We drove past our old condo and passed a stretch of road I used to run. It was the route for my warm up loop, a slow and creaky first mile to shake the cobwebs out and wake up my foggy brain. I usually ran this route right as the sun began to rise, hoping to avoid the sweltering temperatures.
Along the route, there is a pond surrounded by palm trees and corporate buildings. It always has a fishy smell, especially when the fountain is running, blowing miniscule water particles onto your face.
I always held my breath when the fountain was on; I could not risk inhaling some waterborne illness, like brain eating amoebas.
If I ran past the pond at just the right time, I could catch the first rays of the sun peaking over the horizon and reflecting the hues of the sky onto the glassy pond water. The dark outlines of palm trees were backlit by the pinky purple sky.
The scene was calm; Florida was still waking up. Street lamps cast friendly cones of orange tinged light, and the silence was occasionally dotted by the whoosh of a passing car.
I ran this stretch of the loop in a western direction, so the only way I could catch this view is if I remembered to look back. Some days I was too tired and forgot, entirely missing a beautiful moment in time. But the more I ran the route, the more I remembered.
So much so, that as we drove past the pond in broad daylight, my brain whispered, “Look back”.
Both literally and figuratively, I’ve been looking back a lot over this past month.
I’ve been working on compiling our family photo album for 2019-2020, which has flooded me with mostly happy memories of the big move and our first year in Florida.
Since moving into our new house, I’ve reviewed a lot of artifacts, trying to determine what holds sentimental value and what can be let go of.
I told myself I was going to review the contents of a box packed with keepsake items quickly, but I was immediately sucked into the vortex of memories, looking at photographs, reading old notes, reminiscing.
I read notes from those who are no longer here today. My diabetic Grandpa’s last note to me (and my all time favorite), “Greetings from the prison nursing home. It has been the best year yet for Christmas goodies. Sugar levels at an all time high.”
I laugh every time I read the note, envisioning his endearing to me, yet probably frustrating to his medical team, resistance to following a diabetic diet. He also had the hilarious yet very naughty habit of reusing insulin needles, which he told me about with great pride. I am sure his chart was plastered with the words “noncompliant patient”.
I could hear my Grandma’s dry humor when I read her encouraging note about parenthood: “It only gets worse.”
I looked back on old pictures. Old aspirations. My old self.
Sometimes I like to revisit my old self. The one who drew endless portraits of carrot looking people at age 4, the very serious poetry at age 10, the obsession with running in high school, the nerd phase of college, the shaky existence of post college life, trying to find stable footing while establishing a career and finding love, newly married, the earthquake of becoming a young mom of two young kids, and finally, now.
Each couple of years seems to have a theme. Something that I focused on, worked towards, loved. Each theme, a different strand that strongly knitted me into who I am today.
With the recent celebration of the New Year, I’ve begun to switch my focus in a forward direction: to what lies ahead.
I’m at a spot in life that doesn’t have a clear path. I have the freedom of being a stay at home mom, with a large blessing of being able to decide how to spend my precious moments.
It is scary: looking into the unwritten future, wondering about the right path forward. But also, freeing, exhilarating, exciting, hope filled.
If there is one thing I know for certain, it is that life is short.
Nothing quite drills that in like doing CPR on a body that was only minutes ago breathing, talking, living; now, splayed in bed with the a blank stare, surrounded by a team frantically working to put lines in, pump drugs, and rhythmically trying to push the heart back into remembering how it is supposed to beat.
Or the news of a sudden death. Or a terminal diagnosis. Or a lost pregnancy.
Life is, and then life isn’t.
There is this thing called “anchoring”. In boating, I’m pretty sure it is a good thing. In medicine, it’s a bad thing.
Anchoring is when in the process of making a diagnosis, the doctor gets stuck on one idea. And no matter how many other facts disprove their current diagnosis, they can’t see clearly. They are anchored, tethered on a line to an incorrect idea, unable to escape the pull of how their mind wants to portray the situation.
Unfortunately, it’s not just doctors who experience anchoring.
We all get stuck in one way or another, whether it is a dysfunctional thought pattern, only seeing life through a certain lens, or telling ourselves we can’t, or aren’t enough, or that we don’t have the inborn talent required.
This year I’m taking my own advice and leaving my comfort zone, embracing the messy, and trying new things.
Instead of a resolution this year, I decided to write a list of goals. I work well with goals and tend to be more inspired to follow a list than a resolution.
I’m taking a creative writing class, decreasing the amount of time spent on my phone, and running a 5K- a welcome relief to the long distances of half marathon training.
The list stares me in the face each morning as I sip my coffee. And I like it.
I would highly recommend you make your own list. Make time for the things you love, gosh darn it, because if you don’t, your time will fill itself.
Wishing you a messy, adventurous, brave year. May you try new things, meet new people, and question why you live the way you do. Because, when it comes down to it, we are currently living our one shot.
May you look back and remember where you came from: the people, places, and things that made you who you are today.
And yet, may you also pull up that anchor and move forward.