I’m done with winter

It snowed again the other night. It is winter and it is still March. I’m just saying I’m over it. I’m ready for warmer weather.

After a winter of running in temperatures that hung in the single digits for three full weeks. I miss the freedom of slipping on my running shoes a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Now its socks, tights, long-sleeved shirt, face mask, hat, and a fleece jacket. It’s so difficult for me to go outside when the temperatures are what I would expect if I were living in the Arctic. It’s still dark when I run in the morning which can sometimes add to the depressed feeling I sometimes get when I run in these temperatures. The morning run is my thing. The opportunity to not have to dodge (too many) cars make me a happy person.

Snow covered

Clear roads during the winter months. This is always a crapshoot. If it has snowed the likelihood that I’ll be slogging through several inches of snow is real. I hate running in this much snow as much as I hate running on the beach in the loose sand. Then there’s the black ice and sidewalks which have been neglected by their owners forcing me to retreat to the street and take my life into my own hands. Despite the plethora of reflective gear and lights, blinking and solid, I still occasionally wonder if I am a purposeful target of the drivers of passing cars.

Street view

Black ice is the master of my fear. It is that treacherous ice which does not appear to be slippery until one puts their weight on it and realizes, on the way to the ground that it is in fact ice. Those who live in warmer climates and have not ventured north during the winter months have asked: “What is black ice?” Black ice, as defined by the dictionary is as follows:

black ice

ˌblak ˈīs/

noun

a transparent coating of ice, found especially on a road or other paved surface.

River view

As the days become longer and more daylight becomes present, I live for those days in a portion of the world where sunlight becomes something which I need for my mental as well as my physical health. Soon I will be able to cease ingesting Vitamin D tablets. Sunshine pushes me out the door. Just the desire to be outdoors sans the heavy apparel of winter is enough to lift my mood.

Soon. Soon I am told, at least by the calendar that winter will come to a close and spring will follow. The days will continue to increase in length. The sun will make more frequent and lengthier appearances and temperatures will continue to become warmer allowing the change of clothing to include shorts and t-shirts.

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The Power of Gratitude & Introspection

With hands grasped in gratitude, I greet you on this beautiful day.

It’s Labor Day weekend and I am happy to be enjoying an extra free day off this weekend. As I sat, my soul warmed with another cup of coffee and my Kindle, my mind began, as it often does to wander. I began to think about writing. It has been three months since my last post and almost three months since I have worked on my book.

It has also been almost three months since my last consistent run. This “streak” was interrupted just once by an attempt to test my knee. This “test” failed miserably and caused additional pain. I have had x-rays completed but the physician refused to discuss them with me when she believed this injury had been caused at work. This despite the numerous pages of information which I completed explaining the injury took place as a result of running. I find this to be an indictment of the current state of our medical profession and one, which within my own practice I work terribly hard to avoid. Regardless, I will reschedule with another physician and secure an accurate diagnosis.

Each week which goes by offers me increasing hope as the pain and discomfort in my knee continues to decrease. For this, I am thankful for it offers some hope the injury will not require a surgical intervention.

This is one of my favorite places to write. The tailgate on my Honda Element drops at just the right height to work as a desk. On it sits a cup of coffee and my laptop.

Gratwick Park

I was frightened by the notion that I did not miss running, especially those runs which allowed me to start my day with some modicum of balance.

I have been reflecting on the last year and in some cases wish I could call a mulligan and have remained at the job which I had prior to the start of the last year. Since this is not a possibility, I have reflected on what I have learned in this last year.

Not to be cliché but I have learned the grass is not always greener on the other side. I have also learned it is not a bad thing to be happy with the status quo, to not wish for more, of anything but to be happy or to find happiness in what I already have.

I was reminded balance can be found in such things, that to not see the balance which I already have and to seek something for which the definition is unclear causes one to experience more imbalance in my life. I stepped from the frying pan into the fire. I saw my physical health be called into question and I saw my love for running also being called into question. It culminated in me experiencing a panic attack while out for a very early run. The panic attack saw me sitting by the side of the road in tears with passersby wondering what was going on for me at 4:30 AM. Shortly thereafter I saw my physician and began a course of medication to help me manage these symptoms. I began the search for alternate employment. Finally, this goal was reached but emotionally I still felt empty; like a ship bobbing on the waves in the open ocean sails flapping loosely in the breeze with not enough force to provide the energy necessary to move forward. My meditation practice faltered and finally halted and also became nonexistent. I had hung my hat on one decision, one belief, that a new place of employment would provide all the stress relief which I would need. This solved a small portion of my problem, the remainder lied in my belief that there was nothing else to question. Depression set in followed by anhedonia and a general feeling of malaise. I continued to run but even these were forced. The love which I had previously had for waking early in the morning now became a chore instead of a salvation. I still enjoyed the solitude I felt but I also felt myself withdrawing into myself; feeling sorry for myself. Everything became a chore. I functioned on autopilot and left unchecked ends up causing an accident. This “accident” was my knee injury. Even my journaling which provided as much solace as did my daily runs and something with which I found respite, waned and became almost nonexistent. Daily writing had fallen off to one or two days each week, then one day each week. There were weeks where I was lucky if I even inked a fountain pen let alone knew the whereabouts of my journal. I retreated more and more into my head and found reading to be my one remaining constant.

Slowly but surely my energy has begun to return. I am not fully there but I feel my hope, my desire to return to enjoying the run beginning to increase. It was at first difficult for me to accept the fact that I could not run and when I see others out for a run, I am reminded of my inability to run. This summer, one of our warmest on record and a time of year I look forward to running as it affords me the ability to run in only shorts and running shoes caused additional strain on my mood. Alas, it is what it is.

My own diagnosis is one which places a possible return to running around the turn of the year. Hopefully, with the advice of a doctor and the possibility of physical therapy I can at least comfortably return to some form of physical activity which will help ease my depression.

As I said in an earlier post, one of the greatest abilities we have, if we choose to accept it is our ability to be introspective. I am thankful I have this ability and even more thankful I use it or should I say I have begun to return to its use. I still rise early enough to see darkness blanket the sky. As I sit and either read or write at this hour, I am comforted knowing another day is dawning and I have been blessed to see another day.

Namaste

Am I Living the Life I want to Live?

I woke this morning after a fitful night of sleep. I slept poorly and I am guessing because of the cold which has been my companion since late Thursday. Running these last few weeks has been almost nonexistent save for the one run I have added to each week. There has been little desire to run and even a smaller desire to rise at 4 AM.
This is typical for me this time of year. The weather becomes increasingly colder and the days shorter. January brings us to the “middle” of winter. I am happy to see winter beginning to come to an end. The days begin to grow increasingly longer as the amount of daylight steadily increases. This visual representation of lengthening days is often enough to help improve my mood. The hope of spring in the air, literally and figuratively. Since I began writing this entry more than a week has gone by. There has been a desire to write but little time. The weather has dramatically changed and the unseasonable temperatures grew colder and brought with them snow. Last Sunday, the last day I ran, the air temperature dropped to a low of negative 16. The photo shows what happens to one when one decides to exercise in those elements.
Frozen selfie
This time of year for me is normally a time of quiet introspection but even that has been decreased. I have found the time which I have spent writing in my journal has even decreased. My goal has always been to write every day. Often a week or more has gone by between journal pages. Today, the temperatures are approximately 10-degrees colder than yesterday when we reached a high of 51. The majority of the snow has melted and despite the colder temperatures, I needed to go outside. This is where I feel more at ease and more calm. My domain has never been inside. Inside is where I must be to accomplish the tasks associated with my job.
When I woke I reviewed the photos which had been added to my Instagram stream since I last checked at 3:00 AM. Many photos caught my eye but one also grabbed hold of my emotions like a lasso thrown around the neck of a bucking bronco.
This caption accompanied the photo:
“I’ve often imagined that trees keep their favorite humans as pets, since their lifespans are much longer than ours. Much the same way we keep cats and dogs. They watch over us, love us, and after we pass they mourn us. They adopt new humans after we’ve gone. Like ants scrambling madly in an ant farm, we don’t fully recognize their ownership or their care. Science is slowly discovering the sentient qualities of trees, but some of us have been sharing these friendships for centuries.”
—Vanessa “Runs” Rodriguez 
 Trees
I was and continue to be drawn to this photo. I find myself staring at it as I gaze at the previously blank wall across from my cluttered desk. I find myself staring at times when I have allowed my day to become unbalanced. Poor food intake, plus poor sleep, plus allowing myself to overwork is what often leads to this imbalance.
Yesterday I drove home from my office in Niagara Falls and to the west, my right eye caught the bright orange glare of the setting sun. Another mile down the road I pulled into a parking lot which runs parallel to the upper Niagara River. I backed the Element into a parking space which offered an unobstructed view of this beautiful sight. I rolled down the window and listened to the beautiful sounds which gently enveloped my ears. A gentle breeze caused the naked branches of trees to harmoniously rub together while a family of geese sounded their approach as their beautiful wings allowed them to gently touchdown in the still unfrozen water. A smile crossed my lips and within a few minutes, the memories and stress of the day were washed away.
When I look at or rather stare at Vanessa’s photo, I see the beauty of these elegant trees, her gentle touch on the bark of these gentle giants and the path which has been worn on the surface of this beautiful forest. My thoughts drift to my time spent in the woods behind my house, or the trails which I am privileged to run and snowshoe enjoying the solitude provided by the relative absence of the rest of society. I think of my time spent in the Adirondacks where this same solitude passionately grips me.
Are you living the life you want to live? Are any of us living the life we want to live? Do we realize there is a space to live the life of which I fear many of us dream but never attempt beyond the expectations of family, ourselves and society in general?
These expectations are dangerous and for the majority of us they are never fully revealed. We live our life in a dreamlike state agreeable to be “weekend warriors” while we may harbor dreams of something more; more freedom. We are tied to a paycheck and their belief that we need to make more money. We fail to realize this need to make more money comes with more responsibility which takes away the one thing which none of us are guaranteed, more time. I recall hearing this fear on a daily basis. “Be glad you have a job. It may not be the job you want but it’s a paycheck.”
It is becoming uncomfortable to sit outside any longer. I ask you to ask yourself if you are living the life of which you dream or are you living a life which you believe you must live and hope there will be time later to live.
Namaste

I did it again.

I did it again!

 
I found myself, allowing myself to become so frustrated with this long winter and getting overwhelmed by work that I missed the signs. The signs were apparently screaming at me and I apparently had the volume muted. 
 
The bottom line is I ran when I shouldn’t have. The desire was purely to “put in more miles”. I should have listened to my body over the previous weeks. I thought I was listening because there was no pain and no discomfort. I just listened to the wrong voices. These were the voices that said, “Don’t get up (at 4:30 AM).” “Don’t run. It’s not a race to put in more miles so stop comparing yourself to others.” This voice, if I would have heeded it’s cautionary note would have saved me from pain, discomfort and more importantly the depression of not being able to run.
 
This Saturday I meet with my chiropractor. I’m taking it as a good sign that this Saturday is not only one which he had available but also there was an available appointment. Despite the diagnosis, I’ll not be running for a few weeks and when given the OK to return to exercise, it’ll be something mildly less stressful to my body.
 
I spent quite a bit of time journaling this past weekend and thinking of the decision I have made to push myself. We hear all the time “If we want to improve we need to push ourselves.” I also need to be reminded that “If we want to remain injury free we need to not push ourselves.”
 
For now, I’m OK with not pushing myself. I want to be able to run for many years to come and do so with little to no injury. An injury last year forced me to miss the entire Spring and Summer. Not a step from April through the end of August. Not running involves a level of humility which I thought I had reached…but will be tested yet again. My goal is to pass the test this time and to not have to repeat the class.

Ah January…

This is the month when I struggle the most. Despite this knowledge and what I call above average preparation, it still seems to sneak up on me.
I woke this morning to the sound of my alarm. I showered and went to the chiropractor. One of two private patients attended their appointment and I went to Tim Hortons for coffee with Scrooge. Then a trip to have an oil change and a tire rotation.
I sat in the waiting room waiting for my car to be complete, I feel tired, like my head is in the clouds. Sitting in waiting for my car to be done, I think only of going home and taking a nap. I gave out the window in disappointment; the skies are thick and grey, snow is falling and I’m already beginning to think of my busy schedule next week. An app is definitely in order with some TV, a glass of wine and my Kindle.
The maintenance to my car is complete. I know this because the salesman said he has called my name several times. I pay for the work, get into in my car and drive home. The roads are slippery with a new coating of new snow. The sadness I felt as I drove increasing as I approached home. Much as a horse sensing the nearby stable begins to pick up its gate in anticipation of reaching home and solitude.
When I reach the safety of my driveway and back my car into it’s space, I remove my jacket and place it on its hook next to my office. I retreated to my bedroom, turn on the TV and pull out the pile of mail which has been haunting me throughout the week. This is a daunting task which I attempt to put off once again so I close my eyes for a few minutes but neither sleep nor the drowsy state before sleep find me.
The day progressed and darkness descended. Surprisingly, my mood began to lift. Darkness for me during this time of year becomes something of a friend. It allows me not to see the grey skies with their low-hanging clouds. The same clouds which form an impenetrable barrier against the Sun and blankets the northeast for much of the winter that even the briefest appearances of the Sun are cause for celebration.

As pen touches paper, my thoughts pour from the nib much like the rain which is falling outside. The weather forecast is predicting 4 to 8 inches of new snow beginning Tuesday night. With this news sadness begins to find me once again. I reach for my fountain pen and write in my journal in the attempt to relieve the stress which has been building.

I hope that through the night the rain will cease, my alarm will gently wake me and I can sleep on my running shoes and allow the solitude of a long run to bring back the balance in my life.
This next week will be a week away from running. After forcing a run “to get in more miles” I hurt something in my right leg. I will also use this time to relax and write and allow the remainder of the winter to wash over me like the cold winds which blow over the snow.

The gratitude walk

As I get older I have more appreciation for life, my life, for how I spend my time. I realize that while it’s important to make money, it’s not important to waste money, to spend money foolishly.

Several weeks ago I purchased a GoPro camera. I thought about this purchase for several months thinking, “I’ll never use it the way I’ve seen others use it.” I decided it was important or maybe this was just a way to justify such a purchase but I felt it was important to document the activities that I love to enjoy. If others feel the same happiness as I and it prompts others to get outside and have fun, well that’s just a bonus.

Lately I’ve been busy at my office. Busy is good, being overly busy is not, at least not for me. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my work. This is a blessing for which I am grateful. The only time I don’t enjoy my work is when I neglect the balance in my life. When emotions are out of balance I find myself tired, easily angered and with a low tolerance for frustration. I no longer want it to get to this point. I have experienced panic attacks in the past and know this is a place in my life which I have no interest in returning.

Image

Solitude, the solitude found in nature is important to me and at the foundation of my happiness. On my way to enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend, I decided to stop at Devil’s Hole State Park. I didn’t have the necessary time to enjoy the walk down into the gorge so I enjoyed a hike along the upper level path. The solitude of the visit recharging my internal batteries as I craned my neck to hear the water rushing through the lower rapids hundreds of feet below. So close but yet so far. I stopped several times and thought about the time spent with family on Thanksgiving. There are many things for which I am grateful. They are too numerous for me to mention. I am reminded of them daily when I write in my journal and I step into the wilderness.

I hope you enjoy the video of this hike and it inspires you to get outdoors and enjoy life.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rEx24x-_vp0

Namaste

Sauntering in the Woods

I love to get out in the woods with nothing but my running shoes, a bottle of water and a camera with a fresh memory card. I love the freedom from running on the roads that trail running offers. The freedom to stop and take in the sights, sounds and smells of the beautiful outdoors.

We don’t have too many trails here in Niagara County, none anyway that don’t require a 2-3 hour drive, but the trails at Bond’s Lake are some that I enjoy. Here’s a couple of shots from a recent trail run there. No snow but the temperature was in the single digits.

Enjoy!

ImageImage