Life can spin you around like you’re on a tire swing until you finally get so dizzy and fall off.
But then you still have to stand back up and walk away.
Unfortunately, I’ve been dealing with kidney stone issues for quite some time now. It’s pretty annoying. Last Thursday, I found myself in the ER because one of those renegade stones left my kidney, and it was a pain I really couldn’t bear. I’m not good at describing pain, so I’ll use the comparison a doctor once gave me when I asked him why it hurts so badly: It’s like one of those stickers you find in the grass (apparently also called grass burrs) going down a super thin tube that it’s too big for and clawing and stretching it as it goes.
Basically, it makes you want to die.
Even though I had signed up to race the Cowtown half marathon, I had known for a while that I wouldn’t be able to run it. My sister was signed up for the full, so I told her I would run the last part of it with her, because those are tough miles to endure—both mentally and physically—and it’s nice to have someone run them with you. But after Thursday, I wasn’t even completely sure I was going to be able to. To be honest, though, I’d do anything for my sister, so maybe I was actually running with her regardless.
I was rather drained on Friday and groggy from the meds and whatnot, so I spent pretty much the entire day on my sofa. After all, my boss had banned me from coming to work by sending me a text that said, “You are not allowed at the office.” (I’m actually thankful he did, though, because I was pretty useless all day.) I didn’t do much on Saturday other than go to church with my friend Bonnie and babysit my sweet niece. I felt I had rested enough and would be fine by Sunday.
It’s a different feeling being on the other side of cheering at a race, but I really enjoyed being able to go to different locations with my brother-in-law to cheer on my sister. I could seriously talk for days about how proud I am of her—being able to see her accomplish something she’s been working toward for months made me happier than any race I could have run that day. The marathon is no joke, though, and I knew those last miles were going to be a battle.
When I joined her somewhere between miles 20 and 21, she had the look on her face that a lot of people who decide to run marathons get—the one that says “WHY THE HELL DID I THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?!” She told me she was going to die. It’s kind of challenging to motivate someone at the end of a marathon. On the one hand, you want to help her achieve her goal, but on the other hand, she probably wants to kill you for saying the things you’re saying to her when you haven’t been running for multiple hours already.
What I realized while running with my sister Sunday was that I needed her during those miles just as much as she needed me—because she reminded me what it means to fight when you aren’t sure you want to fight anymore.
Life is kind of like a marathon in a lot of ways. Or maybe it’s a lot of different marathons. Either way, it can be a true struggle at times, and there are moments when you want to give up on situations or on people when you really need to keep fighting. You need to keep believing. You need to keep hoping. You need to keep running. (And, yes, I did once tell her to “just keep swimming” like Dory.) Part of me wanted to cry when she told me, “I listened to everything you said. I pushed hard up the hills,” and then when I got to see her battle the last few hills of the race.
She was hurting so much, but she wasn’t about to give up—because she knew it was worth every single bit of pain, every single tear, every single curse word, every single mile, every single bead of sweat, and every single moment of exhaustion.
My sister is two years younger than I am, but I look up to her in so many ways. She’s taught me so much about life and how to trust and how to love, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have her by my side for the 30 years she’s been alive. Even when I think I’m supposed to be helping her, she’s actually helping me more than she’ll ever know.
At one point in the race, she said to me, “Nat, I’m falling apart.” I told her that she wasn’t, but I know exactly how she felt. Whether it’s a marathon or kidney stones or relationship stuff or work or financial troubles or family matters or a multitude of other things, it can be easy to start to feel like you’re falling apart in so many ways. It can also be easy to throw in the towel in those moments.
But those are the times you have to find the fight within and believe you can survive—I personally like to sing Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” or my homegirl Mariah Carey’s “Through the Rain.”
When my sister crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help but throw my arms around her. She did it. She trained for months, she fought through the pain, and she crossed that line with the kind of grit that I hope I can have in all areas of my life. You should have seen the look on her face and the way she immediately started fighting even harder when we saw and heard my mom right before the finish line. And then she saw my dad and her husband and dug even more deeply.
Because genuine love really helps people during their toughest moments.