Friday, December 03, 2010

A Moment of Feeling Alive

Today's Reverb10 prompt:

December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

(Author: Ali Edwards)

Hmm. This one is tough, because it's hard to choose just one moment in a year that has been very full of life for me. I'm going to cheat a little bit and describe a weekend that was a real turning point for my life.

It was the weekend before Halloween, the weather was sunny, breezy, and mild; perfect for driving down to Washington, D.C. to run the Army 10-Miler, an annual race I had been itching to run for over 12 years. This year was my first chance because our work schedule permitted the absence and my children are now all old enough for me to A) train for a race and B) spend some time away from home without them. In addition to the race, which was on Sunday, I was looking forward to a mini-reunion with a few close friends from high school, most of whom I hadn't seen in years.

I enjoyed the solitude on Saturday, driving down, getting my race packet, a solo hotel stay. Sunday morning was such a high, I finished the race within my goal and enjoyed every step, even the ones that hurt! After resting a bit and getting some Chipotle for lunch, I headed over to my friend Cheri's apartment, where I was to stay Sunday night.

Cheri was one of my closest friends in high school, and we've stayed in touch over the years (even pre-Facebook but that sure has made things easier in recent years!). Cheri, with her Ph.D, is serving this year as a Congressional Fellow. We sat on her couch and talked about so many things, including how our lives brought us to where we are today and in what directions we were headed.

I picked her brain about her job and her path. There were many similarities between us; she started out doing one-to-one help with at-risk adolescent girls, then educating others in adolescent mental health, then evaluating and designing programs that served this population, and finally making her way to Washington so that she could work to bring about policy support for the needs of those she has spent her adult life helping. Similarly, I have been helping mothers and babies breastfeed; I've begun writing and speaking to parents, helpers, and healthcare providers about breastfeeding and lactation, and now I find myself with the desire to make global changes so that it's not so difficult for mothers to honor their creation and their babies in the way they choose.

Talking with Cheri, walking with her to dinner with other friends from high school, accompanying her to work on Monday and seeing the inner workings of our nation's policy process left me buzzing with optimism ... a very, very rare sensation for me in these days of feeling defeated in my career and grounded by responsibilities. I remembered when I visited D.C. earlier in the summer, and couldn't really put a finger on what I was feeling, couldn't really identify the pull I experience when I am there.

I love the architecture, the layout of the streets, the transparent mysteries that occur within the walls of the historic buildings on every corner ... I love the energy there, which is not quite as harried as New York but definitely purposeful. I belong in Washington, D.C., and after my time with Cheri, I believe I belong on Capitol Hill, delivering relevant research results to lawmakers, educating them about what our nation's maternal/child health and nutrition needs really are, so that we, as a society, as a generation, can leave a legacy of healthier norms for our children and our grandchildren to build upon.

On my drive home, I made the decision to investigate, in earnest, graduate programs in public health. I learned from Cheri that a background in policy would be best, and knew where to begin my search.

Everything from that point on seemed to make more sense. My job suddenly feels more purposeful; I need to finish out positive years as a member of the military and as an artist in order to really fulfill that point on my resume (a 20-year veteran who was also a musician, with a specialty in maternal/child public health might be just the diversity a lawmaker is looking for on his staff!). My mothering is energized. I feel like I'm moving, albeit slowly, in a direction. The right direction.

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