On Getting Back to Normal


This is a post that I started writing after my 24-hour race back in October. The words came rushing back to me in the wake of this weekend’s tragic events in Paris.

In the days following my first ultra-marathon, people watched me closely. Is she limping? Does it still hurt? When can you run again?

I, myself, stepped gingerly out of bed each day, testing the ground, seeing which muscles responded in protest. Within three days the soreness was gone. Within a week, the emotional stress of that long cold night, had lifted. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Back to normal.

And today, as we enter the 5th day post-attacks, we’re all asking the same questions.

‘When will it be safe to run at night, again?’ asked one friend. ‘Today/ never?’ I replied.

When will we stop holding our breath every time we hear a siren? When will we go back to being simply annoyed by the sound; screaming ta gueule at the noise?

A bunch of us hold theatre tickets for a comedy show this evening. Do we go? The comedienne has decided to confirm her show. I can’t pretend to know the personal debate she must have entered into, but I imagine the conclusion went something like this:

Laughter is the best defense against fear. Art is an answer to ‘how do we move forward’.

We have to keep laughing, we have to keep acting, to keep writing, to keep making music, to keep practising l’art de vivre.

Do I feel relaxed about sitting, ‘confined’ in a theatre? Of course I don’t.

Can I relax, carefree and blissfully unaware ‘exposed’ on a café terrace? No, not right now.

Am I going to do it anyway? Yes.

Not because I am brave, I am not.

Not because I am reckless, I am not.

But because I believe in art. I believe in red wine, and café terraces. I believe in words and conversations and especially, because I believe in Paris. Because I have known her healing powers. I have seen how she endures.

But as with the ultra-race, we have to go through the motions to get to the magic.

I don’t believe that we can go back, nor do I think ‘normal’ should be the goal. We can only move forward, in the hope; misguided, blind or otherwise; of better. Not of ‘finding’ better, but of creating it.


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