The dumbest thing I’ve ever done. Perhaps.

On Wednesday last week, after two months of searching, learning, exploring and deciding, a twelve-week old puppy arrived on our doorstep.  She was in the care of a foster mom at Labrador Rescue up in Queensland, having been saved from a shelter.  I knew she was the one the moment I saw her photo and I pursued her, well, like a Labrador pursues anything.  Doggedly, until she was ours, and we were hers.

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She flew from Brisbane to Melbourne in the care of Jet Pets, and was handed to me (me who had never held a puppy before) in front of my house at 3:42 pm.  The kids got home at 4:00.  The cats?  They were seen once or twice shaking their heads in dismay through the windows.  I quickly captured and brought them in, so they wouldn’t disappear.  They cowered in their laundry room, disbelief in their eyes.

Leila, the pup, is good as gold, and behaving exactly as a puppy should behave.  In other words, peeing on the floor, crying for half the night, terrorizing the cats, and eating everything in sight.  She is like a living vacuum cleaner with no off switch.

Of course she is adorable and her ears as soft as silk, her wagging tail a delight to behold.

But here’s the thing:  life was already a challenge.  My youngest child has some serious learning issues, and does not respond well to change.  This means that the week we had of peace in my home – the first week of peace in eight years – has been suddenly replaced by dog toys being thrown at my head, and chants of “You’re a loser” copied direct from some TV show.  Saturday morning, I cleaned the kitchen and did six loads of laundry.  This is never a good sign.

A good friend found me walking the neighborhood on Saturday (I’d needed a breath of fresh air), pulled her car over, and said, “You look like you need a drink!”  I didn’t go with her – that would be a Pandora’s Box for sure, but my tight shoulders said she was right.

Monday has come, and the kids are at school.  Our little pup had a tummy ache but a race to the vet proves it is nothing too serious, and she settles down for a nap.

And I, after two sedentary days following this pup around my house (did I mention she can’t leave for another two weeks because she needs another vaccination?), I got my running shoes on.

Somewhere along that 7k of solitude, I found the strength to continue on.  My head cleared; I felt a sense of hope.  This is not the end.  This is only the beginning.  My cats and my children and I will all stretch a bit to accommodate this new creature.  I will open my heart and love her.

So…is it the dumbest thing I’ve ever done?  Ask me in a year, when my new Labrador/Kelpie is able to run with me.  Ask me in six months when she comes to the beach to chase balls.  Ask me later today when her whole body wags when she sees me.

I suppose great things do not come without great risks.  A lesson I have had to learn yet again.

I’ve also re-learnt the lesson about running, how it puts things in perspective and makes sane the crazy in me.

A heartwarming post of great joy.

I woke up for the fourth time on that long night, having had a different version of the same dream I’d had the other three times.  She had returned, unharmed, and my family was celebrating with tears of joy.  Was it real this time?  Had she really returned?  I glanced over at my sleeping husband, and realised, yet again, that it had just been a dream.  The knowledge was shattering.

This had happened before, and I knew that if she had not appeared by morning, the chances were very slim that she would reappear at all.  Wasn’t that just what had happened with Lucky?  He’d gone out at dusk, and had never been seen again.  I tried to bring my mind back to the present.  This would turn out differently.  It had to turn out differently.

The next morning, my husband went downstairs first.  I asked him to come straight back and tell me if she’d returned.  I couldn’t bear to see the empty porch.  He didn’t come.  Instead, my young daughter appeared.

“Is she back?”

“No.  Are you going to cry?”

“Yes, I think I am.  See you after showers.”

The morning was bleak.  I couldn’t concentrate on anything.  The kids were chatty and oblivious, for the most part.  I hid in the pantry and Googled who to contact.  And I listened to the growling of the dog next door.  Could he have her pinned and injured in there?

We got the kids off to school, I called the local council, dead inside, already knowing what they’d say.  No, she’d not been turned in.  Call this other number.  No and no and no.  And a “we don’t open until ten, please call back then.”  I coached a client, leaving the pain alone for almost a full hour, though every sound on the porch outside my office made me jump up and stare out the window.

Once I was done coaching, my husband I wandered the neighborhood, calling, calling, Minnniii,  Minnniii, looking into bushes, afraid of seeing the battered remains of her on nature strips, listening for cries that would alert us to where she was.  Just like when Lucky disappeared, the streets were empty.  The absence of her was a physical thing.  It filled all the space around me, pressed me heavily onto the concrete.  We’d been playing around with the idea of adopting a dog, full of hope for this new year.  Now it seemed so pointless and futile.  Everything seemed that way.

We went to lunch and couldn’t speak.  Couldn’t meet each others eyes.  Racing home afterwards, the streets and sidewalks were still achingly empty.  No one came to greet us in our garden, no small creature stood on hind paws to kiss our hands.  I went to the back garden and called and called, in a softer, less hopeful voice.  The time had passed.  She was truly gone.

I sat staring at my computer screen, not doing anything, called a few more shelters and cried.

And then…

Mew.

It was a small cry.

Mew, again.

I leapt to my feet.  Standing there, unbelievably standing there, in all her small, black-and-white beautiful glory was our baby cat.  She had come home!  Against all odds, she had come home.

And the world is suddenly full of color again, and there is a point and a rhythm to the universe and everything is going to be okay.

All because a small black-and-white cat found her way home.

Photo: She has returned, oh happy day! :)

“You’ve got your strangling hands on,” he said, jokingly.

I snorted; it was a perfect storm.  It was school holidays – long before we could consider them drawing to a close; I hadn’t been able to run due to injury; we’d had four back-to-back days of 40 degree plus weather, meaning no exercise at all was possible; I had a chest infection that was making me cough and cough; the kids were bouncing off the walls and each other; and we were making lunch together in our too-small kitchen.

I stepped away from the counter space where my husband was working – where I wanted to be working – and shook my hands out.  Strangling hands indeed!

I’d hurt my knee way back in November, after my first true marathon.  I’d expected a week to recover but that had stretched into six weeks.  Then I’d messed up my post-injury recovery by going out too fast, and hurting my other leg.  So I’d had to pull the plug on running for another week.  I was grumpy, sickish, in desperate need of solitude and writing time, hungering for the woods that heal me when I run.  And none of the things I needed were available.

Out of nowhere, my eight-year-old daughter declared she wanted to run around the block.  She never runs; she hates to even walk.  Before we got to seize this wonderful opportunity, she got angry though.  My son was going to run with her, and he strapped on the training watch I’d given him that came with my new Runner’s World subscription.  She wanted one too!  It wasn’t fair!  She stormed around shouting until my son found an old watch for her to wear, and only then could they get shoes on (my son ran in thongs, a true minimalist).

Watched and shod, off they ran.  My husband and I waited at the top of the hill for them to reappear, and they did, charging.  They were puffed, but my daughter wanted to go again.  So she did, with my husband beside her on a bike.  My son saved himself for our planned 1k around the streets, trying to rebuild his fitness from his 5k race back in July last year.  Later in the day, I finally made it, all by myself, to the gym.

Riding my bike down the hill, it occurred to me that it had been days and days since I’d been alone.  I felt the wind in my face, felt freedom, felt glad to be alive.  The treadmill at the gym rewarded me with a 2k run, with no pain, and my heavy weights, well, they made me feel strong and warrior-like.

I rode home, contemplating how to fix the mistake of not giving my daughter a running watch too.  Perhaps I had an old one she could borrow?

As soon as I walked in the door, my son ran up to me.  “She wants to run around the block again!”  I was too tired by then to join her, and determined to stick to my 3k plan for the day, so I let the rest of the family do the run.

In the meantime I found a Training Diary that had also come with my subscription.  As my daughter ran towards me, completing her third lap of the block, I held it out to her.  Her eyes lit up.  She grabbed my hand, pulled me inside to my office, and we sat down to record the details of her three laps around the block, including time, feelings, and the course. For her good night story, we read about hydrating drinks, and talked about how important sleep is to recovery.

She’s gone to sleep with her new training diary next to her pillow, and is already planning her next run.  My son is planning to do a 10k race this year.  And me?  I’m planning to get injury free, and then fly like the wind on my favorite trails.

A return to the gym.

 

Missing out on Two Bays

Missing out on Two Bays

So, how were your holidays?  I’ve been away from my blog for several weeks, and, in fact, am feeling a bit rusty at writing.  Three weeks with young children around will do that.  “Mom…” and “Dad…” incessantly, all-out-war fights between the kids, plus a beach house with very limited internet access.  Thank goodness we bought a piano just before Christmas.  Though I do not play yet, it has helped keep me sane.

Let me rewind a minute.  You might recall that just after the Marysville Marathon in November, I hurt my knee.  It swelled up to three times its usual size, and I spent many weeks trying to get it better.  Cross-training, rest, physio, more rest (actually 9 complete days exercise free – a record for me), and then a gradual return to running.

I’m not real good with rest or with injury.  My family will surely attest to that.  But this time, during my 9 days rest, I had a new toy.  I’d always planned on learning piano.  My Dad was an accomplished pianist, and my fondest memories are of listening to him play.  Bach, Chopin, Beethoven; he could play them all.  But he couldn’t teach.  At least, he couldn’t teach me, an independent child who didn’t like to be taught very much, and certainly didn’t like his angry style.  Poor Dad; he would have loved to hear me play, but he scared the life out of me, and I quit, and began riding horses instead.

But it’s always been there, my secret plan to learn, once I was old enough.  I’m still sort of scared, although my Dad has been dead for twenty years.  I don’t want a teacher – if they are mean, I’m sure I’d quit, and I’m not very good at taking instructions anyway.  So I’ve coached my nine-year old son to say just these words to me when he hears me play:  “That’s great, Mom, really great!”  And he does.  Even though I know he’s just saying it because I asked him to, it works.

I bought a series of Easy Piano instructions books geared for children, as the grown-up versions were terrifying and serious, and I like the cartoon characters pointing at the notes.  I’m halfway through book 2 of the series, progressing slowly and deliberately and with great, rebellious joy.  Yesterday I played a piece by Bach! My son, daughter and husband are playing too.  The males follow the instructions carefully.  My daughter improvises – loud, scary music.  I asked her what it was.  “It’s the dragon coming to eat the villagers,” she replied, straight-faced.

Running?  Ah, running.  We are not friends right now.  I’ve tried this, after the swelling finally went down in my right knee: 5k, wait two days, 6k, wait two days, 7k, wait one day, 8k, wait one day (that’s when my left peroneal tendon started complaining), wait one day, 9k (ignoring left knee pain as right knee was fine), wait three days and limp, 10k (too hot to notice any pain at all, until I stopped and there was the left leg pain again!).  I waited two days, and went to the gym today.  After just one running step on the treadmill, I got off.  The left leg is still wrong.

Grrr!  While I’m delighted to tell you my right knee is now the right size again (with the exception of a strange bumpy line running across the center of the kneecap that has me obsessed), I still can’t run.

But, I can lift weights.  So tonight, although there were 72 young men in the free weights area at my gym, with only three or four centimeters room between them (New Year’s Resolution time), I did my full heavy weights workout. I’d forgotten just how good it feels to be strong.  Lifting gives me nearly the same buzz as running, and has a wonderful meditative quality (well, less so with Mr. Biceps next to me, but usually).  My body hurts so good right now, and the endorphins are back on, and it was simply wonderful to see some gym buddies and class members (I teach at the same gym), and I left there feeling like I’d come back to life.

So perhaps this injury is teaching me something.  First, how to play piano.  Second, that I really still love the gym.

One last thought to leave you with tonight – for Christmas, my husband suggested something.  He actually wrote the word “wild” and “i” on a small card and then drew an animal after it.  It took me ages to work it out, what with exhaustion and champagne.  “Wild-eyed dog?” “No.” “Wild-eyed goat?” “No.”  My mind got stuck on the goat until he gave up, and told me it was “wild i dear”.  The animal was meant to be a deer!

What is the wild idea?  To get a dog!  Us of the two kids, two cats, and asthmatic husband.  Well, why not…

I’m not sure just now whether to get a dog that will want to run with me or not.  I’d hate to disappoint him.  We’re looking daily at who is available at the local animal shelter, so hopefully this wild idea will come true soon.

By the way, I had to miss the Two Bays 28k and 56k race last Sunday, with these injuries.  I was terribly disappointed, but also super-inspired by the stories of the runners who completed the event.  To toe up at the start line for a run like that takes guts.  Thanks for the inspiration, Two Bay runners!

Signs

My husband protected a very silly friend of ours from serious bodily harm on the weekend.  This “friend”, at one of the many Christmas parties on the weekend, asked me what had happened to my (taped up) knee.  When I said overuse, he guffawed with laughter, having known of and mocked my long-distance running many times in the past.  Then he began to make sarcastic jokes.  At which point, my husband warned him of the danger of employing sarcasm around his injured runner wife.

But, to tell the truth, I’m kind of over being upset.  Today I messaged the race organiser for the Two Bays Trail Run, to ask to switch down from the 56k option to the 28k.  I knew it was coming, have known for several weeks having been unable to train.  What I felt, briefly, was sorrow, but right now, the overwhelming feeling is one of relief.  Relief that I can take the pressure off and simply focus on healing.

So, with that in mind, I’m going to tell you about two things that made me laugh out loud, which is no mean feat during the build-up to Christmas.  I’m not stressed this year – I’m organised and calm.  Until I get out into traffic with all the stressed-out shoppers who are driving badly and nearly crashing their cars while they text their friends, eat dinner, and steer all at once.  Shoppers are grumpy in the bakery and the clothing shops; they are fast walking in the streets; snarling at one another.  Me?  I’m laughing.  Here’s why.

Laughter is the language of the soul

Laughter is the language of the soul (Photo credit: symphony of love)

I decided (dumb idea) to try to buy a present for my husband in our local Bed, Bath and Beyond shop.  I know, they don’t sell things for men there, and a present for the home would be, really, a present for me, but the shop was there, so I shopped.  I studied the sheets, towels, clever ornamental thingies, then went upstairs where last year I bought him the (never used) pasta making machine.  First, I checked out the Clever Sign area.  You know, the metallic signs with cute sayings: Paris by the Bay, Asti Cinzano, Keep Calm and Carry on, Hearts Come Home For Christmas (gag), all the usual ones.

Metal 10-Inch x 24-Inch Hearts Come Home For Christmas Plaque

Amidst all the positive, gushy, life-is-wonderful signs, there was this sign:

KEEP OUT!

How perfect.  So perfect, it made me snort with laughter alone on the top floor of the shop.  Keep out.  Really.  A spot-on perfect gift for every Mom you’ve ever met.  She could carry it around and place it where needed.  Perhaps it would be better with a stand instead of a hanging thing.  It’s not that I don’t love my family – I love them with the desperate love of a mother who really, really wanted them, and still does.  But I’m a writer.  And I work from home.  So does my husband.  And school holidays are coming at us like a freight train.   A “Keep Out” sign would be, well, just wonderful.  Of course, I didn’t buy it.  But I like to reflect on it and pretend I did.

The other sign I saw was while I was riding my bike home from the gym.  I was looking around, thinking how great it was that I’d just run five kilometers for the first time in three weeks.  It was a blue-sky, champagne-air and sunshine day.  I ride a mountain bike, so it’s easy to sit up tall and watch the world as I ride downhill.  There was this painter van parked on the left side of the road.  It had that cool finish that helps people write off their cars as tax expenses, the whole thing painted a lovely red and white, with the business name in big, bold letters.  It read: Paint & Passion.  A strange combination for a business.  But memorable, no doubt.  In all the best ways.  I’m still laughing.

I think it is a very good sign that I’m laughing.  My knee is taped within an inch of its life, I’ve had to miss out on my biggest goal for the year, but life is still incredibly funny.

Don’t believe me?  Just do a Google search on funny sign images.  It will put the Christmas shopping in perspective.  Or better yet, Google funny Christmas sign images.

Thanks for reading my blog during the craziness of the silly season…

Crisis of confidence: of marathon training and life

Six days until my first marathon.  I’m tapering, and feeling all the usual gunk that comes with this useful part of training.  Slow, lethargic, lazy.  I keep waiting for the burst of energy that says this is working, but my energetic bursts are being consistently used up by family and work stress.  So I’m just going to have to trust in the process, and trust in the training I’ve done.

Of course, having dozens of Garmin files to explore and obsess over doesn’t help.  I’ve been comparing elevation gains, height of hills from sea level, length of hills I’ve done in training versus those on the actual course.

My gear is ready.  My body is ready.  My mind?  Well, my mind is never really ready until I’m in the middle of a race and have nowhere to go but forward.  Such is the lot of those of us who obsess over every single detail of training and race preparation.  I’d love to be one of the relaxed few who just come along for the views and to take photos.

Six days and counting down.  Time for  5, 10, and 5k runs to finish off my training plan.  For some short running and nice recovery.

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I didn’t post this on the day I first wrote, as I was experiencing a crisis of confidence, and wasn’t ready to tell you the truth.  A few runs later (rainy runs into a strong headwind, carrying my newly repaired Hydrapak), and I’d love to say I’m fine now.

In truth,  I’m not.  I’m poring over the newly released details of race map transition areas, trying to remember which way our course goes compared to the other three race distances starting the same day.  And I’m trying to summit some more personal hills.

My seven-year-old is experiencing difficulties at school, and I am her safe battering ram when she returns home.  It hurts, all the way down to my soul.  But I was coping okay.

Then last week a BodyPump participant offloaded some really heavy stuff on me – a comment I had made in jest was the straw that broke her camel’s back, and I got in the direction of her personal lava-flow.  I felt like a kid who had been caught doing something naughty, as she raged and raged at me at the end of my class, as the other participants sheepishly snuck out the door.  My apology went unheard, and her wrath untouched.  With a sinking heart, I knew what was coming, because this is what happens.

Both things – my daughter’s stress, and this grown-up’s explosion – threw me.  I recognised that these things were not about me, but were about the other people going through difficult times.  In my head, at least, I recognised that.  That wiser part of me was nodding quietly, saying, “This is their stuff, not yours.”

The less wise part of me – who I know well, and see creeping up on me with a feeling of despair – was less kind.  It blasted me with self-criticism and doubt, with that hide-under-the-bed-and-quit-all-my-jobs kind of advice that does no good to anyone.  My roots were (and are still) shaken.  I’ve had some sleepless nights wondering what I could do differently, tearing apart my faults, and judging myself way too harshly.  Thank God for the likes of Bon Jovi at such times, reminding me that I am not the first to feel this way, that I am not alone.  Thank God for the wise part of me that sits quietly nearby through all the turmoil, and reminds me I’ve survived much worse, that this too shall pass.

Long-distance trail running, alone with my thoughts and a concrete objective is the perfect antidote.  Except I’ve been tapering, so even that avenue has been closed for a couple of weeks.  Which is why I understood so well a recent trail runner’s message on why he runs so far.  He said something like, “Trail running is a drip-feed to my soul.”  Yup, I get that.  Because sometimes I long for what is soulful and simple and concrete, to escape from the complexities of human beings.

Shaken, but not broken – that is how I’m standing today.  Where all of us stand sometimes.  Making mistakes, and picking myself back up again, and trying my darndest to learn.  It makes running a marathon seem easy by comparison.

Here’s what I’m holding onto – that the people of Marysville have risen from the ashes of the 2009 bushfires.  And that I’m going to do just the same in the face my own personal challenges.  I need a good dose of trails to lift me back up, the smell of eucalypts and the feel of dirt under my feet.  Come Sunday in my first real marathon, I’m going to focus on simply feeling alive to every single footfall, to the simplicity that running can bring, to the soulfulness that will enable me to face life’s many challenges.

Because that wise self knows that I will find my stability and peace of mind again, through a long, steady run in the woods.

Emotions run high.

It’s been quiet at my blog.  I wanted to write, but the emotions were running too high.  You see, my son had his first sleep-away camp (two nights and three days away from home).  I’d like to say I handled it like Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet, who I referred to almost immediately after my son’s bus left.  “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth,” Kahlil counsels wisely.  “The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows might go swift and far.  Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves the bow that is stable.”

Stable.  Yeah, right.  That was me.  I was stable if that included snapping at my husband, crying my eyes out after the bus departed, and that horrible sad feeling I had for the whole of the first day my son was gone.  Last week, I wrote you the following blog, shortly after the squabble and just after the departure…

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Being a psychologist, I believe all emotions should be allowed, embraced, and used as learning tools.  That doesn’t mean, however, that I personally like all of them.

Take yesterday.  I wasn’t a little bit grumpy.  Feeling peeved.  I hadn’t had a bad morning in a generic sense, one of those someone-spit-in-my-cornflakes sort of days.  Nope.

Lava fountain within the crater of Volcan Vill...

Lava fountain within the crater of Volcan Villarrica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nope.  I was furious.  A red-rage kind of fury.  The kind that spills like lava and burns everything in a hundred-mile radius.  The kind that makes you want to punch a hole in the nearest wall.  It doesn’t matter what made me angry.  Because we all get angry.  Sometimes for highly justifiable reasons; sometimes not so much.  I’d already bitten the heads off all my family members (figuratively speaking), and they’d left the house anyway.  There was only one thing left to do.

I got my runners, my Garmin, and the key to the front door.  Then I bolted down the street like the pavement was on fire.  I was so angry (and Psychology 101 teaches us that pain underlies anger) that tears were in my eyes as I ran, and I kept my eyes focussed on the sidewalk because it was school-run time, and I didn’t want to explain my particular expression to anyone at school later.  What a relief when I moved off the direct path to school, and began along the coastal track.  The emotion still burned in me, the tears were flowing more freely, and I began to think hard about what was going on, swearing inside, shouting, cursing, raging.

On and on I ran.  The emotion made me run faster than usual, as if I were burning the emotion away by physical effort.  But it made me feel heavier as well, made me want to stop, rest my head on my hands on the fence and cry.  I didn’t; I simply kept running.

I had planned twenty kilometres for this run, and by the time I got to eight, the tears had gone.  I was simply feeling tired.  I kept going, up a set of stairs, along the bike path because my trail had run out.  Heartbreak Hill is near Rickett’s Point.  It’s a gradual incline on a straight, concrete path, with cars alongside.  No trees; no dirt; no native animals.  It feels like penance, like how running might feel to a non-runner who hasn’t found the elation button yet.  It only lasts a kilometre or so, but feels much longer.  I pushed on, noticing that my anger/pain had eased; I was almost surprised when it flared up now and again.  I’d started to forget how I’d been feeling.

It wasn’t until I had turned around and run back to around the 14k mark that I noticed I’d not thought of emotion at all in about twenty minutes.  Good.  It was working.  My pace was slower than usual, but I knew this was because of the emotional upheavals I’d been having – there is only so much energy in any one human, and I’d used a lot up lately.

The last few kilometres home were hard, but only physically.  The emotion had burned itself out.  I was calmer, had come to terms with what was bothering me.  I could face the problems I had with a more grown-up perspective, and know that the world was not ending, and that I didn’t have to end my world.

Did I feel better?  Did running magically fix what was wrong.  Nope.  But it gave me the mental break I needed to cope better.

Sometimes a bolt out the door is really very called for, for everyone’s sake.

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So that brings us back to this week.  My son has returned safe and sound, he hasn’t grown so much that I’m no longer important, and all my fears were unrealised (okay, so I asked about the Emergency Evacuation Plan at the pre-camp meeting – that seemed reasonable, what with bushfires and all!).  Oh, and I’ve stopped snapping at everyone around me.  Phew.

A new week has begun.  A week that marks three weeks until the Marysville Marathon, in fact.

Marysville Marathon Course courtesy of Trails +

Marysville Marathon Course (courtesy of Trails+)

Oh yes, perhaps that had something to do with the high emotions too.  I’ve been training hard, clocking up 60k plus weeks, with long runs of 30, 32, and 35k. I’ve been tired, but more than that, I’ve been nervous.

In the past, I’ve run an ultra-marathon (50k); I’ve run 43k all by myself in the woods in training.  But I’ve never run an actual marathon.  Marysville is a trail marathon, meaning hills and woods and tree roots. And up until last week, I was struggling to find a good course description (not that I’m a control freak and want to know every variable to train for, but…)

Luckily, I live in the same town as the race organiser, who also happens to sell mighty fine GU Gels.  Last week, after he released the above course map on Facebook, I stopped by his shop to buy gels.  He began to ring up my purchase (“What’s your name?” he said, to enter it into the computer.  “Patricia Bowmer.”  “Ah, the compulsive blogger.  I like reading your stuff,” he said).  I began to question him (okay, interrogate him like an NCIS investigator) about the course, so he kindly pulled the course map up on the big screen tv behind the counter.   Then he spent a good ten minutes talking me through the course, sharing the elevation change with me (I’d noticed that didn’t appear in his Facebook posts about the course), the technical sections, the hilly bits; I was reassured that the training runs I was doing were good enough.  The other customer in the shop was just relieved when I finally left.

So please forgive my silence.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell the truth when I’m blogging, when life is more difficult than I’d care to admit.

I’ve made it through the dark clouds and rainstorms now, and with only one long run left before the marathon, I am looking forward to a nice, relaxing taper.

And now I’m going to give my son one more goodnight kiss…

“One day you will be domesticated,” she said.

Early on in my marriage, one of my new family members said to me, “One day, you will be domesticated.”

Old Egyptian hieroglyphic painting showing an ...

Old Egyptian hieroglyphic painting showing an early instance of a domesticated animal (cow being milked). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, I’m American by birth, and I’d married into an English family.  I knew this phrase must mean something different from what it seemed to mean to me.  This well-meaning relative must have meant I’d learn how to cook and clean better, how to be a good mom and wife.  Still, my hackles rose.

To me, the word “domesticated” meant “tamed”.

For an Aquarian Fire-Horse like me, the most freedom-loving of all creatures, this idea was, well, not terrifying, but somehow unlikely.  Me, tamed?  Ha!  Me, of the wild dreams, of the adventure sports – me, who was sure I’d never have kids.  Me, who didn’t even have a kitchen in my New York apartment, just a hot plate, and lots of deli options.  Me, who sang songs of liberty at the top of my voice in the shower…

For five years, I’ve lived in the suburbs in Melbourne, Australia, with my young children, two cats, and a loving husband.  I’ve learned how to cook and clean, how to parent, how to garden.  I’ve examined myself up against the sound images of some strong domestic role models, friends, woman who I turn to when I don’t know how to do things like, “cream the butter and the sugar together”.  During this time, I’ve thought often of my own mother, and her path in life as an executive assistant in one of the largest New York City ad agencies – she never learned to cook. And I’m sure being “domesticated” never even occurred to her.

As a woman, there is a fine line between being domestic/domesticated and being tamed.  Wait.  I’ve got that wrong.  It is not a fine line.  It is a big, fat broad line.  I’ve discovered this line is so broad, we can run trails along it, waving our hands freely in the air, and singing our favorite songs.  We can be domestic, without being domesticated.

This morning in the gym, while lifting weights, I heard that phrase again, in a rap song on the radio.  The rapper was Robin Thicke and the phrase, “…tried to domesticate you, but you’re an animal…”…

I know, I’m a Bon Jovi girl really, but that phrase, as I bench-pressed my twenty-pound dumbbells, followed up with a set of push ups, and a set of triceps extension with that same twenty-pound dumbbell – well, it was kind of perfect.  “Tried to domesticate you…”

And failed.  I am nowhere near domesticated.

Last week, in that same gym, I was the sole woman in the free weights area at 10 am on a Monday morning, and I was surrounded by young men from a footy team working out.  I had to fight hard not to feel intimidated by the overwhelming testosterone, to know that I too belonged there in that world of steel and muscles.  To be tamed would mean this area no longer belonged to me; I stayed.

This morning, when the rapper was singing, I was in the free weights area with just one other woman nearby, and I could listen to the words, and reflect on them.

“Tried to domesticate you…” 

It is the passivity in the phrase that gets to me – the idea that someone or something else is taming us.  For the stray cats among us women, for us with holes in our jeans torn from climbing trees, for the ones without makeup, for the rebels, it is essential that we remain untamed, even in the suburbs, even in the boundaries of our own homes.  I’ve learned to cook from YouTube videos rather than a cooking class, and I’ve shied away from any attempt by friends or family to tell me the “right” way to be a woman, a mom, a homeowner.  We all find our own way; I love having a home and a family, but I am sure I’ll never be tamed.

Running, long-distance running, ultra-running, is, for me, the ultimate act of “anti-domestication”.  Out in the woods, it is just me and my backpack, for hours and hours, all alone.  My only fuel, little packets of GU gel and salt tablets, the mud my best friend.

There, the idea of being tamed does not occur to me.  I sing the Savage Garden Animal Song loudly as I run:

“…Cause I want to live like animals
Careless and free like animals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
the wind in my hair and the sand at my feet…”

Domestication, bah.  Now I’m off to make my children dinner.  Wild and free.

Laughter and Decisions and What About Now

Tonight we read “The Bad Book” by Andy Griffiths for my son’s bedtime story.  He just turned nine, and I am re-discovering all the awful, hysterical humor that goes with that age.  But the story that made me burst out into soul-filling, loud, raucous laughter – the very best one of all – was called something like, “Bad Mummy and the Very Hungry Lion”.

Every mom I know has these days, where she goes, “I’m the worst mom ever, because I…” and you can fill in the blank with shouted, smacked, made a bad dinner, forgot the groceries, forgot to pack school lunch, forgot about the excursion…”

The list goes on and on (and on).  I do it to myself, when my lovely children say those cutting words, “I want a different family.”  How do they know the words that hurt most?  Like blades, they are.

Anyway, reading about Bad Mummy and the Very Hungry Lion kind of put it all into perspective.  Then there was Bad Mummy and the Very High Cliff.  You get the drift.

My son and I had tears in our eyes we were laughing so hard.

And laughter, after a difficult decision of reducing my race distance from 43km to 21km for my upcoming Roller Coaster Run this Saturday, that laughter was like salve on a burn.

Suddenly, the world is okay again.  And I just cleaned the kitchen to Bon Jovi’s new song, “What About Now” and woke up to the fact that I’ve got a lot to say, and I’m the only one who can say it.  So I’m going to get to work on the two books I’ve had on hold for a little while.

Because maybe there is someone out there who needs my books just as much as I needed The Bad Book tonight.

What about now, indeed!

Been a long time gone: now back to adventure in 2013

Hello my friends, and apologies for my long absence from your lives.

It has been a tumultuous start to the New Year but I am sure it will improve quickly from here.  Here’s what’s been happening – on the 31st of December a dear relative flew in from the UK to visit.  She was ill on arrival but we didn’t know quite how ill.  The next morning, New Years Day, we raced her to the emergency room at our local hospital with symptoms of heart failure and pneumonia.  Thankfully, she has recovered and has come home now, but it was a terribly stressful time for all of us, with worry and illness.  My gratitude to the health workers who saw what was wrong quickly, and made us take immediate action to save her life – well, my gratitude is boundless.  We brought her home on Friday last week, and it has been a long week of recuperation.

Needless to say, with two young children, recuperating at home during school holidays has had its challenges.  The trampoline has got good use but the nerves here are rather frayed.

Which brings me to why I’m writing (quickly) tonight.  I’ve been training and training and training for the Two Bays 28km race, which takes place tomorrow. We begin at scenic Dromana (Arthur’s Seat) and cross all the way over the Mornington Pennisula to the Cape Schanck Lighthouse. Check it out on google maps – it is called the Two Bays Trail.  I have run 28km in training, and have been clocking 50km weeks over the last month.  It’s been hard with some severe hot weather here which saw me diving into the bay half-way through several of my training runs, fully clothed.  Tomorrow is looking cool (20 degrees C maximum) with showers, so I’m not so worried about heat.  The Camelbak is full and packed and in the car.  The gear is lined up to slip into when the alarm clock goes off at 4:20 am.

But my head – well, my head is so full of the illness that has visited us, the cranky and wound-up kids I’ve been struggling with, the cranky and wound-up me – I feel like this race has kind of jumped up out of nowhere.

Tomorrow morning, I will be looking forward to at least 3 hours of trail running nirvana to steady my overstrung nerves, to remind me of how good health feels, and to remind me of what I live for.

Please excuse my long absence from you.  I hope the holidays have treated you well and that your 2013 has started wonderfully.  It feels so very good to dive deep into blogging and remember who I am underneath all of what has been going on in my 2013 so far.

I am a runner, a writer, an inspirer.  I can’t wait for tomorrow to come, so I can remember even more vividly.

Happy New Year and here’s to the 2013 to come….