10 months ago

Owning Our Good

 “So, what’s your club about?” The student reporter asked as she and her friends gathered around my desk to learn more about what this idea of the Run, Flow, Write club would involve. I explained that it would involve movement and journal writing as tools to help us navigate some of life’s challenges. “After all,” I concluded, “we all get a little stressed and could use a space to deal with those stresses.” The interviewer remarked that she thought it sounded like a good club and would like to participate, her friend replied, “This sounds like a good club for the suicidal kids.” The statement unnerved me a little bit because I knew that’s exactly the type of student I wanted to help, to provide a space that I would have needed when I was younger. Just as I promised myself at the age of sixteen, just hours after trying to hang myself, while my mom sat with me trying to understand what would make me want to hurt myself, I became the English teacher that I dreamed of being.

We walk along Richmond Street to Riverwards Cafe. This, our summer morning routine, to get coffee and chat about life, my friend, more like a little brother, Alex, and I talk about the fund raisers happening at Donna’s Bar, the establishment his family owns. He and I developed and implemented a plan for using karaoke, “Karaoke for a Cause”, to raise money for various charities in Philadelphia. As Alex credits me with their success, I speak about how these events would not have been possible without him. “Reg,” he says, “this was your idea. You’ve owned your shit. You have to own your good too.”

While I know I have to adjust to what he says, I know the adjustment will be difficult. It’s hard taking credit for the good while maintaining a sense of humility.

Over the last few months, more photos of me from runs have been showing up in my life. I look at them and feel a strong sense of admiration for this woman but I keep wondering who she is. I started running and unearthed a writing voice I had been seeking. When my breast cancer diagnosis unfolded, I registered to run a marathon. Four days after the surgery removed the lump and the lymph node, I strapped on sneakers and went out for a four mile run with a group. As I looked down the barrel of chemotherapy, I ran to come to terms with what putting poison into my body could do to it. I mapped out running courses and group runs with a promise to kick my own ass more than the poison would do. I ran through six weeks of radiation treatment throughout a humid summer. During a half marathon, I fell at mile 5, jumped up with my skinned knee, elbows and palms, and finished the course. I ran with groups, I ran with friends, I ran by myself, I just ran to get myself through what was happening. At some point, I had to acknowledge I was doing something good.

Here is what I’m learning about the process of “Owning the Good”:

Feel it and open up. I have a technique where I run, and then walk, with all parts of myself. I launch out on solo journeys with a question to God/universe: What do I need to know now? I just let whatever needs to come up arise. Perhaps I am feeling fear about what will come up in the future or good that I am close to completing a distance’s goal. I just go with it, acknowledge the feeling and then process it. This helps me let go of some negativity that arises as I create space where the new feelings, ownership of the good can happen.

Learn to let the old stories go so you can create room for the new ones. I’d read and heard this before but never found it easy to do. While out on these solo journeys, the notion became simpler. We don’t always want to tell or live with our broken hearted, cancer diagnosed, depressed teenager stories. Learn to let them go. Learn to rewrite the narrative so that you are comfortable talking about yourself more positively.

Learn to be curious. In order to keep ourselves humble, so that hubris does not set in and that “owning our good” doesn’t cause the ego to swell too big, just be curious about what comes next. Acknowledge that your world has gotten bigger, be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that show up.

Know that you have a responsibility to “Own Your Good”. If you always play small and maintain a self-effacing attitude, it does not benefit you or anyone around you. You won’t grow, neither will they. You need to claim your positive space in the world because you might just be the light that shines for others when they are in their darkness.