Living Out of Our Depths

20 Jan

“I don’t think it is always necessary to talk about the deepest and most private dimension of who we are, but I think we are called to talk to each other out of it, and just as importantly to listen to each other out of it, to live out of our depths as well as our shallows.” -Frederick Buechner

My last blog post was about burying the pain.  Or, more precisely, not burying the pain. Which is fitting because this weekend brought up lots of painful and prickly parts I wasn’t quite prepared to deal with.

First, there was an accident at my local Crossfit throwdown, where a large guy holding a 235 lb barbell in the front rack position held it to close to his windpipe (according to his partner) and passed out.  When he passed out, he fell backwards, onto the guy I was judging in my lane who was maybe half the size.  So tiny kid ended up on the floor with his legs bent behind him touching his butt, and two 235 lb barbells on top of him (one on his neck, one on his core) as well as a large guy.  Both of them appear to be fine, maybe a knee ligament tear.  The time it took for them to get the barbells off, check out that they weren’t paralyzed, call the EMTs, etc. seemed to take an hour.  It took me 9 hours to fully stop shaking.

Why?  I think part of it can be traced back to the Boston bombings – athletic event, people in pain, unexpected loud noises. And part of it can be traced back to my shame guilt  whatever emotion it is that makes me think I should have done something. Since I was the closest.  Either to prevent it OR immediately after to fix it.  Same with the suicide I saw happen – I still wake up some nights thinking I should have known what that stranger was going to do, or just run a little faster and smiled at her, or jumped in the water after her.  Intellectually, I know that none of these accidents had anything to do with me. And I don’t really have a superhero complex and think its my responsibility.

Living out of my depths means acknowledging that somehow, after years of being the tough little kid who didn’t cry and wasn’t ticklish, I transformed into an adolescent/adult who does experience hurt and pain. Thank God I’m still not ticklish. And I care about other people’s hurt and pain, too. Maybe that’s a normal progression into adulthood?

“We are all of us adolescents, painfully growing and groping our way toward something like true adulthood, and maybe the greatest value we have both to teach and to learn as we go is the value of what Walter Brueggeman calls amazement – the capacity to be amazed at the unending power that can be generated by the meeting and trading of lives, which is a power to heal us and bless us and in the end maybe even to transform us into truly human beings at last.”

The second incident that happened was that I read a book called The Art Forger over the past two weeks.  It was a fun read – set in Boston with places I am very familiar with, based on the true art heist at the Isabelle Stewart Gardner museum (a few blocks from my apartment) which is the largest unsolved art heist in history.  The book was about the forgery of the famous Degas picture After the Bath that was stolen.  I like art, I like Degas, I like forgery, I like reading about crime and it all reminded me of the tv show White Collar, which didn’t hurt either.

But there was one character, named Nancy Sinsheimer, that kept rubbing me the wrong way.  As in, the first time I read that name, I had a physical reaction.  I got tense and cold. It took me a while to figure out why.  That was the last name of the defense attorney in the trial I was in this summer.  (I know, I know, I swear I’m moving on, really.)  I’m sure he’s a fine person but he was quite a bulldog, rude to the police officers, rude to us jurors, treated us like unintelligent babies most of the time.  His antics and tactics were probably par for the course when it comes to criminal defense lawyers but it wasn’t an act that I appreciated.

Boston is a small city. Really.  Because I reached the end of the book, and saw that the author personally thanked this particular lawyer for his help in writing her book.  Then it dawned on me – she had clearly used his last name in her novel in order to honor him.  It made me mad. Mad that I hadn’t figured that out earlier. Mad that being an adult means accepting that there are people I don’t like who other people will be best friends with.  Mad that I can’t even read a random book without it triggering a reminder of a trial I would like to move on from. Mad that in some way, reading and enjoying that book, meant reading and enjoying something that he had helped create.

So I spent today choosing to live full of amazement.  The meeting and trading of lives.  Embracing the power and joy in humans being human but also humans being good.

  • The woman offering a Charlie Card to my friend on the bus who had lost hers.
  • Seeing a friend do her first kipping pull-up.
  • Remembering the judge in the lane next to me on Saturday squeezing my shoulder whenever he passed and making sure I was clear of the area before his athlete lifted anything heavy.  His speech on “We’ll watch each other’s backs, this won’t happen again” which calmed me down.
  • The coworker/Crossfit friend who gave me a paleo pizza (grain-free) recipe which tastes just as good as real pizza.  (In case you don’t understand how happy this makes me, after my initial bite, I wanted to bike to his house and hug and kiss him…to thank him for a pizza recipe.  Yep. It was that good.)
  • Baby Hudson’s huge smile when he saw me.  His sign language of “please” which can roughly be translated as “Put me down, Daddy! I need her to hold me right now!”
  • The man in the grocery store letting the elderly woman go ahead of him in line because she looked tired and taxed.
  • My coach keeping an eye on a very packed Crossfit class today, ensuring everyone had space so no one got trampled by a barbell. Maybe no one else cared…but I did.
  • A friend teaching me how to wrap my Rogue wrist wraps correctly. Especially when he incorporated the phrase “wax on, wax off” which gets me every time.

Maybe I’ve had it all wrong. Maybe it’s not the bombings and the suicides and the barbell accidents in life that make us who we are. Maybe the pain is only one piece of our depths, not the whole ocean.

Maybe its this

the shoulder squeeze
the gift of a Charlie card
the perfect pizza recipe
a baby’s smile and unfiltered want
a grocery store Boy Scout
a considerate coach
a helpful friend

that transform us into truly human beings.


One Response to “Living Out of Our Depths”

  1. s January 21, 2014 at 7:21 am #

    Beautifully expressed, Liz. The gamut of emotions here is ocean-wide.

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