The Only Way Out Is Through

Anna-Maria - Holyoke, Massachusetts
Entered on February 10, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe that the only way out is through.

I began to believe it when my father died. Hours, days, weeks, I counted the minutes I had lived with that awful fact, and as they added up, I began to think I might survive. I made it this far already, what’s another couple of weeks, months, years?

I clung to the idea like a mantra during my labor with my daughter. There is quite literally no other way out right now, I remember thinking. Toward the end, I found myself smiling as I did one of the hardest things I’ll probably ever do. There can be joy in being in the middle of making it through.

I forgot it during those first few weeks in the post-partum haze that threatened to pull me under — it is why I almost went under, in fact. Once I remembered, I was OK. I remembered it because I went back to karate. Karate is hard. Sometimes making it through a class it in act of will, the hour and a half stretching out like a physical tunnel I have to travel.

Each of these experiences — death, birth, hard work — is a touchstone, a reminder that I have survived something difficult before, and that each of those things has tempered me, made me more compassionate and wiser. I made it through before, and I will make it through again — and I will emerge stronger, calmer, better.

And so, this spring I will think it again with every step I take up the mile-long hill of the 10 kilometer race I run every year, as the whole endeavor begins to take on a luminescent, unreal cast and things go swimmy before my eyes. I will punctuate my mantra with a few expletives for good measure, and the sheer cussedness of the whole situation will appeal to my grim sense of humor and carry me to the top.

After the crest, the rest is endorphins, and the only way to the finish line is through that incredible rush of bliss that just goes and goes and goes.