Monday, March 31, 2014


Joan Benoit Samuelson. They said:
a month out from knee surgery, no way
let her go, she will never keep up that pace
women running marathons?

Mostly things conspire to make one feel small. This is especially true if you are any of the following:
a child
an orphan
a teenager
a woman
not rich
not white
not in charge
a stay at home parent
a working mother
too short
too tall

The list is probably nearly infinite. I suppose every person has felt small at some point. Even Charles Foster Kane was heartbroken.

In general, I believe power is dangerous (corrupts, absolutely, yada yada). However, I also believe power is essential. I was trying to explain this to one of my teenagers in the middle of the night last night, a teenager who sees no power within and sees the world as enemy territory. Everything that goes wrong is someone else's fault. Disempowerment is not always a choice, but sometimes it is, and here are a few good ways to become disempowered:

do not read books
believe everything on TV, the internet and Fox News
do drugs
blame someone else
let more powerful people do harmful things to less powerful people
never exercise
complain but don't change your circumstances
be influenced by what other people think is cool
take Facebook at Face Value
allow "friends" to treat you poorly
allow anger to guide your response to those "friends"
give up on your dreams
lose track of the beauty in the world

When I left high school without graduating and went to college, I was told I was not going to make it. When I left music to become a doctor, I was told I was not going to make it. When I had a baby during medical school, I was told I was not going to make it. When I adopted a child with "special needs" I was told I was not going to make it. When I adopted a 6 year child who spoke no English, I was told I was not going to make it. When I decided to run a marathon, I was told I was not a real athlete. When I left outpatient medicine to be a hospitalist, I was told I was too meticulous (AKA anal) to survive it. And now, as I leave hospital medicine to become a palliative care and geriatric specialist, once again there is the general opinion that what I am doing is meant to be an "escape", a "break", and for some, a job that will make me "lose my skills".

I dreamt the other night that my piano tuner came over and was looking at my Bach piano books. They were all so covered in mold that the music was unreadable. My piano tuner was upset. I was upset. I get that I haven't played my instrument much, because I am working as much as I can to make money to pay for my medical training and my house and my bills left over from a residency at one of the finest hospitals in America, unfortunately also in one of the most expensive cities in which to live in America. Where I gained my skills. Where one mentor said I was "a natural palliative care physician." But, for those in power (not me), I am just a middle aged chick with absolutely no power.

And what does this have to do with running? Well, I can still run. I am not the fastest. I am certainly not the cutest. But I know how to dig down deep and find my inner strength. Tomorrow is the beginning of my 12 day count down as a hospitalist. Twelve 12-15 hour days, where I am looked down upon by a system that sees me as less than (fill in the blank):
Less than the specialist
Less than the man doctor
Less than the righteous stay-at-home-mother
Less than.

I am not rich. I am not young. I am not sexy. I am not a perfect mother. I am not a perfect wife.

But I do care, and I do have some skills which even those who see me as small can not take away from me. Hey! Psst: if you are sick, you want me at your side. I show up and I study hard and I am a powerful advocate for you.

Here's the thing. Power resides in supporting others. Even when they treat you like shit in return. Power resides in loving others. Power resides in forgiveness. It resides in that feeling when you are rounding the 3rd turn on the oval of the track and your lungs are exploding, but you push on. It resides in reading. Learning. And opening your heart. It resides in recognizing the need for a change. Humor and self doubt peppered with an occasional fuck you helps too. There is a reason Frozen is so freaking popular.

Twelve more days.

"I have power. They don't. This bothers them."
-Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The Master doesn't try to be powerful;
thus he is truly powerful.
The ordinary man keeps reaching for power;
thus he never has enough.

The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

The kind man does something,
yet something remains undone.
The just man does something,
and leaves many things to be done.
The moral man does something,
and when no one responds
he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.

When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
When goodness is lost, there is morality.
When morality is lost, there is ritual.
Ritual is the husk of true faith,
the beginning of chaos.

Therefore the Master concerns himself
with the depths and not the surface,
with the fruit and not the flower.
He has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

the Tao (Stephen Mitchell, transl)


  1. Thank you for a powerful, beautiful, hopeful post. Your advice to your son is right on: life begins when you unplug the outside forces and plug into the force within! Counting down with you!