Focus

Madison FlyIMG_5925

I pull into the driveway, trying to leave that last of my work day behind.  As I enter the house, I am greeted by the all too familiar semi-chaotic scene in front of me.  Lola comes jumping to the hallway happy to greet, while my kids stay somewhat immobile in their current positions. Madison often on the couch, computer on as well as the TV.  A token book maybe by his side.  A phone  there as well with the screen still lit up from recent use. Maya will be in the kitchen, simultaneously eating while sprawled out on the floor, music from spotify playing overhead, trying to do math homework in between answering the multitude of texts that keep streaming in.  My frustration at the lack of focus in these two irritates me to no end as they have not remembered to put their morning’s breakfast away and the dishwasher from last night is still not emptied.   I can’t look anymore, and just head upstairs to change…

Madison.  I watch you pace along the pool deck with your new smooth shaved head.  You settle in behind the starting block waiting your turn.  The goggles move from forehead down to your eyes.  Your gaze,  straight ahead in front of you.  Up the starting block you go. Waiting. For the whistle.  “Swimmer’s take your mark”.  Hands curl on the platform, legs spaced apart, while newly formed muscles from a season’s worth of practice tense…waiting… The Starter’s “gun” goes off, and you spring to life.  How things have changed from the soft little racing starts you used to do.  There is purpose behind this one. You slice through the water to remerge.  Middle lane. Fast lane. Maybe a third of a body length behind those next to you.  Butterfly. Arms synchronized out in front, pulling forward.  You hit the wall, turn and power off.  Purposeful. Focused. Intense. Now  headed back. I can see you moving, driving forward.  Shoulders…When did you get such broad shoulders?  You pull slightly ahead with each stroke now. Into the second turn and back out again.  You look smooth. Coordinated.  It’s the third length of the four that it really hits me. Focused. Driven. You own this. This race, your season. You put the work, the time, effort. Morning practices, dry-land sessions. Not for me, your dad. For you.  Time slows…just a little bit. This moment is so beautiful to me. Watching you…

Final length.  Middle lane. You’re ahead and holding.  I remember my arms, heavy, burning, wanting to stop.  Finding what would push me, to push past the ache and burn.  My team? My pride?  You’re finishing strong, still smooth, closing in on the timing pad.  Final strokes… you don’t stop. No coasting or easing up.  You hammer your arms into the timing pad and the clock stops.   The mixed joy and frustration of a personal best, yet short of your personal goal. I know how you feel. I know how I would feel.  But I wish you knew how proud I am. The race is over but it still lingers. It’s still there in the pool and in my mind. I fight back the tears.

Maya.  You’re in front of me. On the stage. Poised and still, awaiting the music to start.  The song begins and so do you.  Movements and poses I have seen hundreds of times around the house, are now being put together rhythmically to your music. Your eyes and face, staring ahead,  with such intensity and focus.  Every movement with a purpose. Some slow and rolling, others sharp and punctuated.  The music builds and so does your pace.  You’re flying across the stage, jumping, hanging there with air beneath your feet.  Your breathing, controlled, by visible muscles  under your outfit. My eyes are drawn to yours, but all I see is a burning intensity that is all your own.  And as you do your ariel, time seems to slow a bit and everything else fades away except for you on the stage. This moment is so beautiful to me. Watching you do what you love to do.

The song is not over. Your timing is spot on. Arms and legs and body moving in perfect time to the rhythm and words. Your routine ends and it’s over.  But your performance still lingers. On the stage and in my mind.  I wish you knew how proud I am. I fight back the tears.

The weekend is over.  Sunday night and homework  is still not done. Scattered actions and the unfocused thoughts of two teenagers dominate the house as the reality of a school day tomorrow makes its way to their brain.  And as I try and deal with my own frustrations over this, I do find some solace in replaying their recent success in my head.  Their intensity, their focus. They both have it. They have it in spades. It is just at times extremely selective when and where they choose to use it.  But as my kids find their way in this world, I look forward to watching them use their focus and intensity in what they love to do.  I can’t wait to see how beautiful that will be….

Harbinger

Featured image

Harbinger : “one that presages or foreshadows what is to come”

It had become somewhat of a fixture in our dining room. I’d pass by it pretty much daily. Can’t help notice it. It’s not small, my bike, given that I’m 6’3″ and it’s a custom frame. And although when clean, it does look somewhat like a piece of art, by no stretch can one pass it off as part of the room decor. But I wasn’t ready yet. Served me well last race, but just didn’t have it in me to get her ready to ride again. Fall came and went. Winter arrived along with the holidays and still it sat…collecting dust, patiently waiting.

The calendar year turned, and with it, renewed resolutions, dark days and cold weather. Ingredients to make indoor morning bike trainer rides somewhat more palatable. So the bike was moved (no roots had set) to the basement, and we (yes..for those on the outside of the world of biking, bicycles are people too) said hi to the computrainer.  Forty minutes later, in full biking attire (no small feat, trying to find my bike “kit” buried in a pile of summer workout gear), with the Husker Du song “New Day Rising” churning in the back of my head, I’m ready to go. This is it. Rising from the ashes…building a new “bridge” to 2015. I start spinning easily to warm up and then…ouch!

A few months ago, it was just a little “niggle”.  A little bit of pain in my right knee. Nothing too horrible. I mean, in general, the rest of the 5am workouts with the trainer (see Limits) overall were much more uncomfortable. But the right knee thing kept popping up. Harbinger. On sled drills, squats and so forth, it would rear its head. I’d work around it, go home. Rest, Motrin, repeat workout. After a month, these morning workouts were turning more into physical therapy sessions with the trainer than the beat-downs I had grown accustomed to. So I decided to take a little break. And after a few weeks, perfect timing to hop back on the horse (bike). Who would have thought that with every downstroke of my right leg, my knee would say (hey…don’t do that…what…cut it out…do you hear me…WTF are you doing…do u not understand English…hey…hey… HEY!!!) about 85-90 times a minutes (if the cadence monitor on my bike is accurate). So all dressed up and nowhere to go, I dismount the bike and directly walk into a state of denial.

Now “denial” for me is my “go to” mechanism for dealing with unwanted things.  Not very sophisticated for sure, and frankly quite counter-productive. Sarcasm is my other method of choice but that takes energy and thought…which is not my initial reaction. I mean it is hard to use sarcasm when late with one’s taxes. The IRS is not particularly known for its sense of humor. Returning challenging patient phone calls always seems more palatable tomorrow than tonight. Bills…well they can be paid next weekend. Comcast usually is nice enough to give a few warning calls before shutting cable down and sending my kids into a tizzy.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am a relatively high functioning, procrastinating denialist. (By the way, I think that would make a great name for a punk band…) The house has never been foreclosed on. I have managed to maintain my board certifications in medicine with some hours to spare before midnight deadlines. And if you allow for ALL of 2014 to pay 2013 taxes, then I’m doing pretty good. (Yep…I set the bar pretty high). But as a 44 year old child at times, it might be time to rethink this approach.

There is something about the shortening of days, the constant gray skies, and a perpetual chill in the air that makes me turn more “inwards”.  What else is a “niggle” in my life right now? What am I pushing off till “tomorrow”. Work is not hitting on all cylinders like it has in the past. Missed connections with friends keep popping up. My kids are growing up so fast. I find myself looking at their pictures from what seems like a lifetime ago, with my mind frozen in the past…But am I missing some of their present?

I had an MRI of my knee yesterday. I went and saw the doctor. Had the scan done in less than 24 hours. The meniscus is fine. No tear. Some bone contusion and a cyst of some type. Not “career” ending or threatening. I guess more Motrin or PT or rest or all of the above. But all will be good. But I think it’s time to start working on some of the other “niggles” in my life. Closing my eyes and looking in the other direction when things are suboptimal at work is not a successful nor fulfilling long term strategy. And just hoping for chance encounters with long time friends is a poor way for maintaining contact. Being present and in the moment with my teenage kids…well that’s always a work in progress.

So when my knee started to hurt, I thought it would be a harbinger of the “big” injury. The one that that tells me “you’re 44 years old, dude…you’ve done 5 Ironman races. Maybe it’s time to dial it back. Can’t cheat father time…”  But I think it’s telling me something else. Something far less ominous, but more subtle. That it’s time to stop ignoring the “niggles” in my life and start doing something about them. Maybe as a 44 year old adult, it’s time to move on from denial to action. From passivity to activity. At work. With friends and my family. Time to get started… But if only I knew where I put this years W-2’s?