Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Producing character

"Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope."

Summer is an odd time in my already odd life. People who have a similar custodial arrangement to mine have different view points. It's standard Texas one for summer in which Kiana spends the longest time of the year with her mother, either two 15 days periods or one 30 day period with a weekend in between with me. I'm known for frankness so I've heard it both ways about parents who are thankful for the break, others who don't know what to do with themselves by themselves, and one mother, the one that gave me the most to think about was that they just see it preparation for empty nest syndrome. 

Until this year, I had actually not stayed in town for the entirety of it. In it's 5 versions, there have been three of the 2 two week period and 1 of the 30 day syndrome. I'm not much of a nester so I'd leave the nest completely empty for at least part of the time it wasn't shared. 
But that's not the case this year since my girlfriend and I are living in sin. We've been doing things to the house still, mostly little decorations and such. And with no races on the calendar, at least not of my own, for the longest times in several years, I've started running more. 

Part of that is what else should you do with your time but dehydrate more by running in
summer? Part of that is that I've had good company in all of those runs. 3 weeks ago was the highest mileage of my life with my girlfriend and my bromance joking around which one was going to the highest (she beat him by a mile in the first week I ever broke 60 miles in one week). Not to be outdone, last week, he and I did 60 miles in one week on the first time I ever broke 70 miles. People keep asking what I'm training for since I'm stepping up my mileage and doing the most intense speed workouts since high school. I keep joking that I'm retired, which I presume means really tired from all the extra fun stuff you need to do. But I keep in mind the study that long distance runners have a higher brain cancer survival rate than anybody including other athletes, the theory being that it's the chemicals that are released in the brain after a certain amount of continuous running (though I fully concede that those chemicals seem to alter other things like how many swear words come out of my mouth towards the end of those runs).

But it's also because I've been helping Kiana train for her first triathlon. It's a sprint and it's arguable whether that or the Spartan Super will be the hardest thing she's ever done in one day but when we went out to try the course on the weekend she was home, she was suffering in the end. That determination and the fact that I am a believer in do as I do not just do as I say that got me to do my hardest 3 weeks of training. There was never a time she asked to stop. We may not always have great race days where I come from but a DNF still doesn't exist in our file and I hope we never add it. I've also done the entire time without music since music isn't allowed in triathlons just to show her it can be done. 

It hasn't all been work since a life that's all work would be almost as difficult for me as a life that's all play. But part of the playing has been actual plays where we went to the opening night of the Wizard of Oz. We even made the donation to be in the official photo booth where of course I had to be the scarecrow (If I only had a brain), Elaine dressed up as the witch with a nod to a little bit of our history. Kiana went as Dorothy. It was raining before and somehow right before seeing an outside play of the Wizard of Oz, there was a rainbow over the area we were going to. Maybe, just maybe, there is a place where 'the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true'. 

Where the balance of work and play should be is a great deal of debate but for me, an unemployed workaholic, I always thing work should be the over riding factor. Maybe it's justifying my approach to life but I think work can be converted into play far easier than play into work. But my parenting philosophy is coming more and more into play and work. It's always give them roots, than give them wings. Part of the reason we're doing the triathlon is in triathlons, you're not really going to be next to someone during the swim and you're not allowed to be next to someone on the bikes (that's for passing only). We went and practiced the course and we did it where she was on her own, primarily. As she practiced, she was suffering (we were much later in the day than the race itself will be cause you know sleeping in is good) but she was practicing with conviction. Suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character and character produces hope. I suppose in the original writing it might have all been intended towards one person or community but I think Kiana's endurance character is a big factor in why my hope just doesn't blink. 

Her mom was a creative writing major and is into drama so she's sent Kiana to an acting camp the last couple of years. Before she headed over there she kept asking me what part she should try out for in Alice in Wonderland Along that giving wings approach, I told her that was her call. She would end up trying out for and getting Alice's part. She was on stage and had more lines than anyone else. It was a pleasure to watch her conviction, hear her 'British accent, to see her perform theatrically that 'imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.' Luckily they had a rule that there were no cell phones allowed or video cameras, to let the plays be enjoyed the way they were supposed. It was 20 minutes that flew by too fast but then again forever is 'sometimes just one second."

Soon she'll be home again and just by nature of scheduling, many things will be back to familiar rhythms without yellow brick roads or long rides or long swims. But I think we'll find ways to keep the balance of not running away from suffering or perhaps its better phrased of running while suffering. We'll find the endurance, the character and the hope. Who knows how the triathlon or 5th grade will go but I am glad we've used the summer to build up a base. Carrol said every adventure requires a first step so I trust and hope that the balance of good adventures are still coming up. 

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