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A Week Of Inspiration: What I’m Taking Away

7 Jan

As 2011 drew to a close, a gave myself a mission to start off 2012 on the right note. To do that, I would approach some women who I found to be inspirational, and I would ask them to post something on my blog that would send a positive message. It started off as a simple resolution for me to start the year in a positive way to get myself out of the funk I have been in. By the time I was scheduling the posts, it had become a project to help everyone: I realized that many people – including a couple of the writers – were in need of a dose of the good stuff that life has to offer.

This would be my small way of trying to make the world a better, happier place filled with possibilities and motivation.

I took something valuable away from all of the posts this week – things that I will take forward with me as I navigate my way through the jungle of life in 2012. For that, I want to give heartfelt thanks to all of my contributors.

I am battling with some personal demons right now, and it’s hard. There are days when I can barely see my way through to getting out of bed. Ultimately, though, I have support. I have my family, I have friends, and I am in good enough health to put on running shoes and pound the hell out of the pavement when I need relief from the stress. On Monday, Kerry White gave us a reminder on perspective. It does me good to remind myself that no matter how difficult things may be, I will muddle my way through it all, aided by the support system that I have around me.

A few minutes ago, my son George – autistic, eight years old, and very long and lanky – clambered into my lap for a hug and a cuddle. As I held this treasure in my arms, I reflected on the fact that special needs parenting is sometimes as hard as hell, but life without this amazing child is just unfathomable. Sara Morgan expressed this on Tuesday, when she said that yeah, we have kids with autism, but at least we have them.

How easy is it for us to just lie down and quit when we’re faced with a personal tragedy? On Wednesday, Phaedra Kennedy took us through her heartbreaking unsuccessful quest to have a baby, and her subsequent resolve to make 2011 the best year of her life. Not only does Phaedra’s tale inspire me to set goals for this year and really work towards them, I am honoured to have her mentoring me through my next stage of evolution as a runner.

Perhaps there is truth to the idea that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings can ultimately cause a storm on the other side of the world. In the same way, a handful of women blogging about motherhood can result in impoverished children receiving life-saving vaccinations, and fewer babies dying of pneumonia. On Thursday, Jennifer Burden told us about an idea that started small and morphed into something huge. Over the next year, I will endeavour to follow my dreams, no matter how silly they may seem. Who knows where they will take me?

There have been times in the past, when things have been rough, that I have succumbed to the temptation to just let myself go. I have asked myself what the point of it all is. If Margie Bryant had given in to that kind of negative self-talk, where would she be today? She survived addiction, a string of meaningless, emotionally empty relationships, and time in a federal prison. She kicked low self-esteem in the butt, and has turned her life around. She leads a life anyone could be proud of, and she’s found true love to boot. If she could make that kind of U-turn, surely I have it in me to control the direction of my own life.

My personal mission this year is to focus on taking care of myself. I am going to find some balance in my life and do more things that I want to do.

Will this take away the time and energy that I have always unquestioningly devoted to my husband and children? Or will doings things for myself inject me with more energy, and lead to a more enriched, satisfying life for all of us?

(Thank you again to Kerry, Sara, Phaedra, Jennifer and Margie. I am sure your tales of inspiration have touched the lives of many people reading this blog.)

 

 

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A Dose Of Happy For 2012

1 Jan

The calendar has clicked over into 2012. This is the day on which thousands of people are quitting smoking, going on diet, starting an exercise program, or finally starting to write that novel they’ve always been talking about. I myself will be participating in the 5km Resolution Run later on today.

Although I’m not really big on the idea of making major life changes just because of what day it happens to be, New Years Day is a convenient time for us to re-evaluate our goals, see where we’re at, and maybe give ourselves a bit of a kick-start. For some people, it may indeed mean starting over, like pressing the reset button on the back of a mobile device.

2011 was an eventful year for me. Despite a poor season of training, I had some success in my races. I worked hard on my writing, and in the last couple of months of the year, I finally started to find some traction in the writing community. And of course, there was my wedding in April – a fantastic event that included friends and family from far away. Having my mom there, and my brother to walk me down the aisle, made it all extra-special.

Despite the good stuff, I found myself sinking towards the end of the year. I have, for several weeks now, been dealing with depression. It is something that I have chosen not to write about, because it’s such a painful, private thing. But it is something that I should at least acknowledge, if only to let other people suffering from this problem know that they are not alone.

I have been reading these articles about how the simple act of laughing releases natural happy-drugs into your brain, how the biggest single predictor of happiness is the degree to which a person does good for their fellow man, and how being around proactive people can spur you on to action in your own life. In other words, positivity breeds positivity.

In that spirit, I decided that I would start off 2012 on a positive note in my blog. I would host some guest writers: inspirational women who have done amazing things. A couple of the women I approached told me that writing something positive might help lift them out of their own states of psychological disequilibrium. So much the better! This became a little project to raise everyone’s spirits – mine, my guest writers, and any readers who need a lift.

I am excited about this week. For the next five days, my blog is given over to some women who inspire me and remind me that anything is possible.

We lead off tomorrow with single mom Kerry White, who tells us that although things have been kind of turbulent for her, life isn’t all that bad. It’s a wonderful reminder about perspective.

On Tuesday, we will hear from Sara Morgan, an autism mom who has also experienced the trauma of pregnancy loss. She brings these two things together and reminds us that where  there’s life, there’s hope.

On Wednesday, Phaedra Kennedy (who has the distinction of being the first friend I had in Canada) tells us about how she rose above some deeply sad and traumatic events in her personal life to have a phenomenal season of running.

Thursday is given over to Jennifer Burden, whose idea for a group blog for moms has ballooned into an entire project for social good that includes the United Nations.

And on Friday, we hear from my friend Margie Bryant, who gives a whole new meaning to the idea of turning your life around. Margie describes how she made the transformation from someone with no hope into someone with huge possibilities for great things.

I want to take this opportunity to thank each of these women for giving of themselves to contribute to my quest to start off the year on a positive note. I wish them all continued success in 2012.

And for everyone reading this, may 2012 be a year filled with love, peace and happiness, as well as just the right dose of adventure.

Rain and Orange Jackets

4 Jan

On New Years Day, I woke up feeling a little tired, but without any trace of a hangover.  This has less to do with any miracle cure than with the fact that our festivities (a word I use very loosely for lack of a better term) were somewhat restrained in nature.  I got dressed in my running clothes, and while the rest of my household was still sleeping, I drove out to Whitby to take part in the 2011 Resolution Run.

The weather was absolutely foul.  It was cold, and there was so much rain that when I got to the venue, I almost needed a canoe in order to cross the parking lot.  On a day like that, I was grateful that the event was starting and ending at a community centre with enough real washrooms to accommodate the crowd.  This is a big deal for female runners.  I mean, have you ever tried peeing in a Porta-potty while it’s raining cats and dogs?  If you haven’t, don’t.  It’s not pleasant.

I was struck by how many runners there were.  This was New Years Day, the day after what was, for many, a long night of hard partying.  Among a couple of thousand runners, there must have been more than a few hangovers or, at the least, people feeling totally exhausted.  And it was cold.  And raining so much that at the end of the 5km my shoes were squelching.  All of the runners who were there were showing some pretty incredible insanity obsession dedication.

I was also struck by the sea of orange.  Every year, the Running Room gives away running jackets to Resolution Run registrants.  The jackets are always different: this year, they were orange.  And because the vast majority of us were running in our new jackets, the crowd as a whole looked kind of – well, flourescent.  We were probably visible from the moon, like some kind of beacon.  I felt sorry for anyone with a hangover who had to look at that.

The jacket is really very nice, though.

The run itself went well.  It’s been a long time since I ran in a 5km event, and it was kind of nice to just be able to go hell-for-leather and not worry about pacing strategies.  I finished the run in just over 32 minutes, which I was happy with considering what the weather was like.  Hell, I was happy to just get out and run, considering what the weather was like.  If I hadn’t been registered for this event, there’s no way I would have gone out for a run.

What did you do on New Years Day?  Were you nursing a hangover or starting to make good on your New Years Resolutions?

The Ghost of New Years Past

1 Jan

We rang in the new year without incident last night.  Although it must be said, the term “rang in” is a little grand for what we did.  It implies activity other than Gerard and I lounging on the couch in our bathrobes, watching TV and drinking wine.  We tuned in to CNN about seven seconds before midnight, had a kiss and exchanged Happy New Year greetings, and that was  that.  We did call my Mom right after midnight.  For her it was seven in the morning and she was up and about, so we were able to have a lovely chat.

New Year celebrations when I was a kid were always a family affair.  My Mom has two siblings: a brother (now deceased) and a sister, who back then lived with my grandmother, who was still alive at the time.  Every year we would rotate the celebrations: one household would host Christmas, a second would host New Year, and the third would have a break for the year.  On the evening of December 31st, aunts, uncles, cousins, and Granny would assemble at the designated home, and we would all have dinner (comprised primarily of leftovers from Christmas).  Before midnight we would head outside with our bottles of sparkling wine (us kids were allowed a small amount to see in the New Year with).

Bear in mind that this was in South Africa, when New Years Day falls slap bang in the middle of summer.  Being outside at midnight at that time of year is actually very pleasant.  It’s not something I would voluntarily try in Canada unless I was on my way from one indoor place to another.

We would have the TV on in the living room, not to watch but to listen to.  We would form a big circle, everyone would be given their glass of sparkling wine, and we would count down with the TV.  At the stroke of midnight, we would drink our toast to the New Year, join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne.  There would be hugs and kisses, and then out of respect for tradition, the first person to step into the house would be my cousin Ivan, who was the male with the darkest hair.

I used to love our family New Year celebrations.  I had a very close friendship with the two cousins closest to me in age, and we always loved spending the time together (funny that the three of us each live in separate countries now).  The sense of family and togetherness was wonderful.  There were sometimes episodes of family drama at other times of the year, but somehow, on that day, we would all come together as a harmonious unit.

As we got older and started getting boyfriends and girlfriends and lives of our own, the family New Year celebrations started to fall by the wayside.  I think the passing of Granny when I was 14 or 15 had an effect as well.  The family celebrations did continue for a couple of years after that, but they were never the same.  Add the fact that at that time, the older of the cousins started getting jobs, going to colleges, and moving away from home.  The simple progression of life had the effect of fragmenting the family.

Now that I have a husband-to-be and kids of my own, it is time for me to form my own New Years traditions.  Maybe our family celebrations will not evolve beyond the four of us hanging out in our PJ’s until midnight, and I’m OK with that.  Whatever we do, I would love for my kids to grow up with fond memories of the celebrations, just as I did.

Happy New Year to anyone reading this.  May 2011 be the year for you to accomplish all you wish for.