Wednesday, January 15, 2014

In Better Shape

When people ask what I mean by running is my therapy, it's a fairly simple answer to me. My degree is actually in psychology and there are different approaches to therapy but mine is that it's about helping you get better at the present and therefore the future. It may or may not be necessary to address some things about the past to fix/deal with that because when we are completely frank, some things about the past are not that easy to figure out. But what I also mean by saying is that it's where things feel normal to me, it's the place where effort and reward have a high degree of correlation. I do lumosity everyday still and I've been on a downward streak for a bit and I assure you it's not for lack of trying so that's discouraging. The simple truth is there are still things I go and review from past memory mistakes not just from game but from life and can't figure out how it happened. Running is simpler in that it feels like effort and reward more closely correlate.

But perhaps, perhaps, the only thing that matters is that I keep trying to get in better shape in every way I know how. Some runners when taking on new challenges sign up for certain courses that are known to be easier (more likely to be flat, downhill, better weather, shorter distances, more cheering). I have certainly been among them as each of the first few races that I ever did with Kiana being 5k and when we got to longer ones they were flat courses including the marathon I won. But now that I think the stroller days are soon to be over, I want to "retire" knowing that I took on harder challenges that I first started signing up for. The last four races with her and one without her were the hilliest and toughest ones I'd done. They weren't all my fastest times but I was proud to have finished it with or without a PR or a title (though some did come with one or other). But when I spoke at the Pocatello Marathon last summer, there was another woman there who was intense. She broke the record of most marathons in a calendar year on that course (109!!!). And it turns out she's from Waco just north of hear where she'll be running the Miracle Match Marathon... which bills itself as "The Toughest in Texas; No Bull" and if you don't believe them well look at their elevation profile. That's got steeper hills than any road race I've ever done (the Spartan was worse but it was on a ski resort, was trail and I didn't have a stroller). But let's just say I've never been more intimidated by a race and just to make sure it was safe for Kiana I went and did a few miles worth of hill repeats on Wilke, a steep road with weights in the stroller just to make sure I could handle it especially downhill. I even asked Kiana if she'd rather do the half or the full and she picked full after I strongly suggested half several times :). Did I mention I've never been more intimidated by a race? Luckily, I've got friends who've got my back coming out. And while there have been zero races in my life where I wasn't trying to get my fastest time, this one looks tough.

I see videos of people who do a half/marathon/triathlon/spartan etc where they say hey if I can do this I can do anything. I'm not quite that idealistic but I do think that I got lucky/blessed  that I was training for a marathon when this cancer journey that would result in a major life changes started.  And I keep signing up for this events both because there's something comforting about having a clear beginning and end with mile markers. It's also because I hope, I dare to dream that if I keep my body in better shape, that it gives the good parts of my brain, the hope, the endurance, the will that it will fight the seizures, the cancer, fight fear itself off a little better,a  little longer. And that if I sign up for tougher things that if life hands me tougher things, I'll have developed something in preparation.

There are and have been many good things in my life always. But waking up in an ambulance at a birthday party and in the middle of a run, leave you both open, fearful and accepting to that any day could be your last and grateful the next day that it wasn't. We've upped my medications again hoping that I get to start driving. If it does happen, it will have been almost two years. Speaking of better shape, I picked up the new prescription yesterday and seeing the two bottles next to each other, I couldn't help but think that wouldn't it be easier to swallow the idea of the increased medication if they made the bottles shaped like good wine or classy liquor bottles instead of just pill bottles. I keep joking that let's try this and then we will let you drive is like a girl which after each date says, if you take me out one more time, then I'll give you a kiss. 

Speaking of kisses, the George Clooney approach still continues where somewhere between the pain of getting abandoned with staples in your head unexpectedly with a 
small child while you were not cleared to drive or return to work keeps my emotions at bay from getting to deep into a romantic relationship. I use as an explanation that I think (which I do) that it's irresponsible to get into a relationship with my life situation and that I come with more baggage than they allow onto planes but while all of that is my beliefs, that and the trauma of a few years back, keeps keeping certain things in check. It probably isn't helpful that the George Clooney girl who I let in the most also disappeared in what felt overnight while I was sitting there dreaming of taking a trip with her. But obviously if you're committed to being uncommitted, I may be the cause, not the effect. Another brain cancer friend whose wife is leaving him and he's having to restart life jokes that he's going to join my George Clooney approach. Still, a friend of mine recently diagnosed with colon cancer (and if you thought of my jokes about brain cancer were funny at all), he's' taking the humor up or is down to a whole new level ) But he's recently married and it's clear their romance is one of the things that will help him keep his heart solid and his butt and head held high. (My jokes are never quite as good as my friends  like the one who recently said to me that brighter stars have shorter lives so that's why my doctors took out some of my brightness to get me to live longer.)

Still, I get that I am priviliged of being alive, of loving and being loved, of raising a princess. And while there are some things that I am a long way from where I belong (I joked with my pastor that in over a year that I have been attending his church, I've made progress because I went from the very back row to the second to back row to the third from back row), I am grateful to have good friends and family that I think keep helping me go forward. There is a quote that we all find out that sometimes In any journey, who you travel with can be more important than the destination. I'm not sure everyone who I've traveled with or vice versa would sign up to do it again but I like my batting average. And thoughts like that drive me to walk Kiana to school still or to go out and do track workouts where the company is always better than the destination. 

There are people who appear to complain if their coffee spills louder than people who get told of actual problems like deaths in the family. And there are people who dream of days on vacation while others are just hoping for more days. I was trying to find songs for Waco and in checking apparently Katy Perry's "roar of a tiger" or something was on there. I listened to it and have never heard dumber lyrics to that I went from zero to my own hero (how does one get that narcissistic?!?).  It is the people who struggle but do so with honesty and conviction that are my heroes, with realistic and sometimes naive hope. And I learn that from watching Kiana grow up that having child like dreams is not necessarily a bad thing. The balance between holding onto that and fighting reality is one I'm not sure I know anyone has achieved. There are people who seem to settle too easily and then there these instances where things aren't "good enough" unless they feel perfect, where want time and space to stop and live there forever. There are moments when Kiana gets her second report card with straight A's and perfect attendance, moments where on school field trip I see her eyes open with an incredible sense of wonder, moments where the walk to school takes longer because she has to pick up every snail on the sidewalk because it rained and no one should step on it, moments like a track workout that ends in ice cream where Kiana says that "Daddy I love you more than ice cream but it's close. In these moments you wish that Never-never land actually existed and neither of you ever had to grow up anymore.

But that's not the real world, at least not mine. And yes my bill bottle size and prescription amount have grown. And I really do believe that  odds are in due time this thing in my brain will also grow and that'll be that. But until then or as long as I can, I'll try to keep the beauty of echoing life through Kiana's eyes, through the privilege of having great friends and family, and that will grow the better parts of me. And as long as loving and being loved is the frame through which life is viewed, we can always get in better shape.

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