear, deceased Shauna — who would have been 51 today.

Seeing Molly, I weep.

I’m following a practice I outlined for participants at my last Saturday Service—Leaning in.

“Leaning in,” I tell the group, “means that when you find yourself beginning to feel your groundedness slipping from under your feet, instead of clawing at the sides to keep yourself from slipping further down, lean in, feel all the feelings, and you’ll have some momentum to get through and back up.”

Someone in the group quickly finds and shares a link: how to safely drop in on a skateboard onto a ramp. It involves putting all of one’s weight, all at once—against the natural instinct to go slowly—forward and onto the board hovering over the gap.

From the site:

Dropping in on a quarter pipe or half pipe can be extremely difficult to learn. Not for the reason you might think. Not because it’s hard to do. Learning to drop in is hard because it’s hard to muster the courage to try it!

Leaning into discomfort is terrifying.

But it works. Both for emotions and skateboarding.

It’s one of my fav Robert Frost quotes: The best way out is always through.

Molly waits through my tears and we chat as I dry my eyes on the inside elbows of my gray hooded sweatshirt.

When the call ends, I text Jane, Lisa, and the others:

I just had a really good cry.

I realized that Mark and Shauna’s memories that I promised to keep alive forever are slipping, naturally, out of my consciousness. And, Michael’s will too.

I can’t believe that I don’t remember them like I thought I always would. It’s breaking my heart. They were supposed to live forever in my memory.

And they don’t. They can’t.

I’m so sad. I’m just so sad. I’m weeping at the “vanity, vanity” of life.

I am 51. More than halfway to done. And it’s just so painful-beautiful.

I thank you for the love.

I’m just feeling so sad.

Feeling left alone, deserted by the death of dear friends.

Just like that, the heaviness ended.

I leaned in and got up and out on the other side.

I made a note to apologize to Jane — she wasn’t the one who abandoned me.

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