23 Minutes

Twenty-three minutes is good.  No, it’s bad.  No, it’s good.  Twenty-three minutes is how long I walked on a treadmill for the past two days at  2 mph and 0% incline.  I can’t decide whether that’s good or bad. 

Seven years ago I could walk as long as I wanted.  Six years ago, I was forbidden to walk more than for five minutes at 2 mph because of CHF.  In 2009, I walked in Switzerland and France for an hour at a time without trouble.  But in October of this year, it was only ten minutes again, and in November, it was only fourteen.  Last week I didn’t dare pass the 20 minutes mark.  So today should be worth a glass of champagne. 

I should be happy, right?  But I’m not.  I want to run and walk without limits.  I want to go until I drop and know that I’ll still be able to get up off the floor afterwards.  At the gym this morning, people jogged on treadmills all around me while I barely strolled.  Yes, it was 23 minutes. I’m grossly dissatisfied. 

My life is like the teeter-totters in the playgrounds of my childhood:  I’m up with encouragement one day and down the next.  I tell myself that 23 minutes is GOOD, but I don’t believe it yet.

As I wrote in my post, “Into the Void,” I want to consider my life as a new type of adventure in living.  Readers responded to that blog by writing of the wisdom they gained by surrendering to the in-between times of life.

In contrast to goodness of which they write, the words of Dylan Thomas swell within me:  “Do not go gentle into that dark night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”  Thomas is writing of death, and I’m not dying any more than any of us is.  But surrendering, even temporarily, to a life with so little clear purpose and so many limitations feels like going gently into that dark night. 

In my experience, surrender leads to trouble.  I do not, and will not, go gentle….

So, trying to embrace both the free fall in which I find myself and the urge to rage against it, I ordered evening gowns on-line today to try on for my son’s wedding.  Since they’re both sleeveless, I want well-toned shoulders and arms before June 2011.  My trainer and I committed ourselves to this goal of beautiful shoulders by June.  With six months to go, I might actually make it!  Six months give me one small way to both surrender to and rage at my limitations at the same time…I think.

All of this brings me back to the teeter-totter.  Three basic activities are possible on a teeter-totter:  The first is to place one person at each end and gently go up and down, but this quickly gets boring.  Next is making the other person hit the ground harder than he or she anticipates.  That’s fun for a while.  What we spent the most time on was trying to balance the teeter-totter perfectly so that nobody’s feet touched the ground.  We shifted our weight forward and back until balanced perfectly.  Perfect equilibrium was a great achievement! 

I know there’s goodness to just being, to letting the truth of the moment surround me, move within me, and give birth to new truth.  I heard today of a 48-year-old man who recently died of a recurrence of cancer at only age 48  The friend who told me  commented on how much this man’s death makes him grateful for every day he’s alive, even with limitations.  I wish I could have embraced that gratitude as I did my 23 minutes on the treadmill.  I just couldn’t get there.

My effort to balance surrender and rage are like the teeter-totter, with me on both ends of the board at the same time.  Sometimes the up and down is gentle.  Sometimes one side hits the ground so hard I bounce in the air.  Every once in a while, I reach the balance where I can take my feet off the ground, put my arms out in the air and enjoy the feeling of perfect equilibrium.   I’m trying to embrace where I am even while I fight against the darkness.  It’s taken all day to reach an uneasy equilibrium that rests in gratitude, but that’s finally where I am tonight. 

Twenty-three minutes is not only good today, it’s excellent.

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