In December I took an all too familiar drive on I-70 going west. Punk rock blaring (MDC maybe?). My normal billboard watching – Ft. Hays, Jayhawks, Larry’s Boots, Jesus Saves – was slightly different. Maybe opinions out west are changing. . .
Dealing with a chronic illness in your family is never easy. Unfortunately, this was the position I was placed in a few years ago. In 2011, my dad was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It was at this time when I picked up running.
Running had been the reason I quit the shot-put team when I was in high school. Years later, my brother convinced me to give the sport another shot. We ran together when we were both visiting our parents to help our mom take care of our dad. I was looking for a way to spend time outside, exercise and relieve stress. I’m pretty sure that his objectives were the same. Over time, I learned that I actually enjoyed running — and it made me feel good.
My dad died on December 12, 2013 — my 33rd birthday. Fortunately, I was able to tell him that I ran two 5Ks. Unfortunately, he wasn’t around to learn that I completed four half marathons and the Chicago Marathon (as a member of Team ALS) in 2014.
Running has proven to be a great stress reliever for me. Through it, I challenge myself in ways that I never thought possible. This year, I am again running the Chicago Marathon. Next year, I plan on running a 50-mile ultramarathon, to be followed in 2017 by a 100-miler. Every step that I run, I think about those who struggle to walk even a single step. I will keep pushing myself because I can.
I’m Chris Lempa, and this is #whyirun.
#whyirun is a digital video series produced by Elliot Johnson and Andy White.
On December 12, 2013 I received a phone call from my mom while my co-workers were wishing me a happy 33rd birthday. My Dad had lost a 2.5 year battle withALS (aka amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; Lou Gehrig’s Disease). While his passing wasn’t unexpected, we didn’t think it would happen on my birthday. Needless to say I hopped in my car and started driving. And driving.
This trip was nothing new -hell I once road a 125cc scooter from Lawrence, KS to Chicago – but it was different. It was both longer and quicker. Further and shorter. Multiple text messages from my brother reminded me to be safe while at the same time telling me that I needed to get home sooner. Rachel checked in to make sure that I was OK as did a few of my closest friends. Gaslight Anthem’s ’59 Sound was on repeat.
The drive itself was mostly a blur. I do remember laughing and crying as long lost memories formed a mental collage. When I arrived in Berwyn I was greeted by my Mom and brother. We hugged, laughed, and cried.
Three months later it is still hard to believe that our family of five is now a family of four. This experience has both weakened and strengthened us as a family. I am grateful for my friends and family that supported me throughout this ordeal and have checked in on me afterwards. I might not always say it, but I love and appreciate you.
I am also extremely thankful for the ALS Association Greater Chicago Chapter. Without them I don’t know how we would have made it through this ordeal. They provided equipment, guidance, and emotional support. Additionally the ALS Association also supports research to fight ALS and discover a cure.
Two years ago I captained the top fundraising team in the Walk to Defeat ALS. This year we have reformed Team Lempa and are again raising money to find a cure to this horrific disease. You can support us by clicking here: http://webchicago.alsa.org/goto/ChrisLempa.
In the book Solving Tough Problems Adam Kahane lays out a methodology for dealing with tough problems in the most difficult situations. Kahane played an integral role in the Mount Fleur Process which brought together representatives from Apartheid-era South Africa. Participants discussed what South Africa would look like after Apartheid. After the Mount Fleur Process, Kahane took part in similar gatherings throughout the world (Follow this link to learn more about Kahane’s work).
Many aspects of the book will be useful to people in their everyday lives, I would like to focus on listening. In his book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie tells us that by “becoming genuinely interested in people” and “be[ing] a good listener” are two important roles in building successful relationships. That’s great, but what is listening and how do we do it?
Perhaps you are rolling your eyes at the thought of this silly question, but I have been involved in many frustrating conversations with non-listeners. These “conversations” generally become a waste of time and quickly deteriorate into mindless arguments, with people talking past each other.
I don’t like writing daily.
There, I wrote it. It has only been 7 days and I am already not enjoying the writing end of #writeandrun31. I have been thinking about why and I realized that I just don’t like to feel pressured into putting my thoughts onto “paper.”
In order to not “fail” I am going to change my writing plan. I will write a Haiku a day (based on a picture I take) and put up (at least) one longer blog post a week. Some of these posts might be cross-posted.
That’s it for now.
no post for today
working and running kept me
from my daily words
cold weather running
is something i really like
to include daily
A good friend of mine used to ask me to write more often. Usually he would as me to elaborate on something that we were talking about. Neither of us were under any illusion that anything I penned would change the world, but it would help me think through a lot of things. Things from my thoughts on current events to theories on youth development. Even though we often speak about it, I have never been able to write consistently. The main reason is, I think, because so many other people do it better.
But. . .
So many people do so many things better. I am not the best pickler, fermenter, runner, program coordinator, or anything else. But that doesn’t matter. Perfection should not be the enemy of the good, right? I am daily telling the kids I work with that we learn by failing. We get better when we try to do something even if we aren’t successful.
So. . .
If I don’t let this bother me in other aspects of my life, why let it stop me from writing? I have found out that I learn more about myself and what I like when I try new things. I have also found out that I can be reluctant to try new things when I am pretty certain that I will fail or not be the best. This isn’t really a good way to live and I am going to do my best to kick it.
In addition to participating in #writeandrun31 I plan on writing at least one haiku a week. Each haiku will be inspired by a picture I take or a current event. My plan is to write both traditional and variant forms haikus. This will be a fun way for me to get back into writing and art.
Reminiscing on Wrestling
Lately I have found myself listening to wrestling themed radio shows and watching old matches. This isn’t that surprising as I spent the better part of the first 18 years of my life watching wrestling (this is followed by another 3-4 years as a casual fan). In doing so I have realized that I actually enjoyed wrestling matches and disliked the soap opera nature of the “Attitude Era.”
The wrestling I enjoyed featured the good guys and the bad guys (or faces and heels). I loved watching Kamala take on Hulk Hogan in a steel cage match. Better yet was watching the British Bulldogs defeat the Hart Foundation. Crazier was watching Brett “The Hitman” Hart evolve from tag team competitor to the biggest name in professional wrestling. Sad was watching Tom “The Dynamite Kid” Billington destroy his body.
I’m not sure why I have been drawn to wrestling again, but I can say that it has been somewhat enjoyable. I don’t know the specifics of each feud, but I do know that folks like Jim Cornette are quite enjoyable.