The Only Way Out

The only way out is through. I’ve been familiar with that truism for so long that it almost always springs to mind when I learn of someone who’s going through a difficult time. Whether physical, emotional, social, or spiritual, people just want to be “done.” They want the pain, uneasiness, anxiety, heartache, trauma, or ____________ to end. But it’s not that easy. Like Frost says, “I can see no way out but through.” 

And you have to get through. That’s where the good stuff is—the light, the victory, the prize, the A, the blue ribbon, the accomplishment, the baby, the increased confidence.

Last week we went on a triple date to see Midway. Afterwards we went to Top Dawg at Sandhills to discuss the movie over a late lunch. I kept thinking about a scene that had impressed me and tentatively mentioned it to the five at the table, tentatively because I thought they might think it was sappy or sentimental.  

Dick Best, a dive bomber, is leaving for Midway and having a conversation with his gunner who is scared stiff of what might lie ahead. Best seems annoyed with the young man and heads toward the exit. But then he stops, turns around, and speaks his truth. He tells the gunner that he can stay right there on the ship if he wants to, but that later he’ll remember the moment when he decided to let his fear prevent him from fulfilling part of his destiny. He’ll remember that while others were fighting for their country, he was sitting below deck nursing his dread and succumbing to panic. 

Those weren’t exactly Best’s words, but that’s the gist of his remarks. His gunner suits up. The following scenes are traumatic and terrifying. And yet, what could the men do? The only way out was through. 

Everyone in the booth at Top Dawg agreed that the scene taught a powerful lesson. One of the men went so far as to say that was one of the most important things for all people to consider when they think of quitting, turning away, giving up, or taking the path of least resistance. Although the scene portraying the conversation between Best and his gunner took less a minute, it made me realize that a person’s life could be turned around by hearing the right words from the right person at the right time.

I’ll never fly a bombing mission…too old—and a fraidy cat to boot. But like everyone reading this, I’ve realized the truth of The only way out is through many times.

One incident took place early one August morning when I was in labor with my first child. The pains became increasingly unpleasant (understatement) and closer together, and I turned toward my husband and said, “I don’t think I can do this any longer.” It’s been decades, but as well as I can recall, he didn’t say anything, just gave me a helpless look. I mean really, what could he or anyone else in the room say? I was in it for the duration. There was no backing out. The only way out was through.

My first beautiful daughter was born about four hours later–a miracle, a treasure, a delight well worth any discomfort.

When younger, my brothers and I participated in a few marathons and half-marathons. In fact, the baby mentioned in the above paragraph signed up for a Team in Training Marathon for the Leukemia Society. It was to take place in Alaska on June 21, and it sounded like a fun thing to do. I registered. So did about four dozen other people from the Myrtle Beach area. We went to motivational lectures, walked/jogged/ran with our would-be marathoners, and had yard sales and other fundraisers to collect the $3,200 (each) to participate. The fee paid for airfare to and from Anchorage and two-night accommodations, and the rest went toward leukemia research.

There were times, especially when jogging along what seemed to be endless miles of Army tank trails, when I felt like quitting. But where would I go? The Red Cross was always nearby to whisk weary or wounded people to the end for medical help. But sheesh, how could I embarrass myself like that? The only way out was through.

Even now, nearly twenty-five years later, I can still recall a small clearing near a bridge where water and fresh bread were being distributed. I’ve never tasted water so fresh nor bread so satisfying. Nor have I forgotten the sounds of cheering as we crossed the finish line in a high school parking lot six hours after my first step. 

This blog has gone on far too long. It’s your turn to share an instance of the only way out is through. I like success stories, but stories in which people give up are welcome, too.

“Talk is Cheap, Jaynie”

On Facebook, I often see invitations to “post this” if you’ve ever lost someone to cancer. I’ve lost someone to cancer, but I haven’t reposted the invitation. I’m not sure why except that maybe I have the feeling my mother wouldn’t approve. She’d question the purpose of it and remind me that, “Talk is cheap, Jaynie.”

Old Cooper River Bridge

On Facebook, I often see invitations to “post this” if you’ve ever lost someone to cancer. I’ve lost someone to cancer, but I haven’t reposted the invitation.  I’m not sure why except that maybe I have the feeling my mother wouldn’t approve. She’d question the purpose of it and remind me that, “Talk is cheap, Jaynie.” She always called me Jaynie when she was in a happy mood, and that’s the way I’m imagining her right now. I have to imagine her because she’s no longer a physical presence in my life, not since we lost her to cancer over ten years ago.

Last week when I registered for the Cooper River Bridge Run, I donated a small amount to the American Cancer Society. It wasn’t much, a pittance really, but every little bit counts, right? Still, I didn’t feel all that magnanimous about it, and I went to Scott Park for a walk. While there, I saw a young African American woman wearing a “Bridge” t-shirt from a past year, and I asked whether she was going to participate in the Bridge Run this year.

“No, I doubt it. I’m putting all of my energy into training for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure walk in Atlanta,” she replied.

“Is that sort of like the Avon walk?” I asked.

“Sort of. You walk a total of 60 miles over a three day period,” she said with a smile.

“60 miles??? In three days?? What’s the entry fee?”

Without hesitation, she informed me that it was $2,300.

“Wow,” I said, standing there staring at her in awe. I then went on to tell her that my daughter Carrie and I went with about 45 people from the Grand Strand to Alaska in 1996 to participate in a marathon, my first. Every participant had to raise $3,500 (if I recall correctly), and after the plane tickets and hotel accommodations were taken care of, the rest went to leukemia research. We were part of the Team-in-Training program, and it was an awesome experience. Everyone wore a hospital bracelet with the name of a patient, someone they were running/jogging/walking for, as a reminder of the purpose of the event.

“It was so hard to raise all that money,” I whined. “We had yard sales, wrote letters, washed cars, begged people…you name it, we did it.”

“But you did it, right? You did it. You raised the money and went to Anchorage, right?”

“Right.  And that’s what you need to remember. You can do it!”

Smiling still, she said, “And so can you.”

I asked her a few more questions, and when we parted company, I had pretty much made up my mind to register for the 3-Day in Atlanta in October. I even said, “Hey, maybe I’ll see you on Peachtree Street,” as we parted.

And I’m going to do it, Folks. If my left knee holds out, if I can find the time to train, if I can stay motivated, and if I can raise the money, I’ll be there.

Speaking of money, I’m not a math person like my sister is, but I can do a few basic computations, and I know that if 46 friends contribute $50, I’ll have it. If 92 friends contribute $25, I’ll have it. Carrie and Rich have already committed a pledge to the cause. Why? Because Carrie loved her Granny, and she wants to do her part to fight the Big C that took her grandmother’s life.

I’m probably going to register in the morning. I’ll let you know when I do, and then I’ll start asking for contributions. Giving money involves more than posting on FB, and as my mother would often say, “Talk is cheap.” You know, I can just see her smiling about now.