I've been thinking a lot lately about relativity. Not so much physics and Einstein, though I guess that's where the idea comes from. More along the lines of our experiences in life, how they are intertwined and how relative they are to one another. I find that most experiences grow or shrink relative to others. Having a baby the second time seemed easier because I'd already been through the experience once. Not to say that my two children are alike, they aren't, but the process of having the baby - dealing with the nighttime feedings, the rashes, the temper tantrums - it was all easier to bear because I'd been through it.
Similarly, running 5 or 6 miles didn't seem like much once I started running 18 for marathon training. Doing National Novel Writing Month is like that, too. When I wrote my first book, I was happy to write 1000 words in a day and I usually did that 4 or 5 days a week. It took me about 9 months to complete the book and that seemed appropriate to me - lots of people speak of writing books as birthing them. But when I signed up for NaNo, I knew I needed to up the ante quite a bit - 1666 words every day. And I did it for about 8 days. Then when my grandmother died and I just couldn't write, I fell quite a bit behind. I calculated that I had to write over 2000 words a day if I was to dig myself out of the hole. Suddenly 1666 per day seemed like a breeze!
What hit me was our capacity as human beings to grow into the space we are given. Before I wrote that first book, I didn't think I could complete a book. When I joined NaNoWriMo, I wasn't sure I could keep up that pace. But I'm doing it. When I trained for a marathon, I didn't think I could run 26.2 miles in a row. But I did it. So what amazes me is not the doing of the thing so much as the growth that comes from stretching myself, pushing past where I've been before. And then finding out that I'm stronger than I thought.
Monday was a rough day. The husband of my son's babysitter had died suddenly and I attended the funeral, which of course brought up fresh memories of burying my grandmother just 10 days prior. I felt sad for our babysitter and for myself. Then I received an email from a work colleague who shared that her dear friend was undergoing open heart surgery. His heart had been damaged by his leukemia treatment. He's not yet in his mid-30's. Feeling helpless, my friend asked for us to keep this young man in our thoughts and prayers. In the moment it took to read the email, my life was right-sized again.
My day wasn't rough relative what this man has experienced over the last two years. I doubt that he would have predicted that he had the strength to endure what he's endured over and over again, not because he isn't strong but because it's been a tremendously difficult journey. But by some grace, he has found the strength. My friend received word that he made it through the surgery just fine and that he would be out of the ICU in time for Thanksgiving.
I don't know if he feels stronger or weaker after his surgery, relative to what he has experienced before. But I know that I feel more grateful on this Thanksgiving, relative to the loss I experienced recently. Grateful for family, friends, health, a good sense of humor and a 'relatively' sound mind. Happy Thanksgiving!