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Cold Showers

It’s been a long silence.

I came off my bike in July and took some decent chunks of skin off my left (problem) knee. Work decided to help my recovery by sending me to faraway places with lots of opportunity to sit motionless, or be so busy and stressed that time to train or even rehab became time to sleep instead. I still raced. My knee, after a month of recovery, would niggle, then a 24hr race would pop up and I’d think “what the hell, how bad could it be!” and I’d race. Then it would niggle more and I’d work and sit, more, which would make it niggle more. I postponed my Everesting goals and more serious races. But the cycle of niggle- race- kind of almost recover- then race again continued until November. Then I ran, because I wanted to outrun my stressed out mind. The knee hurt, but I tried to outrun it also by sprinting stairs. I don’t know what I was thinking. Maybe, semi- unconsciously, I just wanted to completely crash, so there was no more temptation. Maybe I was realising that I was falling so far behind my pretty ambitious goals that I needed some big slap to the face to finally come to my senses.

And crash I did. The day after a 12km run, my last run for the last 3 months I couldn’t walk. I hobbled for a week and have been progressively getting better since with occassional lapses. I’ve seen physios and been doing my rehab. I’ve learnt to walk barefoot, absolutely silently. I’ve taken up paddling almost regularly (whenever I’m not away with work). I’m back on the bike. I’ve finally started doing strength work and can almost do a proper pistol squat now.

But these few months have been pretty hard. Over quite a few years now I’ve become wired to find my peace, my calm, my motivation and my inspiration on a trail. Not being able to just disregard the numerous niggles i’ve grown so used to fought in my mind over the fine line of- where do you honour your limits and where do you just throw in the towel? And how do you pick yourself up from the floor now that most of your coping mechanisms you can no longer access?

So I’ve fluctuated. I re-learnt how to breathe and enjoy just that. I learnt how amazing the earth feels under my bare toes and how gently I can transfer my weight over dry leaves so they make no sound. And that I can see and hear so much more because now I’m paying attention- to the sleek tree snake, a matter-of-fact echidna, a tiny flower. And I’ve remembered what it’s like to start feeling grateful again. I would not have thought to “waste” my time walking slowly before when I could learn to run or ride faster instead.

I came back from my holiday break in January almost fully recharged, despite not covering any significant distances on neither bike nor foot. And two things happened:

1. my car had to go the mechanic for a week

2. the weather put on an amazing show and skies poured gallons and gallons of water over the city for most of that week.

So I did what made more sense to me than accepting a replacement car or organising lifts from co-workers. I started riding my bike to work. I couldn’t do the full 25kms (one way) straight away, so I rode a few train stations then would get on the train when the knee would complain. Then I would add one more station, then one more until there was no more reason to catch the train.

And for the first week, as if on purpose, the hot water system at work broke, so cold showers became a necessity. And I decided I’d feel grateful for that also.

It’s over a month now that I start my shower with cold water only. The first few seconds I still gasp from the shock, especially first thing in the morning, but now I look forward to it. It’s better than coffee, exhilarating, uplifting, exciting, and most importantly, it reminds me that I’m reclaiming the old me back. She’s in there still and she is slowly waking up from this hibernation. She is just doing it a lot more thoughtfully and this time, sustainably.

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Choices, addictions and vulnerability.

http://www.stuartmcmillen.com/comics_en/rat-park/DSCF9015

I read this comic strip the same evening after attending a side street alley gathering to remember a life lost to a suicide.

Although I only vaguely recollect a chance encounter, the alley was full of people whose lives were touched in one way or another. It was poignant: a poem, both melancholic and hopeful, read by a friend; a minute of silence, punctuated by drops of rain reflecting dimmed lights.

I sat, in respectful silence and retrospective wonder. How often are our lives touched by people who seem to radiate nothing but kindness and selflessness only to find out later about their lost or losing battles with demons of loneliness? How often are we shocked by the falseness of our assumptions that people like that MUST have been surrounded by the same love, wisdom and kindness that they project on their world?

The two events are not linked in any form. I know nothing of the life and struggles of the young man who did not want to struggle anymore. I know little of addictions to substances other than endorphins created by my own body. I do not intend to make any assumptions. But they both made me think.

Choices. Some are simple and obvious to make: to do or not to do. To say or not to say, to believe or not to believe. Others, despite being a lot more important, are significantly harder to recognise. The conscious choice as to which river to swim in. Entering either is easy: the initial effort of moving your mass off the shore is probably the same. Yet as you float away, your most obvious path is dictated by the direction of the current. Of course, there are still numerous ways of heading another way, but that is a topic for another post.

Beliefs. Seeing and believing your world as your playground (park) or as your cage. Beliefs are shaped by own previous experiences, opinions of those we hold in esteem, books and gospels of reference.

And the two are forever intertwined, for whatever path you choose to take will shape your experiences which will in turn shape your beliefs which will then choose which river to enter.

And so my tonight’s musings led me to this message by Brene Brown, a “storyteller researcher”.  Six years of research and hundreds of stories led her to summarise what differentiates those that live wholeheartedly, with a strong sense of love and belonging and those that struggle for it:

  • Courage to be imperfect.
  • Compassion. To be kind to yourself first before being kind to others. Because as it turns out we can’t practice compassion to others if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.
  • Connection. Authentically, as a result of letting go of what you think you should be in order to be who you are.

But most importantly, it all leads to her most important message that has the chance of changing our rivers, and consequently our lives for the better: