Specifically, I've paid much more attention to the difference between a pair and a single lately. When I train alone, there is a definite peace and calm, but it is like surfing alone, even the best day still feels a little hollow. Lately I've thought a bit about my upcoming SF-SD bike trip with my friend, Al. I've done SD-SF once solo and it was a great challenge, but overall I'd say it was unnecessarily miserable. Sharing an experience, good or bad, with one other person seems to elevate the commonplace towards the extraordinary. I remember riding with Al in Austin while I was there for a friend's wedding, going through some climbs by lake Travis, and really working into a nice groove, just the two of us clicking miles away, swearing up a storm for no particular reason, and enjoying a moment that would not have been terribly memorable had we been alone. Al would say "three steps" indicating we had 3 climbs ahead of us, and it seemed like no matter how many we did there were always 3 more waiting around the next corner.
I've also thought a bit about childbirth lately, although not because of any personal experience with it. I did spend 3 summers working as a clerk in the L/D ward at Kapiolani Medical Center so I got a little bit of the experience as an outsider looking in. I would imagine that experiencing the birth of your child as a parent is one of life's most unique and cherished experiences. It is impossible for me to look at newborn photos and not feel the glow of a the parents shining back at me. Most recently two of my friends had their first kids, Patrick and Paula brought Lucy into the world, and John and Errolyn are the proud parents of twin boys Mitch and Glen. And of course my sister and her three girls, Juniper, Clementine and Hazel, talk about estrogen overload, no wonder my bro-in-law always has a beer bottle in his hand. I can't imagine what a childbirth would feel like with nobody there to share the experience with, and I wonder how single parents manage to do it.
Last, I think about death sometimes, not in a morbid sense, but because if you don't understand and accept your own mortality, how can you really decide what is important in your life? I can't imagine the horror of being a casualty of war, dying in a foreign country without family or friends. At lunch we briefly discussed Princess Di's death as I researched the different seatbelt laws (NOTE: California law says backseat passengers have to be buckled, Hawaii only requires minors to wear their belts in the back seat). I guess there really isn't any good way to die, certainly not a car accident, breast cancer, or a firearm. I have a permanent memory of one of my mom's last night's when she let my father and I know that she was scared. "Scared of what?" we asked, and she pronounced "scared of dying!" At the time I was speechless, but I've always felt that declaration was rather poignant. Today would have been her 69th birthday.
Over the last 12 months I've witnessed a number of breakups, and I find it all very revealing about the challenges of the modern human condition. Perhaps we have all reached a state of independence that does not easily lend itself to partnership. Perhaps there is simply less willingness and desire to "tough it out" or maybe there is simply no shame or dishonor in admitting that things didn't turn out as planned. I do know that some of the best times I have had were shared with someone else, and I think those are the moments I will remember most when my time comes to reflect upon my life. Surfing with Brandon as a kid, riding bikes with Al in various cities, running with Luc (or really behind Luc), visiting colleges with my father, pacing Mike and Rod at various 100 milers, going to see Phish with Kelly, and of course all of the personal and special moments of past relationships, from the mundane to the surreal.
Having a few moments of solo time is healthy for all of us, but wanting to share life's experiences is a big part of what makes us human.