Monday, June 18, 2018

Now, Then, and After Then

In the midst of a world that continues to feel like it has been rocked to its core--personally, nationally, politically--it feels like I have a limited capacity to think about things. And very few answers. A few weeks ago I read Kate Bowler's "Everything Happens for a Reason:  And Other Lies I've Loved" and she nailed it for me:

"I am stuck in present tense. With a scan around each corner I have lost the ability to make extended plans; to reach into the future and speak its language. I have lost the rhythm of anticipating the seasons."

Living life in 8-week increments has allowed us several cycles of chemo holiday, but the clock starts ticking again the minute we walk out of MD Anderson. I am thankful for every 8-week holiday--as I should be--but it does not mute the incessant ticking of the clock. The odd part of all of this is that every person on earth is living in the shadow of the ticking clock. But it has taken cancer to take the clock off of mute and raise it to awareness every day.

And while I feel mostly stuck in "present tense" as Bowler describes, I battle with a strong desire to look ahead to try to at least be able to imagine some semblance of a hopeful, longer-term future. Right now I feel like I can work within a framework of three seasons of life to consider: Now, Then, and After Then.

Now is when Carmen is feeling pretty good with few limitations--no chemo (at least until the beginning of August); no surgery; no hospital; no travel restrictions or dramatic physical decline.

Then is when Carmen goes back into chemo; physical decline; and eventually her life is shortened and ended by the cancer.

After Then is when Carmen fully experiences total peace, comfort, satisfaction, and fulfillment in the presence of God. And it is when I will support my kids, grieve for myself, and work to find some hopeful future, meaning, purpose, and engagement until my earth-clock stops ticking.

In the Now, we are seeking to keep things as normal as possible. But with a heightened appreciation for what we have together and can experience. In the Then, I will strive to support and comfort to the greatest extent possible. In the After Then, I will support the kids, grieve, and find a new cadence of life that respects our 34+ years together, but does not live only in photographs and memories.

Honestly, I have no real idea of what that looks like. All I know is that I feel like I really want to be able to imagine a meaningful, hopeful, and pleasant future. Although it will be broken, I will still want my heart to be able to smile.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Life's Not Fair ... and I am completely OK with that

Been thinking a lot about fairness lately--especially as many people have expressed their frustration/anger/disappointment that Carmen's cancer is "not fair". What did she/we do to deserve this? Nothing at all. But at the same time, what did we do to deserve many other parts of the life that we have had.

Did we do anything to deserve the three amazing and wonderful young women we know as our daughters? Certainly not enough to deserve them. How about the three godly, strong, and perfectly-suited men we know as our sons-in-law? Absolutely not. Have we lived well enough to deserve the three beautiful, capable, thoroughly enjoyable granddaughters that we are privileged to get to know more and more? Not a chance! Have we done anything to deserve the 30+ years that we have had together with a lifetime of memories packed in tight?

People certainly seem to have a much easier time embracing the good that we do not deserve than the bad that we do not deserve. But would I rather have everything be fair? Or would I rather get what I deserve? No. If I get what I deserve--for good or for ill--then there is no room for grace. Because grace is getting what I do not deserve.

In the spiritual sense grace is essential, because I could never live a good enough life to deserve God's favor or to merit His kind thoughts and actions towards me. If I was limited to what I deserve, then I would pay in the flesh and soul for every harsh word uttered, every improper thought expressed, and every selfish deed. (And I am not so self-deluded as to think that my kind words, or uplifting thoughts, or noble deeds would outweigh their negative counterparts.) I prefer grace over what I deserve because it is my only hope. And if I am going to be good with not getting what I deserve on the upside, then I can be disappointed, upset, and angry about Carmen's cancer, but I cannot shake my fist at the sky and cry "this is not fair!"

Make no mistake, I am not a fatalist, and I care very deeply about our current disease fight. But I neither blame God, nor do I feel that this should not be happening to us because we don't deserve it. No matter the outcome in the near term, I would not trade the good that we have not deserved to get out of this. AND, I am utterly confident that whatever comes in the near term, our experience of long term grace will make these weeks and months seem like but a fleeting moment.

Press On!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

End Game?

I have been following (or partly following) this week's emerging and expanding news accounts of the "involvement" of the Russians in our last election.  But today I find myself asking, "What is the end game of these investigations and hearings?"  If the actions of Mr. Trump and/or his associates was prosecutably criminal, then that may lead down the path of impeachment.  Even if it is demonstrated that Mr. Trump succeeded in the 2016 election "because of" Russian involvement, I cannot envision a situation where the election results would be nullified and the office given to Mrs. Clinton.  

But what if the sum of these actions does not rise to the level of criminality?  What if the actions of Mr. Trump's surrogates and associates was merely (merely?) reprehensible and morally outrageous?  At that point (full disclosure=I believe that we have already crossed that line), I think that the Republican leadership needs to disavow Mr. Trump and cut him adrift.  That may be a difficult political choice, but I know that I am watching to see what happens over the next few weeks.  If the Republican leadership continues to allow Mr. Trump to hijack the Party, then I, for one, will be looking for a new political home.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The High Road Pledge

A call to all candidates in 2018 and 2020 elections (and to the people who may or may not vote for them):

It has become increasingly clear that the political parties, elected representatives, and candidates are unable to police themselves when it comes to civility and respect in public discourse.  When our current President can behave like the worst 2nd grade playground bully and no "leader" in his party will call out his behavior as unacceptable, then perhaps it is time for the majority of Americans who are not blindly committed to a particular party or individual to call for change.

I wonder what might happen if candidates in the next two election cycles--2018 and 2020--would take a pledge like the one below and if the voters, media outlets, and debate hosters would hold them to the pledge?  Perhaps a pledge like this:

I [Candidate Name] commit that I will run a campaign of integrity that will be marked by debate on the issues, not personal attacks.  That will focus on why my ideas are good for America, and not on why my opponents' are not.  That will be driven by a desire to create the best America for the next generation, and not for the short-term benefit of the privileged few.  That will pursue common ground, and not seek to divide.  That will tell the truth, and not shade the facts for my own political advancement.

I will respect my opponents, and by respecting them, I will respect those whose votes we all hope to win.  I will respect my opponents, and by respecting them I will be able to provide leadership for all of my constituents--not just those who voted for me.  I will respect my opponents, and by respecting them I will never need to look in the mirror (or my grandchildrens' eyes) and be disgraced or embarrassed.

I ask the media, please do not accept any advertisements from my campaign, or from anyone else on my behalf, that denigrate or disrespect my opponents.  No one who engages in personal attacks against my opponents speaks for me.  I ask those who host debates or town halls; if, in the heat of the battle, I engage in personal or disrespectful attacks against my opponents--turn off my microphone.

Rest assured, I am in this race to win, but not to win at all costs.  I affirm that there are values that are more important than winning an election and I will not sacrifice those values for my own political success.

Signed: [Candidate]

Those of us who are disgusted and disheartened by what we see today in the realm of public discourse, and who do not wish to pass on to our children and grandchildren the country that we are becoming, we cannot merely throw our hands in the air and lament the sad current state of affairs.  We must make our voices heard.  We must write.  We must speak out.  We must vote.  And in the midst, we must not stoop to the level of discourse being modeled in Washington D.C. and in many statehouses across this grand and glorious country.  The possibilities for America's future are worth striving for.

Because if we do not, the light of hope grows dim.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

59 Weeks -- Reality Check 2017 #1

After about seven months of focused training, this weekend is the first of several tests of whether the training has made a difference--and what difference it has made.  This weekend the Frisco Superdrome hosts the 2017 Track Masters Regional Championships and I will be riding the 500, the 2k Pursuit, and the Match Sprint.  These are the same events that I will be doing at the National Championships in late June.

I confess to being a bit nervous.  I know that I have been working hard--in fact, I do not know that my body could have held up under harder training.  I have lost a lot of weight and re-balanced body fat and muscle down to about 15% body fat.  I have upgraded my equipment to the stiffest and fastest that I have ever ridden.  Now I just need to put it all together--and not fret.

After all, racing is not my day job and it is supposed to be a hobby that I am doing for fun.  We'll see how it goes and maybe I can reflect on this first test.