Monday, February 28, 2011

Olympic memories

I was just reminded that the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics were a year ago tonight. It seems impossible somehow. It feels like only yesterday I was glued to my TV and laptop watching coverage of the ceremonies and chatting with friends on-line.  It was such a magical time - the end of weeks of breath-taking competition and intense comradery amongst we Olympics-obsessed.  It makes me sad to realize I'll likely never experience anything quite like it again.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A long run home

This weekend, I decided to make my long run a point-to-point trek from my favourite beach (Risser's) to our house near Bridgewater along a road that skirts the shores of LaHave River - according to Google maps, almost exactly 24kms. (In fact, my Garmin measured 25.5kms.) 

It's a route I've driven hundreds - no, thousands - of times before but I knew it would be a very different experience running it.  I intended to get pictures at various favourite spots along the way but, unfortunately, managed to take only two before the battery on my smart phone gave out.  Perhaps it's just as well since it means I'll be motivated to run the route again soon.

It was in fact a terrific run - despite some challenging weather. Though not especially cold, the wind blew light wet snow down river and directly into my face for the entire 25.5 kms. On the upside, the damp, grey day kept people inside so there was very little traffic to contend with for the first couple of hours.  And it was great experiencing familiar communities in a whole new way.  My route took me from Risser's Beach, past Crescent Beach, then through West Dublin, Dublin Shore, LaHave, Pentz, West LaHave, Pleasantville and finally Conquerall Bank, As I ran, I had plenty of time to take in the architecture of the beautiful, older homes that line the river, and to think about the people that settled those communities centuries ago.  

Friday, February 25, 2011

Running: Good for whatever ails you!

An article in the Ottawa Citizen this week discussed a study of mice that seems to prove running not only contributes to keeping you healthier and stronger as you age, but may even slow or reverse the effects of aging. That's good news for those of us who enjoy running.  

A poster I brought home from the Chicago Marathon.
It hangs in my office now for inspiration when I need it.
In the years since I took up running, concerned family and friends have often told me it wasn't good for me - that I was going to wreck my knees and/or back, ruin my skin, wear myself down, etc. - so it was great to read more evidence to the contrary.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Daily Commutes

The best part of my day is my commute to work. How great is that? Millions of people around the planet spend hours every day miserably stuck in traffic or squashed into buses and subway cars, while I have the good fortune to enjoy a leisurely walk, followed by a ferry ride to my office.

Even when it's windy and grey, the views of Halifax and the water from high atop the Dartmouth Commons are sure to lift my spirits. And being on the water every day let's me savour the beauty of the ever-shifting skies overhead.

In the 5 months since I began commuting this way again, I've taken dozens of pictures from the ferry's upper deck like the ones posted here. Truly, as commutes go, it doesn't get much better than this.

P.S. Correction. The best part of most days is my commute. Today, it was a 5km run around Lake Banook in almost complete solitude because of the cold. With city lights glistening on the lake's smooth, newly frozen surface, it was stunningly beautiful!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Yogic blogging

Recently, a friend asked me why I blog.  It's a good question. I blog because I've always enjoyed writing and blogging is a good outlet for it. Knowing others may read what I write forces me to be more thoughtful about the messages I communicate and more disciplined in the way I express them.

The other reason I blog is the same reason I practice yoga - because it often helps me make sense of what I'm thinking and feeling.

In the 15 years I've done yoga, I've come to realize how much emotion is stored in my body. For example, fear typically lodges itself in my left shoulder and neck, grief and sadness in my chest - somewhere between my breast bone and the hollow at the base of my throat - and worry in my belly. As I move into yoga postures that open up those parts of my body, the trapped emotions are exposed and become more difficult to ignore - making it more likely I'll acknowledge and address them.

Blogging does the same thing for me. Even if a post begins with a single thought or idea, exploring it often involves uncovering layers of meaning or connections I've not made before, and acknowledging their emotional and psychological content so that I'm better able to deal with it.

In the course of both practices, feelings can get intense pretty quickly and, when that happens, I'm sometimes tempted to "roll up the mat" and go looking for something else - anything else - to distract me.  Fortunately, experience has taught me that it's when emotions become that intense that I most need to get back on the mat - physically and metaphorically - so that I can figure out what's causing them and decide whether I can do anything to fix the problem or simply need to "let it go".

In short, blogging - like running - is a form of yoga for me - and it's one I highly recommend to anyone else trying to figure it out.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

26kms along my favourite piece of NS shoreline

This post is a bit of an experiment as I'm sending it from my Blackberry. I intended to head back to the city tonight but find I'm too weary to drive after an especially tough long run, so am going to snuggle in for another night by the fire at our country place instead.

My route today started and ended on Risser's Beach - which (other than PEI where I grew up) is my favourite place in the world. The forecast called for mild, sunny weather so I was looking forward to running along my favourite piece of shoreline. Unfortunately, the forecast was wrong. Though the sun made a few brief appearances early on, it was cold, grey and windy for most of the three hours it took me to run 26kms. I've no idea what the windspeed was - but high enough that I thought I might be blown into the ocean as I crossed the bridge to Bell's Island.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Running Lessons

This is a post from my blog Running to Chicago written in July 2009 when I was training to run the Chicago Marathon as a member of Team in Training.  For some reason, it popped into my head as I walked to work this morning and I thought maybe it was worth sharing.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

On my long run last Sunday, I got thinking about all the things running has taught me.

Hard work, determination, and a positive attitude can take you a long way.
I may not have the natural talent and grace of a gazelle, but with practice, good coaching and a positive attitude, I've learned techniques and developed abilities that help me cover the ground more quickly and feel good doing it.

Small problems become big ones if you don’t deal with them when you should.
I’m constantly amazed at how much trouble a tiny pebble in my shoe or laces that are too tight can cause. If – out of stubbornness or stupidity – I don’t stop to fix the problem quickly enough, I invariably end up with more serious pain or injury somewhere else in my body as it tries to compensate for the changes in my gait.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Love Day!

Okay, I know I'm a day late but, personally, I think Valentine's Day celebrations are worth extending a day or two. Not the cheesy hallmark celebrations. The other kind - the ones that celebrate love in all its beautiful and varied expressions.

The truth is we never know when and where love is going to come from - which is one of the very best things about it.

For example, in my current job I work with an fabulous group of women who, despite being incredibly busy all day every day, still find time to care for and support one another. And they have effortlessly (it seems) offered me that same caring and support. It's wonderful knowing I have that kind of "love" waiting for me at the office every morning.  

For another example, a friend who had been home sick with a stomach flu for two days called last evening to see how I was doing because she was worried I might be lonely and missing my husband. (I did miss him but we celebrated early so I was fine with being on my own last night.)

Then, this morning I received an incredibly thoughtful, wise, funny and compassionate message from a dear friend I haven't seen in more than 20 years. It was so perfectly what I needed today that it made me cry - and reminded me yet again of how many really good people there are in the world, and how lucky I am to call so many friends.

And, then, there are all those unexpected and unnecessary acts of generosity and kindness that occur in our day-to-day interactions with people - on the bus, at the auto repair shop, in the library.  On Valentine's Day and every day, I want to make a point of noticing and celebrating those as expressions of love as well.

Love really is all around us it seems. All we have to do is pay attention.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Another beautiful Halifax run

Okay, I admit it. I'm stubborn. Really really stubborn sometimes. But it wasn't stubborness that got me off the couch and out running today. It was the chance to go for a long slow run through my favourite city in the sunshine.

Let me back up. Yesterday was a pretty tough day.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Famous friends

It's been a humbling week.  In case I needed reminders of my own mediocrity, the Universe brought two old friends to my attention. 

Terry Fallis, the husband of my closest childhood friend, won CBC's "Canada Reads" contest with his novel The Best Laid Plans (which, even more impressively, won the Stephen Leacock award for humour a couple of years ago).

And then tonight I had the pleasure of attending a reading and talk by a former Pearson College classmate, Anne Enright, who won the Man Booker prize for her novel, The Gathering, a few years ago. 

As authors and people, the two couldn't be more different - but they have things in common too. To begin with, they're both extremely bright and funny (albeit in different ways). They're also both deeply concerned about the state of the world, and able to write about people and how they relate to one another with great compassion and insight.  Finally, they share a willingness to speak frankly about their efforts to write books that sell.

It's humbling to compare my own few accomplishments with theirs - but it's also inspiring to know two "real" people who have pursued their dreams with such success.

Congratulations, Anne and Terry!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

There but for the grace of God go I

What an emotional day. It started when I attended a memorial service for a friend's father this afternoon. By all accounts, he was a kind and generous man, known for his great personal integrity, love of story-telling and commitment to family. What a wonderful way to be remembered!  As I joined his family and friends in singing "Tell Me the Old, Old Story" and "Amazing Grace", it was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears.

Then, this afternoon, a friend sent me a link to this blog, written by Steven Eddy, a 39 year old man fighting colorectal cancer. Clicking on the link, I intended to scan only a few of his most recent posts but quickly found myself drawn in by his wry humour, compassion for others and amazing courage. Today's post - "Why I'm Glad I Got Cancer" - was especially moving and thought-provoking.

Finally, tonight I attended the kickoff event for the Halifax chapter of Team in Training where I spent the entire evening talking with and encouraging team members training to run or walk half or full marathons - all to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada. Their commitment and enthusiasm were moving and infectious. I wanted to laugh, cry, sing, dance, and sign myself up for another race. (In fact, I think I will do later this year.)

Most moving of all was the special guest speaker, Melanie Gillis, mother of Gregor Gillis, in whose honour TNT Halifax members will be training and fundraising this season. Physically exhausted after another long night at the hospital with her son, she still found energy to speak passionately and articulately about his illnesses, stoicism and good humour, her gratitude for what TNT members are doing, the generous support her family has received, and the inspiration they draw from all the children they have come to know during Gregor's time in the oncology unit of the IWK Children's Hospital. It's hard to understand where parents like Melanie find the strength, courage and compassion to do what they do, but it's a powerful thing to witness, so it was an honour to spend a little time talking with her tonight.

So - yes - there but for the grace of God go I. How can my little problems appear at all significant in the face of the sadness, fear, pain, love, compassion, determination and courage I saw around me today?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy diversions - a postscript

Here's another happy outcome of all those diversions on Sunday. Because I ran such a relatively short distance, I had the energy to tackle another 9 km run last night when the weather was absolutely perfect for it. As I ran along the shores of Lakes Banook and MicMac savouring the cold clear air and star-filled skies overhead, I thanked the Universe once again for taking such good care of me. Things really do work out the way they're meant to sometimes.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy diversions

Today's "long run" lesson was that unexpected diversions sometimes lead to happier outcomes than you expect.

The lesson began when I set off from my apartment intent on running across the MacDonald Bridge (the older of the two bridges joining Halifax and Dartmouth) to Point Pleasant Park in the city's south end.  When I reached the bridge, I was disappointed to discover the pedestrian lane was closed due to high winds which were peaking at 100 km/hr. I had two options: Stand around in the cold wind waiting for a shuttle bus to take me to the Halifax side or strike off in some other direction. I chose the latter, and turned to run westward towards Shubie Park (a favourite destination).  As I churned up the long hill from the bridge to the highway that leads to the park, I realized that the first happy thing about this diversion was that I had an unexpected opportunity to squeeze in some serious hill training -- which is bound to come in handy when I run Hamilton's Around the Bay 30 km race in late March.

Unfortunately, more diversions lay ahead.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ah ha! Moments

I've been having lots of "ah ha" moments lately. You know, those moments when something that's been murky or confusing suddenly becomes crystal clear. Or when your perspective on something or someone changes just enough that you can suddenly see what they're all about.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Challenging perspectives: reflections on a narcissist

I was thinking today about perspective - how it varies so much from one person to another. 

For example, I have a friend who experienced a great deal of trauma as a child and young adult. Despite suffering significant physical and emotional pain, her perspective as an adult is that she is has a responsibility to care for other people and do what she can to protect them - often at great personal cost to herself. 

By contrast, I learned recently of a man (the father of a close friend) who experienced similar childhood trauma but developed a very different perspective on life.  In his case, the pain he experienced formed the basis for quite a severe case of narcissism in adulthood. He sees life only in terms of its own needs and desires, constantly and unapologetically demands that others see things from his perspective and is almost entirely unable to empathize with his children or anyone else.

On the one hand, I feel compassion for him (and for his family, of course) because it seems whatever is motivating his behaviour must be deeply painful. On the other hand, how do I reconcile his reaction to trauma with that of my friend? How is it that some people turn fear and pain into love and caring, while others rely on it to justify thinking only of themselves?

It's hard to know how to respond to someone who approaches life from such a narcissistic perspective. As my friend explained it to me, if you give in to their demands and conform with their expectations, you feed their narcissism by demonstrating it will get them what they want. If you don't, you reinforce the pain that is at the root of the narcissism and run the risk they will strike out in anger and frustration.

According to the literature, adult narcissists rarely seek treatment or recover from their condition because they are almost never prepared to examine the emptiness and pain that drives them, or acknowledge that there is something wrong with the way they relate to other people.  Practically speaking, I suppose that means the only way to deal with a narcissist it to wish them healing and peace, then have as little to do with them as possible.  But that's not a very satisfactory answer when the person in question is your father or someone else you care about.