Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hope-The Thing With Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,- Dickinson


Emily Dickinson was an odd poetic girl... an extreme introvert who overwhelmed by her emotions writing far too many poems about immortality and death. The few poems she published in her lifetime were heavily edited to fit the tastes of her times better... But at the end of the day, she lived a lot of life of fear because she struggled with illness most of her life, one school year only able to attend 11 weeks due to it. She was fortunate enough to come from a family with the finances to make some of that possible...

I am not great poet, not even a good writer but I admire the fact that even in her illnesses, in her fear of death and in her overwhelmed approach by hers and those around her, Ms. Dickinson often wrote of hope that perched in the soul. Still, she'd be overwhelmed by the death of friends like one at age 25 who died of a brain congestion. So even though she wrote precious truths about hope... she also acknowledged the heavier ones like death. I talk/think about the Grand Canyon experience here and there but maybe if the universe is kind enough, I'll get braver then that and keep going without stopping and echo Ms. Dickinson's statement "because I could not stop for death, it kindly stopped for me." Still, I wonder if her approach of being mostly secluded (she asked her sister that upon her death she destroy her poems) as opposed to my approach of being too wide open... which one shows the more damaged heart or  brain. 

But those of us who struggle with common or uncommon illnesses at any age and certainly at a young one, if we are at all human, we have fear but if we are to have a chance, we must also have hope. I have said and done stupid things with the fear of this cancer especially around the medical appointments... I have enough faith in the human heart that even when the brain is screwed up believe that we have capacity to make good choices. Still, with awareness that the human condition is at best deeply flawed, when I do make mistakes of what I say and do, all I can do is acknowledge them, apologize and not try to pretend to be a victim of my own fears or disease. Whatever I've learned through these last few years, I hope to keep. We had a question an answer period during the speech where someone asked how this has changed my perspective... and I talked about how after I won the half marathon this year, I called Kiana to tell her about it and she told me about the butterflies she'd seen and boy was that a great perspective!

So even when I was cleared to drive, it took me a few days to do so. But the first place I drove myself to... was a running party. And the second place I drove to was a kid's birthday party for Kiana. So driving to parties with friends shows our priorities. It didn't take me long to realize what the real function of cars was and took mine and Kiana's bike to the velloway (a 3.1 mile track for bikes) to ride it together for the first time. She fell once because instead of keeping her eyes on a new path she wanted to check out the flowers, we had to walk the bikes up a steep hill in there, it rained on us a bit. Still when it was all over, I took her back to the place where she'd fallen and in a safer fashion checked out the flowers. And it is my hope that no matter what else either of us do for the rest of our lives... we catch moments like smelling flowers.


As with anyone's life, there are changes. The saint of a friend who has lived with me for a while has decided to move on closer to work and a real adult life instead of one with a single dad whose house shuts down quietly. I get worried about this with my medical issues but as I try to find a solution, I'm greatful it's been a long long time since I've woken up in an ambulance and am comforted by the fact that Kiana's getting older. As I wake up to the fact that I haven't had a girlfriend since high school and am open to it for the first time, I wonder if I have any clue how to actually date someone. Livestrong has invited me to speak in a couple of weeks to many of their volunteers (I'm working on that speech so if you have any great tips let me know). I still haven't put gas in my car but looking at the prices as I drive around makes me realize that maybe my reduced medical payments will be replaced with gasoline bills. I have zero road races that I'm signed up for in the future but my first triathlon in a couple of weeks and doing the spartan workouts of the day trying to prepare for the first of those since September of last year... I realize I'm so financially behind that I sat down with a job recruiter but it makes me nervous because, well I sat through multiple court hearings where someone thought I shouldn't be raising my daughter and part of my sales pitch was the fact that I was a full time dad and that there was a back up adult there. Whether the person who asked for the custody changes, the judge or myself will see it differently if all of a sudden I'm a working person at a new job and the other home option is an established relationship with two adults... So with each of these changes or possibilities of changes, there are hopes and fears and no guarantees of which one will win out.


Still, while holding on to hopes of beating this cancer, I keep betting on the odds knowing good and well that there are people who I met who in one set of appointments was fine and at the next one had a growth and had a few weeks or months left. But I also remember what my statistics teacher used to say... that statistics are like bikins, what they reveal is interesting but what they conceal is vital... and I am glad to have had experiences and people in my life who are better than great bikinis.

And because of that I keep holding onto hope in many areas.  Because if there's anything I learned from the cowardly approach to dating I've taken since getting left in the middle of cancer, it's that there is more there than I once believed was possible, probable or wanted. Whether or not I'll find someone to match... well nobody gets that guaranteed. There's been jokes from friends about what my pick up line should be from "I've won a marathon and can break a five minute mile so I'm good for all night or a quickie" to "I won a half marathon but with you I'd go all the way." I've always said my  pick up line was "so you want to date a single unemployed dad with cancer who can't drive?"... yeah no wonder I'm single ;). But at least the last line is out now. But if I manage to find someone whose ready to be my girlfriend well... I imagine if it has any chance of lasting it will be because they can sign up for a mess while holding hands and holding hope.

Because I am going to see my brothers this weekend for Easter and all 3 of us will be together for the first time since Duke... Because the crowd from Beaumont was here for a race and I got to have dinner with them...

Because Kiana had a school field trip yesterday where she was fascinated by caves... because she watched a terra forming tree this morning... Because the sun still rose today... in all of those things and many more great ones that have along the way... they still perch in my soul and sing without words and I hope they never stop at all.

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