Thursday, August 14, 2014

Personal Ghosts

There is an old idea that in a room where people are interacting there are always several ghosts. For each of us, there is the person we actually are, the person we are trying to portray and the person being perceived. The adage is that the more people are in the room the more ghosts there are. There are people who think they've found someone who fully understand them... perhaps such a case exists but I'm not sure that I've ever seen it and I've certainly never experienced it but I sure have appreciated those were it's been awfully close. Even me, a guy who theoretically writes a raw, uncensored blog knows why we invented shaving, collared shirts, gel, make up but also we made up special underwear, toilets... because we want some things to be highlighted and some things to be private. I've sat through enough medical procedures where almost no bodily function is left as completely private. On the emotional side, some people want more private and more public disproportionately to the other... some deal with their private ghosts publicly or their public ghosts privately. But at some level, I still echo George Clooney's idea that if you share too much of your personal life then it's no longer personal. But even now the eternal bachelor's getting married... a friend joked with me that this shows how the mighty can fall... all I have to say about that is if you love someone enough to dream and commit to spending all of your life with them, that's rising to something not falling.

I'm thinking about connections because today my "formal" relationship with my counselor ended. While I've had friends and family, some which have been there all of my life, some which have definitely been there through every part of the mess, and some which I have no doubt will be there for as long as I've got left. However, I've also met with this counselor 3 years, though less and less so recently. I am not too proud to admit I needed help and in fact only grateful to say that he was a very necessary God sent part to be standing where I am.

When the counselor and I started meeting back when I was a probation officer dealing with cancer's after math and a divorce. I would meet with him through the custody challenge, after the job loss. There was one time where I appeared so down he asked me if I was suicidal (I was not. In light of Robin William's suicide, I've been thinking about that. I met Mr. Williams once briefly at a Livestrong function. I don't make strong statements from getting short time with people but he seemed like an absolutely genuine and helpful person.) I watched Mork and Mindy, Dead Poet's Society, Good Will Hunting, Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin etc. He apparently was known for improvising many of his roles. But he struggled with his demons openly and publicly often with drugs and counseling and three marriages of his own. Probably the quote of his that has stuck with me the most was "I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up alone, it's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone." I've experienced that and fear I've caused it but I am relieved and hopeful that both have been on the minimal scale. But I've never been suicidal and am thankful that I've never felt anywhere near that alone. But if you are please reach out to someone long before you get to that stage.

I try to take in the simple reminders like the ones that came on my birthday a few days ago. In the age of twitter and facebook and email texts, i was thankful for the messages I received through media. I tried to thank each one individual since each of them had individually taken some time to remind me I was born. I received some old fashioned in the mails cards all suggesting I was a non conformist... I had one where the kid born 8/8/80 whose favorite number is 8 had the 8 turned sideways... That's one of those moments where you  are happy enough hope life last 4 ∞. There were a few gifts which were all chocolate and/or alcohol... So the ghost that's being perceived is a chocolate addicted alcoholic. There are worst things to bond over I suppose but I was glad to have some bonds. 

Yet is is thoughts like that or echoes of those connections as to it why I've managed to make any progress at all. My best friends, my family, my church, this counselor were the ones where I could lay down honest thoughts. There are people who don't want judgement from people but I appreciate a good challenge so I always wanted them to say what they were thinking whether or not they agreed with me but my favorite ones are the quick witted, intelligent people who go to toe with me. A girl I'd climb walls with and I were having a conversation about why we choose the churches we do. Theology and community etc etc matter. But the short version for me is that my favorite parable of Jesus is about the two sons who were both told to do so something by their father one says he'll do it but doesn't and one says he won't do it but does... guess which one is the good son? And they are believers but they are also real... a good chunk of the time I come after a Sunday morning race literally reeking and people there literally embrace me. The latest sermon series has been about relationships and the last Sunday ended with a Q&A time. It was about how wives can get their husbands to pray more with them and another questions was about how husbands can get their wives to be physically intimate with them more. While he gave a more thorough answer, he quipped from the pulpit well maybe they can workout a deal where they trade it more :). That's the kind of church I go to.

And the connections I keep working on and am grateful that others are working on with me... still believing that the smartest thing I've ever said is that you have work on the relationships you want to keep. The executor of my will and I had lunch yesterday; to show why we're such great friends he still mocks me about the fact that despite the other media stuff, I'm not really relevant since I've never been in the onion. I am focusing on trip details with someone who can tell when I don't recognize people and is helping me with the speech; they help coordinate the things I struggle with. My daughter is at Camp Kesem with Livestrong so she can meet other kids whose parents have been through cancer (it is a minimal part of the experience because like all Livestrong things does, cancer is meant to be dealt with, belittled in a proper way so that life is better done). 

Appropriately enough, meeting with the counselor was the last thing I did before heading to Beaumont where I'd win a marathon last year,  that has turned into a ride I would have never imagined. (If you're wondering what I mean by that ride when I signed up for that marathon 9 days before winning it, I thought it'd be one more race with a stroller and that would be that. I never imagined invitations or media pieces or articles).

With that said, I try to take that seriously. I finished the logistics a few days ago of the speech at the Pocatello Marathon (, the return to the Spartan Championships and Charity Race ( and I just signed up to join Voices Against Brain Cancer for the New York marathon. My team is currently in the lead for most fundraisers and most participants for the 4th Brain Power 5k ( I believe none of this would have happened with the right people leading me to better at running but also better at being human. Some of that has simply been from meeting other people who shared parts of the journey that made the person you portray and the person perceived as closer to matching. I got to meet a family in Portland at the Spartan whose cousin died of brain cancer (He was hoping to beat the 5 year mark since none of the other doctor's patients had. He would not last the longest but he almost got there.) He also had seizures and it was somehow heart breaking and heart melting to hear them talk about him from the funny stories to one where hearing him late one night they rushed into his room to check if he was okay. They were wearing a hoodie and while first he was scared later, he would be relieved and laugh saying "When you came in with the hoodie, I thought it was the grim reaper." I hope when I go if people tell stories about me, they end in laughter.

I fully understand the desire to have some privacy (though not as much as say an extreme introvert since I can't completely relate to feeling the need to be alone to recharge). Wanting to share those moments and knowing that someone has a clue is probably more common than the desire for privacy. So I stand by the assertion that from birth we want to share life, be held, hold hands. That we want to know that someone, not just somewhere but that the connection with people is a desire from birth till death. Some of us are damaged enough by whatever experience where we try to do it more alone (I'm certainly an echo of that in at least regards to romance with the relationship approach I've taken until recently). But if there's anything I've learned from having a meal with the right person, friend, family or one of those relationships where you don't know where you stand, it's that the experience of life stays yummy longer when you're with the right person. The best connections make you cry sometimes but they also make you smile so big you're not sure if you're moving from double chin to triple chin territory. 

I'd put more about my counselor but some of that we will keep personal. I'll say that our last session had exchange of gifts (let's just say after we traded it showed why he was the counselor and i was the one needing guidance; his was a book; mine showed my brain was damaged). It was a handshake and a goodbye with an open door.

And let me state this clearly, I think sitting with a counselor was never once a sign of weakness though I'll concede that the fact that it's over showed that it was about that both he and I felt I didn't need as much guidance now. But it's like training; I go to running tonight where I have a customized plan on how to put one foot in front of the other. I don't quite understand the pride of not wanting to admit needing some guidance in some areas of life. People pay to be told how to more appropriately put one foot in front of the other; relationships matter a lot more. I went to counseling because I believe who I met with was smarter than me and I believe I'm walking away mentally healthier for it.

I started this with a reference to those personal ghosts. There's probably no way to eliminate those completely. But I am grateful that I  have the opportunity and the friends to where those ghosts keep getting smaller and smaller.  And the happiness that comes from good connections is like a room without a roof so they don't really have much room to haunt. 

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