Monday, January 12, 2015

Let Your Memory Lead You

Going through some organizing of old things, I found something I wrote years before brain surgery about memory:  "Does our past affect our view of the present more or does our present affect our view of the past more? There’s no way to know but I think it may be a coin toss on any given day." And while it's one of the most often repeated things in this hitchhiker journal, its entire purpose is just to tell myself, a guy with a damaged memory the story of things as I saw them in present time so that if I have to hear this story down the line from someone, well that someone might as well be me. There are a few people who my heart trusts instinctively because they somehow inherently realize the memory deficits quickly by themselves, others who upon becoming aware of it from me or others are helpful in various ways. Perhaps my favorite recent memory is someone who got Kiana a birthday present and though I've got some clue as to when we met (hints from Facebook) she was someone I clearly trusted shortly after meeting her because when I did I let her know something I rarely do on first meeting: down the line I may not remember her nor how we met (still don't and she's been nice enough to tell me that but not nice enough to tell me when). With that said, today's title is borrowed from the musical Cats (judge me accordingly) but when I don't remember things exactly clearly that can be difficult and annoying so be warned that this entry is one of those long rambling ones where I try to capture a few moments that meant something to me so as would be sung on Broadway when the time comes that I read it the memory lives again. (In wrestling they used to say, get ready to rumble... if you keep reading after this, listen to me saying get ready for rambling).

2015 has started with some great pleasantness. The biggest and best to me were various parts of Kiana's life. In no particular order, Kiana's enjoyed her birthday celebration with her friends. The party was okay by anyone's standard including Kiana's (an extra challenge for me was that due to tough weather it was entirely indoors) but we had kids who stuck around for six hours and she loved that her party turned into a playdate (in the interest of simple frankness there was one father's actions that made me a little more accepting of why I may have made some media pieces). Watching her play reminded me of why I'd never wanted an only child growing up in such a packed family but glad to see she was enjoying a good time. While it had a long way to go, it was the most collaborative process between both of Kiana's parents which makes the thought of both living and dying easier. 

For the second time this year out of the two report cards in second grade, she got perfect attendance and straight A's. I was amused that for straight A's they get a little ribbon and for perfect attendance they get a meal at a restaurant. While those who don't show up can't make a difference I probably believe those who say the primary difference between those rewards may have to be that there's more funding lost for kids being absent than for kid's poor grades. The award she's never gotten and in simple frankness will likely never get is the one for good citizenship. They have a 1-4 scale for both grades and behavior (straight A's is all 4 academically, straight citizen is all 4's behaviorally). While she has mostly 4's in the behavior there are some skills she hasn't quite mastered... As I sat through award assembly, afterwards I asked both parents and the principal herself what the equivalent award of good citizenship was in adulthood since those ones for straight's A's and perfect attendance can easily be translated into actual awards in adulthood . While no one can argue that those skills don't have function and benefit, no one could come up with a similar award where just behaving well earned you an award. We'll keep working on it but that realization maybe made me worry a little less about it.

Three things from great past memories came out this week. In chronological order of when the events occurred, there was a new video about the Miracle Match Marathon Kiana and I did last year in Waco  including where she got carried up a set of stairs called Jacob's ladder. We'll be going back this year and doing that ladder again though this time we'll be doing the half because it runs through a zoo while the full has a different course. It features many many cool people.

The second was from Livestrong, perhaps the coolest fighting cancer event I've ever gotten to be a part of and certainly a place where I met some great people. They shared an interactive document of their findings. I didn't even know that kind of technology was possible (but if you'll notice that I'm getting a little more technological as this is the first blog entry that has links where you just have to click on one word instead of a thousand random letters and numbers). While there are pictures and videos of me on there, I honestly have never seen a more patient centered conversation. Like the Waco piece, I was one of several participants and feel privileged and humbled that my story is one of the ways we get to the better picture. I am not sure I belong there but I hope some of the work I've tried to help with allows me to be a lens through which people view many of the stars in the constellation of humans who fight cancer and make life better.

With that said, one of the rough parts about the start of the New Year was that I got a letter that my neuro oncologist who rocks bow ties will no longer be part of the hospital in a few weeks. I had no plans to change insurance during this reenrollment time but now I'm trying to figure it out. Perhaps there are people who think all doctors are equivalent but I don't for many reasons. These are guys and gals who I trust with literal pieces of my mind and both he and the ones at Duke helped get me as close to peace of mind as humanly possible. I joke that maybe I should have sent him flowers but I did send him an email sharing that I was bummed out about him leaving and saying thank you. People who you trust with your life should not be easily exchanged in my book. I don't know quite what I'll do and am relieved I have a bit of time to figure it out but wondering if its time to start returning to Duke (which is a bummer cause New York had just passed the place I'd visited more than Duke).

The last media piece was a Spartan video recap of the race I did with my little brother and Kiana and her cousin. Speaking of getting passed, everyone else who does talking in the video is faster than me at Spartans. Still, if you've ever wondered how much my mother loves me, I think  you can see it displayed in how sincerely she kisses me at the end of a Spartan with my face all muddy and I think you can see how much I appreciate it with the smile on my face.

Perhaps there are people who work in the media or come out enough to where it feels normal. Almost two years into a variety of all these things, let me make it clear that for me the answer is no. I sat through an interview recently for the runner's world website and someday we'll schedule one for the last ESPN shoot and I honestly don't understand but it is kind of cool to get some of life's memories captured by more than this blog and people who communicate better on their worst day than I do on my best.

But speaking of Spartan, I am getting pumped about going on their cruise and have finally joined a gym. It's a crossfit gym and apparently unlike fight club, the first rule of cross fit gyms, you have to tell everyone that you've joined. I've honestly never worked out with instruction besides running and in my first workout, I got beat by people who were older, shorter, a different gender than me. Okay, I came in dead last because the entire workout only had 1200 meters of running and apparently your body has different muscles than just running. I didn't know what gym to join and this one is run by a friend and also so many of the people I've met in the Spartan world are crossfit aficionados.

The part that I'm struggling and excited the most about in regards to the Spartan cruise is that it will be my first time using a passport. Above all feelings, I am really stoked about using my passport to a new place for the first time since brain surgery. However, from a guy who confesses to much on the internet, to be completely honest I'm disappointed that it won't be with a cute girl who I'm pursuing romantically (well I mean right now it's scheduled with no one but I should find someone to join me soon). It's funny when everyone was trying to talk to me about being open to real romance after the great breakup while I blatantly denied it and haven't even had the courtesy to call anyone a girlfriend labeling them George Clooney girls, I did make a list of desirables or things to put off if I ever got a girlfriend for the first time since high school. From a guy who was valedictorian and tries to always PR, maybe it was too ambitious... but I was hoping it was someone who understood who I was before and after brain surgery so they could understand some of the overwhelmingness. I even had a bottle of old wine I got to open with them showing that this would be a relationship about more than sour grapes. Of course we all consider things like looks and IQ and interaction and I figured if anyone messed with me enough, we'd go get a passport stamp together and that would make a great step in a darling lovely fairy tale. I'm a guy who married his high school sweetheart (that didn't work out so great) and grew up thinking I'd save my virginity till marriage (I didn't but certainly think that's a commendable effort). I'm not sure why that was/is such a big deal to me but I am just trying to balance whether let it go here is probably the right thing and things may pan themselves out without my awareness of (after all it looks nearly scripted that I put off brain surgery to run a marathon and trained hard and qualified for Boston and then won one almost exactly two years later, 1 second slower). But I don't want to be people who seem to easily accept failure or mistakes over and over as learning lessons (I see the logic in that but I also think it might be smarter to learn from other people's mistakes since I don't have enough time to make them all by myself). And really there's only two things left on the list, the passport and doing a race with someone and if you give it all up, how close are you to the Vince Lombardi quote that If you learn to quit it becomes a habit. (This is where the intelligent people point out that it's fairly hypocritical to call it quitting when you've been openly announcing and showing that you haven't really been trying; I mean graduating to the Van Gogh girl term mentioned in the last blog was progress but let's be honest he still died alone with mental illness). Anyway, I bet I come back beaming from that cruise and that race and give this less thought then.

But speaking of races, Kiana and I did the Rogue Distance festival. This would be the second race I would ever do with Kiana a couple of years ago, in its first year. They have three distances, a 30k, a kids k and a half marathon. The first two years I did the 30k even though each year they had a kid's k. It starts 2 hours after the 30k and I cannot do a 30k in under two hours though I'm close. It may tell you something about my growth in parenting that it wasn't until the 3rd year that it occurred to me to do a shorter distance to make sure Kiana had time to do the kid's K. This year we were gunning and it may tell you something that I was ahead of every half marathoner but that two 30kers were ahead of me (damn elite runners). Because there were three distances on the course and various arrows and turns, a few of us half marathoners ended up doing wrong turns and I ran nearly 14 miles in 1:25 and change (last month I did the toughest half I've done with her in 1:23). I was actually on PR pace because this was the longest break I'd had between races and the legs were more rested than usual since in the New England cold, I'd found it hard to get out of a warm bed. At the end of the race, my mom was there cheering and I didn't know if anyone had beaten me because of the extra distance from the wrong turns. She tried to take a picture but I was frustrated enough to where I couldn't even smile for it immediately and I had to get Kiana to the Kid's kilometer race.

It didn't take long to get the smile back on my face because out of 22 kids, Kiana took off and while she was nowhere near it at 600 meters with a lap to go, she turned it on and came in 3rd. She'd won her age group before and gotten a medal but it was her first trophy which has joined the family trophy case! I smiled going in knowing that some thing had gone right about making the decision that led to Kiana's first victory (she'd won an age group division before but this was outright placement).

As we were sitting there going through the results I told both the timing guy and the race director about what had gone wrong. While frustrated because by all account I'd had a commanding lead, I said I understood that since I hadn't stuck strictly on course that I'd accept being disqualified. In a moment where humanity continues to amaze me, the guy in both 2nd and 3rd place both made the argument for me being the winner of the half which I received. This is the second half I've ever won, the first one with a stroller. With a stroller, I'd taken 2nd and 3rd both of which had received media attention and this one got none, but somehow that bit of humanity makes this a very meaningful win. The prize was a pair of skechers and while I haven't picked them up, they will likely become my day to day shoes so as I put one foot in front of the other, I'm reminded of how much I believe in and am amazed by humanity.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015 I've gotten lucky enough to win the first race of the year (for the record, I don't win anywhere near most races I do). Each year has been better than the one before. In each of those years and the ones before it I've also tried a new sport (2012 Livestrong century where I learned to bike, 2013 Spartan where I learned to get whooped and 2014 where I did a triathlon and learned not to drown since saying I learned to swim would be a stretch). I am glad 2015 is starting the way it has. I don't know what the new thing(s?) will be this year sports or otherwise but trying to stay open to it while trying to hang on to the new ones and the great friends. But as I'm sitting here signing up for races and possibilities that will come with new memories I am thankful where it has led me.

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