39. Love. One of my favorite Tupac lines was always “last year was a tough one, but life goes on” – it always feels true. I turned 38 during a tough time in my life. My career was going well, my personal and professional relationships were solid, my kid was healthy and happy and my marriage was a good one. I should have been content. I was still in shock from a national election that seemed to foreshadow a dark future. It was a reminder that the past was not past.
I ran ten miles on my birthday that year because I hoped that I could outrun what was starting to feel like more than a standard post-election funk. There was a quote from an old Radiolab podcast that stuck in my mind – “if love and mercy are good things, why are they missing so much of the time?” I found myself listening to Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker on runs. When he referenced the binding of Isaac in the chorus “Hineni, Hineni, I’m ready Lord”, I was moved. I was ready to serve, but felt lost.
The running worked for a little while, but I didn’t really start to feel better until family came by for Thanksgiving. Cooking and talking to my extended family helped me feel balanced. I shared the story from the podcast with my family – how Robert Krulwich struggled with the meaning of the sacrifices that Abraham and Noah were asked to make in God’s name, about how much can be read into the silences of the Old Testament narratives. I told them that we all needed to find that love and mercy in one another. We were all we had. In the months that followed, the reactionary resurgence in this country was met by a wave of progressive activism led by an awe inspiring range of people from different backgrounds and cultures, with different experiences and gender identities, from a wide range of groups that could be defined as ‘left’. There have been a number of setbacks, but there have been some hopeful moments. I’m not under any illusion. The next few years will be extraordinarily difficult and we will all have to endure some challenging times. But we’ve got a chance.
I ran 11 miles this year for my birthday run. I originally planned to run to the veterans memorials on Long Wharf to briefly pay my respects, but I just felt compelled to keep going. I only stopped when my phone flashed a signal to inform me that it had 10% battery life and was going to shut down. It felt different this time. I felt content. I didn’t have anything to outrun.