Bittersweet

Lately life has seemed to be a complex jumble of emotions. I rarely feel pure joy or pure sadness or pure anger, but rather a mix of different expressions of each all at once. I’ve loved the move Inside Out since it was released. Maybe you’ve seen it. It envisions a “headquarters” in the brain of the main character, Riley, where emotions, Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust take turns at the helm. But as the story progresses, they begin to work together instead of each fighting for control. Emotions and core memories begin to be both joy and sadness colored or both fear and disgust colored. The memory orbs are no longer purely one emotion and one color.

One of my favorite moments in cinematic history is in this movie. Riley has had a terrible day. She stands alone hugging herself and crying. She’s been unwilling to turn to her family for support, but in the end, with tear-filled eyes she allows her parents to hug her. The animation here is just beautiful because her furrowed brow and tear-streaked face don’t brighten into joy with the hug, but they do soften as she melts into her father’s embrace. Her face depicts both joy and sadness beautifully in that moment.

I know that moment well.

The moment when you feel both pain for your challenges in life and delight that someone sees you in your pain. The moment when you finally share the secret you’ve been keeping hidden away. The moment you acknowledge the loss and yet maintain hope.

I had one of those mixture moments this past weekend.

I have recently graduated from physical therapy after nearly a year of recovery and rehabilitation post foot surgery. My foot, Kenny, is healing, but he still has some work to do. I am doing my darndest to keep moving forward, so I asked my dad if he would walk a 5K with me (3.1 miles) as my at home “The Comeback Tour 5K” and he readily agreed. I knew that I could not run and that I only have one walking pace, but I wanted to see if I could do it. I was ready to cut myself some slack and reminded my heart that “new hardware meant new personal records” and I couldn’t expect too much out of Kenny. I wanted to walk a 5K in less than double the amount of time it took me to run it prior to injury.

So, we started walking. Kenny twinged some. My lungs worked. My body grew sore.

This was officially the longest I’d walked in 18 months. I remembered my wall of running hardware and thought about how many miles these feet have carried me, and yet this 3.1 mile loop had me working hard.

About 2/3 of the way through, I started to cry. I knew I’d finish the distance. I felt a great sense of accomplishment in my hard work through rehab and exercise, and staying sane through the madness of 2021. And I cried because my foot may never be the same. Kenny slows me down and limits me. I’ve always said I cried at almost every finish line and this one was no different. My mom and brother unrolled toilet paper across our driveway for me to walk through and I cried bittersweet tears of profound gratefulness, accomplishment, and loss.

I am grateful for my family for walking with me through the valleys of injury, surgery, recovery, and hope. I feel a great sense of accomplishment that I can walk unassisted for this distance and met my time goal because just a few months ago none of that would have been possible (see image above!) Yet, just as deeply, I feel a weighty sense of loss for what was once strong and healthy and now is forever different.

It was the Inside Out moment – tears and softness – pain and hope, all at once. The more I live the more I think this is the true reality of our lives. There are always mixed emotions and complications. The finish line still magically makes me cry, but for all new reasons.

Life is bitter, but it is also sweet.

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