Getting Up On The Inside

I haven’t written a blog for weeks and so much has happened, with both physical and emotional challenges coming my way that have left me depleted and scared. I don’t look like myself, I don’t feel like myself, but this season of life is not going to defeat me. This is not going to steal my joy. When everything settles, I will be standing strong and I believe the same for all of you, as you are fighting your own battles.

IMG-20200524-WA0013

We have to trust our journey, even when we don’t understand it.

I am usually able to keep an enthusiastic spirit no matter what life throws my way, but it has been necessary to sit in the shadows first and be still, while remembering what really matters in life and humbly surrender my burdens to God through my tears and fears. I realize now I need to stop venting and start praying because I need strength to keep fighting.

I am not going to write about these challenges here. They will be ongoing for months to come and although I have been knocked down on the outside, as we all experience when things come against us, the key is to learn how to get up on the inside and remain positive. This doesn’t mean ignoring the negative but overcoming the negative, and even though it feels like life is caving in and it is hard to breathe, I will keep fighting to stay in an attitude of faith.

It is during the tough times that we find out what we are really made of. We all face struggles, challenges and confusing circumstances when things don’t go our way. Ultimately, they refine and change you and good can come out of it, but gosh it is so very hard in the moment. It tests your endurance and character, but you cannot give up. You cannot quit. I have to believe that even though I am feeling weak now, these struggles will give me strength.

A strong person is not one who doesn’t cry but instead is one who sheds tears for a moment and then picks themselves up and carries on fighting. I may do this several times over, bit by bit, up and down. Healing is weird like that. However, I know from experience that most of life’s valuable lessons are learnt through pain, and I won’t let it turn my heart into something ugly. Someday I will look back, and know exactly why this had to happen.

Be Kind

A kind word can inspire and provide strength to someone who needs to hear it.

a38f5514cfaefb43a63695943025050d

Today is ‘Random Acts of Kindness Day’ and it is a good reminder to make the effort to show more compassion and kindness to everyone you meet and maybe be a little kinder to yourself too.

Many people are fighting a battle you know nothing about, and your small moment of kindness could be exactly what they need to keep pushing through and not give up.

Last week’s blog, “Don’t Wait Until Friday” was a reminder that we don’t only need to show love on Valentine’s Day and instead we can choose to make it a daily habit. Love is a choice and we give it out because people need it, not because they deserve it. I think the same can be said of kindness and gratitude too.

2020-02-13_17.00.35

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Meloday Beattie

If we are honest, no matter how hard we try, we all have days where keeping an “attitude of gratitude” is difficult and we start to feel dissatisfied with our lives. It is tough to show love and kindness at times like this. We become frustrated and not only do we compare our material possessions with others, but our natural talents, physical limitations and perhaps even our struggles too.

When your heart is feeling heavy and you feel a little self-pity creeping in, make the intentional choice to replace the frustration with appreciation for what you already have, and refuse to be influenced by marketing campaigns or your neighbour’s gains. We need to care a lot more about the size of people’s hearts, rather than the size of their houses.

1080a95d5c95d6d264a2185622448108

Let us practice both gratitude and kindness, not only today, but every day.

Morphing Into A Different Kind Of Athlete

After a turbulent 2019, which on the running side, included being out for 6 months with an injury, challenging me both physically and mentally, I’ve decided this year I want to keep the pressure off.

My aim going forward is to have fun and cross finish lines with a smile.

A photo from Sunday’s race:

Photo Editor_1sJGcL

“Crossing the starting line may be an act of courage but crossing the finish line is an act of faith.” – John Bingham

I have been in this game long enough to know I will always have “those days” where tears will flow and my heart and body will hurt, but I am going to do my best to ensure between it all, the joy still flows too.

8e9a5653-1417-4c67-83c9-4313953a1ee3

Life is always both happy and hard.

A line that keeps popping into my head is ‘…just because I can, doesn’t mean I should…’ and this can be applied to racing and life in general. Sometimes it is necessary to set our egos aside and put our mind and bodies first. Rest and recovery are also vital, as repair takes energy. This is something else I am guarding fiercely and making sure I am disciplined enough to do it well.

4ef0f1a811ef94c2a72fb05f53e697ec

On a lighter note, when coming back from an injury or returning from Christmas holidays for that matter, remember you are not starting from scratch. You are starting from experience!

Those are my few Thursday thoughts, as I continue to find joy in the journey and hope it encourages you to not give up and keep choosing joy every day. (with the emphasis on choose.)

aad4066e4f193ef650a550bc975c1b3b

Grow Slow

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions? If so, are you still on track? If you aren’t, there is no reason to give up. Simply jump back on board and keep going. Every day is a fresh start. It is good to have goals but too many goals keep us in a cycle of hustle and stress. It can suck us into the comparison trap, and we fail because we start too big, go too fast. That is why I am taking steps to keep things small and manageable.

IMG_3250

We are two weeks into January, and it is easy to start feeling overwhelmed already. Yesterday, while paying for groceries, I saw strips of marshmallow Easter eggs at the till point. The Christmas leftovers have barely been digested and here come the chocolate bunnies. It is more difficult to appreciate the abundance around us and enjoy the moment, when we are constantly being propelled forward to the next thing.

2019 for me was a huge year of growth, good and bad, happy and sad, from physical challenges to emotionally ones, with weird and wonderful projects (including the potato challenge!) thrown into the mix. I never imagined how much stuff would take place in just 12 months, and am grateful for it all, but now I need things to unfold a little more slowly.

907f0a91162307acff2d57c7b2a7e6be

As I type ‘unfold’ my brain jumps to last night. I was folding and packing away washing when my husband came home, and he said something funny about me doing it ‘again’. I had a laugh.

f24dd98f0b4a12e2f987a2e96016f5e3

Housework does have a magical ability to keep piling up as soon as you think you’re done. We can all relate to that! Whether it be a pile of laundry, 2020 goals or relationships, it is better to work on them step by step and not get discouraged by the mountain we see in front of us. Accept it is process and don’t procrastinate. Those socks will still require folding, even if you ignore them for days (unless you have a ‘fairy’ in your house).

Sometimes it is one step forward and two steps back. Other times it is the other way around. Keep going. Even if you grow slow, keep at it. It’s worth it.

e9f7628dca7de9bbb374d36bc640b114

 

Just Do Something

It is the 5th day of December. I have been 40 for 5 days. I almost feel like going from 39 to 40 is like going from New Year’s Eve to New Year’s Day. Overnight things are meant to be fresh and new, as we implement goals, ideas and resolutions with enthusiasm and passion! However, reality tends to be overwhelming and a few days in, you fear you set yourself up for failure and have accomplished very little.

While chatting to friends this week, it seems many of us felt we were living our best life and worst life at the same time this year. I like to think that no experience is ever wasted if we learn from it and use it for good. Then it becomes tuition. First it hurts, then it changes you, but you can come back stronger, and fall back in love with yourself, the world and life again.

facebook_1575512883165

We cannot expect different results if we keep doing the same thing. We are what we repeatedly do. The good news is you don’t have to wait for New Years to have a new resolution or attitude. Every day is a new beginning! There is nothing wrong with having a long-term goal or dream that scares you. I am all for that. After missing Comrades this year, I have entered to try run again in 2020. It freaks me out, but I am all in.

facebook_1575537708277

However, I want to encourage you to make small, every day resolutions too. Make it something simple.

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” – Mike Murdock

Don’t feel pressure from others because they are all aiming to conquer mountains (literally and figuratively) and you want to find time to read a book 30 minutes a week. Choose whatever is meaningful and unique to you. Perhaps you can aim to try a new recipe every Sunday or be kind to the person you share an office with. Your challenge may be to hum, not hoot, while being stuck in traffic or … (insert something you do daily and want to change).

I hope this random waffle on my heart this morning, makes a little sense and inspires you to start somewhere. Do something.

Thank 2019 for the lessons and let go of whatever is holding you back.

Make 2020 better, starting now!

Sticks And Stones

I was on crutches at the beachfront yesterday, watching Ironman 70.3, while my husband was doing his training run. Standing in the warm sunshine, starring out at the sea, was heavenly and I found myself reflecting over the past few months and was once again reminded of all the good that has come out of this unexpected injury. One of the highlights has been the people I have met, who have changed my life, and I now know this physical and mental break was an essential part of my story and I am better for it.

20190526_131843

It has been hard watching on the sidelines, often battling to do something basic like clap for the athletes, as my hands are always tightly gripped around the handles of my crutches. There have been times when I have had to fight the urge to become a hermit, as it is easy to get frustrated with myself and the situation, but it has taught me humility and patience and I’ve cultivated a renewed appreciation for every day blessings.

While taking my crutches for a stroll along the promenade yesterday, I bumped into my sports doctor, who was working at the medical tent. After an impromptu consult, he gave me permission to slowly start day-to-day walking unaided, letting the pain guide me. At last, “Sticks” is now allowed to toss the crutches aside (not completely but I no longer need them 24/7!) and although there is still a long road ahead, I am thankful for this next step in my recovery and almost cried in front of him!

61619319_10156132515360598_8663639924471234560_n

Although I choose to focus on the good, there have been a few ‘stones’ thrown at me along the way too. We all know that most people share only their highlights reel for the world to see and even those of us who share the stress and struggles too, often have far more happening behind the scenes than you will ever know. Life is messy and complicated, so let’s remember to spread love and be kind, instead of tearing each other down. Fortunately, the running community at large is an amazing and compassionate one, and I am blessed to be a part of this family.

I do not know what the future holds, but I am learning to be okay with that uncertainty. Running is like life and we only learn from failure, or we simply keep doing what we are doing, which is not always the best thing for us. I have been reminded that although running is an important part of who I am, it is not my whole self. It can be a positive part of the process, but that self-acceptance is an internal journey. No run, or race or outcome on any given day can fundamentally change who we are or what we think of ourselves. When I return to running, I am going to keep this in my heart and because of it, and many other lessons, I have certainly grown as a person during this season and am grateful for this opportunity.

Give Yourself And Your Injury Some LOVE

Depending what research you read, up to 80% of runners will sustain an injury at some point. I was diagnosed with my first ever stress fracture in March this year, and it has been the most serious setback I have had in my running journey to date. It has been a tough 3 months, with more to go and at the moment I am hoping to be allowed to walk crutch-free again soon, with running still a distant dream. The better you handle any injury, the better your return to running, which is why I am going to be conservative with my comeback and doing my best to let my body and mind rest.

A recent blog in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, proposed new acronyms for treating and rehabilitating injuries. Many of us are familiar with the old RICE, which stands for Rest Ice Compression Elevation. Now they are suggesting a combination of acronyms to be used in both the acute phase as well as the continuum of care needed. The authors suggest a two-part acronym to treat soft tissue injuries: PEACE and LOVE.

PEACE: Protect, Elevate, Avoid anti-inflammatories, Compress, Educate

LOVE: Load, Optimism, Vascularisation, Exercise.

20190524_135015

These focus on how to treat the injury and as well as how to treat yourself during the process. We often forget the athlete’s psyche and emotions need attention too! This is what I have been concentrating on a lot during the last few months. I think my nickname “Sticks” will stick around well after I am back running again and although I cannot wait to toss the crutches, they have been good learning tools. There are days when it feels hopeless and my hard-earned training has gone to waste but I know a positive outlook is vital and I will keep pressing on.

Tomorrow, here in Durban, KZN, my friend, Gords Reid, is organizing a 24 hour hand cycle relay race, to benefit disabled children and I look forward to supporting these incredible individuals, as they bring awareness to this great cause. They are such an inspiration and remind me daily how blessed I am to be able to enjoy the mobility I have and never take this for granted.

facebook_1558696299218

We need to be generous with what we have and who we are. Let’s keep an attitude of gratitude and spread some love this weekend.

Potatoes, Positivity And Patience

We all face struggles and times when things don’t go our way. My doctor’s checkup this week revealed that the next month will remain much the same as the last, with my crutches still an essential aid, until the pain in my leg disappears completely. I was hoping to toss them aside and start walking more freely, however, my patience is being tested further and clearly, I still have things I need to deal with, like my attitude and areas I am compromising, which makes this trial beneficial because it is making me better.

While my physical muscles are at rest, I am strengthening my spiritual muscles, which always grow stronger during adversities. It’s in the tough times that we find out what we are made of and these few months are no exception. I have been humbled in many ways and believe God is refining me into the person He wants me to be and showing me areas in which I need to improve.

In my last blog, I mentioned I was eating loads of potatoes in the month of April and have been loving the simplicity of less time in the kitchen (and therefore more time off my feet to keep the doctor happy). It is about going back to basics and I have found a new respect for these powerhouses of nutrition, with the spuds starting a sequence of events, which have enriched my life both physically and mentally. None of this would have happened if I had not been injured and I believe everything lined up at the appointed time, and behind the scenes, God has been putting all the pieces together. He often works when we see it and feel it the least.

20190419_172039

For the first month of my recovery, my situation looked the same every day, but now, several weeks later, I can look back and see God was at work deep inside my life. When you are in God’s timing, you can be in the midst of your struggle, and still be filled with joy. I need His daily grace to see me through but am determined to be a winner, not a whinner and with that attitude, I will get through the next few months.

I’m Still Standing

I heard Elton John’s song “I’m still standing” earlier and now I can’t get the chorus out of my head:

“Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did

Feeling like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid

I’m still standing after all this time

Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind

I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah

“I’m still standing yeah yeah yeah”

Although this is directed at a former lover and standing strong without that person, the universal theme of finding confidence after a difficult breakup, is something many of us can relate to. I didn’t intend on writing a blog after listening to this song, but it has got me thinking, so while I wait for my husband to return from running, I am going to share my thoughts (making sure I don’t get too distracted and burn dinner!)

It seems in life there is often someone telling us to be quiet, not make waves, go along with the path others have designed and neglect what we want personally. The pain of rejection often tempts us to do just that: go unnoticed and follow the crowd. I chatted with a friend yesterday about vulnerability on social media and finding the balance between sharing our story to inspire others and opening ourselves up to scrutiny and cruel remarks. Our stories are not for everyone and probably only a good idea to open our lives if healing is tied to the sharing.

Perhaps at the start of this new year, you had to breakup with someone or something that has been a part of your life for a long time. It may be a person, a bad habit, an ideal you have held onto, a dream. (I spoke a little about this in my last entry, “Reflections”.) It may be time to let it go and move forward. Stop looking back with regret and go after what you want in life. Leave your mark on this world and when people laugh when you fall, dust yourself off, stand up on the inside and keep going.

It’s not easy but ultimately being frustrated and unfulfilled is worse than pushing through the public attacks. It does not mean being rude and rebellious towards friends who don’t understand us but rather having a quiet confidence and faith in God that everything is going to be okay. We need to keep standing up on the inside and not be so afraid of making a mistake that we end up doing nothing at all.

Perhaps sing the chorus above to stir yourself up (you know you want to!) Fight those negative thoughts that are holding you back and go for it.

It Takes Guts To Grieve

There is a lot that has been written on the stages of grief. Usually they are listed in chronological order: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Mourning, Acceptance.

This week I have had a few unexpected conversations with a variety of people about loss. This has ranged from the death of a family member, to personal belongings destroyed in a fire, to the loss of a dream as doors have been closed.

I love lists and neatly ticking boxes as I complete each task, however, I find my ‘stages’ often overlap and even go in circles (and I’m not alone!) When I think I am making progress and weeks go by without an incident or breakdown, suddenly something will trigger a memory and tears will slip down my cheeks. I often get a physical ache in my heart or stomach as the pain demands to be felt but I think this is natural and necessary and I’ve learned not to fight it and rather see it through.

“Grief is like an earthquake. The first one hits you and the world falls apart. Even after you put the world together again there are aftershocks, and you never really know when those will come.” -Unknown

About 10 years ago my infertility journey had me messed up. Properly! The loss of control, especially over the ability to predict the future, led to frustration and desperation. The compounded feelings of helplessness and the strain of treatments and even low self-esteem all contributed to bringing on depression. I recently saw my friend’s Strava profile after he had put his Garmin watch on his dog and let him run around the garden. It was a messy maze and looked like a toddler’s scribble all over the page! It’s a good illustration of my grief graph, especially in the early days when my empty womb was a heavy burden to carry.

Loneliness is a huge factor, which is why I take the risk to share my story and help others break free of the isolation by bringing these topics into the light. You feel that nobody understands. You cry, sometimes in public, but mostly in private, as you mourn the loss of your dream, until eventually you reach the point of acceptance. Although the pain never completely disappears, through my writing, running and fitness adventures, I have been able to reach others and encourage them. This has helped me gain a sense of purpose and the ache becomes more manageable. However, like I mentioned in the beginning, there are still times when an insensitive comment can trigger anger and hurt and I backslide a few ‘stages’ again.

It’s unrealistic to expect us to all follow these steps and then graduate and be done with it. I believe my tough days will never completely disappear but they do diminish, in frequency and intensity. Taking control of your negative thoughts is also vital, while maintaining an attitude of gratitude. Instead of seeing ‘acceptance’ as the goal, it’s more about adapting and coping.

“It’s okay not to be okay as long as you are not giving up.” – K. Salmansohn