What I'm not thankful for is watching friends suffer. Watching them die.
I've written about my friend Brian before. I ran Wineglass and Baltimore Marathon with him. He has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and it will kill him. He can no longer do any of the things that matter to him. He can't work. He can't play music.
He can't run.
With some difficulty, we got Brian up here to spend Thanksgiving with us. He was looking forward to it for weeks. It was the only thing he had to look forward to. Thanksgiving was yesterday. I drove him back to his car in Corning this morning. I have no clue what, if anything, he has to look forward to now. Even worse, he thinks I don't like him anymore; that I resent him.
The worst though is that he's not 100% wrong.
I'm not a good person. I'm selfish. It's why I lost all my girlfriends. I care too much about myself. I'm not good at dealing with someone else's pain and suffering every day. Every. Single. Day. I tried with Pixie. I tried really hard. I loved her (I still love her) and wanted to do whatever I could for her. Right until I didn't.
Geoffrey, Meghan, and I are pretty much the only people Brian has. His own family didn't even invite him for Thanksgiving. He wants me to say "Good Night" to him every single night. He often messages during the night. And first thing in the morning, while I'm doing my deadlifts. While I'm driving. While I'm at work. I come back to messages after my run or bike ride or whatever I do after work.
And I know why. It's because he's scared. Rightfully so. Every message may be his last. Every night he goes to bed may be his last (not that he gets any sleep whatsoever). This Thanksgiving may have been the last time he got to see any of us. And as much as I want to ignore how I feel and just always been there for him - no matter what - until the bitter end, I can't. Because, turns out, being the only solace for a dying man is brutally f@#king hard.
When I first started writing this, I was going to maybe spin it slightly in an optimistic direction. Maybe throw in some inspirational $hit. Then I decided I didn't feel like writing a bunch of lies.
Brian tells us not to pity him. But when we invited him to Thanksgiving, that's exactly what it was: pity. We feel bad. When I hang out with friends, we have adventures. We play board games. We go to a show. We run through snowy woods and across frozen creeks to our favorite brewery (or used to). I don't want to help a friend up a flight of stairs while pretending to empathize about how hard it is to breath. I don't do that because it's fun. It's because I have to.
I'm a shitty friend. Just a no good awful friend. And I know exactly what Brian will say. That I'm not. That I've been an amazing friend and that I've always been there for him and that I ran marathons and came to his house and listened to him every day when he struggled and that I'm one of the few people who care.
What it really comes down to is that I internalize pain and anger. I redirect it at myself. I can't actually do anything for Brian. Talking to him is nice, but it does zero to ease his pain. Sure, it makes the time he has left more tolerable, but that's small comfort to me. And because I'm not a magical wizard and I can't magically make him healthy, I f@^king hate myself for it.
It's the problem I've always had with myself. Impossible expectations of myself that I can't ever possibly reach, followed by self-loathing when I inevitably fail. Painted over with fake smiles in photos. Good times, that.
I was wrong, I am thankful for something. I'm thankful for Brian, for putting me into a place that's far outside of my comfort zone. That's the only way I grow and learn. It's the only way I become a better person. All the trash above is catharsis. I'm not going to jump back into a whisky bottle or gallon of ice cream. You don't have to worry about me.
A lot of people say Brian is an inspiration. Because he is. But I'm just as crazy as he is. It doesn't matter how broken I am, I still run. But what Brian has done for me exceeds mere inspiration. He has laid bare my demons for me. A lot of people abandon him, and I understand why now. It's not being put face-to-face with one's own mortality. Or being inconvenienced. It's because it's freaking terrifying.
Having your own insecurities and weaknesses smashed into your face is hard. But I don't want to run away from them. It's why I write all the stuff above that portrays me as a selfish and awful person. Because I have to smash myself into pieces first before I can put those pieces back together again into something better. Like breaking apart a lego castle with, just, way too many buttresses because it's too top-heavy.
Of course, it's just like my selfishness to write a post that's all about me. Me me me. Brian's dying and all I can do is whine about my feels. And it wasn't all bad. We had an amazing game of Cards Against Humanity yesterday. We all laughed uproariously. It was a great evening among friends.
For a brief period during that game, we escaped pain, we escaped fear, we escaped despair. We escaped ourselves.
And we ate an absurd amount of pie, ice cream, and chocolates. Geoffrey, Meghan, Brian, Aria... they made me feel like a part of a family. They made me feel loved. I'm eternally grateful to them.