Lessons Along the Path

Intellectually, we all know our lives have a path along which we must travel.  The length of that path is undetermined, and often we’re not sure where it leads.  There are many inflection points, opportunities to course correct, and fellow travelers to influence and to be influenced by.  Perhaps most profoundly, though, is the thought that we travel these paths without knowing how the journey will end.

Perhaps it comes via our choice of direction, perhaps just by circumstance, or it’s set in motion the day we’re born.  Perhaps it’s that lack of knowledge that allows most of us to continue along our way, blissfully unaware where and when our travel ends, when we become one with time.

The longer I’m on my journey, the more comfortable I am with the idea that it’s short and by necessity the closer I am to its end.  By saying I’m more comfortable I am decidedly not saying that I am comfortable, just moreso.  I get it intellectually and I resolve to do better to reach the end without regrets…but yet I continue to do things and fail to do things that would help me come to a place without regret.

I don’t tell the people I love how I feel nearly enough.  I don’t make the time to connect with the people in my life often enough.  I allow grievances and irritations to get in the way and let myself more fully express negative emotions rather than more fully expressing positive ones.  It becomes so easy to let the time pass instead of doing the work of maintaining those relationships.

Today, I mourn the loss of a colleague and friend.  Some weeks ago she had a cold or the flu that she just couldn’t shake, only to find she had Leukemia. Where only a few months ago, she was watching her young daughter grow up, mourning the loss of a beloved dog, basically living her life, today we’re mourning her passing on.  Never in her wildest imagination did she even for a second consider that  anything other than a particularly virulent strain of the flu was causing it to linger.

I’m of course sad for her family, especially “her little” who will now grow up with only memories of her mom – a truly sad proposition on its face, made even moreso knowing what a wonderful person her mom was  – but I’m sad for my loss of opportunity to check in with her just to say “hi” and “you’re on my mind today.”

I just started to write that it’s almost as if we (I) have become emotionally lazy, making friends and just assuming they’re always there.  There’s no work at all in curating a Facebook feed.  Everyone you meet is now your “friend,” all with the same relative ranking of “friend.”  But it’s not “almost as if.” Lazy is exactly what it is.  I know I have become increasingly lazy about putting in the work of maintaining my friendships and other relationships.  It occurs to me that I’m rarely the one who reaches out at some random point and time to make a call.

So while I’ve become much better at setting goals, it’s now completely clear to me that I’ve neglected to make developing, enhancing, maintaining friendships/relationships a goal.  I’ve not demonstrated to the people in my life that they’re important to me, and thus making it increasingly likely that someone will come to the end of their path with regrets.  If I were to reach my journey’s end today, there wold be plenty of regret to be had.  I’m not willing to let that go unchecked; I have to do better.

Today, Shannon’s family replete with grief sets forth to plan the details of saying goodbye, something just a few short weeks ago would have been unthinkable.  I’m sorry I didn’t make more time to give her a call.  We just don’t know how long or short that path is, yet we pretend it goes as far as the eye can see and allow ourselves to be lazy about the things that matter most.

She made the world a better place, I want to be sure to honor that memory by letting other people know that my world is a better place because they’re a part of it.  This should be a simple goal, but I suspect it’s going to take a lot more work than anything else I’ve set forth to do yet.  Simple is not always easy.  That’s why it’s important to keep working toward it.

A 50k Punch in the Mouth

Image result for 50k decalOn April 22, I hit a milestone I never anticipated, nor expected, to hit.  I ran a 50k.  That’s 31+ miles.

A year ago, I was focused on running a number of races.  By this point last year – April 23, 2016 – I had run 14 races.  14 5ks (actually 13 5ks and 1 3-miler).  Today I ran a 50k trail race.  Put another way, in one day, I had eclipsed 10 of those 5k races from last year.

Interestingly enough, this was race 18 on the year.  I’ve run 9 5ks, and a bunch of others: 5-Milers, 10-Milers, 15k.  Fully half of what I’d run to that point was far more than I could have imagined a year ago.  On May 1 last year, I ran my first race of more than 5k.  A 10k.  Or one of 5 loops I did for the 50.  To think I’d upped my capacity from 5 to 50k.  Unfathomable.

Now, make no mistake, on that last 10k I did far more walking than running.  I had no business being out there.  I finished the marathon distance in 5 hours 20 minutes.  I finished the 50k in just under 7 hours.  But I made a few promises to myself this year.

First, I’m punching 2017 in the mouth.  Taking no prisoners

Second, I’m committed to trying 5 things I don’t know that I can finish this year.  This was the second.  The first was a January DNF.  The next one is also a 50k, but a far more technical and difficult one.  I’m not sure just yet what the other two will be, but I’m working on it.

Last, I was told to make my race for my dad.  I got back up one more time than I quit on this day, and I did so because I was out there for my dad.  It’s really hard to quit on your father.

This isn’t to brag on myself, please believe me that I have a great deal to be humble about.  Rather, it’s about taking stock.  Stopping along the path, looking around and taking stock of where you’ve been, but also how much farther there is to go.  So as I write at the 40% point of the year, I’ve completed about 43% of my running goal for the year.  I’ve done something I never thought I would, and I’ve tried 2 things I wasn’t sure I could actually finish.  It’s about growth.

I’ve grown.  And I’m punching 2017 in the mouth.

When The Media Fails to Accept Responsibility

I’m usually the first person to boost NPR.  In this age of editorial slants, #fakenews and the like, it’s one of only a handful of resources I trust to be giving me the information I need to have: I didn’t hear of too many other broadcasters live airing James Comey testifying to the House Intelligence Committee.

So imagine my disappointment hearing an intelligence commentator on NPR’s “On the Media,” a weekend show dedicated to breaking down how media shapes the conversation, portraying Wikileaks as “playing” the media in their CIA information dump.

The segment is entitled “What the Media Got Wrong About the Latest Wikileaks Dump,” but a careful listen to the content and interviewee Nicholas Weaver indicates that the dump itself was exaggerated and “fear mongering” and that Wikileaks intended to create that coverage with it’s own “helpful” analysis. He lets it sit out there that it’s just a fact of life that the news industry is cut throat, people climbing over themselves for the breaking news. Wikileaks “planted” misleading leads.

This takes the media itself off the hook.  Weaver breaks down the dump itself, why it’s really not a big deal, and highlights at least one reporter who did a really good job of actual fact checking: Ellen Nakashima of the Washington Post, You know, doing what reporters are supposed to do.  He lets everyone off with the trope that it’s a landrush out there, and even misrepresents the purpose of what Wikileaks actually said.

Wikileaks specifically says there’s more information than reporters, go look for it.  He portrays this as  cynical because they knew reporters would just report what they were given.  My question then is this: is that the work of Wikileaks acting against America or is this a failing of our media to do their job? The media has created this landrush mentality, this media cycle.  Wikileaks may be acting to make the CIA look bad, but make no mistake the media was their witting pawn.

Interestingly enough, Bob Garfield inadvertently admits media corrections are almost universally ignored, making them meaningless because no one pays attention to them.

What this means, then, is that the media owes it as a professional responsibility to get it right and getting it right the first time.  It means that if Wikileaks gets their preferred message out there, far from Ellen Nakashima being exceptional it means she was the exception in that she did her job. It means that printing a retraction or a correction doesn’t relieve the organization when they make a mistake.  They need to be impeccable, particularly when the media in general is being attacked by a particularly in-credible President for their lack of credibility.

NPR doesn’t speak for the entire profession, but this broadcast is designed to provide a window into the profession, and represent it.  When they refuse to take responsibility for their role, and instead allow Wikileaks – whose main purpose was to create publicity for itself – to control the conversation, they’ve minimized their own importance and exaggerated the importance of the subject.  If Weaver is correct and that there was nothing thusfar in this dump that he wouldn’t have assigned to advanced undergraduates, it was the media’s fault for giving the story more credence than it deserved.  It’s the media’s responsibility to determine what deserves credence and therefore newsworthy and what isn’t.  It was the media’s fault for playing the ratings game that the media itself created.  You can’t blame Wikileaks for understanding that game.

Wikileaks probably did play the media.  The information is probably not that important.  So why was it newsworthy?  Because the media was lazy.

Nobody Builds Walls Better Than Me

In April 1945, Harry Truman became the 33rd President of the United States by virtue of the death of Franklin Roosevelt.  He had been Vice President for all of 82-Days.

He had been on the ballot for Vice President through the apparent willingness of Roosevelt to allow others’ back room wrangling and cloak and dagger maneuverings at the Democratic National Convention.  This was a man who had been barely re-elected Senator amid concerns with his connections to “machine politics” back in Missouri.  Yet, the sitting Vice-President had been cast aside in favor of the Senator from Missouri.   He had no enemies, and could probably be manipulated.

In the time he was Vice-President, he had met with FDR exactly twice.  He had to be told of the existence of the atomic bomb after having become President, and even then only several weeks.  He had never been briefed on FDR’s and Churchill’s conference with Stalin at Yalta.

He was seen as an inexperienced “every man,” ill-prepared and perhaps ill-equipped to rise to the Presidency.  The American public voted for Roosevelt despite this fact, never apparently realizing just how poor his health actually was, and without understanding it was Truman for whom they were actually casting their ballot.

4-months after ascending to the Presidency, on August 6, 1945, the first of two atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

72-years later, the American voting public elected Donald Trump President of the United States.  By contrast, the Republican Party not only didn’t try to engineer his election, but actively worked against it.  This is a man displaying little of the temperament nor comport one may expect of the leader of the free world; if Truman were ill-equipped and ill-prepared to be President, after having been a judge, county commissioner, Congressman, and Senator, it can easily be argued Trump is ill-equipped to be a judge, county commissioner, Congressman, or Senator.

And yet, Truman – despite some fits and starts – demonstrated a resolve and force of character that allowed him to will himself to acquit himself well.  His was a history of hard work, faithful service to both his constituents and family, and fully determined to succeed.  He had failed businesses behind him, but the point was he always saw to it to comport himself properly.  He was straight to the point, did what he believed correct, and expected those around him to be as well. He treated those around him with respect, and was humble.

America was lucky.  An accidental President happened to become what the country needed at the time he was needed.  In 2016, America chose perhaps another accidental President, fitting none of the qualities which could be said of Harry S Truman.  No one around Trump considers him to be humble, a student concerned with details, or frankly as someone possessing force of character or resolve.  Despite the perception he speaks plainly and speaks his mind, I’ve found his pronouncements opaque and not only contradictory of his previous statements, but sometimes internally contradictory.

Despite Truman’s past using derogatory racial and religious terms, he behaved in ways that projected respect – perhaps not by modern standards, but certainly by standards of the day.  I don’t find the same to be true of Trump. Believe me, this isn’t to dismiss Truman’s use of the expressions; it is to say that he could perhaps have made for a greater President had he not harbored those beliefs, but he did keep those beliefs private. There was no TMZ, no Facebook Live, no Twitter.  These beliefs were uncovered only in his secret diary, not on a 10-year old, previously unreleased video. The world probably didn’t know that he called New York a “kike town” quite the same way we knew how Trump saw himself the ladies man.  We didn’t know what we were getting in 1944; we did in 2016.

We voted for this man knowing full well what monstrous weapons the US military has at its disposal, and while the Libertarian candidate was mocked for his apparent ignorance of the tragedy of Aleppo, Syria, we voted for a man who has demonstrated little understanding of world affairs, suggesting that the US should have just taken Iraq’s oil.

Where Truman put careful consideration into his actions, where he wanted to avoid conflict with others, we have Trump who apparently chooses to rule through “controlled chaos.” Trumps plan is to set up situations where personalities duke it out, which presumably will determine the winning ideology.

David McCullough’s biography of Truman demonstrates what decisions a President makes and what role those decisions play in the world.  The American public had no idea what power they were giving Harry S Truman on the day they cast their ballots for Franklin Delano Roosevelt back in 1944.  With one telegram, Truman authorized the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Japan – a weapon so mindbogglingly devastating, the world had no way to truly comprehend what had just happened.  On November 8, 2016, we willingly gave Donald John Trump that authority, knowing just how awesome that responsibility is.

My hope for Donald Trump, for the United States, and for the world, is that somehow he figures out how to be the thoughtful leader Harry Truman came to be.  My hope is that Trump comes to understand just how awesome his responsibility is, just how powerful his words as President are, and to not wield that awesomeness recklessly.  To this point, we’ve become a society where it’s actually okay for Neil Cavuto to gloat that his networks’ brand of news is now favored, as though there is a “right” editorial slant.  We’re less than three days into the Trump era and I think less “Harry Truman” and more ” Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho.” Maybe if we demand more, we’ll get more, but I’m more convinced than ever that we just don’t care enough to demand more.  We’ve given up the idea of a leader who really is an “every man,” for that of a Billionaire who appeals to our base instincts and presents as an “every man.”

When Vice-President Truman was led to the White House residence, it was Eleanor Roosevelt who had informed him of FDR’s passing.  When Truman had asked if there was anything he could do for her, she asked him the same question, adding, “For you are the one in trouble now.” President Trump, you have a great weight to overcome: that of history.  You are the one in trouble now.

Sign Posts and Tail Lights

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And just like that, she was gone…

When your first born comes into the world, everything, EVERY-THING, changes.  Your relationship with the world changes.  You’re there when you bring her home.  You’re there for the first diaper change.  You are literally her world.

You spend years emotionally preparing for that moment you’ll watch her walk across the stage at her high school graduation.

And then one day, seemly out of no where, she does just that: walks across the stage and collects her high school diploma.  Just like that, she’s an adult.  All those years culminated in 15-seconds.  And at that point, our society pretty much says, “you’re a high school graduate, you’re an adult.”  And thus, she was.

There are other moments along the way that portend those milestones.  The first time I watched her drive away in her own car really hit home to me the notion that she was growing up.  As I watched those tail-lights get smaller and eventually disappear, I instinctively knew there was a metaphor there for me.

The college visits, applications, acceptances and eventually the moves-in are right up there with those tail lights.  All small signs that the world is getting larger, inch by inch, like unnoticed highway mile marker numbers increasing almost imperceptibly until you realize you’re no longer at “mile 1.”

Today holds another one of those sign posts.

A little less than a month ago, she finished her last undergraduate class.  She walked out of the final exam and was formally done with college.  Just like that.  Another chapter of her life was over, although “over” the way a football team kills the clock in victory formation; her school has only one commencement, so she has to wait to “officially” be a graduate. Today she collects her graduation present from us: 7-weeks in Europe.  France and England, and wherever else her wanderlust carriers her.

It’s something we’ve thought about for months and intellectually knew it was going to happen from the time the idea sprang to life to became “real,” but it was so far off.  I mean, it was a graduation present, and good lord that’s not going to happen for months now.  Until it was here.

Today, I will bring her to Logan Airport’s Terminal E, get her where she needs to go, so she can get her boarding passes, luggage checked, and be screened through security.  Just like that, somewhere overhead lights on an aircraft wing will rise up from the ground and become increasingly smaller until they eventually disappear.

She’s undeniably an adult.  Her world is becoming a larger place.  Five months from now, she will again have her name announced and she will again walk across a stage to collect a diploma.  Officially closing another chapter of her life, opening to a new, as yet undecided, one.

It’s been a long time since I was her world and I knew it had been from the first time I saw those tail lights disappear: that reminder it’s a parents job to teach their kids to be independent adults, capable of having their own lives and building their own world.  She’s done just fine with that, thank you very much.  Today, I’m reminded of that feeling all over again and I’m hopeful that no matter how big her world gets, there will still be part of it there for us.

DNF

I came,  I attempted something I wasn’t sure I could complete, and…I didn’t.

The Fat Ass 50K was certainly going to be a challenge – I’d never actually run more than a little more than 13 miles in one block, and I gave myself about 24-hours to prepare – but hell one of my goals this year is to attempt 5 things I’m not sure I can complete.  And Lo.

I didn’t.

Now, not completing the challenge wasn’t a direct result of being unsure I could.  I feel good that it wasn’t about defining my success too easily – we got 18 miles in.  A new high water mark for me, and I feel like I earned that high water mark.  I feel good that it wasn’t about giving myself an excuse not to complete it – “I didn’t think I could and see?”  I was ready to crawl the rest of the distance if I had to.

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My race buddy – someone whom I admire and respect immensely – convinced me to pull the plug.  I spent the better part of the last 3 miles walking for longer periods of time, dealing with knee pain.  It also just so happened to start snowing at the end of our first 6-mile loop and by the time we got to Mile 18, it was coming down pretty good – unbeknownst to us (although, as native and lifelong New Englanders we “knew”), the roads home were going to be brutal.  The trails were quickly becoming overly hazardous for running.  It was something like 19-degrees.

Now, do I have an excuse?  Sure, I have plenty.  Fact is, though, the race wasn’t finished.  It wasn’t finished for a bunch of reasons. Were it just my knees, I would’ve pushed; were it just the weather, I would’ve pushed.  But it wasn’t.  It was a 50-mile drive home in white-out conditions, it was the increasing possibility of serious injury on the trail.   Here’s one really important take away from my first completed goal of the year: when you make the decision to quit, it means other things are more important.

The reality that I would have finished last – I mean like dead last by a LOT – wasn’t a factor.  It wasn’t important enough to me not to finish last that I quit.  I WANTED to finish; hell I was all set to crawl my way if I had to.  This race was for my dad, after all. What was a factor, though, is that if we were dead last, we would have been the only people in the park and the possibility of getting stuck would be vastly increased.  So, uncharacteristically, Rich was the one arguing the better course to chart was to quit.

So, there’s only one thing I could’ve changed yesterday: my own ability.  Had I been better conditioned, we would’ve been faster, and therefore would have been better positioned to finish.

Next time, I plan to have all those variables lining up in a way that makes it more probable than not that I will finish.  My plan this year is to set goals without worrying about whether or not I know I can succeed, Sine metu ad metam.  This was the embodiment of that.

Accountability Report Week 1

In my last post, I talked about getting better (to the point I made that the title – Yay Bleachers!) and my plan for the now current year.

Here is how I plan to get better (Categories with updated bolded):

  1. 1000 Miles (20 Miles/week):
    As I near the end of week 1, I’m at 24.9 Miles – just about 5 miles over plan.  Truth be told I should be at 25, but my watch died mid run and I didn’t capture some distance.  Since I don’t have it recorded, it didn’t happen and therefore I sit at 24.9.
  2. #Kill22 Challenge: Add a push up a day to the challenge.
    1. Day 6: Check
  3. 2 Rounds (4 months) of Beachbody “Insanity”
    1. Starts Sunday.
  4. Spartan Trifecta
    1. Scheduled
    2. Additional Sprint Scheduled (x2 Trifecta?)
  5. 2 Half Marathons – one of which will be less than 2 hours
  6. I will attempt at least 5 things that I’m not convinced I can complete
    1. To succeed, you cannot fear failure.
    2. Fear is a liar, desperate to convince you that you cannot succeed.

      The first of 5 things happens this weekend: The Fat Ass 50k Trail Run.  The furthest I’ve ever run in one block was 13.5 miles.  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of runs I’ve had of 13+ miles: 3.  All of which were street runs, this is a cross-country/trail race. So I’m ill-prepared, and certainly not trained up for this. I may fail – 30 Miles is not to be trifled with.  In fact, there’s a significant probability I will fail.  But I’m going to try, because if I don’t try, I’ll never know if I can do it or even what my limits are.

      I haven’t quite figured out how to quantify this goal, so the best I can do right now is say, “trust me, I know when I’m unsure.” I’ve stated my attempt and why I believe I may not complete it.  For now, I think that works.   That said, if I do conquer the entire 30 miles, that would mean I’ve smashed my first weekly goal by 35 miles – had I set that as a goal, I wouldn’t have believed I could do that. It’s going to be a long day – easily 5+ hours.  Wish me luck.