John Mellencamp is one of my favorite recording artists because he knows me so well. A comparison of our changing moods and viewpoints over the years, or shall I write "decades," reveals that we have "grown up" or matured in similar manners. We were both rebellious leaders in our youth, each choosing to play life by our rules to make certain that we did not become cultural statistics. We have both questioned leaders, loyalty, lovers, laziness, and life in general. The lyrics to Jack and Diane, Case 795, Jackie Brown, Human Wheels, I Need A Lover, Small Town, Just Another Day, You've Got to Stand For Somethin', and Teardrops Will Fall all have had real meaning in my life. Minutes to Memories and Your Life is Now both have special meaning to me. Isn't it interesting how songs so often reflect and resonate life?
Mellencamp, of course, expresses his thoughts and beliefs in popular (and lucrative) music from a multifaceted soap box while my very different (and non lucrative) pathway through life causes me to bite my tongue on topics such as sex and politics. Just to clarify a point, anyone who knows both me and his music well enough are aware of the fact that Mellencamp and I do not hold the same viewpoints on politics because he has "picked a side" while I distrust both sides. I'll delve no further into that topic due to the fact that my disdain for politics and politicians caused me to create a "no politics" rule for this blog.
Another difference between Mellencamp and myself lies in the our perceptions and implementations of personal health. Mellencamp had a heart attack in 1994. The official press release stated that it was a "minor" heart attack. Minor? Is any heart attack really minor to the person who suffered it? His doctors told him that the combined stresses of months of touring and decades of smoking several packs of cigarettes per day had caused the heart attack. They told him to stop smoking. His response was, basically, the same middle finger he's raised to adversaries and disapprovers throughout his life. Oh, he did manage to cut back to about one pack per day on most days, but he has never stopped smoking. His increasingly crackling voice reveals the effects smoking has had on this throat. Interestingly, his youngest child, Speck, created a Facebook page seeking 1 million members to get Mellencamp to stop smoking. I signed on to the group, but I could not find the page just before starting this post.
I responded with the same middle finger attitude when I was told to stop running by a neurosurgeon after a 1998 accident left me with two herniated discs. I'd like to have seen the look on his face when that card-carrying member of the Doctors Infected With God Syndrome Club received the race results of my 2:51 marathon. The difference was that my running "problem" is actually good for my health. In fact, I used that injury as a springboard to acquire more knowledge about keeping the back healthy throughout a long and active life.
Last summer, when I was diagnosed with skin cancer, I laughed at my dermatologist when he told me to limit my running to a treadmill. Seriously! I did become much more nocturnal, starting many of my runs and rides before dawn. I now cower from direct sunlight as if I were dodging bullets. I also own several shirts that, unlike typical clothing, actually keep most of the UV rays from reaching my skin. In the kitchen is a shelf filled with all of the sunscreens I have bought and tested for sweat resistance. Residing in the basement is a very lonely treadmill.
One year ago I spent the last weekend in September participating in the ITU Duathlon World Championships at Lowes Motor Speedway in Concord, NC. Still reeling from the news of the tumors and the weight loss that accompanied the stress and treatment, I somehow managed to stick to a rigorous training plan that had my 45-year-old body running and riding almost as fast as it did when I was in my 20's. Because of the nature of the sport, I was driving home in a pouring rain when my good friend, Jeremy, called me to congratulate me on my finish. Within seconds tears were rolling down my cheeks as I thought about how that silver medal was my Mellencamp-style response to both the cancer and aging.
Five weeks ago I was attacked by a car filled with thugs. The injuries from that incident have cost me many nights of sleep. The hamstring and glute have mostly healed, but a pinched nerve is still causing a constant burning in my right shoulder, arm, and hand. I have also experienced nearly constant headaches since that day.
I was happy to run again after more than three weeks off. I have been consistently riding short, fast rides for two weeks. Therapy? I believe that riding and running are great psychotherapy for me. My running is far from normal, but my desire to run is strong. I logged my normal three runs last week, covering 17 miles. On Tuesday I managed 3 miles at sub-6 pace. Yesterday I managed to hold a sub-7 pace on a hilly course for an hour. Those runs took a lot out of me but, as I see it, I am in such a position that I must give all that have. Cycling is also full speed ahead.
I cannot rest comfortably until I once again feel fit. I honestly do not believe that I can feel alive unless I am active. Sitting around looking at a TV or otherwise wasting time is not my idea of living. I would much rather create memories by sharing active, loving, and meaningful time with family and friends.
Like Mellencamp sings in his song Minutes to Memories, life is trying to strip away my dreams! I've just got to suck it up and do the best I can.