“This is the New Year and I don’t feel any different.”
This is that time where we all make our general, blanket statements about the past 365 days based on some arbitrary timeline. We try and diffuse all the complexity into a sentence or two, giving a thumbs up or thumbs down to the past year…because most of us have that privilege. Then we tend to make plans for the future that, let’s be real here, move to the back burner and then fall off the back of the stove just a few weeks later when the reality of our daily drudgeries comes to the forefront. Granted, there are successes from time to time, “resolutions” that stick, promises to make it to the gym kept relatively intact…but often we just try to keep pushing on and enjoy ourselves as best we can. I see no fault in that.
And so I make no resolutions yet again. Though I’ll tell you, where most people want to “lose a few pounds”, I’d really enjoy the same, though my weight would be cellular if you know what I mean.
I will, however, make a general, blanket statement about the past year.
It was good. It was very good.
And this is awkward to reconcile.
Let’s not romanticize this circumstance though. Physically..this year sucked. SUCKED. SUCKED. SUCKED. Just as soon as it had started, just as soon as I had begun digging myself out from my dark emotional hole of 2012, fittingly through morning runs under equally darkened skies, things started to really go wrong. Despite winning that frigid nighttime trail marathon, despite finishing off my racing with another trail win, despite finally breaking into the spring weather with epic strides through the forest…everything fell apart. And it has, understandably, only gotten worse.
With each passing chemo treatment I have had to fight harder and harder to keep some consistency to my physical existence, trying to run at every available opportunity and resorting to the bike trainer when running wasn’t an option. And still things fall apart. My hands continue to slowly deteriorate after each chemo treatment, making tieing my shoes, turning on lights, and any small task that involves pressure to my hands incredibly difficult. My stomach still processes any foods slowly and sometimes painfully as the various meds I’m taking make digestion something less than quickened. My feet push back against the forces I put down upon them, layers of skin seemingly not regenerating, discoloration now almost permanent, and a new tingling “pins and needles” sensation that has yet to subside since the last treatment over a week ago. The morning routine of expelling sinus bleeding continues on without reprieve…and the cold sensitivity…ugh, the cold sensitivity. I’m essentially confined to the indoors now, with any temperature around 70 degrees being too chilled for my body to bear comfortably, my hands filling with a numbness and feeling of electric shock as I dream of warmer weather and humid climates. And so on….you’ve heard me talk about all this before..
And yet…I’m continually amazed at my body’s ability to recover from these subsequent poisonings, as if it is learning this new routine of stresses and adapting each time, like it’s still in marathon training mode where each breakdown is followed by an even stronger regeneration. With each passing treatment I’m able to recover to some degree and prepare for the next…until I can finally be done with these awful experiences. And so that part is good.
But that’s not why this past year was good. That’s just the physical struggle that still has to be carried out to it’s ultimate conclusion…whatever that may be.
This year was good…exceptionally good…because this experience has afforded me the ability to better myself, to receive so much care and support from family and friends across the country and world, and to simply appreciate my existence to a degree I had previously not found.
To be succinct, this year wasn’t just good…it was awesome.
It was awesome to understand just how many people I have been able to influence through my running and writing, even if those efforts were primarily selfish and not intentionally directed at others….still…to be able to offer something to others just through my normal expressions and ways of living is incredibly rewarding.
It was awesome because I developed very meaningful friendships with people I have never met (and STILL haven’t met) as we struggle through similar physical circumstances and offer encouragement and perspective through each other’s individual paths.
It was awesome because the friends who always cared for me stepped up and continued to care for me in any way they possibly could, allowing me to feel the value of our friendship to a much deeper degree.
It was awesome because the friends who always sat on the periphery of my individual circle made efforts to step further in and become the friends I can rely on even deeper and be those with who I can share my own experiences.
It was awesome because through all the potential obstacles a circumstance like this can create in one’s life, I was still able to keep some semblance of my routines, to hold onto my house for me and my son, to get back to working a job (part-time at least), and to continue developing my design skills in hopes of making it a career down the road.
It was awesome because it allowed me to really appreciate the love and support I’ve received from others and open me up to giving it back as much as I possibly can, essentially breaking through that toughened wall of identity and accumulated expectations, and begin to shape my life in ways that are both rewarding for me and the same for others. I have learned to take in as much positivity as possible and restrict myself from giving out so much negativity.
It was awesome because despite all the seemingly insurmountable mountains placed in my line of sight, I can still see beyond them to some sort of horizon and even begin living out aspects of life that lead to a drawn out future past cancer. I can see a relationship. I can see my son’s accomplishments. I can see running.
Of course, I could go on. And I could also give into the somewhat negative and, in a way, regenerative statements of, “Good riddance 2013…here’s to a better 2014!”….but I won’t. Because it wouldn’t necessarily be true.
I will be as succinct as possible though. In the typical manner of generalizations…this past year was awesome. I got cancer, yes….but I got a lot more at the same time. And although I wish I could join some of you in your expressions of resolution, of “losing weight…starting now”, and saying in concert, “This year I’m going to get rid of my cancer!”…well…it just doesn’t work that way. But I can tell you this…I do have SOME control over my existence, both physical and emotional, and just as every year in the past, I’m going to continue trying to maximize both, drawing the best from every moment and creating the most rewarding experiences for myself and every human and non-human animal I can effect.
Arbitrary timelines not withstanding, the past 365 days have been really awesome and there is no reason not to make any future timeline all the same. Come what may, let’s live all out.