Mother’s Day hurts — not because my mom is dead, but because she’s living with a rare form of dementia known as CADASIL. It’s unsettling to have this stranger in my life who sort of looks like my mom, who shares some common memories with my mom, but clearly isn’t my mom. All the fight’s gone out of her — this kindly old lady with a vacant smile didn’t raise the stubborn, defiant son that I am. And yet, when we clashed, as mothers and sons sometimes do, it’s because we were so alike. I’m left to wonder: Is that vacant smile my future?
She sometimes calls me “Brian”, or “B.J.” (my childhood nickname), but also “Roger” (my father) and “Jeff” (her brother). Last fall when I went home, she tugged on my beard and said, “This is new.” She said the same thing the year before that, but the beard wasn’t new then, either. And so, sadly, I find myself pulling back, pushing away, protecting myself. I sometimes talk about “Vicki” instead of “my mom”. On the bad days, I wonder if that’s a conscious decision, or the first step towards my own dementia. This is how my brain is wired.
Happy Mother’s Day, Vicki. (I miss you, Mom.)
Following-up on yesterday’s post —
The alarm sounds this morning at 3am. I’m blinded by the screen of my wife’s smartphone. It’s officially 3:01 before I figure-out how to silence it. Feet on the floor at 3:02. Bathroom and back by 3:04. Dressed and headed down the stairs by 3:10. Hat on, yurbuds® in, pound a strawberry Atkins™ shake, and I’m out the door — yes, with a small asterisk on whatever happens next because I used an alarm instead of somehow willing myself awake at the exact moment I want to rise. Get over yourself. I walk the quarter-mile to “my trench” — the one-mile stretch of Harris Drive where the bulk of my miles happen — and ease into what becomes the 12 miles I seek. My thoughts bounce from fear to power to control before settling upon strength as their focus. My takeaway: I’m a hard man, but I’m still learning to become a strong man. True strength isn’t the rock, but the surf crashing against it: fluid, flexible, unrelenting. I am satisfied today because I was strong yesterday, realizing the simple solution of setting an alarm didn’t “make me weak” but helped me achieve my goals. I’m a hard man: it’s hard for me to share my feelings, it’s hard for me to ask for help. This is how my brain is wired. Thanks to everyone who accepts me, flaws and all. I get back to the house about 5:20. My wife asks, “Did you punish yourself enough this morning, Johnson?”
My smile reveals my mileage.
This is how my brain is wired.
Every morning that I don’t wake-up at (or before) 3am, without an alarm, and go running for, very specifically, 12 miles (or more) feels like a failure. I thought about that this morning, cuddled-up against my sleeping wife, for an hour and a half. That’s an hour and a half I could’ve been up-and-running before dawn, but I was too busy pistol-whipping myself for not threading the needle. By my own ridiculous expectations, I have failed 105 times already this year. That’s the hole in which I find myself every day. And when I run 12 miles at 7am on a Sunday, well, that’s nice, but it could have been better, earlier, less disruptive to my family. While other people beat themselves up for not having run a single mile this year, I’ve covered 373 miles of personal failure. And you want to know the scariest part? Running hundreds of miles, in what I’ve now deemed “personal failure”, is my happiest, healthiest habit. If I didn’t run? If I didn’t at least try to climb out of that hole? That’s terrifying to me. I don’t know how far that cavern of self-loathing and despair goes. Maybe I should just swallow my pride and set a goddamn alarm, huh? But that’s not how my brain is wired.
#Run4Run4Lions » Carb Free Me
July, 2001 »» I’m 5’9”, 250-260 lbs. » 40” or 42” waist » 2XL t-shirt
This is my first San Diego Comic-Con with a booth. Hall H is still a parking garage. Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá sign their Roland comics with me. Brian Wood buys Silver Surfer comics from those bins on the right. I meet Bruno D’Angelo here, as he buys Spawn Series 19 – all the Samurai Spawns – from me. I meet Greg Rucka at this size, as he and Steve Lieber sign Whiteout at the booth. I’m large and in charge, a fanboy hog in his fanboy heaven.
July, 2013 »» I’m 5’9”, 148 lbs. » 28” waist » Small sleeveless tee
No Comic-Cons for me this year – no Surfer comics, no Spawn toys. This is my first Vertigo Night Run, a training race towards #Run4Run4Lions. The headlamp is brand new this day, never tested before scampering around dark desert mountain trails for 19 miles. I fall twice, brutally, bloodying my hands, left knee, and right shoulder. I worry that something in my left forearm/elbow is broken. I bruise the entire thickness of both feet. Meet my new heaven.
September, 2013 »» The Vertigo wounds are healed, even if the Comic-Con years left scars. Recurring stress dreams, unsold comics cluttering the house – these match the stretchmarks on my deflated-balloon of a belly. But for all my crazy mileage, I’m not running from my past. In fact, I embrace it. Why not? I finally ring the #Run4Run4Lions bell and ask for a little help – who steps up? Fábio and Bá, Brian, Bruno, and Greg. Waitaminute– where’s Lieber?!*
*In Steve’s defense, he’s put up with my crap since his Hawkman years!