It’s easy to get complacent and lose sight of the luster, the shine.

I’m joining the (13) Mile-High Club again next week.

I’ll be running the Vancouver Half-Marathon (21 k) in 7 days and I’m worrying about:

  • my fitness levels – have I put in enough sweaty training miles to pass under the finishers’ banner in less than 2 hours (probably not)?
  • a nagging knee injury that has prevented me from doing the training I would like to do.
  • I’m waking up at night sometimes envisioning a nasty, sticky plaque in my arteries waiting to dislodge and take me down mid-race (there are far worse places to perish than in the middle of Vancouver’s Stanley Park on a sunny day).
After the 2013 Vancouver Half-Marathon (me in Red)

After the 2013 Vancouver Half-Marathon (me in red… my youngest, Emma in blue)

I don’t want to think about any of these bastard stray thoughts, but I can only control the voices so much. At least the voices aren’t telling me to kill anyone, or streak naked through my local McDonalds.

I’ve planned my life to be about as stress-free in this western world of 2014 as you can possibly get:

  • I work a 3 day work week at a lab job I enjoy with people I enjoy being around.
  • I’ve saved and invested and can afford a couple of nice vacations each year that stimulate my mind and quell my ADHD.
  • I live in an amazingly beautiful area of Canada that has mild (by Canadian standards), almost snow-free winters and warm, dry summers.
  • I have a great family life.

And I sometimes forget that it’s not like that for everyone.

Forgetting that is not good.

I also forget that it hasn’t been this way everyday for me.

Forgetting that is not good either.

I also forget that it won’t be this way every day into the future.

That is the way it should be …

… dwelling on possible future negatives is no way to live each day.

I have friends and relatives with:

  • cancer
  • joint replacements
  • pneumonia
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • elderly relatives with serious concerns
  • children with major illnesses
  • jobs they hate but feel they can’t leave

They all SUCK. Oops, let me clarify that … the concerns suck, not my friends and relatives (mostly!)

vulnerable cancer patient

I’ve rubbed shoulders with most, but not all of these worries at one point or another in my lifetime.

You might say I was paradoxically lucky because my parents died at relatively young ages. My Dad pulled through a heart attack at my age (he didn’t survive heart troubles 15 years later) and my Mom died of a heart attack just 3 years beyond my current age. This means that, like what so many of you are experiencing right now or will someday, I didn’t have to deal with care homes and dementia and all those nasty elder issues. That’s life-luck lived on a double-edged sword.

On the other hand, I wasn’t serendipitous enough to escape those same ravages with my in-laws. I spent many days, weeks, and years in a milieu of their chronic pain and dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

After I spent 10 years lifting my tiny little kids out of car seats, I spent the next 10 years lifting and pulling my not-so-tiny mother- and father-in law out of car seats because their poor bodies had seized up like the Grim Reaper’s rigor mortis had forgotten to wait until they consumed their last breath.

It was challenging for me, but it was a rat’s-hole hell for them.

My oldest sister died from a rapid and aggressive lung cancer a couple of years ago. At our summer family reunion in the mountains of Jasper, Alberta she was fine. In November, just 3 months later, we held handsful of damp Kleenex, dressed in black attire at her vigil.

I’ve said goodbye to a number of work colleagues who suffered death by cancer. For a few years my one arm was stretched longer than the other from pallbearer duties and carrying caskets too frequently. Yes, I’ve been a pallbearer more often than I’ve been a wedding usher or best man. Apparently, people trust me more after they’re gone than while they’re here.

The other day on my way to work, I met an old acquaintance, Lydia, coming in for blood tests at my lab. She has hemochromatosis (iron overload that saturates the liver and if left untended will kill). She looked pale and tired but was upbeat despite her chronic weakness.

My son had a life-threatening infectious illness at the age of 9 that struck me deeper than anything I had ever experienced. Most of my bodily energy went into producing tears through the fears. He spent the entire summer in a hospital bed on IV antibiotics before getting out just the day before school returned in September.

And then I remind myself of Leo at the gym, 90 years old this November. He looks like he could be 70, trim and fit enough that he should be running in the half marathon with me next Sunday while his wife of 65 years sits confused in a care home.

Woman in care home

If you have any of these worries hanging over you, I hope they pass soon and life doesn’t ooze melancholy into your head. It could.

Joining this party here on earth means that there will be hangovers to be suffered.

Every delicious, intoxicating drink of life that lifts our inner spirit will be met at some time by a visit to the washroom where we’ll retch and puke our guts out and wonder why we ever came to this festivity.

It strikes every one of us to varying degrees and the only difference in the long run is how we absorb, cope, and move on.

I smile inside to myself as I plan and prepare for the long morning run next Sunday alongside 10,000 others.

Surrounded by healthy, fit people, I’ll glance out across the Vancouver harbour towards the majestic white-shrouded North Shore mountains and the stunning, crystal blue sky. I’ll deeply inhale the cool, fresh, cedar-scented air rushing by while my feet swoosh-swoosh-swoosh over the long stretch of asphalt.

I’ll run. I’ll think. I’ll remember.

  • I could have cancer or diabetes or another chronic illness.
  • I could have family members needing intensive daily care and attention.
  • I could have a son in jail for rape and a daughter in detention for prostitution.
  • I could have been born a Jew in Germany in 1935.
  • I could earn my livelihood pumping out putrid smelling offal from the backdoor of a slaughterhouse.

I’ll run. I’ll think. I’ll remember.

My runner’s high can be supplemented by gratitude and knowledge of the good things that run like rushing rivers through our lives. The laughter, the smiles, the vistas, the sweet tastes and succulent smells.

In those times we need to stay awake and hydrate ourselves in the gush of refreshing water.

I’ll run. I’ll think. I’ll remember. 

I get to run a half marathon, and I’m a lucky guy.

Now there's a RUNNER's HIGH ...

Now there is a RUNNER’s HIGH …

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