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.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

NaNoWriMo and November100Mile Challenge - Day #9: The spirit is willing, the body is weak

So far, so good. I can't pretend the first nine days have been easy. It's been far more challenging than I expected to run every day - though I've done only short distances and taken more walk breaks than usual. Day #6 felt so difficult, I seriously thought about giving up on my goal of running 100 miles this month but, fortunately, the last few days have been easier - as if my body is beginning to adapt to the extra exercise.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that it feels hard. After all, in the 12+ years since I took up running, I've never worked out more than two or three days in a row. In fact, whenever possible, I've let myself have 48 hours between runs to recover. Given that, running 9 days in a row is a major accomplishment. If I can manage 30 days and a total of 100 miles, I'll be thrilled. Only 21 days and 70 more miles to go!

My NaNoWriMo project is progressing well too. To this point, I've drafted two and a half stories. Though I'm not particularly happy with any of them, I'm hopeful that will change when I get round to rewriting them. The story I'm writing now has an intriguing premise. It's about a 59 year old man who, faced with the prospect of an unhappy retirement, decides to try to kill himself by running Cape to Cabot. A goofy idea, I know, but I'm hoping I can find some way to make it work.  In any case, I'm enjoying the process.

I booked an extra day off work tomorrow so that Husband and I could have a four day weekend in the country. I had hoped to get a bunch of writing done but so far I've been too tired and distracted by other things - spending time with my dad, gardening, neurotic cats and (most of all) bad news from Husband's family in Ottawa. 

It turns out Husband's sister, just a couple of years older than him, has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and is expected to live no more than a few months. The news has come as a shock for many reasons - not least because she's always been an active, healthy person, who regularly cross-country skied, hiked, canoed, etc. Cancer's never fair but it seems particularly cruel in this case. 

The fact that my sister-in-law has so little time left means Husband and I will try to spend more time in Ottawa in the coming months. It's also caused us rethink our plans for the future. To this point, we thought I would work work until 60 so I could retire with a reasonable pension. However, by that time, Husband will be 70, so we find ourselves wondering if it's wise to wait that long. We're both relatively fit and healthy at the moment but that may not be the case in another 7 or 8 years. On the other hand, early retirement means less financial security down the road - not to mention a leaner lifestyle now. Either option feels like a bit of a crap shoot so it's hard to know what to do. 

On that happy note, it's time I got back to working on my story. Fingers crossed I can find some way to make the plot hang together. 

Happy running and writing, friends. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo Day #2 - A very focused weekend

The good thing about taking on the duel challenge of running 100 miles (aka 160 kilometres) and writing 50,000 words this month is that it will force me to be very focused and organized. My goals for the weekend were to write 5,000 words and run at least 12 kms, which I managed to do despite various distractions and some miserable rainy weather. Of course, it helped that the time "fell back" last night so I got an extra hour's sleep.

In addition to all the running and writing, I tackled a bunch of chores, which included picking paint colours for the living room and hallway, making a plan for the flower bed so Husband can plant stuff that's still hanging around in pots, reorganizing the living room furniture and cleaning the study. I also spent a nerve-wracking hour this evening figuring out how to rebuild our iPhoto library when it stopped working. (Yikes! Glad I had a backup.)

Between chores this afternoon, Husband and I slipped out for an hour to check out the new Darkside Cafe, which opened a few weeks ago. We both enjoyed it very much. The cafe has a warm, friendly vibe, good coffee and delicious dark chocolate brownies served with whipped cream so it's well worth stopping by if you're in the neighbourhood.

The  best thing about today was that I got another story idea while I was running. I waited to tell Husband about it over coffee and, just as I hoped, he got all misty-eyed. (I love that he has such a tender heart.) Now, if only I can write the story to be as heart-warming as I'd like it to be.

I must say I look forward to finishing the story I'm working on at the moment. It's a very dark tale in which a nasty Gomeshi-like character plays a central role. At this point, I expect the story to end happily for my heroine and her friend, but it's a tough slog writing about such a violent, narcissistic sociopath.

Time now to have cocoa with Husband and tuck into bed. It's bound to feel like a long week with so much running and writing added to my schedule so I want to start the week well-rested.

Happy writing and running, friends!