Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Take It To The Limit

We all underestimate ourselves. It is not possible to live to the limits of one's potential everyday. The few times in a life that any of us find ourselves having to stretch beyond our comfortable places are usually spaced far enough apart that we forget over time how strong we have been. I know that this is true for me.

When I was 25, my life changed quite dramatically after what seemed like a pretty minor fall. For the ten years following that fall, I lived with the fallout of injuries that were bad enough to require me to go back to school after being declared, partially, permanently disabled. There were days I couldn't sit in a chair without losing the feeling in my hands or reliably hold a full coffee cup or lift anything over ten pounds without dropping it (including my infant son). Despite trying repeatedly, I could not play my flute for more than a few minutes without becoming clumsy and unable to finger the keys despite having played for almost 20 years.

It has been 15 years since that day, and with patience and lots of hard work, I am stronger than I was before I was hurt. The funny thing is, that even though I know this to be true, it still comes as a surprise to me when I am successful at something challenging that I would never have thought twice about back in 1995.

Happy To Be Done

Just recently I completed my second 100K ride from San Francisco to Point Reyes Station and back. By most measures, I should not be able to do this. When I was first hurt I was told that these things would not be in my future. While I accepted that assessment at first, it is not in my nature to just roll over for defeat. I cannot say that I set out to ride my bicycle almost a hundred miles at a time, but when I realized I was riding 20-30 miles a day just about every day of the week riding around the City it seemed like a natural progression. By just going about my day and tackling the small challenges that came with it I was able to surpass any of the limitations that had been imposed on me 14 years before.

Twinkle Toes

Because my injuries caused some paralysis in my arms, many things like rock climbing became an impossibility for me. Without the grip to carry a sack of potatoes how could I ever hoist myself up a rock wall? It wasn't even a hope on the horizon as I focused my energy on trying to reliably regain my penmanship and ability to safely use a kitchen knife. Again, with focus on the smaller, everyday tasks I found myself getting stronger and stronger. To the point that I was stronger than before I got hurt. Next thing you know, I was up the rock wall! Until that day I would never have thought that was possible.

Underestimation. It is insidious and it infects us all. We all lose faith in ourselves if something isn't right the first time or if we can no longer do things the same way we once did. When the goal isn't attainable by tomorrow we give up. It took me almost a decade to get back to where I was physically in 1995 and another 5 years to get where I am now. Most of the time I was unaware of just how strong I was becoming. It took me all of that time to accept that maybe the worst of that period was finally behind me. The injuries are still there and I have to keep aware of the fact that I could end up back where I was pretty easily if I am not careful, but it no longer limits me to know this.

As bad as the injuries were to my body and my mind, I am greater than that sum. I am stronger than that. I just have to keep remembering it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Word, Please.

There is a lot of really good writing out there. Sometimes, I stumble across something that is just so well written I can't get it out of my mind. The endless ways that people find to describe things with words is one of the reasons I believe that there is more to the Universe than just energy and matter and random events that allow us to evolve. The written word is a miracle. Language is a miracle.

Perhaps because I have not challenged myself to write much recently, I find that my words are leaving me. Every time I sit to write, nothing worth writing comes to the surface. A lack of ideas isn't the issue, I seem to have those all the time and usually at just the point when I can not get them down on paper. My challenge is the words themselves- getting them in order, finding the right ones, remembering how to spell them. What used to be pretty simple, finding the rhythm and flow of words to convey the feeling of a moment or the intensity of a colour or even to just be marginally intelligent about an opinion, is now a quagmire. I struggle with every sentence.

Being a topic of some immediacy, you would think this would be easy to write about, but it is not. I try to touch what swirls in my head and it dissolves, only to be replaced with noise or worry or blankness. The only thing left behind is a hole, like a missing tooth, where the thought used to be and a blanket of mild anxiety that there is something wrong with my mind. Where did my words go? How did they manage to take my creativity with them? How do I get them back when they are just wisps of ghosts carried off in a breeze of unpredictable currents?

When I was younger I could pull words out of the ether. There was never a time when there was no word at the ready, another dozen in my pocket clanking together like loose change waiting to be spent. My words burned to come out onto paper, even when the only paper was a late night diner order slip begged off a waitress hoping for a better tip than the one I would ultimately leave. It was nothing to wake up in the middle of the night with a story formed and ready to go before I had rubbed the sleep from my eyes. Never mind that I wasn't old enough to have anything to write about.

Now, I have so many things I could express. There are decades more experience to draw from, hundreds more people I have met who have given me the beginning of so many tales (cautionary and otherwise). Enough time has passed that many of the things I have done can now be looked at from a compassionate distance and distilled to their essence.

But there are no words. Just pictures in my head.

And they are fading.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Strange times seem to come out of nowhere. There have been many strange and unsettling events for me lately, and I have been placed in a position that does not allow me to deal with them in the way that I find the most healing. I am left with a sense of expectancy but little hope of completion. It leaves my sleep troubled and unsatisfying. There is a leash on me that keeps lengthening as I move forward but lets me know that I am still firmly attached to a past I am barred from confronting.

To keep keep moving like this makes very little sense, but to stay tied to this place is unacceptable. With no hope for relief from the situation there is nothing to do but take comfort in what is in front of me- my children (whom may drive me to distraction but are the best company possible), my friends (I have so many who are truly amazing and wonderful people), my home (which may not be exactly where I want to live but has been a Godsend for all of the years we have lived here)... and food.

In a country that exists on synthetic "food" I find great pleasure and comfort in the basic joy of real food. Looking at it exposes me to colour and texture and shape. Smelling it brings me memories of meals past, made by people who care for me. Cutting and prepping it forces me to slow down to appreciate what is before me. Cooking it transforms it from beautiful ingredients (usually straight from the ground) into beautiful meals, some with roots in my childhood and some ways of experiencing other worlds that I can not touch directly. Eating it gives me energy to live, energy straight from the Earth.

Today, I chose to just sit at the table with my lunch and eat it while watching the off season storm blow everything around outside my window. Instead of pondering predicaments, I savored the nourishment in front of me. My bowl of ratatouille and eggs was also a bowl of my great, good fortune. Maybe the strength it took to grow it all becomes the strength I need to move along despite my bindings.

Good Fortune

Monday, March 15, 2010

Like Four Season In One Day

What is it in the air these days? The flux that the financial world is experiencing seems to have become the flux that many are finding in the rest of the world. So many of the people I meet and know couldn't tell you what the week, or even the day has in store for them. There are three apartments in my building, and each one houses someone who has been laid off from long standing jobs. When I go out on my weekly bike rides I meet people who are taking the time out of work to decide what to do going forward.

It sometimes feels like we are all, individually and societally, experiencing a mix of that heady time in our early 20's when everything seems possible and that clich├ęd time known as "mid-life" where we become aware of all the things that are not possible and cling, too tightly, to the things that are most likely. No wonder there is so much uncertainty and moodiness- These things pulling at us, or pushing at us, or twirling us around making us dizzy and grumpy and unpredictable.

For myself, I find that I must make choices (not an unusual position for a person to find themselves in). The choices are not so undesirable; back to work or back to school? Both have been offered to me and each offer is a good one. The promise of a job with someone I like to work with who respects my talents, or, I can return to school to start something new and maybe embark on a new career.

Going back to work means flushing out what I already know. Deeper understanding of anything is good, and I do enjoy learning more about my profession. Having done what I do for so long, I am comfortable in the clinic with patients. There is tremendous satisfaction in helping people and in having the knowledge to recognize what help is really needed.

Somehow, though, I don't find it very satisfying any more. My last job was difficult because of poor management and broken systems and it left me quite cold. I know there are places that are better run, with better leadership and opportunities to create greater change for my patients. There is little temptation in the thought unless I push it and make myself believe I should want more from my career.

School has called to me for years. I have told myself that I can not go back because of the kids and the expense, but really it is because I do not know what to study next. Studying Physical Therapy further is off the table, even if I stay in the profession (I do not want to spend $100k for a DPT degree). A foreign language degree (Spanish) would be good no matter what I do. The world does not need another MBA, and if it does, it isn't getting one from me.

Of course, as soon as I make the decision I find myself in a futile , one way debate with the voice of descension. No matter how present I try to be, I find myself riddled with guilt (not only not working, and therefor, not making money but spending money I am not making for a future career in ...), frightened of getting it wrong, intimidated of the work involved in getting it right... Endless circles of silliness.

At least there is a theme song-

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Honesty Is Such A Lonely Word

An interesting quote came across my path today. I am reading a "Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry. Like all good books it brings up many questions but answers only a few.

Lately, I have been evaluating my reactions to things. My history marks me as being somewhat dramatic. Not a drama queen, but certainly a person of larger than average reactions. Until recently, anyway. These days I suspect that my reactions are a little underwhelming and I find myself wondering why. I find it odd and I am not sure I am comfortable with it.

Either way, as I was reading today, I stumbled across this quote that summed up what I have been thinking about myself and the world recently-

"Maneck studied Beggarmaster's excessive chatter, his attempt to hide his heartache. Why did humans do that to their feelings? Whether it was anger or love or sadness, they always tried to put something else forward in its place. And then there were those who pretended their emotions were bigger and grander than anyone else's. A little annoyance they acted out like a gigantic rage; where a smile or chuckle would do, they laughed hysterically. Either way, it was dishonest."

Honest expression of emotion. That is a hard one. So much of the time, social propriety does not allow for a complete expression of what we are feeling in the moment. We are taught that anger is wrong, that sadness makes others uncomfortable, that we should not show all of our happiness so as to not make others envious.

It makes me wonder how we all get through the day? If every time we feel something we have to censor it, dull it, enlarge it, is it any wonder our reactions to emotion become distorted?