Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Stuff and Memories

My mother died almost five years ago, and when that happened my sisters spent a weekend sorting through the house and sending me a Pod full of stuff. Well, no, a lot more happened of course. My sisters and I buried my mother, and we grieved and fought and made up again and grieved some more... but one big thing that also happened was that this Pod landed in my driveway.

Image result for moving pods

It was full: antique furniture; bedding; medical equipment; books. Lots and lots of books. Kitchen stuff; art; stuff from Botswana; more books; some clothes; knick knacks. Every single one of those things - every book, and piece of art, and small tea strainer, was a vessel full of memory. Some of the stuff was ugly and old and had no sentimental value for me. Other things were part of my life since I could remember. An old carved stool that someone in Uganda had carved for my parents back in the Colonial times when I was tiny: they brought it to Calgary and I remember how comfy my feet felt fitting so snugly on to the seat of the stool.

We got rid of some of the stuff and filled our house with most of it. I put some of the stuff in my cafe. 

There's a thing going around these days about the "spark". Pick something up, if you feel the spark you keep it, if not you chuck it. Nah, not for me. I love to keep stuff, especially if it is the stuff of memories. 

What is the stuff of memories? 

I love to remember different times in my life by using my senses to bring me back. The taste of a papaya brings me back to Uganda when I was tiny. My mother's purple cardigan gives me comfort. Her paintings give me joy. Her art journal gives me sadness.

When I'm running, I listen to music. If I hear a certain song in a different context, I am drawn back to that bend at 16 k when the song played during my first half marathon. My medals remind me of each race - the triumphs and the struggles. All of my books give me memories; my clothes are all from here and there and usually connected to a good friend or a sister or someone who gave me a gift.

Part of life is enjoying the process of making memories. Take a look around you, right now, as you read, and remember this moment.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Gold Medals

I ran my first race in 2015, a half marathon, with my sister and her husband. I had started running two years before, but I've always been someone who uses my body to do hard things.

Tomorrow I'm running the Hypothermic Half in Oka, Quebec. Last year the race was in Montreal, at a nice flat loop on one of the islands. This year they moved it - after I'd already registered! And the new place is more challenging. Hills, trails, and the weather this year is definitely something to be reckoned with.

It's in the middle of my marathon training schedule and I am longing for clear sidewalks, or sunny trails, and less layers. But life is what it is, and I'll be wearing layers tomorrow, and cleats, and my lucky hanky will probably freeze.

But I'll wake up and have my regular race breakfast - a caffe latte and a bowl of oatmeal... and good to go!

Why do I run? Because I can. Because it's something I can do on my own. Because it reminds me of when I was younger and I'd hike in the mountains, accompanied only by me, myself and I. Because it gives me time to think. Because it's fun!

And the medals? They're an extra little bit of memorabilia that I can look at after my race.

At my cafe, we had a tough little time back in the fall, when we were in the middle of a big concept change, and our workload shifted big time, and I was always tired, and .... one thing led to another and I ended up getting a 2 star review! It was a shock to be publicly dissed, but also a shock to see how much I cared about what is essentially bullshit.

So we made a few changes, and now our cafe is working well, as well as it can and as well as we can, which is to say that we are more often crowded than not.. and I have decided that going after the stars or the gold medals, or the flattering comments, is a rabbit hole down which I don't really want to go.

Because, after all, it is YOU who decides whether you have succeeded or not. Our culture is full of advice about how to be the best, but none of it means anything in the end because you're the only one who can truly and effectively be you. Which is maybe why I love running, because I'm only racing against myself, and because essentially we all are.

So, remember, next time your buddy posts a picture of her amazing family, or someone calls you a bad name in public (read: on the internet), or your kid doesn't do well on a test, remember that comparing isn't worth it. Are you doing the best you can? Are you getting help if you can't? five stars for effort, and that's all any of us deserve!