Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 – Week Nineteen

As I write I am sitting in a patch of afternoon sun with the bay breeze blowing through the window. I should be working on my uni dissertation, and this it the plan for the rest of the evening, but first I need to reflect a little on the full and amazing week that I have had. Let’s not procrastinate, here is my Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 – Week Nineteen:

Monday: Today winter made its first bite felt here in Brisbane. I warmed up with a great 5 mile run this evening and when I got home Chris had made sure to turn the heating on so that the house was toasty warm. I am grateful that he is so thoughtful. After dinner I made chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream for Chris to take to work for his birthday. Also, after that run, I licked the bowl…

Tuesday: Today was Chris’s birthday! I am so grateful for this man and for living my life with someone who is funny, smart, and takes such great care of me. Happy birthday my darling. We celebrated with an easy dinner (Chris had KFC for his birthday treat) and watched ‘The Monuments Men’ – highly recommended. Thank you to everyone for the sweet birthday wishes, he was very touched.

chris birthday

Wednesday: Today I took a walk at lunch time and called my Mormor. I am grateful that I still have my grandmother here to talk to about everything. Sometimes people write off their elders as not understanding what they are going through forgetting that they have already lived that part of their life and might have some wisdom to offer. I am grateful to talk to my grandmother about life, men, relationships, food (we are the gluten intolerant ones in the family) and fashion (she was a seamstress and dressmaker in her youth).

Thursday: This afternoon I had a major headache and just felt blech. I know that’s not a word, but I think we all understand the feeling. I was grateful to come home, crawl into bed with Chris who took care of dinner and entertainment for us this evening. Also, I made cookies, and cookies make me feel better every time.

cookies

Friday: Today I wrote about some hard things. Like Ernest Hemingway said ‘write hard and clear about what hurts’. I’m grateful that I have this place to write about things that are on my mind. I am grateful to all of you who responded. I try to mainly talk about food and gratitude here, but if someone could read those words and know that the comparison game, the constant striving to measure up to all those huge expectations of yourself, is not always the kindest thing you can do for yourself. I’m not saying that we should give up and accept our lot, rather, I am saying that if you focus on making your little corner of the world better, then you are creating something great for the people around you and inspiring others to do the same.

Pasta

Saturday: Today we celebrated Chris’s birthday! I went for a huge walk in the morning because I knew there was an awesome ice cream cake coming (even if I do say so myself…). Chris and I cleaned and rearranged the house and in the evening we were joined by some great friends to celebrate through the night. I am grateful that people came to celebrate with Chris and we had a great time. P.S. Our friends James and Nick made the most awesome Nutella ice cream…I’m going to copycat that as soon as possible!

the sky

Sunday: This morning we celebrated Mother’s Day! Mum, Dad, Mormor, Aunty Lone, Uncle Paul, Grace and Grandad Gil and I gathered for breakfast on the water. It was a wonderful morning. I am so grateful for my Mum. I have gone through some big changes in the past few years, some devastating moments, and so many wonderful things and I know that without Mum I wouldn’t have survived the bad and thrived and celebrated the good. My Mum is a woman who was born to be a mother. She is strong, sweet, kind, firm, funny, and adventurous. She has read more books than I think I will ever manage in my life. She has the best taste in action movies. She is my couch companion for Miss Marple, Poirot, and Sherlock Holmes (Jeremy Brett please) binges. If I am half the woman, half the mother, that she is when I finally ‘grow up’ then I will be happy indeed. Love you Mum and thank you for everything you have done for Jess and I throughout the years.

Mama and Me

Also this week:

  • I made Chris this chicken from Iowa Girl Eats and he loved it. This will definitely reappear on our dinner menu
  • We celebrated Chris’s birthday!
  • I made pancakes, you should make them too
  • I made cookies, you should make them as well, and share them with the ones you love

Tell me, dear readers, what are you grateful for this week? How did you celebrate with your Mum?

Gratitude List 2014 – Week Six

Week Six of 2014 was very quiet, restful and full of healing. Sometimes the best way to heal yourself is to just let Mother Nature stay her course towards knitting you back together and making you whole again. I was lucky that I could take this time to let myself heal again, and that I was surrounded and supported by my family, friends, and co-workers in making sure I am feeling my best. I am so grateful to my extended family and friends who called and messages from far and wide to see that I was getting back on my feet. Thank you.
My Nourished Life Gratitude List 2014 Week Six:

Monday: I was grateful today for my lovely co-workers who sent me the most beautiful box of brilliant purple orchids. They brightened up my view from the lounge.

Flowers from my lovely workmates.

Flowers from my lovely workmates.

Tuesday: Mum was home with me today and I was grateful that I was feeling well enough to go for a walk this afternoon. It might have been a little too soon, but it sure felt good at the time. Also grateful that Mum let me lick the frosting bowl while she created some gorgeous cakes for birthdays at her work tomorrow.

Wednesday: I was grateful for plenty of book podcasts to listen to today. More books to add to my reading list! (Chris just started frowning, I can feel it…)

My constant companion this week.

My constant companion this week.

Thursday: Today I was grateful to do some baking. Just a simple chocolate cake but it feels good to be back in the kitchen, creating, and I am looking forward to sharing recipes again here soon. So many ideas while lying on the couch – now that I finally have some energy and my appetite back, watch out! I was also grateful that Chris and Jess came to dinner.

Stormy skies and flowers.

Stormy skies and flowers.

Friday: Accompanied by some chocolates from my workmates (I’m a lucky girl) I devoured ‘Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop of Dreams’ by Jenny Colgan. I was grateful to open the book and fall in love with every character.

Saturday: After last week’s (ahem) interruption Mum and I made a return to the farmers markets. I was grateful to buy lots of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables for Chris and I to cook up this week, and grateful to spend time with my Mama as well. Chris and I had a fantastic night eating delicious food (herbed mashed potato and mushrooms with salmon for him) and watching terrible action movies.

Sunday: This morning started with a long walk down by the bay and now I am happily ensconced in front of the TV watching the ice dancing and resting up before I return to work tomorrow. Grateful for the chance for some writing time too.

Walking by the harbour.

Walking by the harbour.

Today is also my parent’s 34th wedding anniversary. Happy Anniversary to my amazing Mum and Dad. Your relationship is an inspiration to both Jess and myself. You have taught us that working together with the one you love to create a life and to seek adventures close to home and far away, are the qualities of a life well lived.

Tell me dear reader, what are you grateful for this week?<

Gratitude List Week Five

Well, this week took an interesting turn. And even though I could have (and did) spend a little time feeling sorry for myself, most of the time I was overcome with gratitude at all different angles. I think sometimes life throws these challenges at you to see how you handle yourself, which path you wander down – acceptance, humour and good grace; or, fighting the flow, bitterness, and anger. I would like to think I chose the former path. I believe that there really is nothing I could do. My situation was already decided. There was no point in fighting what was going to happen; rather, I just had to sit back and observe the ride, be thankful for the love of all those around me, and grateful that the medical staff were competent, quick, and caring. Today I am resting comfortably at home (thanks to a combination of caring from my family, and painkillers) and taking the opportunity to find out what will nourish me back to good health. I have taken some short, slow walks to keep my blood going; I am eating healthy food (with a sprinkling of sugar of course); and relaxing and reflecting on all that I have been grateful for this week. Here I present my Nourished Life Gratitude List Week Five.

Monday: Grateful for a public holiday so that I could share some time at home with my family and make delicious sweet potato and wild rice cakes for dinner. (Recipe to come very soon.) Oh, and eat one of these for dessert.

Tuesday: My whole run this morning was wonderful! My speed was perfect, the music selection was right on, and then when I got to work I had a wonderful refuelling breakfast. Tonight I got to come home to Chris and we spent some time together doing chores on the car – when you really love someone it doesn’t matter what you are doing together, as long as you are together. Grateful that I have a love like that.

Wednesday: The sky was painted dark this morning so I went to the gym for my run. I have been feeling stronger and stronger the past few weeks and I am grateful that my body is so strong. All day long I dreamt about Balsamic-Glazed Onion Tacos and tonight that dream came true. I was grateful for a wonderful evening of taco eating and Colbert Report watching with my darling Chris. Keep an eye out for the recipe this week.

20140131-090806.jpg

Thursday: I’m sure there’s a saying about bad news coming early in the morning. At 4.30am this morning I woke up with abdominal pain. I am so grateful to Chris who insisted on taking me to the emergency department. Chris stayed with me while they poked and prodded and tested me. I don’t know how I can express how grateful I am that Chris remained calm under pressure and was completely in charge of the situation while I was unable to care for myself. When we finally found out my gallbladder was the issue we relaxed a little. While Chris went home to get something to eat and take a shower, Casey came and sat with me. I was grateful that she was there when the surgeon came to see me because she knew the right medical questions to ask, and she let me sniff her chips and gravy because I wasn’t allowed to eat anything. I am also grateful for the excellent medical care I received during my stay at Sunnybank Private Hospital. I was in surgery by 3.00pm that same afternoon and grateful that Chris, Mum, and Casey were all there to kiss me goodnight before I fell into peaceful post-operative sleep. I was also grateful to my school friend Michelle who works at the hospital and made sure to come and see me before she went home.

Sexy and I know it.

Sexy and I know it.

Friday: Apparently my body clock doesn’t switch off even for hospital stays. Up at 5.30am I was grateful that Chris had brought my iPad down to me so that I could do some reading. Mum arrived at 10am and stayed the whole day to keep me company. I was grateful for our little walks around the ward and cups of green tea. In the afternoon Caroline arrived to visit me and then Chris turned up as well. Grateful that I have such amazing friends and loved ones who gathered around me so fiercely with love that I didn’t feel much pain at all. Then I got to go home! Grateful to see my Dad again, and Jess, and yes, Miss Molly too!

Mama at ER

Saturday: Today I was grateful to be at home again. Mum and I shared breakfast and then after a rest (apparently just showering takes a big effort) I managed a turn about the block – thanks to my walking partners during the day I managed a whole 1.8km! I was grateful for Jess popping over to see me in the afternoon, and then Chris came for dinner! We played Scrabble and went for moonlit walk and then he stayed until I fell into sweet dreams. So grateful for this man who takes such good care of me and is always precisely what I need.

Sunday: I went for walk this morning! I ambled down to the park to meet Mum and Dad and Molly and then we ambled back home. It’s frustrating to realise that it will take me time to get back to the peaks I was reaching in the past few weeks, but at the same time I know that it is fundamentally important that I listen to my body and the surgeon and take it very slowly getting back on course. I am grateful that I am so young and healthy and that this is just a temporary obstacle. Soon I will be back in the game, but for now it’s about gently nourishing myself back to full health.

Where I live

Where I live

This week is going to be quiet (hopefully) and full of rest and recovery. I am hoping to get back to work sometime later this week, and I will be keeping you all updated with my progress back into running again! Have a thoroughly nourished week everyone.

Tell me, dear reader, what are you grateful for this week? Any times when you have just had to let go and trust in the process and have faith that it will all work out?

Nourished Body: The Weight of All Things

Please note: the article below contains my thoughts, and details my own personal journey. This should not substitute for medical or health care professional advice. Also, this is long. Make a cup of tea and bear with me.

My sister does not own a pair of bathroom scales. She doesn’t want a pair in the house.

I have a pair of bathroom scales. They have been with me like an old friend for a very long time; though now, they lie neglected beneath my bathroom cabinet and only make an appearance once a week. Gone are the days when I would weigh myself every morning, obsessively, and sometimes again throughout the day as well. I don’t know when I felt the shift from focusing on that number, to focusing on other cues to tell me if I am maintaining my weight. After a long journey of weight loss, weight gain, and weight loss again, I have come to a place where I am comfortable with my body. I am happy with the way it moves through the world, and the space it occupies. I am a healthy weight for a person of my age and stature, and just as importantly: I am at a healthy weight for my mind.

DSC00088

I was listening to Jillian Michaels on the way to work this morning and she had a caller ask her ‘when do you know you are at a healthy weight, and you should switch to focusing on maintaining your weight?’

I was intrigued, after all the focus there is on BMI and waist measurement, what Jillian would say in reply to this. I really liked her answer. She congratulated the woman on her progress so far, and then told her that the healthy weight was the one at which her blood test results showed that her cholesterol and other blood measures were healthy, and when her blood pressure was in a healthy range. Essentially, when her physiology read like that of a healthy person, rather than a number on the scale. Jillian then went on to imply that sometimes a weight range could be helpful when you are setting weight loss and maintenance goals, but that eventually your body will reach a steady state at the weight it prefers to sit at. Health practitioners call this ‘set-point theory’.

When you are eating a healthy and balanced diet and exercising regularly at an appropriate level your body will rest naturally within a certain weight range – this is different for everyone and even different for people of the same height (check out this great article). The science behind ‘set-point theory’ postulates that adults can maintain their body weight over long periods of time due to an internal feedback mechanism that is complex and multifactoral.

DSC00844

My body has reached that point. It is most comfortable within about a  two to three kilogram range. I can starve myself and exercise like a crazy woman and get to the lower end of the range or below it, but I am only faced with the rebound of feeling tired and low in energy – and hungry – which are all signals that my body needs to re-calibrate, rest, and re-nourish itself and it returns to that range again. I can stuff myself full of food and not exercise enough and I reach the higher end of the range, which has the same result as going too low. At both ends of the spectrum there are signals that I need to pay a little more attention to how I am treating my body. How I am nourishing myself with food, exercise, and a healthy attitude to both.

When I was working as a health professional I did use numbers to guide my patients, but instead of just being driven by two points on a BMI chart I encouraged them to set small weight loss goals to bring them down gradually into the healthy range. When they found a weight within that ‘healthy range’ that they could maintain through moderation of diet and exercise, a point where their body naturally stopped losing, that this was what they should aim to maintain.

Numbers about weight are easy to find: BMI, BMR, RMR, MRH, waist measurement, body frame measurement, body fat percentage – the list is endless. The problem with numbers is that there is no ideal exact number for everyone. Take my little sister and I as an example. I am only a tiny bit taller than she is, but my healthy, natural weight, is ten kilograms more than her healthy, natural weight.

photo (21)

The easy and horrendous trap that exists is in the comparison we make between ourselves and others when it comes to body shape and weight. Celebrities are splashed across magazine front pages with their weights emblazoned beneath them, or speculation on how much they have gained or lost, and by just typing ‘(celebrity name)’s weight’ into Google you can compare your weight to the rich and famous.

How is any of that helpful to maintaining a healthy attitude about your body? The answer is simple: none of it is helpful.

My advice, as someone who has learned not to be number-obsessed?

  • Focus on internal feedback from your body – energy levels, how you feel after a meal, sleep patterns – listen to your body.
  • Remember that worth is not measured in pounds or kilograms. If you don’t believe me, read the obituary pages of the newspaper – see the measure of a life.
  • Look at your lifestyle as a whole, rather than reducing your whole outlook down to the dimples of cellulite on your thighs – look around you for ways to see the bigger picture of your life and the way you are living – are there ways that you can change your habits for the better?
  • Forget your scale for a month. Live in your body. Eat moderately, exercise moderately every day, smile at your reflection when you walk past the mirror. Pay attention to how you feel in your own skin. At the end of the month, you may be surprised that you are the same weight that you started at.
  • Learn what eating and exercise habits work the best for you and your circumstances. No one is the same.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Tell me dear reader, do you watch the numbers carefully? How do you keep sane in a numbers obsessed world? 

Midweek Mantra: Patience

I am so often in a rush to reach the next stage of my life, to achieve the next goal, to summit the next mountain, and this only leads to anxiety and stress. I need to learn to be patient, practice gratitude, and have faith that I will become what I know I am in good time.

R U OK Day?

Do you mind if we have some real talk today? Some ‘what’s going in your head today?’ talk.

Today, September 12, is R U OK? Day. The R U OK? Foundation was established to help encourage real conversations between family and friends about mental health. Countless times per day we answer the question ‘How are you?’, but does anyone really give an authentic answer, and similarly, do any of us asking the question really listen after we have asked the question?

Today I have a question for all of my wonderful readers, but first let me tell you a little story.

I have spoken before about my own struggles with mild depression and anxiety, and how much of this battle of the mind played out in the theatre of my body. I have mistreated myself and eventually found my way back to true nourishment and a healthy relationship between body and mind. I’m not perfect but I’m learning and moving forward every day.

If, today someone asked me R U OK? I would genuinely have to answer ‘Yes’. ‘Yes…but’. Yes, but for some reason I am so happy in my life that I am unhappy. I am happy that after a tumultuous start to the year with so many worries about my job and future my working life seems to be back on track and I am making long term plans for my career and where I want to be in ten years time. I am happy that I have great relationships with my family members and even though I was afraid that I would lose the special connection I have with my sister we seem to have worked out a new more adult relationship and lost none of the closeness.

I am so happy that I am surrounded by passionate amazing men and women that I am fortunate enough to call my friends, and even though sometimes I am not the best person to stay in contact with, when we do spend time together it is diamond-grade quality.

And every single day I am so happy because I get to see the face of the man I love. I am so happy that I have found the one who is twin and mirror of myself. Someone who shares my love of science and satire and mostly melted chocolate ice cream spooned out of the container for a Wednesday midnight snack. Someone who sweetly puts on my favourite shows and tucks me up into bed on the days when I am not feeling quite right. Chris makes me so happy.

post race snuggles

And I am so unhappy because I am afraid of the time when I am no longer happy. I am afraid that somehow I am going to upset this beautiful life and the house of cards is going to tumble down, shattering and burning and breaking on the way. I am afraid that I will do something wrong, upset someone, neglect someone, damage someone, and take away their happiness and my own. I just want to create a better corner of the world, make everyday count for the ones I love, and show gratitude for the blessings I have been given.

Have you ever been that happy that you question the infinite nature of our capacity for joy? Can a human heart be this happy forever? Do I deserve to be this happy and let go of the moorings of worry and panic and just float out into the big blue warm sea of happiness and gratitude and a life nourished in so many ways?

On this R U OK? Day I am making a vow to myself, and to all the blessings in my life that give me happiness. I don’t want to be worried about being so happy. I don’t want to be emotionally draining on those around me because I live on a teetering scale of truly happy to worried-about-being-so-happy. So, my vow today is to cast off the lines of worry, and just live in this moment of happiness. My vow is to recapture the joie de vivre of being present in this moment, in this time. I can’t help what may happen tomorrow – good or bad. But I can choose to make this moment, this day, the happiest that I can. I am okay. I am more than okay. I am happy and blessed and ready for this moment and the next.

My question to you readers is R U OK? Really? Have you asked those around you today? Have you truly listened?

The Truth about Thoroughly Nourished Beauty

Yesterday I forgot my make-up. I was halfway to work when I realised that I hadn’t put a single thing on my face that morning but some very simple vitamin e cream to soothe my winter-running chapped cheeks. I felt naked. I felt exposed. I am not ashamed to admit that I even pulled into two separate service stations/ convenience stores on my way to work just to try and find some mascara.

Let me pause for a moment here to establish the baseline for this beauty-centric story.

I do not usually wear much make-up, in fact, my definition of my “work face” is just mascara and some translucent powder – see not much. I have gone days without brushing my hair, and the only regular beauty regime that I stick to is ensuring I wash my face every night and apply vitamin e cream. No fancy jars of things to plaster on my face; I don’t own concealer or blush or even foundation. My little sister still has to apply my eyeliner for me when I put on my “fancy face” (otherwise known as date face, wedding face, girl’s night out face…you get the picture).

So I was disturbed when I found myself sitting at my computer yesterday morning with a low level of panic racing in my chest because of the absence of my barely-noticeable beauty routine.

How had I become a woman who worries about having make-up on before she goes to work? Where did this deep-seated need to apply artificial colours to my face come from?

The Toilet of Venus ('The Rokeby Venus') 1647-51, Diego Velázquez. The National Gallery, UK

The Toilet of Venus (‘The Rokeby Venus’)
1647-51, Diego Velázquez. The National Gallery, UK

I don’t think that I can place all the blame on society. I gave up buying and subscribing to fashion magazines over a year ago. I threw out all the old issues that had lined my shelves and the cut-outs that had at one stage been my ‘thinspiration’ when I was trapped deep within the web of an unhealthy relationship with my body and food. But still, how can we deny the evidence that everyday woman (and men too) are bombarded with advertisements, magazines, ‘current affairs’ shows, and packaging that tells us if we only bought the product, followed the diet, paid money to someone to inject plastic or neurotoxins (looking at you Botox) into our faces/butts/who-knows-where, then we too could be beautiful and happy. Notice that the beautiful always comes before the happy.

Why on earth should beautiful come before happy? Beautiful people are not always happy; in fact, some of the most beautiful people on earth are the most miserable in their hearts. Happy people however, are nearly always beautiful. Why should we not work on happiness, inner beauty, the worth of our soul and connection to other people before we start worrying about how the veneer looks? Buildings are not constructed facade first. Foundations are laid. Deep pools of cement reinforced with steel are poured into the earth, strong struts of steel and stone and wood climb high into the sky laced with crossbeams and girders that share the weight and the pressure.

Woman Plaiting Her HairPablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). MoMa Collection

Woman Plaiting Her HairPablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973). MoMa Collection

We should build ourselves in this way. This is the true beauty secret: thoroughly nourished beauty. Pour your soul deep into the loving earth. Connect with the very heart of yourself. Be strong in the love you have for your own person before you start reaching for the sky. Join hands and hearts and lives with the people around you. They will keep you strong when the winds howl and the earth shakes and your very foundations are in peril. They are the ones who will see the beauty in how strongly you are attached to life, how caring you are to other people, and this is the beauty that shows on your face, on your heart. The beauty that never fades despite line and times and forgotten mascara.

This is the beauty that makes your beloved turn to you in the morning and tell you how gorgeous you are even when you have bed hair and your glasses on and are wearing nothing more than a smile. This is the beauty that is a platinum patina on your heart. This is the beauty that is shared between people, not the beauty that separates based on aesthetics. There is no foundation in the world that can mask the scars of an ugly heart. No lip-plumping gloss that will make up for unkind words and disrespect of another’s viewpoint. No implant for a soul that never learned to love and accept and hope and seek and dare and fail and try all over again.

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) John Singer Sargent  (American, Florence 1856–1925 London) Metropolitan Museum of Art

Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau)
John Singer Sargent (American, Florence 1856–1925 London)
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Let this be our new beauty regime, our new beauty secret, or our aesthetic philosophy, whatever you wish to call it: beauty starts within. Learn to be happy. Learn to give to others. Learn to forget what your face looks like and worry about the shape of your heart. Learn to nourish yourself and others: heart, mind, body, and soul. Learn to put happy before beautiful and apply liberally every day.

Running: Past, Present, Future

On Sunday I will be running my third half marathon. This will be my second outing at the Gold Coast Half Marathon, and as I sit through the final days of training and tapering and preparing for a 3am start on Sunday morning I have cause to sit and think about my running journey thus far.

As a child I am sure I ran free. I remember summer afternoons when I would come inside breathless, sweaty and grass-stained after a day spent out in the sun running around our backyard. When I grew older I was a more sedentary child. Less interested in play, more interested in reading and thinking, unsure of my peers and a little more comfortable with those older than me. As a teenager I was plump and uncomfortable with my body; this followed me through university and I fought demons in my head with a head first plummet into food. It was while I was at university though that I first became interested in running, I ran my first 5k while I was at uni and I fell in love with the sport. By running and righting my relationship with food I shaped my body and learned how it liked to be treated; I learned how to nourish myself physically and emotionally with a healthy diet and plenty of movement. My body metamorphosed from something I regarded with contempt, something I felt the need to control and punish, into my way of moving through the world, a vessel for acts of love and kindness, a wonderful playground that needed to be shown care and attention so it could run and jump and twirl.

At the invitation of a dear friend I joined a running group, and although I was the slowest of the gaggle (my running partner was a 70 year old man) I felt like I had found a tribe that I could belong to. Even though I prefer a solo run I enjoyed those early Saturday mornings and I thank those runners for pushing me to go further, and believe that I could achieve my running goals. I wasn’t the fat kid in Phys Ed class any more.

Dawn on the streets of Rome

Dawn on the streets of Rome

I have taken running with me everywhere I have gone. My sneakers are the first item I pack whenever I pull out my suitcase. I have run through the quiet streets of Rome as the sun rose over the spires of the churches, scrambled over rocks and dirt scurrying up the sides of canyons in Los Angeles and Santa Monica, paced myself along the waterline on a hot summer morning on Christmas holidays at the beach, and watched all ‘the beautiful people’ while jogging in gyms in Las Vegas. Running is the sport that doesn’t require anything of you but a pair of shoes and a surface hospitable to humans.

I ran my first half marathon in 2011: my first outing at the Gold Coast. At the finish line my Mama burst into tears and I clutched her with my salty arms and cried a little too. I could feel that I had left something of my old self behind and gained something precious. Those first 21.1 kilometres were my coming of age tribute. I ran every step for me. For the old me who had changed so much, and for the Amy who had been born on the road.

At the start of my first half marathon in 2011

At the start of my first half marathon in 2011

Last year I took a year off from training as my study load was high. My sister and I ran a few shorter races, including one of my favourites: the Mother’s Day Classic. Every step I shared with Jess was wonderful. We distracted each other by talking about inane things, and I would coax her up the dreaded hills by chanting dirty rhymes at the top of my longs only stopping when she reached me. Together we conquered mountains. Thank you little one.

Earlier this year Mama and I shared a grand adventure and flew down to Hobart so I could run the Cadbury Half Marathon. I learned my lessons from that road too – more hill work is definitely needed in my training programs. Still, that was a race I felt very prepared for, I had the longest training run I had ever done and I felt strong and sure. The day was beautiful, the event was wonderful, and refuelling with handmade fudge from the local sweetshop was divine reward.

At the finish: smiley, salty, satisfied.

At the finish: smiley, salty, satisfied.

When I returned from Tasmania my body broke down on me a little. The iron in my body was barely detectable (no wonder those magnets kept falling off…), my thyroid was chucking a tantrum, and my lungs had welcomed back their old friend asthma. So off to the doctor it was, every week for the next three months. Now, please, this is not a pity party. I realise that all of these things are fairly fixable, certainly survivable, and definitely curable – they were just a pain in the behind (quite literally in the case of my iron injections) and they all affected my running. Then, two weeks ago I did something silly and injured myself. I am so thankful that my knees were not completely mashed just pummelled rather unpleasantly.

life begins

On Sunday when I line up at the start I will be at the back of the pack. This race is not about beating my finishing time, or seeing how fast I can fly over the course reeling other runners in and being queen of the overtake. This race is about proving to myself that I can sit in that uncomfortable place and reach deep within myself for the strength to make it through. This race is about fighting to achieve my goals, about proving to myself that no matter what curve balls life throws at me I can make it.

This race is about remembering that I am built for life. There is no day but today. Today to hunt it down. Today to make the road my own. To run my life. There will come a day when I won’t be able to run. Today is not that day.

When I cross that line on Sunday I will have left every part of myself behind. I will see my soul broken down into a million little jagged pieces and rebuilt again. I will run, walk, or crawl across that final hurdle and be in love and wonder with what my body is capable of. Then, I will set about replenishing, re-nourishing, re-training. But first, I will eat ice cream.

Tell me dear reader, are you a runner? What does it mean to you?

What does your finishing line look like, racing, or in life? What pushes you to achieve, drives you through the pain?

Nourished Life Gratitude List Weeks Thirteen and Fourteen

This cold winter weather is making indoor pursuits much more appealing than stepping outside. I am very lucky to have a huge stack of books beside my bed to keep me company and the space to do some sweaty workouts inside in training for the Gold Coast Half Marathon (only two weeks now – eek!). I have also been grateful for visits to old friends and time with my family to bring warmth to all the corners of my life. Given my accident only two weeks out from the race I am super grateful that my parents bought a stationary bike a few weeks ago. What a life saver that has been. No exercise = cranky Amy.

IMG_5584

Week Thirteen

Monday: Wonderful 10km run while listening to some of my favourite BBC podcasts: A Good Read, and, Open Book.

Tuesday: Mum had some errands to run this morning so I cooked us a proper ladies lunch – artichoke, potato, and onion frittata with a spinach salad – and we spent our lunchtime in pleasant conversation.

Wednesday: Such a great day at my internship and then the opportunity to talk to a great writer (Katherine Howell!) about murder and mayhem.

Thursday: Feeling a little sore and sorry for myself today after my fall on Wednesday and I was so grateful that Chris came and acted as chauffeur and drove me to deliver my last assignment for the semester. Trained on the bike while watching movies.

Friday: I caught up with some friends I haven’t seen in a very long time. As well as a wonderful cup of coffee (thanks Stacey) and a new running group to try I got some awesome ideas for the blog. Watch this space!

Saturday: Golden day. Wonderful morning at the markets with Mum and Jess, a great cake-making project to light my creative fires, and a delicious dinner made by my talented little sister: Gnocchi ai quattro formaggi (four cheese gnocchi) and a chocolate cheesecake with ice cream and butterscotch sauce.

Sunday: Late sleep-in and an impromptu date to see World War Z with my darling Chris. It was such a wonderful day that I’ll even forgive him for laughing at my cowering behind my hands during some of the scarier scenes.

IMG_5585

Week Fourteen

Monday: Beautiful walk outside with a few jogging intervals. So grateful that my knee feels like it is back on track.

Tuesday: First run since last week. 11km completed very slowly, but I made it. Then I had pasta for dinner as a reward. So happy to see Chris’s mum and grandma. Lovely family dinner.

Wednesday: Internship day. Exciting author chat (Kate Forsyth!) and then one of the best evenings ever with my sweet boyfriend.

Thursday: Another run completed today. Total of 12km. Slow again but I’m back! Then had a wonderful time messing about in the kitchen making mocha cupcakes with coffee buttercream for Chris to take to work. Love having more sweet tooth people to feed.

Friday: Great 10km walk around Manly and Wynnum. The harbour is so beautiful in the morning light. Then I got to catch up with one of my close friends. Thanks for the coffee Jenny!

Saturday: Peaceful but busy day with my darling Casey – I’ve missed you! Then groceries, writing, and watching truly terrible action movies with Mum and Dad.

Sunday: Picking up my race number today for next week’s half marathon! Grateful to be back and have the opportunity to run this life.

So, dear readers, what are you most grateful for this fortnight? Anyone else got a race coming up?

Falling

Today I fell.

The earth tipped underneath me and gravity sucked me down. Skin torn, bones rattled, muscles mashed, and pride wounded I limped away from the experience and willed myself not to cry or lose my lunch in front of the crowd that gathered. My stomach roiled and my knees ached but I made it to the car without falling again.

I had stepped out for a pace run at the gym, and the gentleman who hopped off the treadmill before me had not ensured it had come to a full stop before he got off. I foolishly did not stop to look and see whether the treadmill was safe to step onto. And down I went.

I got home with mascara-stained cheeks. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried in the car. I sniffled through the house. Shame. Embarrassment. Fear. Pain.

This fall seemed the culmination of a series of painful reminders recently that I am human. The pain in my knees was sharp and an echo to the dull ache that has throbbed inside my heart lately. I took the loss of my job so personally that the wound is only just festering to the surface. I feel the trepidation of life after graduation approaching. I can feel the limitations of my body when I run at the moment. I feel like I am constantly falling.

I count my blessings daily, and I am so happy for all the wonderful people I have in my life, but sometimes I fall.

Then I remember.

Falling

We fall, hit the ground, find the bottom of our experience so that we know how to fight to stand again, how to reach for higher ground, and scrabble and claw at the rocks until we mount the summit again.

We fall so that we know how much those highs mean to us. How much we would sacrifice, how hard we will push ourselves, to make it to the top once more.

And after we fall, after we feel that cavern floor and spit out the dust, we rise. We spread tentative wings and pray for a gentle breeze to lift us. Then we find the thermal, we beat our wings feeling strength course through us, and once again we soar. Perhaps a little battle-scarred and certainly wiser, but we shall always rise again.

We must fall in life so that we can learn to pick ourselves up.

I have fallen. Now I rise. Rise and run again.

Tell me dear reader, what have you learned from your falls? How do you pick yourself up?