Monday, February 9, 2015

Choice, chance and circumstance

In the age of twitter in which obviously all wisdom should be encapsulated within 144 characters, I am sometimes amazed at the truth people try and achieve to capture in a pithy manner (or me it rarely is too effective in my book since usually a long winded guy that writes a way too long blog starts dissecting it or expounding on thoughts). But there was a recent day where I read two within a few hours of each other that showed what some people may think of as complimentary thoughts that I saw as complete opposite.

One was "What is meant to be will be." Now there are people who have tried to make that argument about my life since I put off brain surgery to run a marathon and then won one pushing a stroller 1 second slower, a story that is incredible to me and I was there! And there are people who share it as they talk about their romantic connections or how they met their best friend or landed a job. I love those stories... where perhaps the way a single leaf fell was a huge difference maker... the naive idealism, the hopeless romanticism, the cheesy incarnation of meaning but... I'm a realist. So when I think about the calamities in the world and we could pick the big ones like the cultural wars or diseases like cancer or heart diseases. But rather than go with those arguments but let's go with to me the biggest atrocity the simple fact several thousand children will starve to death today when there's more than enough food to feed them. I know the micro setting of our own lives and the good and bad things is easier to imagine than a few thousand children that we'll never meet but looking at the big picture of the world... it's perhaps why I've never prayed to beat cancer much less for good race times because if someone has big power over the world, I hope they're exerting it on one of those children will be where it goes. And I'm not ready accept that thousands of will starve to death is what's meant to be.

With that said, not too far after that I got to hear something a little bit longer but I'd summarize it with what went into my Facebook status and twitter, "Sometimes we make choices and sometimes those choices make us." That was a lot more of what I think the universe is like... there are things far beyond our control, I'm a guy whose likely to die from a cancer that has no known dietary, genetic, lifestyle or environmental components but I still chose to put off surgery and pick my doctors carefully and I think they increased my chances of beating cancer and just as, if not more, importantly  they gave me the best quality of care and quality of life during and after treatment.

Above all things, in my own pithy 144 character captionable thing (and I've been the quote of the day by a couple of media things), I continue to believe in the lesson that you have to "work on the relationships you want to keep." (Someone remind me the next time I'm getting interviewed to say, I'm only here to avoid the fine). Still working on good relationship is the choices that I want to keep making and the one that I hope keeps making me. It made my day recently to wake up Kiana and realize the ridiculous amounts of medals she had on her bed and how many were entirely her own were getting close to passing both the ones she'd done with me and that the ones we'd done together were close to getting above those I'd done on my own (those sit in a box in my closet). And while the stroller days have to end I realize that half marathons is the distance first, and actually the distance we've done most so I'm tempted to choose to do two more because with one, I'd be tied for how many I've done with her and with two, the half marathons would be ahead in ones with her than without her. 

But sometimes the choices you make make you don't have to be all that consequential. I went to a local comedy show called Esther's Follies recently. Speaking of random choices, I got randomly selected out of the audience to help out with a magic trick... I was delightfully treated by a guy who was wearing slightly more than I race in but not much. Told to make an "arrrr" noise for the audience, with each one progressively louder and more enthusiastic, I did not quite impress the host enough since on the last one I was supposed to do it like the box I was holding had a "box full of titties" and when I was done he said that the girl I'd brought and all the ladies in the audience were safe that night. (For the record I had a really cute lady who went with me that night who might have shown her fiery edge when a George Clooney joke came from the stage and I literally got nudged immediately. She won't be a George Clooney girl for many many reasons but including the joke was about him being married now!). Still, while it's something I can't write or say accurately enough, one of those things that's just on the tip of your tongue, it was a cool reminder that while some randomly occurring things have affected my memory capacities negatively, another randomly occurring event will always be a good memory.

But a good joke from that comedy show was that Rick Perry lived by the "good book," the Boy Scouts manual. Now when most people refer to as the Good Book, they mean another one but I find it
odd that so many people who read that book think the universe is such a clean cut place when it even acknowledge in Ecclesiastes that the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong but chance and circumstance happen to them all. Now the text itself is referencing that life usually goes to probability, statistics, strengths whatever you want to call them. And I've been living life with cancer based on statistics being a poker player etc... getting away with the humor coping mechanism that statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital... Since the 10 year survival rate of my kind of cancer is 12%, I'm hoping to be the minimal parts of the bikini... (this is the part of the blog where my mom wonders how she raised a boy that referenced the good book and getting into bikinis in the same paragraph). But still, whatever chance and circumstance bring I don't accept that it was meant to be but I dare to dream that we always have a choice at some level in how to react to it.

There are happy little reminders on this like returning to the Outdoor Hope Gallery which everytime has new spray painted art that the artists know will be temporary but is still over and over gorgeous. And I love that it's called the hope gallery, acknowledging that the only constant in life is change but that there's always hope. And hope is somehow my favorite four letter word. New experiences where you get to see the Cathedral of Junk where someone has turned their OCD into making a three story pile of demonstrating the adage that one man's junk is another man's treasure. Why it's called a cathedral I don't know since it's certainly not my idea of taking someone to church but how people can transform beauty is amazing. I love that Kiana has straight A's and perfect attendance and likes to run but somehow I also love that lately we've been working on a project where the book cover says make art or make mistakes depending on the angle you're looking at it. Life is beautiful by accomplishments and achievements for sure; it's why I bust my ass on hill repeats and was the first in my family to go to college. But isn't it also gorgeous when you learn to appreciate joy and beauty for their own sake? Because while I hope both hers and my choices that end up being mistakes are always within a certain limited range just cause you don't want to see your kid damaged, is it bad parenting to say I'd rather her make some mistakes in both life and art than to always color inside the lines?

She does it in simple ways like finding a stick that would be a great snowman arm and singing from frozen; she has a better chance of riding her bike around the halls. And yes there are ways I'm glad she's within normal boundaries like at her 8 year check up where she's telling her doctors about her recent PR in a 5k... I'm sure no one will be shocked that even her doctor is a runner.

And I certainly did that recently... after the two most intense years of physical activity in my life since winning Gusher, I'd said often how I was shocked how I hadn't gotten injured. So physically I've kept stepping up my game and joined a crossfit gym and have learned new things like the fact that getting bench and benching are not the same thing. I've been doing more trail running where I recently ran the hill of life and the hill of death in the same day (took the hill of life hard, ran real easy on the hill of death), broke 50 miles for only the 4th time in my life on a week I did 3 upper body workouts. Oddly enough, yesterday, I finally got injured of all things playing ultimate frisbee, the sport I love the most and probably the one I do the most. At the beginning of a sprint, in what I thought was my first ever cramp, it ended up being a pulled calf. Friends were super kind in walking me off the field and it's been less than 48 hours and I've already got a bike holder thing since right now I'm struggling to walk. But I got a sports massage and am going to a great local running laboratory to hopefully get back on the road before too long. Some people may want to say I spend too much running, perhaps calling this injury a wake up call from that good book to take a break from my golden calf. I think it's the fact that I sometimes forget that I'm 34 and it just reflected an olden calf.

It's funny people were worried about if I'd heal enough before this race or that race of my own. Another friend asked if I was going to be okay without my therapy (I have plenty of therapy, this blog being one of them and you know sex, drugs and rock n roll). But therapy is a means to an end not the end itself. I even tried to make myself feel better about my walking stick that all my fictional favorite characters ever (President Bartlett, House MD, Doctor Who, and Batman) had to walk with a cane at some point (all the nerdy people are laughing with or at me right now). But honestly I found some comfort in the fact that different people form the Livestrong mission had made it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro and had been kind enough to give nods to me up there. They are doing tougher than anything I've ever done and so I'm certainly not going to complain about a pulled calf much.

The race I worried about most was the one this Sunday where I'm supposed to be running with team Livestrong, the Paramount 5k next to Kiana which was her first 5k a year ago. We did our track workout today and instead of our usual racing the last lap, I went out with my walking stick and "raced her" to see if she could run faster 1 lap than I could hobble/hop 2. I told her we'd start the race together but she may have to go ahead of me and while it took some negotiating she was somehow both excited and sad about it. I knew the day would come where I wouldn't be able to keep up with her but I didn't think it'd be today. But while I hope to be back enough to at least run next to her Sunday, I'm very grateful that she decided that running her speed was important and I sincerely wish that there never comes a day where I slow her down. It's an out and back and she said if she is ahead of me she'll give me a super exciting high five in the middle of it. We went out and biked 3 miles after that and I was glad there was still something we could do side by side.

So I don't know that what's meant to be will be... nor that the timing of choice, chance and circumstance will always line up. Perhaps people find comfort in that someday everything will be all right in their view? I don't look back a whole lot on what if I had not had brain surgery or what if this or what if that because those choices are made and fixed points that will never be open again. But the choices which keep parts of the past open to the future I try to look at and well, I am glad to still be choosing to work on the good parts of my life and I really believe that those choices have made most of who I am.

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