I finished the book “When Breath Becomes Air” last night which was written by Paul Kalanithi. Paul wrote this book because he found out he had terminal cancer and he wanted to document his journey as he faced his own mortality. He wrote his journey from brilliant Neurosurgeon to Cancer patient. Paul was quite interested in diving into looking death in the eyes and analyzing what death means and looking at it as a process instead of running away from it. It is an honest book that I don’t know as if I could have written in the midst of suffering from Cancer and watching myself wither from health to having people on my death watch just waiting for me to pass to move on. It’s a good read and something that will not leave my mind. You should read it. THIS Ted talk by Lucy Kalanithi is what prompted me to read the book.
I thought about Paul this morning as I headed out to run and I thought about Lucy his widow and Cady his infant daughter who most likely won’t remember her father except in the things her family and her mother share with her. I thought about my own life and thought about how I read and cried through this book and as my legs carried me over my three miles I confirmed with myself that if I face this same kind of decision in my life, I do NOT want to spend time chasing time if the outcome is sure to be finality. I would rather spend my time simply talking to my family, and running, having cookouts and creating memories and laughter than living in a hospital bed. Everyone dies we just don’t know when we’ll die or how. Why worry about it? Every day and moment should be lived to the best of our ability being the best people we can be don’t you think?
I run because I want to be more healthy. I want to be more healthy because I want to live as long of a life free from canes or adult diapers and medications as I can. I started off running to run away from life’s problems. I ran to save myself from deep dark places that the anti-depression commercials talk about. I ran not to look forward but to not look back. Things are much better now for me and I am probably the happiest I’ve ever been since getting married. I now appreciate meaning in life and the joys that my family brings me, especially my children as they head into adulthood. I now run to be able to have as many tomorrows as I can and to “experience” every day rather than just living every day. Lucy and Paul “experienced” life and looked at life in a really analytical way both in life and through and during death. Running saved me and has taught me to really appreciate and experience most everything. Running has become the glue that keeps me sane, lets me analyze things so I can better understand them more like Paul and Lucy do. Running lets me reflect on things that have happened and what my takeaways are a lot like Lucy and Paul did as they applied the lessons they were learning through their difficult journey through Paul’s illness.
It’s books like this that make me a better human who appreciates the important things in life over skimming through each day blindly, and it’s running that has allowed me to take all those moments and push them forward to tomorrow and the next days to come. Life, like running has good days and bad, joy and pain, frustrations and memories, positives and negatives. We should know what we want from both, have goals for both, give mindful thought to the moments and milestones that we experience during both.
So today I am going to see my son for the first time in a week! Feels like a month but it’s only been a week. The only thing I have to do is go for a run so off I went to hit the road. I had plans on doing 5-7 today but the moment I put myself in motion it became clear that it might not happen. It was muggy and windy and hard to breathe. My legs felt heavy today I felt like my heart was beating somewhere in the 170 range the whole way. Come to find out it wasn’t any higher than normal which is 140-150 since I’m no Olympic runner. I’m ok with my pace and know I’m my only competition. I stopped every mile to rest which I hate doing because it makes me feel like a failure but it is what it is. When I got home I recorded a quick video as motivation for some that not all days are good ones and I posted it. I was proud to have thought up a new post rather than just the selfie that gets shared with the notes of the day. I came in to eat and get ready to head to see Johnny, got coffee and then it dawned on me… today is the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and I just posted a whiny video about 3 stupid miles. What is wrong with me! I sit here stewing about my little run wasn’t great and that I can’t see my son every day when some beautiful 15 year old child who lost their mother or father cries somewhere to once again grieve the tremendous loss that took away what I have. SHAME ON ME!
Perspective. I do try hard to never get lost in thoughts about what I don’t have or didn’t do or those kinds of things. Ask my kids what happens when they say something negative about someone….MOM gives them perspective about the potential list of things that they might not know about that person that may have caused whatever it was that they saw. You don’t know what you don’t know. Never judge because people do things to survive and those things, outside breaking the law which is almost always unacceptable, might not be what you understand. Circumstances drive action and we should do a better job at trying to understand rather than judge. Perspective changed my attitude today. It isn’t that my run was all of a sudden better or that it wasn’t so bad in the first place. It isn’t that my son isn’t far away from me based on having him around his whole life. It’s that the overwhelming reality of what today reminds me of makes those things seem just a little bit less of a big deal. So today I will go see my son and hug him tight and enjoy spending time with him. Leaving might not be great but it should be easier than last week when I left him there for the first time. At the end of the day I know I’ll see him soon and talk to him on Skype and I live for those moments like I live for the moments I spend with my youngest Son James and my Daughter Katy because time is fleeting and changing.
Perspective keeps us humble and lets us not be so critical of achievements that aren’t so great compared to what we wanted.
I have always been in tune with the fact that God exists. I know he works in mysterious ways because I have experienced it a few times in my life when I needed something or needed to be given something. When I was torn about having children, I was given 3 copies of the same book by different people. The story was about three women: one wanted kids, the other didn’t and the third wasn’t sure. Tell me that wasn’t a sign 3 kids later. When I did the ultimate and told the Lord I was doing things my way, he promptly delivered one of the hardest and poignant lessons smack dab across the face. I will not be smiting the almighty anytime again in this life. As I work my way past things God delivers what he knows i need whether or not I want it. It’s what I need. I made a promise just this week to let something very painful go and move on to find my happiness. I promised him I would try. This is not to say that I wouldn’t stumble the entire way. In the last week, when I feel angry and begin to slip back to anger and nasty words he has delivered two very clear messages to me in the form of other peoples misfortune. On is the story of Joey and Rory
This wonderful couple are about to be separated sadly because Joey is losing her battle to Cancer. It is tragic and brings tears to my eyes because you can see and hear in their music how much they love one another. I think about them and then use that to be extra grateful for all that I have that they are losing and still they speak of only the good they retain from the pain. God bless them and their little 2 year old baby who will be without her mom soon. Nothing I have to complain about is even remotely close to worthy of even one word of negativity when I think of their true struggle.
The other is the story of a friend of mine who gives back to help grieving children who have lost parents. He lost his father and brother on the same day in a car accident that he was the sole survivor of. These stories surround me and were delivered in such a scarily timely manner for a very specific reason. They were given to me to remind me to be grateful for what I have and to stop complaining! We all should be grateful for the good in our lives and should cherish those we love because tomorrow is unknown. Life is hard, unfair and only as wonderful as you choose to make it. Your glass is half full or nearing empty but that is all in your “perspective” which is what life is all about after all. Perspective reminds me that I have it all and I choose to get up each day with as much “Hell Yeah and No Regrets” as I can even on the days when all I can seem to find is a little “woop with a drab side of humph”. I try and that is all I can ask of myself every day… that and a few miles to make it all better. What is your glass?