Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Few Blinks

   A few weeks back, I received a Facebook friend request from somebody that I hadn't seen in roughly 15 years. We'd been close friends as teenagers and young adults, but our paths eventually diverged after I moved out of state. After reconnecting on line, we exchanged a couple of brief messages, but that was it. I'd love to sit down and hear about what the last decade and a half have been like for him, but it feels like something that has to be done in person.

   Since that initial exchange, it has been interesting to read his posts and to see his picture. It's interesting to see how much of the young man that I knew is discernible in the middle aged man that I can see now, albeit through a limited lens. But it's not something that I'd given a ton of thought to. Until tonight.

   When I logged on tonight, I noticed that today is his birthday, so I clicked on his name, thinking that I'd wish him a happy one. But I never got around to that. Instead, I started scrolling through his posts, looking mostly at his collection of memes, and then I clicked on his friends list. And it was there that I saw dozens of middle aged versions of young people that I'd once known. Some people that I'd been friends with. A couple of guys that used to push me around. A couple of gals that I'd had a crush on. And plenty more that aren't much more than a familiar name to me now.

   But seeing them all gathered in that space, struck me. It took the process of aging/changing/growing/shifting, a process that I tend to think of as slow and gradual, and made it seem very quick and sudden. I was filled with the feeling that 38 years of life had gone by in a few blinks. And I don't mean that in a remorseful way. I'm more than happy with the way that most of that time has been spent. But right now, at this moment, it just feels like it's happening so fast.

   Maybe that'll pass. Maybe it won't. Maybe I'll blink a few more times and be 76. Time appears to pass without any notice of my perceptions or preferences. But I notice time. And tonight I can't seem to notice much else.

Monday, April 30, 2012


   The city of Chicago plants thousands upon thousands of tulips throughout downtown every year. It's one of the many signs that winter is fading away, and that summer is around the corner. I've never actually seen anybody planting them though. They always seem to simply appear. One day the downtown sidewalks and medians are bare, and the next day they are singing with color.

   In those early days of spring, when all of the flowers are new, it seems as though they could never grow old. They're bright and beautiful. They stand tall and proud. And they seem as if they'll be that way forever. There is no sign of fading colors. No limp stems. No fallen petals. Just pretty flowers. And for a moment, it just seems so simple.

Friday, April 27, 2012


"I always work out of uncertainty. But when a painting's finished, it becomes a fixed idea, apparently a final statement. In time though, uncertainty returns... your thought process goes on." - Georg Baselitz

   I'm 16 days away from the Prague Marathon, and once again I am not healthy. I don't know what my injury is. I woke up last Monday with a sore left knee. By Wednesday it was worse. Swollen and painful. I had a severe limp. It was better on Thursday. Today is Friday and I think it will be manageable.

   I put ice on it and the swelling went down, but I can't rest it forever. I have to work. And I have to be on my feet in order to work. I'm going to go to the gym today. I won't run. I couldn't run if I was being chased. But I can lift. I can swim. I can do the right things to keep the rest of my body feeling good. And I can hope that this blows over. Whatever this is.

   But it is frustrating. I try to remind myself that this is a part of it. People that run long distances will usually suffer through some injuries from time to time. It's part of the package. I was lucky to make it through the first several years of marathon running without any significant injury. And now I just need to weather a few storms. Because the payoff is worth it.

   But I wonder. I wonder if this is just the beginning. I turn 38 years old this summer. And I am starting to feel like the middle-aged man that I'm becoming. I don't have health insurance. I have a job that requires me to have healthy legs. Perhaps this is a warning sign. Maybe I should be "slowing down". Whatever that means. Maybe changing direction is a better way of putting it.

    I don't know. I don't know what to think right now. And I probably won't have it figured out before I finish my morning coffee and this blog post. But I probably should be giving more time to these thoughts. Honest and constructive time.

   So I'm 16 days away from the Prague Marathon. I am also nine days away from a three week vacation in central Europe. So my life is still pretty good, and that's worth remembering. I'll get a lot of time to myself. A lot of time to spend on (hopefully) long walks. Time in beer gardens and sidewalk cafes. Time in art museums and old castles. Time picking through fruit stalls. Time to meet some new friends. Time to catch up with an old friend. And with a little luck, some time to clear my head and sort some of these thoughts out.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roller Coasters & Do-Overs

   The ankle feels good. I'm finally on the mend. The ankle hurts. I can't run. This sucks. It's been months. I'm never going to run hard again. It feels pretty good. A little sore. But if I take it easy, I can enjoy the run. New shoes. Limited soreness. Ready for the next marathon. Just have to slow the pace. Damn it. I'm never going to be healthy again. I'm just old. 37 years old. Isn't that the time when even Hall of Fame caliber, professional athletes start to hang it up? I'm not a pro, and I'm not hanging it up. People twice my age run marathons. This just won't be my fastest marathon. That was a great run! I felt amazing. Why can't this be my fastest marathon? Get to work! Slow it down. Not 100% yet.

   And the beat goes on.

   I think that this is one of those times when people tend to say that The Truth is "somewhere in the middle". Perhaps what that means is that there is some truth to all of what was said.

   I could indeed hang it up. But that would mean that all of this running that I've done meant nothing. It would mean that I've learned nothing. And it would mean giving up on something that I genuinely love. So that's not much of an option.

   And getting faster? Faster than I've been in the past? Perhaps an option. The human body is capable of incredible things. Especially when the mind is its' ally rather than its' adversary. I could dedicate myself anew. Lock into a strengthening program that would build me up fast. I have had some good strong runs lately. So my ankle can hold up. But even if I set aside the obstacles/excuses of work obligations and a social life, I can't honestly say that I want to put in that kind of work right now. 

   Which brings me back to slowing it down. Which perhaps isn't the right way of putting it. I've all but ground to a halt in the past few months. So any honest marathon preparation will involve more running and cross-training than I've been doing as of late. But the race itself? That will be run at a different pace, and with a different mindset, than that with which I've grown comfortable. And it does feel like slowing down. It does feel like a step back.

   Which brings me to another one of those things that people tend to say: "I wish I could do it all over again." That, of course, doesn't happen. We don't get to go back. But we do sometimes find ourselves in situations that are similar to others that we've experienced in the past. Experiences that ended with the dreaded "shoulda, coulda, woulda".

   So here I am again. Looking at a race that I know won't be my fastest. This realization came to me once during a marathon. And I fought that truth, when I could have embraced it. In the process, I soured what could have been a wonderful experience. I cheated myself out of something great, simply because it wasn't exactly the great thing that I had told myself that I wanted. And I was in this situation on another occasion too. I told myself well before that race, that it wouldn't be my fastest. That I would take it easy. And I took it too easy. I didn't train properly, and by the second half of the race I was miserable.

    So I'm sitting here now with the closest thing to a "do-over" that I'll get. With the opportunity to find The Truth in the middle. I have 62 days left until the Prague Marathon. This will not be my fastest marathon. And it doesn't have to be my slowest. But time isn't the issue anyway. The process is what's important. Honest hard work and preparation, inspired by a love of running, is what's important. An appreciation for the opportunity to run through Prague is important. Finding rhythm and balance. That is important.

   The roller coaster isn't in my ankle. It's in my head. It's in the way that I've chosen to view my injury. Time to get off of the ride, pull my laces tight, and run down the middle of this race course.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Net Positive Impact

   Last week, I asked a friend about his decision to become a vegetarian. I understand that there are numerous reasons that one might make that switch, e.g., personal health, environmental concerns, animal cruelty concerns, and so on. But I nonetheless find myself asking people about their own reasons, mostly out of an interest in what it says about them as a person. And my friend didn't disappoint.

   He talked about a few specific experiences, in which one event or another got his wheels headed down a particular road of thought. And the conclusion that he settled on was this: When his time here on earth is done, he'd like to feel like he's made a Net Positive Impact. It's a noble goal. And one that is worthy of honest consideration by all of us.

   Now this seems simple enough at first glance. Live a compassionate life. Be good to people. Help them when you can. Avoid being hurtful and selfish as much as you can. And there you have a formula for making a Net Positive Impact. But any thinking person living in the Western World should be able to figure out that things are not so simple, because our impact goes far beyond our immediate environment.

   The computer that I'm typing on right now was no doubt assembled by a handful of very poor workers in a very poor country, working under very poor conditions. And the same can be said for the clothes that I'm wearing and the food that I just ate. Those workers, and millions more like them, will never have the opportunity to receive fair financial compensation for their toil. And as a consumer, I bear a chunk of the responsibility for that arrangement. I also consume vast amounts of fossil fuels, the demand for which spills the blood of countless innocents around the world. I fill up landfills with my trash. I waste water and electricity. I accept a government that deploys its' military and economic power around the world in ways that I can rarely agree with. And in spite of my awareness of the aforementioned perils of mass meat consumption, I do still consume a lot of meat.

   And no matter how much I try to remain conscious of the "compassionate life" formula, I can't possibly recognize the indirect, though quite tangible, role that my existence plays in the world, and still convince myself that I am making a Net Positive Impact. I can not look at the quantifiable contributions that I make to the world and stack them up against the things that I take and the damage that I cause, and pretend for a moment that I tip the scales in the right direction.

   Which leaves me with the question: What can I do? I believe that I can still remain conscious of the "compassionate life" formula. While less tangible than many of my actions, I remain confident in the importance of simply being good for yourself and those around you. But what about more concrete efforts?

   I live a comfortable life. By virtue of simply being born on the right patch of dirt at the right time in history, I am afforded luxuries that most people, both at present and historically, could never even dream of. I'm not wealthy by the standards of most Americans. I work in a bar, not a bank. But my income is still far greater than that of most of the world's population. And thanks to modern technology, my resources are far greater than those of even the most wealthy people of years past.

   But how much of that am I willing to forgo, and what impact will those concessions make? I could stop eating meat, like my friend. But I probably won't. More likely, I'll commit to only eating meat that is raised organically and locally, and perhaps limit my consumption to a set number of meals per week or month. What about fossil fuels? I don't own a car, but I love to travel and I fly often. I fly thousands of miles every year. Could I give that up? Should I give that up? Those flights often land me in countries that are eager for my American money. I don't delude myself that my meager tourist dollars will make any lasting impact on those that receive them, but if they put a couple of meals on a table that might otherwise be bare, isn't that a move in the right direction? Or is it not? Does that simply continue a cycle of dependency? What about my food and clothing? I can afford to buy Fair Trade food. I could even balance that cost by purchasing used clothing, and thereby kill two birds with one stone. And I could easily trim my use of water and electricity. And the vacations? What if I cut out one trip per year, and donated that money to organizations like Oxfam, Doctors Without Borders, or 826?

   But even if I do all of those things and more, I honestly don't know that I can function in modern American society without taking more than I'm giving. But I do know that I should try. And I also know that I want my efforts to be thoughtful and honest, so I'm not going to commit to any specific changes right here in this space, at this time. But I will commit to the task of taking stock of my behavior patterns. I will consider what I can concede, and what more I can contribute. I will continue to give more honest consideration to the idea of my net impact on the world in which I live.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Help From Outside

"You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way." - Marvin Minsky

   Run head first into the wall. Bang your head against it a couple more times for good measure. And repeat.

   I spent a pretty good chunk of this past Tuesday afternoon doing that. I had a partner. Or perhaps I was her partner. Either way, the wall came in the form of fourth grade math. And we never did break through it. Nor did we wise up and look for another route.

   Fractions and decimals. 3/4 = .75. That kinda thing. I couldn't get it to stick to her. I tried the usual analogies. I pulled coins from my backpack. Showed her some of the ways in which she already converts numbers from one form to another on a daily basis. But she wasn't having it. And as time wore on, she even seemed to regress. Not only was she failing to learn the new stuff, but she was suddenly incapable of doing the more simple work that she'd done just fine with only moments before. Arms folded. Lips pursed. Eyes stared off into eternity. The verdict was in. She had reached her zenith, and there was nowhere to go but down.

   Of course that probably wasn't her zenith. Her next tutor probably found a better way to explain it to her. And she is probably on her way to new challenges in arithmetic as I write this. Or perhaps that was it. Perhaps she's smoking her first cigarette right now. Setting in motion a series of bad decisions that will culminate in a life full of hardship and bad math skills. But regardless of her path, my mistake remains the same. I didn't find another approach.

   It's not that I didn't consider the need for another approach. I did. But I wasn't coming up with anything useful on my own, and I didn't ask for help. There was plenty of help to be had. I was in a room with more than a dozen other tutors. There was another tutor three feet away from me. Hell, I could have even asked an older student. Somebody that had just learned this stuff as recently as last year. But I didn't. I just beat my head against the wall. I acted as though I too had reached my zenith. I acted as though I had nothing more to learn from anybody else. That student and I were two peas in a pod.

   The next morning, I went for a run along Lake Michigan with my friend Ryan. It was sunny and unseasonably warm. We ran at an easy pace. We talked about basketball. We talked about running. And we talked about running injuries.

   I still haven't fully recovered from an ankle injury that I suffered over five months ago. I've tried a few things. I've tried rest. I've tried light running. I've ditched old shoes. I've done some ankle exercises. And then I've repeated those same things. Over and over.

   As we ran, we dodged the holes and ruts that winter weather had worn into the lakefront path, and Ryan occasionally dropped behind me when the path grew narrow. That vantage point offers a view of a runner's form that they're unable to get on their own. From behind, you can see how a runner's feet hit the ground. And if you get just a little to the side, you can gauge their stride and posture. Ryan is a running coach, and naturally engaging and personable, so it made sense that as he dropped behind me while I talked about my injury, that he'd take a moment to assess my form and offer his thoughts.

   He had several things to point out about my form. And he offered a number of suggestions as to how I might make some changes or improvements that might keep me healthy, and perhaps even make me a faster and more efficient runner.

   I took his advice. I started working with his ideas during that run. And yesterday, I got on a treadmill by myself and focused on a couple of specific points that seem to need some work. And while that didn't lead to any immediate miracle cure, it did seem to help quite a bit. I found myself running with a level of physical comfort that I hadn't had in a while. And with that comfort came some hope and optimism that has also been in short supply as of late.

   But there was also a sense of frustration. For months, I've been beating my head against the wall. Fighting this injury with the same failed tactics. Over and over. Folding my arms. Pursing my lips. Staring into eternity. And choosing to ignore all of the help that is readily available for me. Choosing to go at it alone, rather than acknowledge that somebody else can offer a perspective that I'm not seeing on my own.

   This pattern isn't a new one. It's one that I've struggled with for as long as I can remember. And I know that there is not going to be any instant and immediate change in that regard.  I won't walk away from this keyboard and make a dramatic and permanent change in the way that I deal with adversity. And my ankle won't instantly heal, simply because I tried something new. And that student won't magically let go of her frustrations and begin soaking up every lesson thrown her way.

   But I can chip away at it. A moment of humility here. An awkward and embarrassing question there. I can let my guard down from time to time. And hopefully, eventually, come to the conclusion that I never needed to have it up in the first place.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Backward and Forward and Right Here and Now

   I haven't had this much down time since I started running almost four years ago. I had an easy summer, and that was planned. But since September, the down time has been due to a nagging ankle injury. The ankle feels like it's working its' way to being fully healed now, but it's been a slow process. And in the meantime, I've let myself fall out of shape. I could have done more to stay in shape, while my ankle was healing, but I didn't. That's done now though, and it's time to look forward.

   I've got fifteen weeks to get myself ready for my next marathon. It's unlikely that I'll PR. Aside from the gap between where I am right now physically and where I'd need to be to PR, I'm also aware that coming back too fast and hard can aggravate the old injury or cause a new one, and land me right back on my butt. So I'm going to ease myself back. Which means a new approach for me.

   I've never trained for a marathon, without the idea that I'd try to PR. And to my surprise, I'm actually liking the feel of this new vantage point. I got my first glimpse of what that might be like a couple of months ago, albeit under significantly different circumstances.

   I went to Memphis for what I initially thought would be a full marathon. But as the injury lingered, I realized that running 26.2 miles probably wasn't going to be a good idea. My ankle was still hurting, and I had been severely limited in my training runs. So I decided to run the half marathon instead, and then get back out to the course to find my girlfriend, Abby, who was running her first full marathon, and cheer her on and take some pictures.

   I was frustrated in the weeks leading up to that race. I'd signed up for the full marathon, and it was hard to swallow the idea that I was going to settle for the half. I knew that it was the best thing for me, but it felt like quitting, and I couldn't get rid of the sour taste in my mouth.

   The morning of the race, my ankle was particularly sore, and in my mind I was questioning whether I should even run the half. I started with Abby. We ran together for about a mile. It was a great morning to run. The air was cool and crisp. Abby was excited, and I was excited for her. But after the first mile, as my ankle pain persisted, I told her that I was going to drop out. I wished her well, and cut my way to the side of the road.

   I sat there for a brief moment. Feeling sorry for myself. Feeling frustrated. And then I took off my left shoe and looked at my ankle. It was stiff and sore, but there was no visible swelling. I could run. I couldn't run fast. And I shouldn't run 26.2 miles. But I could do 13.1 miles at an easy pace. I was in a city that was new to me, and I was dying to run through it. So with the thought of looking at the morning as an opportunity to see Memphis and enjoy an easy run, rather than as a race that wouldn't be what I'd originally hoped, I laced my shoes back up and got back on the course.

   I was immediately happy with the decision. I found a pace that I was comfortable with, and I settled in and soaked up my surroundings. We ran along the Mississippi River, and I watched the runners around me. I was on the back end of the pack, and there was a different feel back there. There were more people running with partners, whether friends or lovers. People talked with each other. Some were running the half, others the full, but all had settled in for a long morning run. The urgency and intensity that dominates the front end was harder to find in the back, at least during the early miles.

   I spotted Abby somewhere between the 3 and 4 mile marks. I watched her from behind as she smiled and laughed and interacted with runners and spectators alike. She looked like she was having the time of her life, and I was tempted to hang back and watch her all morning. But I made my way through the crowd and ran up to her side instead. She squealed and I smiled, but I didn't stick around. I had found a rhythm, and I wanted to hold it. I just told her that I needed to go ahead, and she nodded and smiled and told me to get going.

    As I ran, I took in the people and the places that I passed. I talked with a woman that had a shirt from a 5k that takes place in my Chicago neighborhood every October. I read the stories of inspiration that people had written on their shirts. I looked at the pictures of children from St. Jude's Children's Hospital, which the race was benefiting. I ran through the Memphis Zoo. I stopped for a quick half-beer with some merry spectators. And I remembered the joy that comes from simply running for pleasure. Something that I'd allowed myself to forget while fighting through my injury.

   Eventually the fork in the road did come. The half marathon course and the full marathon course parted ways, and my pride did feel a sharp stab as I made the turn for the former. But I quickly sat that aside, as I grabbed my bag and went to find Abby.

   I found her quickly and easily, and she was much the same as I'd left her. Smiling and laughing. In the moment. Taking in everything that was there for her. And I smiled as I aimed the camera, and waved to her. When she got to me jumped at me and hugged me hard, and as good as that felt I urged her to go. I wanted her to save that energy, because I knew that there were tougher miles ahead.

   But in hindsight, she was aware of something that I was missing. She knew that she needed to pace herself. She was running responsibly. But she was mostly present in that moment. She wasn't trying to run a race that wasn't there. She wasn't thinking about what could be and what might be and what wasn't. She was there. She was loving her run. And she wanted a hug, so she hugged me.

   And as I gear up for the Prague Marathon, I'm going to try to keep that lesson close. I'm going to map out a training program, and when the time comes, I'll set some general guidelines for my approach to the race itself. But I'm also going to run for fun. I'm going to run because I love to run. I'm going to run at whatever pace feels right at the time. And I'm going remember to forget the big picture every now and then. So that I don't miss all of the little pictures that the big one is made of.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Project

"If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience another life... run a marathon." - Emil Zatopek

"The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it." - Jules Renard

Perry Coons (My Dad) - Four Marathons
   As I've plunged into the world of marathons, I've met and talked with innumerable runners and marathoners. Runners with a vast array of histories, abilities, and motivations. Runners that have gone far beyond what they initially believed themselves capable of. Runners that have worked their tail off and still come up short of their goals. Runners that run to compete. Runners that run to prove to themselves that they can. Runners that run for sheer joy. I've experienced the incredible feeling of camaraderie that permeates the running world. And, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it's one of the most amazing things I've ever come across.

   I also love to write. Though most of the writing that I've done over the years has centered around my own thoughts and feelings. But as running has helped me look at others with a fresh set of eyes, the idea of writing about other runners began to seem like the most natural thing in the world.

   So far, I've talked with people that I know. I've tried to get their stories, while learning what questions to ask, how to listen to the responses, and how to best record and then write out those thoughts and experiences. But the list of runners that I'm going to talk with is now expanding well beyond my immediate circle of friends and acquaintances. This project is already going in directions that I hadn't anticipated. And I'm incredibly hopeful and excited about the possibilities.

   I'm going to focus on marathons, because I believe that particular aspect of running culture is uniquely suited to expressing the more personal elements of athletic competition. Marathons require a great deal of time, effort, and sacrifice. And they are therefor inherently personal experiences. But running a marathon is also something that is within reach for most people. It simply requires an honest commitment to see the task through. Whether you're a 65 year old mother of four, and you finish in six hours. Or perhaps you're a 30 year old veteran runner that is trying to break the three hour mark. The core experience is quite similar. You set a high goal for yourself. Something that you know will be difficult. Something that seems intimidating and gives you reason to doubt. Then you chip away at that fear and doubt one step at a time. One run at a time. 

Abby Smith (My Girlfriend) - One Marathon
   My goal is to find those stories, in all of their beautiful diversity, and tell them as well as I can. I don't know what form the final product will take. I just want to be open to whatever people give me. And I want to present those stories with an honesty that does justice to the effort that the runners have given.

   I'm estimating that this project will take the better part of this year. I'm going to talk to people about past marathons, future goals, and any training that they're doing at the moment. I'm hoping to learn what drives each runner. What first prompted them to run a marathon. What keeps them going. What obstacles they've faced. What reflections they have to offer. Most importantly, I'm hoping to discover what their marathon experience has to say about them as a person. I want to know what it has taught them about themselves, and how it has changed them. And I'm hoping to find a way to convey those things through words.

   If you're reading this, and you would like to contribute, or you know somebody that might like to contribute, just let me know. I can't collect too many stories, and I would love to hear yours.

Chris -

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


   My big brother, Kevin, was born forty-one years ago today. He passed away nearly twenty years ago. I've thought about him often over the course of those two decades. I've thought about who he was, and the impact that he had, and continues to have, on those who knew him. I've thought about the time that I spent with him, and I've thought about the times that I missed out on his company, even though it was right there waiting for me.

   I was eighteen years old when he died. At that point in my life, I didn't have a healthy appreciation for the impermanence of everything and everybody around me. I didn't have an appreciation for my own impermanence. So I took people for granted. I took time for granted. But in a sense, that also helped me get the most out of some of the experiences that I did have with him.

   During childhood and adolescence, I was totally caught up in the immediacy of whatever thoughts and feelings I was experiencing at any given moment. I wasn't concerned with the "big picture" of life. Life was what was going on right then and there. And that helped me see Kevin in ways that I'm not sure I'd have been able to see him, had I known him as an adult. Had I seen him in the context of our mutual mortality, I might have missed some of the more subtle, and most valuable, experiences that we shared.

   Kevin was born with cerebral palsy. He wasn't expected to live long enough to leave the hospital. But he not only left the hospital, he lived another twenty-one years. And to this day I can't say that I've known a happier person.

   Outside of the house, Kevin was usually in a wheelchair. That wheelchair took him to school and church. It took him to Easter Seals Camp and to the park. And when he went to those places he infected everybody around him with his smile and with his voice. He sang loud and often, regardless of where he was. Propriety was never a concern of his. But at home, he was rarely in the wheelchair. At home, he was usually on a thin mat or beach towel, on the floor.

   I remember laying down next to him on innumerable occasions. Sometimes we'd be the only two people in the room. A television or radio might be on, but we were otherwise alone. And I'd lay on the floor with him. Two little boys. Two brothers. And I'd look at him, and he'd look back. But he looked back in a way that nobody else did. He looked at me in a way that nobody else did. It seemed like he was completely free of any consideration of himself. He just soaked up my every movement. Every facial expression, every word spoken, every inflection in my voice. It felt like all of that was being taken in. And in turn I looked at him differently. He wasn't like everybody else. He seemed to be more. When I think about those moments now, I can't help but wonder. I wonder if I can find that place that he was in.  

      The father of three of my cousins passed away yesterday. And on that topic, my cousin Katrina posted this on her Facebook page this morning: "My Dad lost his battle with Pancreatic Cancer yesterday. Everyone keeps asking how I'm doing... Here's what I want to share; I'm okay. I was so blessed to get to spend time with him just last week. While the battle was long and full of highs and lows... It allowed me extra time to pay closer attention to things like, the way his beard felt when he kissed me on the cheek, Or the expression on his face when he told a story that he wanted to get just right. I'm thankful for the time I got to spend and that I was able to have a few more memories to cherish."

   I read those words, and it reminded me of Kevin. It reminded me of those days from my childhood when I could recognize his ability to see other people. To see them without a filter. To see them with curiosity and compassion, rather than with judgement or frustration. To see them without his outward vision being tethered to his vision of himself.

   And I've spent most of today with those thoughts. Thoughts of others and how I relate to them. Thoughts that are at times fragmented and uneasy. And at other times warm and reassuring. And I haven't come to any grand conclusions. I've had no epiphany. I'm just sitting here in front of my computer. Drinking too much coffee. As lost as ever. Trying to make sense of a world and a life that seems so overwhelming at times. But grateful nonetheless, for those fleeting moments of clarity that I receive from others, during those brief moments that I'm able to see what is right in front of me.

Happy Birthday Kevin.