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Jan 15, 2012

A Little Goes A Long Way

Regular blog readers - this post is a submission to the 2012 Do Life Challenge - Week 2.  Last week, in addition to continuing to focus on goals made at the beginning of January, was about paying good forward, and the inspiration received from that.  I thought I would share...

I had locked myself in my room again.

It was my third year of college.  I liked my friends, my classes were engaging, I was involved, contributing.  Life... should have been good.

Except... there was a lot I could not do.  I had to take the stairs one at a time, white-knuckling the rails lest my knees give out, resting on the landings.  Embarrassed to admit I was too weak to bound up the stairs like my nimble cohorts, I often pretended to be interested in the circa-1950s architecture of the stairwell itself.  I could not complete parts of my job at the college library as it required carrying the mail bin while walking - taxing two muscle groups at the same time was not something my body would allow.  I often was stopped by the security guard Carl while walking across campus towards nightfall - my habit of stopping at each tree and resting led him to believe I had been partying a little too hard... and I had to explain I didn't drink, but I didn't have the strength to make it to my room without resting.  More than once, when I arrived back at the dorm, I had to call upstairs to have someone escort me up the two flights... I'd already fallen too many times to count.  

I lived with a condition called Myasthenia Gravis.  While it didn't hurt, per se, it was unpredictable in its lapses of fatigue and, well, it did hurt.  It hurt to fall.  It hurt to worry that I was slowing others down.  It hurt to wonder if I'd make it from one building to the next without my legs crumpling beneath me.  It hurt to live on a very active campus - hear of people hiking, ice climbing, running, playing frisbee... and know I could not participate.  

[Even as I write this years later, I cringe to think of the dark hole that the thinking of the last paragraph lends itself to.  That is truly the descriptor of a Grade A Class 1 Pity Party - dark.  It's a spiral down of self-deprecating negativity that, if left alone, fuels itself.  Left alone it was not...]

A knock came at the door.  {Bah, who cares anyways?}  It was my friend Michael, who lived across the hall.  He called my name and asked me to open the door.  {What would opening the door do?  He can't comfort me... what could he possibly know about how I feel?}  I didn't make a sound.  He didn't give up.  He was headed to the rock climbing gym with some other friends and wondered if I wanted to come.  {Ha!  That's joke.  I can't climb the stairs, let alone rocks...}  I replied that I was fine... I'd stay home... thanks anyways... {Blah, blah, blah... some excuse, just make him go away so I can sit here listening to Coldplay wail loudly while I think more about why life is so hard for me and everyone else has their ducks swimmingly in a row.}  He didn't go away.  Stubborn boy.  "Laura, you're going with us, I promise it will be fun..."  {Alright, whatevs, I'll go to show you that this will end in failure, just like everything else physical I do...}

At Michael's stubborn request, I went rock climbing.  

That details of that night of climbing escape me now, but I do know that I made it a little of the way up the wall before I needed to come down.  That little meant a lot to me.  It was a little I didn't think I had in me.  It was a little applauded by Michael, who took time to point out to me that it was a little I could do.

And that little grew.  I climbed the whole wall.  I climbed routes.  

I walked.  

I walked more.  

I joined an MS Challenge Walk and walked 50 miles.  I completed a marathon in run/walk intervals.  I completed a half marathon.  I lost 35 pounds.

I still live with that condition.  I have put the 35 pounds back on.  Some days, I have trouble tying my shoelaces.  Sometimes I drop the weights at the gym.  When I'm tired, I snarl instead of smiling.

But the little bit that a friend went out of their way to encourage me to move a little, to believe in the little I could do... I think of that a lot.

And so, this week, as I progressed from 15 to 16 pushups, as I stared at the scale stubbornly stuck at the same spot despite my efforts, I thought of that little again.

I thought of it as I made a trip to a nursing home to visit someone whom I didn't really know much about, save they had an illness related to mine.  I thought of it as they were unavailable and I wondered if the trip would be for nought... and I thought of it as I left a flower and note.  Maybe a little bloom would bring a little sunshine and a little hope to her...

I thought of it as I smiled at strangers, held open doors, listened better... what could the little I could do catalyze?  Wonders, my friends... I may never know, but I trust it's good.

Oy... so much black and white - here's few shots from the gym this past week.  Doing what I can feels good, so good:

What little made your days better?

Jan 3, 2012

Smoots, Nuggets and the New Year


The "new year".

A phrase fraught with that hope that shines when slates of lives, days, minds are wiped clean... and that pressure of living up to the change the hope inspires.  A double-edged phrase - one that makes me giddily cringe... if that bodily/emotional movement is at all possible.

I read of someone calling their resolutions "re-inspirations"... I rather like that - resolve is admirable, but maybe easily broken.  Inspiration can ebb and flow... but not break.

On that note, I have been re-inspired by a playful challenge on this website.  The first month's challenge began Monday with a call to break re-inspirations or goals into quantifiable objectives.  Now that's what I'm talking about - this girl loves numbers, especially when it comes to tracking my own progress (and often, sadly, any digression I have as well).  The participants were to write down five of these objectives.  In the interest of sharing and accountability, here are mine:

uno) Zero Starbucks for this month.  Double huzzah for my wallet and waistline!
dos) Eat out only once a week.  Not that I make it a habit of eating these, but still - can I get a woot?
tres) Run four times a week.  Since my knee has been a bum lately and my fancy-dancy watch counts any movement my walks as "runs", this may have to be limited to loooooooong walks, and not the pounding-the-pavement variety I was imagining... Though if I measured in smoots, it would be impressive...
cuatro) Lose seven pounds by month-end.
cinco) Practice yoga from my book every weekday morning.

I am also to keep track of how many pushups (aka bane of my existence) I can do, and hopefully watch that number rocket to the moon.  Right now, I'm at 15.  For all of you getting ready to clap, that's on my knees.  Hard on myself?  You betcha.  Need to work on that?  Yes, please.

My own personal exercise goal began to form in the beginning of December.  Knowing that I work well actually finish things under some amount of pressure of deadlines, I decided I would like to complete one event each month of the year - whether it be running, walking, crawling (mud runs!), biking or snowshoeing - so long as I keep moving and cross that finish line.  I love the life metaphors the courses and challenges push me to, and the camaraderie that blooms in the environment of a shared goal.  Again, in the interest of sharing and accountability (and here's hoping you join me on some of these!), here's my list (some still up in the air):

January - 1/21 - Brave the Blizzard Snowshoe Race - Averill Park, NY
February - 2/4 - Polar Cap 4 Miler - Lake George, NY
               (or 2/4 - Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Fun Run)
March - 3/17 - Runnin' of the Green (Island) Race - Green Island, NY
April - 4/7 - Guilderland High School Rabbit Ramble - Guilderland Center, NY
May - 5/tbd - North Face Marathon Relay - Bear Mountain, NY
         (and, God willing, 5/28 - Bolder Boulder - Boulder, CO)
June - 6/23 - Centurion 25 Mile Ride - Lake George, NY
July - 7/21 - Schenectady YMCA 5k - Schenectady, NY
August - depending on convention dates...
             - 8/18 - Jailhouse Rock 5k - Ballston Spa, NY
             - 8/25 - Altamont 5k Run - Altamont, NY
September - 9/8 - Maple Leaf Half - Manchester, VT
October - 10/13 - ING Hartford Half (or 5k) - Hartford, CT
November - ?
December - ?

I'm up for suggestions too - if it's in the northeast and on a Saturday, I can swap it out for any of these except May's.

I was graciously reminded on the first of the year that I don't live in years, I live in moments that add up to days, that add up to months, then years.  I want to be careful to make healthy choices, in all aspects, in those moments - and to live the moments, live the questions as Rilke says, with an eye on the future rather than living in the future itself.

Best wishes for your new moments (: