Thursday, March 20, 2014

Paths Led by Example

I’m not much of an original thinker… all of the best entries in here seem to be ones referencing and reflecting a good poet, a good song, a good poem, a good show. Even all the things where I’ve been trying to be helpful with various organizations, it is just asking to be told how to help and what to do. But when your brain and memory are damaged, you learn to accept that.

 Sometimes I have to learn from my own mistakes, from my own past poor decision making. But while I’m a fan of the old adage, learn from your mistakes, I’m a much much bigger proponent of learning from other people’s mistakes since I don’t have enough time to make them all on my own. However, what I keep trying to find ways where the example of what to follow is what to do rather than what not to do. Generally the bigger emphasis in world religions, the pictures up on the gym, the political circle is be like this person cause they did it right rather than don’t be like the person who did it wrong. Both are there but the emphasis I think is in the right place.

I’ve gotten some nice messages for a new habit I’ve developed of running people in their races. Until October of 2013 at the run for the Water (read that, less than six months ago), I had never paced anyone in for a race. Some races that I did my training in required extra mileage and on those I ‘d go back out half the distance and then come back in. It wasn’t until someone paced me in, in September, when I was struggling during a race of my own that idea occurred to me and my friend Matt Naylor had paced me in other marathons as far back as 2010! Since then, every race I’ve done if I have extra distance, I go out till I see a friend run them in and then repeat till I can’t or the distance is covered (both have occurred) but I’ll tell you that’s a lot more fun and rewarding for both me and them.

People have been said kind words about me handing out finishers medals, with Gusher literally waiting until the last finisher. While I appreciate the kindness, let me point out that the first time I ever handed a medal to someone at the end of a race was a Spartan race in December of 2013, about 3 months ago. The reason for that was because in my first Spartan, Alexander Nicholas a guy who owns a gym in New York, is one of the highest ranked Spartan guys (won his age group at the Championship and the charity race the next day) (If you want to read his blog of our race together But after he’d slowed down to put up with a chump on the Spartan course, he had the kindness to hand me the medal and somehow it was then I realized getting it from someone who’d shared some of the journey with you made the finish line that much greater. So when Kiana went to do her Spartan and my friend Megan went to go do her first, I gave them both their medals.

That’s where the idea of volunteering at Gusher and Austin to hand out medals came from. But not only that, the idea of sticking around till the last finisher came from John Conley, the director of the Austin Marathon whose body got much faster marathons than I ever have and whose brain is still better than mine ever was makes it his tradition to finish with the last finisher after he’s been up since the crack of dawn helping run the event.

And even though I’ve taken some compliments for going and finishing with my mom on her first half marathon, I think she should be a lot more proud that she pushed Kiana in a stroller before I did. But I hope that some of this learning is passing on to my daughter. She did her first 5k a little over a month ago and the
next race I was going to be doing with a stroller ( she realized when and I quote “oh it’s just a 5k, I’ll run it next to you.” And I am pretty doggone excited about that; because of that decision, we had both an extra fun track workout together and an extra long time on the school playground.  I am not a perfect parent; most days I question if I’m even a good one. But I do know one thing, reflected in a fortune cookie she got recently that went in the “keep it forever” pile. She’s a lot more likely to follow my path than she is just what I say, whether it’s good or bad. And honestly, it would have been nice to try to win that 5k but I still believe that Kiana will one day realize how dorky her dad is and won’t be asking me to walk or run with her anywhere so some things you enjoy while they last. And when I saw her smiling at her school’s track and field day, I knew I had to be getting parenting right at some level.

I've certainly struggled in life as we all do trying to find our own path.  I hope I don’t ever ecome a person who tries to placate everyone and neglect the self basics because that would be pathetic. I hope I’ve never been and never will be a person who put themselves above all others without regard to anyone because we also have a word for that path, socipathic. How to balance living for others and living for yourself is more a a dance than a march....While I’ve been accused of marching to the beat of my own drummer (and yes I know that there are times where conformity is necessary and important) I much prefer to march to my own banjo. But while I’ve danced many styles, my least favorite is line dancing and my  favorite are the ones where you flow with others whether that be in a duet or a bigger group setting. And neither in dancing nor in life does everything always line up but some of my happiest memories are the privilege of getting to hang with some people when you get a season or two in each other’s path or each other's dance floor. And there's some of those times I could have danced all night but even if things end, to me it's better than them not having happened.

Kiana recently dressed up as the cat in the hat from Dr. Seuss for a special day at school. He is one of Kiana’s and my personal children’s author (an odd thing since he had no kids). One of the teachers had a quote of his, I’d never seen, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” I like the attitude but the reason Dr. Seuss is my favorite is because I can’t think of any of his books from the Lorax, to the Cat in the Hat, to Mulberry Street where the participants aren’t happier, better people from having given or sharing their life experience. So while Seuss encouraged being yourself (and I agree with that since everyone else is taken), the lesson I read from his books is you do that and share it, which generally makes both paths better. No matter how good of a parent, spouse, friend, son anyone is some of life is lived alone but it takes a walk through a hospital nursery to realize that it’s far rarer than my cancer that from birth to death we don’t want to share it and for most of us, it’s usually only in trying to minimize our damage that we learn to retain more and more. And it’s taken a while but the healing that makes me cry the most is the one that let’s me cry at all.
So I am still trying to be led my example in many things… my doctor’s appointments are 3 weeks away and they may let me start driving. But I want to keep the lesson that maybe part of the reasons I am  surviving cancer is because that medical restriction made me move more and I am going to try to remember  to use the car on only things I would have had to get a ride for before because there are lots of people that minimize their car use to move more period and have no medical restrictions. My confidence on what I can do with memory issues and learning capacities is not high but perhaps if that restriction goes away… it’s time to start pondering whether or not I’d be a really good time to be the best janitor somewhere…

So the races will come and go as will life. And I am training for and speaking at the fools five race ( in April a couple of days before my appointments. They are the first who asked me to bring pictures (if you want to see the “first draft” of the slideshow it’s up on facebook). And it takes me one second of looking at those pictures to realize that the only reason, the ONLY reason I’ve gotten anything right in life is because I was fortunate enough to meet good examples.  Those are the people the slide show has in the middle and at the end.The cookie said: example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing. I am fortunate I had some very good examples on my path. 

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