Monday, August 17, 2015

Defying Reruns

I continue to receive some very kind messages from people from elementary to strangers regarding the E60 piece (I've never really met a stranger so they don't stay strangers long if they chat). It's a bit overwhelming each time it airs that more people write on my Facebook wall than any other day except my birthday; on both I respond since I know it doesn't take much effort for someone to do so but it also takes as much for me to respond.  I still haven't had a chance to watch Remember Me in its entirety because every time it's aired I've had either a previous committment or Kiana was with me, my biggest commitment. I think ESPN sent DVD's at some point and then I'll take a look at it and it will be then I decide if/when Kiana will catch it because it deals with some heavy stuff and even if it's age appropriate generally, it may not be the right time for her to hear all of the story told therein. Still if imitation is the highest form of flattery, I can only say I was flattered to receive a picture of an entire family who painted their toenails together in the same shade as Kiana and I did our first time.

I did watch the preview which starts with a line which is borrowed from another piece that was worked on a couple of years ago for a joint project between my hospital and Livestrong. For the record while I have been in far too many media things, that one is my favorite video of the ones I've seen and its one Kiana has defintely seen. That line, "can I keep running and am I still fit to raise a kid because one is how I get through the day and the other one is why" is the opener of the E60 preview but the closing of the other continuing the highest form of flattery. The reason that piece is my favorite though is for a simple reason, not necessarily artistic or delivery but because I think it's the only piece after the marathon win that doesn't at all mention any race. You see the races isn't why I run; they're the reward. Or perhaps they just show the ancient fight or flight syndrome... I find comfort in that there are very few human beings on the planet who could both outrun me and beat me up. There's plenty of both but very few who can do one and not do the other.

Like in these blog entries there are some quiet nods to significant with medals and trophies and clothes in the background but it's literally just about the fact that Kiana and I run as point of connection. Sometimes nods are the best things because like dancing can be a way to be alone in a crowded room, the right nod in a public place is a way to whisper while shouting, or is it to shout while whispering, even in a crowd, you are special to me. But while I see the races as the reward I do live for the day to day or as my grandfather would put it, one day at a time, I get tired when I do two.

What always had and likely will always remain my favorite activity, running. While the most read blog entry ever will almost certainly be the one that I read about the Gusher marathon the day after it happened, my brother declared his favorite and best written one the one where I was correcting something about the piece. Still, I've heard enough messages and commentary where I've mostly put it together as it has run on ESPN and rerun ESPN2 (I don't have cable) and ABC, I've been making the joke that I'm not really into reruns (though with that said the very first interview that aired on me putting off brain surgery to run a marathon was on the local ABC so the universe circles back around). But within that rerun joke, there really is a truth about my approach to life. Even with a damaged memory, it's rare that I do anything twice. I have read two books more than once in my entire life, the Bible and the Lord of the Rings. I have bought two movies in my entire life, Amistad and the Lord of the Rings. I have downloaded 3 episodes of TV in my entire life but they all have been from Doctor Who.

I try to not be a guy who holds onto much, focusing on the future no matter how bleak and not onto the past no matter how grand. I have made it a new year's resolution to own less stuff at the end of the year than I did at the beginning each year but as I clean stuff out there are some things I wonder when I finally get ready to get rid of them how they lasted so long and others I can't seem to get rid of. I dealt with a couple of pieces of jewelry this week that I've probably kept for far too long, both necklaces... one that was perhaps the most impulsive piece of jewelry I've ever purchased back in college, the other the one most thought about about that girl recently blogged about. Only one of the two was kept, the other not, both somehow acts of hope in my heart.  What we hold on to things says something about us to me. This is especially true of sentimental things or "practical things" that we've never used whether that be in the kitchen, the garage, any room really. I think what we choose to keep, what we can't imagine getting rid of, shows something about our nostalgia or a way we hold onto a vision, a hope that the better version of ourselves will actually use those things when we get there somehow.

If you're with me this long, you've probably realized what the blog has been in many ways, a way to hide in public which people judge as honesty. I am not sure that honesty judgement is entirely since some things are easier to share here than would be eye to eye but if you've got a damaged memory, actually lying is an even worse idea than usual. A few people with sharp intellect have noticed that "the guy in the media" is a little more polished than the one here, I assure you I'm not the one who did the polishing. Obviously during interviews you try to stay sharp with but that's a different relationship than the best ones... because aren't the best relationships the ones where you can talk for hours, where you call at the end of the day just to talk about nothing. They are also the kind of people that you love being around without a word without a sound and you realize they're really something.

But the question continues to pop if the Gusher marathon is still my favorite race. The answer is no, it wasn't for long, because for me my favorite race is always the next one. For me this race happens to be Head for the Cure in Kansas City this Sunday. I've been asked to speak and again in my speeches I always try to change it up to something relevant (elementary crowds, high school crowds, college crowds, running crowds, medical crowds are very different and yet all human and so connected in someway). It is perhaps my favorite compliment from a place that has invited me back 3 years, a college pre med professor at the University of Texas. It wasn't that his students said something but that his TA said, he's gotten better every year... it doesn't feel that way with the nerves in front of a crowd but it's awfully nice of her to say. But the crowd is one whose there to raise money for brain cancer research. A standard line which I only used in front of cancer crowds till this year was "Statistically speaking, I'm not likely to make 40. But my math teacher used to say statistics are like bikinis, what they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital." While I've tweaked what I said after that in many ways, this weekend is a new one "There are too many of us here who are in memory of someone to deny some horrible statistics but the work we do here will defy those, hopefully change them and the fact that we keep moving will help us look better in bikinis." I hope that's well received as I fly into Missouri and hope for good company. (I wonder if anyone reading this skips my speeches since I always give the best punch lines away in my blog in advance?!? Or maybe they skip them because the punch lines were that bad to begin with).

And not too long after that, what to me is an even bigger sign of progress. From my first marathon period to my first one behind her was 4 years. From my first 5k as an adult to my first one beside her was 3 years. From my first Spartan to one next to her was a little over 2 years. And I'm not sure it's appropriate to say this about one's little girl but the picture they caught during the spartan, my kid is a bad ass.

And the last weekend in August we will be doing our first trail race. My first and only one was in June and her first one in August will be a little under 3 months apart... It will also be her first 10k. If that's not progress, I don't know what is. All my medals earned on my own are in a box... all the ones earned behind her are hanging in her room. But somehow I couldn't quite treat the first set of medals that we earned side by side in the same way. For the first time ever, I got a medal hanger showing the two steps that have gotten us this far, we train and believe together. I'm not a guy who goes far into the past so I didn't open up the box with old medals but these two and any we earn from  here forward will hang there, right in the living room, the common area, reminding us of our shared time and space.

I imagine that E60 reruns are over though theoretically it will be online sometime in the future. I know that reruns can matter. In fact my favorite TV show, Doctor Who, is one that I got introduced due to PBS reruns on a day I needed to iron. (Speaking of the two, I noticed that one of my favorite episodes-one of 3 tv shows I've ever purchased-Listen Season 8.4 aired on the same date as the E60 piece 8/4.) It's one of my favorite because a comment someone from church said to me was that I seemed poised during my interview. I've been called that and stoic before races, speeches, medical appointments and certain relationships with anyone I love and am wondering just how badly I'm screwing it up. That idea that I'm without emotion, well it's not true at all. Before each and everyone of those if I had to pick one word to describe my emotional state, it wouldn't even be nervous, it would be scared. Very scared often and it's questionable whether the perception of success or failure would be the bigger relief to those fears. But as I sit there scared, I try to remember the speech he gives a scared little boy, pretty much what I have been for the better part of 5 years:

Let me tell you about scared. Your heart is beating so hard, I can feel it through your hands. There's so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain, it's like rocket fuel. Right now, you could run faster and you can fight harder, you could jump higher than ever in your life. And you're so alert, it's like you can slow down time. What's wrong with scared? Scared is a super power. It's your super power. There is danger is this room, and guess what? It's you! 

And sometimes that superpower gets you through at least till the next scary moment... See, sitting through so many doctors appointments has never made them normal, at least not to me. Most (all?) of us are unaware of our mortality at a young age and then as we get older, we're in denial of it some of us literally to the point of death. But when you've sat through all the medical appointments I have and when you're on maximum medication cause of a damaged brain, I am not capable of compartmentalize or not face the reality that I'm going to die. But in that next race, that next speech, that next day, I am thankful that I've gotten to defy it one more time and that day, today, becomes my favorite and I work as hard as I know how at making sure it's not a rerun.

1 comment:

  1. I first seen your story a year ago and was shocked seeing someone I grew up with going through this sort of thing. I don't like seeing anyone going through what you are going through and I had to learn more. I followed your story through bits and pieces in articles and with each bit or piece I gained more inspiration from you and really respected what you were doing. The E:60 piece suited the day after my wedding and my wife thought I was crazy being at a beautiful beach on my honeymoon and I'm in the room watching ESPN. She sat down and watched the piece with me and even though she never knew the kid that always walked around with his books on his head she felt a strong connection and an even stronger inspiration from you. We both looked at each other with tears in our eyes and just held each other for the whole night. The lemonade you are making with your lemons is very sweet and very inspiring. Thank you for being you and for sharing your lemonade with all of us.