Health


“If I hear one more person talking about the importance of maintaining a balanced life while in graduate school I’m going to…”

Steaks Burgers Stop Chicken Fish

Balance: We seek it. We work hard now to experience and enjoy it later. We want to live balanced lives. We are enamored with the concept.  So where does one find this thing we call “balance”? Does it really exist?

Lately, the whole “balance” thing has become just one more thing to add to my “To Do” list. And there aint no getting to the bottom of any graduate student’s “To Do” list, so how do we ever get to lead balanced lives while in school?  The answer, my friends, lies in the concept of the free market.

Question: If each of us were our own individual free market, would we self-regulate? Answer: Yes.

If you were looking for “the free market”, would you ever find it?  Isn’t it right there in front of you? Or all around, wherever you go?  This is how I’ve come to see the concept of balance. Would you know where to go or what you were looking for if you wanted to find it? Would you believe it if you saw it?

Maybe we can only see it when we don’t have it; when it isn’t there.

It’s easy to identify an unfree market: government regulations, income taxes, farm subsidies, tariffs on tires, just like we know an unbalanced life when we’re living it: oh the pain and anguish, the stressed, bloodshot eyes, the fast food and coffee consumption, the “just say no to invites” policy.

However, despite the prevalence of unhealthy, unsustainable practices in graduate school, I’ve come to believe that when left to our own (hypothetically) destructive devices, we end up functioning like individual miniature free markets. We may be volatile, spiking up and occasionally crashing down, we are often “all over the place”, but nevertheless self-regulating in the end.

Take last week. In the midst of  juggling a major term paper, three short assignments, four study groups, 27 bajillion pages of reading, 44 bajillion so-called “extra curricular” activities (meet the deputy prime minister of Israel! Business and GREEN club meetings, field trips, band practice, workouts), where might the invisible hand of self-regulation and life balance lead you?

Maybe it will take you to check your twitter, fb, gmail accounts. We all have our vices. Last week I downloaded an entire Stevie Wonder album and that oh-so-awesome and under- or, over-played Mario song feat. Gucci off of Itunes!  Who knows, it could even lead you to leave the whole “To Do” behind for a women’s wine and cheese night, a million mandate mixer in Harvard Square, and a post-party Ihop adventure sipping OJ and eating chocolate-chip pancakes.

You never know where the invisible hand will lead you, but trust that after a 12-hour marathon library stint, a combination of one’s physical demands and mental capacity, the limits of the market kick in and that ever-mysterious, ubiquitous and constantly moving hand will pull you to self-regulate towards some semblance of sanity – and – that thing we call balance.

Oh, how we shall savior those moments!  Because after that, it’ll pull you right back to the stacks!

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It was another one of those gorgeous, late summer-reminiscent days today and I was laying in the grass in the Blakely Fields in front of The Fletcher School chatting on the phone, trying to get some reading done, and taking in some sun when I got stung by a bee! I had been lying there watching them get in and out of the hundreds of grassy weed flowers around me and must have accidentally swiped one with my hand as I turned to switch sun sides.  I felt that poke/sting and rapid swell spreading, tried to pull the lil stinger out but failed, so I trekked across the field to Health Services to see what they could do for me.

The last time I got stung by a bee I was at the annual boomerang tournament at the Ruhe-Ruhf farm exploring the train tracks with Luna Babes when I stepped into a beehive. And Yikes! Two or three buggers got me on my leg which immediately swelled-up balloon style, and stayed that way, itching and hurting for days, and leaving big red bumps for several weeks!  With an important tennis match tomorrow morning (I have a reigning title to defend) I was determined not to have a swollen hand for the next several days.

Which brings me to running. As one of the sweet doctors at Tufts Health Services took my pulse she asked me, “Are you a runner?”  I immediately blurted out, “Yes!” Surprised to hear myself say that I went on, “Well…” “An Athlete?” she asked? “Yeah…” I said smiling. “Nice and slow and steady,” she said referring to my pulse.

I confess I have never considered myself a runner. In fact I’ve mostly hated running.  I’d throw it into a weekly workout here or there just to change it up a bit, almost always on a treadmill and struggling to pump out more than 20 or 30 minutes at a slow pace. I only started to really like running when I was up at my cabin in August. I wanted to get back in shape and the weather was awesome, our dog Abby would come with me, and we’d run in the sun, the north woods and marshlands of Wisconsin making a great scenic trail, and sounding board, as I tried to sing at the top of my lungs while huffing and a puffing along the dirt road. When we’d get back we’d end at the dock and jump in the lake to cool off and the whole thing just made life feel good.  Here in the Medford-Somerville-Cambridge-Arlington area of Massachusetts we’re lucky to have miles of running-walking-biking trails, and I’ve grown to love the one that starts just behind our house.

Which brings me to today and why I love running.  I set off this evening just before sunset in need of clearing my head and determined to get in a good run. I started fast and with my music LOUD.  It felt so good to get out of my head and into the music and run that I decided to see which would slow me down first: my legs or my lungs.

In the beginning when I ran I’d think about running, or think about not thinking about running.  I run because I like to get a good workout. I feel strong and that feels good. I run because it’s part of my personal mental health plan, because running outdoors takes you places, because, second only to skydiving and bicycling, you really feel like you are flying.  And that’s a pretty amazing feeling.

When I passed the high school where the football and cheerleading practice is usually taking place the woods part and the sky opens up. I caught a glimpse of the sun setting magenta but kept running.  When I got to the end of my loop I had to stop to watch a few pitches of the Somerville little leaguers.  These kids were young, maybe only 8 or 9, but they could throw!

As I turned to make my loop back I started thinking about how my dad used to run track when he was younger (he also used to look a lot like Elivs Presley, but I digress..).  And though I started running to get back in shape, I don’t think I’ll ever stop (well, save for the knees) because “getting in shape” doesn’t have an end.  As my dad would attest, like most things, it’s really a life-long process.

And so it goes, Asi es mi vida corriendo.