Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Where the heart is

May 15, 2009

I read a blog by Kristen Armstrong at Runner's World Magazine. Kristen is an avid runner, author, public speaker, and mama of 3. (She is also Lance's exwife but that's not important.) I like her so much because she is constantly pushing herself. Whether on the yoga mat or a bazillion mile trail or with her kids, she is always seeing how far she can go. I am notsomuch into pushing myself and envy her gumption.

This week's blog, entitled "Right Here" http://milemarkers.runnersworld.com/ struck me even more than her others. Maybe because she wrote it on my brother's 25th birthday, maybe because it was just really well-written, but this week it made me think . A lot.

She touched on what I beleive is truly my worst habit. And no, it's not that I never drink water or that I bite my Grady hospital fingernails or that I drink diet coke all day. It's not even that I read too much tabloid junk or eat out twice a day. My worst habit, hands down, is not being WHERE I AM. I am always doing 5 things at once, thinking of five things at once, generally just not being where I am. This does not bode well in my life. In 3 years, I have gotten into 3 car accidents for 1. grabbing my shoes from the backseat and rolling into the car in front of me, 2. searching for my moisturizer from the passenger seat mess and 3. for gushing about R on the phone while I pulled, unsuccessfully, into a parking spot. It doesn't translate well at work either. Plenty of files have been misplaced and paperwork left incomplete because I am not focusing. I am a terrible victim of a culture that values multi-tasking!

This inability to be where I am probably most affected my travels over the last few years. In central and South America, I spent too much time wishing I were not eating empanadas and instead in my grandmother's kitchen. Or I was looking at the calendar wondering when I could get back to the creature comforts of home. It's no secret that I am a big homebody. No one would ever say adventure is my middle name. Familiarity, maybe. Comfort, maybe. Predicability, maybe too. And while these trips were indeed life-changing, they could have been more, had I actually FULLY been there.

Africa was similar. I was a little older and a tiny bit wiser, so I was prepared to be a little homesick. But still, those little demons snuck in. Instead of learning from the heart-stopping poverty, I would often be thinking of my patients here. Instead of waking up early to spend time with the kids before school, I would lay in bed wishing for a fan and a shower. Africa remains one of my most life-changing experiences, but it really could have been more. I spent thousands of dollars and traveled thousands of miles and did not fully embrace it as I should have. My heart, surrounded by specatular landscape and awe-inspiring people, was too often somewhere else.

It's not just in travels that I have a restless, unfocused heart. Day by day I realize that my mind is somewhere else. My apologies to friends and family, but it's here too. If I'm at dinner with a friend, I (sometimes :) find myself looking at the clock, thinking about an early gym wake up call. If I'm on a run, I'm thinking of how I want to be on the sofa watching Grey's. If I'm at Just Faith, I'm thinking of my brother in Afghanistan or of friends expecting babies. If I'm at Mass, I'm thinking of how I should get there during the week more. If I'm just talking with a patient, I might be thinking of where I am going to place them at discharge. If I'm with R (again only sometimes!), I am often thinking of the wedding to-do list. The point is the same, I am way too often- somewhere else.

Last weekend I was babysitting a precious 20 month old. As we were getting snuggled into the glider for a book, she looked at me and said, "Ava want to snuggle with Ms. Keri." Snuggle I did. She then said, "Ava wants to read all the books." Well, I would have read all the books had that sweet child not fallen asleep at book 3. This is one of the few times I can remember being fully, fully, present. I smelled her baby bath hair. I patted her little diaper as she fell asleep. I did the voices of "If you give a mouse a cookie" and all the inflections too. I didn't skip one page and never rushed a sentence. And while holding a child has always calmed me a bit, made me focus more, this time I was keenly aware of how much I adored that moment-Because my heart was there, with her, with the books and the baby Mozart music and the Cinderella night light.

So, armed with the memory of that wonderful time with Ava and with the inspiration from Kristin to be more present in my relationships, in my health, in my work and in my faith, I vow to actually push myself this time. Armstrong says she will ask herself as many times as it takes, "where is my heart?" And if it's anywhere but 'here,' she'll bring it back. And if I'm with you and seem distant, feel free to ask me where my heart is. Because the only right answer is "Right Here."

this is not baby Ava, but my sweet cousin Alyse, enjoying some of her own cuddle time as we both fall asleep!



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