Monday, August 20, 2018

what i learned from not running

So Friday I met with the surgeon again.  He looked at his calendar and said, "So we are about 5 weeks out from surgery."  Knowing that 6 weeks is the magic number for running, I spoke up..."5 1/2" weeks!"

This guy is great.  He's very smart and very positive and he didn't kill me.  He smiled immediately understanding my angle.  He asked some questions, checked me out and gave me his blessing to run.  My internal soundtrack played Beethoven's Hallelujah Chorus all the way to my truck.  

I tried to wait until it cooled off to run but in August in South Carolina it doesn't really cool off unless there's a thunderstorm.  And let's face it, there was no way I wasn't going to run that day.  So I laced up and started out the door.  To say I was slow would be an understatement.  We joke at school about "slogging" (slow jogging) but this was a couple of degrees slower than that.  

And it felt so great.  So great.  I mean, it hurt and it was hot and humid and the sun was beating down on my bald head but I was smiling and laughing and happy.  It was amazing.  I know that makes zero sense.  Just trust me, it was wonderful.  

Our house has two flights of pretty steep stairs and my jelly thighs have cried audibly on each step for the last three days.  The soreness goes away, but the joy does not.  I'm so happy to be running again.  

A while back I posted some thoughts about what I learned from running.  As I've been not running for 5 1/2 weeks, I've been trying to pay attention and I may have noticed some things worth sharing.  Here's what I've got:

Sometimes Slow Is Good
I am goal oriented.  When I leave the driveway I want to get to wherever I'm going as quickly and efficiently as possible.  When I walk somewhere, I move with purpose and heaven forbid you walk slow in front of me.  I've discovered that time is valuable and I do my best to not waste it.  When I was forced to spend my summer slowing down I realized that when you move too fast you miss some things.  First of all, spider webs are much easier to see when you're walking slow.  I still got a few webs on me during my morning walks near the trees but I didn't take any whole webs to the face like I do when I'm running.  I noticed birds and plants and sounds that I normally race by.  There's a lot of beauty that I can miss when I'm moving too fast.  But we know this isn't about actual speed.  This is about walking with my kids every morning for the last few weeks and realizing they were babies yesterday and today they're almost teenagers.  Slow down.  Enjoy the seconds.

Listen To Your Body
It felt cheesy even typing that.  Such a cliché thing to say, right?  As a runstreaker, I mostly ignore minor aches and pains and simple setbacks like pneumonia, the plague and body parts falling off.  I would just get up and run regardless.  I was very lucky and I hope to have another long streak of luck and good health, but I hope I will listen a little more carefully to my body.  During recovery I went from that awkward "not being able to walk to the bathroom by yourself" stage to the "I'm not sure if I should do that stage" and now I'm still in the "lets try that and see if it hurts stage".  Each day was a new adventure in what I'd be able to do.  Sometimes there was a physical twinge or ache that let me know this wasn't happening.  Other times is was more of a gut feeling that something was a bad idea.  After I was feeling much more mobile and flexible I walked out to the front porch with my herd of hummingbirds and positioned myself in front of the hammock.  I stood there and thought about attempting to lie down in the hammock but I just knew that it wasn't a good idea.  My body was saying, "Dude, you know this is not going to end well."  Even a couple of weeks later when I finally got in the hammock I had to get G to help me get out.  Your body is smart, you'd be smart to listen.

I'm Not Easy To Live With
Can I get an amen?  If G reads this there's a good chance that no matter where you live on this planet, you'll hear her agree with this one.  I'd love to go on with my life believing that it's everyone else that is unbearable.  They can't drive, they can't push a buggy down a grocery store aisle correctly, they can't put their phones down, they can't control their children and they can't stop all the stupid things from coming out of their mouths.  But the truth is, I like things the way I like them and I think everyone else should like them that way too.  Failure to do so results in me thinking you're an idiot.  This makes me difficult to live with.  Or difficult to drive in front of.  Having to face this head on recently has hopefully helped to open my mind to the possibility that there may be more than one way to do things.  And maybe I can try to be nicer.  Maybe.

Running Friends Are The Best
Remember when I said this was one of the things I learned from running?  Well, running friends are not fair-weather friends.  When my running friends from around the world heard that I was forced to halt my streak, they rose up with support and encouragement.  Messages rained down on me from everywhere.  People who had never communicated with me before sent support and kindness.  It was moving.  And then some of them took up my miles for me.  Dominic, Lei and Ursa all ran at least 5K every day for the 36 days I was off.  Crazy!  These people amaze me.  Maybe running makes you really, really nice.  

Perspective Is Important
I remember when my 10th grade English/Lit teacher taught us about story.  She put a lot of emphasis on the idea that the same story can be told several different ways if you tell it from several different points of view.  Each person had a different perspective and it could totally change the story.  It would have been easy to look at my experience as a bad thing that messed up my running streak.  I could have cried nonstop about not feeling good and not being 100%.  I could have whined (more than I did) about not being allowed to run for 36 days and this would have been a bummer of a story.  There would have been no lesson there.  But if I choose to have a different perspective, if I choose to find the positive points in each day, then this becomes a happy story with much to learn.  I'm not saying I'd throw my hand up to volunteer to go through this again, but I'm a better person for going through the experience.  I've gained new friends and felt love and kindness from older friends.  And I was able to realize just how important running is to me.  We choose the story we tell.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

it was the summer of...

Surgery?  Recovery?  Not being allowed to do anything?  

Who saw that coming?

I'm lucky to have summer breaks.  It's nice to have a break between semesters and it's great to have days to spend with Blue and Violet and to have more time with G.  We start looking forward to our summer breaks around the first day of school each year.  As the spring semester starts to fizzle out, we begin talking about plans for the summer.  We had the Summer of Waterfalls, the Summer of Adventure and probably a few other summers I can't remember off the top of my head.  Coming off of last summer playing tennis and kayaking as much as possible and being on the beach a ton, this summer had it's work cut out for it.  In May I loaded up the Netflix queue with must see movies for the kids and started thinking of what activities we could get into this year.

This was our first pic of summer.  We were leaving the last day of school after field day.  It was hot, we were tired and we were pretty done with school.  

 But waffles make everything better.  Oh, I think we did the Summer of Waffles once too.  That was a good one.  So we started our new summer schedule sleeping a little later and eating a bigger breakfast once a week.  

 We decided to get a pool this year.  Not big enough for swimming laps, but just the right size for cooling off in the early summer heat.  It was a nice addition to the front porch, which we reclaimed for use this summer.  We have a big front porch but we only had some crappy chairs and a bench swing out there.  It was too hot and spidery during the summer so after the first part of May, we abandoned it....until this year.  We tossed the chairs, hung the hammock up and even moved a table and chairs out there.  With a fan and some citronella candles, we were set for summer.

 One of the best features of the front porch is our community of hummingbirds.  They're so fast and active it's hard to get a count but we think we have at least 20 hummingbirds.  They're Ruby Throated Hummingbirds if you're into that sort of thing.  And they're very friendly.  If you're still and quiet, they'll ignore you and go about their business.  From what we observe, their business consists mostly of drinking clear Kool-Aid and fighting.  It's so fun to watch.  We spent a good amount of our summer in the hammock watching the birds.  We had a couple at our old house years ago and they worked themselves into our story.  If you pay attention, you'll find them in lots of drawings and sculptures.  I'll just never tell you why.

 Speaking of art...I was less than 100% at the start of summer but I still needed to get some work done.  I managed to get three new sculptures made between hammock stops.

We took our early summer beach trip and discovered that not being able to do too much is kinda perfect for going on vacation.  We put our feet up pretty much all week and had a blast.  Each night G and I sat outside and watched day turn to night.  More on that later.

Meeting our new friend Yun was a summer highlight for sure.  After watching her hug strangers for a couple of days on the beach, I made a point to meet her after one of my morning runs.  She hugged me and prayed with me in Korean and then she went about doing the same for literally every other person on the beach.  She is a ray of sunshine  We got to see her again last week too.  G got to experience the hug and the prayer and then Violet did too.  I'm still in awe of Yun.  I want to be like her.

A couple of weeks after our first vacation we got to go on a "work" trip.  G was on official business and I was goofing off.  We ditched the kids and had a great week together.  I am not good with my body not wanting to do what I want it to do and at this point in the summer, I was struggling.  We got stuck walking a few blocks in a thunderstorm and I stepped out in front of a couple of cars to try to get to the hotel awning quicker.  I was lucky that they stopped to let me cross.  I told my body to run and it immediately said no.  Thanks to the nice drivers for not flattening me.  

I got to see a ton of Dali paintings at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in art or cool things.  Dali has always fascinated me and the museum gave me a more clear understanding of why.  

 Running was a highlight of the summer too.  Those early mornings of silence and miles were wonderful.  I was more grateful with every run.  Especially because it seemed like each week I was less and less sure I could do it.  I was even more grateful because I knew this day was coming.  This was a sunrise run on the day of my surgery.  My last run for at least 6 weeks.  It was beautiful in so many ways.

I hope to never, ever have surgery again but I can tell you that G and I laughed a lot during the week after.  I know this is healthy and probably really good for lots of reasons, but it also hurt really bad every time I laughed.  G and the kids thought this was funny and I'm pretty sure they all tried extra hard to make me laugh and double over in pain.  There's probably not a more literal case of being afraid my side was going to split open.  Then, trying not to laugh made me laugh even more.  It was terrible.  And hilarious.

So then I was forbidden from doing everything.  The kids and I did a lot of staying home.  I drew a bit and kept the hummingbirds in Kool-Aid.  As far as activity, that's about all I could do.  I couldn't even get in the hammock until last week.  

So I read books and watched movies.  I made it through several books this summer and enjoyed the challenge of trying to read and stay awake at the same time.  I'm not great at doing both at the same time.  Movies were easier.  Blue is a little filmmaker and he puts these goofy videos together that he and his cousins make for his Youtube channel.  He also makes well thought out videos for the annual film festival and for fun.  He got interested in Hitchcock movies and the old tv series that was in reruns when I was a kid.  He and Violet also have my sense of humor so in addition to showing them intense suspense mysteries and really great films, we're getting into age appropriate (or almost age appropriate) comedies.  They love Mr. Bean, Ace Ventura, anything Adam Sandler and anything Will Ferrell does that isn't obscene.  For most of the summer, we were watching 2 movies each week and talking about the importance of making people laugh and telling a good story.  It was pretty awesome to spend this time with them and share these things in common.  I mean, we have to teach good taste to our kids, right?

While I was forbidden from running after surgery, the doc did say I could walk.  Knowing my love of sweets and eating in general, I knew I needed to find some way of burning calories and keeping the legs working.  A week after surgery, we instituted mandatory morning walks.  The kids liked it when I was walking super slow those first couple of weeks but the pace picked up and the mileage increased to my regular 3 miles.  But they stuck with me and did at least 2 miles every morning.  The silence of my exercise time moved over and made room for 2 miles of talks with Blue and Violet about random things.  I love how crazy conversations with kids can be.  You start out listening to the latest thing they learned about Fortnite (apparently a video game?) and a minute later you're telling them relevant stories about Papa Mac.  Then you're getting a detailed Christmas list (in August) that moves without any sort of transition into a full on discussion of race relations in America.  I love it.  

One of my favorite things about this summer was being forced to relax.  Even before surgery, I had to take lots of breaks and sometimes just lie down for a minute before I could move on to the next task.  I don't like people knowing too much about me so I hid this from everyone except G.  No need to worry the kiddos or have to explain your health 40 times in a week.  When I was around people during the summer, I put on my best face and if it hurt really bad, I'd slip away and lie down in the floor for a second.  Later in the day was worse but this made it perfect for front porching with G.  By the time she got home from work and we had dinner, we were both done.  We'd hit the hammock and rest.  Normally when I'm sitting still my mind is racing with all the things I still need to do before bed, but this summer I just couldn't do those things and I accepted it.  We slowed the pace and put our feet up a lot more.  At the beach G and I would go out on the balcony with our books and read until it was dark with the ocean whispering in our ears.  At home we'd balance on the hammock together and scroll through the internets and talk.  

The kids and I start school this week.  Summer is done.  We didn't hike or kayak a single time.  We didn't play tennis or ride the four wheeler.  But I don't feel like we missed out on anything.  I think we spent our summer vacation well.  I'm a lucky guy.