The Abyss

Original drawing available, framed or unframed.  Print also available.

Anxiety and Depression

I didn’t think of Hurricane Harvey when I first picked out this quote earlier this week. I was thinking about those with anxiety and depression. I was thinking about how hard it is to balance on what seems to be such a small path with the consequences of falling off the path being so severe. Then I read a friend’s Facebook post about how she basically just has to throw up her arms and laugh when things keep going wrong in her life. In her case I think it’s about financial and family issues. She always feels like she is just one step away from disaster. Sometimes she steps off the path (or is pushed) and tumbles down into the abyss. It is very hard to climb back up, but she always does.

Natural Disasters

It was only after that, while I was finishing the drawing that I started to connect it to natural disasters like Harvey. It might be comforting to feel like that sort of disaster doesn’t happen to everyone, and it’s true, it doesn’t. But how far away from that sort of disaster are we really? We live in Tornado Alley. We get in our storm shelter about once or twice a year because storms are bearing down on us. How narrow of a ledge we stand on at that moment.

Regain

So, how to deal with this. How do we stay on the path? I don’t know if we do. I think we all fall off the path at times. And I think it feels like an endless abyss when we do, as those on the Gulf Coast feel right now. As I felt when I got divorced 18 years ago. As the addict might feel when he or she falls off the wagon once again.

As a running coach I used to teach how to get the right running form. I don’t do that anymore. Now I accept that we all have our own unique running form. And with most runners, over the course of a 26.2 mile race, there is a good chance they are going to lose that form. So now what I do is teach how to regain your form once you have lost it. And that is how I think about this path we are on. We are going to fall off the path. The question is, do we have the ability, the friends and family, the tools we need to get back up on the path?

Houston, America

Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey is showing that in that deep of an abyss you need an entire community and nation to lift one another back up on the path. We don’t all need that level of help, but we all need some help. If you need it, ask for it, no matter how hard it is to do so. It is worth suffering feelings of failure or embarrassment to get out of your abyss.


Drawing and commentary © Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

“Life is like a strip of pavement over an abyss.” – Virginia Woolf, 1882-1941, English writer


The Bad Selfie

The worst way to make or take a selfie is to use filters that distort your reality so much that you don’t really see your true self when you look at the picture. Almost everyone uses some level of filtering, even if they say they don’t. For example, they take #nomakeup #nofilter pics and post them. But how many pictures did they take before they got the right one? Even if they only took two that still shows they are interested in how the appear to others. They want it to be a good ‘nofilter’ picture, not a bad one, right? And that is ok if you ask me. I don’t have a problem wanting the best version of myself to be presented.

But there are people who aren’t interested in any sort of real version of themselves being shown. They want to create a myth about themselves that isn’t based in reality, but is based on their own need for adoration or acceptance. These people tend to be braggarts. They extol their supposed virtues, not because the actually have attained those virtues but because they think the rest of the world will like them if they have those virtues. These are the people who pad their resume, make up professional experiences, lie about their schooling or grades, and hide examples of their weaknesses.

Job applicants and candidates for office are often tempted to do these sorts of things. Most don’t succumb to it in any flagrant sort of way. They might stretch the truth a bit, but they are still in the realm of reality in what they say.

But the orange man is beyond any of this. He is not tethered to a reality of who he is. His creation myth of self is built on his desperate need for adoration to make up for a crippling void of character and soul. He does not have an identity apart from what others think of him so he constantly needs to be built up from outside. He is a facade created so others will think there is substance inside. But there is not.

Don’t be like the Orange Man.


Drawing and commentary © 2017 Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” – anonymous


 

Marathon Training – Weeks 11 & 12

Between the Charlottesville issue, family visiting and the start of a new season of Pathways, I haven’t updated my training for the marathon in the past 2 weeks. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been running. As a matter of fact I had my longest run and longest week yet.

Race

If you saw the movie ‘Race’ last year, about Jesse Owen’s track triumphs in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, you know that there was an argument about whether he should participate or not. Don’t participate and you send a strong message that you will not contribute to the justification of the Nazi regime. Do participate and maybe prove their theory of Aryan racial supremacy false.  In the end Owens, an African-American, participated and won four Gold Medals, definitively proving that theory wrong. Now it’s 80 years later and we just witnessed a gathering of people who believe in the same things Hitler believed in, that they are the superior race. It is sad and disturbing and wrong. But how do we overcome that in ourselves or in others?

I was thinking about this the other day in relation to running, how running is a great equalizer. I run with everyone; old and young, thin and wide, tall and short, male and female, black, white, brown, and more. Long haired blondes and bald, muscled macho types. People who are really quiet and people who are really talkative.  Ambitious, competitive people and easy-going, mellow people. Really, really fast people and really, really slow people.

I also run with are CEOs, garbage collectors, homemakers, unemployed, retired, middle managers, entrepreneurs, burger flippers, orphans, widows and widowers, liberals and conservatives.  I also run with black people and gay people and transgender people and recent immigrants (legal or otherwise) and ancestors of the Mayflower generation.

But who do I REALLY run with? I run with friends. Their identity is based on their desire to run, not the value of their pocketbook, the color of their skin or their agreement with my political ideas. I like that. It doesn’t solve the world’s problems, but it certainly helps.

Strong Together!


Distances

The past two weeks have been pretty hot and humid, but I was still able to reach my goal of 30-40 miles each week. I have become a bit obsessed with those numbers because it’s an easy way for me to gauge my progress. I know it isn’t as important as quality workouts, but it’s easier to quantify and it’s my version of fun math. What I do is figure out day by day what my mileage is while I calculate what I will have to do the rest of the week to get to 30+. If it is a really long run on Saturday it usually isn’t a problem. Unless the long run distance will get me to 39.5 miles, which it did recently. I was supposed to do a 16 mile run but I needed 16.5 to get to 40. An arbitrary number I know, but I like saying I did 40 so I made sure I ran that extra half mile. Silly me.


Lesson Learned

The next week I had my daughter Caitlin visiting. She is just starting her training for a half marathon so her mileage was 6 miles. I did the 6 with her in one of the half marathon groups. It was very, very humid but we finished fine. I still needed to do another 6 to get my 12 miles in, which I decided I would do at home so she wouldn’t have to wait around for me. We drove home after our 6, had breakfast with her, her friend Courtney and Linda, my wife. We hung out for almost 2 hours just talking and visiting. Then I decided to go run the rest of my miles.

NOTE TO SELF: cooling down for 2 hours is not a good idea. My legs were stiff and tight and they didn’t want to run. Not only that but it was now 10:15am and the temperature, humidity and sun had all risen. I had a miserable run and got back close to my house right around the 4 mile mark. Here’s where My 30 mile goal came in handy. I was supposed to run 6 more, but really only needed 4.5 more to get to 30 for the week. So 4.5 miles it was!

Caitlin and me after a hot, sweaty run!


Nutrition

I have been diligent about making sure I take my electrolyte tablets before the runs and that I have my gels and tablets with me. I am using the Huma gels pretty exclusively, with a random other brand tossed in to take once in a while. I am practicing taking my nutrition at every water stop or every 45 minutes on the long runs so when I am in my race it will be trained into me to take them at the right time.

Gels on marathon program shirt


That is it for now. If you would like to read the other marathon training posts, you can find them here.

See you running,

Marty

 

 

Hot Water – 2017

I am not sure if this is really good advice or not. But it’s better than ‘get drunk as you can’ and ‘go kill someone’ so let’s say it’s good, ok?

The truth is, most of the time when we think we are in hot water, we aren’t, just like when we take a bath.  We get in and it is HOT! But before too long it’s actually quite temperate.  Bad events are often like that too. We see them as outrageous, unforgivable, irredeemable at first. Then we realize they aren’t as bad as we thought. It might take a while, weeks or months even, but eventually we find we will survive.

So, maybe the best thing to do when you are confronted with getting in trouble is to do exactly this, take a bath.  Or a go for a walk, or a run. Or watch a movie.  It doesn’t really matter what it is, just mellow out for a bit so you can calm down and see the situation through more reasonable eyes.

Then, if you are still in hot water, get a lawyer!

Drawing and commentary © Marty Coleman | napkindad.com

Quote is a Chinese proverb

 

5 Ways to Love Your Heritage and Not Be a Racist

This past weekend showed an utterly disgusting and dangerous side of America, that of the white nationalist and white supremacist. It’s easy to throw up your arms in outrage and frustration saying, ‘who are these people and why are they so angry and filled with hate?’ It’s a good question, especially in light of the fact that they say they are celebrating ‘heritage not hate’.  So, let’s talk about this, shall we?

One of the young men who got a lot of attention was Peter Cvjetanovic, of Reno, Nevada. He is 20 years old. He is quoted as saying, “I came to this march for the message that white European culture has a right to be here just like every other culture.”  He says he is not a racist yet he is at an obviously racist rally.

This got my attention for a number of reasons. One, I too am of European heritage. If I could choose to go anywhere on my travels, I again and again find myself wanting to go to Europe. It’s where my ancestors came from and it’s what I feel connected on a very personal level. But I don’t feel anything like what he feels. why is that? This is an exploration of why.  Two, I am an old guy compared to him. I want to talk to this young man like I would talk to a son or daughter. I want to help him understand things just a little bit deeper if he will listen.

So, with that in mind here is my open letter to him.

Hello Peter,

Here are 5 ways you can love their heritage and not be a racist.

1. Learn it to Love It

Don’t be fooled by a simplistic, outdated and false narratives about your people and your culture, or any culture. You might be under the illusion that Europe did all the great things it did (and it did some pretty amazing things) because it’s people are genetically superior. This is not true. I suggest you read the book ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond for a very thorough and insightful story of how history comes about. It will open your eyes to the advantages Europe had in many areas that allowed for its development, advantages that have nothing to do with genetics or the superiority of it’s people.I would then suggest you read up on the science of race, In particular how race was defined centuries and decades ago in ways that are no longer valid, how those divisions still cloud your understanding of a separation where none actually exist. It will be eye-opening.

The point is, of course, to educate yourself. Once you do that, your love for your heritage will be more complex, tinged with sadness at the terrible atrocities committed in Europe and by Europeans elsewhere, but also tinged with pride at the many amazing, loving and positive things Europeans have done as well. If you are going to have a relationships with the past, it should be like any deep relationship, achieved by really knowing the good and the bad.

2. Be Cultured to Know Culture

If you want to take pride in a culture, you must be cultured. That means you need to know something about the art, music, architecture, philosophy, literature, food, commerce, business, languages, history and religions of that culture. You can’t take pride in something you don’t know. You are in college now, nothing is easier to learn in almost any American college than western civilization. There are likely courses dedicated to every element I mentioned above. Study those things, immerse yourself in those things. Find out about the sweep of art from the Greek sculptures to the Abstract Expressionists.  Learn why Beethoven was considered such a genius. Discover the difference between Wagner and Verdi. Look into the split between Luther and the Catholic Church.

When you do these things you will be amazed. You will also be enlightened, not just by ‘The Enlightenment’ (read Voltaire, by the way) but by the profound level of hate and anger that many of these artistic, cultural and religious geniuses endured as they put forth their vision. It should teach you that courage is about love, not hate. People don’t create lasting value in their culture by hating someone or something. They create it by following an idea they love. Focus on that.

3. Go There to Know There

If you want to love your heritage, go there. Instead of spending your money to go from Reno to Charlottesville to protest, take the money and go to England or France or Italy or wherever you feel your roots are. Go with your mother, father or better yet a grandparent, and together see where you were from. See the amazing structures, fantastic discoveries, and outrageous creativity of your ancestors. That is all good. But don’t just look at what is popular. Go search out what isn’t so great. Look into the slave trade that took hold in England and the Netherlands. Look at the treatment of people from different social classes and the extreme poverty so many lived in, look at how women and children were treated during the industrial revolution. I don’t say you should do this so you will feel bad about your heritage. I say it so you will fully know your heritage.

4. See that the River Has Many Sources

My wife, daughter and I once sat on the banks of the Mississippi river in New Orleans and I remember wondering where all that water came from. Years later we were up in Colorado and we went rafting on the Arkansas River. It wasn’t wide or majestic, but raw and wild. I remember realizing how it was the same great plains river that flows no more than 3 miles from my home in Oklahoma and it was part of that huge river I sat next to in Louisiana.

Your culture is like that. It may seem to be all about Europe, but it’s sources come from all over the world. The Greeks and Romans took inspiration from the Middle East and Egypt. The beauty of so much of Spain’s architecture has its roots in the Islamic religion that prevailed for hundreds of years on the Iberian peninsula. The Impressionists created some of their most iconic compositions as a result of the influx of Japanese prints. Genghis Khan and his empire from Mongolia spread ideas about politics, trade and commerce into Russia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East that had never been seen before.

Next, get your DNA researched. You will be amazed at how complex and convoluted the genetic path to you really is. It could be you are mostly European like I am, but you could also have African-American heritage like I do. You could be connected to Asia or Native America in ways you never could have guessed. It will get you out of your pre-conceived notions of who you are and where you came from.  Check out this wonderful spot that explains it in ways I never could.


5. Repress Judgment, Express Curiosity

I like to think of myself as an amateur ‘expert’ on the Revolutionary War era in America. What that really means is I have read a lot of books on the subject. But recently many of my ideas about the personalities of that era have been blown apart by reading ‘Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow. It goes into much more detail about Jefferson, Madison, Washington, Adams and Hamilton than any other book I have read. The information has made me reevaluate all my settled opinions of these people. I could refuse to believe Chernow’s information, accuse him of lying about these characters I like so much, and be done with it. But I didn’t do that. I was open-minded to what I might find because I focused on learning and curiosity instead of judgment.

That doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions, but this book is a reminder that I need to hold my opinions lightly. If I really am going to be an ‘expert’ on something, then I need to be willing to learn new things about that thing and I can’t do that if I am constantly judging and proclaiming I already know everything about it. Do you want to really know your European culture? Then you have to be open-minded and curious, with as few assumptions and prejudices as possible for that to happen successfully.

Where To Go From Here

Now, look back at these ideas. Which one of these would make you a racist? None of them. None of these ideas will create hate in you for other cultures, other races, other individuals. As a matter of fact, they should lessen the fear you have and strengthen the love you have, both for your culture and for the amazing strands of ideas, art and humanity that led there. It should free you to see that yours is not the only culture deserving of interest, admiration and respect.

In the end I wish for you this realization. Your true heritage is both European and beyond that. It is Human. You can live side by side with someone who is not like you and you can learn and teach instead of fear and hate. If you do that I promise that feeling of hate will turn to love. And that is really where you want to be, right?

Sincerely,

Marty Coleman

%d bloggers like this: