Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It Hurts

Around age 6 or 7, I was solemnly walked into the CCU to say goodbye to my father, after his massive heart attack at age 40-something. He went on to live into his 60's (albeit gaining a literal new heart along the way), against the odds. When I was 10, I came home one day from school and could not get into the locked and dark house. I was furious, and when my folks came home, finally, I let them know in no uncertain terms. Turns out Mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer that day, and I still feel guilty for being such a brat.

Both my folks made it into their 60's, against the odds. I feel sorry that they died so young, but happy I had them as long as I did. Sorry they had to be sick, but happy our family grew closer in the process. Sorry I have such anticipatory grief, like Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder every second of the day, telling me to beware of the inevitable loss of all I love. But happy that I know just how important it is to notice life. In fact, my largest irritation with people over the years is how they take the beauty and impermanence for granted, and find so much negative to focus upon. Teenagers are fairly expert at this,  which is highly annoying, but I too was a teenager once. It hurts.

Anyone who knows me knows I do two things when I hurt. I write, and I run. Ironically, when I run, I sometimes hurt more than I did before I was running, but it is a different kind of hurt. When I had my angst-ridden moments as a child and preteen, I often burst out the front door and went running down the street. It was dramatically therapeutic, histrionically healing.

Today, when the call came that Matt had died, I felt trapped. I had 14 minutes to get my shit together to lead a family conference at work. I was trying to field questions about medications and I was just about to renew my ACP membership. I mean, I was pulling out my credit card to renew my ACP membership when I got this call that my friend and colleague and partner and sometimes irritator of 12 years was dead! I shoved my glasses on my head and cried like a stupid baby, then could not find my glasses. I called my husband. I called my friend who knows about death. My medical assistant asked what she could do. I wiped my snotty nose and went to run a family conference.

Several weeks ago, I spoke to Matt and explicitly told him I was concerned about his health, given the stress of his job. He was too, but this guy had elected to take on a monstrous task: the well being of a medical staff in a very broken world, the well being of patients with unfathomable needs, the well being of a budget that is geared toward some alternate universe.

I was thinking today: is it written on our DNA somewhere when we die? I mean, does it matter what we do or is it all just fate? As a physician, I must believe it matters, at least somewhat. But I watched my grandmother eat red meat and butter and live a life on the plump side, and she fell into her final sleep on the couch at nearly 100 years of age. I watched my mother live a life of healthy food and exercise, and she gets her ass kicked at age 42 with the big C.

What matters?
Kindness. Compassion. Love.

Jiminy Cricket would say: do not take it for granted.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Garmins, Coaches, Young People, Poodles, and Half Marathons.

My Garmin died. You may think this is not a true tragedy. I would have to agree. Yet consider this:
1) Garmins are made of plastic and probably will NEVER leave the landfills.
2) I have only had it for about 3 years.
3) If I continue running with Garmins till I die, which could be tomorrow but let's just say it is 40 years, that is approximately 13 more Garmins I will go through.
4) The Earth is doomed.

I ran yesterday with Map My Run. OK, this is actually a pretty cool app. It lets you choose your music from your list (I chose shuffle from all of my music, which led to a pretty crazy mix of Bach, Beyonce and John Coltrane). Then you hit start workout, and you just run and every mile this flight-attendant voice comes on, politely pausing the bebop or English Suite or whatever and tells you your mileage, overall pace and split for the last mile. Bitchin'.

It does not (yet) talk to Strava though. I really like Strava! All my friends use Strava! It is not real if I do not post it to Strava!

Yesterday, I went out to run, to see where my body was at. I am signed up for the local fall marathon. I have not, however, put in enough miles to give it its due respect. Yesterday was a test run, and my body said "Yeah, so, not going to happen." I mean I can run 26 miles. But not with gusto, and I want to run with gusto. So, as the song goes, If you haven't got a marathon, a half marathon will do. If you haven't got a half marathon, God bless you.

There is an amazing athlete who gives me some coaching. She is like a God(dess). She was kind enough, when I informed her of my decision to go half instead of full, to say I was wise to listen to my body or something like that. Also, I think she said something about kicking some ass at the half. Gulp.

Coaches are key, if they are the right ones. Mean words, discouragement and abuse do not a good coach make. But someone who can see a flicker of fire within you, and blow on it and add just the right amount of kindling to turn it into a full on roar? That is priceless.

Several weeks ago, on a run with my eldest child, I spoke out loud my uncertainty. I said I am not actually sure I am a runner anymore. My body just does not seem to respond like it used to. In a couple of short weeks I turn 45, and maybe I am just done as a competitive runner. My child, who really is no longer a child, turned to me with these words. "Don't stop." And something along the lines of wanting to be as fit as I am when she is my age. I think the word inspiration might have come up in this particular conversation. I held back my tears.

And then there is my dog. He is not super fast (except when the pit bull was chasing him a couple of weeks ago: man, was he fast then). But he LOVES running. When we go for a walk, he looks at me quizzically, as if to say "What is this? Why do you move so slowly? Are you somehow damaged or lame?" The best is the beach. Off leash, he stretches his limbs and we run. For the first 2 miles, he is ahead or by my side. After that, he falls behind, but his tracks are neatly aligned with mine, evidenced in the sand which tells you where you were and what your gait is and what size shoe you wear. Do not commit a crime, then walk through sand.

He falls behind, but he is so content, running at his own pace for 6 or 8 miles, on the beach, with the spy-hopping seals and the flocks of chase-worthy birds and the smell of sea salt and fish and rotting seaweed.

As much as I love the Earth, I will get another Garmin.
As much as I doubt the fire within, I will listen to my Coach.
As much as I mourn my lost youth, I do appreciate the word of a kind young woman.
As much as I hate the way my dog smells after a beach run, I will continue to take him along and revel in his joy.

Thirteen point one: kiss my (almost) 45 year patooty.