Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Paths, Pathos, Pathology

As I slowly get back into shape after some time away from running, I find myself choosing my paths carefully. Recovering from injury, I am craving softness, not concrete. Recovering from a cold that made my lungs feel like their very soul had been sucked out of them, I find the hills of my forest daunting. It is the thing my coach used to call "sucking air" that has humbled me into seeking straight, flat, gentle paths on which to run. Today, that was around and around the spongy soft green fields of our local community center and gym. It earned me time alone with my iPod, and a nice wave from the groundskeeper, whom I have known since our kids were tykes and used to hang out with each other.

Meanwhile, I also find myself, having recently celebrated my day of birth (in bed, with soul-sucking cold), at a crossroads. Or maybe 5 crossroads, which makes for a very complicated and confusing intersection. God only knows which way I should turn, and although I've asked for maybe just a small clue, so far no mystical road signs have appeared.

I do notice that my desire for truth and clarity is at an all time high. Otherwise put, my bullshit threshold is at an all time low. Doctors (and piano students) are notoriously people pleasers. We live for being told we are doing well. Ironically pathological, if one stops to think about it for a moment.

Things I have learned in my 43 years:
-You can't please anyone, particularly between the ages of 11-15 and if their name is followed by the letters "M.D."
-Heartbreak abounds
-Music, running, and good company helps
-If you stand up suddenly or do the Valsalva, the murmur of Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy will be accentuated.

I cannot seem to find exactly the most pleasing path in life, so I might choose more than one, such as:
a long walk in France
a long trail run
a long shot

One thing for sure: next week I am taking a long vacation.
Well, really only 5 days, but with my husband, to celebrate 20 years on this path together.

"Wing": is it about not needing people at all or is it about not needing people to validate you? Or is it about life after death? Or freedom in the moment of letting go of all that ails you?
These questions would leave Patti Smith in hysterics, I am sure.

Oh, something else I HAVE learned:
Johnny Depp can play the guitar. And he has nice forearms.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Balance, and Other Windmills

My Dad (right) and friend, circa long ago

"I have nothing to say
 I am saying it, and that is poetry,
 as I needed it."
-John Cage

I am not now, nor will I ever be a minimalist. I believe I am a romantic. I am unreasonably expansive between moments of painful introversion. I think if one can run a mile, they can run 100 miles. I think Beethoven is sublime and Shostakovich subtly rebellious. I state the obvious, then say it again. I read books multiple times and I nag my children over and over about the same things. My bedside is piled high with books, and my desk with papers. I detest clutter yet cannot function without it. And I believe barefoot and minimalist shoes runners have some kind of magical superpowers. However, it turns out I need Shoes, with a capital S.

I was going to run the Prefontaine 10K this weekend, as I will be in Coos Bay anyway driving XC kids to their meet. But thanks to my Nike frees (super cute, super light) I am sidelined with injury. Oh, I will run again and soon, but this being the 3rd time I have tried minimalist shoes and hurt myself, I am starting to wonder about my judgment. Though in my heart I think it is more a sign of my undying devotion to this sport and my belief that deep inside I am really an 85 pound Kenyan marathoner.

Recently a friend of mine took up running, and has become quite good at it. He has invited me to share my running data on Strava. My quest for simplicity may not mesh with strapping my Garmin watch on and keeping track of every detail, then sharing it on line. Also, I get roped into running faster than intended when my watch keeps telling me my current pace, looking at me with its cold, judgmental, heartless watch face. It punishes me whenever I stop to tie a shoe or snap a photo with my iPhone, telling me my pace is slower than molasses, prompting me to speed up until it looks like I am running reasonably fast, only to find out when it recalibrates at the next mile that I am now breaking the world record marathon pace. Which is both maddening and reassuring, because:
1) I am using the watch to try to keep my pace in check, not push it to the point of ridiculous
2) I was starting to wonder if I was having a heart attack.

I do suppose I will sign up for Strava. For one thing, I am a sucker for data. Also, I love having goals. Plus, I am repeatedly humiliated by this particular friend when playing Words with Friends, and running is something I might actually have a prayer in as a competitor. Though at the rate he is going, that may not last long.

I am not a minimalist. I make things too complicated and I worry much too much. But I thrive when my family and friends and workmates are near me and doing well. Balance in life is a Quixotic quest, but I do think the reason I am attracted to the romantic composers and the ultra long running is to counterbalance the extremes found in my work. It is a little like carrying a pail of water on a long stick: center the burden in the middle and find a good friend to share the load. In some ways, it is kind of simple.