Friday, July 31, 2015

Compartmentalization and Punctuation Marks

Well... it took over two years but it appears the ESPN piece will finally air, there's even a preview. I should say that with excitement but it's mostly relief. While the crews did a fantastic job of being non invasive, there were odd moments. I left when they were setting up and tearing down since your house being set up with many cameras and lights is weird...

There have been cameras in my house too many times (I hope and believe that one last March will be the last). People ask why I don't watch most of the pieces, thinking that me not caring is out of modesty. That's entirely incorrect because while they're highlighting some of the things I corrected but hanging out with my kid in the way I do and running to capacity are things I should have always gotten right. Still the most fascinating thing with working with these crews for me has always been when the cameras are off and how we interact with each other then. There is an old saying that someone who is nice to you but isn't nice to the waitress is not a nice person... I went to eat with all of the ESPN crews; they were all nice to the waitress.

So this process has taken over two years, not because the story has changed but because I inspire people to leave working on E60. The first producer was the one who got me to accept doing this (believe it or not I blew off more people than I accepted back when I won Gusher cause a) it was overwhelming b) the story was already out there so what else was there to tell). It might have helped that someone from Livestrong and one of my Doctors from Duke encouraged me to do so in order to encourage others, the obligation of the cured as we call it in this community (I've given up on objecting because I'm not cured). But apparently the reason it dragged out is that until very late in the process it is the producer who does all the work and if they happen to leave the story gets shelved until another producer picks it up.

There is actually something I like about E60 right from the beginning is that their shows apparently end without any credits to any of their staff, a nod to the idea that the stories are always more important than the story tellers, the subject more important than the author. A simple look at multiple accounts of events or multiple photographs of a single thing would of course reveal that both are important but I think that shows humility on their part. So with that said, well, let's just leave the formal names out of those I worked with but I still want to give the two I worked with most a thank you's in my own way, here in this blog because no matter how the piece comes out, I appreciated their person.

The first producer and I actually met for the first time without Kiana. It was at an appointment in Duke (Kiana's never been to any of those appointments and shy of her going to school there, I'm okay with never going to Duke again). Like each one of the producers, she filmed some things herself with most being the crew. The simple truth is that what came out of her filming were some shots of a race that I would take second in, a friend who passed away from brain cancer when I did the Boston marathon this year. ESPN's 3rd producer (we'll come back to her) was kind enough to edit some of that and send it which the family appreciated and which I previously wrote about. But that 1st producer somehow in the middle of a custody battle about how I shouldn't be the guardian of my daughter because of the seizures, and a man who still had much frustration and disappointment about having gotten left shortly after brain surgery, she still saw that somewhere in a broken heart where the few remnants were being poured into raising a child, there lived a hopeless romantic, perhaps a hopeful one. We sat and talked on the sidelines of medical appointments, races and ultimate frisbee with no cameras rolling sometimes. I had next to no response to perhaps the most personal and yet professional redirect she gave me about how I could do better than the George Clooney approach in an approach to love. The piece would get shelved for a while because she left E60... it would turn out she left it to get married and move far away. While somewhat personally annoyed that meant the media stuff would drag out a little longer since it's a seasonal show and some things would have to get updated, I remembered that conversation when I heard about it and was happy for her that in the scheme of life, she clearly put love over anything else and it was easier to understand why she'd been the one who had talked me to be part of these stories.

I would meet a couple of other producers in races on the east coast but it literally was one meal. One
was covering for another. The other was going to be the one picking up the story but she apparently got accepted to law school and also left the show. I don't know whether the 3rd producer knew all of this but the very first thing I said to her when we spoke was whether she was applying to law school or getting engaged anytime soon... yep that's how smooth of an entrance I make. She stuck out for many reasons and there have certainly been other reporters Kiana's been very happy and comfortable with but none quite like her. She would mention that she helps out in the children's ministry at her church but which one's the chicken and which one's the egg with her skills with kids we just don't know. If anywhere Kiana comes out relaxed in front of the camera during the interview, it's because she was behind it. Kiana and I had some fun during one of the tapings in which I rode her bike while she ran (it's usually the opposite). The last ESPN producer would sit on her bike just for kicks. She made such a strong impression that the last time Kiana talked to her she asked when she would come visit sometime without the camera crew. They both had been kind enough to read portions of this blog and realized that someone else would have to do the scripting for the story to be told properly. The last producer was writing so much during certain times I was wondering if she was writing my entire life story.

There are certain jobs both of which I've held and had to work with that require compartmentalization. The doctors and nurses I deal with, the camera crews, me being a juvenile probation officer, you have to be able to both disconnect to have any level of effectiveness. Still, the doctor I remember the most from when this all started is the only one that came to cheer me on in the marathon I put off brain surgery for. The nurse that struck a thankful cord was the one who came to my house to deliver something because when I had a driving restriction and it was really bad weather; they knew I'd be stubborn enough to try to get it myself. The neurosurgeon I chose said to me about surgery, I might kill you because if I died on surgery day it wasn't cancer, it was human error. Three of the reporters have been kind enough to come cheer at local races long after the official story was done. One of the camera crews insisted on cleaning the dishes after my mom made them dinner. Another one as we awaited MRI results, a guy who described himself as jaded from having done all this type of work, threw up in nervousness that these MRI results that he was about to tape would be bad news.  In my ever brave/cowardly way I go to too many of these appointments alone, one of those crews hugged me at one of those medical appointments and it's the only time I remember breathing during a medical appointment while I relaxed into their arms for a microsecond. If there's any reason these pieces capture any goodness or any humanity, it's because these were incredibly good humans when they stepped out from behind the cameras.

I don't know why other people tell stories to media... I don't quite understand the desire to be appreciated by strangers. I mean that's not exactly correct; I know and understand that impressing strangers matters a lot in certain situations. Some we call college admissions applications, others we call resume. I also know if you're trying to please everyone there's something wrong with you; if you're trying to please no one there's something wrong with you. But strangers across the tv screen... I don't... I don't quite get it for me because I'm doing nothing more than something I should have done all along which was love with all the conviction I've got. Trust me, I get the other stuff E60 does pieces on like professional athletes who should have their stories told both because of their physical abilities and the way they choose to utilize them for the field and often off the field with causes. I am average or slightly above average in any of those areas so when people ask why I have no good answer other than must be a slow news day.

Still, if given a platform, I have one core message, love it out. Showing the people who you love exactly that is a lot more important than impressing strangers in my book. I mean what's the point of impressing a bunch of strangers so that they can go tell the people they love about you if you come home alone? With that said, even with a damaged brain, I am no complete dummy. It is no coincidence that the races any media pieces have been invited to were ones were I was running a race that highlighted some good things and/or where I was running with a team that mattered. Four of the races where I have helped raise money for brain cancer research were ones they filmed, four of the other ones are entirely local races that benefit good things (this is the first time it occurs to me but of course they filmed 8 races). And every outfit of mine picked for the video was at least a wink or a nod or a smile (Kiana wore whatever she wanted).

So I hope this will be how I keep living... The title of this blog comes from that hopefully this is the end of the media stage since there will be nothing left to cover. It will go from being one ellipses to another. The compartmentalization of parentheses of when the cameras are or aren't rolling... the ellipses of when is this going to end (much like anyone whose gotten this far is thinking about this blog). I actually like Spanish punctuation better than English equivalent (apologies to Donald Trump?). There the question marks and exclamation points right at the beginning and the end of sentences ¿, ¡ because there are parts of life and communication that you are aware you want an answer even as you start saying it and other's you're excited long before the final word. The question mark of the ESPN piece is finally coming to a conclusion... It will air August 4th and be online three weeks after that. The question marks of cancer will likely keep hanging on but we will hopefully keep having some good periods, ellipses, occasional compartmentalization and definitely some exclamation marks. It is perhaps how I deal with the question marks.

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