“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost
This past weekend my little brother Joe ran a 100 mile ultra-marathon through the rugged, wooded hills of Pennsylvania. The whole time I marveled at the human body’s ability to accomplish what seems a super-human feat. Is my brother special? He would tell you he is not, though you and I might disagree with him. He would tell you that he set is mind to do something and told himself over and over again that he could do it. On the phone today he said, “It’s not different than any race. If I’m running a 10K, I just tell myself I’m going to do it, and I run until it ends.” Most of us would eye roll this and say that 100 miles is quite different than a 10K, but the point my brother was making is that we are capable of accomplishing anything when we do the work- body, mind and spirit– and have belief in ourselves.
As I talked to him today, we both cried with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, but I couldn’t open my own mouth to share my heart with him without losing it even more.
Let me try now to explain what his race means to me.
Life is a journey, “the journey of a thousand miles.” Obstacles and challenges come and go. Sometimes with our permission and sometimes without it. The one thing that is constant through all of life’s journey is that we have a choice on how we will travel. We are far more in control of the journey than we give ourselves credit, and we are capable of more than we can ever imagine. We are the story tellers of our lives. We are the feet that journey forward. The work of the heart, the work of the human soul, the work that takes place deep within our mind- that is the work that is ours to do, the work no one can do for us. We draw strength from many external sources, and we tap deep into the Source that is the core of our very being.
I didn’t choose my grief journey three years ago in the same way my brother chose to train for this 100 mile race a year ago. But one thing we have in common is that we chose to do something that seems humanly impossible to many looking on from the outside. For my brother, it was a physical and mental accomplishment that inspires us all, and frankly makes us a bit awe-struck, right? We say thinks like, “I can’t even imagine doing that.” or “I wouldn’t have made it 5 miles!” or “I just can’t wrap my head around this?” or “How is this even possible?” And then we look on and watch someone do the thing we can’t even imagine, and are inspired that maybe just maybe, we too can do what feels impossible in our own lives..
So as I watched my brother train and race all this year leading up to this 100 mile run, I found myself feeling it deeply and personally, like a mirror was being held up to my face. For me the journey through grief has been the most intense emotional and spiritual experience of my life. There were times during the race that my brother felt like he might not make it. Pain, exhaustion, and physical challenges seemed momentarily insurmountable, but he had to dig down deep and go to that place in his mind of belief and confidence. He chose to shift his mind set, over and over again, moving each time closer to this goal of 100 miles.
I know this place. I’ve been there, over and over again. Willing myself to rise, willing myself to heal and keep moving forward when it felt impossible. Moment after moment, putting one foot in front of the other, believing in my ability to do what seemed impossible, learning when to rest and when to push hard, and reaching out to others on this journey with me for support. I’ve tagged my journey #griefisajourney since the beginning and as I watched my brother run, I saw myself in every picture, and I heard my own voice in his as he told me the tale of his unfathomable, seemingly impossible journey. The human body and soul are able to endure, rise above, and push through the deepest of challenges when we step into that place of belief.
This week my brother’s life threw a mirror up in front of my own. I learned long ago that when life throws a mirror up in front of me, I need to look deeply and allow myself to learn from it. I felt my spirit rise and my courage grow these past few days because I let myself look in the mirror of my brother’s journey and see a woman who has risen above and journeyed on, staying the course through her own unfathomable, seemingly impossible journey.
I was with you every moment, Joe.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu