Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Present Company

Remember, remember the 5th of November. 3 years ago today, November 5, 2010 I woke up in an ambulance at a birthday party and somehow Life Part II was conceived… There have been many strange things that happened since that day when I’d never called in sick at a job I’d had for a few years, I was regularly using my passport, I was married for almost 10 years, I’d never ran with my daughter, I had a fatter bank account… It’d be less than honest to say I don’t miss some of those things but here 3 years later… somehow each year being stranger than the one before with wins, gains and losses… all I can say is that I’m grateful to still be standing.

What do you do to celebrate a cancerversary as some call it? Well I woke up a cute girl who somehow intuitively had made an I love you daddy heart. Perhaps, it was as a response to the heart of stone I brought her back from a trip I had over the weekend in Colorado. In the strange blessings that have come I’ve gotten to run in Colorado, Vermont, and Idaho this year in some serious elevation… talk about a runner’s high. But on the trip to Colorado, there was fun dancing, great eating, one of the big highlight was that I got to hang out with an old friend, Leandro Bizama. He was a friend who I knew in high school, who after college graduation convinced me to volunteer in the South Pacific as a high school teacher in the Marshall Islands, who came shortly after the biopsy and shortly after the surgery. The Marshallese, at least when I was there 10 years ago, were not very punctual, internet barely existed there and being a teacher was tough because a huge percentage of those with or without education ended up in very similar occupations, since there’s only so many options on an island that’s 4 square miles. We reminisced about old days but I was
reminded of an old phrase that the Marshallese have, “Present company is always more important than future company.” This was the rationale/motivation/excuse for the lack of unpunctuality because if you were with someone and enjoying their company, it was far ruder to leave it than it was to keep someone else waiting. I know that’s against the American approach generally speaking and there is an argument to be made of why one culture is known for being more productive than the other but still… while I was in Colorado for 3 days, I am sad to admit that it took 33 years to achieve this but for the first time in my entire adult life, I went three days in a row without setting an alarm.  In simple honesty, the body is too well tuned to getting up early so I did and still ran every day but it somehow made falling asleep each night easier.

And, while I didn’t achieve it as well as I should have, I tried to stay off my phone more. )It was great when I was in places were there gorgeous mountains covered in snow and trees and waterfalls and no phone reception). But when there was I semi copped out beause I had friends doing Spartan races and the New York marathon and of course there was the Cowboys game and hearing in on how church went and how cute somebody’s kids were that day... I’m a guy who obviously over shares between this blog and facebook and they are a way to make a human connection. But there is no scene more ironic to me than when I go to a party or a restaurant and there is a table full of people and every one of them is on their phone and none of them are having that old fashioned thing called conversation. I’ve made deals with people that whoever is the first to pick up their phone at the table picks up the tab, both one on one and in a group setting. For me, before this all started in 2010, I’d never had internet access at home, didn’t have a smart phone. I got the technology oddly enough due to cancer to research the medical things, to connect with people who weren’t around every day more efficiently. It helped with those things and I’m a guy with memory problems so it helps to be able to take quick pictures and make quick notes and sometimes play the rehab games right on the fly (the get an ipad recommendation actually came from a neuropsychologist who said you could turn it on and work on things more efficiently than in a book or a notebook or on a computer).

That is the beauty of hanging out with a six year old. As I sit through conversations about being inspirational (still correct everyone to say it's perspirational) or answer questions about how do you do it, I have an incredibly simple answer, I have a great teacher. As I walked Kiana to school today, she all but screamed stop and then moved a snail off the sidewalk and put it in the grass so that I didn’t crush it. When we go to the playground she’s running and hanging out with people she likes. The things people have been kind enough to commend me for, exercising and getting time in with people I love are things every six year old in Kiana’s class does without any instruction. I’m a guy with memory problems but I am embarrassed and grateful that it took brain cancer to remind me of those forgotten and neglected basics.

I know there are times we make big deals out of anniversaries and birthdays. When I was married I treated each one of those sacred, taking each of those days off and doing something fun… well look how well that worked out. But the reason was that I’d neglected some daily things… so what am I doing today to celebrate life? I made Kiana breakfast, walked her to school, I’m going to iron my laundry, go to Costco, have lunch with some good friends, do my lumosity brain rehab, do some homework with her, do a track workout with more good friends and then put her to bed.

I was a guy who had his life planned 10 years in advance and the universe laughs at my plans with each year has seemed stranger than the one before. I’ve enjoyed big celebrations after races and accomplishments. If I’ve erred anywhere, I’ve noticed that I really don’t have any long term plans anymore. I am not trying to be healthy only to get to 70; it’s because fruit salad and exercise are good today. It’s been my experience that most things that are good for you in the long term, while they don’t bat a thousand, are consistently positive for you on the day to day. There are people who are incredibly good with people and have no blog and no facebook, twitter etc. There are those whose entire social life appears to be on those and rarely if ever make the old fashioned hug, handshake, high five. Between the extreme I’d choose the former. I’m probably a long way from taking down this blog or shutting down my facebook account but they won’t come out during any of those “celebrations” today. While it’s not always completely possible, it is a good way to live and enjoy that present company is more important than future company (or past company for that matter). Because a guy with memory problems, remembers 3 years to date of when cancer started that today’s daily tasks are very much worth celebrating. 

1 comment:

  1. I love the quote about "present company" - I think the Guatemalans have a similar outlook! :-)