The original name of this post was supposed to be “Running On More of THE Road” as a follow up to my blog a year ago called “Running On THE Road” about the Great Ocean Road Half-Marathon I ran. ‘More of THE Road’ meant running from Lorne to Apollo Bay, the length of the 44km Full Marathon.
“Supposed” to be?
Yeah. Guess what? I didn’t run it.
Now, anyone who knows me knows that I possess a very wide stubborn streak. I don’t like giving up. Admittedly, sometimes when something is very challenging I will have a meltdown and declare I can’t do it but usually the melting down also melts down the stress and I pick myself up and get on with it.
And that is exactly how it originally went. One might suppose that scheduling a three week trip to Nepal, closely followed by completing a 100km charity walk and then giving myself six weeks to train for a full marathon was perhaps overdoing it a tad but, you know, shiny things….
Predictably, limited training due to travel and a focus on long-distance walking and then a week’s wait for blisters to heal, did not leave me in prime running condition when I picked up marathon training halfway through the program.
I was slow. Like, a full minute or more per kilometre than I was used to. And an attempted 3.5 hour training run ended after 2.5 hours when I just couldn’t go any further.
Did I consider giving up? You bet. And I think I would have. I could have easily dropped back to run the half-marathon instead except…. well …. been there, done that, got the medal. So nothing for it but to push on.
So I did. Slowly my pace picked up and the following weekend, I successfully completed that 3.5 hour run. I was feeling confident again I’d make it to the finish line. Maybe not in a spectacular time but you get the medal whether you’re first or last as long as you finish so no biggy.
But then my body had other ideas.
Getting up off the couch in the early morning after a wee hours insomnia-induced movie watching session, I suddenly felt pain in the left side of my chest and my shoulder. I thought I must have been lying awkwardly. Or maybe it was another version of a similar problem I had three years ago that turned up nothing. So I got on with my usual day.
Yeah, yeah, before you lecture me, I’ve already had that lecture from the doctor. “Next time, if you have pain in your chest and arm, you call the ambulance or get to an emergency department!” Okay, okay.
Two days of pain in my chest and two days of pain in the neck hassling from friends and family sent me off to the doctor only to be told there there was nothing wrong with my heart or lungs and it was muscular. Take some anti-inflammatories and wait for it to get better.
“Poor health is not caused by something you don’t have; it’s caused by disturbing something that you already have. Healthy is not something that you need to get, it’s something you have already if you don’t disturb it.” ~ Dean Ornish
Which it kind of did. Until it didn’t.
A week after the first lot of pain, a new development began. I was now accompanied by a silent, invisible assassin who would stab me in the lower left of my back at random intervals. He/she especially liked cuddling up to me in bed and sticking in the knife every time I moved.
It took me five days to go and see a doctor. I know, I know.
I had to dedicate a whole morning to blood tests, a urine test, ECG and a chest x-ray. I threw in some pre-poll voting while I was at it since it was in the same vicinity and I was going to be away the day of the coming federal election. Such a productive day.
By 5.00pm I was in the Emergency Department. One of the blood tests had indicated the possible presence of a blood clot. The admitting nurse and the consulting doctor both reacted as if my GP was an over-anxious parent with a cold-ridden child convinced she has pneumonia and declared that as I had none of the physical indicators of a clot and the blood test was notoriously often false, I was probably wasting my time. But as I’d been sent there, they had to give me a CT scan.
They found a small blood clot in my left lung. Also inflammation and a small amount of fluid. How embarrassing.
And how mysterious.
Fortunately, a hospital stay was not required and I was sent home with a prescription for blood thinners and an appointment with a haematologist the next day.
The haematologist was just as mystified. I am a fit non-smoker and have not had a virus or an injury. There were no signs a blood clot would be lurking at the bottom of my lung. All he could do was confirm the emergency doctor’s instructions to take blood thinners for three months and I’d be retested at the end of it to see what happens.
“No running for a month,” I was told.
“But I have a race on Sunday! What about…,” I pleaded. “What about I walk the half-marathon? It has a six and a half hour cut off. That’s like less than 5km/h!”
He grudgingly agreed. I had to promise not to run and also not to push too hard and to pull out if I felt unwell.
Yep. Definitely going to do that.
I didn’t run. But I did walk kind of fast. By accident. I swear. It was a lovely day and a stunningly beautiful route and I just got kind of excited. Truly.
I finished in 3 hours and 16 minutes. That’s an hour longer than it took me to run it last year. Under the circumstances, I can be happy with that.
(Those circumstances, by the way, included a migraine the night before the race and almost having to push my way off the bus when we got to the start line because I was about to be sick. One of the tough things about the Great Ocean Road races is that you have to sit on a bus for 30-60 minutes on a windy road to get to the start line. Most challenging race start anywhere, I reckon.)
Unsurprising to other runners who understand, at the end of the race I felt the best I’d felt in weeks. Even during the race, as I found last year, the sheer joy of
running walking along one of the most scenic roads in the world lifted my spirits and made me feel whole again.
Who wouldn’t want to beg their medical specialist to be allowed to traverse this road?
Postscript 1: The day after the race, an ultrasound found a blood clot behind my left knee caused by the combination of a varicose vein and an overseas flight (it is assumed). This provides something of an answer to the mysterious clot in my lung. It also appears that this will be an ongoing problem so there are more doctors, tests and procedures in my future.
Postscript 2: I’d like to dedicate this post to my friend Rachel who moved to New Zealand via Apollo Bay so we could enjoy this last run together. She also kindly looked after me when I was being a misery guts.
Are you an Intentional Socialite or an Incidental Socialite?*
A what or a what? I’ve never heard of those terms.
Of course not. I just made them up.
Well then how can I answer the question if I don’t know what they are? Maybe if you explained them first?
Oh. I guess you’re right. Okay.
An Intentional Socialite is one who actively pursues social interactions with others. They’re the ones who hold dinners, organise nights out or coffee catch ups or who are only interested in going to see a movie if it’s with a group of friends.
Makes sense. And an Incidental Socialite?
An Incidental Socialite experiences social contact in the context of another activity. A chat over coffee after church or community singing, catching up during a break in a theatre rehearsal or art class, the brief “How’s it going?” exchanges after a meeting or waiting to pick up kids in the school playground, even purely social events as long as they’re predictable like Friday night drinks after work or a weekly coffee date at the same cafe.
I think I understand.
Good. So which one are you?
I need to think about it. I’ll let you know in the Comments.
So which one are you, then?
Me? Oh, definitely an Incidental Socialite. Well, except for a brief period at the end of my 30s when I actively pursued social contact with the support of a psychologist in a challenging time of my life.
What made you stop?
Psychologists are expensive.
Ha ha. Couldn’t you do it without the psychologist?
As a shy introvert? No. Not for long, anyway.
Did it concern you?
Not really. That’s the beauty of Incidental Social Contact, you don’t notice that you don’t really have a social life.
So what made you come up with this concept?
Too much long distance running by myself. Nowhere to go but inside my own head.
Very funny. But there must have been some reason the thoughts were there.
Hm. Yeah, there was.
Well, you know how I said I wasn’t concerned about not having intentional social contact?
Lately I have been.
Been what? Concerned?
Well, that was the question, wasn’t it? Why? Why now after all these years?
And I realised I was noticing a lack of social contact with people because almost all of my incidental social opportunities have disappeared.
I see. How did that happen?
Hard to say. Life changes, you know? Some things ended by choice. Some not. Even with work, I’ve gone back to casual teaching and work offers have been thin on the ground so even brief staffroom chats over lunch aren’t happening.
So what are you going to do? As an Incidental Socialite?
Get used to my own company?
Not funny. Seriously, what are you going to do?
Well, I’ve got you, haven’t I? I do enjoy these little chats of ours in the Comments Bar & Grill. What are you drinking? My shout.
Thanks, I’m flattered and I’ll post my order in the Comments. But don’t you think flesh and blood socialising might also be a good idea?
Well, I have started going to group classes at the gym.
I guess that’s a start. Although, how do you hold a conversation while you’re bouncing around and sweating profusely?
It can be done. After all, I came up with this whole Intentional/Incidental social concept while I was running thirty kilometres, didn’t I?
Thirty kilometres?? You ran thirty kilometres? Okay, I think you may have more problems than I thought.
Very funny. I’ve finished my drink. It’s your shout.
Uh, right. What are you having?
Gin. And as you’re buying, make it a double.
*My fingers kept wanting to type “Socialist” but that’s a whole other discussion.
How long do you think it would take you to walk 100 kilometres? Could you do it in 36 hours? 24? Less than 20? (Ultra-marathoners need not apply – you people are freaks.)
Each year, around the world, international charity organisation Oxfam gives you the opportunity to answer that question and to raise money for their work to eliminate poverty worldwide.
Oxfam Trailwalker “was established in 1981 by Brigadier Mervyn Lee in Hong Kong as a training exercise by the Queen’s Gurkha Signals, part of the Brigade of Gurkhas of the British Army, which was at the time based in the British colony. In 1986, teams of civilians were allowed to take part and Oxfam Hong Kong was invited to co-organise the event.
In 1997, with the handover of Hong Kong to China, the Gurkha regiments were relocated to the United Kingdom. The Trailwalker event followed the Gurkhas’ relocation and was organised over the South Downs in Sussex, with Oxfam in the UK acting as partner since 2002, alongside the Gurkha Welfare Trust. Oxfam Hong Kong continued to organise the original event without the Gurkhas and the event has grown with 17 events now taking place across 10 countries worldwide.” [Wikipedia]
This year, Oxfam Australia celebrated 20 years of Trailwalker, the Sydney event starting in 1999 with Melbourne not long after in 2003. A Brisbane event was established in 2011 and one in Perth in 2013 (although it was decided not to run this event this year).
Trailwalker involves a team of four completing a 100 kilometre trail within a set time. The time varies across events but ranges from 30 to 48 hours. This year the Melbourne event hosted a brand new trail and reduced the previous 48 hour cut off to 36 hours.
If this is sounding all very familiar and you’re thinking, “Hang on. Haven’t you done this event before?”, you are correct. I did the Melbourne event in 2014 (read about it here) after previously participating in 2012. Despite both times having sworn I’d never do it again (usually about 80km in at 3 o’clock in the morning when everything is aching and you think you’ll never see the sun again), I signed up again this year. Hey, it was a new trail. And being the 20th Anniversary, there was BLING!
The first challenge when you decide to take on Trailwalker is to find a team. It always made me laugh when I’d start telling someone about it and they’d sound keen until they realised it wasn’t a relay event. “No, you don’t walk 25km each. You have to walk the whole 100km.” Often I then had to move on to finding another
The key to selecting a team is not so much about physical fitness (although, obviously a good level of fitness is necessary) but about mental toughness. It’s a gruelling event, particularly for your mind and you need people who can push through when your body is screaming for you to stop. Obviously, given you’re going to be together for many hours, it’s a good idea if you also get along well.
For this year’s team, I managed to rope in my brother who completed the event with me in 2014 and my marathon-running friend from my 2012 team. The fourth member was a friend from work who is a bushwalker and has walked the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea.
What is also crucial is an excellent support crew. I’ve been lucky to have two friends who have volunteered for this role for each of my Trailwalker attempts. They are the champions of support crews and I am grateful beyond suitable words for their willingness to repeatedly participate in this role.
Obviously, serious training goes into such an event. We walked increasingly longer lengths of the trail, including one memorable 47km leg on a 37°C day. The last big walk was two weeks before the event when we walked two 40km efforts, one on Saturday afternoon, the second on Sunday morning. Of course, despite the aching legs and blistered feet, who could complain about the chance to walk in beautiful settings with people you like?
This was my third crack at Trailwalker but you never stop learning. We’ve taken lessons away from each of the events I’ve completed from how a team should respond to a team member becoming very slow to never underestimating the importance of foot care. Also, nothing beats an egg and bacon roll for breakfast after walking all night. (Or egg and cheese for the vegetarians. I don’t know what vegans should do.)
This year also taught me just how much the event is a psychological challenge more than a physical one. It’s not just pushing yourself past your limits but it’s the fact you’re also trying to push three other people to the finish line. So when a team member struggles at a difficult section and you have to wait for them to push through, you need to pull on every bit of patience you can find in yourself. When a team member slows down in the later sections, you’ve got to find words of encouragement when your brain just wants to shut down. Perhaps because I’ve been the one to put the team together (and therefore designated ‘Team Leader’), I’ve felt a higher level of responsibility for everyone in the team, worrying if they’re okay, if they’re happy, talking through frustrations, willing everyone to the finish line.
This year we had a target time of 24 hours. Having completed the 2012 and 2014 events in 26:15 and 25:35 respectively, and the new trail seeming a bit less challenging it was a target that seemed achievable.
Until things fell apart in the second section of the trail. The newbie member of the team suddenly found the going tough when we encountered the first serious hills only 12.5km into the trail. We hadn’t walked this section in training as it was a last minute change to the course due to protests from local walking groups about one of the original sections. My brother and I had walked it before as it had been part of the 2014 trail but it was new for this member. As the going got slower and slower, we could see that we were not going to remain on track. By the time we reached the checkpoint we were nearly 2 hours behind schedule.
This meant an adjustment to our plan and we had to shift dinner and breakfast stops. But here’s the interesting thing: in many ways the change worked out better than the original plan.
Firstly we were able to combine a warm clothes change stop and our dinner stop into one thus saving 30 minutes. Not long after we sat down under cover for dinner, the rain came pouring down. Had we been on the original plan, we’d have been out in it.
Dinner was at a more convenient time for our support crew members to get to and settle into their accommodation before needing to meet us for breakfast.
The night leg is always the hardest. Many teams choose to sleep but I can’t imagine trying to get my legs to start moving again after lying down for a few hours. I’ve always found it best to just push through.
We left our support crew after dinner at 9pm and didn’t see them again until breakfast at 5.30am but they are always on call if we need them. Even if it’s just to vent via messages about another team member. (Hey, siblings are allowed to get pissed off about each other.) It’s a long and tiring leg and there may have been tears.
After the challenges of section 2, everyone seemed to find their walking groove overnight and we made good progress but we were still an hour and a half behind schedule by the time we stopped for breakfast one checkpoint earlier than planned. This also turned out to be for the best as it had more and closer parking than the next checkpoint.
Egg and bacon rolls were consumed, coffee was drunk, water supplies were replenished, naps were taken and feet attended to. For the first time in my Trailwalker history, I had to take painkillers.
Every time I’ve done Trailwalker, the shift in mood after the breakfast stop is amazing. There’s something about a hot breakfast and the sun coming up that gives you new vigour and returns a smile to your face.
And it must have all worked because despite my planning including extra time for the last two sections on the assumption that we would be tired and therefore slower, we in fact did not slow down and in some miraculous way made up time. And this despite the rain coming down in earnest about 10km from the finish line.
Anyone who has completed Trailwalker will tell you that crossing that finish line is huge. It’s hard to describe the sense of achievement and relief but just check out those smiles. (© Kris Smythe)
We crossed that line (and got to the sign in tent – your finish time isn’t registered until you check in) in 24 hours and 2 minutes. It was a mysterious result given early indications but I’ll take it.
Of course, it’s not just about the walk. It’s about supporting Oxfam and helping people you’ve never met. At the close of fundraising, we had raised a total of $3,428. And that’s where this is more than a team of four event or even a team and support crew event. It’s about the people around you that support, encourage and contribute to all your efforts that makes the experience all the more worthwhile. There’s something about Oxfam Trailwalker that extends beyond just an ultra-distance event. It’s knowing you’re making the world just a little bit better at the same time. That’s worth any number of blisters.
Oh, and that 3am promise that I’ll never do it again? Didn’t happen. I’ve got my sights set on becoming a Trailwalker ‘Legend’ which means I need two more events under my belt.
So. How long do you think it would take you to walk 100km?
Postscript: Someone asked me how I reconcile supporting Oxfam in light of the recent sex scandal. My response is that in a large international organisation there will always be those who do the wrong thing and in fact, in the wake of the Oxfam revelations, other aid organisations including International Red Cross, Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children and Plan International have been implicated in similar allegations. As this article explains better than I can, I believe that punishing an NGO by withdrawing support only ends up hurting the ones who can afford it least and risks pushing the behaviour even more underground. Providing the organisation has shown action in the wake of allegations to fix the problem, I believe they still deserve support to do the work they do that is so desperately needed around the world.
I joined Facebook in early 2007. It opened to anyone with an email address (as opposed to being limited to educational institutions) in September 2006. So I’ve been on Facebook for most of its public life. That’s quite a long time for an old person. The young whippersnappers are quite gobsmacked when they ask if I’m on Facebook and I tell them “Sonny, I was on Facebook before you were born.”
(Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit. Also, I was lying. Real young whippersnappers aren’t on Facebook anymore.)
Facebook is one of those plus and minus things in your life. I won’t elaborate. Anyone on Facebook knows what I’m talking about. Anyone not on Facebook by now doesn’t want to know the pluses anyway.
I’ve found it useful at times. The year I was training for my first marathon, I would put updates on my page titled “Diary of a Mad Wannabe Marathon Woman”. It made me accountable and got me out training when I didn’t feel like it. And it gave me something to think about as I ran.
I’ve also discovered some pretty cool running opportunities that have popped up in my Facebook newsfeed. (It’s odd. If you post a lot of stuff about running, Facebook puts running ads in your feed. How do they know to do that?? 🙄 )
About a year ago, I deactivated my account. It wasn’t in response to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Anyone shocked by what came out about all that, clearly doesn’t understand you don’t get something free for nothing.
In my case, I got out after I posted one too many “a trouble shared is a trouble halved” posts in a time of stress which broke a couple of rules and I got in trouble at work. I’m not a fan of getting in trouble. So my response was to deactivate my account.
After two weeks, I reactivated it because I had an attack of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It wasn’t that I was missing what people were eating when they went out for dinner or photographs of their feet at a beach or pool in some exotic location. I had a fear of missing out on photographs and stories of some special little people in my life that I don’t get to see in person very often. Also, some of the wackiest and most exhilarating running events I’ve participated in have come about because an ad about it popped up in my feed. I didn’t want to miss out on the next exciting night run or crazy cosplay race. There were also a couple of pages that were informational and I was worried about missing out on things I wanted to do because I wouldn’t know about them.
I returned to Facebook under new conditions. I reduced my ‘friends’ by about two thirds, narrowed the pages I was following to just the ones from which I really wanted information and ramped up my privacy settings to maximum level. It at least felt a little safer.
However, I’ve just deactivated my account again and this time I mean it. The only reason I’ve chosen deactivation over total deletion is that I need to maintain a Messenger presence for family reasons. I’m also, for now, hanging onto the Facebook page for my blog so in some ways, I still have a presence there but without all the extra….er…stuff.
So why now? And what happened to FOMO?
The thing is, photos of little people I love will never make up for in-person cuddles and giggles. There are other places I can look up running events I might wish to participate in (and maybe missing a few and not cramming my life so full is a good thing.) I’m hoping friends holding music gigs or workshops will keep me in mind and spread the news beyond Facebook.
Life changes and sometimes parts of your life that have been important come to an end either by choice or unexpectedly. Facebook can have an unfortunate tendency to keep those parts of your life in your face. If the ending was not your choice, it can be painful to be reminded of what you have lost. Photos from outings to which you’re no longer invited, glowing posts about events that you know you will never be involved in again. De-friending or un-following is not always the easy answer.
Maybe it’s also a chance to increase opportunities for real world interactions and sharing beyond just a click on Like or leaving a passing comment.
So I’m choosing to care for me, cutting myself some slack and unbinding from the ‘book.
And the big plus side? In my need for human connection, I’ll come looking for it in the blogosphere. Look out, MOSY is back!
What’s your relationship with Facebook? Avid fan, necessary user or full anti-Zuckerberg?
So, it’s the end of January. We’re 1/12th of the way through 2019 already. How are your New Year Resolutions going? Are you living in a world of success, despair or meh who cares?
Me, I’m basking in the light of victory because I have, as I predicted, broken every single one of my resolutions already. Go me.
One month in is a good opportunity to review our goals for the year. Did we make good choices? Are our resolutions SMART?
No, I’m not shouting at you. SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely.
Because everyone keeps a spreadsheet of data to measure their progress on a New Year Resolution, right?
Ha. I was only joking. But, actually, come to think of it…. be right back.
[2 seconds later]
Yeah….nah. I’m going to need a resolution to create data sheets for my resolutions. That can be 2020’s goal.
So, here’s where my resolutions stand:
Most Forgotten Resolution
Resolution 1: Refuse all requests to take photos of other people
I actually forgot I made this one because so far nobody has asked me to take a photo of them. If this keeps up, I may actually achieve this resolution by doing nothing.
Most Likely To Succeed Resolution
Resolution 5: Go to the gym more regularly
In nine days’ time I have a 10km race, six days after that I fly out to Nepal for three weeks, three weeks after I get back I’ll be walking 100km in 24 hours for Oxfam and six weeks after that I’m running in the Great Ocean Road Marathon (44km). Motivation is a beautiful and useful thing.
Most Broken Resolution
Resolution 4: Limit watching late night talk show monologues to once a week
Who was I kidding? I will continue to break this resolution and I don’t care. It beats curling myself into a ball and whimpering at the state of the world.
Most Unattainable Resolution
Resolution 2: Answer a question with a question and don’t talk about myself
What I failed to realise in setting this goal is that one must first possess the skill of asking spontaneous questions about someone in a conversation. I’ve managed it a few times but only because I’ve predicted the beginning of a conversation and rehearsed the reverse question beforehand. Then the conversation continues and I’m screwed. Are there online courses on “How to conduct a conversation in person” or “How to deflect attention away from oneself in three easy steps”?
Most Worthwhile Resolution
Resolution 3: Limit messages and emails to 25 words or less
The main reason for Resolutions 2 and 3 is that I have grown tired of slapping myself in the head because I said or wrote something stupid, clumsy, inappropriate, unnecessary or untimely. I know. Strange but true. My masochism has boundaries. (Okay, very wide boundaries, being a marathon runner and having signed up for the 100km Oxfam Trailwalker for the third time, but there are definitely boundaries.)
Limiting myself to 25 words won’t eliminate the occurrence of stupidity but it does lessen the likelihood. The three occasions when I have broken this rule in the past month have proven it a worthwhile endeavour to pursue. No more will I cry “That’s not what I meant!” to the heavens.
Obviously there are limitations on this resolution. If I’m organising the next training walk or fundraising effort for my Trailwalker team, limiting myself to 25 words is likely to leave out important details and I will be wondering why they haven’t turned up at the location and time I failed to mention. But for general chitchat, this is a handy guide.
It also reduces the “Gawd, why did I talk so much?” post-messaging head bashing because sometimes when I think I want to say something, I wonder how I can do it in 25 words and then decide I didn’t really need to say it after all. And relief abounds throughout the online land…
Plus, in the end, I love a challenge. And maths. Figuring out how to say something in limited words is good brain work.
And if I get enough practice, I might be able to put it to use in actual competitions and win some cool stuff.
It’s a winning resolution.
So how’s your year going so far?
Type “introvert meme” into a search engine and you’ll find a million and one results. This is good for those of us of the internal variety not only to realise we’re not in there alone but they provide some handy resources to circulate in an effort to help the extrovert world understand our weirdness.
There’s a common misconception that introverts are anti-social. We’re not. It’s just that being social can be exhausting for an introvert. Some people (extroverts) are energised by being around lots of people and talking. Introverts get their energy from spending time in their own heads.
Does this mean we don’t enjoy being with other people? Of course not. Admittedly, we’re not always good conversationalists. We don’t do small talk. And for those of us with the double whammy of introversion and shyness, maintaining a conversation, especially with someone we don’t know well, can be agony. On the plus side, we make great listeners.
Introverts can do social. We can even like it. It’s just that we prefer meaningful conversation with one or two people we know well. In a large social gathering, you’re more likely to find us clearing the table or in the kitchen doing the dishes. We like a large gathering if we have the option of moving in and out of social interaction with a job to do.
Unfortunately, introverts – along with those ubiquitous memes about us – can sometimes be our own worst enemies. A plethora of memes about how we’d rather stay home or how social occasions cause us anxiety can have unintended consequences. Often it means that other people hesitate to invite introverts out for a social date. Let’s face it, an introvert will never be the life of the party (although personally I kill it with the Under 5 crowd) and rarely tops an invitation list. People think we’d prefer not to go, that we’re happiest at home alone.
Okay, yes, we are.
Just not all the time.
Introverts are people too and people need people (cue Barbara Streisand…). We can do alone but we also do lonely.
So, if you’re not an introvert yourself but you’re lucky enough to be friends with one, don’t forget your homebody friend may be getting too much of a good thing. Ask them out for dinner or a drink or to see a movie. They’ll welcome it. Just don’t bring ten people with you.
This has been a Public Service Announcement.
Actually, given it’s from an introvert, this has been a Privately Expressed Suggestion.
A new one just begun… (almost)
I believe it is customary at this time of year to make resolutions for the year ahead. I’ve never been a fan of New Year Resolutions. It always feels like setting yourself up for failure.
But I’ve been reviewing my resistance to resolutions.
Common areas for improvement have traditionally been based around losing weight, getting fit and giving up some vice or other.
I don’t need to lose weight. Even with a chocolate-laden diet. Lucky me.
I already belong to a gym and have control over my fitness. It’s what allows me to have my chocolate-fuelled diet. It’s all about motivation.
I don’t smoke and I don’t….oh. Well, okay, I could probably make alterations in my imbibing rates at times. I like wine. And beer. And gin. That’s grapes, wholegrains and berries. I’m pretty sure all of those appear in the healthy section of the food pyramid, right? So I’m all good there, then.
So I have been musing about resolutions and their purpose and have concluded that they are about improvement of oneself and benefit to others. In which case, I’ve come up with the following resolutions for 2019:
1. I will politely decline whenever anyone asks me to take a photo of them. I am a shocking photographer. This will reduce disappointment in the world.
2. I will perfect the politician’s skill of answering a question with a question thus avoiding talking about myself. This will reduce eyestrain in the community as people are no longer required to dart their eyes to the side looking for a way out whenever I am speaking, especially after a couple of glasses of wine.
3. I will write all emails and messages based on the competition standard of 25 words or less. Then I will delete them. Only if I can be bothered rewriting them will I send them. This will increase productivity across the land.
4. I will limit my consumption of American late night talk show host monologues to once a week. This is for my own general wellbeing and mental health. It will also reduce boredom in those less obsessed with US politics.
5. I will utilise the gym more regularly but will not talk about it on social media. (Okay, so I lied about having control over my fitness. Seriously, who doesn’t drop the ball over Christmas/New Year?)
In the tradition of New Year Resolutions, I expect to have broken every one of these by the end of January.
Got some New Year Resolutions of your own? How do you think you’ll go?
What’s your relationship with the universe? Is it friend or foe? Or is it more like an annoying parent doing things you don’t like for your own good?
I joke a lot about the universe having a sick sense of humour. Like when I decide the universe is telling me not to do something because nothing is working out and then suddenly everything falls into place.
Today the universe decided to show me kindness.
As I approach the worst day of the year, anxiety is high and tears are close. I’m not sleeping or eating properly and everything feels difficult.
Today the universe chose to tell me I am needed, I am useful, I am loved and I am worthy.
After two failed past attempts and an almost third, I was able to successfully complete a plasma donation and know I have saved lives.
Chance sent me a stranger I could help with a meal and a train ticket.
A friend reached out, unwilling to let me slip away into social solitude.
I won a pair of trail runners because of something I wrote about running.
A day that began with stress ended with peace and happiness.
It’s still a tricky week but I’m grateful for the small things that help me keep going.
How do you explain a grief that never really goes away? How do you explain to those who’ve never experienced the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one why the grief still lingers after decades?
I’ve written before about losing my sister and niece in a car crash in 1993. (In fact, I can’t believe it’s already been nearly five years since I wrote about it.) It’s an experience that has become woven into the very fabric of who I am and the anniversary of their deaths is a day to be endured even so many years later.
Yesterday would have been my sister’s 60th birthday. I always find her birthday difficult, coming soon after mine, but the significant birthdays are the hardest.
I had to work. I am lucky to work with a very caring colleague and I had wisely already discussed what was coming up. So when I disappeared into the toilets not long after arriving at work and reappeared some time later red-eyed and subdued, she was attentive and protective.
The day was exhausting. While I was teaching, things were fine. I have a lovely class and they fill me with joy every day (okay, yes, also frustration at times but that’s teaching, right?) and they gave me bright moments in my day. It was just the ‘down’ times that were hard. And so, when the music played for the end of recess, I suddenly lost it and had to pull myself together in the kitchen before the kids came in. (To be fair, they’d chosen that day to play “You Are The Reason” by Calum Scott. Seriously. Luckily, for lunchtime, they switched to “Nutbush”.)
I made it through the day but I was pretty exhausted by the end. I was fortunate to have a community singing session that night so even though I was tempted to stay home and go to bed, I went and it lifted my soul as it always does.
Today, I got to work and my colleague asked how I was after yesterday.
“Okay,” I said. “But a bit embarrassed about yesterday.”
Because here’s the thing. There’s a part of you that wonders if others think it’s ludicrous that you’ll still burst into tears at the memory of someone gone for 25 years.
How do you explain?
How do you explain that the years don’t matter?
How do you explain that the pain never goes away?
How do you explain that you never really get over it? You learn to live with it and you learn to find joy and happiness in your life again but you never, ever get over it.
How do you explain that the sudden and unexpected death of someone so young leaves a lasting scar that tears open again at every birthday, every anniversary, every family celebration (births, marriages) that highlight their missing presence?
I’m lucky. I work with someone who is sensitive and understanding and she made it clear that I had nothing to be embarrassed about.
I hope, if you’ve experienced the same devastating loss, that you are also surrounded by people who understand.
The grief never really goes away.
It’s hard to explain.
We have a Magic Kitchen Fairy.
If you spill something on the bench, you can just leave it and the Magic Kitchen Fairy will wipe it up.
If you pull the inner seal off a bottle of milk, just leave it on the bench. The Magic Kitchen Fairy will pop it in the bin for you. The same goes for empty packets and wrappers.
Dirty plate or cup? Just put it down wherever you’re sitting. The Magic Kitchen Fairy will be along soon to collect it for you.
Whenever you make a sandwich, don’t worry about the cutting board, knife and crumbs and stuff. The Magic Kitchen Fairy will clean that up for you.
Oops. Had an overflow in the microwave? Not a problem! Just go about your business and the Magic Kitchen Fairy will wash the tray and make that microwave sparkling clean again.
If you forget to put that box of cereal back in the pantry, not to worry. The Magic Kitchen Fairy put it away for you.
See? She’s amazing!
She hates me.
No, listen, she really hates me. I’ve tried doing those things and she never cleans things up for me.
And I swear when others leave a mess and I’m around, she hides and leaves me to do it.
She hates me.
You don’t think she exists, do you? But she does. I know.
How do I know she exists?
Because I know my husband and children definitely believe in the Magic Kitchen Fairy. They trust her completely to clean things up for them. Surely four people can’t be that badly mistaken, can they?
I mean, if they don’t believe in the Magic Kitchen Fairy, then they must be leaving those messes for me to clean up. And that can’t be right, can it?
We have a Magic Kitchen Fairy.