Thursday, September 29, 2016

Yes and...

A little under six years ago back in October of 2010, a couple of weeks before the grand mal seizure would start , I had just started training for my 2nd shot at the Austin marathon. My first go-around I had done my long runs entirely on my own, the idea of getting up at the crack of dawn on the weekend to run 10-20 miles seeming what it is, absurd. You go out on Friday night and Saturday night and thus get up after sunrise on the next day, not before it much less to pound pavement. I was out doing 20 miles not too long ago and there were some people playing pikeman go at 5 am on the Texas Capitol as we ran through and one of my runner friends thought that was silly. I said it’s arguable which one of us doing the less intelligent thing since we were running in near 80 degree weather 2 hours before sunrise.

But when I was new to this having been up since like 5:30 for the first time, I had lived a busy Saturday with a 3 year old child and Costco shopping and this dinner, I was fading and got home at 9:00 PM ready to go to bed on a Saturday night *yep I had just turned 30*. Todd, a great friend, the executor of my will and a guy who had gotten into improv called me up and invited me to go watch an improvised comedy show.  I was tired and immediately tried to defer but he quoted something to me that I often said “No one says on their death bed…” with whatever it is I was trying to talk people into after. He would say “on one says on their death bed I wish I’d gotten more sleep.” I dressed and we went out for improv.


During the improv show, one of audience members threw out to the improvisers “worst lines ever delivered at a funeral.” I don’t remember any of those lines but afterwards Todd and I went out to eat and we joked around about how we would deliver the worst lines at each other’s funeral. At mine, he reportedly is going to say “Psh, so what I’ve got two other friends.” I recently updated some minor details to my will and sent it to him and he wrote back “Don’t use this anytime soon; my other two friends are going to require longer eulogies and I still haven’t started working on them.” That same conversation we realized we actually had a mutual friend because we had both donated to her Race for the Cure. I had helped out with fundraisers for charities before this and he asked why I’d never helped out with a cancer one and I responded with the reality at the time, “I’ve never really been close to anyone who had cancer.”

Less than 2 weeks later I’d be in the hospital with a grand mal seizure, waiting for a biopsy to figure out what this brain tumor like material in my MRI was. He was one of several good friends who visited me, I mean one of 3 and he asked what I felt like eating and I don’t know where it came from but I said “Hooters wings.” He responded with “well there’s definitely something wrong with your brain, who gets Hooters to go?!? But all right if that’s what you feel like, I’ll have them for you… right after the biopsy.” There’s a picture of me waking up not long after the biopsy, no one has ever noticed it or at least not commented on it but there’s some chicken wings right in front of it.

He would continue to be part of improv even invited me to attend a beginner’s class (if he’s reading and so everyone knows he’s not nearly as funny or as smart as my blog or these speeches even if he has a Ph’d, has been quoted in Time magazine, or has bigger hands). The nature of single fatherhood’s time restriction made taking a full time class unrealistic but I was fascinated by a concept they introduced or at least explained. Comedy improvisers have to feed off each other, off of audiences, off strange situations or unseen circumstances. They introduced the concept as “Yes… and” you accept the addition and continue, hopefully bringing the right balance of pathos and ethos into it. The concept they introduced was about how you roll with it rather than try to get back to where you were headed with your story or act. It may tell you how much I like the concept that one of Austin’s best improv and story tellers is someone I would trust with my child and the Bond girl whose been written about in here was also an improviser. Maybe that’s why they like me too.

See, I love the attitude and the encapsulation of it better. It’s not “yes, when” “yes ,but” and not “no.” There’s obviously a time for all of these things but it is my hope, my motto, a mantra that ‘yes and’ has become my default for life. This has led to some mistakes but mostly for me in the last few years it has led to some really cool things and even when it’s led to mistakes I’d rather regret things I have done than things I haven’t. Like Frankie said I did it my way and I just want to live while I’m alive.  I don't know the etymology but perhaps improvise and improvement have a similar beginning for a reason. 

It’s been a good September of yes and. Kiana and I lined up for the Brainpower 5k early in the month. I paced her at PR pace for two miles and then let her go with 1 mile to go. She beat her fastest 5k by over a minute to just under 24 which means the kid has now taken more time off her 5k than I have off my marathon in 2.5 years. There were some new ‘survivors’ there and more ‘in memory’ of signs. I take Kiana to these things hoping that she shares, echoes some of the ‘yes and’ attitude. That we acknowledge that brain cancer is a thing that has affected too many of us adversely. Yes it has and we can still do something positive. I’m one of the very few people that has been at all 6 of them. Our team has been in various years the top fundraiser, the fastest. On the 2016 version, I just ran right next to Kiana for the first two miles holding the pace she needed to PR and then she left and her last mile she took off lots of time. Yes this is a brain cancer race and yes we are going to train for it and show ourselves and those affected that we can still use it for focus of honor and memory. Kiana won her age group and came in 10th over all female and our team took fastest once again. 

Kiana and I continue to train for the Livestrong Challenge her first 20 mile ride. She is at $400 of the $500 fundraising goal she set (if you want to donate go here). We train honestly, outside when we can and avoiding some of the lightning yes we get out of outdoors then and even so set up an indoor spot for those days. 

I am speaking at the St. George Marathon tomorrow. It’s the longest speech I’ve been asked to give so I’m hoping they hand out pillows because it's better than if they  hand out tomatoes. I’m staring with the joke about how the first speech I gave was when running for Parliamentarian of the student body in 7th grade and said “By George, I’ve got the best option.” I didn’t mean it as joke back when I was 12 but it was well received. It’s come full circle. Maybe I had the yes and attitude just no verbiage for it a good chunk of my life but when cancer started for me there was a whole lot of hampering it because this and that went wrong. It was well maybe, once I take care of this. But the reason it started all again was the yes and. Yes I’ll give a longer speech and I’ll take some questions after.

The first Livestrong ride was new to me back in 2011. I had never learned to ride a bicycle and had to learn when I was 31and had the opportunity. I said yes and I rode 100 miles 5 times in 5 years. The first one was out in California and I made friends with Steve, a Livestrong leader. I hadn’t done any proper upper body work since high school and still signed up for Spartans which both then and now kick my ass. Yet I made some friends including two who we ended up sharing a communal room the first time I did a Spartan beast on the east coast at the Vermont Championships. The universe is kind enough to where both Steve and Joanie somehow are coming to St. George to hear the speech. Yes and Steve’s also going to show me around his town and Joanie volunteered to be the sweeper on the course the person who finishes with the back of the pack. Life has provided many saints and a few angels in my life.

I fly in and out of Vegas, won’t be there long and I hear that what happens stays there but I have limited time so I’ll just catch a little gambling, a meal, and a show before a middle of the night flight out of there. The show is Cirque de Solei covering Michael Jackson music and dancing. Got a cute date even. Somewhere in the middle of all that I’ll be running a marathon. I try to remind myself what I say in most of my race speeches that the race is the reward not the work.

With that attitude and being out of debt I’ve set aside a small amount of money every month to just do something that looks towards the future. None of it is a big deal, it’s just a sign of hope that the future has more “yes ands” that I’ve dared dream of for too long. This month I bought new silverware from Costco since I didn’t even have a full set remaining from the past. Call it concrete, I meal medal dreaming about that many good meals are still coming and that they should be properly served. Going to college in Napa Valley made some impression. 

Kiana has adopted the attitude. I took her to a new swimming spot a friend introduced me to on Monday. It took me only till Friday to take her and a Spartan trainer who was visiting town. All I had done was jump on Monday but immediately she asked if she could dive; I responded with yes and if I don’t break my neck you can too (it was plenty deep enough). Then she asked if she could do flips into the water and I said yes and let me take some pictures of that. We went back to the rope swing which we’ve done many times where we kept swinging. What was supposed to be the last swing her foot caught on the the rope after she let go and she was flipped and landed badly into the water. She came out crying and I held her for a while. I asked her if we could do it one more time together with me on one tree and her on the other. She said yes and we went out on a high note, fear from a bad landing was a hesitation for just a split second but it didn’t win the day. 

We went to a marathon kids kick off the next day. She ran more laps than anyone in the entire school in the 25 minutes allotted. Then just for good measure she went back out after everyone was done cause she wanted to get a proper 5k in. We stopped and flipped some tires at a Spartan event, then drove hour hours to Beaumont to speak at  a Livestrong event where Kiana heard some things she’d never heard before. She had a smiling face at some points, a quiet one at others and a big hug at the end. 

I still wonder if I’ve gotten any of this right. I still get nervous about each race. I still worry about every medical appointment. Yes I do and that is why we keep going.