I was feeling sorry for myself today, as I often do. I was running on a sunny day along the coast of California and feeling sorry for myself. True, I am fat, slow, injured and have a crappy autoimmune disease. But there were foxy digitalis plants and lilies abloom, the ocean was roaring, the sun was out, it was the perfect temperature and I was running. Not fast, but running. I passed a guy with what I think might have been cerebral palsy, walking awkwardly with his walker. I immediately checked my self pity. Not that he needs me to pity him, because he was just out for a walk on a beautiful day. He would likely not give two fucks about my self image. Slow. Fat. Injured. Sick. Wounded.
I received a letter from my son today, who is at, as he described, the "lovely San Quentin." Now as a Mom I have superpowers and though his letter was all light and airy and "It is all good", I sensed fear between the lines. Good, you say? Well, think what you must, but he is my baby boy. And his little tour through the for profit system of California prisons is costing us all a pretty penny. Ah, if only his parents had been better....
Back to running for a moment, I want the world to know I am going for 4 trail runs this weekend with Lauren Fleshman. She will, obviously, be toning down her prowess several million notches. But there is this retreat I am headed for that she is helping with, bless her, and it also involves writing. And yoga. And some stand up paddle boarding if I am brave enough to don a swimsuit.
I took some extra work in recent days to help with some bills and found myself in an almost mystical place. No, hear me out. I randomly chose 10 days to be on call and found myself exactly where someone needed me to be at the end of their life. Someone I never met before. But with whom I immediately connected. Someone who needed me to sit and listen and respond and act. In return, I was reminded why I do what I do. Because sometimes it is hard to show up day after day with little accolades, less awards, and no acclaim. I run with the same results. I play piano with the same results. I parent with the same results. But ultimately, it comes down to moments in time that are so perfect that everything else just falls away. A deep instant connection with an ailing fellow person. The smell of the top of your child's head. The feel of your quads pushing against the earth on a perfect northern California afternoon, lupine at the trail side, salt in the air, waves roaring, and a good book playing through your sweat-resistant ear buds.
This past weekend I heard our local symphony play Beethoven's 9th. I admit, I attended with a slight trepidation. It is a very, very enormous piece. They nailed it. Not perfect, because that would just be creepy, but it rose above all expectations and planted a Beethovenesque kiss square on my brain and heart and musical ear. Carol Jacobson is a marvel.
Humility is growing on me. As a music major, once I left music as a profession I stopped playing it altogether for years, because I was afraid of mediocrity. Now I am thankful I can play at all. As a runner, I am embarrassed by my recent slowness and lack of ability to race, but then again am thankful I am able to be so mobile in such a lovely setting. As a doctor, I sometimes wish I had more credentials, had gone for those fellowships, had stayed in academics, and was considered great at what I do. But today I was just so touched to be at the bedside of a dying person who actually dreamt about me the night before we set his treatment plan, and who is now comfortable and dignified. As a parent, I wish my kids were all on their way to Nobel prizes in terrificness. But wait, I do not. My children are who they are and the one thing I have to offer is unconditional love. And the smell of the top of their head? It makes me swoon, even now.
This weekend, I am going for 4 runs with Lauren Fleshman. So there.