On (not) giving up

I had a tough day today. I was a bit wobbly and a bit hungry when I toddled off down the hill at lunchtime, to see my osteopath about a sore bit on the long-ago-injured foot.

Unfortunately for him, he asked politely how I was doing and just at that moment I couldn’t quite keep the tears in. Up until that point, no matter how much he has hurt me in the course of treatment, I have managed not to cry. It was almost a matter of pride that I never cried no matter how painful it was. He knows to keep talking if he is working particularly hard on an area, and I know not to try and reply but just to keep breathing.

The afternoon got even worse.

At the end of the day I left, and sniffled all the way to the bus station, having repeated “I don’t know” and “I haven’t finished that yet” like a broken record for the best part of half an hour.

All the bad things came, the chimpiest of chimps put on his really nasty hat, shrieked some really nasty things at me, and I wondered how on earth I was going to shake all this off and get some decent practice done tonight.

But just now I popped over to one of my favourite websites and found this – What If You Didn’t Give Up? – as though it was meant just for me to find, right now.

And then I remembered a quote a friend had shared with me a few years ago.

Courage doesn’t always roar.

sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says,

“i will try again tomorrow”

mary-anne radmacher

Sparkle

A few years ago I was a Brownie leader.

For 75 minutes a week (and a bit of craft shopping/preparation time), the outside world took a back seat as 16 girls aged between 7 and 10 years old met and observed traditions that have been in place across the world for years.

It’s quite a responsibility, taking on the role of informal educator. You are somewhere between parent, teacher, aunt and older sister. Memories of my own time as a Brownie were not great, but the very fact that I remember it at all meant that I took great care of my Brownies and how I looked after them. I wanted them to have good memories of their time with us.

My first meeting as a leader was when the bug man came to visit. Within a few minutes, I had a wee girl, 9 year old E, clinging desperately and slightly hysterically to me as she was petrified of spiders. I didn’t mind the spiders but wasn’t a huge fan of the giant cockroaches. I couldn’t have let on though, so sat bravely and declined to stroke them. Some of the girls did and I really admired them.

At the time it gave my week some structure and a bit of ritual. I knew that at 7.15 every Thursday night, we would stand in a circle, link little fingers and sing the same song.

When it came to enrolment, we would sing a different song – This Little Light of Mine, with the word “Guiding” added so as to make it more relevant to the movement we were part of.

As we sung the words with new little Brownies bursting with pride and relief at having remembered their promise in front of their friends and family, I hoped they might take some of the words into their hearts and call on them when needed.

“Don’t you (puff) my little light out, I’m going to let it shine,

Don’t you (puff) my little light out, I’m going to let it shine,

Don’t you (puff) my little light out, I’m going to let it shine,

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine”

It’s really easy to get flattened by the bad things in the world, to let it crush our spirit and wear us down. To dumb down because it’s not seen as appropriate to celebrate our achievements and skills, our passions and what really makes us tick.

Doing a less than thrilling day job, conquering a mountain of debt, housework, people that unwittingly drag us into their misery and lack of spirit, bad relationships, illness, injury, fear.

When I think of my little Brownies singing that song on their special day, I am always reminded of similar words from Marianne Williamson, given to me by a dear friend and often wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration. They remind me not to be too shy, not to keep things hidden too much:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Over the time I’ve been in Scotland I’ve collected a few photos that remind me of what lies within, what makes me me.

I didn’t really have many before I came here. Partly because I was never doing anything exciting when there was a camera around, and partly because the sparkle had become a bit squashed and was rather too well hidden back then.

(this post is part of the DIY Creative Club September challenge, which I’m a bit behind on (!) but am using to get my writing unstuck and out of my head)

Inspiration

People. People you’ve met. People you haven’t met. People who’ve done amazing things. People who have done nothing but sit and moan, and who make you determined not to be like them. People who have been ill. People who are still ill. People who have died. People who never lived.

Places. Places you’ve been. Places you haven’t been. Places you never knew existed and that you heard of while you were somewhere else. Places you always wanted to go. Places you went to accidentally on the way to somewhere else, and you never knew you wanted to go. Places you promise to visit again. Places you never ever want to go back to. Physical places. Psychological places.

Events. Races, challenges, celebrations. Big races. Small races. High. Cold. Fast. Things you want to do. Things you have done and want to do again. Things you never want or need to do again. Times you survived unexpectedly. Times things went right. Times things went wrong. Times when you were alone. Times when you met someone new, or old, or different.

Things. Actual physical things you can touch. Things you can’t touch but know to be real. Big, big things. Tiny things.

Visual art, music, theatre, dance, film, poetry, literature. Words. Quotes.

Concepts, ideas, ideologies, religion, lack of religion. Maybe even love.

What inspires us, what pushes us forward?

For me, inspiration is inextricably tangled with dreams, desires, hopes, aspirations, ambitions, motivation, commitment, drive, action.

I take inspiration from friends. A friend who has moved away to another country to fulfil a dream. A friend who has retired from the corporate world to fulfil a dream. A friend who lives her life in uncompromising pursuit of what she believes is important to her and that makes her happy. Friends who have survived the toughest times, addiction, serious injury. Friends who hear of something unlikely going on somewhere in the world and think I might want to have a go. Often they are right.

I take inspiration from acquaintances. Someone who ran across some ridiculously difficult terrain from one corner of Scotland to another. Someone else who stepped away from the corporate world to fulfil another dream. Someone who ran a race in a time I can only dream of. Someone who built a home they’d always dreamed of in a really difficult location to access.

I take inspiration from family. An aunt whose time was called way before it should have been. An uncle who recovered from a brutal form of cancer and continues to live with the significant and cruel after effects. An aunt who is on watch and wait with a different but related cancer.

I take inspiration from places I have been, and things I have done, that lead me to want to go to new places, bigger, higher, further, faster. I take inspiration from places others have been, or have suggested I might enjoy. Places where I have felt happy, or with a buzz about them that suggests a promise of good times ahead.

I take inspiration from music. Those who play the harp in a way I could only manage if I committed myself completely to that and nothing else. Those who sing, write, play their own music as well as that of others. Those who are brave enough to risk making a living from their talent in a world that wants music for nothing.

I take inspiration from words. Spoken, written, sung by those who have been before or have yet to go.

I take inspiration from people I’ve never met, possibly never likely to meet. The fastest. The best. The bravest. Those who have made a journey, those who have documented it, shared it so that I might find it and use it.

Most of all I take inspiration from time, and the knowledge that there is only so much of it. Sometimes this is all I need to keep me moving forwards. On some occasions it makes me stop, re-evaluate and change course.

(this post is part of the DIY Creative Club September challenge, which I’m a bit behind on (!) but am using to get my writing unstuck and out of my head)

Dreams

Recently, spurred on by the rapid approach of winter, a few changes on the domestic front, and just the plain old desire to do something different, I decided to make a big push and try out some new things.

A work night out at The Stand a couple of weeks back led me to look for some more gigs to go to there, and something about the flyer on the table for Scott Gibson’s debut solo show really appealed.

Social circles are difficult to establish as an adult in a new city. Having left college a while ago, changed job again and now needing to step away from the running scene for a while, I realised that didn’t leave me with many people. And so, with another potentially long dark cold Scottish winter coming up, I decided I’d better press on and take some action.

I booked two tickets, not knowing who I’d take with me.

A Facebook post led to a dear friend agreeing to come along, he’d always wanted to go to The Stand and as we sat there fizzing away with excitement, I realised I couldn’t have come with a better person as we were both looking forward to it as much as the other. The club was packed, we were sat in a sell-out crowd and the atmosphere and anticipation was building by the minute.

The club is in a basement, bar in one corner, no frills, furniture tightly packed. The tables and chairs go right up to the edge of the stage, which is only slightly raised above the floor. I’m not sure whether it’s more intimidating for the comedian or the audience who happen to end up in the front row. Intimate is not quite the word.

The show was absolutely excellent. It’s hard to go into much detail without giving away massive spoilers, but as promised, it was dark in places, incredibly funny and brilliantly delivered. We were spellbound for each half of the two hour set.

What has stayed with me (unsurprisingly for those who know a bit about me) is the brief statement made at the close of the show, about life being short, almost being taken away from you before you’d begun, and subsequently going after your dreams.

I moved to Scotland three years ago this month, having needed to make a huge change in my life before I ended up in a box, and not really knowing what my dreams were or what kind of a life lay ahead of me.

One of the best bits of the show was realising on our way home that we had just sat through two hours of somebody literally living their dream and appreciating and savouring every second of it. It was incredibly powerful and deeply moving, and both of us will remember it for many years to come.

I’ll finish with a quote that opened the show last night…

A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.

Mark Twain

On reading

I am what could be politely described as a voracious reader. I have loved books from a very young age, thanks to my gran and my mum both being primary school teachers. The most treasured possessions I kept when my granny died were some of the rare children’s books and embroidery books that she had collected over her lifetime.

Hours can pass by, until the only thing that stops me reading is a sore neck or a dead leg.

There are several books in various stages of completion next to my bed, as I love having real books around me. (Looking at them, I’m also reminded some of them are not mine and I need to get on and read them then give them back!)

I made the transition to a Kindle last year, or rather the Kindle app on an ipad mini. I had a 50 minute bus commute twice a day, got hopelessly travel sick when reading an actual physical book, but seemed to manage OK on the screen. The bus was meant to save me money on transport, but before long my monthly book expenditure was swallowing all the savings I was supposed to be making.

It has really changed how I read. I can have several books on the go at once, never losing my page. Best of all, my holiday suitcase is now much lighter. One holiday I took Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, which is a huge book, and several others. I read three, but had been stricken by indecision when packing so I took everything I fancied.

As well as books, these days I love reading blogs. I have many favourites, but one I return to regularly is that of Alastair Humphreys, an adventurer, writer and speaker known for many things including his #microadventure concept.

His site is truly inspirational, with several main themes – finding adventure in small ways, not spending a lot of money, documenting the journey, making the most of life, and calling out excuses. His 20 questions post is probably the one I read the most.

A couple of days ago, he tweeted a link to a piece he had written on Medium:

I read the link, I loved what he had written and it resonated very deeply. I was also on the hunt for a new book after finishing one recently, so I decided to buy his book There Are No Rivers.

Yesterday morning, I happened to read a chapter titled Flabbiness, which he has also published on his blog as part of the serialisation of the book.

It’s about going from being a bit lazy to finding your life has slipped away before your eyes. It was a particularly powerful piece for me, and it reassured  me that a painful decision made recently was ultimately the right one. There have been a couple of big adventures since, there are more to come and I can’t wait to see how they pan out.

(this post is part of the DIY Creative Club September challenge, which I’m a bit behind on (!) but am using to get my writing unstuck and out of my head)

On Hope

It’s a funny old word, one that is actually quite hard to define. I guess it’s a state of mind that’s somewhere between the present and your dreams.

Obviously there’s the short term hope, that a bus arrives, for a sunny day, that there’s no traffic, that you get up and down a mountain with no mishaps, that you finish a race without injury or missing a cutoff.

And then a deeper hope, that everything will work out in the long run, that we won’t make the same mistakes yet again, that despite getting it wrong quite a lot, we’ll somehow find the right way.

IMG_6420
Hoping to go back to St Bartholema on the Konigsee to have a crack at the Watzmann, just out of shot on the right
Hoping we'll make it up the mountain the next day (hidden by cloud behind my dad)
Hoping we’ll make it up the mountain the next day (hidden by cloud behind my dad)
Hoping the path gets better soon (it didn't)
Hoping the path down gets better soon (it didn’t!)
Hoping your leg heals soon and you can come swimming next time! (thanks Cheri for the photo)
Hoping your leg heals soon and you can come swimming next time! (thanks Cheri for the photo)

20 Questions

This is one of my favourite posts on the internet, ever. I come back to it frequently, particularly when things are feeling a bit muddy or needing a bit of an overhaul.

Alastair Humphreys’ 20 questions worth answering honestly are seemingly simple questions, but as you get into them, they will start to make you really think about what you want and where you’re going.

He published his answers, and invited others to be brave enough to do the same. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to, I’m on about my fourth revisit since I first discovered the post and each time something holds me back from sharing my answers.

If you’re feeling a bit stuck, or just curious, I recommend giving them a go.

PS Huge thanks to Graeme Hewitson for the fab photo of me running down Conic Hill in last year’s Highland Fling relay!