Friday, December 04, 2015

Life - Music, emotion, and, well, "life"

A while ago my brother pointed out that music can get "worn out". A song's searing emotional effect can fade if you listen to the same song too often. In fact there is one of his songs that I've never used in a cycling clip because it's just too much for me. I want to keep that song precious for me and I actually rarely listen to it at all because its powerful effect on me.

The clip below is a song that I'm trying to save a bit for later (meaning for myself, not for a cycling clip), if that makes sense. Still fresh for me right now, even though it's a commercial top hit. Although I haven't made any clips using commercial music, I have thought of particular projects using particular songs. I was into one moderately commercial song in 2006 when I read and heard about a special pro race in Europe (so it ended noon or so our time, while I was at work). I was so pumped after the race ended, and it tied in so well with the music, that I could see the whole clip in my head before I drove home. Unfortunately I never finished the clip and it's not timely at all so it'll linger for a long time.

Having said that now I have another inspiration - I'd love to make a cycling clip using this music, inspired by the lyric video linked below.

For me music has a lot of power. It tugs at my emotion strings, as much as a hint of a scent, a sample of someone's voice, all those human emotion things. Music evokes in me what I'm sure is a measurable physiological response.

Back in the day, on emotionally charged rides, I found myself feeling unstoppable. In the times before heart rate monitors and power meters I didn't have an objective metric, but the climbs I did in the big ring all over the place, trembling with adrenaline, all while humming particular songs… there had to be something there.

Based on those kinds of rides I tried to conditionally train myself to have adrenaline rushes. I would grip my bars a certain way before doing any major effort, trying to get the adrenaline flowing just by returning to that "sprint only" grip.

This worked for many years. I'd intentionally stay away from the "sprint grip" (basically on the drops but just a touch higher than normal so my forearms were a bit flatter) during races so that at 1 or 2 to go, when I finally went to it, I was well into the adrenaline boost mode.

In my younger racing years I had plenty of opportunities for spiky emotions, like any young person experiences. As I got older I realized that the spikes were flatter but more robust. As a teen, or in my early twenties, I'd be super high and super low within the space of a day or two (usually related to stuff like girls and such). As I got older the spikes seemed a bit blunted but the breadth of the emotion felt more expansive. Instead of feeling a week or three of intense "crush" emotions, they went on for months, even years.

The emotions could be triggered by anything. When I was racing the track in 2009 I'd drive up feeling the normal pre-race excitement.

But on the way back?

I felt like a kid again.

I had no idea why. I felt totally inspired, I felt that crazy rush for whatever reason, it was all I could do not to drive like a nut. I'd crank the music (which only increased the adrenaline thing), drive in the summer heat with the AC on (chilled air seems to amplify said adrenaline thing), and, well, just revel in the rush I felt.

It wasn't even like I was racing well at the track. It was something else, I don't know what it was.

Back in 2000-2003 my mom was battling cancer. It was a super emotional time for me, and I think I emotionally "used up" much of the music I listened to then. I spent a lot of time driving with the music cranked loudly, burning through the music's power over me. I'm just now starting to listen to that music now, and it's still a bit burnt emotionally. Most of those songs I listen for 10 or 20 seconds and I click to skip it; a few I listen for a minute or two, but there are none that I listen and listen and suddenly it's the end of the song.

Now it seems it's my dad's turn. He's physically healthy but other than that… He stopped recognizing me early this year, maybe around the Spring Series time. He has difficulty getting up. He hasn't spoken a word in years because he hasn't been able to say anything.

My SPS ("significant personal stuff"), a term I mentioned before, is to take care of my dad.

The plan is to move him into our house, for me to look after him. It'll be hard, for sure, but I feel compelled to do this.

My Pops, me, and Junior, when Junior was a day old.
I had just returned from the second 2012 Bethel Spring Series race.

I remember his vibrancy when I was a kid. We'd rake leaves, shovel the driveway, cut wood for the fireplace. When I was a little kid he couldn't afford gravel for the driveway so he'd break rocks with a hammer. There's a picture of me sitting in my diaper on our driveway, hammer in hand, rocks in front of me.

He drove carefully. I could tell when he was serious because all of his shifts were so methodical, his motions to use the turn signal perfect, no wasted energy, everything "just so". When he was distracted he'd let things slip a bit but then he'd catch himself and become more deliberate again.

He was always methodical about what he did. He tried to have back ups, when he understood what he needed to have a back up. As a chemical engineer he was appalled by one manager's response to a non-functioning eye wash station in a huge plant. The fix? They hung a sign that said, "Out of order".

He'd rake or chop wood or whatever like a machine. Even as recently as 10 or so years ago the tree guys would joke that my dad would put them out of business, he was clearing so much stuff (the tree guys would get the high stuff; he got the low stuff).

He worked really hard for the kids, and, really, for the grand kids. He felt a duty to provide for them, and I never understood even a little bit of it until now, and I honestly am still coming to terms with just how powerful this urge is for me. At times it was tough, but I think that's the case with anyone. He went from growing up in war torn Japan to being able to provide for his family in the US. After traveling all over the world, living on three continents, in the end he adopted the US as his home, choosing to live here instead of anywhere else in the world.

My dad can't care for himself any longer. My brother has been caring for my dad for many years but is reaching the end of his tether. My other brother and I both volunteered to take over, and, for mainly logistical reasons, my dad will be moving in with the Missus, Junior, and myself, toward the end of the year.

This means I'll be his 24/7 caretaker for the foreseeable future.

My brother told me that it's hard to explain just what it'll be like. It's like having a kid - you can explain and demonstrate and all that but until you experience it you just don't know. Likewise, this will be an unfathomable thing until I do it. I just hope to be up for it.

In preparation for this I've mentally written off 2016. I really can't leave the house much so no racing, no training outdoors. No real dinners out, no trips, etc. I'm trying to figure out a way to make the Aetna Spring Series a reality - it's still in the forefront of my mind, definitely more important than my own riding. I have strong hopes of pulling it off, although I'll be physically absent from the actual races.

The Missus, also, has accepted this, supporting my urge to care for my dad. It'll really disrupt her life but she's behind this 100%. She's always supported what I've done - the racing, the promoting, job stuff - and she's once again throwing herself into the effort. So to her, a thank you in advance, and many more to come I'm sure.

My last day working at the car place is next Wednesday - I have three work days left. After that it'll be a frantic two weeks to get the house ready, and then we'll bring my dad here for what we think will be the rest of his life.

I have no idea what that means, to tell the truth. I've written off a year already. A second year seems distant but possible, in terms of both caring for him as well as him continuing on. After that I may need help, and it may be that my dad will need more than I can provide. Whatever happens, we'll see when we get there. For now it'll be me taking care of him.

In the meantime?

I'll listen to music and I'll revel in this special thing called life.


SE said...

Class post. You honor your father. These are hard days. May you find strength and patience new every morning.

Mike Pida said...

Hi Aki
While this is a tough post I admire your courage. I lost my dad 5 years ago after he had a long battle with Alzheimer's One of the toughest, most rugged immigrants you ever met and a selfless provider.

You are undertaking a difficult but noble and lhonorable service. Do what you can but remember your dad would want you to care more for your family and his grandson than for him. Listen to the Missus and don't burn yourself out.

Please reach out if I can help in anyway. No need to go it alone.. Your peloton is here for you.

Thanks for all you have given us.


Brad Lapin said...

Aki, I hope all is well. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 8 years ago, and I can say -- even being in the most fortunate of circumstances where my mom has 24/7 care -- that even being a part-time caregiver can be emotionally and physically exhausting.

I just want to echo the very wise words from Mike. I hope you are taking care of yourself because that's extremely important, and -- in circumstances like yours -- sometimes hard to remember. Please feel free to reach out if you need anything.