Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Coming of Age

Another great day to donate! Two marathons and two charities! Let's raise a combined $6,500 for cancer research through Fred's Team and low-income seniors with Housing Opportunities and Maintenance for the Elderly (H.O.M.E.)!

Donate to H.O.M.E. here. Donate to Fred's Team here. More information here and at the top of the blog!

A runner must run with dreams in his heart. - Emil Zatopek


Subway polls are always sticky. I wash my hands often, not often enough, but often. The soap bottle in my bathroom is now almost empty, but with each visit I can still smell my first memories of New York. The connection is not as strong as it had been months ago. I stepped into B's bathroom. And as I washed my hands I was thrown back to that summer, that summer of sawing shelves in the kitchen, of early morning trains with Stanford bankers, of coffee in Grand Central, of the subway, of the streets, and of New York. And with these memories I was abruptly enveloped by the emptiness, sadness and regret that has settle into them all.

I like Mrs Meyers Clean Day soaps. I am also partial to all things lavender. So that is the variety I tend to keep. But it was the geranium variety that reorganized time. On the way home from the dinner at B's I purchased a bottle. I'm not sure why. I think I hoped the smell's power would fade, that the memories would remain dormant, that I wouldn't be caught so unawares. And it mostly has. They are dormant. They are still there.

This is not the first time I've been so transported. And while I haven't seen a Hi-C ecto-cooler juice box in years, but I bet the smell would take me yet again to the pool, straight to morning practices, the meets, the sugar candies, and the rainbow collection of ribbons I earned for such strong showings as 5th and 6th place. But at least with the swimming the memories ripened sweetly.

I have been on a literal number of dates that feels like a figurative million since that summer that smelled like geraniums. The more more evenings shared - small tables and drinks, walking the city, music food and touch - the less I understand. How can I know the ties that are supposed to knit people together when I don't comprehend the other? How can I when I can not understand myself?

Most everyone I know is married. Most everyone I know is with someone. This is normal. It makes sense, or so I'm told. But frankly, I wonder how they do it. And I mean that mostly literally. I do not know how. Compoundingly, some of my friends are on their second marriages. How have they managed this twice?

People ask, "what do you do?" I say, "I'm a scientist." From here things immediately fall into a pattern. People will say what I do is much more interesting than what they do (they are probably right). They say it is much more difficult (they may be right). They say what I do is so much more important (almost assuredly not). But then they go further and annoyingly assume that because I am so employed I must have no interest in what they do, and that what they do is so simple that I already know what it entails.

People laugh when they realize how little of the basic I know about business or banking or consulting, or whatever else people do in this city. I may be gifted at what I do. And I may even be smart about it from time to time. But that doesn't mean I am good at anything else. This is how I feel about relationships.


When we were watching tennis C asked me if I there was ever a sport where I had imagined myself being a star. I can't remember his answer. But I knew mine immediately. Everything. I still do.

I always imagine myself as the star. I can not watch a football game without imagining myself as the one outrunning my opponent, or dancing through the swarming line, or throwing myself into thin air, reaching just a bit farther than anyone else can to pull the ball in. But then I can not watch a marathon runner without dreaming of being the one with the most talent, the most drive, the most skill, flying up the road, pumping and breathing and living that suicide pace, coming up with more at the very end, shattering the record. But then I do not stop at sports. I can not listen to Perlman, Heifetz, or Ma without dreaming the mastery in my fingers, the pulse of god in my soul as I play with truth, revealing and interpreting better than any. But then my dreaming slips to composing the music, or being a physics genius a mathematician, a scientist, a linguist, poet, painter, writer, and on and on and ever on.

The only commonality is that I want and dream of being the best. It is the mastery of an art that I crave. And it is more. It is the better than, faster than, stronger than, smarter than - it is being the master that I desire. I want to achieve more, to see more, to know more. And I want to be known.

I thought everyone thought like this. But I guess not. I would fear that this means I have psychopathic tendencies. But I suspect that I'm just not that exceptional.

These dreams flow through my work too. I dream of being a great scientist, of having better ideas, making discoveries, changing the world, of being the best. I want this. Yet here reality reintroduces herself continually. Some days, rare days, feel or taste or show some glimpse of hope of at least surviving. This is not where I thought I'd be. Success was supposed to build upon success, promise upon promise. I could be middling at everything else if I was great at this, if only I had something to show. If only.


I've started to have days where I really don't want to run. Last week I realized this was more than just my normal tiredness. There was almost no pleasure in the run. After some thought I diagnosed the problem. I had bought into another dream.

In all of my running, my timing, my number crunching of the miles and paces I was searching for improvement. I was searching for change. I was searching for evidence that I was becoming better. I was living one of my fantasies. I was dreaming.

Reality has a way about her. There in the sheet of numbers she wrote it out. In three years nothing has changed. I am the same runner. All the running in the world won't change anything. I will never become a champion marathoner. I will never even become fast.  If I fail to enjoy this for the hobby and exercise that it is there is no point. I must wake up.

It is easy to see this in running (though the dream fights even there - begging to be let on - promising to improve me, make me, if not great, then faster). It is harder elsewhere. What about in my work? What about in relationships? When I was a child I thought like a child. What is the difference between giving up and growing up?

How do you settle into middleness without drowning?


The two tragedies of life.

Years ago I was standing the the hallway of a house. The hallway was decorated with pictures of the owner with famous politicians and other dignitaries. There was a framed letter written from a president. I was told that if I made my life well I too could have a wall like that with pictures and letters. I responded that I'd rather be the person whose letters were framed. And she laughed.

Even if success compounded success then would I be satisfied? I've wanted to be like my science heroes, to see farther and do more, and to be known - just like them. But years ago I first noticed some dust of worry silently falling. What must it be like to be them. What is it like after you receive the highest honor? What is it like when there is no where else to go? What is it like when there are no heroes left to inspire you with awe? How do you climb to the heights without desiccating?

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