Monday, June 20, 2011

Uphill, both ways, by blogger of the month Renata Mazurek

 If nighttime in Be’er Sheva makes it feel like a different place, so does sunrise. Admittedly, I’ve only started getting up at sunrise in the last month, but for some reason the contrast of the city at that hour is startling. Of course, the stillness of morning disrupted by movement as part of the transition into the day is nothing new – whether it’s rush hour in a city or just that most people are starting their day –though it seems so sudden here. Stepping out, the landscape is dim and there is hardly a sound. Barely two hours later, any visible trace of dew just prior is negligible as the heat sets in along with what looks like an exponential rise in activity. A few days ago I woke up late (a little after seven) and my immediate thought in deciding to abandon going for a run that morning was that I wouldn’t make it to avoid the heat, right before applying the fact that I wouldn’t make it in order to get to the first class. I do not even mind the rush of traffic and people; it just comes through as an altogether different setting. I suppose I’ve encountered similar atmospheres as far as both sides of the transition, although I’d never before passed a construction site in a desert first thing in the morning, and never been in a city where, behind a constant flow of people out and about, I see the borders taper off. It’s not as if the awareness of being in a desert isn’t apparent during the day, but somehow the emptiness that is met with early on brings that awareness forward, still maintaining the city environment.  

The other aspect drawn forth is the variability of the terrain. I sense the incline below me just going to and from school, and still sometimes there is a misconception that being as it is a desert, I would expect one flat and expanse area. Running throughout Be’er Sheva quickly underscores that this is not true. Some time ago, I was running (not on purpose) because I had mistaken my direction getting to a meeting place and ended up at the edge of Be’er Sheva. Tracking back, I had to scale a hill along the path. Having finally gotten the correct orientation, the last section to arrive to where I needed to be was… a hill. Didn’t I just run up a hill? I was beginning to be out of breath. The brink of Be’er Sheva was a lot farther out than I had imagined, and I was grateful to the person who knew which direction I had to turn because I had already asked three other people. Tired and becoming dehydrated, I was still in a rush, so I sprinted (as much as I could) the rest of the way. At that moment, it was anything but easy.

Being out on a run one morning at the same place last week, on a return route, I came to the one of the hills and briefly preparing myself mentally as I came closer, pressed up to the top, where to my astonishment, I wasn’t quite feeling the physical impact that I was expecting. Putting aside that I’ve been trying to improve my breathing capacity over the last few years, to this day by no means would I consider myself a runner. Maybe it had been my approach this time around. I had not mapped out a plan to run these hills as part of my route, but when it came to it, I made the snap decision that I had the energy for it and to follow through. The context was different, but the challenge was essentially the same. I assessed that a can-do approach could entirely transform an experience for the better.  

It’s a nice perspective to bear in mind. Though when having to draw on that perspective, it also may not come through as intended, regardless of best efforts. It is like taking a bus to Jerusalem- you can arrive well ahead of schedule, place yourself in ‘line’, even manage to actually get on the bus before the driver limits the capacity of people pushing in, and still wind up standing in the aisle the whole way. Uphill struggles can present in different manners whether occurring as relatively minor or major incidences, and success measured by achieving a desired result could be not what was hoped even if upholding a can-do approach. It can be disheartening. I’ve often told myself when such cases arise, that as a future doctor I’m supposed to be better than that. People count on me. Once in a while I will think, ‘Why am I not allowed to get aggravated?’, as if it was a matter of fairness between myself and other people. If I re-evaluate, the end result may be the most important but it does not detract from the process and putting in the effort. Of course, the effort might seem to be for nothing, too, but it can also be an indicator of how I am setting my expectations. When I go out to practice medicine, aggravation or discouragement can be part of it, but there is merit in acknowledging how much of it is due to the difference in what I was expecting and what happened. It is not necessarily lowering the bar just to feel that every uphill battle is a success; it is going back to knowing how to be flexible. All it takes sometimes is a moment of mental preparedness, and being ready to expect that even in less than two hours, one’s atmosphere can look entirely different.  - blogger of the month Renata Mazurek