Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Seriously Happy Feet

There has never been a more happy pair of feet ever. I remember my first out door run and the feeling I had that night the hug from a friend at the end and the utter vibration through my soul I felt that day! I had run 5 miles that night outside in March. It was not something I originally thought I could do and had serious doubts but with a lot of love patience and encouraging words from friends I did what I did not think I could do.

Today I find myself oddly back in the same position but this time the run was only 2.67 miles ... Yes I was writing it was only - I mean seriously need to check myself on that it was a mid day break to clear my head and my first out door run and real run since the stress fracture sidelined me. The key to keep in mind is how just wonderful I feel and that there is little else in the world that brings me this feeling and I can keep going and this is just the start not the end or my limits.

Thank you to my amazing group of friends and one seriously amazing trainer I'm still in it!

Thoughts on you are not special

So at the age of 30 (still for a couple more days) and the mother of a beautiful and amazing 6-year old daughter I find this speech to hold true and be truly motivational.

As the people around me know I have been trying to live my life for me now rather than living to the expectations of the world and I wish someone had told me this was "Ok" or the thing to do at a younger age.

At Graduation I was told to "Aim for the moon, even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" but I don't think I understood the true meaning of this phrase. To me when I graduated high school I understood that I was suppose to go to university and get my degree. While I was doing that I found a man, got a house, got a car, got married, had a daughter, got a professional career.  I did everything that I was "suppose to do" and I suppose that I was waiting for inspiration and passion to find me - I have been waiting for my chance to change the world but I haven't been trying to find it.
"The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don't wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands." - David McCullough Jr. 
This is not to sound like I haven't lived my life - I have I just haven't been living every day and I haven't been "carping the heck out of the diem" and it's time for that to stop.

Fear is such a large motivating factor for a lot we do - it keeps us from doing things we truly want to do, from what we are called to do, it keeps us doing the same thing that we are doing and If I can look at my feet hanging out of a plane 9,000ft and jump why the heck can't I do the things that scare me on the ground?

For those of you "in the know" I am about to embark on a scary transition - frankly it scares the bee-jesus out of me but I can't help laughing because so many people around me think that "I grab life by the balls with both hands" only time will tell if it was the right decision or not but quiet frankly does it matter? Even if it was the wrong decision I shall then learn from it.

"I can either let my decisions and mistakes define me or change me - the choice lays with me and only with me." - Me (27/04/12)

‘You’re not special’ graduation speech by Wellesley High English teacher David McCullough Jr.

Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful.  Thank you.

So here we are… commencement… life's great forward-looking ceremony.  (And don't say, "What about weddings?"  Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective.  Weddings are bride-centric pageantry.  Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there.  No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession.  No being given away.  No identity-changing pronouncement.  And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos?  Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy.  Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator.  And then there's the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced.  A winning percentage like that'll get you last place in the American League East.  The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)

But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time.  From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, 'til death do you part.

No, commencement is life's great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clich├ęs like the plague, wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you'll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

You are not special.  You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you're nothing special. 

Yes, you've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped.  Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again.  You've been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored.  You've been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.  Yes, you have.  And, certainly, we've been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs.  Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet.  Why, maybe you've even had your picture in the Townsman!  [Editor's upgrade: Or The Swellesley Report!] And now you've conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you're anything special.  Because you're not.

The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can't ignore.  Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that's just the neighborhood Ns.  Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools.  That's 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.  But why limit ourselves to high school?  After all, you're leaving it.  So think about this: even if you're one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.  Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by.  And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I'll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe.  In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it.  Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

"But, Dave," you cry, "Walt Whitman tells me I'm my own version of perfection!  Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!"  And I don't disagree.  So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus.  You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless.  In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another-which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality - we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point - and we're happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that's the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…  Now it's "So what does this get me?"  As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.  It's an epidemic - and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement.  And I hope you caught me when I said "one of the best."  I said "one of the best" so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition.  But the phrase defies logic.  By definition there can be only one best.  You're it or you're not.

If you've learned anything in your years here I hope it's that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning.  You've learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness.  (Second is ice cream…  just an fyi)  I also hope you've learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning.  It's where you go from here that matters.

As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.  Don't bother with work you don't believe in any more than you would a spouse you're not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison.  Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.  Be worthy of your advantages.  And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect.  Read as a nourishing staple of life.  Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you'll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you're a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  You'll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness-quite an active verb, "pursuit"-which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube.  The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life.  Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow.  The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil.  Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem.  The point is the same: get busy, have at it.  Don't wait for inspiration or passion to find you.  Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands.  (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression-because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life.  Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn't have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn't matter.)

None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence.  Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It's what happens when you're thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion-and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you're not special.

Because everyone is.

Congratulations.  Good luck.  Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It has been a while

It is has been a long while so be I posted anything and there has been a lot going on since my last post.

Since the last post I have gotten tattooed, ran 7 miles at once, had a stress fracture in my left tibia, and had some other absolutely amazing adventures.

I am hoping to start keeping this regularly updated but I thought I would start with saying I am back!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A major victory for me in 6.04 miles

background: In sept 2010 I start on a weight loss journey with
determination and did really well (I started at 258.8 and was down to
218 by January) I managed to maintain that weight for a while and
started to train to run a half-marathon in June.

I was doing well and by April I was able to run 6 miles (took two
hours but I could do a run/walk combo to get to 6 miles). However, I
started experiencing really bad pains in my side and my running
started to take a real hit - I couldn't go more than two minutes or so
and then suffer from significant pain...and the pain started cropping
up when I was doing other exercise :( I finally decided I could not
run the half a few days before hand and I was shaken and very upset
because I felt like I might be using the "side" pain as an excuse so I
didn't fail.

There was a lot of questions and non-support from family about the
decision not to run for medical reasons.

I did get in to see my doctor and was checked and found that I still
had outstanding issues with my gallbladder to so I was referred to a
surgeon in September and in the beginning of October I meet with the
surgeon who agreed that my gallbladder was an issue but wasn't certain
that the pain would be caused by running and that surgery would fix my

After much discussion my choices were: (1) have the surgery and hope
that it fixed the problem and if it didn't face the other
possibilities afterwords (2) not have the surgery and continue with
referrals until we found the potential source.

Given that I have had gallbladder attacks before I made the decision
to have it removed as it would definitely eliminate one possible cause
of the pain if not the cause of the pain. This was extremely
difficult decision and I was scheduled for surgery on December 15,
2011 again with not a lot of family support in favour of having
surgery to fix what may or not be causing my problems.

Anyways surgery went wonderfully I was off my pain meds right away but
then everything else started crashing down around me - I had vision
problems related to the surgery and spent a lot of time being checked
by other doctors, having an allergic reaction to antibiotic and then
suffering (still) from insomnia brought on potentially by well who

I was back at the gym very early with the help of my trainer to keep
me motivated and working out in a way that wouldn't hurt me.

I was cleared by my surgeon on January 24th and could lift again but I
took it easy.

On sunday morning I was doing my cardio warm up for my trainer and
managed to do 2 miles before our session. He pushed me to do another
mile and then we did our resistance training. After our session I head
the treadmill again and did another mille bringing the total for the
day to 4 miles.

On monday night I decided I wanted to run and I was going to try for 5
miles because I had done four the night before.

I started with a 5 minute walking warm up and then did my first 10
minute run and was going to die but I was determined to at least 2.5
because once I'm halfway it seems easier and I had done it the day
before... so I did another 10 minute run... and I started doing it I
bit 0.25 during warm up; 1.92 miles during my next 30 minutes; 1.95
during my next 30 minutes; and then 1.92 in my last session

add that all up and you get 6.04 miles (and I could have probably done
another mile but I had to stretch before the gym closed)

and the best part was I FELT NO PAIN my worst fear was to have gone
through all of this and still not have fixed the problem but I did it
and it was absolutely amazing especially to get txts from some friends
and my trainer during the run motivating me and reminding me I could
do it.