Monday, June 1, 2015

The Pleasure of Nightmares

Alfred Hitchhock said a very strange or perhaps very appropriate thing in regards to his movies, "Give them pleasure, the same pleasure they get from waking up from a nightmare." This is an interesting part of the human psychology that in simple frankness I don't quite understand enough to participate in. I don't watch horror movies or thrillers, I don't get on scary rides in theme parks not quite grasping the fun in a controlled scary but ultimately relatively safe choice. Now in case anyone thinks that's being too critical of people engage in those choices it may just show that people who chase their thrills that way are more intelligent than me since I've jumped out of a plane, off bridges, cliffsides. Like the runners shirt which says my sport is your sports punishment... perhaps those who enjoy the challenge of a whooping all like to get our spankings in different ways...

But I've finally actually figured out what my stress to MRI level indicator is I think... On the MRI's when most of my life is as settled as it can be, I am relatively calm until the day of or the day before. This is why I slept fine the night before brain surgery... I'd gotten things "in order" by putting off brain surgery to run a marathon, qualifying for Boston, I'd had some great meals with some good friends and put things in financial order for my daughter in case anything went wrong. In a stoic mind, losing the emotional human attachments will happen sometime regardless so I was trying to take that in stride. And every MRI since then my sleep patterns are related to how much I've got going and how clean my relationships are... it is why I often disconnect from people right before them.

Oddly right now, it is a sign of some very good things in my life that I've got going that I am not sleeping well the last few days before an MRI. I woke up to a horrible nightmare about how it going bad would damage both the relationships I'm working on and the projects I'm working on Saturday morning. My next few races are 5k's and Spartan sprints so I don't need to be doing any long runs but on a whim I woke up and went to meet with the Ship of Fools and ran 17 miles, the longest I've ran since Boston with every step of the way at varying speeds with some of the great friends I've made there. Then I went to breakfast with them and later that day we played poker. I've long said running is my therapy and how far I run and how long I run tells you just how bad I need therapy but it was very helpful. Still, at breakfast it was great to hear stories about what's going on in people's life as well as some guidance and suggestion on the office I've been in for less than two weeks, the president of the Austin Runner's club. I may have suggested to the people I'm working with most closely on this, the new Board, that shy of their president this was the best board ever... they continue to demonstrate that and impressed me to be thankful to be working with them. For perspective and because different presidents and boards have had different approaches, I have been reading through thousands of emails left in the official email. I've gotten to see people who were there before me as they reached out asking for guidance or offering to volunteer. It was amusing moments to see how some of them are leaders now or working in the running industry or have qualified for Boston since or were wondering if they would ever be able to run a marathon and have done a few since. It was intriguing to see the way people I've had conversations with since remember things as opposed to how they saw it in the present. But perhaps my favorite one was one where the new IT guy said to the new president that her email was now set up and how the new president was so attractive. They are engaged now :). I won poker that night against some of those running friends, some due to a little bit of skill and some just to the luck of the way the cards come out.

Yet, with an MRI coming up, and thinking about the odds,  it did not help to wake up Sunday morning to read the news of the Vice President's son Beau Biden had just passed away from brain cancer. I've seen stories of people with far better characters, far more money, far more influence get this and pass from it. Somewhere I feel guilt in standing with it because of the ones who are better men than I've ever been and it serves as an odd reminder of the fact that this does not discriminate in any form shape or manner. Because I live in a highly political town, I've gone to hear political candidates of both parties speak here in Austin and gotten to shake hands with a few (I voted for
Pedro). Joe Biden, whatever you may think of his politics and family always is more important that politics in my book, I was impressed with if for no other reason that I was really far back in the line and he still sat and talked to us for a few minutes. Perhaps the best thing I've heard in the news that Joe Biden says is parents know they're a success when their kids turn out better than them. I honestly can't imagine many things harder than a parent burying their children but I think Kiana's so far well ahed of me on the curve and I hope she finds a way to keep it up long after she's buried me.

It is these types of things why I am headed to the inaugural race of Voices Against Brain Cancer in New Jersey this Sunday and heading the next day to DC for an annual day of meeting with lawmakers put on by the American Cancer society, one voice against cancer. This may have affected my memory and languages skills but not enough to silence my voice to stand on its own or be part of the choir.

So I will keep trying to do what's right as best as I know how... it's been raining a lot here. There was a tree I blogged about once, one that I thought had died and had come back to life. (Tells you something about my life analogies or attention span that every single tree in my front yard has gotten blogged about). This same tree got struck by lightning over the storm and now is one branch sticking out of the branch. Like when it originally started growing back, I smile every time I see this thing holding onto life. When it rains Kiana still wants to play in it and go to the river and hang from branches. And perhaps even nature itself wants to remind me I have a heart because I found both a leaf and a rock with a heart on the same day recently.

So while there are nightmares about the MRI 48 hours from now and as always between Monday morning and Tuesday when I sit becomes a very long day.... I've got some good things scheduled to stay busy and happy between the two.  There are people, both those who have been through it and those who haven't who tell me not to worry about the MRI, that everything's going to be fine. With some cancer patients, myself included, one wonders if heading into an MRI with that attitude is naivete, denial, or optimism... The honest truth is I hate that machine, I hate being in it because it is the strongest reminder of how I learned I had brain cancer and a procedure where you're just laying on your back in a machine all by yourself. The noises don't bother me, just the inability to be able to do anything. I never quite know how to feel or what to think and have even fallen asleep in there. Perhaps though, because I have some new goals on the horizon, it's time to go into that machine with the dream that there will come a time where both that machine and I will be put out of commission and it isn't a race I would mind if the machine got finished first and I was way behind.

So I'm probably never signing up for Hitchhock's pleasure of waking up from nightmares voluntarily. But I will keep having good dreams. Jonas Salk, the guy who invented the polio vaccine (perhaps entirely appropriately since it's now being modified to fight brain cancer) said something that I like a lot more. He said "I have had dreams and I have had nightmares and I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams." Just getting through the MRI whether or not its stable isn't going to be quite enough; I'll try to head out of there to do good things. Because I'm competitive, my pleasure won't come from merely waking up from my nightmares but rather from beating them with my dreams.

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