Woods Run at Dusk, March 2014
It is best to have a goal which puts you solidly in control of your days and minutes and longterm future. It is best to aim high and to just smile and look away when people doubt you and make you wonder whether you should even try. Look up at the ceiling like something is interesting there and sigh. I used to believe this and without it might not be a doctor or marathoner or half decent pianist or be growing my hair long again. Maybe I still do believe it except I know now that control is remote at best and I pine away for the days when one had to get up out of their chair and change the channel, with a finality and commitment that is foreign to modern times. We think we are aware like we invented Zen and with regular runs everything can be right again and we won't need to buy new jeans for an expanding waist line or start lipitor. We go to the gym to strengthen our core.
Goals can change, but mine remain a sub 3 marathon and memorizing and performing the entire Well Tempered Clavier, though I cannot imagine who would want to sit and listen to all of that. I might have a recital where beer is served and people can chat during the boring moments. I could finish with some Liszt or Rachmaninoff or finally learn to play jazz and people could dance to stretch their legs after the long night of fugues. My kids walk by when I am playing impossibly magnificent passages on my piano and don't really even notice or so it seems. One woman said to me she remembers her concert pianist mother playing all the time and it is a source of inner comfort, that memory. Mostly though I think they see it as a bother or distraction. Except the one time my little Dragon was suddenly behind me while I played, thin arms wrapped around my waist and her face nestled by my ear, whispering "Mom, you are really good." I will take that to my grave.
To reach a goal once seemed a linear path of fighting resistance when it threatened progress. I did this with mathematics which I had to do to become a medical doctor, for some reason I will never understand. I did this with birth and adoption which both require strength and tenacity and ignoring the noise which gets in the way of your purpose: to love and hold your child. To love and hold your children who eventually leave and live their own lives, with their own goals, and their own beautifully delusional sense of control. I dream of my eldest who is off to college all too soon, and in my dreams she keeps disappearing and I cannot find her, but she is small and vulnerable. Now she is a young woman and astounding in her presence and gifts. She will write her way into the future and she will not disappear so much as reappear at my side as a woman and not the newly-minted toddler who needed to be walked with two hands in a back-breaking several weeks of bent-over mothering. Linearity is rare, and I am glad I took algebra, when all is said and done.
Physics I am less certain about and as I watch my body age I sometimes fill with a certain rage I cannot explain. If I had it to do over, I would've tried for that sub 3 marathon in my 20's, but was too busy planning my longterm future. I tolerate less now, physically anyway. I tolerate much more in terms of disappointment and surprise. I am lucky to have a wise husband who makes me my PB & J for my long work day and a son who constantly makes me feel alive. With worry, with wonder, with anticipation. What will he be? No hurry to answer that because he already is and I love him for it. What will any of us be after all? When you hit the wall in a marathon or life, nothing else exists. It is the most Zen place to be, because you cannot be bothered with thoughts of anything else. Your mind is clear. Shot through with pain and certain failure. But failure is my favorite motivational speech, "nowhere to go but up from here", and it is the best catapult into the next moment when hope sneaks under your skin and makes you tingle with power. This. I. Can. Do.
I ran in the near dark in my woods after a long day and week treating patients who hit the wall. In my experience, one either gets smushed and slides in a cartoon heap to the floor, or stops and is still for a moment, says some choice words, then sees the wall for what it really is: a facade that one can simply walk right through. On the other side is some more living or perhaps some dying. It might be birthing or it might be a trip to the ICU. Chemotherapy or hospice or an earnest hospitalist hovering over you. My run in the dark after my long day and week was with JS Bach plugged into my ears. The Well Tempered Clavier, book I, Glenn Gould's young years. I ran in the dusk in my redwood temple, and the walls came tumbling down.
I can do this. Sub 3, maybe, but to try is where life is. And Bach? Well every self-respecting pianist knows the WTC like the back of their hand. The answers reside within preludes and fugues and the creepy sounds of Glenn Gould humming along to his singular interpretation. He brings out voices from dead Baroque notes on a page. His choices are not always appreciated by the mainstream musicologist.
Run in the woods in the near-dark. Play Bach so people listen. Fuck the critics. Look at the ceiling and smile.