Thursday, June 23, 2011

Running Lessons: Stories matter

I ran a marathon last weekend.  It wasn't pretty. Things went to pieces early in the race when my right knee seized up and I spent most of the next three and a half hours in considerable pain. It was disappointing because I'd spent nearly six months preparing for the race in hopes I'd finally manage to run a marathon in less than four and a half hours but, in the end, didn't improve on my personal best (PB) time at all. To make matters worse, because I was feeling so confident I was going to achieve a new PB, I'd been telling family and friends about it for weeks. So, needless to say, I was feeling more than a little disappointed, discouraged and embarrassed as I limped back to my apartment that evening.

Later, as I struggled to write a post about the experience for my other blog, It ain't about the Tiffany necklace, I was reminded of the importance of the stories we tell.  I wanted to be honest about what had happened but was also determined to try not to be too negative since many of my new TNT teammates are training to run their first marathons and the last thing I wanted to do was discourage them.  I also knew that the way in which I told the story would ultimately determine whether I remembered my fifth marathon as a mostly positive or negative experience.  In the end, I tried to tell a story about overcoming adversity, how lucky I was to be able to run at all, and how grateful I was to have friends and family who'd made it possible. (You can read the post here and decide for yourself whether I succeeded.)

In life, we constantly make choices (consciously or unconsciously) about the stories we tell - about ourselves and others, to ourselves and others. We can be positive or negative, hopeful or discouraged, generous or selfish, optimistic or pessimistic. We can cling to illusions about our own situations and other people's or we can open our eyes to reality and speak the truth as we see it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Comfort food

I've had a frantic week during which I've occasionally felt frazzled so when I returned to my apartment last evening I needed some comfort food - bread and molasses washed down with a glass of cold milk to be more precise. I'm not sure why I find bread and molasses so comforting. I suppose it's because I associate them with my warm and happy childhood. A variety of other foods have the same effect on me - my mom's homemade biscuits, baked beans, cinnamon toast, boiled dinner with dumplings and homemade chicken soup, for example.

It's interesting to think about what else provides comfort. Usually, it's familiar things or activities - my husband's arms around me, tea with a friend, a favourite movie, curling up by the fire with a book, or going for a walk on my favourite beach. Rissers' Beach (where the picture above was taken) is one of the places I go whenever I have things to figure out. Invariably, just being there soothes my soul, encourages me to breathe, and helps me get a little perspective on whatever's troubling me.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The measure of character

The measure of a man's real character is what he would do if he knew he never would be found out. - Thomas Babington Macaulay
I've been thinking a lot about character lately. It seems good character is something that's no longer especially valued in western societies. Generally, we accept that people act dishonestly and without integrity in some circumstances. We also have a tendency to accept a range of excuses for their bad behaviour (the person was angry, hurt, damaged or depressed, for example) and to accept bad behaviour in situations where we think "no harm will be done".

But is good character really so "situational"?  Doesn't what we do when no one is looking say everything about who we really are?  Whether or not we're ever caught or anyone is hurt, the things we do out of sight of other people determine whether we're really men and women of integrity who treat others with respect and caring - or not.