Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sunday Scribblings: The gift

The morning had passed in a blur of bright lights on the TV screen: talk shows, reality shows and canned laughter tracks. Pleasant, numbness distraction, only inches away from the comfort of her bed. All she needed to do was reach out her fingers and change the channel if the numbness got too - mind-numbing.

It was all so effortless.

Until the young girl with the frizzy blond hair interrupted.

"Do you think you might want to try sitting up?" the girl asked innocently.

It seemed like an easy enough task.

Slowly, the athlete rolled onto her side. With every muscle straining, she pushed herself onto her elbow. Then, using every ounce of strength, she pulled herself to sitting.

Focused on breathing deeply and slowly, then placed one foot, then the other into the waiting pink slippers.

"Maybe you want to try walking over to the chair?"

Once again, it seemed like an easy enough task.

Inhaling, she drew together every last ounce of strength, then pushed herself to standing. Shuffled one foot, then the other forward. Her slippers making shushing sounds on the floor; whispered secrets on cracked white linoleum.

Just a few more steps, and she was at the chair -- utilitarian, grey pleather, with hard wooden armrests worn with the palms of others who had rested there before her.

The young woman watched her silently.

Reaching back, she placed her hands on the armrails and winced, lowering into the chair.

It was at that point that the room began to spin. Sparkling lights flashed behind her eyes, and she broke into a cold sweat.

The young woman brought a cold towel from the bathroom, as she closed her eyes and willed the world to stop on its axis.

Five steps from the bed to the chair -- only moments ago, it had seemed so easy. Only weeks ago, she'd run a marathon.

Now, here she sat, having barely been able to walk from bed to chair without passing out.

Suddenly, the new weakness in her body scared her so much, she started to panic.

Placed the cold towel around the back of her neck.

Inhaled, exhaled.

Until the world stopped spinning.

She opened her eyes, and looked at the nurse.

"I'm feeling better now," she reassured.

It would take a few more hours before she'd be able to walk from chair to bed, then bathroom, without feeling like passing out.

Two days after her myomectomy, she is released.

Now, the athlete can't wait until she can run again. With each day,  she looks forward to the moment she can run around the block without pain. Step by step, she feels herself getting stronger.

And she cherishes the gift that good health is; looking forward to the day that she can move from walking to running again.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

My balcony garden project

While our backyard is under construction (an ambitious five-year plan that we as new homeowners attacked enthusiastically and now realize is much more complicated than we'd anticipated), I've decided to spend some time prettying up the balcony ajdoining our kitchen this year. It's extended our outdoor usable space, and become a place for us to observe birds up close - juncos, goldfinches, a curious chickadee and greedy doves now visit our balcony on a daily basis.

With a few easy steps, a barren balcony becomes a pleasing outdoor space.

Here's how I did it (bear in mind, it's a work in progress):

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sunday Scribblings: The next step

When the gun explodes, her heart flutters in nervous anticipation.

This is the day she has been looking forward to for months. She's trained for this moment and she feels ready. She is proud of herself. As she crosses the line with just over 100 other men and women of all ages, tears of happiness and nervousness forming in the corner of her eyes. She lets out a cheer with others around her, then focuses on the task at hand.

Lady Gaga is singing on her iPod, and she has stored a few hours' worth of songs to accompany her on this journey.

As they file down Main Street, the sun poking between highrises, she wills herself to relax and not start out too strong. Glancing down at her watch, she sees she has started out too fast, so she backs off. The leader she had hoped to follow isn't around, so she simply settles into a comfortable rhythm and tries to be in the moment, not thinking about the next few hours or when she will finish.

They head off the roads and onto the trails, eventually turning into the gravel paths through the marshes. The ground crunches under her shoes as they hit it in a steady rhythm.

Within a few kilometres, she begins to worry that something is not quite right.

Her left achille's tendon has starten to tighten up. Now, her left foot has started to fall asleep. It feels like pins and needles poking through her foot. As though she's running on a stump. Although her foot is asleep, it's strangely painful.

Worry and anxiety begin to gnaw at her mind. She begins to slow down, and more and more of the group begins to pass her by. The confidence and strength she felt only half an hour ago begin to fade away.

Something is wrong.

Should she stop?

Just keep going to the next station. If it's still bad, she can stop there.

Meanwhile, although the sun is rising, she worries that she may not have dressed warmly enough. Her hands are chilled, and her arms. But she tells herself to trust in her preparations. It will get warmer, soon. She hopes.

This isn't the way it was supposed to be. 

Despite the crowds who have gathered on the boardwalk to cheer them on, she feels trapped inside her own mental struggle.

She wants to quit.

The wind rustles through dry cattails beside the path.

Why is she doing this?  

As she passes the halfway mark, suddenly she remembers a Chinese proverb one of her friends had sent her before she set out:

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a  time, but we must keep on stepping.”

It's then, at the moment where she could have given up and walked back to the start line, that she looks down at the gravel path, takes a deep breath, and takes the next step.

Two and a half hours later, she finishes her first marathon, exhausted and drained. Her husband holds her in his arms, telling her how proud he is.

It will take months for her to come to terms with the fact that she did not meet her initial goals, and to realize that the biggest achievement was in putting her head down and putting one foot in front of the other, when all she wanted to do was quit.

Eventually, she feels pride again for the perseverance that made her take that next step.