Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Premonitions and grief


Maryanne died last Sunday. I was out for my run - an easy 8k up the lake and back. At the turnaround point, my legs decided they didn't want to run anymore and I felt heavy with sadness, fatigue and frustration as I walked the 4k back. A few minutes after I arrived home, Maryanne's partner, Dick, emailed to say that she had just passed away, and I realized why my run had come to such a miserable end.

I don't believe in ESP but I do believe people sometimes experience premonitions - by which I mean, shifts in energy generated by events in the lives of people they care about. I've felt a few such shifts myself when family or friends have been ill or injured. The women in my family label them "feelings" and we tend to get them whenever something especially good or bad is about to happen.

Of course, I knew Maryanne could die any time so it's not surprising I expected the worst last weekend. But what I experienced was more than just generalized dread. It was an intense physical and emotional sense that my dear sister-in-law was dying at that moment. By the time I reached home, cold, exhausted and teary-eyed, I felt certain there would be a message from Dick waiting.

Whether or not, I actually had a premonition, the fact is I've been weighed down by loneliness and grief for months now. Losing Husband's mum, my friend Laura, our elder cat Ranee and Maryanne in less than 8 months has "knocked the stuffing out of me".  Most days, I feel like curling up in a ball and weeping.

Of course, I can't do that. Instead, I drag myself to the office, do what I have to do, then head home to tackle whatever tasks await there. Husband's been away for more than three weeks this time so I have more chores than usual - which means I have less energy for other things. It will be a relief to have him home again. Hopefully, once we're back into regular routines, we'll both feel more like ourselves.

I haven't run much in the past two weeks and the few times I have run my legs have felt awful - which is both surprising and discouraging. For the past decade, running is the thing that has helped most in dealing with stress but, apparently, grief requires something else.

Though I haven't run much lately, I have been getting out for walks most days and went for a lovely skate on the oval last Friday, where I accidentally took this photo.


It nicely captures how I was feeling at that moment - savouring the sunshine and exercise after too much time indoors. I bought new skates just before Christmas and they're much more comfortable than my old ones so I look forward to spending a more time on the oval this winter.

I haven't spent much time with my Nikon 5100 lately - though I did play around with it a bit last weekend, mostly taking selfies to send to Husband. Despite that, I've made a point of looking for photographic opportunities and capturing images on my phone whenever possible. I took the one at the top of this post en route to the office today. The quality's not great but I think it accurately reflects the mood on the ferry as people headed back to work this morning after yesterday's storm.

The only other thing to report is that Mr. Pye has a new "forever home". Poor old Nemmie was becoming more and more distressed by his presence so we finally found new digs for him. Fortunately, our friend Laurie knew a wonderful family who'd recently lost an elderly cat and were looking for another to soften the blow. So far, it seems to be working out well so we couldn't be happier - though I must say I miss the little guy. He'd managed to squirm his way into our hearts pretty thoroughly in the three months he lived with us.

That's it for me, friends. Hope your new years have begun more happily and productively than mine. I'd be interested to know if you believe in premonitions. Have you ever had one?

Happy running and writing!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The year that was, the year that will be


With 2014 behind me, it's time to assess the year that was and make plans for 2015.

My word of the year for 2014 was "plunge" as in "plunge boldly into the thick of life" and, in a post last January, I elaborated on my aspirations for the year this way:
The type of exploration I have in mind - spiritual, physical, emotional, and creative - involves immersing myself in things that matter to me - not tentatively, but with abandon - so that I may follow where my heart and soul lead. 
To that end, I decided I'd "run less" so that I'd have more time for the things and people that mattered most.

On the creative side, I was determined to do more writing and photography, get back into knitting and quilting, and take art classes for the first time in several decades.  

My goals for physical activity included doing more yoga, getting back into swimming, and trying some other activity I'd always wanted to do - like cross-country skiing or kayaking.  

On the emotional and spiritual front, I wanted to spend more time strengthening relationships with family and friends, seeking out kindred spirits at work, and exploring spiritual issues. 

Did I accomplish all I hoped ? Did I grow in the ways I aspired to grow? Did I give as fully as I intended to the causes and people I care about?

After a few weeks of tough soul-searching, I have to admit I didn't.

Granted, it wasn't an easy year. We lost Husband's mum and our dear old cat, and a close friend passed away unexpectedly. I spent a chunk of time early in the year trying to help my folks sell their house. We had unexpected company for several weeks over the summer. And, these past few months we've been dealing with Husband's sister's illness.

All of which meant that the time I freed up by "running less" got consumed by things that bore no resemblance to what I'd planned to do.

I had some minimal success in that I managed to take a painting class and captained my relay team to a couple of events. I also took a few baby steps towards expanding my professional network, and developing a "plan B" for when it's time to leave my current job. But, when I look back at 2014, what I mostly feel is sadness and disappointment.

That's not to say, there weren't some terrific things too. For instance, I loved visiting Yukon for the first time, and we had an awesome (though far too brief) trip to Newfoundland. We also thoroughly enjoyed hosting all the folks who came to visit last summer.

But the truth is 2014 pretty much sucked and, standing at the threshold of 2015, I felt so tired and demoralized, I couldn't summon up even enough energy to set new goals. To make matters worse, I came down with a nasty stomach virus that kept me in bed for most of last week.

On the upside, being sick in bed for several days gave my subconscious time to sort out how I felt about 2015 and come up with a list of priorities for the coming year. They're somewhat tentative at this point but I'm hoping they'll get the new year underway on a more positive note.

READ MORE - Since I got addicted to the internet, I've spent less and less time reading books. I'm not sure I read a dozen books in 2015 - which is pretty pathetic when I think about all the time I spent on Facebook. This year, my goal is to read at least a book a week. So far, so good. I finished Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam last week (loved it!), am almost through Margaret Webb's Older, Stronger, Faster, and started Terry Fallis' hilarious novel, No Relation, on the weekend.  Books were my first love so it feels good to be back in the reading groove.

EAT BETTER - Husband and I have been talking about our eating habits a lot the past few months. We do our best to buy locally produced food, stick to veggies 4 or 5 days a week and cook from scratch. However, reading Older, Stronger, Faster made me realize our dietary choices haven't been doing much to help my running so I'd like to try fixing that in 2015 by upping our intake of fruit, veggies and nuts and drastically reducing our consumption of grains, legumes, cheeses and sugars. More on that in a future post.

RUN MORE - It turns out I didn't enjoy "running less" in 2014. I missed the mental and physical challenges of marathon training and had far less energy. Given that, I plan to return to running more in 2015, If all goes well, I hope to complete two marathons along with a number of shorter races. I haven't decided which events I'll do yet but, with all the uncertainty in our lives, I'll likely choose ones close to home.

TRAIN SMARTER - The other thing OSF emphasizes is the importance of training smarter. As a 50-something woman, I've got a lot going on biologically and require more rest than a fit 20 year old. If I'm going to succeed at getting stronger and faster, I need to make every workout count, cross-train for strength and agility, fuel properly and get enough rest. To that end, I've registered for a yoga class on Monday nights and plan to do speed and hill work with a local running club on Wednesdays. I've also started going to bed an hour earlier.

BANISH THE CLUTTER - This is something I've been working on for awhile but it needs to be a major focus in 2015 as we prepare to sell our country house and live full-time (for awhile at least) in our much smaller city house. So far, I've managed to go through my closet and dresser drawers and dispose of several bags of shoes and clothing - which felt wonderful! My office is next! For inspiration, I've spent a lot of time reading Becoming Minimalist, which provides terrific advice on simplifying your life so you can focus on the things that matter.

FIRST THINGS FIRST - This is the most important goal of all. It's about achieving more balance. The other goals I've outlined are ambitious enough to overwhelm and exhaust me if I let them and, as I discovered last year, life has a way of interfering with the best laid plans. I'll do my best to make my goals a priority but, when and if more important things force me to abandon or modify them, I'll try hard to roll with it.

So what about you? How was your 2014? Have you set goals for 2015? How's it going so far? Are you optimistic about this shiny new year?

Happy running and writing, friends!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sad, dark days ahead

It will have to be a short post tonight. I'm too tired and emotionally drained to write much.

Husband's sister Maryanne is slipping away quickly so life feels unsteady. It's as if we're standing on the upper deck of a ship desperately clinging to ropes to keep from being tossed overboard and watching long dark waves roll towards us. There's no way to avoid what's coming. The best we can hope for is to survive the storm, knowing nothing will ever be the same.

This past weekend, we began preparing for Christmas. Maryanne has always loved Christmas so we want to honour her by making the best of it, difficult as that will be. We didn't decorate a tree because we don't know where we'll be for the holidays, but we unpacked an assortment of ornaments, listened to Christmas music and drank our first glasses of eggnog.

I also went for a long, slow run up the river on Sunday, and spent the time remembering all the adventures we've shared with Maryanne and her partner Dick over the years - hiking, snowshoeing, bird-watching and canoeing. Their enthusiasm for the outdoors is infectious. A visit with Maryanne and Dick always involved plenty of fresh air and exercise, not to mention fabulous food, wine and conversation.

Tonight, as I sit by the fire writing this, it seems surreal that, just a few months ago, the four of us sat on Maryanne and Dick's back deck savouring a warm summer's night, sipping wine and talking of future adventures together, blissfully unaware of the sad, dark days ahead. How can so much have changed so quickly?

I comfort myself by remembering something my friend Annette told me shortly before she died of breast cancer. She said she believed death would feel like stepping outside into a cool, clear, starlit night after being stuck too long in a hot, smokey room. I hope she was right about that. Given everything Maryanne's been through, death should feel worth dying for.

With "real life" taking up so much of my time and attention at the moment, I don't plan to write much in the next few weeks. Hopefully, by the time January rolls around I'll feel ready to pick up a pen again.

Until then, happy running and writing, friends.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Running Lessons: Attitude is everything

Last evening, as I was walking home from the bus stop, I was reminded of the importance of attitude.

It was a miserable night - dark, rainy, and cold - and I'd just avoided being struck in a crosswalk by an inattentive driver. The wind was blowing so hard, I kept one hand firmly on my hood to hold it in place. As I hiked morosely up the hill towards home, my clothes and boots were soaked through and my mood was bleaker than the weather.

That's when it happened. From down the street, a child's laughter rang out and I looked up to see a small boy - perhaps 5 or 6 - coming towards me, arms outstretched, face upturned to catch the full force of the rain. He was skipping - no, dancing - down the street, savouring the excitement of the storm and chattering cheerfully to his mother, who walked beside him.

How, I thought to myself, could anyone be so happy on such an awful night?

How indeed?

I've not posted anything in awhile because, to be honest, I'm struggling to stay positive these days. Things aren't going well for Husband's sister so he was in Ottawa the past two weeks. Work is challenging. I feel as if I'm fighting a virus. The cats are squabbling constantly. By all accounts, it seems we are on the brink of a new Cold War. Bombings, killings, and injustices of all kinds dominate the news.

And, on top of all that, I gave up on both the goals I set for this month - to run 100 miles and write 50,000 words - soon after Husband left for Ottawa.  I just didn't have the heart or the energy to pursue them with so much else going on. 

The writing goal was the easier to give up. I knew when I started NaNoWriMo that all I really wanted was to write a single short story that I liked. I managed to draft three - including one I hope is worth revising - so I was content to let the challenge go for this year.

It was much harder to give up on the running goal. As recently as a few days ago, I was still trying to work out how to squeeze 40 kms into 5 days - arithmetically possible, but foolhardy given how tired and stressed I already was. Pushing myself to run so much in so short a time would only have made things worse.

When I stopped to think about it why giving up on the running goal was so difficult, I realized it was because I don't think of myself as "fit" unless I can run 16-20 kms with relative ease and, since I haven't done any serious training since June, that's no longer the case. In fact, a slow 13k to Shubie Park and back was the most I could manage last weekend.

And here's where attitude comes in. I could be frustrated and discouraged by the fact that I'm in such relatively poor shape. Alternatively, I could be grateful that I'm still able to run (when many others can't) and either get more serious about training or adjust my definition of what it means to be fit. My attitude towards both the rain and my current degree of fitness is entirely up to me.

I suspect I may not be done with running long distances just yet. A few weeks ago, I watched an amazing video that inspired me to think about what more I might want to accomplish in my running career. After all, there's no reason to think I can't get stronger and faster if I decide that's what I want to do. The question is do I?

Happy running and writing, friends.