Be Thankful

As I drove down the Wendy’s hill to meet the girls to run, I thought of all the times I have biked or run this hill.  Sherry and I used to meet at Fort Whoop up in the fall to run hill repeats on Fridays after work.  She’s been on my mind lately, most likely because October was a month that we started to ease back into training after taking September off.  Reminders have been popping up all over the place.  My physiotherapist is in the same building as Master Feeds, I don’t ever pull into the parking lot for an appointment without thinking of Sherry.  Driving into Cardston for the football game Friday, I could see her little yellow bug driving on the road just ahead of me and pulling to the shoulder every km or so while I finished a run off my bike while training for ironman.  Waiting for me to finish with a Dairy Queen Cheeseburger and a pink popsicle ready for me.  While I love these memories, they still make me sad, I’m not quite ready to see them and smile.

As quickly as my thoughts turned to Sherry driving down the Wendy’s hill and sadness entered my mind;  they just as quickly turned to joy as we pulled into the parking lot at Fort Whoop Up to see Peggy’s car and Reese began to whine, knowing our running peeps were waiting for us.

I am so thankful to have good friends that bring me joy.  That pick me up and carry me along.

I’m so thankful for Adam and our boys who put up with the pieces of me that have shattered and changed while learning to help me.

I’m so thankful for those of you that think of me, include me and keep me in your prayers.

Happy thanksgiving everyone, be thankful for your loved ones and hug them tight.

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Finding your Passion

I’m sitting in Anderson Hall waiting for Eli to fill out his application to U of L and thinking, wow, how did we get here so fast?

I’ve spent more time at the uni in the past few days then I have in years. I’ve been reflecting on why losing my position here was so devastating. I realized this weekend it’s because my heart is here.

Hearing Linda speak, learning from Gill and seeing old friends brought back so many emotions. Transferring to U of L from U of C gave me so many opportunities. Studying with Vondis gave me my confidence back. He taught me so much, not just about music but about teaching, listening, collaborating and being fair.
Being at a small school allowed me to play, perform and grow in all areas of music. We had some amazing teachers with a huge breadth of knowledge. To be able to return and give back was a huge honour and opportunity to share.
Returning for events is hard, and it’s emotional. I have strong ties to this institution and the people within and I still have knowledge and experience to share.

I took Eli to a session this morning on “Finding your Passion”. The speaker, Director of Student Services, Mark Slomp (he’s a psychologist, I wonder if he has a private practice 😳) was excellent. It reminded me that we can work towards goals that may or may not happen and even if they don’t happen,  we’re still fulfilling those dreams and goals if we are on the right path and following our passions. It reinforces to me that this forced career change is still within my passion and goal scope. People, learning, collaborating, and teaching are all areas I work with daily. They aren’t in the music world but all of those skills are applicable and transferable back to the music world.
I’ll find my way back there eventually. My skill, passion and ability to always improve tops other criteria. I think I’m finally in a place where I can say, “your loss, my gain”

It seems unreal to be writing out a cheque to U of L to pay for Eli’s application but I’m so excited to se him start on this journey. To find his passion.

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Safe Haven

It’s like being on the ocean at the beginning of a wave. The water can be as flat as glass yet the tension is building beneath to begin a wave. The wave builds and builds, rushing closer to the shore, until finally it breaks against the rocks. But there is no relief because behind it is another wave, and another, and another. They break against the rocks, trapping you against the rocks and you don’t have the strength to pull yourself out.

That’s what a panic attack is like. When it’s finally over, you feel weak, sick, exhausted.

Just when I think they are gone, something happens to trigger one. Tonight it was two silly boys who couldn’t find each other. Eli was to pick Isaiah up from football but somehow, they missed each other and Isaiah was nowhere to be found. Even though logically I knew he probably was walking home, the lizard part of my brain starts to pick up danger signals. It’s not safe it whispers, something bad is going to happen.

My ability to trust a situation, to trust people has not returned yet. Something’s not right, it must be something bad. Eli finally called to say Isaiah had gotten home after 90 minutes of the waves building. The thinking part of my brain finally gave in to the lizard brain and the panic was released. I can’t breath, I sob, I want to curl up in a ball and hide. This is hard to do outside of CASA when you have rushed out of rehearsal.

It took all of my energy to walk back into that rehearsal space and pick up my trumpet. But as I did, the thinking part of my brain took over and automatically found my spot in the English Folk Song Suite. A piece that is so familiar to me I could play it from memory. It coaxed my brain away from the panic to a place of safety and calm. To a place in the music I know so well. To the breath, the phrase, the movement of the music. Music is returning to me, it has once again become a safe place.

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Learning Empathy

Suck it up buttercup!  How often have you heard that phrase?  How often have you dished it out?  Or something like it?  If I’m whining about a hill climb, or that I’m tired or just generally whining;  then absolutely, tell me to suck it up!  If I tell you I’m anxious or worried;  don’t, just don’t.  Don’t say, you’re fine, suck it up.

I’ve heard from several friends over the summer the inappropriate responses they have received from others while trying to explain their anxieties.  If you have never experienced anxiety to the degree that many of us have then you probably have a hard time understanding.  I get this.  I think I was one of you before having a traumatic experience that changed my life.

I know that it makes some people uncomfortable.  I know that you often don’t know what to say or how to respond, so your immediate reaction is flippant.   I know you don’t mean to be hurtful or dismissive.  But you are.

So what do you do?  

Listen.  Listen.  Listen.  You don’t have to talk.  Just listen.

Take your friend for a walk, bring a pet over to visit, learn what helps them re-focus and calm.  Most of you know that for me, it’s a bike ride, a hike, an animal or simply being outside.

Ask, how can I help you?  Lots of times we don’t know the answer to this, but it sure helps to be asked.

Send a text message that says, how is today?  Want to go for a walk?  You are loved.  I am here.

Things not to say:

Suck it up buttercup!  Fake it till you make it!  You’re fine!

It was inevitable,  bound to happen.  Only a matter of time.  I told you so.

And yes, I did get this response when Sherry died.  It added to my guilt that I was alive and she wasn’t.  It furthered my belief that I did something wrong, that we were at fault, that I should have been able to stop it.  So, please, just don’t say this to anyone.

It is hard to understand the depth of anxiety that some of us live with.  Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes.  On Saturday I started having nightmares about my family dying while they are away.  Adam and the boys are heading to West Virginia for a week and I’m terrified.  Irrational?  To some, maybe.  You have to remember, I watched one of my best friends die, so to me it’s not irrational or implausible.  In my mind it’s possible.  It’s possible that a horrendeous thing can happen in an instant.  I will struggle all week while they are gone and will be so relieved when they return.

So the next time you are tempted to say something like, suck it up buttercup, remember, some of us have scars that run deep and are easily re-opened.

“I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.”

Maya Angelou

Hill Memories

I had a hill workout on the books today.. and a tough one!  I thought about the best hills to run and discarded all of the standards for various reasons, too short, too steep, too much traffic, too much noise, no place to warm up… This continued even when I was driving to “some” hill.  Finally I decided on Peenaquim.

I knew in the back of my mind why I was struggling to choose a hill.  I usually ran hill repeats with Sherry, on Friday afternoons.  We’d run Laundry hill for short sprints, Wendy’s for medium intervals and Par three for longer intervals.  It didn’t matter if it was cold, rainy or hot, that was our hill day.  The only time I remember us bailing was one spring when there was a grass fire close by.  The air was so thick with smoke that we bailed almost immediately after getting out of our cars and went for a beer.

More Fridays than I can remember and we always had to be done by 5, because Friday was Jack & Sherry’s night for Luigi’s and groceries.  Always.

So that’s why I chose Peenaquim.  It’s a hill we never ran, it wasn’t paved until recently.  It was a good choice.  It’s a gradual grade with only a few steeper parts, there’s no traffic and it’s surrounded by coulees and quiet.  A meadowlark cheered for me each time I ran past and at one point flew across my path.  And yes, I said, “Hi Sherry”  and smiled, for I’ve always wondered if her spirit is captured by a bird soaring high above us in the sky.  Following us on our bikes and cheering on our runs.

I miss you my friend.

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Calgary 70.3 July 2014

 

 

 

These are My People

I am so lucky.   In the past few days I have felt an overwhelming sense of wellness and calm.  Surprising, because it’s been a really tough week.

My body was pain free Friday for the first time in almost two years.  My back didn’t hurt, my knees didn’t hurt, my foot wasn’t numb.  My mind was calm after an exhausting and emotional day revisiting Sherry’s death and the months following.

Make no mistake, I have to work at it.  It’s a continuous cycle that can sometimes be vicious.  I’m not always well, I’m not the same and I may never be.  While running Saturday, I said to my runnning partner, “someday’s it’s so frustrating, I just want to go to bed!  But I have to stretch, meditate, be quiet so my mind will shut down and sleep will arrive.”  I know what I have to do to be well; and it takes time.

So why am I lucky?  I’m lucky because I have people that have taken the time and care to teach me these things.  I’m lucky because I’m surrounded by kind and loving people.  I’m lucky because I have amazing friends who listen and hear me.  Then they help me understand, empathize and release the anger.  They don’t perpetuate the anger, the grief and the negative feelings.  They help me find the light, the good, the alternative.

When we cruised into Streatside for breakfast after our 10 miles on Saturday (okay, maybe it wasn’t cruise… the last mile for me was pretty painful!) I felt an overwhelming sense of belonging.  These are my people.  They are welcoming, they smile, they greet you.  They don’t care if you are fast or slow, fat or thin, young or old.  They are runners and they are together to enjoy being outside and time with others.

I’m thankful today that I have been embraced by so many wonderful people.  You make me well.  Thank you.

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It is Well

Two friends.  One is suffering a huge loss, the other is celebrating a huge accomplishment and recognition.  Change for both.  Change for me.  While my heart aches for one, my soul rejoices for the other.

How do we manage the juxtaposition of what we know with what is to come?  How do we support and facilitate the change for our friends and for ourselves?

Change is a difficult thing.  No matter if we invite it in and welcome it, change means a disruption to our lives.

Yesterday, after sharing her loss, my one friend asked how I was.  I paused for a moment, then replied, “today, I am well.  I feel still and peaceful.  It is a blessing.”  Part of me wondered if I should share this with her as I knew she was suffering, but I think sharing our feelings allows us to help more, and create through honesty, trust and deep relationships.   Yesterday, I was in a position to listen and empathize.

Today, I’m a little out of sorts.  Celebrating and grieving with friends does have a cost for me.   I know when work, family, life starts to add up and I need a break.  Funny things start to happen.  I get forgetful, I’m clumsy, I drop things, I can’t concentrate.

But this is where self care comes in for all of us.  For those that are directly experiencing the change and those of us that are supporting the change, or maybe we are doing both.  Listen to your body, listen to the clues.  For me it means being kind to myself, getting outside or walking the dog.  It also means recognizing the emotions that arise and knowing that it’s okay.  It’s okay to feel sad when you support others, even when it’s a celebration, because it means you care, it means you have a connected relationship.  And those relationships are what matters.

Take time today to recognize the feelings in your mind and body today.   Then reach out and make a connection.

 

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