In this holiday season, particularly for those of us in the U.S. around our Thanksgiving holiday, we talk a lot about "gratitude" and the importance of it. This year I stumbled upon this TED talk by monk and interfaith scholar David Steindl-Rast, "Want to be happy? Be grateful". The abstract is:
The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you're going, and above all, being grateful.
I enjoyed it very much... "Stop. Look. Go." Simple words to live by (in the context in which he phrases them.) Well worth a listen...
Make it through mile 12 and still have energy!
Both of the last two years I've done pretty well up until mile 12. In fact, last year I was running with a friend and we had a very constant 10-minute/mile pace all the way up through mile 10 and maybe even into mile 11.
And then we got to the mile 12 aid station and I walked through it to have a drink... and kept on walking. :-(
I did get enough energy back to run the final bit... but it was a hard slog and I looked like I was ready to collapse.
A year later I've been running a good bit these days, although not as long as a half-marathon, and in talking to multiple people it seems my issue is most likely all about a lack of fuel inside my body. A friend who runs full marathons (and longer distances!) said that our livers have about 2 hours worth of fuel in them to power our body... and, gee, it's right about the 2 hour mark that I'm fading!
I did eat a bit during the race last time, but not that much. So this time I'm going to make that a regular part of the running... plus I'm doing some pre-race fueling, too.
We'll see how it goes on Sunday... as we often say, "third time is a charm!" (Of course, we also say "three strikes and you're out!")
P.S. There's still time to register to run if you want to join in - and they do same day registration as well. This year they are also offering a 2-person relay race option, too.
Build people up - or tear people down. Your choice.
I have been reminded of this several times lately in choices I have been confronted with. One stark moment was a few weeks back when we here in New England were being hit by an incredibly unseasonably cold spell. On Facebook, my newsfeed was full of friends in the region complaining about having to turn their heat on, about how strange this was, etc.
Now, a couple of friends of mine in the region maintain a fairly constant stream of political posts on Facebook and have a rather hardline conservative view of the world. Their posts are full of extremely negative text and links about President Obama, Congress, Democrats, "liberals" and pretty much anyone else that doesn't fit their worldview... usually delivered with a VERY heavy degree of sarcasm and anger.
They take it to such extremes that I often do find it hard to read their posts, but I haven't "hidden" their feeds on Facebook primarily because I don't want to be stuck in a self-affirming "echo chamber" of views like mine. I keep their posts coming because I want to be reminded of the many divergent views we have... but that's a good topic for a different blog post...
Anyway, one of these friends wrote on Facebook about how unseasonably cold it was and just expressed his surprise at having to turn the heat on at this time of year.
My immediate reaction was to click in the comment field and start typing the snarky reply:
What? You haven't figured out how to blame Obama yet?
And then I paused before hitting return and publishing the comment.
Just a few days prior to this I'd been having a couple of different discussions with people about the divisiveness within our society, the lack of civility, the way that sides within our political world here in the US seem to be getting more deeply entrenched ... and just about how there seemed to be acrimony and negativity online.
And here I was... about to add to that.
I deleted the text and cancelled adding the comment.
Sure, the comment would have been "fun". I would have enjoyed leaving it. It would have been enjoyable to poke a little bit at the fact that yes, indeed, some things out there are beyond the control of even your bitterest enemies.
But was it really necessary?
Here was a friend writing about his current condition. No politics. No name-calling. Just stating how things were.
I could have been empathetic / compassionate and joined him in commenting on the strange weather. Or I could have done what I was about to do and get a dig in (where there wasn't one) and add to the divisiveness.
Build people up - or tear people down.
A day or so later I saw on Facebook a graphic circulating that attributed to Sufism three questions to think about before speaking or writing something:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?
I haven't been able to find a definitive source for these questions - the closest seems to be these sources in a Daily Kos article - but regardless of origin, the questions are good ones. And in this particular case my proposed writing failed #2 and #3 in a big way.
The good news is that I did pause, reflect, and pulled back from that instant response.
Now, to be honest, in another recent case I did send an email response I probably shouldn't have and while it was true and perhaps necessary, it wasn't really kind.
Every moment. Every action.
Build people up... or tear people down.
The choice we make, in each moment, defines the kind of world we want to live in.
I knew I needed to change.
Our second daughter was a year old and I realized that I had to do something for my health to ensure I was going to be around for my wife and our two girls.
So my wife and I started walking every day, or as close to that as we could. We have the privilege of having a beautiful large cemetery near us that has roads and trails through it where you can walk for quite some time.
Soon walking led to "jogging"... which led to (gasp!) running!
Running was something I swore I'd never do because I never saw any runner smiling. But slowly... very slowly... I became one of those people.
It was an iterative process - I started saying "let me see if I can run from the entrance to the cemetery down to the first fork in the road. Then it was "let's see if I can run to the flagpole." Then "beyond the flagpole to the next fork."
Then, the BIG step... could I run from the entrance all the way up that big, enormous, huge, daunting, terrible hill to the chapel?
From there it was a test of looping the cemetery - and then starting to run into a second, attached cemetery (Greenlawn) that has another huge hill. And then it was looping both cemeteries... and then looping through the other side trails.
Ultimately it became a question of doing TWO loops through both cemeteries to get to a 5K distance.
And then my running left the cemetery and was out the roads...
The process took MANY months... and a lot of fatigue.
The good news is that running in the cemetery was very peaceful. There were generally no cars or road crossings. And very few spectators watching this fat guy huffing and puffing as he tried to make it up the hill.
Plus, on a morbid note, I always thought that if I died while running there, they could just dig a hole and toss my body in it. :-)
Three years later I ran that same loop yesterday at a pace around 9 minutes, 30 seconds per mile. And I've routinely run loops through that cemetery now AFTER having already run 5 or 6 miles. I don't even notice either of those "ginormous" hills that so intimidated me.
I had in fact hoped to do a 5 mile run around Washington, D.C., this morning (I'm here on business travel) but sadly left my running shorts back in N.H.
I have become a runner.
And here's the fascinating part to me: I love it!
In fact, it's now almost like a drug. I often feel a need to run. It helps clear my mind at times - and it just helps physically. As I've written here, I've enjoyed a number of races... and I'm looking forward to my 3rd time running the Swanzey Covered Bridges Half-Marathon this September (with the goal to not fade out at mile 12).
A beautiful effect, too, is that when I have to move quickly in an airport to catch a plane, I'm generally not boarding my plane looking like I am about to have a heart attack! (That used to be how it was...)
Running has been a savior of my sanity on business trips, too, getting me outside of the hotel rooms and conference centers. I recorded an audio segment about this a while back:
Given that I spend FAR too many hours in airplanes, running has provided an antidote to all the endless hours of sitting I do in airborne tin cans.
Running has also let me quickly see a bit of the places I've visited. Normally with the travel I do I wouldn't see much beyond the airports, taxis, hotels and restaurants... but going out for a run in the early morning has let me see the surrounding area. I've had the privilege of running around Red Square in Moscow, in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, underneath the Eiffel Tower in Paris, along back roads in Mumbai... and so many other places. Getting outside has been so critical - and running has enabled me to do that.
Along the way, I have lost some weight. Losing the first 45 pounds turned out to take about 6 months or so... and then I've been stuck in a plateau for most of the last couple of years:
This wasn't all through exercise. I also moderated my eating. A friend from back in Ottawa once wrote about his "S" diet:
No Seconds or Sweets, except on Saturdays and Sundays.
And I remembered that over all the years, and decided that it was a simple mantra to follow - and in particular the "no seconds" was a rule that I adopted.
Now, as that chart shows, I've not been entirely faithful. The travel I do presents meals where it's not always very easy to make the healthiest eating choices. And I freely admit that my willpower fades in the presence of the siren song of a chocolate chip cookie (and wilts completely when presented with a tray of said cookies!).
But I keep at it... and I keep running so that I can have a bit of wiggle-room on the eating. (Another friend says he runs specifically so that he CAN eat!)
And today, I celebrate the health I do have, and this new love of exercise that has so changed my life on so many levels.
If you are out there thinking about doing more exercise, I'd encourage you to get started... find a place where you can start walking, and start setting small, obtainable goals.
Perhaps soon you'll find yourself out there like me, doing something you never thought you'd do... running.
And doing so with a smile on your face! ;-)
Beyond the fact that I had a conference in Dublin, Ireland, there was a second and much more powerful reason why my wife accompanied me on this trip. You see, it was two years ago on May 16th when a doctor told us that Lori had cancer.
It was in July 2011 when she had her surgery and it was shortly after that when they told us she had invasive cancer and would need chemo and much more... but the date of May 16 will be forever remembered by us as the day that everything changed.
At this stage, the treatment continues - she has four more years of daily Tamoxifen pills with all the glorious fun of chemically-induced menopause, joint pain, ongoing fatigue and all the other side effects. As a spouse of someone going through it all, it's very tough to watch all that she is going through - all with the hope that it will be enough to keep her cancer away.
So on May 16th, we left my conference in Dublin behind and set out to explore Ireland and see what we could see... no plans, no schedules and not even any hotel rooms. Just the two of us and a rental car.
Each day we continue to seek out "the new normal", whatever that is, and to learn to live with this very unwelcome guest in our lives. This trip was our way to celebrate a dark anniversary and say in our own way that we will not let cancer win.
Very cool to see and I hope some folks in the region will come on over to the PCC to try out curling!
P.S. Curling also got a brief view in the fourth segment where the "mystery town" was revealed to be Petersham. (Pronounced "Peter's ham".)
I enjoyed this presentation very much... and it's interesting to think about the processes he describes toward the end that relate to "rewiring our brains" to focus on the positive and to move us toward more happiness:
It's her final Herceptin infusion. And it marks the end of our living life in three-week increments.
For the past 12 months, our pattern has basically been this:
And then... WHAM!... time to start it all over again.
This was how 2012 was... planning around "Herceptin weeks," knowing that they would effectively be written off in terms of my wife being able to do much at all.
And over the year it got worse, not better. We'd perhaps naively thought that after a few Herceptin treatments it might get more routine. But in fact there seemed to be cumulative effects... more fatigue... more pain...
Now, granted, not all of her condition can be attributed purely to the Herceptin. With each infusion they also give her "pre-meds" that are there to "help" her body tolerate the Herceptin. These include something like Benedryl and also a steroid.
Plus, around the same time that she started Herceptin she also started the joyous daily pill of Tamoxifen, which brings on chemically-induced menopause with all the hot flashes, joint pain, mood effects and a zillion other symptoms.
The combined effect of all the drugs, plus, I suspect, the lingering effects of chemo, hasn't made for a pleasant time.
As with many aspects of cancer treatment, too, it's not entirely clear that the treatment was necessary for so long. "The studies show" that 52 weeks of treatment with Herceptin lead to a decrease in recurrence of breast cancer of the type my wife has. But does it need to be for 52 weeks? Could it be equally effective in 26 weeks? Or 9 weeks?
The studies haven't yet been conclusive on that... and so we have to go with what is known. But my hope, certainly, for future women who need the treatment is that the researchers out there can zero in a bit more on what is really the optimal treatment time - and hopefully it can be less than a full year.
Today marks a milestone, though. We can stop thinking in 3-week intervals. She still has four more years of daily Tamoxifen pills, but at least these infusions will end. We're hoping that we can return to some degree of normal routines.
We're still "going on faith" that all this will help... hopefully it will.
UPDATE: A conversation with my wife on her way to treatment this morning reminded me that in fact the "3-week intervals" began even earlier, back in September 2011 when her chemo began. The chemo infusions, too, were every three weeks... so we are are SO ready for this all to end. :-)
As has become my tradition since 2010, I like to start the year off by posting my "three words" for the year. These are not "goals" or "resolutions" but rather words that I hope will define how 2013 will go for me. They are more guides for how I aspire for my life to be.
While last year I was trying to focus more on fewer things, this year I want to execute on some of the plans I have had for some time. There are some things I have been thinking about, talking about and even writing about for several years... but have yet to actually start. Not so much in my professional/work life, as I have been all about executing plans there, but rather in my personal life with some of my various side projects. As an example, 2013 really needs to be the year I either reboot VOIPSA or just close it down. There are a number of other similar projects and activities that are stalled, including a couple of boards of organizations I am on where I have not been able to fully participate. There are some projects, too, around our house that I have been wanting to do for quite some time.
Now, in fairness, a lot of these projects have been stalled for most of the past two years because of the unwelcome intruder in our lives that has sucked up pretty much all of my time outside of work. My wife is and always will be a FAR higher priority than all these other activities (as will my daughters be). She and I are hoping, though, that with her last treatment in early January we can stop living our life in 3-week increments and get back to having a more regular life. We'll see how it all goes, but that is certainly our hope for this year.
Outside of projects, though, there is another aspect to "execution" that hits on a daily basis - it is far too easy to get distracted by social networks and online news sources. Instead of spending time creating content, I find myself reading about other people's content. I need to change the priority there and focus more on creating content first and THEN engaging with social networks. (As an example, it would have been extremely easy to get sucked into Facebook instead of writing this post.) I need to be executing on my content plans first.
In 2012 I came to a realization that... I really miss working with audio. As I have for the past seven years, I continue to contribute my weekly reports into the For Immediate Release podcast and I enjoy that immensely... but I have found a hunger to do even more again. There is something about working with the medium of audio that I just really enjoy. It is a wonderful way for telling stories, explaining topics, providing education and interacting with people.
I don't know yet the full form this will take this year. We've been toying with adding a podcast component to the Deploy360 Programme. I have been thinking about reviving the Blue Box Podcast, at least for some interviews. I am intrigued by SoundCloud and may expand my experiments there. I have half a dozen other ideas running around inside my head for new podcasts and other projects... all I know is that I would like 2013 to be the year I expand my usage of audio.
In a 2012 leadership workshop for one of the boards I am on, we were asked some questions that could perhaps best be summarized as "how are you using your life to transform the world?" To make it a better place? To bring people together? To strengthen connections and build stronger communities?
That question stayed with me because in all honesty the last two years have really had to be all about surviving. In the process of just getting through each day, I haven't had the luxury of spending much time to contemplate the bigger picture. But as we move through all that, the question returns to my mind.
Obviously, as a parent a large part of this work involves the raising of our two daughters and giving them the foundation, strength, knowledge and skills to affect change in the world. That is perhaps the ultimate transformation that all of us can do as parents.
But is there something more direct... that can even involve them in some way?
Not necessarily something grand and glorious, but perhaps something simple and local... I have ideas... It all kind of comes back to that first word earlier in this post! :-)
What are your aspirations for 2013? What are your goals? Or guides?
Whatever they may be, may 2013 be a great year for you all - Happy New Year!
Youth Curling Open HouseCurling is a fun team sport that is open to pretty much anyone to be able to play. I play in an adult league on Tuesday nights and my 10-year-old daughter (pictured) plays in the youth curling on Saturday mornings. It's about a 45-minute drive for us from Keene, NH, but it's worth it to play on good ice and learn the sport.
Friday, December 28, 2012 from 1-3pm
Petersham Curling Club, Petersham, MA
You are welcome to come by tomorrow and try it out. The open house is free and directions are available on the Petersham Curling Club website.
If you can't make it tomorrow but are interested in staying up on future events like this, we also have a Facebook page for the Petersham Youth Curling that you can "Like" and stay connected.
We'd welcome any youth who would like to join us on the regular Saturday mornings... it's a great amount of fun!