Success and No Medal

“Effort is good fortune,” Dr. Shoma Morita

Let me clarify

The world we live in does not support this maxim. We live in a results-oriented world, and we are expected to deliver if we want to keep our jobs, find success and win the medals. The second-best in the Olympics is popularly considered a loser. As you might imagine, this is not my thinking;  yet, this is our world.  However, the people I know are wonderful, accomplished, kind, generous, loving, and perfectly imperfect humans who co-exist with the entire catastrophe of the human condition, as Zorba states. Doing the best we can, most of the time, we live active, purposeful and joyful lives along with the sorrow, losses and mishaps that come with being born.

Japanese psychiatrist Dr. Shoma Morita was a realist. He observed that we cannot control results no matter how well-organized, brilliant, hard-working and healthy we are. Life happens. We get sick, people die young, accidents happen, an economy collapses, a new widget enters the scene, and a war starts and never seems to end. Results are not perfectly controllable by us. (you may not agree, but it is my experience when I look around)

However, our effort is controllable. What we do (in most cases) or where we put our effort is what we can control. Therefore, Morita suggested that we honour and celebrate our efforts. And learn from them as well. Obviously, the more effort that we pour into a task, the better our chances are of achieving the goal we set for ourselves. It just isn’t guaranteed.

In our family, my daughter and son-in-law always celebrated the tryouts. The fact that the kids would put themselves out there to practice and try to make the soccer or volleyball teams was honoured. Yes, it was rewarding and exciting when they made it, but it was not the most important thing because it wasn’t entirely controllable. But if they didn’t make it and still wanted to play, they practiced, learned, and tried again the next time.

Effort is good fortune, is a personal maxim that the world doesn’t recognize, but as an individual, it becomes a healthy and realistic way of living.

Race Week-end Ottawa

My daughter and grandson Rowan had trained for several weeks to run the 10K together. Yet, three weeks before the race, my grandson injured his foot at school and was not allowed to run for a month. Disappointing – absolutely! Was it controllable – no.

What happened next was that they sold their race bibs to a couple who wanted to run, but they couldn’t get tickets as they were sold out.  Rowan could still bike and row, and so he did. And they already plan to run the 10 K in September at a different race. During race weekend, they were cheering all the runners at the various cheering stations, as were 200,000 others from Ottawa. (not all at the same place, haha) In other words, we move on like most people we know. Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so we change our plans.

My 1/2 Marathon with my cousin Sonya

First of all, it was a perfect day. The best day of any race day in which I have participated. And I had the wonderful company of my cousin Sonya, which makes all the difference in a long walk or run. I have walked several 1/2 Marathons with Sonya, but this was our first since 2019 in Halifax. I was more invested in this walk than usual because I wanted to know what I could do as I prepared for Japan this fall.

The route had changed, and it was beautiful and doable. We both preferred it over past routes. There is, of course, that collective effervescence that happens when you are walking with all these other people, live bands along the way, people encouraging and cheering from the sidelines. It is fun. After the first 3 km, our family cheered us on and gave us hi-fives as we strode past them.

In short, all was well until about the 13th KM when my susceptibility to leg cramps began. As it always happens, this was not a surprise, but I could not walk them out this time. I could make it to the 14th KM by stops and starts, but I had to accept my limitations and stop. Otherwise, as a walker, we would be putting an unnecessary burden on the course and the first aid people. We did manage to walk an additional four KM to get off the course and to an area where my daughter could pick us up. I will tell you how in a minute.

Outcome –  we walked 18 km out of the 21 and didn’t cross the finish line. Sonya is the best walking partner anywhere. She could have finished, but she insisted on staying with me, and I am forever grateful. So, why do I declare this a success for myself?

What did I learn?

I was surprised that I was strong; my feet worked, my legs mostly worked, and I was not exhausted. I was confident we would reach the end, but we did not. Still, and more importantly, I enjoyed myself.

I recognized that I was not properly hydrated and that my personal bugaboo and electrolyte requirements were not met—it was my mistake and correctable.

I have never done stretching. Writing this sounds irresponsible, but it has never entered my mind. This is now firmly in my mind as I make a new plan.

I consulted with Chat GPT to develop a four-month reasonable training plan for an almost 78-year-old woman to prepare to walk the Kumano Kodo. ( walks, hills, cycling, and yes, stretching are part of it in the first draft, plus learning to walk efficiently with Nordic poles.)

I learned my cramps disappeared when I walked on the grass and dirt. This was a huge surprise. A bottle of Gatorade from the first aid person plus the grass was like a miracle. A stretch of grass ran alongside a part of the course, and the first aid person suggested I walk on it. I thought I was cured! But as soon as I had to return to the pavement, I faced the reality that I would not complete this half marathon.  However, that grass extended along an adjacent bike path and allowed me/us to proceed to an area four km away where my daughter could pick us up. Thank you, Guy, the first aid attendant, Sonya and Meghan.

This race was a success because it revealed my weaknesses four months before my Japan trip. I was unclear before this race about my endurance and discovered that it was not a problem. And the problem areas are things I can and will work on.

And why, you ask, is this Kumano Kodo so important to me? I cannot explain this, but when I return, I will be able to. For now, I will say it is a long-standing dream – a joyful pilgrimage, so to speak, with my daughter and eight Japanese friends.

Thank you for reading this.

Notes

1:) “Effort is good fortune” encourages us, regardless of what the world says.  And as author James Clear says: “We cannot control our luck—good or bad—but we can control our effort and preparation.”

2:) “When the music changes, so must the dance.” An African proverb

3:) I extend sincere condolences to a longtime reader of this blog whose husband recently died. Most of us want to hang on to the good things, especially our loved ones. There is nothing easy about letting go. A deep bow to you, dear G. I extend my condolences to your dear family.

ADRIFT by Mark Nepo

Everything is beautiful and I am so sad.
This is how the heart makes a duet of
wonder and grief. The light spraying
through the lace of the fern is as delicate
as the fibers of memory forming their web
around the knot in my throat. The breeze
makes the birds move from branch to branch
as this ache makes me look for those I’ve lost
in the next room, in the next song, in the laugh
of the next stranger. In the very center, under
it all, what we have that no one can take
away and all that we’ve lost face each other.
It is there that I’m adrift, feeling punctured
by a holiness that exists inside everything.
I am so sad and everything is beautiful.

4:) With appreciation to all of my dear readers. I am so fortunate to know you, even those I have never met. With all my best wishes for your well-being and the courage you need to take the next step and the next step… Warmly, trudy

The Audacity to Not Be Good at Something and do it anyway

“We treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command.” Oliver Burkeman.

It would be nice, at least on the surface, if this were true about plans.

I have two dates in the future when I am prepared not to be good at what I have signed up for.  The first one is this Sunday when I am registered to walk the 1/2 Marathon during race weekend in Ottawa. Although I have walked eight of these, I haven’t done so since COVID, and I am not confident I will complete it in the allotted time.

I am, however, confident that I will exert myself to do this walk and stop if I need to.

Why bother, you might ask? I have asked myself that question, and although it is not a cakewalk, there are things about it that I do enjoy—the company of my cousin Sonya, who has accompanied me on most of these walks; the collective effervescence of the Ottawa community who run, walk and cheer on the sidelines; the satisfaction and gratitude I experience that my body can do so. However, I know I am not as fit as I was in 2019, but if I wait to get fit enough, I may never do this again.

This leads me to my second purpose, where I cannot predict how well that will go either.

I am hiking the Kumano Kodo in Japan in October with my daughter and eight Japanese friends. So, this first walk on Sunday will give me information about the state of affairs of my body and where I need to focus my preparation. Of course, the Kumano is more or less straight up and down, and the course in Ottawa is flat. Nevertheless, it will be informative.

The Kumano is a walk I have always wanted to do, and to be able to do this in the company of my kind, gracious and hospitable Japanese friends and my daughter is kind of unbelievable. They are accomplished hikers, yet they are willing to include me in their circle, knowing I will slow them down. I am not being falsely humble here; this is reality. I am also prepared to do this pilgrimage trail as best I can, even knowing I may hold our group up. So, this Sunday is the beginning of my preparation.

What I can do is – do my part.

That is entirely up to me. And thanks to the internet, everything I need to know about preparing is as close as my keyboard. I can even see the terrain and long stretches of the hike. How amazing is that!

And all of us, other than my daughter, are between 66 and 80 as of today.

Something about stretching ourselves mentally and physically builds resilience, courage and well-being. I knew this theoretically from the literature but experienced it firsthand from my bike trip around the Cabot Trail when I turned 65. I came off that mountain thinking I could take on the world, and the euphoria lasted for several weeks. For my regular readers, you know that I am not suggesting that you all climb mountains, although I can safely suggest that we all consistently move our bodies.

This idea of trying things where we know we won’t shine applies to everything new and/or old that you haven’t done in a long time. To be a lifelong learner, to cultivate hobbies, and to have fun and adventures, we need to be prepared not to be good at it. We get better the more times we do whatever it is we want to do. The sad thing is to live our lives with regrets for something you really wanted to do and could have done, and you didn’t give it a shot.

Inertia is a powerful force. This is a good reason to find friends to do things with. My chances of going to Japan by myself to hike the Kumano are not impossible but highly improbable. I can count on myself to take a walk or a bike ride but for new or harder challenges, the company of others up our chances of following through.

Notes:

1:) A big thanks to Sonya for flying into Ottawa tomorrow so she can walk with me for 21.1 km on Sunday. And a big shout out to Yoshie and all my Japanese friends who will accompany my daughter and me on the Kumano in October. I can hardly wait for both of these events.

2:) Let’s sing while there is voice left. (do the things that are important for you to do while you still have the chance)

3:) The eight people walking the Kumano are in the banner photo. This beautiful photo was taken when they were here to hike the Rockies in 2019. The shoes belong to me and three cousins in Halifax, 2019 – my last 1/2 marathon.

4:) Thank you for reading my blog! I appreciate your encouraging words and your good company. A reminder to turn over every stone as we work to resolve the problems that come and go throughout our lives. And to take the time every day to notice the beautiful. All my best wishes, Trudy

 

 

 

 

Fresh Strawberries at Midnight 2024

May

I LOVE the month of May, anywhere I have ever been. May is the beginning of the blooming season in Ottawa, beginning with the Tulip Festival on Mother’s Day weekend.  Choir and Maypole Month in Austria, plus spectacular vineyards in full bloom.  And a continual onslaught of nature’s over-the-top palette in Vancouver and Victoria – to name a few.

And I must not forget Calgary and its surroundings. This is the place that reminds us that everything changes. During my wonderful time there, I experienced every kind of weather, from snow to blooms, from cold to hot, and the weather fazed no one. It is not the centrepiece of their day. What is consistent is that the spectacular mountains remain, and 100% of every person I know is wonderful! Why? I am either related to them, or they are associated with Wellspring. I am biased, but my bias is based on my personal and professional experience. It’s wonderful. :-))

Grateful

The truth is that I love my work, and I leave rejuvenated and refreshed because of all the wonderful Wellspring Members with whom I have the honour of being in their company. Also, the collective effervescence of what goes on in that community of dedicated people devoted to a common purpose. Plus, those twin great-granddaughters who recently turned nine months old and who are exceptionally adorable. :-))

Mothers Day

In the early morning hours of Mother’s Day, my plane touched down in Ottawa. I noticed how I bent the ear of my seatmate talking about all the qualities of my mother, none more critical than her gratitude and kindness. To my surprise, during the weekend retreat, a lovely participant (J) asked if I would tell the story of my mother and “Strawberries at Midnight.” As it turns out, this is a favourite story I wrote about my Mother, and she wanted the rest of our group to hear it. Coincidentally, the following Sunday was Mother’s Day, so I obliged.

It goes like this –

Aldous Huxley wrote the novel “Brave New World.” Toward the end of his life an interviewer asked: “Dr. Huxley, perhaps more than anyone else alive, you have studied the great spiritual traditions of the world. What have you learned?” Huxley replied, “I think we could just be a bit kinder.”

Fresh Strawberries at Midnight

It was June and it was strawberry season. It was also the season when I was finishing up Grade five and my new best friend, Peggy Jane was finishing grade six. We were having our first sleepover at my house and I was happy. Peggy and I were kindred spirits who explored the world through books, and imagination and here we were in my four poster bed surrounded by Vogue magazines that my New York aunt gave to my Mother each year at Christmas.

Mother considered my Aunt a little  frivolous to give this magazine as an annual gift to a housewife, in a small Nova Scotia town. I, on the other hand, loved it. My friend and I pored through the treasure trove of the back pages, reading every word about the boarding schools in Switzerland and France and other parts of Europe that sounded perfect for us. (side effects of being voracious readers)

As the clock inched close to midnight, the two of us laughed and talked about the schools we would choose, the books we loved, the diplomatic and literary careers we would one day have. We both felt the ease of kinship and simple joy that only two young enthusiastic girls can have.

Our contentment, however, was suddenly interrupted by the sound of my Mother’s footsteps on the stairs. Peggy Jane looked at me, concerned, assuming my Mother would be angry that we were still talking and laughing after midnight. To her surprise, my Mother knocked on the door, opened it, and presented us with a beautiful white tray laden with small sandwiches made from homemade bread and filled with lightly mashed strawberries that she had picked from the garden earlier in the evening.  There was a single rose in a crystal bowl on the tray, linen napkins and a glass of milk for each of us.

“I thought you girls might be getting hungry,” she announced and to my friend’s amazement, she placed the bed tray between us and went back downstairs.

I remember, still, how my heart was full of happiness and pride to have a Mother so kind. Years later  I met my friend who had a successful career and travelled far and wide throughout the world. She reminded me about that night and how it had become one of her most treasured memories and “the best example of kindness,” that she had experienced.

As for me, I felt happiness deep down in my bones as well as in my heart and fully knew in that moment that I had won the Mother lottery.

I am one of the lucky ones with a mother who lived to be 100 years, three months, and 13 days old.  This is amazing in and of itself, and I am deeply grateful.

Notes:

1:) The timing of the request stuck with me, and it gave me an excuse to post it here for you. Thank you, J.

2:) Many people are outstanding at mothering, although they may not have had children. We all know who they are. 

3:) A special thank you to the team at Wellspring Alberta for their generosity and kindness. And to our donors, You make all these programs possible for people impacted by cancer and their family and friends.

4:) Thanks to Rob for the flowers and the turtle.

5:) A big thank you to all for showing up here. I am beyond grateful that you stop by weekly to read my scribbles. Take care and all my best wishes, Trudy

 

A Very Short Greeting

Too Much to Write About

I have been in Alberta for 11 days and a few more to go before I return to Ottawa. It has been a whirlwind of joyful and meaningful moments with work, friends,  family and colleagues, Wellspring volunteers and members old and new. And the great honour of being able to facilitate these programs for people impacted by cancer.

Let me say that I am grateful from the top of my head to the tips of my toes for the kindnesses and generosity that greet me everywhere I go.To say that I am lovingly spoiled is an understatement.

But for tonight I will leave you with the mountains and the reminder that “We are born and we die, and in between we get the chance to keep each other company and that’s the thing that counts the most.” John Tarrant

PS – I spent my unexpected day off, today, visiting with friends and family. It was wonderful. Now I will say goodnight to you, and go do what I need to do. And I will be back next week with my wordy self.  :-))

First a tiny poem.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn,
a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter.
If your mind isn’t clouded by unnecessary things,
this is the best season of your life.
Wu-Men (1183-1260)

Notes:

1:) Tomorrow, May 9th, is my grandson Rowan’s 14th birthday. He and his Mom will begin  with a sunrise bike ride along the canal and through the tulip festival. Sounds beautiful to me.

2:) I have missed the early May birthdays and other celebrations of wonderful people I love. My greetings will come later and with just as much heart after I get home. 

3:) I know there are people reading this blog who are going through challenging times. Please accept my best wishes for what is best for you. I have been deeply inspired by the people I met on this trip and return to Ottawa humbled and in awe by our fellow humans. Take heart.

4:) Thank you for reading. Warmly, Trudy

 

We Teach Best What We Most Need to Know

Equanimity is on my mind.

It is amusing to me when my topic for a particular webinar program seems to coincide with an incident forcing me to practice my own advice. This is happening more frequently and it is a great reminder of easier said than done.

Take this past weekend.

I was booked to fly to Calgary via Toronto (that is another story) in order to have a few days with my twin great granddaughters and have a few days to adjust to the higher altitude and the time zone before I started work at my beloved Wellspring.  The plan was to be up at five, with a ride to the airport at 5:45 from my daughter.  But a text arrived  from the airline at 5:15.

Flight delay until 10:45.

I did a quick calculation and realized I would miss my connection from Toronto to Calgary. Did a little research and it looked like a second flight could get me there by late afternoon. Yay!

I went back to sleep and my “driver” came at the later time and dropped me off at the airport.

I lined up to get my new boarding pass for the Toronto leg only to discover that there would be no flight for me until the next day and not arriving until 5:30 PM

Derailed

Essentially this change derailed my beautifully planned weekend. Pick up by my grandson in Calgary, time with the babies, a lovely dinner, visit to my favourite Farmers Market with the whole family etc.And precious time with the twins and their parents.

Called my daughter and she came back. This was inconvenient and disappointing to say the least.

It just so happened that I had been talking about the importance of calm under stress and that very day I read an article by a favourite writer on – guess what – equanimity.

One of the best questions ever posed, in my experience, when we are studying personal and professional development was one posed in a program I attended –

“how does this apply to you?”

Well, that set me back on my heels. The question wasn’t “does this apply to you?” Rather, “how does this apply to you.”

The starting point of the article I had just read that morning went like this:

“Equanimity is said to be an anchor. It protects you against the wordly winds” – pleasure and pain, praise and blame, gain and loss, and fame and disrepute – by keeping you anchored so you’re not tossed about by those winds.” Daisy Hernandez

 I asked myself how does this event apply to me?

Will I spend the day sulking, feeling sorry for myself, wishing things were different or would I use my time to do something that I don’t often have time for? It was like a free day, all of a sudden. Unwelcome but still a precious day.

So I thought about what I have wanted to do for awhile and haven’t done and came up with a plan. Here is a sample of my first three hours.

I chose to begin, this is now mid morning, by going downtown to the market and having brunch at a lovely french bistro. And it was delicious and the best americano I had had in a long time. This small hidden bistro – beautiful atmosphere, eclectic patrons, interesting art and lighting, great service and delicious food, was filled within ten minutes of opening. I was the only solo in the room and I enjoyed every second of my surroundings.

Minto Bridges

Following this I took the time to walk across my favourite scenic three white bridges, (the Minto Bridges) that span the Rideau River, connecting two islands. I have driven across many times and walked on one but this time I did all three over and back with simple enjoyment.

Finally, back to the Byward Market where I visited a beautiful, luxurious, and old fashioned Paper Papier – stationary and pen shop – with a tiny, exquisite floral division, Fleurissant,”at the back. By the time I left with my small purchase I was at ease with myself. Disappointed still, but good.

Next day, back to the airport, five hour wait in Toronto, and arrived after six. A delicious dinner was underway and I had a short visit with my beloved family before the girls went to bed. So, the bottom line -it was a trial getting there and it was worth it.

Two things

1:) Travel is uncertain, much like weather. I now think it is best to lower my expectations for what travel means and be prepared to wait. When we have an uneventful flight consider it special.

2:) There is no point in shaking a stick at the clouds. We can line up, do what we need to do to get to where we are going and also have something to do while we wait. Write a letter to the airline if that helps but yelling at the agents is not helpful and unkind.

3:) Mindset – My sweet friend on the west coast will tell me that it sounds like I am bragging, which always makes me chuckle, because I am not. what I am doing is looking for ways to reduce unnecessary suffering, when things do not go according to plan. (there are many, right?) basically when our plans get ruined, we have that to deal with. Why waste our precious energy about how this shouldn’t be; it’s unfair, etc etc.

So what did I do with my five+- hours?

Card  making. I make photo cards for people who come to my programs and I needed more, so, I found a corner in “that” airport with a table and enjoyed myself. My cardstock, glue and photos were in my backpack and before I knew it, I was in the zone, enjoying myself.  Suddenly, it was time to board. Mind you, it took me two hours of wandering around to find this great spot but still…you get the picture. (pun intended)

Always remember there is no formula for getting through annoyances, grievances or tragedies. There isn’t always forward motion but how we approach things makes a difference. Not denial but full on acceptance of the trials and tribulations of life. Yet, always with the question, “what can I do now, with things as they are.”

Notes

1:) I am currently in the mountain town of Canmore, near Banff and there is snow on the ground. In this location it actually looks good. What is more, we arrived at my friends cabin and were greeted by five deer, one of them a fawn, and three relaxing under a tree in the front yard.

2:) Thank you for following this blog. I love your company and appreciate your encouraging words. I will still be in Alberta next week and will be in touch once again. Warm greetings and best wishes to all, Trudy

PS I don’t always manage this – equanimity- just letting you know how satisfying it is when I do manage.