Thursday, February 22, 2018

Growing in Anger

For the 3rd year in a row, Kiana advanced to the regional science fair. This year's experiment tilted nurture or nature was about whether talking to plants in different tons affected their growth. The experiment title was intriguing enough cause she's such a great kid, I often joke about that I feel bad for whoever took mine home. But she tested whether talking in a happy tone, an angry tone, a neutral tone, or no talking would cause the best growth. They were all in the same light and room other than when she took them out to talk to them each day. I suppose like all of us who think the pursuit of happiness is the key to life would hope it was that positive tone that created the most growth. But it wasn't, it was the angry tone. They did matter, however, as the plant that didn't get talked to was the one that grew the least.

Kiana tried to theorize why the angry plant grew the most, perhaps it was because you speak louder when you're angry and more CO2 gets emitted. Still, Kiana is smart enough and scientific enough to do her experiment but realize a single data point is an anecdote so she researched more and while it has not been fully nailed down this experiment has been done with full green houses where they've done two with positive, two with negative, two with music and one without. In that experiment, the tones actually did not change but the one without sound once again grew the least. The one that grew the most was the one with music, seems right to me but maybe that's because everyone in my family seems to like to sing and dance, loudest in the shower it seems.

She'll present at the regional fair Saturday and we'll see how it goes. But it reminded me of times when I kept getting faster and faster on running. At least as an adult, it seems to be when I'm angriest at the circumstances of my life. I am not the type of person who thinks that we should try to get rid of anger or sadness or really any emotion. They are in the system for a reason and all of them should be channeled appropriately. I often wonder if the reason cancer hasn't killed me yet is that simple fight or flight survival mechanism. In the entire planet, most everyone who can outrun me, I could beat them in a fight and most everyone who could beat me in a fight, I can outrun them. Cancer took on a guy with great survival instincts and capacity and at least today, at least today, I am still winning.

I have a speech in a couple of hours at an event called Testify:Austin. It was actually an event where I heard Elaine speak a few years ago and the story she told there was probably the beginning of me realizing that we had potential. The theme is racy and most of the story tellers will be telling stories that rhyme more along with that while I was asked to share the story of when I put off brain surgery to run a marathon, no more, no less. There's no won a marathon down the line, just a self contained so I'll get to tell it with more details and more self reflection. They made us practice it in front of the producers and they gave feedback. The producer suggested I be a little more honest with the emotions I was feeling at the time. She says this to a guy who deals with his emotions so well that he hides them in a public blog! She messed with me enough to where I went back and re-read my first neuropsychological evaluation report which says that my "self-perception may actually represent utilization of denial as a psychological defense against anxiety." I'm telling a few parts of the story but sharing the line that I said on my goodbye tour as I finished dinners with old friends before brain surgery, "The guy going in may not be the same ones coming out; but this one loves you guys." Everyone then heard the affection and I meant that but it was as close as I came to acknowledging that I was very afraid that the guy going into brain surgery and the guy coming out of brain surgery were going to be strangers.

The running I was doing then was therapy; it was channeling the anger. It was why I qualified for Boston that day. I ran the Austin marathon Sunday and the weather wasn't great but you know what it wasn't great back in 2011 in either. But I'm just not angry and for better or worse, I don't channel happiness into better running. I loved running with a friend for a good section; it's the happiest I've ever been during a race. People always say they wave at me or cheer at me but I'm there with those angry songs (listen up, listen up there's a devil in the church... this is gonna hurt) looking intense and don't see them. This was the most signs I've ever seen, the most people I've ever waved at, the most happy I've been during a race. Someone who saw me with about a half mile to go genuinely expressed shock as they cheered for me and said..."you're smiling?"

Was it a mistake to run happy? I don't know but I don't think so. It certainly didn't lead to anywhere near my fastest marathon. I think I'll find the edge again and properly train but once my friend and I were running together the song that came on was "Despacito." While it's good to dance to and fun to run to, it means go slow. Usually I create playlists for races but I didn't for this one, I just put the ones on that I'm hoping the band or DJ plays at Elaine and I's wedding and I'm never in a rush to get off the dance floor and so I was singing and dancing for the second half of the Austin marathon, thinking about a cute girl, hoping I wasn't two stepping so slow that she would pass me... We've done a couple of marathons together where we caught up afterwards but on this one, I stayed at the finish line for a while until she finished and medalled her. This marathon was about looking forward to things with her. I planted a big kiss after cause I gotta start practicing for when they say you may now kiss the bride.

I'm not saying happiness isn't driving some growth in me. There have been many areas in my life that are growing again for the first time (though if you look carefully at those pics of me without the shirt, the happiness with Elaine and Kiana's good cooking may be the waistline). And I'm not saying there aren't things I'm angry. I went from finishing the marathon to visiting a friend from the Brainpower 5k who is now in hospice and has very little time left with the same disease. I was actually supposed to push her for this race like I did for that one and there were many times I thought of her. She got hugged a little tighter with my stinky self when I went by after the race. That anger has and will be aimed at being part of taking on cancer defeating efforts on a more global scale.

But the happiness is feeding good things. I'm trusting both Elaine and myself more...I think those are correlated. Some of the other things from my neuropsychological evaluation, the deficits are still there but I'm learning to cope with them, to work around them. I'm actually on quite a streak these days of hitting some high scores in brain rehab games that I hadn't hit in literally years.

I am hoping life keeps letting those parts of my brain grow. I am going to keep letting some fears go because as I heard recently there's no real point in tip toeing through life to arrive safely at death. And like sadness or anger, there's times I'll let those grow to and like happiness just try to channel them appropriately. And I dare dream, I dare hope, I dare believe and love that no matter which of those emotions I allow to driving growth it will be what prevents and deters this tumor from growing.

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