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  • jeniferfoster2


Monday was an interesting day. I had a fairly intense therapy session with a client, went for a nice long walk and went out with some friends. It was a good day.

I love long walks (long dives, long bike rides, long swims, and when I was in shape, long runs). It always gives me the room I need for my brain to breathe and ignite. I don’t know whether it is the dirty air being pushed through and allowing for something fresh, being outside, or just having space. I seem to really need this time though. I feel better for it. I think it is almost a form of meditation. It’s allowing thoughts and feelings to come in, sit for a while, and leave. Overall, I find it calming.

Yesterday when I was walking, I decided I wanted to add in a couple of sprints. I haven’t run in a really long time, and thus I wasn’t really wanting to do a real run. However, after the therapy session I had, I needed a release that walking was just not going to provide. Now, don’t get me wrong. These weren’t long. I walked about six miles, and probably did about four 100-yard sprints. But, it did the job. It helped get my heartrate up and the emotions of the session worked their way out.

An interesting thing happened during this walk. I realized that because I decided to do my short sprints, the time between sprints, I was just thinking about the next sprint versus my mind wandering as it normally does. This has gotten me thinking about life, pain/suffering and coping. I started wondering whether pain is more tolerable if it’s time-limited, or if we know the time-frame versus not? Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m about to delve into some of the most excruciating life events. I am not by any means comparing my short sprints (or work-life) to those events. It just happened to be the vehicle that led my brain to think about it.

I started briefly by thinking about myself and work. My sister used to say that she felt I’d work until I was exhausted, and then I’d go on vacation. She told me at one point that my vacations seemed to be what I was living for. I have to say, in my brain, I didn’t view it that way. I really loved the work. However, I did find it exhausting; and usually, by the time I got to vacation, I would need a couple of days to get in the mind-set of taking a break and enjoying the vacation. I also tend(ed) (this isn’t fully past-tense) to enjoy unplugging – quite literally – from phones, internet, accessibility. One of the most relaxing vacations I ever took was my first trip to Costa Rica, in days when internet still required internet cafes and before the days that I had a cell phone that I constantly carried. It felt so nice to not be hen-pecked by constant responsibilities. I think we forget sometimes just how truly draining having emails, texts, phone calls, and social media constantly binging is. Our brains (and ears, and eyes) need a break!

But, was work bearable because I knew I was getting a break? Do we need those pauses to remind us that we can keep going? This got me to thinking about the human body, and our ability to endure, and what it also takes for us to grow.

I have read two vastly different books on the Holocaust: “Night” by Elie Wiesel and “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. The tenor of these books are quite different, but it begs the question – how do you experience so much death and devastation without becoming hopeless? Or, if one contemplates slavery or torture or being a soldier in a war... what gives some the fortitude to be able to bear it, while others seemingly cannot? Does someone need to find meaning in the suffering, or do they simply have to see (and believe) in a life beyond the pain?

A close friend of mine grew up in DC in the nineties. He explained that it was a very difficult time in this city – there was significant poverty, crime and drug use. He told me that part of what made it easier for him was because he lived near a university. He said he could see the hope in the students’ eyes, and it made him want a life outside of the life he was seeing every day.

Another loosely related issue is that in exercise, studies (at least this is what I’ve read recently) show that a person should engage in interval training in order to become for cardio vascularly fit. Thus, the article I was reading, proposed that if a person simply went out and repetitively did a long distance run, their fitness would plateau; however, with intervals, a person will get the benefits of a workout for a longer period of time, and after less work-out time.

And, what is the point of this long rambling? Maybe to get through suffering, we need to ensure that we can see the time-limited nature of the event? Maybe we need to see people who are feeling better (and or healthier) than we are? Maybe we need to see the possible benefits in our suffering? Maybe we need to find meaning in it. But, if we can compare exercise, in some ways, we need periods of suffering in our lives in order to grow and develop (and maybe appreciate). The challenge, of course, is to not get stuck in the suffering. The challenge is to not stay angry, or bitter, or sad. That is the hardest part.

I think one of the most challenging aspects of the pandemic for me personally, was not really knowing how long it might last. I could handle the fact I was stuck indoors mostly. I could handle not seeing anyone for long periods of time. I could handle the boredom, the anxiety, the fear. But, I was going a bit stir-crazy wondering how long this would last. I know other people had other concerns. For some, the fear got to be too much. For others, worrying about loved ones was overwhelming. I think I broke this concern by going somewhere else. But, until then, it was almost like listening to water drip into a can for hours. It slowly ripped at my sanity. My client described being in a war zone to me. He said it was a constant dull pressure. From moment to moment it didn’t hurt, but over time, it became unbearable.

So, how have you gotten through the challenging aspects of your life? What helped? If you had to experience it again, would you do anything differently? What would you tell your younger self? Final thought – if all of us suffer, why do we feel we have to do it privately? Why don’t more people ask for help?

“There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of murder; robberies that leave man or woman for ever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer -- committed to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen by no writing except that made on the face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into no human ear.” George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

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Jul 20, 2023
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Jul 22, 2023
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