Friday, July 26, 2013

The Second City

It’s unusual I blog twice this quickly but Chicago was about so much more than the Spartan Race. I also had never taken two cities in that quickly like I had New York and Chicago (appropriately enough, Chicago was the Second City). With Spartans or Marathoners or when I used to travel more to play ultimate, I've never gone somewhere else just to get in physical activity. There are people in my running group who seem to fly to a marathon and fly back in the next day, apparently harder core athletes than me. While it’s clear I love getting me some exercise  it’s rare that I ever go somewhere and just do a race without catching something around it. In a psychological evaluation, the psychologist pointed out that I was about extreme as extroverts get (if you can’t tell from a guy whose entire life is on a blog…) but that I was also as low stress as he’d seen someone so extremely extroverted. I don’t know if there is some great secret to this but the times I feel the stress the most is when I don’t exercise or I try to isolate myself thinking that my problems are entirely my own.

Still, the best part of this Chicago trip, just like the best part of any of my life wasn’t only the sporting events, it was spending time with friends. A friend who I hadn’t seen since high school had moved to Chicago where she is now a minister. We had a great philosophical conversation about that one of my struggles with the concept of heaven in most religions is that it seems to be a place with no struggles where you sit around and just be happy (I can't imagine something being less happy than not being challenged and just sitting around). She accurately pointed out that by the Biblical record, in the perfect Garden of Eden, they still had to grow their food and put in work. In a world where we’re so full of materialism, the picture of heaven painted is that gold is  pavement. Most of I run and drive our cars… I listen to Queen’s who wants to live forever, who dares to live forever?  As I’ve mentioned before, I attend church but the church I attend is emphatic about being real and that redemption isn’t about how pretty you can dress up for church but showing perhaps why most religions emphasize that we need to be saved from ourselves sometimes.

I saw a friend from ultimate who used to live in Texas that’s been around since long before this started… he questioned my George Clooney lifestyle and told me about his “almost true love,” a girl he had met and moved to a town for. They broke up but when he had moved to a town to be with her, well, he was now married to a girl he met because of the town he moved to because of her… He swears like a sailor, maybe not quite that bad but he, as many others have, tried to get me to not be so closed to the idea of committing to someone for whatever time I've got left. I argued with him that if I could get through the brain falling apart without a significant other (though as I’ve said before, never have I done it alone), what did I need one for? I blew him off and as this blog demonstrates didn’t listen or think about a word he said. Nor did I go take a picture of me with Van Gogh the hopeless romantic who cut off his ear with which he insanely showed he was in love.

I met people who wondered if the media stuff got old… those who told me about someone who’d beaten a cancer when they weren’t supposed to… I smiled and told them that like a poker player, as I always have that I bet on the odds of reality knowing the hand I’ve been dealt and betting it as best as I know how under the circumstances. He was also 
a minister and like everyone else who is religious was surprised that I've never prayed to beat this.

But perhaps above all, my favorite person I’d met on this trip was someone I felt like I already knew. Back when this all started, as I found out how rare this tumor is, Livestrong offered to connect me with an Imerman Angel,  someone who already had the same diagnosis. I blew them off originally but realizing it wasn’t so common, I asked to meet someone. We are still in touch and she had to accept some limits as well. She was an attorney that changed her type of work because her language skills were such that she started working to where she wouldn’t be in court anymore because as the guy who has memory and language problems found out the hard “getting fired” way, trying to pretend like you brain is all it was before  they took some healthy and unhealthy components to buy you time, court is a good way to be under the microscope on how much it has affected you. But yet, the most fascinating part of the story was that her boyfriend would become her fiancée after a seizure and propose after she found out she had cancer (they smiled as they shared that it was unromantic because it was out in the cold outside of a car she couldn’t drive and that he didn’t propose on one knee because it was too cold).  These guys made the commitment to get married  in the middle of medical tests and crisis. The guy who got left by his high school sweetheart in the middle of it all by someone he’d been with for over 14 years… well let’s just say it messed with me. Still, as we discussed some of the angel’s language issues that have come from the tumor, she and her husband stated that they work now on realizing that these are small things and try to rarely complain. They had just had to up her anti seizure medication and she was rolling with the punches well.

Home also had me finding out that a friend I made from this journey, who found these things out through headaches, well, he had a grand mal seizure while driving. Unlike me, he found out and hadn’t had a seizure at all but was taking the pills as a preventive measure. Like me he was shocked to feel fine one moment and to be told he had a seizure the next. Like me, he has kids and so has a driving restriction  that worries him about the most important passengers which is never the one in the driving seat. Like me, it messed with his confidence of how can you be fine one moment and in an ambulance the next. I exchanged some tips of some of the things with him and his family that I’ve done to remind myself of the medication (an old person pill dispenser so you can retroactively look to see if you missed it, rather than taking it straight from a bottle and a google calendar thing that is set to send an email and pop up on my phone as an alarm) to lower the risks. He is fortunate enough to where his spouse is clearly supportive but they are working on teaching their kids how to make the 911 call and what to say. Both he and the imerman angel are on the same medication that I’m on, on lower dosages… Both of them had their first seizure while driving and thankfully neither they nor anyone else was hurt… but I’m grateful I was never behind a wheel the two times I woke up in an ambulance (this is why I have a driving restriction).

Chicago is apparently called the Second City. While there are competing theories of where the nickname originated, the story I choose to believe is that they called themselves that after having to rebuild the city after a great fire. There are people who take their second shot at life and throw it away being bitter or scared of what happened on the first part. There are those who put it on hold or slow it down while in treatment and come back to some or none of it, shifting it. I’ve called my life, Life Part II many times, with some dramatic changes having been handed to me and others me consciously deciding out of a strange mixture of hope and fear (pile on the list here the George Clooney approach, putting off brain surgery to run a marathon, running races with a stroller all the time, doing some things with a lot more caution and others with a lot more abandon).  Chicago politicians’ jail time would tell you that they’ve probably missed a fair share of getting some of it right… a cursory reading of this blog would tell you that about me. But sometimes, the only thing you get right is to keep going, to give it a second try as well as you can, sometimes unclear or scared of how much of the balance you’re getting right. At the Spartan the volunteer shouted in the middle of an obstacle, you’re miles ahead of the guys on the couch. I’ve gotten lost on races so I wondered if that was true for me, what if you take the wrong turn as I have in cycling or in running? I don’t have a clear answer for that but I know/hope/believe that even along the wrong turns we all make in life… that we’re still ahead of the people on the couch … The second city gave me a lot to think about in Life Part II but it never made me question the will to keep going.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for allowing more of us back in. I'm proud to have had you as a friend. I'm expecting to get reacquainted in the future. You are one of the good ones, Iram!