Saturday, August 30, 2008

Life is not a sprint

Life, be it long or short, is a rich mixture of all the stuff which comes our way or we seek to chase. The fact that it is this mixture, this sum of what we would think of as 'good' or 'bad', makes life more like a long-distance event than a sprint, a very important aspect of our lives that many of us do not grasp.

For those of you who are parents, you can easily recall the immediate reaction of an offspring who, at 11 or 12, is told they cannot have what they want, or go where they wanted to go. Their world has just ended, and they cannot possibly carry on! This is the "my life is over" reaction which tends to diminish as one accumulates more scars along life's path, yet continues on.

That's the lesson, then: when you are battered and beaten and feel you cannot go on, remember that there is always the opportunity to get back up and move forward. Maybe you need a rest first, or time to mourn, or some healing energy from friends and loved ones. In a way, just the willingness to suffer the feelings you may be dealing with is the symbolic first step.

It is perhaps the most amazing characteristic of people I know, this undying will to return to the game, so to speak. I have a yellowed newspaper article taped to the back of my office door which describes the life of a man who had been killed crossing the street only a mile or so from where I live. As a young man he had been in several serious accidents, usually involving a sport and typically what people call "freak accidents" which resulted in emergency trips to the hospital. Finally, as a college student, he was in a bad car accident which left him with severe brain damage.

He recovered enough to regain his self-confidence and good humor, and then over a period of years, had his back broken three different times as a result of accidents. He broke ribs also in a fall he took. No longer able to work, he was still self-sufficient. He still walked, though it took him 30 minutes to walk half a block. Even so badly disabled, he walked every day, always with a cane as he eschewed a walker or wheelchair.

Finally, that fateful day two years ago, he stepped off a curb into the path of a vehicle which ended his life. When he died, he was the same age I am today.

Having had some of those chances myself--times when I was knocked flat yet got back up--I would hesitate to say it gets any easier, getting back up after being knocked off your feet by life. What I have seen, though, is a growing familiarity with the challenge, a recognition of my own tenacity and will. All I have to do is think of Tom Cook, the man who, over his 54 years of life, managed to refuse God's call to come home over and over again before finally giving in.

Sooner rather than later, you know you will go on, and you will be okay.


Julie said...

SO true. It is that "knowing you will be ok" part that is the real gift in getting older, dont you think?

Rick Hamrick said...

I agree, Julie. It is the experience of surviving earlier seeming-disasters which grant us old folks (not you yet, Julie!) a perspective that most people don't have in their younger days.

It is also true that one's definition of "I'm okay" gets more encompassing. Example: I have some ongoing minor malfunctions in the way my body works which are unlikely to improve. Yet, I'm still okay. Someone at age 20 facing these minor issues might not be so sure.

Thanks for your regular visits and encouraging comments, Julie!

Olivia said...

This was inspirational to me today, Rick. In the last three weeks, I've dealt with the worse experience of my life, and sometimes, like today, when things look dim, I covet the encouragement in posts like this. Thank you, O

Rick Hamrick said...

Olivia, whatever solace you garnered here is my pleasure to provide.

Thanks for speaking up, and here's to continuing healing!