Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back To Yesterday and the Answer to the Question of Life

Lewis Carrol wrote “I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then.” People keep asking what it’s like to be back to driving after a couple of years away… and well… I don’t have any great witty answers. I’ve still tried to bike or walk anything I would have before; I still don’t assume that it will hold since it came and left before. I filled up gas for the first time in my own car in years and I’ll tell you that there’s one part of driving where cycling is better for your lungs and your wallet.

Still, it’s very different than the first time I started driving when I was a teenager. When I was a teenager I was very worried about trying to get a girl in the back seat… now I’m worried about a little girl in the back seat. Back then I pushed every speed limits and broke some (we once found an old west Texas road where we put the pedal to the medal and I hit a speed I should probably not publish in a public blog)… now I’m driving and actually haven’t broken the speed limit once… I’ve mostly avoided highways when possible, some out of nervousness of how fast people drive on there! And some because my car which had sat in the garage is a stick shift and it would be embarrassing to have it stall on the freeway in Austin’s stop and go traffic. While I got lots of rides when necessary, two weeks into it, no adult has ridden in the car yet which I wish there’d been one cause the first time I had to parallel park I nailed it on the first on the try…

Still, the first thing that got put in the trunk wasn’t groceries or anything like that. Appropriately enough it was the stroller… where we went to do the hill repeats with the Ship of Fools. And somehow for the first time ever since I got this stroller and since I won that marathon, it got a flat. I had done the first set of hill repeats behind a stroller, after the flat, the next set of them besides Kiana  (who takes shorter recovery times than me and most of the group), and the last set by myself while a shipmate hung out with Kiana. I gotta say that all three occurred in one made it my favorite hill workout ever. 

And our first road trip was back to the land where I grew up in west Texas. I got to see several generations of family… and me and both my brothers were together for the first time in the same place since my brain surgery at Duke. There were comments about people’s life and weight shifting. There were some evident generational changes with my grandparents having had 12 kids (my mom the oldest with somehow girl, boy, girl boy alternating all the way down), my mom having 3 sons, me having a cute daughter who somehow was playing with a puppy a good chunk of the time. Even while we acknowledged that there were times we didn’t talk much then or now (my older brother is 7 years older and my younger one is 8 years younger), we also acknowledged it was good to see each other because sometimes even in the silences people who share some of life, share it better than other people who didn’t share it do talking.

While we were there, I saw an announcement for a 5k and an Easter egg hunt. Kiana and I were up earlier than most of the family (most of the Reyes and I live on opposite ends of the day and meet in the middle). I had no stroller, no ipod and Kiana said she didn’t want to get her dress dirty and for the first time in years… I ran a race without music or a stroller while Kiana hung out and went crazy with the iphone pictures as we did a double loop around and back. It was the first cross country race I’d ran since 2002, so in a dozen years and while there were three of us that took off together, in the end I took the win. And yet somehow when they let Kiana out for the Easter egg hunt and when the Easter bunny was dancing, I couldn’t really keep up with either of them…

The stroller still hasn’t been fixed so there’s been a short break from running but I used it as a conversation piece with Kiana. We talked about whether she’s getting too big for the stroller (we had this conversation once before and she said no but we can always get a bigger stroller). But this time as I told her how much I liked our team work in the stroller races, she said, “You know I was on your team before we ever got a stroller?” And somehow some dust must have come into my kitchen at the time cause my eyes got super watery…


But still for the first time in forever, I have zero road races on the calendar. There’s my first triathlon soon, and the Livestrong ride in October and some Spartans between now and then (let me be clear those are all things I knew nothing about before cancer… and I still keep saying that if you sign up for new things, things you’re ignorant about, things that are messy, it somehow manages to make the uninvited, messy, new things in your life a little easier to deal with).

But sitting with family and in the town I spent childhood in made me think about the guy I was and thought I would be.  (Just for your amusement here’s what the kid looked like twenty years ago) That guy is not achievable any more between medical, financial, and emotional fears, hopes, scars, and realities which are always a question mark that the pills I wake up to and fall asleep with me remind me will never really be entirely of the past.

Still, I always try to get bib #8 for races I sign up for in advance. But this was one of those races that since I signed up day off, you just got the next bib, which this time is 42. Now if you were never as nerdy as me… you may not realize that is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything. That’s from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy where they program a computer which takes millions of  years to figure out that the Answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything is 42… When the humans point out that doesn’t mean anything, the computer states that we’ve just been asking the wrong question.

I attend church but even there I bother some of my brothers because heaven can’t be the meaning of life
since while the idea of heaven ensures eternity having avoid what so many of us fear, death, it still extends life. And I appreciate the grace of the universe and friends, with one of my favorite songs being from Larnelle Harris being both about races and grace:

Were it not for grace I can tell you where I'd be, wondering down some pointless road to nowhere with my salvation up to me, and I know how that would go, the battles I would face, forever running but losing the race were it not for grace.

And I wonder the place that we point at so grandly and call heaven because the streets are paved with gold may well be reminding us that what we value so highly is not worth more than pavement in a perfect world…

There are days and today is one of them where I struggle with if I ever get back to any semblance of the life I once knew (I think the answer is most likely no) but so far 2014 has had no gigantic surprises pleasant or unpleasant so I’ll take a more predictable life for a bit (that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been pleasant or unpleasant things, just none that floored me literally or figuratively). Still… even if I can’t get back or if all I get is a win with 42… I am glad that I still get to experience, life, the universe and everything. 

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