Wednesday, July 16, 2014
The 12 months since my last birthday split into two halves: "hurry up" and "wait."
The hurrying up came to a close at the end of 2013, a particularly challenging year.
In 2014, the waiting started.
Some of that waiting is about to end, so that a different kind of "hurry up and wait" can begin.
I have been carrying a tremendous weight on my shoulders, particularly the last 6 months. I am not allowed to discuss it. Along with the problem itself, the forced silence means I cannot turn to anyone for support, inspiration, or solace. In some cases, I have to deceive people I care about.
That burden has negatively affected nearly every part of my life.
I am smart, and I have the merciless, pitiless gifts of insight and memory. I catalog the mistakes, missed opportunities, flaws, gaffes, moments of laziness, all I've done wrong. What else could I do? What could I have done? When will it get better?
"That's what they pay me for."
I go stand-up paddleboarding for the first time. I am nervous, worried about falling in. But balancing turns out to be easier than I thought. I glide across the ocean, calm enough to be fun but choppy enough to remind me to be careful.
I move past the harbor seals, pungent and still in the morning air. I look at the odd collections of houseboats and stare across the bay, with clouds reflected in the water.
The weight begins to lift. Under the clouds, there is an epiphany: It is not all my fault, and not even about me. Really. I am a small bit of flotsam in the midst of the larger tempest. The wind and waves push against you, and maintaining your forward momentum can be difficult. Sometimes it is all you can do to not fall in, sometimes you can barely move forward.
There is a peace and stillness within and without, and a beautiful moment of clarity. I hear the water slapping the underside of the board.
My arms are tired, but I feel good. Try new things. Stretch. Get out of your head. This is good.
My wrist buzzes at 5 am and I slide out of bed as quietly as possible. Iran is awake, and gives me a smooch.
I fix an espresso and then head out for a pre-dawn run. My shoulder has been killing me the last few days, and raising my right arm is difficult.
I try not to think about it as I run intervals for an hour. It's not hurting too bad today, but it has been a few days with no obvious injury source, and I'm getting a little worried.
Later, there are birthday sweets at work and a fun lunch with the team. I laugh and smile, and I realize it feels like forever since I last did that.
The remainder of the workday, I am mostly busy enough to be distracted. I leave at 6:30 for a nice intimate birthday dinner, my shoulder complaining as I weave through rush hour traffic on the motorcycle.
I am worried about being late, but arrive just on time, with Kojak parking as a birthday bonus. Took a while, but it worked out OK. No need to be anxious, right?
At last, Atlas. Alas!
Atlas was the primordial Titan who held up the celestial spheres. Not just the earth. The whole universe.
He fought the power, and he lost. Bearing the weight of the universe on his shoulders was his punishment.
He is also the titan of astronomy and navigation.
Atlas governs the moon, which is important to Cancers.
The "Atlantic Ocean" derives from his name.
He is a symbol of endurance.
Maintaining your forward momentum can be difficult. I haven't recorded an album in a few years. I haven't performed in a long time. I haven't even written anything here for months. I've been doing stuff — playing games, writing manuals, noodling around. Thinking. Waiting. Sometimes that's just what you have to do.
At a certain age, you begin to realize you must be careful — you can push too hard, carry too much. There are consequences.
A friend of mine 10 years younger than I am suffered an aneurysm. He's in the hospital right now. I can barely stand to read about it. I send a nice card. And money.
"My life isn't so bad". I try to remind myself of this.
How we handle the struggles we have — big or small — isn't that what defines us? Isn't struggling the essence of being alive? We already know how the game ends. The odds are against you and insurmountable from day 1. How will you play? Will you play at all? Be a sore loser?
In the face of adversity, all you have is the elegance of your behavior.
The anti-inflammatory medicine destroys my sleep. I know it's not a mechanical problem. The muscles just aren't firing. Research and testing quickly provide a solid diagnosis, which awaits a likely and perfunctory confirmation from a specialist.
I think about all the possible root causes. Was it the constant weight on one shoulder? Paddleboarding? The pull-up stretches? Sleeping wrong? Too much computer? Bad posture? Carrying too many heavy things overhead?
I catalog my life, wondering what I should have done differently, or in different quantity to prevent this.
Will I get better? Probably. But with this kind of injury, you just have to wait. Might be a month. Might be 2 years.
"One day you'll wake up and be just fine."
Or maybe not.