Skip navigation

Monthly Archives: August 2009


Put the glasses on.  Set the font to Garamond, size twelve.  Line spacing 1.3.  This is how I write.  I’ve written this way for years now.  My old Sauconies, the black ones with the black laces, I keep them by the door.  The two pairs of new ones, black on charcoal and red and black on white, I keep them in the opposite corner of the room, next to this ugly dresser that my landlord had here when I moved in a year ago.  I keep my running shoes next to my hamper in my room.  I eat the same breakfast every morning.  One cup of coffee.  Egg whites with spinach and mozzarella cheese.  Oatmeal with peanut butter.  Another cup of coffee.

It’s always interesting when I realize how much I try to control the little things.  The form I write in, the placement of the shoes, they don’t change.  And it’s when life changes dramatically, out of nowhere, unexpected, that I realize why I do these things.

Bukowski once wrote that “what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”  I’ve had the book on my shelf for years now and read it many times.  But I’d never taken the time to think about that sentence.

Today, I was running in the Marina.  About five miles into the run I decided to turn and go down the pier.  The wind suddenly shot into my direction, blasting my face and pushing against me.  It shocked me for a moment, but I pushed back against it.  My feet were heavy, my steps were short and forced, my breath wasn’t coming easily.  I started to look around at the people.  An elderly couple stood at the railing watching the water crash against the rocks.  A family was throwing line from a fishing pole into the water.  The kids sat and watched with childhood eagerness and wonder.  Another couple was walking their dog.  The wind pushed the dog’s skin back and I could see his teeth.  I giggled to myself as I ran by, and thought about how different each moment is for each of us.  The kids in awe of a fishing pole, the old couple staring at the water reflecting on a long life, the dog antagonized by the wind.  And me, running, pushing myself against the wind, cramps in my calves, cramps in my side, pushing myself again.  The pier seemed to go on forever.  I ran into that wind for what seemed like hours.  Every muscle, every ache told me to stop.  And then I got to the end, did a half-circle and turned to head back down the pier.  Now, the wind was guiding me, pushing me from behind.  My feet felt lighter, my steps got easier.  I was able to relax and breathe.  And that line came to me out of nowhere.  What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.

I had big plans for the rest of the summer.  I was going to take the GRE on August 16th, next Thursday.  I’ve been studying hard, and I’m ready.  I was going to finish my grad school applications.  I was going to be here, in Berkeley.  But, as usual, there’s something quite different in store for me.  A random twist of events have foiled my plans.  A fear is becoming reality.

But on that pier today, I had a moment of clarity.  One of those moments where I really know everything’s going to be fine.  How many times in life are we not going to get what we want?  How many times are our plans going to be stripped away by some unexpected twist of events?  How many times will we be faced with our fears?  How many times are we going to have to walk through the fire?  Countless.  Change is immovable.  But yet I’m still so scared of it.  It pushes so many old buttons.  So I keep different pairs of shoes in different places, I type with the same font and same spacing, I eat the same breakfast every day, in the same way.  And I know why. And that’s fine with me.  I get it.  I’m not going to lie and say I don’t.  But none of that matters.  Because we do what we can.  Because what matters most is how well you walk through the fire.