Where to begin…healing, Bon Jovi, and a one kilometre run.

Ever notice when you can’t run that you sweat the small stuff a whole lot more than usual?  It becomes hard to even see what’s big and what’s small because it all seems big.

Yesterday’s big went like this: my young daughter grabbed the key for the window locks and ran off giggling.  No big deal, right?  I didn’t react – I knew that’s what she was looking for, having played such “let’s make Mom shout” games in the past.  Just when I was feeling all smug about not taking the bait, while simultaneously avoiding Sunday-at-home-hell by playing on Facebook on my phone, she came running through the house, threw the key at me, and it hit me right on the side of my head.  It HURT like hell.  Like a little tiny missile, a sharp, pointy missile.  I howled in pain, and then burst into tears.  And I kept crying, hiding in the pantry while big, heavy sobs ran through me.  It was the unprovoked nature of the thing that got me, the shock of it, after walking on eggshells all day because she is prone to such attacks at the moment.  I was hurt, furious, angry and hysterical all at once.

Would I have reacted that way had I gotten a good 30k run under my legs this weekend?  I doubt it.  Should I have reacted that way?  Who knows?  Who can say what is small and what is big, the size of the straw to the particular camel that is carrying a lot of straws.

Suffice it to say we made up and all is fine twenty-four hours later.  But jeez.  The small stuff can grow large.

Here’s the good news though – my swollen knee is growing smaller!  After two visits with Tim the wonder-physio at http://bayfreedomphysio.com.au/, some taping, a new tibialis posterior exercise, and some self-control, I can now walk down the stairs without pain.  Today I ran for the first time in 14 days – a whopping 1 kilometre on the treadmill at a slow pace – but I ran.

And in that run is embedded hope.  In the meantime, I’m trying to keep my sanity by lifting lots of heavy things (barbels; dumbbells) as well as entertaining myself on the cross-trainer with Bon Jovi.

Who, I have to tell you, I saw in concert on Saturday night.

It is always worrying to see a personal hero in, well, in person.  What I admire about Bon Jovi is two-fold.  First is his music, of course.  The lyrics lift me when I need it – he writes of fighters, of overcoming odds, of how tough life can be for every single one of us, of the value of staying the course, and of love.  Second is his humanity.  Of course that may be an act, but, if so, he does it very well.  He supports the homeless through the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation (http://www.jonbonjovisoulfoundation.org/), he supported New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy last year, as well as flood relief efforts here in Australia after his 2010 tour, and he fights for the underdog and the downtrodden in his music and in real life.

So to see him in person – well, he has a lot to live up to.  The concert was at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne to a full house.  I was close enough to see him smile in real life, but also to see that the smile, unlike during his 2010 tour, was not quite reaching his eyes.  The passion was there, the music was there (the music was amazing), but I seemed to be seeing my hero in some sort of pain – perhaps it was projection, or jetlag, or a long, long tour, or just my imagination, but it saddened me.

Don’t get me wrong – the concert rocked, and I loved every moment.  But Bon Jovi has written in several of his songs about crawling out of the dark to shine the light.  He does that for me, and for so many other fans – shines the light when we need it, through his passion and his lyrics.  So, if there was pain there, this single fan is sending back a message – sending some of the light he has given to the world straight back to him.  Because even heroes sometimes need a hand.  As part of my ticket package, I received a leather-bound journal with the words “Because We Can” embossed on the front cover – I think I’ll use it to begin writing my next book, and shine some of my own light for others.  Because he helped to spark that flame.

I’ll also be getting back to my own heroic journey when my body has fully healed.  I’m not holding out much hope for the Two Bays race on 12 January, but as someone much smarter than me mentioned on my Facebook Page, it is best to heal without aiming for a particular race.  Wise words indeed.

Each step is one step closer to healing, if I do this right.  I’m glad I have Bon Jovi to remind me on my iPod that “everybody’s broken – it’s all right, it’s just life…”, and to help me get a few steps closer to being unbroken again.

Of cleaning windows and clearer vision.

The windows were wide open, and like my cats, I was sniffing at the fresh air.  So much so that I couldn’t sit down and write this afternoon – the outdoors drew me.  But I’m not one to lounge around.  And the windows at the back of the house –  well, no one had cleaned them in a very long time.

I got together the bucket, the long squeegee (I usually use it at a pretend bar to practice BodyPump), and a whole lot of paper towels.  From the garage, I took down the giant ladder, and silently thanked the world that the time when I didn’t know how to do this silly job, when we didn’t have the ladder or the tools or the skills, was over.

Five years I have lived in this home.  Transformative years; years where I lost and then found myself.  Years where I ran in pain, in tears, in fury, and finally, finally, in joy.  The windows of my home hold some of the memories.  The first year, staring out of them in despair, wondering how I had come to be living in this suburban house near all these other suburban houses.  Sure it was a beautiful, but wasn’t there something sinister about all these pretty little houses, all these gardens, all these individual families cooking dinners and caring for their children.  I had said I’d never live my parent’s life; yet here I was.

That year, 2008, I bought a book called “Speed Cleaning” because I had no idea what I was doing.  In fact, I had so little idea, that I’d question women who seemed knowledgable in the most obscure circumstances.  In the department store where I was buying sheets, I queried the sales clerk, in a low voice, as if I was asking about buying drugs, about how to clean the glass in the shower.  The baking soda and vinegar trick from my new book just didn’t seem to work.

“Jif,” the kind woman replied.  “Jif, and a sponge.”  She didn’t make a face like I was an idiot or anything.

“Won’t it scratch the glass?” I asked softly.

“No, it will be okay.”

I never forgot her kindness.  You see, ever since we’d been married, we’d had a cleaner.  Even before we got married, my husband-to-be had a cleaner, and I decided that he was not going to give her up simply because I was marrying him.  No way.  Then we moved to Australia and were both working full-time so again, a cleaner made sense.  Ditto for Hong Kong.  Oh, and there was this moment in my early 20’s, when my boyfriend of the moment criticised the way I cleaned a pot – I’ve never forgotten this – and I said, “I’m going to have someone to do that stuff for me anyway” with all the defensiveness of a twenty-three year old who feels judged and stupid.  I let that line play in my head for years when I had made it come true.

But finally, after six years in Hong Kong with a live-in domestic helper, I found I didn’t want anyone else in my home.  I wanted to know how to do things for myself, finally.  I suppose I wanted to be a grown-up.  And I wanted to be able to teach my kids how to do these simple things.

In my new book, I read about window cleaning, something about methylated spirits, vinegar, newspaper.  I tried it, only belatedly reading the bottle of methylated spirits and realising it was actually a paint thinner.  I didn’t want to admit what I’d done to my husband, but reflected on it each time I looked at the damaged window sill paint.

My mother-in-law came to visit and I asked her advice.  Fairy liquid (washing-up liquid) and hot water, she said.  Silly woman, I thought, it couldn’t be that simple.  How would I rinse them?  That year, and for two years after, I just averted my gaze from the windows.  There was simply too much else to learn.

Well, I took care of the bits by the childrens’ dinner table, where the milk splashed when it spilled, where my daughter teased me by wiping dirty hands on the window and giggling.  I would say (impotently, knowing I didn’t mean it), “You’re going to clean that up, not me.”  But she knew better and just laughed.  I cleaned it after she went to bed.

But today:  today the sun was out and it was spring and there was the scent of jasmine in the air.  Jasmine I had planted, jasmine, that, overcoming all odds, had sprouted deep roots, stayed alive, and was in full bloom.

“I’m a survivor,” said my jasmine.

I hung the sheets out to dry, noticing that, unlike in winter, the sun was now falling on the clothesline again; I inspected the garden (weedy, needing attention); I watered the one pot plant (a purple-flowered cyclamen that had returned to life with the spring, surprising and delighting me); and then I stopped and stared at the windows.

My cyclamen returns to life...

My cyclamen returns to life…

Without a conscious decision, I began.  Got the tools, all of them handy and easy to use.  I put the fairy liquid in the bucket and filled it half-way with hot water (my mother-in-law was right, and it doesn’t need rinsing).  Then I cleaned off the several years worth of grime and dirt, uncovering the beauty of the home that has been hidden.

I began 2013 with an idea that this was going to be a year of dramatic change for me, but I just didn’t know how – that’s what the Chinese Zodiac predicted, and it had always been right for me.

This morning, it occurred to me that it had been right again.  It wasn’t changing countries or homes or returning to studying.  It was finding myself in the right place.  Just where I am.

On the treadmill at the gym this morning, for the first time in six weeks, I ran fast.  I had my favorite Bon Jovi tunes on the playlist, the ones I’ve only played while making school lunches in the intervening weeks.  As I cranked the pace up higher and then higher, as I felt the stability and strength that have returned to my ankle since spraining it five weeks ago, as I heard my songs, well, that too was a sort of coming of spring.

So today, I sit in contentment with my clear windows and clarity of vision.  I was right about this year; I have moved; I have changed.  This place that once was so strange and so foreign and so wrong, well, it is finally right.

How I love spring.  And returning to life.

(Not) Going Down In A Blaze of Glory: Two weeks out from the North Face 50km Race

Jon Bon Jovi

Doing speedwork on the treadmill this morning to my favorite Bon Jovi songs, I was letting the lyrics do the work of lifting the pace, trying not to sing out loud because there were other people running too.  “Blaze of Glory” came on – I was nearly at my maximum pace, flying, lip singing, holding back on punching my fist in the air, “I’m going dooowwwnnn in a blaze of glory…”, having a heck of a time, and then it hit me:

It is thirteen days until the North Face 50km Race in the Blue Mountains.  I don’t actually want to go down in a blaze of glory.  No blazing, no end, no “dying like a man” or woman, for that matter.  I want to finish this race strong, powerful, tired but capable of doing it again another day.  Maybe even going further.

So, I’m changing my playlist, especially the outdoor one.  Outdoors, I don’t use an iPod, but  I do run with an internal playlist going at all times, sometimes in my head (when I’m with a group, or passing other runners), but when I’m alone, I sing out loud.  As I told my husband, it’s so much easier to change the song than on an iPod.

One day recently, at the back of the pack, climbing a steep hill with the Dandenongs Trail Runners, about 25km into our 30km run, the song went something like this (from Bon Jovi’s new album): “Does anybody want, does anybody need, does anybody want what’s left of me…”.  Wasn’t much left at that stage – that’s why it was so perfect.  During the 28km Two Bays Trail Run, my longest race at the time, the song was by Frank Sinatra, My Way, but just the bit where he sings, “there were times, I’m sure you knew, when I bit off more than I could chew…”  I didn’t choose that one; it began playing in my head all by itself.  During the Surfcoast Century, which we did as a relay team of four:  “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stand a little taller, doesn’t mean I’m lonely when I’m alone.  What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter, footsteps even lighter, doesn’t mean I’m over ’cause you’re gone…”

The playlist matters.

It is thirteen days and counting down to the big day.  I have hit a more subdued frame of mind, where I am having faith that the training I have done is correct, and will pay off.  As I have begun tapering, dropping back from my longest run of 43km in training, to 30, and then 22 last week, I have noticed a new energy flowing in me.  I feel a bit like a coiled spring.  My fast runs have become lighter, more flowing, and the aches in my hips have mostly subsided.

Then, today, my race number (5113) arrived in the mail, along with a lengthy Emergency Instructions card, and a massive map.  I could barely read the Emergency Card, it was so frightening, though it was slightly reassuring that I’d thought of most of the potential emergencies already.  I even had a couple they hadn’t thought of!

I do wonder about the auspiciousness of my race number 5113.  It was at the 13km mark on the Roller Coaster Run back in March that I tripped and went flying through the air during my superman stunt.  But perhaps I have already used up the bad luck associated with that number?  In any case, it is better than the number 5114.  When I lived in Hong Kong, I learned that the numbers 14 and 4 were very unlucky, because they sounded, in Cantonese, like the phrases “certain death” and “death”.  So there are a few numbers that would be worse for me (sorry to those of you who got them, but if you’ve never lived in Hong Kong, I don’t think the unlucky bit counts!).

A typical elevator bank in Hong Kong – notice what numbers are missing?

So, this is how it feels two weeks out from the biggest race of my life, the race that I have spent eight months building for, that terrifies me one moment, and thrills me the next.  I have to remind myself that I have stood at many, many start lines, wondering what I was doing, wondering how I was going to face the challenge I had set for myself.

Each time, I have come through.

The theme song for this race?  Army of One, again from Bon Jovi’s latest album.  This will be my mantra, “Never give up, never give up, never, never give up, never let up, ever, never give in, never give up, never give up, never forget where you’re from, you’re an army of one….”  Set on repeat play in my head.  Find it on YouTube and listen.

The other words I’m tucking into my subconscious are by Malcom Law, author of “One Step Beyond”.  When he was running ridiculous distances in New Zealand, and the going got tough, his mantra was  “relentless forward motion”.  I like the feel of those words.  Thanks, Malcolm.  http://runningwildnz.com/


Now I’m off to laminate my map…and Emergency Card…

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!