Monday, November 21, 2011

Moving On, Or Not

"You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming."
-Frank Shorter

I can't seem to let this go. The moment I finished New York I told myself "never again." Which is really sensible. Out of the 4 marathons I have now run, 2 were excruciatingly heart breaking. It is like someone who has a knack for finding bad love or tainted sushi. You would think it would only take once to cure you. This particular disease has a poor prognosis, though, evidenced by the fact that I signed up for another blessed marathon.

Home is nice, and I do feel content with our decision to stay. But the realities of day to day existence do seem to be eager to declare themselves since we decided not to move on. Currently, night shift has a few things to say, like "I really couldn't care less about your headache and nausea. Here are 5 admissions." Actually, the ER doctor said the last part and I just felt sorry for myself and thus injected the cold indifference, which is how I picture Night Shift to be if animate. Cold and indifferent.

On nights, even when working with your own ailments, your self-pity dissolves fairly quickly as you witness the much-worse suffering of those you are treating. This happens in marathons too, actually. Someone is always suffering more or battling a greater problem (lack of limbs, blindness, extreme age) (I mean I think I even saw some 43 year olds out there on the course). So with night shifts and marathons, whining is usually abruptly replaced with chagrin.

Today I ran in the rain in the redwood forest. Home. It is padded with redwood droppings right now, which is like running on pillows. The post-marathon period allows for practicing mindful running. Just allow the body to heal and while doing so, notice the smell of redwoods in the rain, dodge the mud and banana slugs, and plot your next race. Hmmm, I do not suppose plotting the future is very mindful. I am an imperfect meditator at best, and an obsessive future-planner at worst.

As I move on, I find myself simultaneously settling more deeply into the patterns that sustain me. As I move on, I am finding clarity of purpose. Love, imperfection, doctoring, piano, and awareness of what is here, now.  And what is coming on May 6, 2012.

Monday, November 7, 2011


I have felt particularly diminished in recent weeks. If I were a chord, I'd be a diminished 7th, with a certain ache and sadness. Maybe kind of Gershwinesque, which is appropriate as I sit here in New York City. Obviously, one can't help but feel small in NY. Though quaint compared to some of the cities we visited in China, this city is still big by my standards. Big in every way.

It is especially big when you are running all over it, from borough to borough then back to the borough you were in before, then to a different borough and finally landing in Central Park which is so endless at that point in a marathon that you feel like those kids who got shrunk accidentally by their Dad in that one movie, where a foot becomes a mile and a mile becomes something akin to what Don Giovanni experienced at the end of the opera we attended tonight. Which, to be exact, is the mouth of hell. That guy was unapologetic to the end, and I don't believe he ever felt small.

I feel small, not really just because NY is so big and the crush of humanity so absolute. I actually enjoy the crowds and the constant chatter and the odd shops and the staggeringly normal diversity that defines this city perhaps more than any other.

I had a heartbreaking, disappointing, physically impossible marathon. Cruised well for 20 miles, then my legs cramped without mercy and there was nothing that could've let me run faster than a tortoise on Ativan for the rest of the race. Just like that, over. Meticulous training, best shape of my life, all for the worst marathon. The marathon is big. I am small. Best laid plans, blah blah blah.

I turned away from a glamorous job offer this week as well. My practical Mom side won the battle. Glamorous job offers are big. I am small.

In the midst of my pity party (now would be the time to put that violin back in your pocket), I keep finding some kernels of beauty and goodness. That opera, for instance. The gaggle of lovely teenagers on the 2 Train to Brooklyn at midnight. The golden friends with whom I've shared food and drink in the last several days. The Statue of Liberty at 5:45 am, torch lit, viewed from the ferry. The gorgeous Austrian men I drafted for the first 12 miles of the marathon, who (upon noticing the young woman in front of us with a prosthetic leg running in a particularly congested area) without a word to each other joined hands and formed a shield around the young Vet of one of our recent and ongoing wars until we came to a less hectic part of the marathon route. Precious time alone with my husband.

I believe true enlightenment requires a complete letting go of the self. Smallness is just the starting point on the path to nothingness. And the nothingness we dare not seek may hold everything precious in the Universe.

Still, glamour is nice. And I deserved a 3:20 marathon. Take that, stupid Universe.