I haven’t been doing much writing the past few weeks. I’ve been focused on staying above water. Here’s a few updates:
First off – I left you all in a cliffhanger with the last post. My scans came back clean!! So I’m officially one year in CR (complete remission). That’s a major milestone. In retrospect I was definitely thinking that I didn’t believe the data or that the year scan would show a reversal or something really bad. I now do believe that I’m in a different place and can get on with things. I need to celebrate but I really haven’t figured out the best way yet. That’s on my list of todos.
I left my Job at the end of last year. I love the people at Tophatter (which just made the a16z list of top 100 marketplaces!) and the team has been really good to me through my journey as I’ve written about over the past year. But it’s clear that I needed a reset. I’ve been taking a step back to really be intentional about what my next step looks like. I feel like I’ve been handed this amazing gift – which I now believe with the latest scan result – and it’s sometimes overwhelming. I’m taking Q1 to pick my head up and see what resonates most. I’ve had some amazing conversations with some inspiring people lately. I’ll keep you all posted as I get further along!
Saul just turned 8. This kid lights me up when things are good. And he is also a hard kid, strong willed and sensitive. I’m constantly pushed to the edges of my capabilities which can be both frustrating when things go off the rails, but also exciting when it goes well and I see his excitement shine through. I find myself telling the kids that they also teach me – that I’m improving as a dad all the time too!
I’m also going to be running to the top of the Sales Force tower on 3/28. I joined the LLS Big climb exec committee a few months ago to raise money for blood cancer research. I’m currently building my team to go to the top – you can join my team or make a donation here and climb 60+ floors to see the best views of the bay. My friend (and teammate) Magnus has a match in place for donations up to $1k!! You can donate here (it doesn’t matter where you donate – it all goes to the same place!).
Are you intimidated that you’re not in shape enough (because e.g., the bart stairs make you tired)? Don’t be! It’s not a race, it’s not timed, the glass exterior makes it seem scarier than it actually is – and of course you’ll be supporting a great cause. I personally guarantee it will feel amazing sipping to sip a cold drink at the highest point in SF!
A massive thank you to everyone that has joined the team or made a donation. We’ve raised nearly $7k already!
She helped me get through my dark days. She still does. And her ability to navigate people (already!) amazes me. She has such a giant personality. Definitely a proud daddy.
I’ve had this habit for a long time where I write down my thought process for decisions and big events. I’ll periodically review them to either understand flaws/gaps in my thinking with the benefit of hindsight, or pat myself on the back for my prescience (not frequent, but it sometimes happens). It kind of feels like checking up on a kid to see how he’s doing. Except the kid is me and turns out that time offers an interesting vantage point of seeing oneself without so much judgment, as an objective observer. This tends to be a deeply satisfying activity as I get to see either how I’ve grown, or if I haven’t, it often will point to areas of stagnation. It also reminds me why I made certain decisions and what I was thinking/where I was at that point. It’s so easy to forget.
In reflecting on Lua’s 3 year mark I pulled out a letter I wrote to the un-named baby. I remember ducking into the bathroom, 5 minutes on evernote. Here it is.
Here’s a letter to you, my as yet unnamed daughter.
I’m sitting here with your mother and doula (Shannon) at st Luke’s hospital. This is where your brother Saul was born not 5 years ago. Labor this morning has been tough – we’ve been up since 2am with painful contractions. The anesthesiologist put in the epidural about an hour ago – a first in 3 births. Your mom is tough! Despite being fully dilated (meaning you’re ready to come out) mom is sleeping soundly.
I’m deciding on names here in the precious few moments of downtime. It’s not easy. We’ve been thinking about this for a long time and still no good name we agree on. Mom always liked ‘Lua’ as over the years we would catch ourselves looking at the still moon – offering light to humans in the dark of night – wondering about life if we had a daughter. Maybe this will be your name. But when I meet you it might not ring true. I want to match the name to the person. I’m waiting to meet you. To see what’s in your eyes. Then we’ll decide. They are about to break your water bag to get things moving.
Why is naming so hard?
The name is not merely the vocal sounds we’ll be uttering for the rest of our lives. The most important part is what it’ll mean to you as you journey through this interesting planet of ours. How will it shape your identity?
It’s good to be without a name for a bit. There is such urgency to name things – as though labeling them removes some fundamentally troubling aspect about the mystery of existence. To name a thing is to corner and trap it. I’m quite alright sitting in that mystery for a few days with you and your infinite possibility.
How is it that life occurs with such regularity? It’s easier to grow a baby than to draw a snapshot of one with a pencil and paper (try it sometime). We manipulate the body with drugs at certain concentrations and time intervals – our anesthesiologist was truly excellent – all knowable and regular occurrences with good batting averages. But all this leads to a false sense of knowing. Truth is if you pull on the thread hard enough we really don’t understand as well as the labels indicate we do. We label our food with nutritional information but still don’t understand metabolism well (no consensus on what ideal nutrition looks like)… We understand how anesthetics work but we don’t know why life is tuned to receive anesthesia. So there’s a neat paradox at play. We know how to do certain things really well, but we don’t quite know why they work. We’re like kids that have been handed instruments: we make them sound good without quite knowing what sound is. We don’t get to decide much in terms of your nature. Picking a name is hard because it’s the first real decision we’ll make as your parents. And I don’t want to start things off with a mistake. You are still perfect.
I listen to the background hum of a fan, ticking clock, muted outside traffic. Perfection…ah, no such thing in our world. Why? Let’s talk quickly about what it means to share a world with other people, with so many different characters. I had different anxieties with your brothers – mostly focused on my own worthiness, ability and readiness to jump into fatherhood. With you it’s different. I feel capable enough in managing the basics – discipline, bedtime routines, changing diapers, or changing the subject (people call it redirection to try and sound smart).
But I really don’t know how to raise a daughter. And I don’t have a good model to follow or intuition about how to do this. The women in my – our – family have struggled with lots of challenges not worth going into here.
So in considering what it is I hope for you my initial gut reaction is something akin to damage control. I’d like your own light to shine with as little diminishment from either my own mistakes, or the insults a woman in this world can expect to encounter: from those that intentionally wish you harm, to well-intentioned but poorly implemented parenting, to personal issues related to confidence or self-esteem, and so many more!). It’s not worth listing them here either because you’ll come to know them through media, stories and life experience. I won’t and cannot sugar coat that.
But damage control isn’t good enough. That’s to concede defeat. As your guardian I will try not to shield you outright (I will if I must, of course) which is probably the default parental intuition. Instead I want to teach you skills to navigate the turbulence of the world. No, the protection I as a father will offer you will not be that of a vigilante with a club, but rather that of a ship captain teaching his young apprentice. This world is for skillful interaction not sheltered cowardice, for addressing problems head-on, not shying from them. It’s for Tikkun Olam (making it better) as a member of society.
My name, Ari, in Hebrew means Lion. I’ll need to tap that power to guide you. Names mostly do remain incantations of the vocal plane, and in that they don’t matter so much. But in times of hardship and uncertainty they can take on special powers. Whatever your name ends up being my hope in this name is that it serves you in time of challenge. I love you already.
Some of you have been asking so apologies for not writing lately…I appreciate the concern when folks ask if I’m ok…then tell me to write more! Truth is I’ve sat down many times in attempts to write over the past few weeks, only to find my motivation waning. I’ve been struggling a bit to figure out what to do with this blog now that I’m on the road to recovery. My goal is to continue writing (it’s highly therapeutic). So the solution I’ve landed on is to expand emphasis to meditations on other topics beyond the battle with cancer. It feels like an obvious extension of the blogs focus.
We’ll see how it goes. Here’s an ice breaker…
Today Michelle and I celebrate our 9 year wedding anniversary!
In those 9 years we’ve birthed 3 kids, finished grad school; bought a home, survived cancer, worked on and with many companies & schools; good times and hard ones. It’s not been easy but the long arc of it has felt rewarding and meaningful. I’ve always thought of this phase as ‘life building’. And turns out those first turns of the flywheel are always hard. Feels like now we’ve got some momentum.
And joy matters so much more than it ever did. What really inspires me about where things are now – in part thanks to the perspective shift that tends to accompany scary disease – is that I can step back, witness the fruit of our hard efforts, and think; wow, we did that! This morning I sat at breakfast with the kids and just enjoyed them for a moment. They do the work, I get to watch it unfold. Nice.
Michelle – to say I’m proud of you does a disservice to words. You are strong. You build communities like nobody I’ve ever known. You nurture our family. You cared for me in dark times. You notice and appreciate the small details in everything you encounter, providing our family life with meaning and light. What we’ve been able to do together over these years makes me proud of us. And we’re just getting started! It’s easy to forget all these things in the grind of life. Three kids, aging parents, me getting sick, and all the rest of it is not easy. Let’s make it a priority to enjoy this crazy ride to the maximum. And to make it meaningful. It’s important. Happy anniversary baby. I love you forever.