Invisible Illness

Wasted or wasting away?

Time passes slowly when awake

Like a feeling I can’t shake

Don’t know how much more I can take

 

I put on a face

Whichever face you want

But inside, the drought is here

Drink coffee to survive the year

 

My lake is empty

Tears have all rained

Although I sleep a lot

I’m always drained

 

Sleep is the abyss; it calls to me

Snooze the alarm for the 14th time

Begging for just one more

Who’s keeping score?

 

Some days are okay

Exhaustion feels lighter

Like sunshine peeking through clouds

Or maybe I’m a fighter

 

But he’s here to stay

Though I’ve tried to tell him to leave

Just let me feel the joy

Maybe that’s naïve

 

The hardest part of all

Is the perception that you are lazy

That’s the trouble with invisible illness

Maybe I’ve gone crazy?

 

Or maybe I’m just here

To judge my own story

Alright let’s pretend then,

Everything is hunky dory

 

Now I’m waking up,

It’s another new day

I’ve got the passion for my life

I just can’t see the way

 

I told my bones not to be tired

I’m only 24

They didn’t listen

And now I’m on the floor

 

It makes no sense

How do people live in society?

Oh, but did I forget to mention

It’s probably my anxiety

 

Keeping me up, driving me insane

Taking all my energy,

Anxiety,

‘STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE’

 

As my head hits the pillow

Another day is done

I wonder if tomorrow

Will be any more fun?

100 things that I love

So many things to love….

  1. The rain. I love rain. Just any water brings me all the joy.
  2. Cuddling with my dogs
  3. Finishing a run that I didn’t think I would be able to finish when I started it
  4. The moment your head hits the pillow after a long day
  5. Doing something for the first time
  6. Winter
  7. When all the leaves turn red in autumn
  8. The smell of rain
  9. Running in the rain and getting totally soaked (Yep I really love rain)
  10. Road trips with tunes and podcasts
  11. Visiting with a good friend
  12. Singing while doing the dishes
  13. Cleaning the house while listening to a good podcast
  14. Sleeping in on my day off and not setting an alarm
  15. Mastering a new trick with my dog
  16. Going to the beach in winter when no one is there
  17. Completing a run
  18. Camping and staring into the fire
  19. Skinny dipping
  20. Watching my favourite tv show
  21. Curling up with a good book
  22. Doing a good jigsaw puzzle
  23. Hiking with friends and having an awesome chat while doing so
  24. Swimming in the river in summer with my dog
  25. Coming home from the supermarket and knowing you have so much food
  26. Having a shower after an overnight
  27. Putting on new pyjamas and crawling into a freshly made clean sheet bed
  28. Having a cup of tea and a chat with a friend
  29. Buying something and wearing it till the end of its life
  30. Finding something secondhand that you love and costs a lot less than retail price
  31. Having a chat with a friend so good that you forget the time and forget where you are supposed to be
  32. Talking about work with someone who gets where you work
  33. Taking off a bra at the end of the day
  34. The little whuffles that my dog makes when asleep
  35. Watching my dog sleep in the car
  36. New adventures to new places
  37. Going anywhere by plane
  38. A nice smelling candle
  39. Raspberries
  40. Chai lattes
  41. Donuts
  42. Baking and the smell of baking in the house
  43. Also, other people enjoying my baking
  44. Receiving handwritten letters from friends
  45. Finishing the final exam on a subject at uni and knowing you are done with that subject
  46. Writing down a cohesive piece of writing and finishing it
  47. Taking a good photo
  48. Laughing so hard that I can’t speak
  49. Dancing it out
  50. Sleeping with the fan on
  51. Board games with good friends
  52. Baked brie
  53. Pad Thai
  54. Satay anything
  55. True crime and especially “my favourite murder” the podcast
  56. When my dog wiggles because he is happy to see you and the wiggling takes over his entire body
  57. Cantering on a horse or better yet, a good gallop
  58. A good hug
  59. Afternoon naps in the sun
  60. Stand up paddle-boarding
  61. Any sunset or sunrise
  62. Scuba diving
  63. Wearing thongs (the shoes)
  64. Wearing stretchy leggings and big hoodies
  65. Wearing jeans and knee-high boots
  66. Being barefoot at the beach
  67. Curling up in front of the fire
  68. Cups of hot chocolate with marshmallows
  69. When someone cooks me dinner
  70. Meeting someone and finding that they are like a piece of your soul that has been missing all along
  71. Running in any form
  72. Planting new plants and getting your hands covered in dirt
  73. Riding bareback at the beach
  74. When your dog puts your head in your lap when you are crying
  75. Talking to complete strangers and really connecting
  76. Small acts of kindness
  77. Listening to your favourite song repeatedly
  78. Nailing a parallel parking spot
  79. Hoop earrings
  80. Summery flowy dresses
  81. When someone makes a cup of tea for you
  82. Kitchen chats with quality housemates
  83. Having enough money in the bank to afford a holiday
  84. Standing up on your bike and flying down a hill
  85. Trail rides talking with friends
  86. Tubing behind a boat
  87. Looking back through all of my snapchat memories
  88. Clean windows
  89. Freshly mopped floors
  90. Hosing yourself off when mucking out in summer or after a ride
  91. White Christmas
  92. Dressing up. Heels, dress, makeup the works.
  93. Tucked in a warm winter bed with the window open and fresh air coming in
  94. Storms
  95. My car
  96. The kindle App
  97. Audiobooks
  98. Receiving packages in the mail especially something youve spent ages considering buying and then also had to wait months to get
  99. Bubbly sugary drinks
  100. Yoga

Catch up Questions: The COVID Edition

We are well over halfway through this year and wow, its been a different one. Not what we expected. Despite it all, “I’m still standing after all this time. Feeling like a true survivor….”

Here’s some answers to some questions that no one asked for?

MAKING: Tik toks. So many tik tok’s. I have a hundred new ideas for tik tok every day. I am addicted. What can I say? I get such a rush every time I create more content. And there’s so many smiles as well. Mostly I make trick videos with Finn but I have such a long list of ones I want to make.

COOKING: Delicious mac and cheese with broccoli and jalapeno kranskies. Parmesan on top and baked on the oven. Delicious. I am in a mac and cheese coma. And it was even delicious at 5am this morning before I went to work.

DRINKING: Water. So much water. Lots of other things too but I’m making it a habit to carry water everywhere with me and I think it’s working. Especially when I take it to work.

READING: Oath taker, Kingdom of Runes. Good recommendation. Good book. I’ve really been reading some rad fantasy now. It’s so escapist and I’m totally obsessed with it.

TRAWLING: The internet for jobs that I don’t have the time to apply for.

WANTING: To leave Melbourne. I don’t think I really wanted to be here anyway in the first place and now I get to experience stage four restrictions here……

LOOKING: Like a model. Decided to dress up a little and take some immaculate posing photos. It was amazing. I vibe with myself so hard. Beautiful on the inside and out.

DECIDING: To appreciate all the awesome things I have going for me in my life right now. Including myself.

WISHING: I lived in a mask free world. Also wishing I could go for a hike or a long run.

ENJOYING: The handwritten letter I received yesterday from my best mate and previous housemate for the last 2 years. I hadn’t heard from her in a while and she wrote me this huge heartfelt letter and it absolutely made my day. I sent her a super long response back and it was very wholesome to write everything down. If you are currently stuck in lockdown or even if you aren’t, I recommend sending a letter to a friend. It is amazing to receive mail from someone close to you. I make a habit of writing to friends whenever I can. It hits different to messaging them on fb.

WAITING: For the next book in the blood and ash series to be released. September isn’t far away now! Can’t wait. Good books are the foundation of my distraction world that I have created.

LIKING: Work. It’s a fundamental time killer in these weird times. I go in to work and disappear into a vortex and before I know it 8 hours have passed. I busy myself detail cleaning, running shift and stickering uber bags, which has become my go to at work. There’s so much delivery it’s a tall task to keep up with. I also love making cup trays. Work is also great social time to chat to all my colleagues and check in with them. Love the human interaction almost as much as I love stickering uber bags.

WONDERING: What the world will look like this time next year. So much uncertainty that everyone is struggling to cope with, and no one really knows what the future will look like. What will travel look like in the future? Will we ever be able to have a casual house party or go see a band without social distancing? Will we be able to hug people again? When? Or is this just life forever now?

LOVING: My creative writing course with the Australian Writing Center. I love having assignments to turn in every-week, even if I am a little slack with the coursework. And flexing my creative writing skills is growing my abilities to both write and take constructive criticism. I have a feeling this won’t be my last course….

LISTENING: Folklore by Taylor Swift, her new album just hits me with all the vibes. It is such a gift in these times! Also, the Sam Gash podcast because it is so inspiring and real.

CONSIDERING: Adding in some yoga, meditation and strength training into my routine. Yes, running is great, but I need to work on some other areas of my physical and mental health.

BUYING: Too many things really. Next up on the list is probably a tripod to film more content with. And a remote control for my phone so I can take pics without being on self-timer.

WATCHING: The vampire diaries again. It is almost as good as the first time I watched it. Except for after season 5 or 6 it gets a little lame. But I still love that show to bits. Its great background to have on while pottering around doing things. The first time I watched it I was at uni and just in a different season of life and so it takes me back to that time when I am re-watching it.

HOPING: That I will find the time to apply for some jobs. I’m so busy with all my projects, hobbies and still working quite a few hours so it would be good if I could carve out the time for something a little more important than my content creation obsession. But hey, here I am writing this article instead of applying for jobs……

MARVELING: At how there’s basically no traffic. And I have yet to be pulled over by the police and use my ‘essential’ worker permit even when driving home or to work at like 11pm. Surely its only a matter of time?

CRINGING: At everyone who does not wear a mask correctly. As I am in a place where facial coverings are mandatory it pains me to see people with their noses sticking out or pulling down their face mask to talk to me. Cringeworthy.

NEEDING: Less traffic on the trails. More sleep. More time. More routes to run. More rural areas to run in. Time with my friends. My own space. Peace and quiet.

QUESTIONING: What the point of life is.

WEARING: Shorts today, as I was inspired by the spring weather, and what a mood it was. I had an awesome walk with Finn in my fav shorts and new running shirt from Patagonia. And I danced my way through the sunshine while exploring the deserted golf course.

NOTICING: That so many women settle for so much less than what they are worth because they truly don’t appreciate how amazing they are. And therefore, they need another human to validate them. My tip, validate yourself. Date yourself and learn to love yourself. Then, set the bar a lot higher. If we don’t raise the bar, then nothing will change.

KNOWING: My worth and that it is not defined by my productivity or my career or by MEN.

THINKING: Way too much. So much that my brain literally will not turn off and I cannot sleep half the time.

ADMIRING: Lucy Bartholomew, Ultra running queen, for her positivity and inspirational 6 week series of spreading good vibes. Every week has a different theme like amazing plant-based recipes, remembering beautiful runs she has done in the past, focusing on coping strategies or strength training.

GETTING: Lots of cuddles in with Finn. Not as much random training as I would like due to low batteries on my end but making up for it with cuddles.

BOOKMARKING: A lot of tik tok’s I watch for future inspiration of tik toks I want to create. Also a lot of books I am adding to my ‘to be read’ pile. Oh also future adventures that I want to do when we are no longer locked down.

OPENING: Up to people about my experience of being in therapy. I really think more people should go to therapy. We can all benefit from learning more about ourselves and the way we have been shaped by our experiences in life. It allows us to rewire our thinking and begin to steer our own lives in the direction we want. Its empowering, and everyone should go.

CLOSING: The door on any sort of food shaming. Guilting yourself for eating delicious food is unhelpful. All food is okay in some moderation. Restriction leads to binges. Be kind to yourselves out there. Watch out for toxic skinny culture.

FEELING: Proud of myself for the life I have created for myself, my resilience in the face of hard times and my consistent performance at work leading to a recent award last week (manager of the week).

HEARING: The crackle of the winter fire. The rain pattering on the roof. The soft whuffles that my dog makes when he is sleeping.

CELEBRATING: People month at work where we have lollies and balloons every day, recognition and rewards on shift. Donut days, trivia nights and awesome videos made by all the managers that make me giggle so hard.

PRETENDING: That I am going to find time for 101 projects during this time when I have very little extra time for anything. HAHA

EMBRACING: The space to be with myself, sit with myself and just experience life as it comes. A lot of people are struggling with the lockdown because they have never spent a lot of time just sitting around. They also are fighting the discomfort. I both have spent a lot of time hanging out with myself and I am learning to just sit with discomfort instead of fighting it. But in some aspects of my life I think I am comfortable. And that’s a privilege.

Stay safe out there!

Credit for this template goes to Pip from Meet Me at Mike’s. Thank you!

Cultivating Resilience

‘The toolbox of life’

Something I have come to realize in these strange times is that I have been fortunate enough in my life to have been provided with the tools I need to get through hard times. Ironically even before COVID took over the world I found life challenging in other ways. And because of those challenges I had to learn to survive and get through things, basically one day at a time. I am also fortunate enough to not have my life as heavily impacted so far as some other people. My life looks very similar to how it did pre-COVID. But regardless the world is still throwing up some roadblocks and as someone with a decent dose of anxiety in my system it is something to ‘get through’.

Here’s how I foster my resilience through the way I live, think and interact with the world.

Giving space

Its very important that you allow yourself to feel all the things. If you block emotions, they only come bursting out like a sleeping bag that you were trying to stuff all of them into. Feel whatever you need to feel and give yourself the space to feel that. And no, I’m not giving you permission to lash out with your anger or treat others like shit because that’s how you feel. But do see your emotions, acknowledge them, wave at them, think about why they are there? Why they are coming up? Emotions are great for reflection. Someone said to me once that when you feel ‘triggered’ that is the spot, dig there and you will find gold.

Finding joy

Amongst the darkest nights some light can usually be found. You notice what you focus on. So, try an exercise. Try focusing on any moments, no matter how tiny, that you felt some spark of a positive emotion or vibe. What sparked joy in your week? Maybe it was something so simple like laying down into your cozy bed after the end of a super tough week. But look for the things, and before you know it, you will notice them even more often. My current practice of noticing joy is something called a “Ta da” list. Instead of writing endless to do lists of what I must get done, I write lists celebrating all the things that I achieved this week. And it can be as little or as huge as you want. It can be that you got out of bed today, or that you told someone thank you, or that you took a moment to notice how damn good your food tasted today. Surprisingly my lists really add up, even on the darkest of weeks.

Surround yourself

One of my best tools for cultivating resilience is surrounding myself with people who give me energy. One of my best friends is my hype queen and supportive as can be in just about every situation. I wouldn’t survive without having such awesome people around me. And if you struggle to find them in your in-person life, then there are other ways. Another way that I get energy is from listening to podcast conversations that share the same sort of energy as me, the same sort of life values and understanding. Whether it be feminism, trail running or dog training. Find your tribe and surround yourself with them.

Self-care

Look. After. Yourself. I’m not going to say it again. You can’t do anything in life if you collapse from exhaustion or aren’t feeding yourself with the things that you need. Be in touch with yourself and be honest with when you need a break. Take a day off to just do nothing sometimes, no commitments, no responsibilities, and no feeling guilty about it, just pure and simple existing. Practice things that help you feel better. Like writing down your feelings, or taking a bubble bath, or going for a walk in the forest. Its different for everyone. Do it. There’s only one of you!

Do the work

We are not born with a perfectly programmed brain to deal with what life throws at us. Yes, humans are incredible, but life is unbelievably difficult and mental health is as important as it ever has been. Each of us starts as a blank canvas that is slowly painted on by a thousand different experiences and interactions that shape us and the way we think. When you should and when you want to seek help are two different things. But think of it this way, whatever you fill your cup with, when life comes along and shakes you, will inevitably fall out. So, doing the pre-work means that you will be more prepared for the inevitable shakedown of life. Of course, we are all on our own journey and what it takes for everyone to get to that point where they are ready to do the work on themselves is different for everyone. But I will warn you that some people never get there. Don’t be that person. Learn about yourself, challenge your own ideas and perceptions of life, and grow. Never stop growing.

So that’s my two cents on how you can arm yourself with the tools to survive this. Yes, we don’t know what’s ahead, but we aren’t going to get to know until we get there. Lets just keep driving and try to stay on the road, shall we?

Take care of yourself.

The opinion

Ah the opinion is a tricky thing. Everyone has one. Not everyone needs to share one in all situations. We are a varied people. Each individual forms their own worldview based on their life experiences. The challenge I have found, is understanding when it is an appropriate time to share and when it is not at all an appropriate time to voice your opinion.

So, let’s talk about it. And, it goes without saying that this piece is MY OPINION.

When you don’t need to share your opinion

When someone is discussing a problem, they are having. Here is the thing; UNLESS THEY EXPLICITLY ASK YOU what you think about the situation, they DO NOT need to hear your judgements of their life. One of my friends wisely said that “we beat ourselves up enough over our own lives, we don’t need our friends berating us and adding fuel to the fire”. And I must be honest, I think this is a very accurate statement. What do they need to hear instead of your magical solution? They need to hear empathy and understanding, and validation of their pain. This is another problem with “well intended advice” To an outsider other people’s problems seem very simple, but I can promise you that there are many more layers than you may be anticipating. To say to someone who said they are regretting eating too much chocolate “Just don’t eat chocolate” is a judgmental opinion that shows a lack of empathy and understanding. DON’T be that person. Instead listen and show that you care about the issues surrounding their lack of impulse control regarding a favorite food. Judgmental opinions just encourage shame towards the person you are judging. Shame is not a helpful motivator and has the opposite effect of demotivating and demoralizing.

Also consider that some people just need to vent. And they simply don’t want a solution to their issues. Most of the time all you need is someone to listen. Just to get it off your chest. Because of course sometimes talking to the diary or the dog just doesn’t cut it and you want to share your pain with another human for the sake of the human experience. Sharing the struggles of life with friends and other humans is what makes life bearable. Facing people’s judgements on your own personal struggles is what makes life utterly unbearable. So, don’t do it!

When should you share your opinion then?

WHEN SOMEONE ACTUALLY ASKS YOU WHAT YOU THINK! If you hear the words “What do you think?”. Even in this situation, share your opinion with care. And if you are the person who has asked for the opinion, be mindful that whatever advice is given; to take it with a grain of salt. Even with one of my friends I have regarded her highly for a very long time, so it is hard to not take her every opinion as gospel, especially when I had a hero like worship of her. But I am learning to listen to her, then take what bits of it I like, and leave the rest. Because I can! It doesn’t mean I don’t respect her view on things, but it does mean I don’t blindly follow her advice. For a very good reason too, even the best advice may not apply to you because there is no recipe for life. NONE! You are creating your own dish the best way you know how. Following someone else’s recipe may not work out because you all have different taste buds and someone else’s recipe may use too much salt. The point I am trying to make through this confusing metaphor is that life is an individual experience and you can never really truly understand what someone else is going through. You can try. But you would process it differently to them.

And here I come to my next point. One mans struggle is not another’s. No one has ever faced what you have faced in the same way. What’s not that difficult for me could be incredibly difficult for someone else. Respect that. Trauma is not less traumatic for an individual just because you have been through worse. Life is not a competition. You don’t get a trophy for surviving something horrific. There are many different levels of trauma. STOP COMPARING your trauma to someone else’s. Its incomparable. Because once again, the experience of life is highly subjective.  So, refrain from expressing your opinion on others lives unless they ask for it. Instead focus on keeping your opinion for yourself, or your diary! And if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Also, if someone is going through something challenging, chances are they have already thought about every possible option or outcome. They have probably also beaten themselves up quite a lot. They do not need your criticism on the way they are coping with life.

Let’s stop looking at people like they are a problem you need to fix. Its okay to not be okay. The arrogance of assuming you can simply fix another human by telling them what to do is astronomical. Also, that is unfortunately not how psychology works. People are generally more motivated when the idea to change something is intrinsic and comes from within. Therefore, you are better off keeping your mouth shut and living the best example of what you would like to be preaching. Cultivating passion and creativity in your own life is the best way to inspire others to also find their own way of being creative. Teach by showing, not by telling. Talk is cheap, but experience is real. And example also shows the possibilities and the realness of life struggles. Instead of a perfect trajectory where someone is immediately climbing the hill of mastering a technical skill, when we observe the process in real life, we see the challenges one must overcome to get there. We see that the road to success is lined with potholes and not as straightforward as we may initially have assumed while thinking ahead.

This is the realness of experience vs opinion.

Some people become manipulated by toxic people and simply care too much about their opinion. This creates a very unhealthy emotional set up that we see often in toxic relationships. A power dynamic like this can be incredibly damaging to the person without the power. So, it is healthy for you to have your own opinions and be wary of advice. But of course, we must try to remain open to valid facts that can change our opinions. Not one anecdotal experience, not a random person’s opinion of us, but credible information from reliable sources. And when someone is ready to deal with their issues, or if they are already giving if a red-hot crack, be the person who cheers them on from the sidelines. Because by lifting people up rather than tearing them down, is how we can create positive change in peoples lives, and the ripple effect from kindness and understanding is more powerful than anyone’s opinion on how one should live their life.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Be compassionate. Be real. Be accepting.

And most of all. Think before you speak. And that’s my honest opinion. How much you choose to take on. Well that’s up to you.

The Power of No

‘Why its okay to be a no woman’

Life is forever challenging us to do more. Or perhaps that’s just an expectation that has been cultivated across western culture. Regardless of where it came from people are constantly feeling the need for more. More money, more time, more energy. But perhaps what we need is less about getting more of what we don’t have and more about being careful how we use what we already have. And being mindful of when something is taking away more than it should be. And when we should take some time out to take a bit of a break for ourselves.

I am a people pleaser. I always have been. With it I am a chronic “yes” woman. I am constantly saying yes. Yes, to extra shifts, yes to that inconvenient favor someone asks of me, yes to giving more and more pieces of myself away. But here’s the catch, every time I give a piece of me away, that’s a piece I don’t get to keep for myself. I also struggle afterwards with the resentment of having to do something that I agreed to but did not really want to do. Being a yes woman is exhausting. Yes, sometimes we should say yes to life’s opportunities but other times it is simply a slow drain on the limited resources that we have as human beings. As named above; money, time and energy.

So, what is the answer to this? It is not to say no to everything. But do say no to what you don’t want to do. To what conflicts with your values. To what drains you instead of lifting you up. Because you are not an expendable resource for the world to use. And you need to look after yourself. Protect yourself. And as I love to say. “You do you”. So, if you don’t want to work that double shift for that waitress who never helps you out back then say no. This is something I am constantly working on. I still struggle with it. Especially when someone in a position of power over me asks for something.

One can only hope that in time they will create stronger boundaries. And start to hate themselves a little less. As they value their own worth and understand that they cannot give everything of themselves to others lest they disappear entirely into someone else’s world. We are sold a lie of success only comes from saying yes. But people who are truly successful have set themselves up with a focus. Rather than splitting themselves into pieces for other people.

And only when you have made space in your life to cultivate your own growth do you have room for giving back to others. And that’s perfectly okay. So, look after yourself. Be kind to yourself. Take a deep breath and think. Do I really want to say yes to this or am I just feeling pressured to please others? And if you can’t decide in the moment? The oldest trick in the book. “I will get back to you on that one”.

Do be true to yourself.

Do be kind to yourself.

Its okay to say no.

Why run?

Everybody has different reasons for doing the things they do. Sometimes they have stories behind them. The ‘why’ behind what they do. The reasons for their actions. I love hearing people’s stories. This is mine.

When I was younger, I thought I was no different from anyone else. But its funny how people are so quick to point out anything that is different. I was stopped multiple times on the street as a child and given random advice for something that I was quite blissfully unaware of. My parent, trying to do what was best, took me to a professional on the topic of interest. Where I was examined and after some time, condemned to my fate. I was to “fix myself” through a series of exercises, otherwise I would potentially face very serious implications later in life. Quite a dramatic moment in my young life, or as I remember it. Now I wouldn’t have been many days over 10, so I did not have great will power or self-control with which to follow my rigorous routine. I did some of the stretches I was assigned, holding them for 90 seconds and whatnot. Bored through my brain so reading a book at the same time. I didn’t notice a difference though in the way I moved. I didn’t care anyway because the moving I had done so far in my life had gotten me to exactly where I had wanted to go. I had come second in a cross-country race, running my butt off at a full sprint at the end where I could no longer feel my legs, I had frolicked around with our family puppy, Jed. Outracing him for about a year until he became faster than me with his four legs. My body had served me well in the few years I had been alive. Why would it change?

More appointments followed, and more years of exercises and lectures and orthotics. All trying to change the way that I moved. It was not “correct” I was told. I would be in pain they said. I would never be able to wear high heels or thongs. I would only be able to wear highly supportive shoes. My hips would strain, and my Achilles tendons would snap. My body would fail me essentially. If I did not focus on every single step, every single foot strike. A hard task for a 12-year-old who read books as she walked to school instead of ‘focusing’ on walking.

At school a group of boys mocked me as I walked across the common grounds. Followed me home and taunted me for my bouncing gait. I tried not to notice. I had long given up on my stretches, hitting my teenage rebelling stage of fighting with my mother. I still ran a few cross countries, but I was strictly mid pack and carrying a lot of donut weight. Sometimes when I ran in the park random men would shout at my mother to go get me fixed. On a trip to another city to visit my cousins I was stopped at a train station by a woman who gave me advice on my affliction. All small moments but people clearly felt strongly enough to comment on it.

And so, I continued to grow. I stopped visiting any sort of physios and instead avoided the topic with my mother. I entered teenage hood and strutted in mini skirts and high heels. I participated in any and all crazy physical activities when I could. Rollerblading the streets for many days with my friends until I broke my ankle rollerblading backwards in my driveway. I recovered and embraced my weird walk and my odd run. I sprinted up and down the drive thru lane at the fast food place I worked in my teenage hood. I was good at my job, so no one cared about my weird movements when I kept breaking records and worked my butt off. I exercised less and less as I finished high school, using work as my escape.

When I finally travelled away to university, no one commented on my walking until I got a job at a pub. Customers occasionally commented. And some people I worked with constantly told me I was limping. I cared little now. But the ghosts of my past still haunted me somewhat. I got a dog and began being consistent about moving my body. I started walking every day. Walking was my therapy, my escape, an activity that had to happen regardless of how I felt. When I finally realized that I could perform something consistently when I had to, I began to think of the possibilities. I woke up one day and decided that I would step it up a notch and add in some running to my walks. Somewhat because it was a lifelong dream to run long distances, and because I was bored of the walking pace at times. Both good reasons.

As I started to increase mileage, I did have a few blisters, and so went to get new running shoes. But I wanted to make sure that I got the right ones. So, I summoned my courage and went to see yet another professional. This one a running physio and foot expert. I was once again examined. I explained my history and my concerns that upping mileage would lead to injuries. I fully expected him to tell me that I was to stop this nonsense and quit the idea of running. What I got was something else entirely; a free license to run as much as my body would tolerate, once I got a new pair of shoes of course. I was told that the way that I moved was not ‘incorrect’ because in fact my body had adapted to this way of moving over many years. Funny how after so many years and by seeing a different expert I was given an entirely different ‘diagnosis’. I was given a green light to run as much as I wanted if I felt strong and not in any serious pain. So, I kept running.

I run now to experience the outdoors, to feel the earth beneath my feet, the wind on my skin, the crisp air in my lungs.

I run to keep moving forward, to keep pushing myself to grow and change and improve. To remember not to stand still for too long or you will be frozen to the spot.

I run to learn how to feel pain. To learn how it feels to be struggling to breathe or legs collapsing underneath you but still finish what you started regardless. My favorite quote about running is that “Running is just your brain arguing between stopping and continuing to move forward”.

I run for the bragging rights. It is fun to listen to people’s reactions to running 20kms in one go.

I run for the validation that although I am fit and strong that does not equal happiness. That even on the days when I don’t run, I still love my body.

And most of all. I run because I can. Because my body allows me to. And that is a great privilege that I will never take for granted.

 

Momentum

Here’s my word of the week. Momentum. The number one thing I hear from others is how do you have the motivation to run? I am not sure exactly where it comes from just that I woke up one day about a year ago and decided I wanted to learn how to run ultramarathons. I am not yet an ultramarathoner but that is my eventual goal.

In fact, the furthest I have run so far is 22kms. Which is not an ultra. But it is almost half of an ultra. So, I’m on my way. How did I get here? I put one step in front of the other. Simple as that. If I can just put one leg in front of the other repeatedly for a long period of time, I believe I will reach my goal. How far can you run before your body starts to complain? Before it tires? Before your mind gets tired of the repetitive motion of running and you just want to slow down to a more economical gait, such as walking. For most people their body and mind start telling them no in a few kms. For some its even less. But training to do ultras the question becomes how far back you can push those nos. It starts with one kilometre at a time. Until before you know it you only have halfway to go, then only a few kms. And then you are almost sad that all the running is over.

What is carrying you through in those tough kms? The ones where you want to give up? Well training is key of course, both mental and physical toughness. But also, one other thing. Momentum. The momentum of training for months on end for this. The momentum of not stopping, of keeping moving despite the obstacles you face. That is what gets you through a run.

There are two key moments in a stride. Stance phase in which your leg is planted down, I think of this as your motivation phase, the phase which drives you. Why are you running? Why do you want to be here? And then there is the swing phase, where your leg is airborne. This is your momentum, and it is powerful. Try stopping that leg midway when it is already swinging through. It is much easier to just let it carry all the way through into the next step. And before you know it you will eat up the miles under those powerful legs. Until you forgot what standing still even feels like. If you can gather enough momentum you will propel yourself through even the hardest moments in life.

I started running almost a year ago today. And I am still running. Momentum is carrying me through. Following through with each stride. And when I falter, I am kind to myself, not beating myself up for not being good enough. For perhaps today I am not where I want to be. But tomorrow who knows how far my legs will carry me. I have run before. But never like this. Running has taken on a new meaning for me in my life. Running is about smiling, about being outdoors, about living my best life. It is not a chore but a way to appreciate what my body can do. And most importantly, a way to gather momentum for the rest of my life.

After all, if I can conquer the kilometres, what can’t I do?

“To whatever end”

Do your worst, I will still love you

I will love you when you are grumpy

When you are hungry

When you are done with carrying the weight of the world

 

I will love you when we are far apart

When it hurts my heart

I will love you on the darkest of nights

When you feel black inside

 

When nothing feels like enough

When you don’t feel tough

I will love you

 

I will love you when the choices that you make

Lead to heartbreak

And when the road is long

To find yourself

 

I will find you

And I will still be there

I will love you

You cannot escape my love

 

You can walk to the ends of the earth

And even beyond

But whatever you do

There remains that bond

 

You are a rare gift

A true friend

I will love you

To whatever end

Dance with me

**I hope that wherever you are out there and whatever you are doing, you may find a way to feel the joy. As the best way to conquer the darkness is with the light**

The room is dark. The sun threatens to shine through the blinds. I roll over to check the time. 4pm, right on track for my overnight recovery. Time for some breakfast. There is a dark shadow in the corner of the room, as I begin to stir a large tail begins to thump in a repetitive up and down motion even while he remains totally sideways and does not lift his head. Those golden eyes follow my every movement until gracefully I swing my legs quietly onto the floor. Touchdown. He’s up like a shot, greeting me with those morning licks and a slow sleepy wiggle as he stretches into a bow. Why thank you sir, I say to him.

I potter about but the shadow never leaves me, its like he is waiting for something, but what? He lies down but he is restless, unable to settle. Like a pop bottle all fizzed up inside.

After some hesitation I grab a leash, a bag and we are out the door. We always drive these days. Walking is for peasants and sadly I do not live in an area with wide open fields. We need space. One day I dream that we will have some serious open space around us. I will set up a practice paddock. One for the dogs and one for the horses.

The light is soft as the sun sets. The grass is freshly mown and I am barefoot in the grass. Finn is prancing in excitement now, with grass kicking up like dust after each paw-fall. Two discs I hold loosely at my side. I cue behind and he comes flying past my right side and around behind me and then already in a flat-out sprint he comes shooting past me on the left. I’ve already thrown, a long one, far and floating. He is tracking it well. As the disc gets lower, he makes the call and leaps, flying and catching it. He lands and turns right back towards me. I marvel at his speed. I fall to my knees as he hurtles back. Holding out both my arms straight. He takes the hint and flies over one arm and then back up over the other. He gets a throw in close as a reward for a job well done.

I grab both discs as I rise and decide to try some release practice. One throw, in close straight at him, he responds instantly, now I am asking for a release even as I throw the next one, just a tad to his side, he drops the one in his mouth and catches the next one, then does it again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Good boy I say with some serious enthusiasm, as we manage to flawlessly pass discs over 20 times in quick succession.

I toss out a bit further to my left, just to build some distance. I throw my knee out and my arms out and Flying Finn hits me like a barrel of power. But he is light somehow. He springs into the air like a deer springs through a meadow using that spring-power in his muscles. Just as quickly I release him, and he pushes off me to get back to ground. I throw a few more long ones and then bend right over as Finn vaults over my back, flying two or three more meters after he steps off me but taking it in his stride completely.

It is an absolute privilege to dance with this dog as I do. He loves it and I love it too. We are becoming more seamless with more practice and sometimes I forgot how hard it was at the start. But now some maneuvers feel effortless, light. It is a good reminder that the things we are struggling with now, will one day be as effortless as the moves we have worked our butts off to achieve. And that’s what I will hold on to in the hard moments where we ‘just aren’t getting it’.

Even without this dance that we do and the wildness of having a dog who can fly; I would still love every minute with him. But ill be damned if I am not going to finish this song with him just because we can. To dance barefoot in the fields until my soul is singing and both of us run out breath. Then we shall watch the sun set together and wait for the stars to join us, hopefully they won’t be jealous of how brightly we burn.

"Until one has loved an animal, ones soul remains unawakened"