Sunday, August 30, 2015


My daughter dances for a studio called "No Limits". It is an apt name, given the way they can just leap and land in the splits (makes me cringe every time). Life is full of limits though. The ones we set for ourselves are probably the most restraining, but we learn it from years of parents, teachers, other kids, classmates and work mates telling us we should or could not do something.

Limits make a great excuse for staying in our comfort zone.

The other day I signed a form at the recruiting office for the US Army saying I was OK with them potentially sending my 17 year old son into combat. Now it helped that my son wants this more than anything. Also that the recruiter is the son of a nurse I know and respect. Also, being a young man in Humboldt County without direction is actually quite a bit scarier than being part of the military. I just hope to God that Donald Trump will not be his Commander in Chief.

20 years ago, I would not have pictured myself signing a child up for the military. But the grey area of life is expanding, while the black and white is just a little tiny sliver in my peripheral vision. There might be  a few things of which I am totally sure, such as Beethoven is to die for, racism is never OK, women are just as capable as men and soda causes cavities and obesity. Truly though, I can say I would be proud to support my son in the Army. Not because I like the idea of combat (I do not). Not because I agree with the wars we have fought (I do not). But because I respect the service, the dedication and the potential self-respect someone like my son might gain from making such a commitment. I am the daughter of parents who would've risked their life for peace. But they too were deep thinkers, and taught me to question even my own beliefs. Life is complicated.

Limits are bad. Except when they are helpful, such as how many pounds an elevator can hold, what blood alcohol level is acceptable for driving and how many times "Let it Go" can be played in ones presence in a 24 hour period.

I am registered for a wilderness medicine course in Big Sky, Montana in February. I hope to get my Advanced Wilderness and Expedition Provider Certification. Why, you ask? Well, one never knows when disaster will strike (the "big one" is going to happen at any second here in Northern California, and that's no joke). But more importantly, I want to push my limits in terms of what I can do to take care of myself and others around me in a situation with limited resources. I have a goal of doing a long run for weeks to months on trails, and having a few tricks up my proverbial sleeve will be reassuring. Also, I need to learn to use a compass. I am almost 46, and it is about time, I would say.

Medicine is an interesting profession, in terms of limits. We like to think we have none, and that whatever comes we can resuscitate our patients, unless they choose not to have us do so. "Would you like to be resuscitated?" "Why yes, doc, I would!" The only glitch is the whole 100% death rate thing. I personally have resuscitated a 103 year old. They lived and were able to get the tribal tattoos given to those who make 104. Once I did CPR on a VA patient on the floor of a VA nursing home. The next day, he grouchily declared "Next time, don't push so hard!". Seriously though, why is death so scary? Are we limited by our imagination? Every living thing must die and if we all lived forever, I would shudder at the thought of the lines for the women's bathrooms.

On September 18th at 6-8:30 PM at the Arcata Community Center, there will be a showing of the documentary "Being Mortal", based on the book of the same name by Atul Gawande. Is this a shameless plug right in the middle of my blog post? Yes, it is. I am Emceeing this event, which, by the way, is pushing my comfort limits right to the very edge.

My eldest daughter is a runner, a writer, a comedian and a Zen Master. She has not gotten run over by a Segway recently. She has not celebrated a top finish too soon. But she shows up every day and runs her best. She writes with skill. She makes people laugh. She raises an eyebrow when I get all type A. Her limits? Well, sometimes she does not recognize the power she holds. It can be hard when people judge us on first place finishes and consumerist prowess. She is not a shopper or a spotlight grabber by nature. On a recent trip she slugged a lamp in the middle of the night thinking (in her dream) she was reaching for a basketball. This made me laugh till I cried, but not because I thought it was ridiculous. Rather, because I thought it was sublime. Even in her dreams, she shows up and gets the job done. Lamps be damned.

Will I run hundreds of miles on trails? Probably. Will I ever find balance in my work life? Probably not. Will my kids flourish and push their limits? I hope so. Will I die? Most definitely. Will my dogs ever stop barking at the garbage truck? Unlikely.

There is exactly one limit we all need to heed: life is finite. I keep Matt Miller's picture on my desk as a reminder of that and a reminder of what matters most. In no particular order:
1. showing up
2. having compassion
3. laughing
4. spiritual renewal

Speaking of spiritual renewal….

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