Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Can't Be Good

In my younger days, an old friend said to me as I was heading out for an evening, "Be good." And with a nudge and a smile I said "What's the fun in that?" He responded with "Well if you can't be good, be good at it." And that's a line that I've held in my repertoire for over a decade. Obviously it's a semi tongue in cheek joke about if you're going to misbehave might as well go all out but I try to apply it elsewhere.

There are people who have calm lives who seem to be surrounded by angels if they aren't angels themselves. But as I watch life both near and far, it is how we deal with our demons that I find both comfort and fear. Some of the end results are scary... like the recent news of an actor whose films I've enjoyed, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, passing away from heroin use. It's fascinating watching how people react over the spectrum of whether he was a victim of this or that or an abuser or an overuser... The person who I agreed with most was Aaron Sorkin who wrote about it, [Hoffman] did not die from an overdose of heroin, he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine." But again I've enjoyed some of Hoffman's films... and it made me think of something else I recently read in Time Magazine about other artists who have dealt with what haunts them

"an individual striking out against the expectations of his culture, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard, Miles Davis coming out of heroin addiction to produce 'Round About Midnight, the 14-year-old Billie Holiday turning the pain of her childhood into the bluest beauty, Sylvia Plath taking on death with pills and poetry, William S. Burroughs writing from the bowels of his addiction in Naked Lunch; it's Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Cheever and Carver drinking and writing, writing and drinking through their demons."

And these reflections on what people have done with their demons, the expectations, is a fascinating concept. Them struggling with it and when not always able to be good, finding something creative that they were good at. It's why I love Van Gogh, a tormented man who "transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world."  And at the end of the day, I'm sure there are lots more people who deal with their pain by creating beautiful and intelligence who no one ever hears about but their own inner circle friends. And I hope to never hide from my demons in only bad food or porn or alcohol or in staying so busy but unproductive, to where I think of myself as a victim, because then there will be no time to reflect when push comes to shove. I'm 33 years old and have met tons of people and perhaps somewhere in the world there are those who aren't good at something but I've yet to meet any though I've met some who choose to stop using . Some of us excuse it with what to me feels like cheap lines of if you don't deal with me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best... blah blah blah. To me, the best are those who are there at my best and my worst and try to help me improve and acknowledge both as human and capable of growth. 

So admiring how some of the most creative they handle their demons I reflect on that cancer is one of my demons... echoed by me not having enough faith in my  own brain... perhaps not enough faith period, why I've been sitting further up in church, my faith is still lacking in at least in my own life and my own capacity to love from damage. And so I think of those kind of guys that did those types of things where they found a way to let out their demons and I did a pretty solid track workout tuesday and my first ever Spartan full workout of the day where it was the most pull ups I'd ever done in a day. And a 5k yesterday at a sub six pace as a training run in freezing weather. Because on the days, I'm not good... well this is how I try to be good at it.  

Someone chatting with me asked if I really only had a night or a day left what would I do (they suggested they'd  have a pretty wild night). I reminded them I put off brain surgery to run a marathon so I'm a little more boring. A newspaper and video piece came out about me yesterday (http://www.austin360.com/news/lifestyles/recreation/running-a-family-affair-for-man-with-brain-cancer/ndF84/). I will likely never get comfortable with media nor quite understand why the story of one foot in front of the other hasn't gotten old but what is said in there is absolutely true, I've qualified for, ran Boston, and won a marathon but Kiana's first 5k is going to be my favorite race yet. Luckily the start line and the finish line of the Austin marathon, where my first marathon happened will be the same for Kiana's first 5k so for us running ain't no thing but a family thing. 

But while I dismiss being called inspirational as perspirational, I do find much of my inspiration in other people... Oddly enough there was another article written by the same author, Pamela LeBlanc about a friend of mine referred to in here before.  This friend  Sean, who is not going to be able to run the Austin marathon because of cancer surgery a few days before went and did the course (http://www.austin360.com/weblogs/fit-city/2014/feb/06/after-getting-cancer-diagnosis-sean-maguire-runnin/). The Austin marathon staff and Livestrong both organizations I love made the finish into an event and put up the finish banner for him and gave him a finishers medal. And he was one of two heroes to me today... because he was the only person who ran the entire course turn by turn but for a good chunk of it, someone joined him. There is a team Kate, a subsection of team Livestrong, for the Austin marathon who was the biggest team last year as they supported Kate, someone who was going through brain cancer and would ultimately pass away from it much much too young. But the person who ran a good chunk of the marathon (18 miles) with Sean was her widowed husband. I've only met her husband briefly a couple of times but... Sean was running that marathon with no fans along the way or closed roads and Mr. Kate... I wish I had better words but it's guys like that which remind me that people aren't good with "cancer" or being widowed but these guys sure are being good at it. And when a friend who didn't know we knew each other said this guy Sean obviously found a much smarter way to handle cancer surgery and a marathon than the way you did it, I responded, of course. I put off brain surgery for 5 weeks. Sean won the marathon and he beat the guy in second by like a week and a half, that has to be a world record for how far ahead the leader is in front of second.  

So there are people perhaps whose demons, whose ghosts, whose diseases whose life is not as deafeningly disturbing as others... and frankly I'd trade lives with them any day... because they get to be good.  And if you take in the statesman piece... I say that I run because it's my therapy and and how much I do it shows just how much I need therapy (I write before I head to go meet with my actual therapist but there's a track workout later as well). The newspapers show Kiana and I hugging, and they show us running and her painting... And there would be nothing better to me than her getting to grow up be one of the people who has no large demons. And there would be no greater relief than having Kiana be fortunate in such a way that it never ever happens. But if anything negative happens to her as it does to most of us from poor choices of hers or others or or unexpected circumstances or disease... I hope, dream, pray that the parenting I've done prepares her for handling it creatively. I hope she's always good, that she is an angel that has to deal with no demons, but if that's not the case, I hope Kiana's good at it. 


  1. Beautiful and very powerful, may the good always win out for both you and Kiana!

  2. Keep writing and running, it is therapy for me to read it. Thanks!