ReRouted AKA Not Dead Yet version 4.0

Everything was going great, the type of run we seek, when the body feels smooth, the legs strong, lungs relaxed, and you can just tell your form is fluid and powerful. I turned my legs with a perfect rhythm, flicking past each other in a way trained over years of countless miles, moving in memory of what seems has always been their only purpose. Everything was going great, aided by a drop in humidity that brought an ease of effort I hadn’t felt in quite some time, so long in fact that I started to doubt it ever existed, or that maybe, tragically and finally, it was long lost to the degenerations of age. But it wasn’t. Everything was going great, as it once always had, a road of expectations laid out before me. And then I heard the train whistle.

It was close, but the tracks were in sight, and there was a chance it wasn’t THAT close. I hesitated, debating the playful excitement in racing to the tracks to see if I could beat the train. I thought about my old teammates and knew, without a doubt, we would race towards the train to see if we could beat it to the crossing and stay on course, more out of the challenge and danger than the need to keep on track. I debated doing the same, giving the now idling cars a bit of excitement for their mourning commute…but didn’t.

I saw the train coming and could tell that if I did make it, it would be close. Real close. Too close. And I turned 40 today, so maybe, just maybe, if this wasn’t a conscious act of maturity and compromise and settling, then maybe it’s the more inherent, unavoidable outcome of the process. If you don’t mind, I’d like to believe I realized I couldn’t make it in time and resigned myself to backing off out of survival and not age.

I waited at the crossing for a couple seconds, bouncing in place, when I counted three engines roll by and looked down the track to see an endless line of cars turning around the bend. Rerouted.

Not wanting to lose the fluidity and strength I was feeling to this point, I instantly turned and ran a new direction along the train cars rolling past me, the string of idling commuters deciding to do the same (weird, I guess they WANT to make it to work). Normally, I would feel a sense of tension and discomfort with a route change, now unable to determine just how off my mileage I would be for the day. I could estimate, sure, but the Type A dictate in me would be eaten up by the lack of PRECISION. What if I only ran 7.84 miles instead of a complete 8 miles?! This might ruin my entire path of progress I’ve worked for years to build! At least, that’s sort of what goes through my head. This time though, without consistency, without a defined goal, without the need for progression, I just went with it. And it was real, real nice. In fact, everything was right back to great again. I ran down a stretch of road that, I quickly realized, I hadn’t run since just before I was diagnosed when I pulled a really strategic move, my favorite to date, during a small 5 mile race and left my competitor desperately seeking more oxygen as he dropped further and further off my back, securing me a solid second place just a few seconds behind the winner. It felt great to put myself back into that space, partially physically and partially mentally.

The stretch of road ended, however, and I needed to decide my next reroute, which I quickly sketched to a turnaround and back home. And isn’t that an apt analogy for my life now, being rerouted and having to adjust for some sense of security and expectation. Going for a run on your 40 birthday will do that to your thought process, make something like a simple change in course help you analyze your life trajectory.

That is precisely what happened to me just before diagnosis, when all the expectations I had for myself were suddenly met with a metaphorical train blocking my path, forcing me to reroute, well, everything. And it wasn’t just one train really. First there was the divorce train, then the unemployment train, then the financial train…and finally the cancer train. It was like a full train yard of endless cars passing in front of every goal I had set for myself down the road, leaving me no choice but to either lay down and wait for them to pass (whenever THAT would be) or to turn left and keep going.

I turned left, but to be honest, I’m still trying to figure out where this current road is going. For awhile, during treatment, it was like I was running around the same few blocks, seeing a lot of new stuff I hadn’t seen before, but really getting no closer to completion. Then after my oncologist told me to essentially live as if I didn’t have cancer, I might have found my way back to the route I was initially running before all the trains blocked my path. It even seemed like I might get to the end of my run, or at least remember where I was going, but to be honest, I’m not quite convinced of all that. I’m not convinced because right now I’m still running that route, but it’s not as easy as it once was, and I’m not even sure why I’m running it anymore. Maybe I’m not rerouted. Maybe I’m lost.

A friend of mine asked me at my birthday party, “So, what’s your ten year plan?” It was impossible to stifle a laugh.

This reroute became so long that although I found a part of the original course, I’m not entirely convinced it’s going where I want it to anymore. So a ten year plan? I’m not even sure I have a ten MONTH plan. I’m just trying to find my way back to objectives that are simple, sustainable, and enjoyable. Then again, maybe that has always been my ten year plan now that I think about it, to find that sense of a good, simple life, and hold onto it despite all the reroutes I encounter along the way.

But, of course, easier said than done. With all the necessary responsibilities of taking care of my son, financially, there are other obstacles I must overcome, that don’t necessarily lead to a simple life, and turning 40 maximizes the pressure of meeting those responsibilities exponentially. I can hear the unstated admonishments from here. “Shouldn’t you have figured this out by now?” “What have you been doing for the last 10 years?”

But all this flagellation makes me feel rather absurd, as if I’m succumbing to the cultural standards of turning 40 and wondering why I haven’t made anything of my life at this point, when up until now, I’ve always rejected the idea of what counts as “making something of your life”. I’m actually quite excited with what I’ve experienced and overcome and accomplished, while still knowing I’ve made mistakes, gone off route, or was forced to take a different course. I don’t actually FEEL 40….at least not in the ways our society pretends 40 year olds are supposed to feel.

I remember quite vividly when my dad was thrown a surprise 40th birthday, complete with gag gifts, black balloons, and weird “over the hill” cards. I might have been 12  at the time (I actually don’t remember), but now I can’t help but wonder how he actually felt. Did he feel old? Did he feel mature? Did he feel bored? Admittedly, having two daughters (before ME) must have taken it’s toll on him, so he could be excused for feeling old (yeah, I know you’re reading this dad).

But, holy crap, if anyone tried to throw me a party with black balloons and gag gifts…I don’t even know how I would take that. Actually, yes I do. I’d probably challenge everyone in attendance to a 5k race.

There is something else though, that is keeping this post from being a triumphant, call-to-arms, spit in the face of expectations of aging type of manifesto. Cancer rerouted me 3 1/2 years ago and although I’ve found my way down a different course, I know I’ll never shake the worry that I’ll be rerouted again, no matter how far I can see in the distance. Maybe this is what prevents any sense for a ten year plan. And lately, the worry of that reroute has come back in small, nagging, physical ways that I’m trying not to fret out of proportion. The hard nodule around my belly button is protruding, which was a primary point of concern the first time around. A sickness a few weeks ago lingered and lingered and lingered. My eyesight has been compromised from the sickness in the same way it does after my surgeries, blurring everything I try to read or focus on for more than a couple seconds. And an MRI scan is scheduled for September 1st.

These worries are expected, as any cancer patient will tell you. Nothing is minor or can be “waited out” after a diagnosis. So add all these little physical abnormalities, to a persistent diagnosis, coupled with a birthday that society marks as a point of degeneration, and the considerations become more difficult to rationalize. All that will be dealt with later, however, and yet this all continues to reiterate the rerouted course I’m continuously forced to navigate.

But that’s ok. We all get rerouted through life. We all have expectations that shift, change, or meet unavoidable obstacles not of our own making. What would our existence be if we found a path of least resistance, if we had nothing to overcome, a routine that never ended and became as predictable as the rising sun? That’s not a life I want to lead. The challenge, as always, is encountering obstacles in our course, and making the decision to either stand in place and wait it out or take a turn and see what’s down the road. Maybe, just maybe, there is a better course. Maybe there are new epiphanies, new relationships, new experiences…and maybe there are more obstacles, more hardships, more trains blocking your path. But, for me, at least I’ll find out.

I don’t know where this course is taking me yet, no matter how long I stay on the path, whether that is 30 years or 40 years or more, but I still don’t see the point in hitting a train and sitting down to wait it out. Hell, I haven’t even given up on racing it to the crossing.

Social Media Will Tear Us Apart

I stopped telling social media about my runs. I stopped cataloging every mile, detailing the weather, photographing my shoes or low angle action shots. I quit telling everyone about every workout I was completing, but not because I was consciously avoiding the narcissistic expressions social media enables, but rather because I just lost the compulsion to do so. I’m not entirely sure if there was a definitive breaking point, or knife edged thought change, but maybe more just a slow withering of desire to advertise myself. Maybe, that narcissistic dwindling was a product of the same dwindling in ability and drive to compete after my last surgery. I don’t know, but whatever happened, I just felt…too self conscious to advertise my running.

There were a couple moments that I mentioned my running, when I realized friends and connections were genuinely interested in my well-being, often marked by my ability to run and train, so I made a couple posts, but even those felt weird. And yeah, it’s weird I’m even writing about this, except that for so many years this was my main focus for social media. It’s primarily what I found myself expressing more than anything else, more than veganism, more than politics, more than the absurd ideas and jokes that come to me on long, boring car trips. So, in a way, it’s telling that I even feel compelled to write about NOT writing about running.

I think, ultimately, I just felt over the self-absorbed expressions that related to what is just a hobby. Sure, a very rewarding, fulfilling, obsessive hobby, but still just a personal endeavor. Then there has been that shift to focus my efforts and privileges for the benefit of others over the past handful of years, which when you find yourself acting on others behalf, in much less fortunate circumstances than your own, all your individual hobbies seem selfish and inconsequential. It’s hard to spend time talking about your latest ten miler when you could be putting out ideas or sharing information that aids someone else. But, of course, the inherent compulsion of social media is about the individual, the ego, the self-advertisement.

Which brings me to the now, where my expressions are finding a more detailed release in this blog, as I’ve cut myself off from social media completely. No Facebook. No Instagram. Just like that. I wasn’t planning on cutting myself off, where I counted down the days to a defined separation, but rather…just stopped. Just like that. It was a handful of days ago on vacation, and I’m not entirely sure what prompted me to do it, but I did. I tried to delete my accounts, but they make it so hard that I put up some sort of temporary halting, even though I’ve deleted them in my mind.

Regardless, I think I cut myself off due to the self-inflicted annoyance of my narcissistic tendencies coupled with “the crush of humanity” to use a phrase I’ve lifted from elsewhere. And since then, despite the blink of an eye time I’ve been away, it has really been a unique experience. In the past I’ve stepped away, but more just from Facebook, rationalizing some lessened negative aspect of Instagram. This time, however, I’ve cut off both, and it’s made all the difference.

I told myself I was going to devote all the appropriate time I could to my son while he was with me this month, and maybe the break was an extension of that idea, but doing it was something else. When I did, however, the effect was immediate. I found myself continuously engaged with both him and Laura, not just when we were around each other, but when I was off by myself as well. I found that my thought patterns slowly drifted from sketching expressions designed for a wide audience on social media, to a more immediate consideration of their needs and our time together instead. When we are in each other’s company, my mind isn’t elsewhere. I’m not daydreaming or out of mental focus or lost in that realm of distraction and haze that it is so easy to slip into through social media or any non-present media. There was something very immediate and physical about our time together, and ultimately, very comfortable.

I’m not trying to romanticize this or present anything that most would respond with a resounding “duh” as magical, but it’s been so long that I’ve allowed my continuous daily moments to be as simplified as they were prior to social media that it’s a wonderful reminding of that reality, of that simplistic enjoyment of just being around those closest to me in my life, both mentally and physically. I lost the compulsion to grab my phone in lulls, to post a thought to a removed, unanswering audience, and to instead just be ok with the immediate.

Admittedly, it’s not without some degree of concern that I’ve just cut myself off from a degree of communication with a wider circle of friends, considering our world has very rapidly come to embrace the ease of this communication as default. I’m not trying to practice a deliberate neo-luddite ideology or anything, so it is with a little apprehension that I’ve cut myself off from people that I’ve shared a certain reliance upon and with over the years. I can’t help but wonder if this psychological relaxation I’m experiencing is preceding a painful shooting in the foot. Right now though, it seems worth it.

On the other hand, the change of pace I’ve established in my running practice, which I wrote about recently has also fostered a change in identity of sorts. If not a change in identity, then at least a change in expression of identity. If social media is about any unspoken or unrecognized intent, it’s the continuous expression of our personal identities, our associations, our moral parameters. Some of them based in reality and some of them what we wish to be true. One of my greatest fears in quitting running in the past was the shift in identity. When you’ve spent so many years dedicated to one act, day in and day out, the fear is not in stopping this act, but rather how you perceive yourself once you stop doing what you DO. When you no longer do the thing you do, who are you as a person?

This is the dilemma so many face when they find they can’t physically do what they love, suddenly, whether that comes from disease, physical impairment, or any unforeseen change of life circumstance. It’s not the reality of impairment as it is the mental difficulty in changing and adapting to a new reality. I see this often in members of the military, old and way beyond their military engagement, but expressing their rank with such great vehemence. Or the cancer patient, who found themselves identifying as a fighter and survivor, only to be diagnosed as cured and now fighting to retain their recent identity that has been abruptly taken away. I’ve seen so many competitive runners struggle with the same difficulty, recognizing their diminished physical abilities and fighting so hard to remain the runner they’ve always been. They simply don’t know what else to be if they don’t have running.

For me, to abandon social media is to, in a way, abandon my identity as a competitive runner. Or, to have reconciled myself as no longer a competitive runner, but just a runner, the desire to express that identity has quickly waned. But, as I was mentioning before, there is a certain absurdity in the professed importance of our identities, of our narcissistic expressions towards others, of our self-absorbed involvement with social media while others are forced to navigate the world with so much less, or struggles of so much greater importance. Ultimately, that 10 miler we did today…who cares? And I don’t say that as a critique of other’s expressions on social media…really just my own, because I’m fully aware that my narcissism runs rampant (he says on his blog) and I’ve spent years talking about every little thing I’ve done with running.

And maybe I burned myself out with my own ramblings, but it feels so nice to shut the hell up about my running, my narcissism, my self-absorption, and to escape the “crush of humanity” we’ve found ourselves in, and to instead just enjoy the quiet, the minimal slow of information, but most importantly, the time spent with those around me, both mentally and physically.

I still have my amorphous identity, my considerations and thoughts, my act of running, but not just a little less complicated, a little less loud, and a lot more immediate and personal. Now, excuse me, I’m going to spend some more time with Laura, in that sort of immediate, rewarding, present way we all used to spend time with each other before social media.

Disconnect

I know the score when it comes to our relations with animals, so I know how to disconnect from the violence inflicted upon them by our culture. I’ve lived through years and years of the subtle, constant barrage of violence that surrounds us, that is built upon their lives, that is hidden from our awareness. And although it seems one would only become more adept and more accustomed to living through this awareness of violence as they age, I find myself becoming only more affected, more empathic, and more troubled by this reality of ceaseless suffering and outright denial of their value as individuals. It is one thing to confine, inflict pain upon and end the life of a creature one acknowledges of physical and emotional capability, but it is, oddly, something else entirely to do the same without recognition of these same capabilities and without the slightest semblance of thought as to one’s actions. For those of us who have allowed ourselves to become aware of an animal’s value as individuals and communities and nations, our aging, accumulated experience, and necessity to maneuver through the violence of an unthinking culture is no protection from the emotional difficulty of doing so.

On our drive out East I felt bombarded by the consistency of this suffering, as if the long protracted, but often hidden, violence of our civilization seeped through the cracks of the facade and the violence came spilling out. We passed a semi truck loaded with cages of chickens crammed into temporary caskets on their way to slaughter, many of them dead after a life of confined misery. One chicken has pushed his head through a gap in the cage wire, as if to seek a little extra space, but the head lay limp, it’s eyes closed, dead from either exhaustion, dehydration, or suffocation. The fate of which may have been better than where they were headed. Seeing these countless individuals, a visual mass of feathers and beaks and feces, I couldn’t help but think of the individual chickens being cared for on a farm by friends, all with distinct personalities, survival needs, and emotional capabilities, but when these lives are confined by the system of animal agriculture, they are reduced to commodities, brainless and emotionless resources, facts and figures on spreadsheets. The connection between animals as resources leads to the disconnect that is a mass of bodies piled on top of each other in a truck speeding down the highway, in full view for all to see.

We passed the truck, after I warned Laura to turn her head and not look out her window. But just a few miles up the road I caught another animal standing on the side of the road, a raccoon I believe, but then stumbling and falling. It’s movements relayed a crisis as it tried to stand immediately again, onto to stumble sideways, disoriented, and fall on it’s side yet again, this time unlikely to get up for a third attempt at escape. It was likely hit by a car, but not immediately fatal, and would die a prolonged death. There was something powerful about seeing the process of dying more immediately that struck me, and stayed with me.

It was both the chicken, with it’s head hanging limp, eyes closed in either avoidance of it’s fate or already lost to the grip, along with the raccoon, in the last moments of it’s life, that cut through the years of protective callous and rational awareness that helps us all through the days. I couldn’t seem to shake the moments of suffering or the tragic, uncomfortable business as usual normalcy that allows follows these events. And I still can’t.

But not because I’ve lost touch with reality. Not because I’ve become an over-emotional bleeding heart stereotype of an animal rights activist. Not because I seek some deeper tragedy with which to connect and gain sympathy from others for my own connection to the suffering. Not any of that, but just the continuous reality that it’s all too much. That it’s always too much, that it’s all so out of control.

Add to these moments the latest publicized shootings of black men around the country and the expected retaliation against the police that are shooting them, coupled with the surge in violence influenced by religious ideology and theistic absurdity on such a spectacular scale, multiplied by a trajectory of environmental crisis with no seemingly stable endpoint…and as someone recently said to me, “civilization is just a continuous and protracted act of violence.”

Mind you, I have been aware of this reality for quite some time, but I continuously find myself affected by the tragedy of our desire to continue down this path, unable to see the big picture through the barrage of details and distractions. I find myself unable to shrug away the violence and yet, at the same time, crippled to do anything about it. I find myself asking less, “Is it too big? Is it too much?” and instead making declarative statements. “It’s all too big. It’s all too much.”

And that is my greatest fear, of succumbing to the reality of this protracted violence that inflicts unimaginable pain upon the animal nations without even recognizing their ability to experience pain, let alone their existence as individuals, along with the culture of unthinking stupidity that leads people to monotheism, to human centric ideology, to know nothing of physical history, to know nothing of nature’s diversity, to know nothing of alternative ways of living, to know nothing of the environments and relationships that foster a happiness dictated by the slow machinations of evolution’s continued attempts toward survival. I don’t know how to balance the desire for the best life to possibly live in a state of isolation, of relationships mediated by digital connections, of not interacting with the world in a way to affect positive change when our trajectory seems nothing but negative.

And believe me, this isn’t doomsaying and the product of not looking for the light in all the dark. I make the most of my life, and continue to consider how best to live, making adjustments accordingly, experimenting with alternatives to see what solutions arise, but it’s hard to let go, to disconnect, to to navigate a world of mindless, purposeless violence when you know the alternatives exist. It’s so hard to create a personal sanctuary when the walls are burning on the outside. Sometimes, in the midst of so much immediate violence, it seems I’m just trying to wipe clean my window on the train as it speeds uncontrollably towards the cliff.

And yet, what else can we do? It is the impulse of our civilization that says we must always seek a place higher on the pyramid. We must always look for the next level, to find our way to more money, to seek greater power, to affect as many people as possible, to become the leaders of leaders, to gain the most followers, to alway develop more and more, to become bigger and bigger, to maximize everything. But when was this ever the dictate of the natural world? In the relatively beginning-less nature of existence, when did anything ever seek perpetual domination, perpetual growth without checks and balances?

There is, however, another way, but which takes a certain degree of perspective and confidence to live outside the insane logic of civilization. It is the logic of civilization to consolidate power and decision making and resources and to always hoard and become bigger and seek power and domination, of which we all seem to be sucked into the vortex of this logic, born into the insanity and with few alternatives. But the answer might be quite simple.

To disconnect.

T0 minimize our lives to the physical world around us, to prioritize immediate experiences and direct social relationships instead of mediated communications (he says on a blog). To know what it is to be a part of land, even if that is just our yard or an area to which we feel connected close by. To become attuned to our bodies and their fluctuating states of comfort. To learn at least one skill with our hands, to experience what it is to create and imagine from seemingly nothing. To know what it is to value our objects and seek a sense of permanence within them rather than live with the idea of constant renewal and waste.

To, again, disconnect from the logic of civilization that surrounds us, that we know deeply and intuitively is tragic and violent and disconnects us from the lives we would rather live. To use the masters tools to dismantle the masters house, we can disconnect from their disconnection. That is where we must start, individually, and together.

I’ll resist the urge to offer suggestions of disconnection more than I have already alluded, as they will be many and personal and it is only confining to offer “acceptable” forms of disconnection, but suffice to say they are all around us.

I will not, however, romanticize this disconnection either, because we’ll still drive past trucks loaded with the misery of animals confined by the logic of civilization, we’ll still watch the life of our fellow animals fade in the tragedy of our pace of life, we’ll still witness the unthinking production and consumption of animals as resources, and we’ll have to endure through it all. We can’t escape this logic until this logic buckles under the weight of it’s own absurdities and fails to uphold it’s moral boasting with foundations predicated on theological wishes and illusions.

We can, however, individually disconnect from this absurdity, from this pace of life, from this trajectory of violence…and find comfort in the value of our own physical realities, in our connections to the natural world, in our connection to the physical world, and in our connection to the ceaseless wonder of time, existence, and consciousness. It can be painful at times to remain connected to our world, emotionally and intellectually, but the converse joy is just as powerful and important.

A Change of Pace

I haven’t been this excited to go on a run in a long time. I can’t remember how long it’s been actually, so, it’s been THAT long.

Since my last surgery I’ve struggled to find my running rhythm, to find an ease and drive to keep putting in the work, day after day, week after week. Ultimately, it came to a head on a hot, humid morning when the accumulated fatigue finally wore me down and I couldn’t bring myself to start the workout…or even complete the mileage. I wondered to myself, “Isn’t it better to burn out than fade away?”.

But I wasn’t sure which part of that mantra I was playing out. Did I burn out? Each morning brought a sense of obligation to run, without an obvious, premeditated goal in which to strive towards. Each morning I made it into the run, but wasn’t convinced of the success when I finished, my legs weighted with effort and my lungs struggling to remain calm. It refused to get easier. I just couldn’t find the will to push harder to make the next effort easier in comparison. I might have blown up. I might have burnt out.

Or was this fading away? Despite the personal competitive success I managed before my last surgery, I couldn’t bring myself to find that same purpose, pushing against the new schedule of training before work and the mental tension that shortened window of run time brought upon me. I could no longer figure out what I was running for, who I was running for, and what the importance of it all was. Like a fire slowly losing oxygen, seemingly quite literally within myself, the flame was dying down. Was this fading away?

And yet, as much as I try to imagine a new daily schedule, filling the gap where running once lay…I can’t. I can’t imagine giving away the ability to spend hours in the woods of Southern Indiana, running with friends when called upon, or just finding the necessity of a cathartic release through physical exhaustion when nothing else is working. While at the same time, I can no longer dedicate myself to expending every last bit of creative energy during my morning runs. I just can’t compete anymore. Every attempt to this period involved not just running, but progressing, and training to progress. It was always about seeking out previous boundaries and surpassing them, but of course, the problem is that each boundary was found through intense training and so to surpass previous boundaries meant more intense training. 80 mile weeks to 90 mile weeks. 90 mile weeks to 100 mile weeks. 100 mile weeks to 120 mile weeks. There is, really, no where else for me to go. The effort to sustain such a training load is now both physically and psychologically out of my reach, or at least, in motivation anyways. Not only does that type of training seem within the realm of only a past physical self, it’s not even there mentally. It doesn’t even sound fun.

That hot and humid day, I just broke. I stopped running. I didn’t even take a break in such a way that I was renewing myself for the next effort, I was just done, and I felt a sort of comfortable release in doing so, despite the lingering tension of “giving up” or “burning out”, even, “fading away” in the back of my mind. I was just done. Add to this break, my son was coming for the month of July for our scheduled parenting time, and I was that much more motivated to leave the creative energy expense of running behind to focus all my attention and efforts upon him, leaving me with essentially no regret.

And, it’s all ok.

I didn’t believe it would be ok. I really didn’t. I thought I would be eaten up by the frustration, the lack of creative expense, but I’m not. Because, ultimately, I just changed up the pace. I’m no longer running for the attempt to progress indefinitely, to push against that stubborn wall of ability, to find my boundaries. I found them. I found them through competition, through self-drive, through the limits of cancer, through the ravages of surgery. I found all those limits and I’m no longer driven to find them. I feel accomplished, but, again, It’s not like I can just up and quit.

But I can change pace.

Now, I’m finding a certain satisfaction in running by daily motivation, but taking each day as it comes, and not scheduling or obligating myself to any distance or effort. Some days, I wake up and realize spending time in my garden will be the most satisfying activity. Or reading through my latest book. Or working on my latest drawing. And other days, running takes precedence over everything, without worry, without expectation, but just the genuine motivation and enjoyment of feeling my body work, of being in the world, of firing all cylinders and losing the tension that has built within.

Like I said, I haven’t been this excited to run in a long, long time. I’m on the East Coast for family vacation and tomorrow morning the boardwalk will be waiting with the scores of other runners laboring under the suffocating humidity. The planks will soften my step and the ocean will wave out it’s cooling temptation so close by, but I’ll just keep running, because this is where my genuine excitement to run has never faded and where I wait to wake early and meet the sunrise on it’s furthest horizon. Here is where I seem to never burn out, never fade away. The routine and scenery never seems to change here, yet in a way, I’m starting something new with my running, and the change of pace may take some time to be more literal, but the mentality behind it will be undeniably new.

It’s been awhile, but I look forward to running, again, into this latest life transition.

Seeking Exhaustion. Finding Fulfillment.

I needed to go south. Where the corn fields that allow the wind to move unfettered give way to the land piled up on itself by a halted glacier. In these hills it is harder to farm, harder to develop and so we are afforded a more free, more wild terrain, where animals have habitat and the diversity of life can explode. I needed to be within all that. It had been too long, for either Laura or I to remember last when.

And the moment I stepped off the parking lot asphalt and into the concealed entrance of green, it was like stepping through an invisible window, into an entirely different world where the temperature cools and the flora surrounds you, envelopes you, like a blanket of protection. In here is safety. In here is calm. In here is a different relationship. In here is where, even you, become different, away from the complexities of modern life, away from the low level stress and conflict of other humans, away from the insecurities and consciousness and intentions of the thousands of nameless beings we navigate around without reprieve. In here you are your physical self, moving through an environment with a certain grace and fluidity, part by your own volition and part by the flow of the trail. In here you are less you and more everything.

I needed to get away from myself, and everything else. I needed to just move, but I really needed feel the life of everything that exists and grows and dies with little intentional help, to give me that reaffirmation that everything goes on, that humans don’t control the world, that what we destroy is never completely dead.

I feel that when I move through the woods, not as an intruder or an alien, but as a seamless inhale and exhale of it’s breathing. I feel it as my feet hit the ground and send small clouds of dust into the air, the ground pushing back on my impact with a gentle, cradling support. I feel it in the undulating air that cools like an open window, like the wind of a coming storm, like a drink, then heats like the embrace of a parent to child, like a pile of clothes from the dryer, like your favorite sweater. I feel it in the deep scents of ground that has thawed and cooked in the space of light broken through the ceiling of outstretched green. It surrounds me in moments of movement, entering my nostrils in an accumulated musk of wet dirt, bark, dying leaves and a moist heat that alludes more to the process of growth than decomposition. It pulls me from my thoughts in carnival like bursts of flower scent, reminiscent of cotton candy and cooked sugar and a sweetness that surpasses romantic gestures of rose bouquets to express true love and need and want in it’s signaling to the forest, to follow the map it has drawn to itself. But I run through.

I follow the softened floor as it undulates through the terrain like a dropped ribbon, laying where gravity decides it must, coordinating with my legs to make the smallest of adjustments left and right, forward and forward and forward, to move atop the ribbon, to use the momentum of it’s curves, to keep seeking the solitary life of the forest in it’s moments of expressions. I seek it and feel it over the rocks that protrude from the ground, pushed upwards in the continued, slow exhale of the earth, bringing new terrain to the surface, as if to renew the tired, worn ground again. I feel it in the snaking roots exposed from the ravages of growing close to the surface where feet and hooves and bellies pass. I feel it in the danger of their grasp, threatening revenge to distracted eyes and tired legs.

I feel it in the sounds of fellow animals, responding to the fight or flight of my presence as I dart around turns and up and over rises. I hear it in their loud swimming under the blanket of leaves as squirrels sprint to the nearest tree. I hear it in the lightning fast streaks of brown and black that leave lines in the dust as chipmunks pass mere feet in front of me. I hear it in the torrential symphony of birdsong, when I allow my sense to spread out as far as it can, the ceiling of sound signaling to each other when not in the silence of alarm. I run beneath it all either undetected or unthreatening. I hear it in the crash of the woods, as deer that tower above me bound and disappear through a shield of green, almost before I can even turn my eyes in their direction to catch inspiration in their effortless flight. I feel it deeply, personally, when the buck that disappeared stands atop the hillside, looking down upon me, quizzically, but calmly, measuring my presence, and making no gesture to flee. He looks at me, his antlers displaying a dominance and strength that can only induce respect, and I look back, slowing my pace to connect as long as possible. I turn out of sight to begin the next climb, and when I turn back he has silently vanished into the protection of the forest, proving the presence here is intuitive to his nature, a contrast to mine as a sorry attempt.

I find it as I crest the hill and begin unwinding the ribbon down the opposite side, feeling the change in by the direction of the sun, the forest floor opened up and allowing the growth of entirely different plants. The trees space out further, bigger, blocking out the sun and breaking it into scattered spotlights with longer, supportive branches and higher reaching hands. Responding to the power of the light, the ground cover is thinner, but more efficient and the leaves grow larger. Even the air feels thinner. I feel it as my pace opens up with my lungs and my momentum is carried down the hillside, twisting on switchbacks and flooding with speed on quickened drops that demand an intense control and quick footed dancing over strewn out rocks that lie without rhythm. Terra two step I like to call it.

I find it again and again through this strengthened effort of running, invigorated by the relationships of the forest, and carried away by it’s inspiration, until I must turn around and find my way back, out of necessity rather than desire.

The effort in finding the life of the forest shows itself as the fatigue overcomes my body, demanding a new concentration that must turn inward. I am aware of the failing form of my body, the erratic rhythms of my breathing as they struggle to keep pace with the flow of the trail, the shifting weight from compromised muscles to those prepared to handle the increasing stress. I seek the self-actuated life of the forest, but equally the self-actuated fatigue and exhaustion only the trails can bring to my body. This is my other objective.

It is a unique fatigue, brought on by a certain momentum. At first this momentum follows behind the body in a wake of inspired and graceful effort, in running with the gravity of the trail and bounding up the hills in abandon, but as the stresses accumulate, the momentum begins to catch up from behind like a predator overcoming its prey. It runs close enough to never be dropped, until it begins to consume the body, entering completely before effort and momentum are one and the same. This momentum becomes the body until it seems to disappear into the struggle of the effort, of lungs grasping for air and muscles digging for strength. They work together as one, before the momentum finds it’s way through the body and begins to extend itself ahead of the effort, urging or daring me to catch up and grab onto a bit more of it’s assist if possible. But at some point, it’s out of reach, apart from the body now weakened beyond repair, and only a dangling hope, a tempting illusion to hold onto in the striving to finish out the distance intact.

In losing this momentum is where the exhaustion I seek finds me, as a growing desperation that fills the space where the energy once boiled, consuming the muscles and darkening the mind. It’s presence is subtle at first. An ungraceful dance through the rocks, a turn swung too wide, or a heel scuffed along the ground. And then another. And another. I told myself to listen to the warning signs, of the deception of momentum that came from the trail and not my body, as I rolled over the ribbon while hitting my heel on small rocks and imperceptible undulations. I told myself to run smart and lift my legs, but as I let my concentration wander away from my internal warning signs, the trail humbled me.

Humbled the shit out of me.

Humbled me to the ground. This is an exhaustion I try not to seek, but respect all the same. The weaving of roots lay strewn across the trail as I rolled with the momentum on a slight decline, my legs swinging out in front of me with a gentle braking form rather than the concerted push forward, and where my heel scuffed the roots before, the weakness brought my leg close enough to the ground that my toe slammed into a root, the momentum just far enough ahead that I couldn’t grab on to roll forward and my body lifted into the air before slamming into the ground without bracing. In the split moment I fell I registered the ground, peppered with scattered rocks, roots, and a sapling stump that lay directly in the path of my downward swinging face. My body tensed and I crashed into the dirt, forgiving, but barely. Instantly a shock surged through my body, radiating through my entire left side, though I felt it in all the direct points of contact. My knee split open on a rock. My hip bone bashed into a root. My shoulder, miraculously taking the brunt of my top heavy fall as my neck bent upward to avoid a solid hit of my temple into the sapling stump. I paused, leaned back and saw two dots of sweat from my shoulder resting gently on the stump, as if to say, so close. So close.

I took the humbling, stood up and started running down the trail….for two steps. As I realized the humbling was much greater than the adrenaline was trying to convey. My knee throbbed, my hip piercing in pain, and I reached to my knees to collect myself. But I didn’t dare brush the dirt from my body. Never brush the dirt and blood from your falls. It is penance for not paying attention. When I realized I could move, if only a bit, I took lesson in the survival mantra, “Stagnation is death. Always keep moving.” Trusting the adrenaline to take control of my body, in spite of the pain, until I could regain effort, I started run / limping down the trail, slower, gently. The blood pumped through, the trail relented, and I got back to the work of building the exhaustion past the humbling, with the deep physical understanding of just who is in charge, or at the very least, of who is NOT in charge.

The momentum lay much further ahead as I reestablished my relationship with the trail, trying to find the flow again, running away from the pain on the left side of my body until the processes of the effort were greater than the faults of the effort. I found the forest floor and it’s kind, cool air, offering an invigorating stretch of rejuvenation that wound over dry creek beds and past a personal spot for me, where, if I find myself facing mortality again, my ashes will be scattered. With a quick glance at that spot and and acknowledgement of my existence, I ran on, any further reflection on that reality now relegated to a further, distant future. I had a hill to climb. I had an exhaustion to find.

Further towards the depletion I ran, retracing steps in the opposite direction, as if on an entirely different trail, as an entirely different runner. I had lost control of my body, using the escaping momentum of the trail to pull me ahead, reserving any strength I had to focus on the humbling terrain and the necessity of effort needed to stay upright. The grace all but pulled from my body I could barely manage sharp turns, my lungs threatening to fold my body to the ground on the slightest inclines, my legs buckling with the pressures of holding my torso on the descents. The only relief coming with the rolling undulations that hung my limbs like a puppet, working in concert as nature and body, runner and trail no longer individual entities. The exhaustion had set in and I was brought towards completion under that mysterious force few of us can describe, but know distinctly, where we are not in control, but move forward no less, with speed, with control, with no will except the ability to see ahead, or see from above, as our bodies move without us.

Until we reach beyond the realms of possibility and the ground falls beneath us, or we find our way to the end, spent, exhausted, depleted…and fulfilled.

The gates of green that welcomed me in opened into a brutal, bright sun that exposed me completely, as if my skin was torn away. I emerged with the momentum of the trail, spit out into the world, a different person. Broken, but stronger. Depleted, but fulfilled. Bloodied, but intact. Exhausted, but enduring.

This is why I enter the trails, to seek a world that is as beautiful and bountiful and outside of myself as much as it is humbling, and threatening, and depleting. To find another me, an absence of me, to create something different, something greater, something that will always fail in words and can only be experienced in seeking and finding.

Transitions

Ethan Runnels Stay Wild Scholarship

It was months ago when I saw my oncologist last, when I came to his office for a followup appointment regarding my latest surgery. It couldn’t have been but only 2 months after January when he went in to try and get the cancer again. After so many years of treatment, surgeries and appointments, the apprehension I have with these appointments is almost entirely gone, the expectations of any specific outcome as well. Still, I had come back from the last surgery so quickly, and that being after a year and a half of no chemo and only continuous running progression, that the surgery seemed a mere annoying interruption, which I can probably only safely say from this distance now. It’s never simply an annoyance or basic interruption. It’s a whole lot of hell really. And yet, it’s always the surgeries that hit me the hardest, not the cancer. I still have cancer, of course, but it’s weird. It seems I only have the actual definition to reference and not some sort of physical hindrance caused by the tumors or growth. Any physical destruction or obstacle at this point is, I believe, a leftover from the year and a half of chemotherapy and the three surgeries I needed to have performed. The effects are very real and are with me daily, but they are now almost bodily aberrations that I relate to as if I’ve had them since birth. Cancer is something more distant, if a concern at all. It’s something that may or may not become more immediate down the line, or maybe that’s my naiveté speaking. But I still have the surgeries and I still have the followups.

So when I had the appointment with my oncologist, in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Maybe he’ll say I’m good for as long as I can be good now. Maybe he’ll say chemotherapy and surgery won’t ever be an issue unless they have to be an issue and I can get back to my life again.” Against all the lessons I’ve taught myself about expectations over the past three years, I found myself daydreaming again.

The appointment was the usual. He checked the incision scar that runs from the point where my rib cages come together down to the middle of my pubic bone (any further and I’d be cut in two). He felt around my abdomen, cupped his hand on the areas where he did the most extraction and tapped on the back to listen to the sound, whether it reverberated hollow or solid. I had difficulty sitting upright again, but when I did, we got to talking about the future. I tried to fight the smallness that starts to overcome me in the exam room.

At this point I don’t remember all the specifics of our conversation, but I believe they were about the growth of the cancer, the details of the procedure, and other logistics. What I wanted to know, however, was our plan from here on out. With the same pleasant and casual tone he always delivers my diagnosis he told me we will have another scan in a few months and then look into going back into a surgery for the 4th time in about a year and a half or two.

My heart sunk a bit, but I managed to gather some courage at the proclamation of “..or two”.

I found my way past the smallness and responded, “You know, I was coming into this with the best case scenario being 3 to 5 years of no surgery. Not that this consideration is the most important, but it’s so hard to plan my life and live normally with these surgeries. I need to get back to work and take care of my son and just try to get some routine together.”

And before I could vaguely plead my case further he cut me off.

“Ok, let’s make it three years. As we’ve said in the past, you keep breaking the rules. So let’s make a plan for three years and I really think you should live your life as normal as possible. Get back to work and just live as if you don’t have cancer.”

I followed, “And so I have another scan in 3 months then?”

“Let’s make it 9. We’ll do a scan in 9 months, see where you’re at, and then plan from there, but we’ll make 3 years our next goal date.”

And with a few more specifics worked out, that’s where we left it. The plan as such being, a scan in 9 months, a goal date of 3 years for the next surgery, and any necessary adjustments made along the way. If we’re nearing three years and I start having complications, we’ll move the surgery up. If we get to three years and everything is as stable as always, we’ll push it back even further.

I drove home and found myself in the emotional space I did when I was first diagnosed, driving down the highway surrounded by all the other cars, but registering very little except the calm in my mind. Something of a weight had been lifted, but I wasn’t sure how to process it just yet. It’s a tenuous lifting, but I felt lighter no less. I was given the permission to live my life, to get back to work, to think of the future without surgeries, as far as I dared. And with that lightness and, almost positivity, almost hope, consuming me, I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt like I needed to tell someone, to go somewhere public, to just sit and feel that for awhile…but I drove home.

I drove home because it felt wrong to celebrate. It felt dangerous to celebrate, with all I’ve come to know over the past three years about plans and expectations crushed. I wanted to acknowledge this change, but I didn’t want to flaunt it. That felt too dangerous, to arrogant.

I just needed to get back to living…but what did that mean anymore?

Three years is not a long time, unless you have cancer. Three years, to me, seems so incredibly long ago, but I hear about people dying from cancer after battling it for 5 or 8 or 10 years. And to me, those timelines seem so short. I think about how I just heard about them getting cancer and then suddenly they were gone…and I’m only three years in. And yet, in that three years, so much has changed. I lost so much and also gained so much. I was forced to stop working for others and expand my design skills in so far as I could just  make ends meet for myself. The routine of my days changed. I became financially ruined and had to rely more and more on government support. The only thing that didn’t change was my running really.

So what exactly do I do with the same timeline stretched out before me that mirrored the timeline I spent battling cancer directly?

Transitions are hard and most often we seek comfort and security in the familiar. It takes a certain personality to embrace the terror of change openly and with positivity, and not resort to the compromises made in similarity. I like to believe I’m in the former category.

And yet, the last three years are being solidified as some sort of pause in my pre-diagnosis life. The first thing I did after being given the go ahead to live my life was to start looking for a job, and with some small delay, I ended up back at the job I had to quit upon diagnosis. It was like picking up right where I left off. That job even dictates my daily routine, as it was. Get up and run, prepare for work, ride my bike to work, ride my bike home, relax with TV, and do it all again the next day. The way I eat is the same, the bags I carry, the work I do, the radio programs I listen to, and so on. The last three years have been a pause. I mean, a painful, scary, exciting, physically destructive pause. And really, not a pause at all, but it’s fun to think that way.

Not everything is the same, of course. My running abilities will never find their way back to pre-diagnosis standards, but that’s ok. And I’ve found love with a wonderful woman who supports me through all my difficulties (and puts up with the worst of my traits) and I get to reciprocate as much as I can muster. And I started gardening, like heavily. Some parts of the free time I found within the last three years allowed me to open up new interests for myself, so it has been great to keep expanding on those within the restrictions I have in my new routines.

But those are all very simplified examples. It’s really quite an experience to walk the line of great fear in the face of your mortality and yet also be afforded the privilege of living a life free of some of the daily restriction we find in the normal day to day. I’ve talked in the past of feeling a sense of liberation after diagnosis, of being able to shed all the excess burdens and responsibilities we often have forced upon us, and of those I foisted upon myself. The running and training expectations, the budgets, the time restrictions, and so on. It’s all so much to handle sometimes, especially for those in poverty, so it wasn’t lost on me that I was living something of a delusion and high privilege the past three years, by being supported through fundraisers, government assistance, and cobbling together design work. I had the privilege of self-directed days, time with my son that wasn’t hampered by work schedules, and the luxury of taking it easy when I just couldn’t muster the drive to keep pushing through all the burdens.

And that is, with a tense mix of difficulty and satisfaction, gone now. That privilege is removed as I enter the work world again, lose more and more of my government assistance (partial disclosure, not all of it, of course), and must now juggle again the responsibilities of providing for everything economically, re-contributing child support (truly, my greatest relief in this matter), parenting my son with new time restrictions, and figure out the best life to live in the midst of all of this.

Transitioning out of three years of living against cancer into three years of ignoring cancer isn’t as hopeful and liberating as some might imagine. There is still a distinct tension that marks my days, of not completely emotionally letting go. The oncologist didn’t say, “You no longer have cancer! Go forth!” He said, “We’ll try for another three years.” There is a massive gap between those two statements, so transitioning so abruptly into living from surgery to surgery into a normative routine is proving to have it’s own gap. I’m trying, with difficulty, to plan further ahead, to imagine the best life for myself and Laura and August, but while also determining what is most important in the now. It’s so easy to become self-absorbed in the face of cancer (more so than I already was) and so I’m trying to move away from a deep selfishness and put more focus upon others, upon the issues that truly matter in our day and age, to reconsider radical politics with the newfound perspective of the last three years, and to find the most valuable place to put my own action. Admittedly, I have no idea what to do at this point, and that seems to be another point of tension in my transition.

Maybe it’s just too early to make any specific plans for myself right now. Maybe it takes getting used to the new old routine, with the new perspective, to really find my way. It’s hard when you’ve spent three years really wrestling with the deepest, individual attempts at living the good life. It almost makes everything else pale in comparison and the excitement and value I once found in projects pre-diagnosis have lost a bit of their shine. I can’t tell if I was naive back then or am more broken now. I don’t want to imagine it’s either.

We often want to believe we can make our own decisions, calculate the risks and rewards and ease the transitions of our lives to our greatest benefit, but sometimes it just doesn’t work that way. Sometimes life transitions for you, and when you get used to that new routine, it transitions again. I guess the success is in managing the transitions in the moment, finding your comfort within them, and being prepared to find that comfort again should another transition find you again. And maybe it just takes time to readjust…that’s what I keep telling myself.


With that said, running has been my constant, as much as I may try to shake it’s obsessive burden from time to time. The transitions for my running will have to be detailed in another post, but I do need to give time to my latest running project.

This August I will be running a route that a friend has titled Circle Takes The Square. That is a 50+ mile route from the circle of downtown Indianapolis to the square of downtown Bloomington. When I was planning my run down the state last year, this portion was my most anticipated as I have ridden the distance many times, but always wanted to run it, though never did. Initially, I committed to just doing this route, myself, without fanfare and without obligation, but I’ve found it harder and harder to do anything for my own needs without using it in some way to benefit others, so with that in mind some friends and I created the Ethan Runnels Stay Wild scholarship.

Ethan was a friend of mine who lost his life to the White River in 2009 and who was the vision for the White Pine Wilderness Academy, of which I am a part. The camps we host for children (and adults) are nothing short of transformative and we want to make them available to everyone, despite financial restrictions. In that recognition we have set up a scholarship to help pay for kids to attend our camps, free of charge. The Circle Takes The Square run is being conducted in this spirit and to help promote the scholarship. If you can afford the contribution, please consider donating to our fund of which we are seeking a $5000 goal, which will secure camp registration for over 22 kids. The details of the scholarship can be found on our gofundme page here –

www.gofundme.com/staywildethan

In the meantime, a handful of us are training ourselves to run the 50 mile distance on Sunday, August 21st. If you would like more information about the scholarship, academy, or the run, please get in touch. Thanks for being awesome.

The Forever Interruptions

I’m running out of ways to relate that, with cancer, nothing stays the same. Every stretch of routine and expectation is interrupted by varying degrees of change and difficulty. Sometimes it’s a new surgery plan. Sometimes it’s tumor growth or regression. Sometimes it’s a new pain that came from nowhere with no warning. Whatever tends to happen, it’s hard to see any of it coming, and your plans for the future, any future, whether that is years or months, is jeopardized.

This shit gets old.

My latest interruption happened Sunday…actually, IS happening. I had successfully strung together a handful of days of running, gently and calculatedly increasing mileage in relation to my body’s responses. I managed to put together my longest streak of running consistency since surgery and was looking forward to putting in a couple 6 milers over the weekend. Saturday went as planned as I navigated through an increasingly difficult 6 miles in 7:00 / pace, which was a considerable milestone for me since I’m not even 2 months away from surgery. I had no idea I could be back to this effort so quick. Admittedly, the effort left me seriously strained when it was over, but I knew that was part of my progression, the necessity to get stronger, and the recovery would leave me a better runner than before even. I followed that run by another 6 miler, this time easier, Sunday morning, and I was ready to go into the next week with a new determination and effort to go further when the time was right.

Laura and I celebrated our weekend runs with some donuts, errands, and relaxing time reading at the local coffee shop. All was going well as ever. We went home and had dinner, then some snacks, and then…something changed.

A sense of discomfort started to fill my abdomen. It felt like gas, but really bad gas, trapped in my stomach as if in a perpetual state of swelling. I had felt something like this before, but it involved a noticeable food blockage high in my abdomen, coupled with a crippling nausea that left me reeling in pain and vomiting through the night. This seemed to be a little different. I wasn’t nauseas, but I certainly wasn’t without pain. I knew the night was going to be a problem.

I left Laura to sleep alone as I went into my son’s room and slept in his bed, except I didn’t sleep. At all. Not for one hour. I took various laxative medications to no effect and the same held for the ibuprofen. Hour after hour passed as I rolled back and forth in pain, trying to find a comfortable position, hoping this blockage or whatever it was would resolve itself. At some point, however, the pain became overwhelming and I found myself throwing up into the toilet, my only solace knowing that the effort would probably relieve some of the pressure and pain in my abdomen. It did, mostly.

I spent the next day also in discomfort, but a little lessened from the night before. I thought maybe the vomiting relieved the situation, and although I didn’t eat anything all day, I decided to have some softened cauliflower in the evening, not wanting to let my body regress without nutrition as it does after surgeries.

At some point, however, I was breaking down again and complained to Laura in great frustration, “Damnit. I’m sleeping in August’s room again. I’m gonna fucking puke again. I know it. I fucking hate this.”

Maybe I was so incredibly exhausted from not sleeping the night before, but even with the pain in my abdomen, somehow I managed to not puke as I fell asleep soon after going to bed. Crisis averted, temporarily.

I spent the next day in bed, but called my oncologist to tell him something bad was going on, that I couldn’t eat, that I was in pain, that I think this is something more serious. The office confirmed my suspicions and brought me in that day for an X-ray and follow up the next day. I spent the night barely eating again, just trying to get some yogurt and fluids in me to keep from dehydrating.

The next day I met with the oncologist and he explained the x-rays showed that I have a partial blockage in my intestines. As he explained it,

“The best way I can described it is…you have a kink in the garden hose. It’s like when a garden hose gets pulled and folded and the water can barely get through the kinked section.”

Great. But what to do about it. The “kink” is caused by adhesions (scar tissue) that develop during the healing process from any sort of abdominal surgery. My doctor said he was surprised they don’t see them occur more often, but they do occur. Essentially, the space between organs can develop these almost stretchy bands of scar tissue that pull each other together, bending, twisting or kinking various parts of the intestines, which is what has happened to me. The good news is that mine is a partial blockage, so food and liquid can pass, if I’m careful what I eat and take it slowly. Full blockages can be life-threatening, of course. How we need to handle my issue, however, is being debated.

Right now I’m waiting it out. The hope is that the scar tissue breaks up or the blockage manages to open up and all the pain and pressure is alleviated. But, if it doesn’t, I need to go back into the hospital for more focused monitoring, waiting, and then potential corrective surgery. This can entail IV fluids, a GI tube (good god no), and medicines. The surgery, well, I’m not sure what they do and how invasive it is (I’m guessing not that much), but I’d rather avoid it if I can, obviously.

But, everything else has stopped. Most everything. I can’t run, at all. Walking can be problematic depending up on the pressure in my abdomen at any time. Eating has gotten better since Sunday, but I’m still relegated to really easy to digest foods (no fruit or vegetables) and I’m always on edge that what I eat is going to leave me hanging onto the toilet again. The pain comes and goes and gets in the way of the work I need to be getting done for my design clients and runners, and that’s where all this interruption builds into great frustration.

It’s the same story I keep trying to avoid, developing some normal life that I can count on for work and physical activity that gets halted without warning. I’m currently trying to establish solid work, build myself back up physically, while also managing a couple running goals and responsibilities I’ve committed too…but having all that put into jeopardy because I can’t predict what my body is going to do from one day to the next. That’s the worst of it. I find myself wanting to give up on everything, to stop trying, to stop planning, to just…wait, I guess. I know this isn’t how I usually handle these situations, but I’m getting tired, increasingly tired of all this, of these surgeries, these complications, these hopes for a more reliable future…that are met with consistent setbacks or absolute obstacles to achieving any of this. I keep feeling the need to drop everything, to scale back every bit of excess in my life, and just get through doing the minimum.

I know I say all this out of frustration and current dejection, but this gets old. These setbacks continue to build upon one another and maybe I do need to just keep everything as easy as possible. I don’t know. In part I know I need to wait this out, all of it, for now, and then see what happens. In regards to the physical, I have no choice. For everything else, I don’t know anymore.