Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I received a call this week that took me by surprise. “Knocked me for six” as the cricket expression goes.
Our next scheduled marathon was coming up and I was blindsided in the peak of training with a horrible cold. In the previous marathon Karen was injured doing yard work during the height of conditioning. And now, I opened the email that almost brought me to tears. Lyndsay was hit with a torn meniscus. We knew her knee was hurting, but we kept rationalizing it away, coming up with every reason except the real one.
I called her.
“How are you feeling?”
“What is the verdict?”
“Well, the doctor says I can run short distances and we’ll take it from there. But, there is a chance I won’t run the race.”
“Oh no.”
“But its okay. It is good to be blindsided, isn’t it?”
I am confused and glad that she can't see my face through the phone line because she would see me staring at her incredulously like she had three heads.
“Is it?” I obviously was the oldest but not the most mature in this situation.
“Yes, it helps you put things into perspective.”
Oh, that.
“I guess so.” I draw out my answer more of a question than a statement.
It doesn’t seem fair. You set your sights and state your goal, you devise a plan and stick to it. You train 6 months and something little like a cold, a slip in the yard and small tear in a ligament or a stomach bug can end the race before it begins.
The past year has been full of sidelines. Karen lost her beloved cat, Harley and we lost our dog, Hank, exactly one month later. My roommate from university is helping her husband live with an unexpected aggressive cancer and my son’s girlfriend has lost her job. In my small circle of friends and neighbours, people are dealing with family breakups, loss of jobs, deaths, suicides and sickness. And, that is only the things I know about. Who knows what silent, intimate struggles people are battling in their hearts?
One man I know, Brad and his family got some crazy news a few weeks back I am sure no one saw coming. I’ve known Brad from the moment he was born. He was a couple years my junior and his grandparents and my parents were best friends. And, although I would never classify Brad as a buddy, he was more than an acquaintance. It was one of those weird relationships that couldn’t really be pegged. We never really played together as kids, we never hung out as teenagers yet he was ‘there’. New Years, family parties, get-togethers; he was a present, like a friendly wallpaper. As our lives continued I would hear about what he was up to via his Grandmother who kept me abreast of the major landmarks in his life. I’ve never kept in touch and have seen him maybe twice since we were adults but still consider him not quite family, not exactly a friend but more than an acquaintance—a really unique grey area. Currently he lives in Southern California.
I got an email from his mother…what started out as unexplained bruising ended up being acute myelogous leukemia. Surprise!
Recovery is a real and wonderful possibility, however, I am sure it will be a long road.  Couldn’t help but be touched by one of his facebook posts:
So, here I am in the hospital with a blood-based disease (AML type M3, you can google it). From what I can tell, I’m using way more than my fair share of Platelets, one of the blood components that contributes to clotting. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to donate blood due to the disease that I have, but I’d encourage any of you, my friends and family, to strongly consider making a small trip to a donation center and giving a pint of blood.
Don’t do it because it might save my life or someone else that you know and love, do it because it might save some random stranger’s life and they’ll be grateful for the opportunity that you have given them even if your paths never cross.
Anyway, I hope this didn’t fall under the “too long didn’t read” category for too many of you, and I hope that you all are having a wonderful day today. Here in Southern California beyond the walls of my room the weather looks to be wonderful.
Enjoy the day!
I’ve done some good things in my life. Given to charities, donated time, bought Girl Guide cookies. However, I am sad to admit I have NEVER donated blood in my entire 46 years. I am a little, shall we say, squeamish about needles or anything medical for that matter. But, if I can run 42.2 km surely donating blood can’t be that bad. This is on top of my to-do list after recovering from the marathon.
Brad’s post made me think. What if we’ve got it all wrong? We think that life is setting goals, then working towards them. Plotting a course then keeping your heading. But, what if the essence of life is the obstacles and our goals are simply avenues to getting blindsided? Maybe the real accomplishments are listening to a neighbour who needs to talk, making that platter of food for a funeral, taking someone out for coffee, helping someone look for a new job, sending an encouraging text….giving blood! Maybe running marathons, getting that promotion, obtaining that certification are simply the true examples of us getting blindsided from our real purpose. If that is the case, then Lyndsay was right. Being blindsided is good.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Real Deal

The trouble these days is things aren’t always as they appear. The hamburger in the commercial never looks that big in real life, the car price doesn’t really start at $14,000 and that free magazine comes with a subscription you pay for if you forget to cancel!

Recently, my cat Echo, after 10 glorious years of being an indoor cat, content and cozy living within the safety provided by the four walls of our home, has decided this beacon of security is now a prison of maximum security. Every time the sliding door to the back deck opens she darts with the ferocity of an inmate escaping from Alcatraz. Once out on the deck she hides behind the patio set, staring at me, taunting me with her big alien eyes when I attempt in vain to coax her back in.

This is where Temptations come in. Temptations are a cat treat featured on a popular commercial where, when the bag is shaken a cat jumps over a fence, through a yard, over floatation devices in a swimming pool, back to the owner. The commercial is the Real Deal. Seriously. Echo can be on a mission to be the next best escape artist since Houdini and I can shake a bag of Temptations and she will come bounding in before I can blink.  I don’t know what they put in that stuff, probably some type of highly addictive narcotic, but it certainly works. I may unwittingly be Echo’s feline drug pusher and not even know it.

For me, another Real Deal is the long run. My favourite training run is the speed workout, I tolerate hills and don’t mind tempo, however, the most sacred run of all is the weekend long run. I love it in the summer and fall when you can trade the confines of city streets, the relative safety of residential neighbourhoods and the monotonous repetitive routes for stunning rural scenery beyond the circumference of the city limits.

If the sun shines and the fields glimmer, my mind zones in and something very miraculous happens, usually about 20km into the run. For some reason it becomes a spiritual experience. Unless you have experienced it, I don’t think you can truly grasp it. I feel like I am floating. The movement of my body stills my mind. I become purely in the moment; everything else disappears except the beauty around me. All the cares and worries of my life evaporate. I feel as though I am gliding, smooth and fluid with the beating of my heart.

I said that’s how I feel, not how I look. I am experiencing all this bliss on the inside only. For someone watching, it would look like a stuggling, middle-aged woman shuffling along, slumped over enough to make the Hunchback of Notre Dame look like the exemplary poster child for the Canadian Chiropractic Association. I am gasping air like I have advanced emphysema and am moving barely faster than most people walk. However, none of that matters to me because I am not looking in. I am looking outward.

It occurred to me that this is true well beyond the scope of running. When we stop looking inward and instead look outward at all the amazing beauty and goodness that surrounds us, quieting our minds and moving to the rhythm of the earth, we become real; the Real Deal.