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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Out For A Walk

Steveston Fishermen's WharfImage via Wikipedia
One day when I was about 12 years old, I was about to be sent home from school because I had come down with the flu.  The nurse at the school tried to call my mother at home, but there was no answer.

I knew where she was.  She was out walking.  I didn't realize at the time that the reason my mother had taken up walking was because of her cancer diagnosis;  she was out almost every day walking anywhere from two to four miles.  It was the only time I ever saw her wear pants and running shoes.  When I was five years old, my Dad's car kicked the bucket, and since we couldn't afford another one, we went without a car for about five years.  My Dad was a bus driver, so we either walked or took the bus anywhere and everywhere for those years.  The three of us walked to the neighbourhood grocery story every Friday evening and packed home the week's groceries.  It was just our routine.  As a kid, Dad loved walking or hiking everywhere either alone or with a friend, and often walked up the famous Grouse Grind on Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, long before it became cool to do that!  As he got older, he never stopped walking, and would often choose to walk rather than take the car. 

Many years later I was out on my usual walk when I suddenly remembered my mother's walks, and realized that we had both chosen the same activity as a health benefit.  At first, walking was something I did occasionally, especially when I was in Richmond visiting my family.  The boardwalk by the Fraser River in Steveston is a lovely walk, but my little Fernwood neighbourhood here in Victoria is also a pleasant route. These days, I try to walk four times a week and as the weather improves sometimes I walk pretty much every day.  In the last few months I've focused on it even more, especially after reading a few stories on the benefits of walking for at least half-an-hour at a time.  It keeps your weight in check, of course, but I've always thought of it as the most obvious form of exercise a human being can choose.  We were made to walk.

My sister runs.  I hate running.  It always feels like my innards are being pounded into mush, never mind the crunching sound my knees and hips make when I have to dash across a street to avoid a car, for instance.  I gloated to my sister once when I found out that at a certain distance, running and walking burn the same amount of calories.  Take THAT!  Yeah!  She just looked at me with her little smile, knowing full well that she's in better shape than I am, regardless of any of my proclamations.  Good thing she's OLDER so I can at least rub that in.  I win :-)

A couple of months ago I found an About.com article all about walking.  I found out that your weight x distance = the energy consumed by walking, so I immediately opened Google Earth and used the distance tool to calculate how far my usual walks were taking me and how many calories I was burning.  Hmmmm.  Okay, so not that great.  I fiddled around a bit and adjusted a few blocks this way and that way and came to a new route that would burn more calories.  The other caloric element that wasn't taken into consideration was the fact that I live on a hill.  No matter which way I go, I eventually have to go uphill to get home again.  That boosts the caloric numbers too, so I decided to find the street with the steepest grade, just to make it even better. The first time I attempted that street, I was wheezing by the time I had only gotten a quarter of the way up.  Holy crap.  Half way up and my legs were aching and my heart pounding out of my chest.  When I reached the top, outside of being completely winded, I had a hot flash.  Sheesh.  But I did it.  And I've incorporated that street into most of my daily walks since.  It's gotten somewhat easier, but it still kills me.

Aside from gardening and golfing, walking is what keeps me sane and centred.  There is the physical benefit, to be sure, but the emotional and mental benefits are just as important to me, if not more so.  Some days when it's wet and cold out there, it's hard to get motivated, but once I am out the door, I immediately feel better.  Even though I go at a pretty good clip, I pay attention to trees and birds and gardens and to the people I often see on a regular basis.  I always say hello or good morning and serve up my best smile.  By the time I get home, I'm stress-free and at peace with the world.

When my cat became ill and started to lose his kidney function a few months back, I found a vet that was within walking distance so I could incorporate the visits to pick up his specialized food and medication.  And these days, instead of hopping in the car to go to the bank or to the grocery store, I stick on a backpack and walk it instead.  Fortunately we have a mall fairly close to us that has pretty much everything we need.  With some encouragement, I occasionally convince my husband to walk with me there and back, but for the most part I walk alone and enjoy every moment.

It has been on my mind in the last while that I should one day take you on a small, pictorial tour of my walk, just to show you some of the interesting sights I have come across.   If I can ever remember to take my camera with me, I will do just that.  Maybe you'd enjoy taking a walk with me :-).

IJ
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Be Willing To Change

There have been three significant times in my life when I've had to go through a transformation of some sort, and not necessarily because I wanted to! The first was when I was 14 and my mother died. The second was when I had my children. And the third is happening now.

The first two changes left me feeling completely alone, but they also lead to a liberation of sorts.

When my mother died from Hodgkin's disease in 1972, I had no siblings and my father and I were almost strangers, since he had left most of the parenting to my mother. For a burgeoning teenager, facing the idea of death for the first time was terrifying enough, but to lose the one gentle, guiding light in my life was absolutely devastating. When you're that age, the changes you face physically and emotionally are already overwhelming. Although I got through school okay, I struggled when my father remarried only two years after my mother died, another big change. So I think I did the only thing I could to take charge of my own life; I moved out at the age of 18 and from then on, took care of myself. Big Change Number One.

I lived alone for six or seven years until I eventually moved to another city, Victoria, and married my husband and had my first child, which brought on the second big change. Although I had my husband, who had no trouble adapting to being a father, I really had no one else around me to help me cope through the unbelievable transformation it takes to become a parent for the first time. There were no strong, female forces in my life; the female friends I had who had children were more like acquaintances, and my other good friends didn't have children of their own. I had a long, drawn out bout of postpartum depression that lasted for months. Sometimes I think it actually lasted until I got pregnant with my second daughter a couple of years later, where my body kind of corrected itself hormonally. Being so alone in the dead of winter with a child for the first time, no siblings to share it with, no mother, not even in-laws because my husband's parents didn't live around us either, was very difficult. I felt like I had lost myself.

It's funny how a female can be so focused on the marriage and kids idea at first. But what happens after that? I loved my kids to pieces, but was not content to just stay at home and be a mom. I had a part-time job, but most of what I made went into paying for daycare, so with the encouragement of my husband, I decided to quit that and get back into my music. At first I played pubs and coffee places and anything else I could find. I finally recorded some of my songs and sold my tapes whenever and wherever I could. And I started teaching guitar. That way I could still be home with my kids while I was teaching during the day, and my husband was home when I was out performing a few nights a month and whatever else I could find. Big Change Number Two.

And now I am at the precipice of Big Change Number Three.

I have been reading Dr. Christiane Northrup's book "The Wisdom of Menopause" over the last while, having only discovered it after catching a PBS special of her's by accident a few weeks ago. The book has been out for years, but for some reason it never caught my attention. I think I would have benefited greatly had I found it earlier in my peri-menopausal state, but nevertheless, it finally came to my attention and has already given me great insight into the changes that have been occurring in my life and the ones that are about to come.

So who will I be now?

In some ways, this feels like the most sober, conscious and calming change I am about to face. The last few years have been the tumultuous part, just as my mother's death and my first child's birth were for me. I am not sure that I knew I was re-inventing myself the first two times, but I am very conscious of that now.

Buddhist teachings have been my refuge in the past four or five years, and I am not sure I'd be as sane as I am now without them. They have given me a lot of insight into the workings of the mind and of the world, and some practical ways of thinking which have grounded me. They have also taught me about the process of rebirth.  Much of what the last few years have been about is letting go, a subject I have written about in past blogs. What I haven't realized is how much I have to let go of my old "self". Buddhism teaches you that there is no perpetual, permanent "you" to begin with, so there's nothing to cling to anyway. But your ideas about yourself are the hardest to let go of. We like to categorize ourselves, to define our personalities and preferences in clean and tidy ways and that's that. But sometimes our circumstances and the events in our lives force us to reevaluate: Is this really me? Do I really believe this?

I used to think that the idea of reinventing the self came mostly from those who were bored and restless. Maybe so. You could even say that living at home with my new stepmother made me bored and restless, or being at home with the kids did that. But I think it was a much larger and more powerful driving force, something I can't really specifically identify; like giving birth, it's more or less out of your control as the body goes into automatic, baby-making mode. It is, in fact, a rebirth.  You can't stop it, it's going to happen anyway so don't resist!

In the last few weeks I have been able to remind myself of all that I have. And I have a lot. Dr. Northrup's marriage fell apart as she went through menopause, mine is as strong as it has ever been. Some women need to find their true calling for the first time as they are heading towards menopause, I already found my calling after my children were born. I have no desire to be a rock star now :-) Thank goodness! Whatever I become, I will make the transition with my eyes wide open and carrying within me a real sense of peace.

Yesterday I went on my usual 2 kilometer walk. To my surprise and delight, it was almost balmy outside, the birds were happily singing and I could smell every fresh bloom as I passed it. I haven't felt that happy in a long time.

Whoever the new me is, bring her on!

IJ

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Saturday, April 3, 2010

What A Difference A Year Makes...

Logo used from early 1960s to 1963; it is the ...Image via Wikipedia

My husband and I had our 26th anniversary this past week. The year after the 25th seems almost not worth mentioning. So much so that my husband forgot.

He's not someone who forgets things like that, but the pressure of his work situation lately has caused him to forget a lot of things, so I wasn't the least bit offended. In actuality, we're still working towards really celebrating our 25th.

Last year as our silver anniversary rolled around, my husband was unemployed for the first time in almost 30 years, and we weren't sure what was going to happen next. It was a pretty scary time for both of us. We had a lovely surprise anniversary dinner put on by our wonderful friends, and another one from our family, but other than treating ourselves to a Canucks hockey game, that was about it. So we vowed that when our lives got a little more stable again, we'd take ourselves to Maui.

To make a long story short (and some of you have probably already read the story that I wrote last year about the Little TV Station That Could) my husband got his job back, but it has been pretty much 12-hour days ever since then. He has become the entire creative department which used to consist of 5 people. We are grateful that he is working, but you know, when you hit your 50's you want to start thinking about winding down, not working twice as hard as you did before!

And within a few months, CHEK TV has managed to pull together and become completely independent. This past week was the first week that the entire station has been running on its own steam with a new master control and no technical support from anywhere else. Although they're not out of the woods yet, it's nothing short of miraculous.

Two other major events are that the well-known local anchor Tony Parsons has become part of the team and is now doing the 10 o'clock news on weekdays. I've pretty much watched every newscast since he started, I'm such a fan! And the station now has an agreement with the CBC to exchange news stories which is also a huge coup.

Television is still struggling and it's anyone's guess as to how the next five or ten years are going to pan out. But for CHEK, so far, so good.

I know that job loss and financial crisis can put a lot of pressure on a marriage, and quite often marriages break up because of it. The interesting thing to me was that we never felt anything close to that; it seemed the harder it got, the closer we stuck together.

One of my daughter's summed it up kind of nicely in the card she gave us for our anniversary: "It's been a rough year, but together you managed to stay strong, and without a drop of hesitation to support each other."

I think we're going to make it to Maui after all...

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