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From Running to Living!

Exciting news! I’ve decided to create a new blog that will allow me to write about more of the new activities and directions in my life. It’s not just about running anymore… and for that matter, it’s not just about grieving or architecture or whatever brought you to Slow Happy Runner. Furthermore, it’s not just about “me” but about “us,” as this is a joint blog for my friend and me. I expect to do most of the writing, but you’ll see his touch as well.

Our new blog is called Slow Happy Living. When you visit, you’ll see that we have big visions. We’re both designers, each in our own way, but occasionally we actually create things as well. Our new blog will be the platform for our mutual dreams and creations, while Slow Happy Runner will probably focus more narrowly on — you guessed it — running!

I’ve been scratching my head as to the best way to make the transition from this blog to that one. I’ve enjoyed your comments and interaction here, and I REALLY REALLY don’t want you to go away now. But it’s time to make the leap. So please do have a look at Slow Happy Living and click the “follow” button to read about “CFL” and “LKS” as we continue on our slow happy adventures.

One step at a time!

A year of Slow Happy Runner

Exactly one year ago today I started this blog.

It’s difficult for me to articulate how far I have traveled in that year, but since this is at least nominally a blog about running, perhaps I could begin by expressing it in terms of miles. Thanks to my penchant for spreadsheets, I actually have this information readily at hand.

Since August 28, 2011 I have run 607.78 miles. I ran those miles in Washington, California, Arizona, Oregon, Alaska, and British Columbia. I completed half marathon races in Washington, California, and British Columbia, and I ran a staged marathon in Alaska. I ran barefoot on the beach, and I ran on rocky mountainsides. Given that my per-week mileage is continually increasing, I figure I’ll run another 300 miles before the end of 2012.

Since I started hiking in February 2012 I have hiked 131.59 miles. So far the hiking has all been in Washington and California.

My bicycling career is still in its wobbly infancy, but I have ridden my bike 44.50 miles so far.

All together, my non-motorized miles add up to 783.87. That’s over two miles a day for a year!

Finally, I have driven my car approximately (I can’t be precise here without going out to check my odometer, but I don’t really need to be that precise, do I?) 16,200 miles. I’ve driven in Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Arizona. I drove most of those miles alone (except for my three cats).

That’s a total of approximately 16,985 miles. That’s a long, long way to travel.

Oh yeah, I flew a couple thousand miles and rode a cruise ship approximately 2,105 nautical miles (2,473 land miles) too…

During that same year I sadly “celebrated” what would have been Kurt’s and my 25th anniversary. I got through my first birthday and my first holiday season as a widow. I decided to sell the condo in Palm Springs. I quit my job because it was holding me back from doing the healing and growing that I needed to do. The condo in Palm Springs finally sold. I came home to new friends, new interests, and a new love.

Meanwhile, you came here to read and follow my blog. I’ve written 111 posts (this is number 112) and had 6,175 page views as of this moment. There have been 782 posted comments by my 63 followers and others. WordPress’s very effective spam blocker has correctly identified and blocked 1,215 spam comments! I have used 18% of my allotted free photo storage space from WordPress.

I’m no longer as slow as I was when I named this blog a year ago, but I am very much happier.

“Slow Happy” has become a formula for how I am trying to live my life. One step at a time. One foot in front of the other. Amazing things start to happen when you dare to begin.

John Bingham said it better than I can: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

Thank you all for running, walking, crying, crawling, hiking, biking, driving, flying, and boating all those miles with me. What a year we’ve had! I can’t wait to see what lies beyond the next bend.

On writing versus living

I love to write. I really do. I have been writing almost as far back as I can remember.  In my pre-teen years I wrote short stories, mostly about horses. As a teenager and young adult I wrote moody poetry about feeling out of place and yearning for a beautiful place in nature that I was sure would make me whole. I have journaled off and on since I was about ten years old.

One of the reasons I did well throughout my educational career was my ability to write clearly and crisply (the other reason is that I have a genuine knack for taking multiple choice tests). I developed my scholarly writing skills to a fine point as a graduate student. One of my dissertation committee members, a man who is notoriously hard to please, gave me his highest praise when he told me that my writing did not get in the way of my thought process… he could clearly see my brain thinking through my words on the page.

When I ended my corporate life this past February, one of the things I was most excited about was having more time to write. I literally blocked out two hours a day on my calendar for writing. I had ideas for a couple of books. I was going to blog more frequently. I was finally going to live the life of a writer.

Six months later, I’m blogging much less frequently than I did while I was still working. And I have done exactly zero with the book ideas.

This situation bothers me… a bit.

There are days when I look back in the evening and can’t figure out what on earth I have done with my time. There are other days when I know very well what I’ve done (slept in, ran, hiked, read, whatever), and I’m satisfied that I’ve had a wonderful day. Yet I regret not having found time to write.

I tell myself that I am not yet done detoxing myself from corporate life. There is some truth in this. I am enjoying being lazy, simply gazing at the water or the mountains. I am enjoying not forcing my body to wake up on command in the middle of a sleep cycle just because the alarm clock says it’s time to get up and go to work.

I think there may be a deeper reason why I’m not writing very much right now, and on balance it’s a positive thing.

During my poet years of my teens and early 20s, I took myself very seriously as a poet. Some people work through their adolescent angst by acting out and doing wild and crazy things. I kept my turmoil mostly to myself and worked things out metaphorically on the page through my poetry. As I grew older and some things began to resolve themselves, the irrestible urge to write faded. I still wrote, but I found myself crafting poetry rather than writing it from my heart. My poems became stale and artificial, and then they finally stopped coming at all.

My journaling career has taken a similar course. I journal feverishly when I need to think through things or get unstuck, and set the journal aside when I’m ready to fully reengage with life.

When Kurt was diagnosed with lung cancer, I started the blog for him as a gift to both of us. He used it as a convenient way of keeping family and friends informed of his treatment progress. I used it to provide my perspective on his condition. At first we both blogged, but when he got sicker I became his voice. We would come home from another unpleasant procedure or another trip to the emergency room, and as soon as I made him as comfortable as I could I would fly to the keyboard and get it out of my head and out there as a physical object that was then somehow separated from my experience. Writing it all down and then clicking “publish” could be a genuine insulation against the pain.

I started this blog (a year ago next week!) as a place for me to grieve, to relearn who I had been before the diagnosis, to learn who I had become during my caregiving year, and to try to figure out who I might become next. Running was the thing that had held me together during that year, and so running became a strong focus for this blog. My readers have been friends, other grievers, other runners, and (to my surprise) those who found me through the series of posts I wrote about mid-century modern architecture in Palm Springs.

We are complex beings, we humans, each of us with our own constellation of interests, passions, fears, and the things that happen to us along the way.

This slow happy runner has become less slow and a lot more more happy.

When my life is full and I am happy, I don’t feel the urge to write.

It’s the tag end of a short but glorious Pacific Northwest summer. The snow had hardly melted when I left for the cruise three weeks ago, and now already the wildflowers have peaked, the meadows are turning brown, and the maples have their first hint of fall color. I should be up there hiking for all I’m worth, but there are so many other things to do.

I’m getting into full training mode for my two upcoming half marathons. My 4-5 mile midweek runs have become 6+ miles, and my long runs are 8+ miles. I went down to southern Oregon a week or so back to test-run about 9 miles of the course for the Rogue Run. It’s not nearly as “all downhill” as the course profile diagram implied, but it is a beautiful paved trail along a river. I do hope the weather is cooler by then; running in 85-90 degree weather was pretty brutal. Yesterday, back on home ground and 60-degree weather, I ran my fastest 9 miles ever (in just over an hour and a half) despite including some major hills on my route. I’m feeling strong, and I am fully “owning” the fact that I am truly, completely in love with running.

There will be more time to write when the days are much shorter and the nights are cold and dark. But now? This is not a time for reflection. It’s a time for doing. It’s a time for enjoying my life as fully as I possibly can.

I’ll leave you with a couple of photos (from more than 500) from my Alaska cruise.

This is one of the more “interesting” sections of the 10-mile trail run in Juneau. It’s a steep area that gets frequent avalanches and landslides.

This is me with running guru and writer John “the Penguin” Bingham, one of the group hosts, on the same trail in Juneau. When I stopped running to get this photo, I realized just how wet I actually was. It was pouring!! (And yes, we are coincidentally wearing the male and female versions of the same hydration pack.)

It’s a glorious day outside. I think I’ll click the “publish” button and go outside to enjoy it. I hope you do something wonderful with your life today as well!

The post race crash and the blog-enabled “aha!”

I have been soooooooooo tired…….. since I finished the half marathon on Sunday. I was surprised that it had taken so much out of me. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize my exhaustion and slightly sore throat for what it was — my body telling me that I have done enough and it is time for some serious rest. I mean, not only did I go out and run 13.1+ miles at a pace that I never could have imagined a couple of years ago, but within the past couple of weeks I’ve also:

  • Put my condo on the market
  • Spent dozens of hours cleaning the place
  • Quit my job and bid a resounding farewell to corporate America forever
  • Survived my first Valentine’s Day (and yet another holiday) without Kurt.

Conventional corporate wisdom would say that I’m justified in burning as much accrued sick time as I dare between now and my last day of work on February 24. But I still have this deeply ingrained work ethic that told me to get up again this morning and stagger semi-consciously a few yards to my home office to try to work.

I lasted until 11:30 and then emailed my boss that I needed to lie down for the rest of the day.

Sometime around 5:00 PM I woke up and decided to re-read my blog posts from October, to see what happened in the days and weeks after my last half marathon in Victoria BC.

Well, there it was all laid out in my own words, and painfully obvious to me. If I keep pushing myself beyond normal physical and mental limits, I eventually crash.

I have crashed.

But what’s really cool is that I have those October blog posts as a record of what I did and didn’t do, the signals that I tried to stifle and that wound up laying me low for more than two weeks. I came out of that October race feeling strong so I just kept running — and the crash, when it came, was huge.

So I won’t do that again.

Re-reading those posts and experiencing that “aha!” was liberating. I know now what I need to do to take care of myself, and it does not include working for long hours to try to leave a clean plate behind me. Whatever is left on that plate when I go won’t matter. What matters is that I take care of myself. I shall sleep in late. I shall take naps. I shall go to bed early. I shall keep my to-do list both brief and fluid.

Am I being self-indulgent? Very well, I shall be self-indulgent! (with a cockeyed salute to Walt Whitman)

And I shall keep blogging my way through this — because it’s entirely possible that I may need to relearn this lessson yet again, and when I do I’ll want more data on the subject.

Thanks for indulging me…

Versatile Blogger Award

This post will be a work in process, as I haven’t yet found and followed all of the 15 other bloggers required to fully accept my own Versatile Blogger Award, but I figure it’s better to get started now and then update this post as I go along. 

Rules of the Versatile Blogger Award:

1.  Thank the person(s) who shared the award with you by linking back to them in your post. 

2.  Pass this award to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know that you included them in your blog post. 

3.  List 7 things about yourself.

1. Thank you Running Thriver for this award — your story of overcoming domestic abuse is inspiring, and your extreme running feats are astonishing!

2. I would like to pass this award to (in no particular order):

  • The Pudgy Runner – I first bumped into you on Twitter, where I enjoyed your series of upbeat tweets counting down to the Victoria Half Marathon. Only today (when I went looking for worthy blogs to recognize) did I discover your wonderful blog. Your story about your grandmother was very touching — thank you.
  • The Obfuscated Jogger – great name, warped Aussie sense of humor, and I think you were my first follower whom I don’t know personally.
  • RunOnPurpose – another inspirational runner whom I first found on Twitter.
  • Cake Walks & Ice Cream Runs – this is a new running-focused blog by one of the people that Running Thriver brought to my attention.
  • Ms993 – she doesn’t blog frequently but I’d like to encourage her to write more often, as she’s witty, inspirational, and dedicated to growing her circle of strong female friends.
  • Ahimsamaven – UPDATE!! Ahimsamaven weaves together post-modern philosophy, first-person experience from deep yoga practice and running, and life’s everyday challenges — and manages to be both insightful and entertaining along the way.
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD
  • TBD

3.  Seven things about me (yikes, this gets tough):

  1. I currently have three cats. I’ve had three cats at various times over the years, and I think three is the ideal number: entertaining, dynamic, while still remotely manageable. The way these three gallop around my house, I’d be afraid to have any more.
  2. Yes, I’ve really owned 19 Porsches, but I love the one I have now and I fully intend to keep it for a very long time.
  3. I’m left-handed, but the older I get the more ambidextrous I become, which is really weird.
  4. My favorite subject to photograph is the meeting of horizon and sky.
  5. Notable celebrity encounters: I once spent an entire evening in a bar sharing pitchers of beer with Arnold Schwarzenegger; I chatted about local organic produce with John Wayne; and I mistook Dyan Cannon for a cocktail waitress.
  6. Speaking of cocktail waitresses, long ago I once nearly quit my job to run off to a small town in Colorado and become a cocktail waitress. I’m glad I decided not to take that road.
  7. Although I loved being a graduate student, in retrospect I can now say that blogging is a lot more fun than writing a dissertation.
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One step at a time. One foot in front of the other.

That’s how I’m trying to live my life, and that’s how I’m going to do things with this blog. I have been blogging semi-publicly for over a year now, but that blog was focused on keeping friends and family informed of my late husband’s fight against stage 4 lung cancer. It’s now been two and a half months since I lost him… and I have discovered that besides (obviously) missing Kurt, I also miss blogging.

I am going to try something new with this blog, make it a bit more visible to the world, and see what may develop.

I’m a learning and development professional, an amateur philosopher, a mid-life PhD, who took up running in 2009 when somebody advised me to find a short-term goal to avoid the post-dissertation blues. I’m never going to be competitive (unless maybe I’m still running at the age of 100, which I sort of doubt), but I have indeed found happiness through running… so I’ve now proudly taken to calling myself the “slow happy runner.” I’ve completed three half marathons since February 2010, and I’m currently registered for three more within the next six months.

When I needed to give myself some respite from caregiving, I ran. When nothing else would stop the anguish of pre-grief screaming in my head, running stopped those thoughts. When I needed to cry, I welcomed opportunities to run in the rain. As I try to recreate my life as a “young widow,” I’m thinking about taking running vacations… going to places I’ve never been and running while I’m there.

I expect to write a lot about running in this blog, but that is only a part of multi-faceted me. So you might get a little grieving, a little philosophy, a little environmentalism, and who knows what else may capture my interest.

I hope you find things that are interesting to you here as well. Your comments will always be welcome… I only ask that you play nicely.