I am running again. Three times a week I squeeze into Lycra, make sure I have music and a podcast on my phone, and set off. It’s been a long time since I’ve been out, and at first it hurt abominably. My body has got into some poor habits. I barely managed to keep running for the one-minute-long intervals.
Three weeks later, I’m running for three-minute intervals and my times are improving. It doesn’t feel easier – the one time I wore Tim’s heart rate monitor, I spent the entire duration in the Whoa, Death Approaches zone. But, is it possible? For me, of all people. Slowly and steadily, I think I am getting better.
Henry is learning to read. He has high-frequency words up all over the house, knows quite a few on sight and can spell out the rest. It’s still laborious work. He gets impatient with things he can’t master immediately (um, I wonder where he gets that from?). This morning we sat in the car before school, and his blue-green eyes roamed over the pictures for clues before settling to decipher the incomprehensible words. I watched him and tried to think back to a time when reading wasn’t as subconscious and effortless as breathing.
He got ‘they’. He got ‘said’. He got ‘Kipper’ and ‘glasses’. Despite progressing in what feels like terribly slow increments, I am amazed at how far he’s come. It’s a tiny miracle, learning to read. He’s working hard, and he’s getting better.
The world this morning felt very bleak. In my lifetime I have never known this country in the grip of such a vicious, cruel, divisive strain of politics. We have taken our cues from the party leaders, and become increasingly cutthroat in the way we talk to each other over Brexit. I make instant, unflattering judgements about the people voting on the opposite side to me. The discourse is angry and intolerant both on and offline. What has it done to us, this referendum we never really needed or asked for? Yesterday, a dedicated and compassionate politician, a mother of two young children, was stabbed and shot in the street. Here. Here.
There is one tiny spark of hope I can see in all this, one speck of potential in the wave of revulsion and horror that has followed Jo Cox’s murder. The prevailing mood seems to be that this is unimaginably wrong; this isn’t how we should be. We have gone too far. No one (that I have read) is saying with a sorrowful shake of the head that these things happen, that they can’t be prevented. They can be and they should be. We are more than this. We can do better.
If that’s the only place I can rest my hope for now, then here I stand. The general, optimistic truth that with persistence, people get better. If just one person at a time is willing to put in the work to be kind, to embrace diversity and civility and compassion, to call out intolerance where they see it, then we all get better by degrees.
I will put in the work. I will teach my children to put in the work. We are human, and humans can be better.
It is such a very small hope. It feels so inadequate for the tragedy of yesterday. But it’s all I have for the moment.