We Are All Brave

My bike on the rail trail.

My bike on the rail trail.

Up by my cabin there is a long and wonderful rail trail. It is completely paved, more or less flat, and perfect for biking. I’m still a biking newbie so trails like these are great for me. Since I don’t yet know my limits, I would set an alarm on my armband for 30 minutes or so and head out to see what happened. I was testing questions like, “Can I ride for an hour?” (yes.) “How many miles can I ride in an hour?” (Eleven.) “Where are the ice cream shops?” (About 8 minutes from the cabin, near one of the trail heads.)

So, one afternoon I am riding along, enjoying the scenery, when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a gunshot. This really isn’t that uncommon. My cabin is located in a rural area where people do a lot of hunting, and naturally, they practice target shooting. I looked around, but surely no one would be firing at the trail, right?

And that’s when it hit me. I was out here on my own. If something went wrong, it was up to me to deal with it. Sure, I had a phone with me, but I am miles down some rural trail, how do I even tell someone where I am? By the old railroad mile markers? On top of that – who do I call? It was just me and the pooch up at the cabin that weekend, and I haven’t yet taught my dog to drive. This is when I started thinking about other blogs I’ve read of women cyclists. I read some awesome blogs with some badass gals who bike. I’ve noticed though that they have all mentioned fear at one time or another – whether it was with traffic, or riding alone or using a new bike. I always think they are so brave… and here I was, biking alone, in a new area, and guess what? I was being brave!

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but lately I haven’t been feeling very brave. I think my friends would say that I am, but that’s because I talk a good game. In truth, this depression and anxiety stuff has taken a real swing at my self confidence. It’s been hard. There are times when I feel like I am mired in a rut and don’t know how to find my way out. I’ve lost some of the faith I’ve always had in myself.

As I rode my bike though, I felt great, and as the miles passed, I started to think of other incidences when I’d been brave:

  • Getting married
  • And then getting divorced
  • Buying an old house
  • Choosing to live in that house, despite a lot of reasons not to
  • Deciding to get fit
  • Joining my boxing studio
  • and so on….

Even things that I am a little embarrassed about, like getting divorced, changed completely when I looked at them in this new light. It stopped being a failure. I made the brave and bold choice to marry someone and try to make a life with them, and when I knew it wouldn’t work out, I made the brave and bold choice to end it. I have a tendency to look at decisions where things went wrong (or didn’t turn out as I expected) as a failure on my part. I didn’t plan enough, I didn’t prepare enough, I ignored the little warning signals, this is my fault. Instead I started to turn them around to think of those choices as bravery – being brave means stepping out of your comfort zone, and sometimes ignoring your own warning signals and doing something anyway.

We are all brave. Each of us had made leaps of faith. Even if they didn’t turn out as we wanted, we had the guts to take that step. That’s something to be proud of.

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This Is Life

My heaven.

My heaven.

Recently I took a week off and went up to my cabin. The cabin is a fantastic place for doing what I love; I spent a part of each day hiking with my dog, kayaking, biking, cooking, napping and reading. It’s a little like heaven. The cabin is also good for thinking. There are fewer distractions, plus it is much easier to think about life when I am well rested and relaxed then when I am running from one thing to the next.

Yesterday I wrote about coming to accept that I don’t have a “big dream.” That was something I spent a lot of time thinking about. One morning I took the kayak out and spent time thinking about passion. We all are familiar with people who have always known what they wanted. They have a drive and a passion and go after it with determination. Then there are others that have dreams that they wish they could do, but have accepted that they may not become reality. I have a dear friend who recently said that if she was given millions of dollars she would open a wildlife sanctuary in Africa. She said it with such conviction that I was impressed, even though we both know that for a variety of very good reasons she probably won’t make it happen in this lifetime.

Then there is me. When I thought about what I would do with millions, my first thoughts were mighty mundane: install insulation in the attic, build a sleeping porch on the cabin, take a trip to Ireland, and so on. What didn’t pop up was some big dream. It is frustrating because I am a planner. This is why I am very successful at my job. I am very good at identifying goals, mapping strategies, making budgets, setting goals and figuring out the best way to achieve them. Not having a big goal or an endpoint is difficult for me. I keep struggling because I feel like I should be working towards something… I just don’t know what.

Then a thought hit me… what if I had already achieved my goals? I have a pretty darn good life; I have an amazing network of people I love and who care about me in return, I have not one, but two, houses filled with books (and one is by the water!), I have a silly but awesome hound dog and my life is filled with doing things I love. The last couple of years I have been working on my weight and my health, and I finally feel good about that too. Sure, not everything is perfect: I never have enough time with my loved ones, one of the houses… no both houses, have roofs that leak, my dog has had a string of very expensive illnesses, and so on. But what is perfect? There isn’t such a thing. Even if you have the perfect house, for example, entropy will come in and things will break (or the roof will leak.) It’s true with everything in life – stuff happens, things go sideways, and even if they don’t, we change ourselves. So what was “perfect” five years ago may not be perfect today.

It slowly came to me that I have been spending a lot of time thinking about “what’s next?” (it is originally why I started this blog,) and I haven’t been taking time to enjoy what I have right now. And at that exact moment, I looked up to discover that I had paddled halfway around the lake in deep thought staring at my knees! I hadn’t been enjoying the beauty around me. It brought home the point perfectly. After that, I tried to take off the thinking cap and instead be very “in the moment” and really enjoy the rest of the trip.

life movesLater, when I got back to the cabin, my first thought was from Ferris Buller’s Day Off. Remember this:

But it didn’t quite fit with how I was feeling. It’s not that life is fast or short or long, it’s that This Is Life. Right now. Everything I do is part of my life. Even the things that don’t seem like “life” like going to the grocery store, sitting at a doctor’s office, brushing my teeth – it is all my life. I’m not just putting in time waiting for something better to come along, this is my life right now, the good, the bad and the ugly.

I’m not saying that I’ll never have a big life changing dream. Anything can happen. But I keep running in mental circles trying to build a foundation for an unknown future, and frankly, it’s exhausting. I’m realizing I need to bring my focus my closer. I can work on smaller goals – like fixing at least one of the leaking roofs and figuring out how to spend more time doing what I love. I have what I need, it’s more of a matter of enjoying the here and now.

This Is Life.

Biking Adventures

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

Pure summer, right here in this photo.

My little hound dog is on the mend. The meds the vet gave him help and he is a much perkier pooch. He’s still on restrictions though, so no walks for a couple weeks. I took him up to the cabin last weekend. There, I have a big open lot where I can put him out on a tie-out and he can get fresh air without a walk. It also has the advantage of not having any stairs to climb, so it was a good spot for recuperation.

In fact, it was good for both of us. The cabin is the perfect place to relax, but there are also a ton of options for outdoor activities. Maybe I can’t walk my dog on the trails, I can still bike them! I went out on the kayak several times a day and even went for a run one morning. Cabins aren’t all R&R though, they are still another house that needs maintaining. I spent a couple hours each day raking, picking up sticks and cleaning out the gutters. It might not be pretty, but it is definitely a work out!

Being able to take my bike up was glorious! It’s the first time I’ve been able to do that. There is a rail trail near the cabin, which is perfect for me. It’s fairly flat, which suits my one speed cruiser to a t, and as the photo suggests… it wasn’t all about fitness! There was plenty of “life by the lake” downtime as well.

I stayed through Monday, (an early morning kayak ride is the perfect way to start a week, by the way, so much better than meetings.) With some newly acquired bike time under my belt, I decided to try something else new on Tuesday – I biked to the studio! Now, the boxing studio is not that far away, I knew I could ride there. What was holding me back was traffic. I just got my bike last summer and I haven’t really ridden a bike since I was 16. I’m still getting my feet under me. There are bike lanes part of the way, which are super nice, but still, it is a little intimidating.

That is why I did my practice run at 7:00 in the morning. There was some traffic, of course, but it was early enough that it wasn’t crazy. The ride went fine. There was only one spot that I was a little unsure about – one large intersection where the bike lanes get really confusing. Fortunately, a woman many years my senior smoked passed me and flew through it ahead of me. I got to see how she handled it. Yay for older gals on fast bikes teaching this gal on her slow bike how to ride! (In retrospect it was perfectly obvious, but for a newbie like me, it was a little intimidating. That woman passed me at the perfect time, I am very grateful to her, and I am sure she has no idea.)

Now that I have done it once, I know I could ride to the studio for a class. I’d have to pack my water bottle and boxing gloves in a backpack (I don’t have a basket for the bike yet) but it seems fairly easy. It would be nice on weekends or if I decide to swing in for the 5:30AM Monday morning class (yeah, I know) to be able to peddle over. I’m looking forward to it.

Putting it all Together

spokes by ben alfordTonight I am fasting so I can get some blood work done. It’s nothing serious; when I saw my physician the other day she noticed I was overdue for a full physical. She wants to get the blood work done in anticipation for that. I spoke to one of the nurse practitioners about when I should stop in to get the blood drawn – she said I could do it any time of the day, but since it is a “first come, first served” situation, the earlier the better. She suggested getting there right at 7:00AM since the lines are lowest then. So, I’ll have a meal around 6:30 and fast for the rest of the night.

I’m not particularly worried about it, I don’t eat much at night anyway. Actually, I am glad I am having it done. It will be good to see what my health looks like now. It seems like I am focusing a lot on health right now – two different doctors this week and three fitness classes, (two boxing classes and Hot Yoga is Saturday morning.) I’m hoping I can also get in a run or a bike ride too.

Speaking of which – I stopped in at the fancy schmancy sporting goods store yesterday and inquired about a bike/kayak rack for my car. Since I have an older model car (I bought it 10 years ago this month!), they had to special order in some of the parts. It will cost far more than the cost of the kayak and the bike combined, in fact, it will be pretty much double. I’m a little freaked out about spending that much money, but it will let me take the bike up to the cabin and bring the kayak back here, giving me so much more flexibility. Since I drive a Honda, I expect I’ll have this car for another ten years, so it’s a good investment. (And most of the parts I can take to a new car when I get one, so I won’t lose that way either.) It looks like it will be a couple of weeks, but once that is done, I’ll have a lot more options. I like that.

 

Photo credit: Ben Alford on flickr

Lake Dreams

lilypads

Dreaming of the lake

Last weekend I went up to the lake. I have a small cabin there, not much of a place – one bedroom, one bath, but all mine with 80′ of shoreline. It is, in a word, heaven.

Here is a breakdown of my typical day last weekend:

  • Get up at 7:30AM. Dress in walking gear and grab the dog. Hike a nearby rail trail with him for an hour.
  • Get home, eat breakfast.
  • Change into swimsuit and shorts, go take the kayak out before the lake gets too busy.
  • Get home, change into comfy clothes and take a nap.
  • Get up, grab a cup of coffee and read an old fashioned murder mystery while sitting by the lake.
  • Put on work clothes, clean up sticks and rake leaves for 45 minutes.
  • Back into comfy clothes, take another nap.
  • Get up, have lunch.
  • Back into work clothes, another 45 minutes doing yard work.
  • Head in for a glass water and a snack, then go sit by the water and read.
  • 6:00PM change into walking gear, take the pooch out for another hour hike on the trail.
  • Change back into swimsuit and head back out on the kayak once the “no-wake” time starts at 7:00 for a final quiet paddle around the lake.
  • Get into comfy clothes, make and eat dinner.
  • Have a glass of wine while reading more of my murder mystery.
  • 11:00PM go to bed.

When I am at the cabin, I change clothes a lot. I reuse them – I only have one pair of old jeans and a t-shirt for raking the lawn, one swimsuit for kayaking, and so on, but there is a lot of switching of clothes.

I also get a lot of sleep. I usually stay up later than I do when I am home, but I also get up later (as long as Hermes lets me. Sometimes my pup doesn’t quite understand weekends.) I always manage to get several naps in. There is something about laying on that couch – windows open, breeze coming in of the water… it is just too perfect not to nap.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

A mayflower on the hiking trail. Hermes in the distance.

Most importantly, I am active. It wasn’t always this way. I used to get there and my only movement was from the couch to the lawn chair and back again. But now I find I want to do things. I love being on the water and hiking with Hermes. It seems like this is the kind of life I should be living. Oh, I know I have to work in there somewhere – the bills won’t pay themselves. But now that I have more things that I like to do, and I have more energy to do them, it feels right. I makes me happy.

There is another side to all this, though. I call it “re-entry.” Eventually I have to come back to reality. My life is very, very good and I have many things that I love here, but there is also all the stress and problems of everyday living that pop up. Suddenly I have to check my email and return phone calls. There are angry customers and annoying coworkers to deal with. There is a distinct lack of a kayak. I am very hard to live with following a cabin weekend. “Grumpy” is probably the kindest word I can use.

It eventually passes, but it is a good reminder of what I need more of in my life. I don’t need a big house, fancy gadgets or a nice car. I need a spot on a lake, a boat to paddle around on it, and a good place to walk my dog.

 

Is It Still Working Out When You Are Relaxing?

turkey vultures

A good reminder why it pays to stay healthy!

As I wrote yesterday, I spent last weekend up at my cabin. It was wonderful! The cabin helps me to reset and recharge. It’s always been a place of journal writing, reading, taking long naps, and cooking elaborate meals. It’s still that, but nowadays, I also find myself getting in a lot of exercise. It is the kind of exercise I like best, but is the hardest to get: unplanned and out in nature. The weather was gorgeous, so I took long walks with the dog, kayaked around the lake, did a whole bunch of yard work, and even went for an unplanned run.

The roads near my cabin are mostly long gravel lanes or country highways. There are no short blocks, so my morning and evening dog walks stretched out to an hour or more. When I have the time, this is my favorite way to walk. Hermes and I both enjoy it. He pretty much keeps his hound dog nose to the ground, but I saw deer, rabbits and lots of birds – including a large flock of turkey vultures. No worries, they weren’t interested in me! I’m not dead yet!

On Saturday, after a long nap, I popped up, threw on my shoes, and went out for a three mile run. It didn’t go as well as my last run, but I didn’t really expect it to. It was more about just getting out and keeping up with my running than it was about any specific times. When I got back, sweaty and tired, I sat on my picnic table for a few minutes catching my breath, then finished cooling off out on the lake! (My run, and the couple hours I spent doing yard work and raking, were good calorie burners, which made me feel a little bit better about my multiple glasses of evening wine!)

By far my favorite cabin exercise, though, is kayaking. At this time I don’t have a way to transport it, so where my kayak is, is where I kayak. So, when I am at the cabin I go out as much as my arms will allow. I went out twice each day on Saturday and Sunday. (I would have gone out Friday night too, except it was dark by the time I got there. Fall is coming way too fast!) I like to start with a morning trip around the lake around 9:00 AM. It’s after the fishermen have left the lake, but too early for the weekenders. These morning paddles are fairly leisurely. I look for fish, turtles, frogs and water birds. I saw several nice sized bass – bigger than I have seen there before. (Which gives me hope that my little lake hasn’t been fished out yet.) I also spotted birds in a rainbow of colors: purple martins, blue herons, green herons, yellow finch, orange orioles and, of course, cardinals; plus gulls, geese, kingfishers and hawks. My afternoon rides are more… focused. There is usually a lot of motorized watercraft out by then, so the wildlife goes to quieter places. I just concentrate on joy of being out on the water.

When I got back to town on Monday, I was pretty tired. I could feel it in my bones. Good thing I had to go back to work – I had to take a rest day from my relaxation!

The Cabin, Sharing the Road and Thoughts from the Weekend

Hermes at the lake

Hermes checking out the temperature of the lake.

Last weekend at the cabin was amazing. I had a lot to do in town before I could hit the road, so I didn’t arrive until pretty late Friday night. I unpacked, got the pooch settled in and just relaxed for the evening.

Saturday and Sunday followed the same basic pattern:

7:00 AM up with Hermes, out for a long walk

8:00 AM home again, time for breakfast

9:00 AM out on the kayak

10:00 AM – 2:00 PM snacks, naps, reading, relaxing, lunch

2:00 PM out to do yard work (mostly raking) for a couple hours

4:00 PM kick back for an hour, have a snack

5:00 PM out for a run

5:30 PM back from run, drink water, catch breath

5:45 PM finish cooling off by going out in the kayak

6:30 PM come back home, change into dry clothes, feed dog and head out for a walk

7:00 PM home again, time for dinner

8:00 – 11:00 PM kick back and relax

It was great! I got a lot of yard work done, which pleased me. My cabin is deep in the woods and no matter how many leaves I clean up in the fall and spring, there is always plenty left to clean up the rest of the year. I picked up countless wheelbarrow loads of them.

These guys sounds like miniature Gatling guns. i love them.

These guys sound like miniature Gatling guns. I love seeing them.

The kayak was, as always, wonderful. I liked the 9:00 AM rides the best. It was too late for fishermen and too early for vacationers, so I had the lake to myself. The water was a bit murky, but I still managed to see tons of ‘gills, sunnies and bass. The waterbirds were in full force too, especially the kingfishers which were diving all over the lake.

My running went well too – despite the heat. I managed to decrease my intervals so I am now up to 3 min. run / 1 min. walks. That feels really good. There really aren’t good places to run up by my cabin – lots of busy rural highways and almost no sidewalks. I have a route that I run that is roughly a 30 minute loop along some back roads. There is still plenty of traffic, however. One thing I have learned – people are a lot nicer to dog walkers than they are to runners. When I am walking Hermes, people not only pull their cars out out to give me more room, they frequently pull completely into the oncoming lane. They also never fail to wave and smile. When I was running, however, many of them barely moved over and one woman completely refused. I could see her male companion in the seat next to her yelling at her and gesturing to move over, but she refused. (I just jumped into the weeds, no big deal.) I told Julian about it and I thought he had a good explanation for this behavior:

“Well hon, they understand dogs.”

I think he’s right. This neck of the woods is pretty rural, and although I don’t see a lot of people walking their dogs up there, I do see a lot of people that own them. (They just usually keep them tied up in the yard.) My dog, which is obviously a hunting hound, seems to fit right in. He does attract positive comments on a regular basis.

Runners, on the other hand, are a lot more rare. In the nine years that I have owned my cabin (and in particular in the last two when I spent a lot of time walking my dog around there,) I have seen precisely two other runners. I saw both of them this summer, and they were both running really early in the morning. It might have been to avoid the heat – or it might have been to avoid the traffic!

I wish working out was always this easy, though. I never felt rushed, or pressured. Even the yard work – sure, it isn’t exactly fun, but it was great exercise and I didn’t mind doing it at all.  …somehow I never feel that way at home!

 

Photo credit of kingfisher: Mike Baird

What Makes You Happy?

I ran across this question in a blog today:
question mark by Bilal Kamoon
“What if you were to write down the top ten activities that make you happy and are good for your long-term happiness and health, then start spending most of your time doing those things?”

The blog is about managing finances through a frugal lifestyle, and it interested me enough I’m going back to the beginning and reading my way through. (You’ll see if you click the link that it is from an early entry.) When I read this question it got me thinking.

I thought I would pop over to my own blog and answer it.

  • Spending time playing with my nieces.
  • Long rambling conversations with my boyfriend.
  • Talking with and spending time with my sister.
  • Hanging out with my girlfriends.
  • Preparing food – especially trying new and interesting recipes.
  • Spending a quiet weekend up at my cabin.
  • Long walks with my dog where we explore new places.
  • Spending an hour or more with a great book.
  • Writing – in this blog, in journals, wherever.
  • Being creative, working on projects, building things and making art.

Hmmm… why does it seem like these are the things I spend the least amount of time doing?

Photo credit: Bilal Kammon