Dealing With Failure (Or Not)

If you haven’t surmised from my Spacebook, Twitspace, or Instagram (sorry no cute name for this one) I fancy myself quite the runner. I’m far from the ranks of the elites. If they are the crust of the Earth, I am near the molten core in terms of proximity. The one thing I can do is pack on the distance. It’s been a slow build through the years, but it’s one of the things I can point to and say, “See, I’m a runner, look at the numbers.” Why do I need to point and say I am? Well, it probably has a lot to do with the fact that I still suffer from imposter syndrome when it comes to running, among other things. One thing that has helped curb this feeling is running marathons.

When I ran my first marathon in 2015, it was watershed moment and the culmination of my efforts as well as a solidification into the runner class. Having that medal around my neck made me feel powerful (while the rest of my body was crying out in agony). Once I ran that I knew I caught the bug. This would not be a one-time deal. The next year I decided to up my ambition and try for the Chicago Marathon. This was a far bigger event than the Indy one I had ran the year prior. It was a lottery system, so I was not guaranteed entry. Due to this I signed up for the Indy Monumental Marathon as a backup. As luck would have it I was admitted to Chicago. Great! But I had paid for Indy already! I mean, I ran one last year. What’s one more? They were a month a part, plenty of time for recovery (I also had a half between them, but that wasn’t another full, not a problem). Long story long, I ran them both, and myriad other races I had signed up for. I felt like a fully-fledged member of the running fraternity. Marathons were old-hat!

Fast-forward to this year. I wanted to up my game even more. I got an auto-entry into Chicago this time around because I finished the previous year, so I decided to sign up for that again because I enjoyed it so much. I also signed up for the NYC Marathon, with the same restrictions as Chicago, lottery system. I went drinking with a buddy of mine and he mentioned he would like to do a marathon someday. I still maintain that anyone can do a marathon (barring extreme physical impairments) all it takes it lots of time and miles. Maybe it was the alcohol that convinced him, or maybe it was my silver tongue (in no uncertain terms was it my silver tongue), but he decided he would run one this year. I couldn’t run Indy and NYC because they were only a day apart, but I said I would totally run Indy with him if I didn’t get into NYC. Sadly, I did not get admitted to NYC. So, I signed up to do Indy as well this year. Indy is next week. This is where this post is going to take a bit of a turn.

In the timeline of this story, Indy is next week, which also means that Chicago has already happened, or in my case, didn’t. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I went. I trekked up to the windy apple, fought terrible traffic and inadequate signage, grabbed my packet from McCormick Place, and even inconvenienced an old friend to let me stay with them. On top of that, I went to bed early, did not overeat the night before, got up early got all my gear and preparations done, and got to the race with hours to spare. Everything was moving like clockwork. When we started the race, I was feeling strong. I was going at a great clip. THIS WAS A SUCCESS STORY IN THE MAKING. Well, if I haven’t set you up for this to fall off a cliff, then here it goes, around mile 7 my stomach started to disagree that this was going to be a day to celebrate. It was just a little something at first. However, it started to grow. It felt nauseated. I was eyeing every trashcan along the throngs of cheering supporters. I stopped at a med tent and asked if they had anything for stomachs. Nope, just Tylenol. I decided to keep going. I play with pain. It was not subsiding. I stopped and tried to throw up, but couldn’t get anything to happen. Still, I had come all this way, had to keep going. Around mile 10 I hit another med tent, and thought maybe I was dehydrated or something, so they looked me over and gave me some Gatorade. I rested for a few minutes, and went back out. It only got worse. It felt like there was just a rock in my stomach – immovable. At mile 13, I stopped and got checked over by a doc. I asked what she thought I should do, “Well, you can keep going, but you will probably dehydrate yourself.” I could call it quits, be taken back to the starting line and chalk it up to bad luck. I could continue, and perhaps injure myself even more. This was Sophie’s Choice. I don’t mean to overstate the impact of this decision, but only to show the weight of it on me personally. I really wrestled with it. The decision had been tumbling around in the back of my head since mile 8. I ended up calling it.

I felt a crushing sense of shame while walking to the bus to take me back. The first text I sent about it was incredibly hard to press send on. If any of you know me personally, I’m not really a crier. I have nothing against it. I don’t think it’s emasculating, and I think it’s a pretty healthy thing for humans to do if they feel the need. Even so, I rarely cry. Well, I was on that bus choking back tears. I can blame it on any number of things, but the truth is, I didn’t finish. I carry that around with me. In the grand scheme of everything, it is the most trivial problem to have, but it still sits with me. It doesn’t help, that I’ve had to tell the story of this to countless relatives and others who have asked about it (just got asked about it yesterday as of this post). I don’t fault them at all either, they are taking an interest in what I do. How nice of them! I want to say that my friends, family, and loved ones were and have been just the most supportive about this, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

So, I have this glaring failure just following me around. How do I come to terms with it? I certainly have no idea. If I had misled you, I apologize, I tried to give it away in the title. I can tell you how I’ve dealt with failure in the past though. I’ve used it as a motivator to ensure a different outcome in the future. That’s where I’m at. I have Indy in a week. I have to complete it. I’m nervous. I’m extraordinarily nervous. I have a lot riding on this, mentally. I’ve run a half marathon between Chicago and now, and my stomach caused no issues. These are good signs. I am treating this as a comeback. All I can say, wish me and my cohorts luck next week. I will report back with how it went.

I’ve been in the quote mood, so I will depart this post with the mantra I kept repeating when I ran my first marathon.

“The best way out is always through.”
― Robert Frost

P.S. I am not a psychiatrist and do not advocate dealing with any issues you may have in this manner. Truth be told, this is probably a really bad way to go about it.

Hooch-a-whirl

Some friends and I went to see Alton Brown live for Tim’s (Tim of Tim and Matt Play fame) birthday. During the show Alton had these comically large wheels for selecting three constituent parts of a cocktail. These were the base, the base spirit, the secondary spirit, and a finisher. Think of a Manhattan (my personal favorite) – Rye whiskey (base), sweet vermouth (secondary spirit), Angostura bitters (finisher). This is supposedly the definition for a successful cocktail. Tim constructed the wheel, and we decided to put that to the test. The results were, let’s say, varied. One of the best parts were just naming them. Anyway, in short, 8/10 would suffer through again.

A republic, if you can keep it.

“Well, Doctor, what have we got—a Republic or a Monarchy?”

“A Republic, if you can keep it.”

This quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin — who knows if it’s apocryphal or not. I never gave it much thought until recently. Someone gave it as a toast at a cook-out I was at recently and it kind of stuck a chord.

Here’s the thing, this past year, I’ve become a little political. OK, OK, a lot political. I never really intended to, but my conscience kind of thrust it upon me. The 2016 election had a profound effect on me, in ways I didn’t fully anticipate. After everything, the vitriol, the sexual harassment tape, the racial dog whistles, the lack of constitutional and governmental experience and knowledge, after all that he still won. I suppose I was naïve in thinking that there wasn’t a contingent of people who would ignore all that and still pull the lever for him. I never believed there was 0% chance he could be elected, but I still thought we’d all come through and keep this man out of the oval. Well, dear reader, I’m not sure if you have been around the last 10 months, but indeed that is not the case.

The day after Donald Trump was proclaimed victor, I felt sick. I’m sure many of you can commiserate. But beyond the physiological manifestations, I felt powerless. Powerless to affect the future. In my life, I’ve felt existential dread about what comes next. I had real trouble with college, and there were times when I felt the walls closing in on me with what my future would look like. I still have dreams where I am told I didn’t have the requisite classes and credits to graduate and they rescind my diploma. These, however, were circumstances of my own making. Those outcomes were about me not spending enough time focusing on school work. This, this was a different feeling. This felt like I didn’t have a positive future, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. There was no strict schedule to which I could adhere, or amount of time I could spend in an isolated corner of a library that would affect the outcomes.

For weeks afterward, I put myself on total media blackout, social or otherwise, because I was, frankly, scared of what I’d read. Those weeks were hazy. This is quite hackneyed, but while nothing had really changed, everything seemed different.

The media blackout only lasted so long, and the pendulum swung the other way. I became glued to the news. I remember I would feverishly refresh the Washington Post, New York Times, and CNN websites for any news that came out. It was destructive. I knew it was destructive, and I knew I couldn’t stop. The more I read the same reports regurgitated five different ways, the more frenzied I would become. I know my friends and family noticed.

There was a day that switched perspective for me though. I remember it because it was just a great day. One of those days that stick in your mind. I mentally told myself to take a note, try to store it away for days to follow.
It was a confluence of several awesome things. My friend Katie wanted to film a movie for her husband’s birthday present, a parody of the Drunk History series, but applied to the life of her husband, Joe. She asked for my help and I agreed. I love making movies. It goes back to my high school days. There is something about the process that just hits me in all the right places. Maybe it’s the goofing around with friends in front of a camera, maybe it’s turning the chaos of the raw footage and forging it into something cohesive. I’m sure it’s all of it, but before I go off and wax nostalgic about my high school movie days, let’s get back to the focus of this post. On top of filming, that day also happened to have unseasonably warm weather. Here is the kicker, and really what matters in the context of this post, that day was the Women’s March. I saw all these women, all these people, come out in droves to protest. I saw local protestors gathering, I saw the aerial shots on Twitter and Facebook. It was just this crazy force. The march wasn’t specifically about the current administration, there was, however, some focus on it. It was really a sight to witness. I remember feeling something I hadn’t before, a sense of comradery; maybe we could really do something about this mess.

We grow up being taught history about the hows and whys of collapsing societies. We learn about the burning of Rome and the rise of Nazi Germany. We are taught this, ostensibly, so we can learn the lessons, and not repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. Our film, television, and comic book heroes are all imbued with a sense of doing what’s right despite its unpopularity. Heck, even many religions have core tenants that teach these morals. Despite all this though, it’s hard to recognize when these apply and even harder to act. Well, the people that marched that day showed me I needed to act.

The next step however was how, exactly, to act. I had no clue. I started thinking what I could do alone, came up with some ideas, and even consulted with some of my more politically savvy friends. I quickly came to the conclusion that doing this alone was, frankly, arrogant, and not going to work. I did see some murmurings of a Science March that might be being organized in DC. Being a man of science and having been inspired by a march, well it was a match made in heaven. I was going to go to DC and march. Once the details got hammered out, I got my friend Jeff in on it, and we would be on our way to DC on Earth day. This was my first toe dip into the world of activism. I was jazzed.

I was sitting here with this new energy, and a little courage, and nothing to do with it. I started looking around for local groups doing stuff. There were a few groups that popped up in my research. I saw the ACLU doing a lot, at least on social media. Raising funds, and fighting some of the policies already being implemented by the Trump Administration. They had an event to kick off their People Power campaign. I signed up to go, but I waffled about it quite a bit. I knew no one going, wasn’t sure what to expect, and was pretty anxious about the whole ordeal. I did finally decide to go, and it while the event wasn’t much more than a live stream and a little more information about the ACLU, it was great to see these other people there. People who never really had done political stuff before, but felt compelled to seek it out under the circumstances.

The other group that came on my radar was something called Indivisible. It wasn’t really a group at the time, it was just this guide. It was written by ex-congressional staffers for ways to contact and pressure your representative to, you know, represent you. This being another way to say, do their jobs. It was practical advice; actionable items, instead of aspirational thoughts. I had joined the local Indivisible group on Facebook, which I found through the national organization’s website. There happened to be a meeting the next day and having survived the ACLU encounter, I decided to attend.

That was the second turning point. It wasn’t a lot of people, but it was more than I had envisioned. It was really a bunch of serving tables in an empty room in a library, but it was the people that made it. People who came from various backgrounds, and age ranges. These were people who didn’t like what was going on and wanted to do something about it. It was awesome. I found it. I found the group I was looking for.

Honestly, things kind of snowballed from there. It’s hard to say when things really took off, because in a lot of ways it still feels like we are getting our stuff together, but we have all come so far from that room I first attended a meeting in.

We’ve helped in the defeat of the dismantling of our healthcare system. We’ve held protests. We’ve attended street fairs. We’ve registered voters. We’ve recruited new members. We’ve incorporated. We’ve even got T-Shirts!

Personally, I’ve learned so much about local politics, government, and just how much people actually do influence these. I hope to learn much more going forward.

To see how much people do care, is truly inspiring. People who take time out of their already busy lives to contribute to a better country, a better society, and a better world. It is what gives me hope.

I’ve glossed over a lot of the details the formation of what is now Greater Lafayette Indivisible because that story is still being told. I hope I can come back later and fill in the rest of the tale.

I said earlier that after the election I felt powerless, that I felt like I didn’t have any control over what would happen next. Greater Lafayette Indivisible has given me back a sense of control over that. For that I will be forever grateful. I can’t predict the future, and it might all be for naught, but it’s hard to see that happening seeing the dedication of the people around me.

I started with a quote so I’ll exit with one, too.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke

I’m done doing nothing.