Monday, May 30, 2011

the importance of cartilage

Twenty or so years ago, someone who at that point mattered to me tore his knee cartilage. Emergency road trip to a better-than-local hospital, and emergency surgery to remove bits of torn cartilage, and months of physio later, he returned to his regular job. But his knee was never the same. Without that fluid, forgiving margin of cartilage between his knee bones and his knee cap, the joint just didn't move like it should, and someone who was once quite athletic worried about what movements would hurt. 

I think about that quite-common knee injury regularly these days when I think about how my life - and the lives of many people I observe - seem to lack some sort of cushioning ... some room for release ... some gracious spaciousness in which we can unwind and breath a little and catch back up to ourselves.

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It's somewhat ironic, then, that I got an announcement of three webinars available through my work on precisely this (and other non-profit leader related) topic, and my gut reaction was "looks great, but I don't have time for these." I reconsidered my response though, after a couple more wobbly days and a note from SuperBoss saying "I'm registering for some of these and you might want to as well." If she - who has mountains more responsibility than I - can find the time, surely I can. 

Just to be sure the sessions really would be useful, I looked up a bit more about the presenter, and his book called Margins: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Just reading the following except brought tears of relief to my eyes, a) because I'm not the only one and b) because there just might be hope: 

So, I'm registered for parts 1 & 2 of the webinar series. I'm quite excited about them. Optimistic that I can relearn how to maintain margins. And excited about the idea of there being "money left at the end of the month and sanity left at the end of [the day]." (Adolesence is too far gone to be inspiring to me now - ha!) .

I wonder if I could even make time to read the book. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

he said she said

It's been an interesting phenomenon for me to be creating a relationship with someone else who also has an online presence. STG blogs. He's on Facebook. More and more he's on Twitter (though he's not yet the big twit I am - ha). And, he makes and posts crazy fun videos on YouTube - something I don't imagine I'll ever do. 

Today STG blogged about the long weekend, one day of which we spent together, and I was struck while reading his post about how interesting it is that two people can spend 24 hours together and have such different ways of talking about it. No doubt any two people would have some variations in experience and reportage, but - loathe though I am to admit it - I'm pretty sure there's a considerable gender influence on the the whole thing. 

So ... if I was going to talk about Victoria Day, like STG I'd start of remembering laughing at the parade - the spectators as much as the clowns. I'd talk about our impatience to see the bands, and our disappointment in the lack of bagpipes. 

And then I'd remember ... his excitement at the Penny Farthings (and the stunt bikes on a flatbed truck, and the motorcycles, and ... well ... you get the picture :) ). My excitement at the warmth of his hand on my aching back. I'd remember missing my BBs - the only other people I've watched this parade with ... and thinking about which floats and bands they'd most enjoy. 

And moving on ... adventuring softly through our day, the breeze and the sunlight calling us forward. A late breakfast. Shopping and then ... the beach. The beach. The glorious sunshiny beach. 

I'm mesmerized by the pebbles we stumble along - they are so pale, so perfected by the waves. I stick to the larger smoother ones. STG enjoys the smaller ones further up the beach. The other people at the beach are friendly. A young man taking pictures of his affectionate friends. A happy older couple resting on a log. The sunshine is bringing out the best in people.

As soon as I see the rock outcropping, I know where I want to go. I don't remember if we discussed it ... it's just where our feet went. It's perfect. Better than I imagined. Multi-leveled, moss-spotted, smooth, and semi-private. The big black rock has had hours of sun to warm it through, and the warmth of the rock seeps through the blanket, softening my body and easing the ache in my muscles and bones. I lay back, slip off my top, and close my eyes.

STG lays next to me and we exchange lethargic banter, listening now and then to the voices of the people on the trail so near and yet so separate. I've never done this before - taken my top off to gather as much sun as possible in a semi-public place. Yes, I have a bra on that covers more than some people's swimsuits, but ... there's a soup├žon of excitement - a vibration on the edges of an otherwise perfect peace. 

Even though we're into the second half of the afternoon, my pale skin can't stand too much of this sunny glory, and we pack up and wander on. We see a modern mansion, the back end of it never quite in sight, and discuss dreams, and styles, and the morality of conspicuous consumption. We take a less beaten path, and discover a magical glen that casts it's spell. Shutters snap. Close focus. And far. He sees the heart of the flowers. I see the far away bluffs. 
We end the day with a picnic at home and a silly movie. And through it all I carry with me the warmth of the rock on my skin ... echoing the warmth of his hand on my back. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Everything and nothing and a cup of tea

In the past few months of sculpting a relationship in the midst of chaos, STG has said to me more than once that the stuff I'm dealing with is just the stuff I'm dealing with, and not who I am. Or something to that effect. It might not sound like a lot, but it's so easy to internalise life, to make it personal, that it's meant the world to me to have him see something in me besides my circumstances. And, it's given me the perspective to deal with my circumstances as circumstances rather than personal failings. 

Tonight I had a fabulous evening catching up with three friends I haven't seen in far too long. Two of the visits happened at a business event and were far too short, too public and too incomplete. But they were enough to share the main points of our winters. Two other winters that were too long and filled with too much sadness. Two fathers lost - suddenly or otherwise - and two sons who are sometimes fine until someone who cares asks. Who are moving on with their not-the-same lives. Who are honouring their fathers by being the sons and dads they know to be. 

I left those conversations to have a third, with Mrs. F who I haven't seen in 10 months even though, as we just discovered, it's less than a 5 minute walk from her home to mine. And in the unfolding of our evening, with tea and rice crackers (for me) and Danish butter cookies (for her) to mark the path, we shared our highlights and lowlights of the past year. Dreams that are building. Dreams that are on hold. Dreams that are being re-imagined. 

They were all great conversations. Easy, despite the content, because sharing our burdens and our joys is what friends do. It's what people do. 

And the morale of the whole story, the lesson from all the conversations, is that we all have sh*t. Nobody's is bigger or harder or more interesting or less important. We all have sh*t ... and magic ... in just the right balance to get the lesson designed for us. 

The other lesson might be not to let your friendships languish for months on end. But we'll see if that lesson has been learned. :)  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a plea for passion

No, this isn't that kind of post - dad & my BB's, you're welcome to read on. *wink*

STG has a driving passion. The man is manic about mountain bikes, and he has been since he was a wee lad (actually, I'm guessing my strapping love was never really a wee lad, but that's neither here nor there). He rides whenever he can. He reads about riding. He blogs about riding (NB: Some of STG's blogging is neither work nor family friendly - be forewarned). He watches movies about riding. When he gets together with the guys, they talk about riding - sometimes also beer and girls, but probably which beer and girls go best with riding. If he has extra cash, he spends it on riding - bike parts, protective wear (yay!), gas for a drive to a ride, riding holidays. 

When STG talks about riding, his eyes light up. His voice changes - he can go on and on about the history of mountain biking, the technological developments, the best rides in the area, the best rides in other areas, and a whole lot of other stuff that I sometimes forget to listen to. There is something about the self-mastery and excitement of barreling down a mountain that fulfills and challenges him. He has a knowing about his relationship to riding that totally inspires me. I love listening to him talk about a ride. He expects it to be an issue between us - that he loves his riding so much. And in a way it is, but not like he thinks.

The fact is, I'm envious - not of the time and attention STG spends on riding, but that I don't have that same feeling for anything in my life. For some time now I've known that something was missing for me, especially since I've simplified my life and my schedule in the last few months. I quit working so hard on my life so I'd have more time to enjoy it. And then things got ... sideways ... and now I'm ready again to enjoy my life. Maybe it's exhaustion, or lack of practice. But when I have a free evening to go do what I enjoy, I'm left not knowing what that is.

There are a lot of things in life I enjoy - singing, dancing, reading, writing, hiking, yoga, kayaking - but nothing that has consumed me as completely and consistently as mountain biking does for STG. I get excited about something. I invest in it for a while, and then the interest dies out. I posted on Facebook last night, having spent the entire evening correcting an error in my budget spreadsheet, that I need a hobby, or better yet a passion. I woke up this morning to a surprising amount of feedback, that included Freckles reminding me "Didn't you used to write??" and DLock provided such a long list of things I love to do that one wonders why I'm not out doing them every night.

I doubt anyone who knows me would argue that I'm a dispassionate woman. The thing is, the activities that REALLY excite me are mainly mental - writing being the top of the list. But what I want is something that gets me out and moving and interacting in nature. Kayaking seems like it'd do, but I've never allowed myself to spend the money it would take to really get out there. Or maybe that's just an excuse. Maybe I use money to keep from doing things - like kayaking - that I know would move my body, feed my soul and up my passionate-life quotient. 

Looking for an image for this post, I stumbled across this blog post on the topic of passion - while it's a tad sciencey, it ends with this great question about harmonious passion: 
Notice the impact your good (harmonious) passion generates in relation to ... your own well-being – your sense of vitality, aliveness and purpose in the world; your relationship with others – what and how you relate to others;  your physical health and energy levels;  your performance and outputs – the quality and quantity and your satisfaction levels. When you pursue your passion, is it harmoniously integrated, creating a kind of peace within? 
I know what the impact of that harmonious passion looks like - thanks to STG modelling it. And I'm thinking I'll know when I'm there. The other great point in that post though I'm less clear I'm ready for:
Take responsiblity to make it happen ... recognize which activities play to your talents and strengths and matter very deeply to you, not because something or somebody outside you tells you to, but because the activity or activities make you feel alive: they are instrinsic to your identity. Take responsibility to cultivate and nurture them.  

I'll let you know what I find, as I wander passionately out into my life. But for now it's time to cook ... because taking care of my sweeties is something that ALWAYS matters to me.  
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