Tuesday, 21 June 2022

46 Days of Yoga

 With my birthday came the closure of this year's birthday challenge - and probably my worst to date.

I hit a wobble early on with planning a World Orienteering Day event that had me spending a number of nights up until the wee hours to get it all done. These nights got a few sun salutations before I crawled into bed. It may have been Week 4 that went a similar way with urgent work projects that needed undisturbed hours of focus, which I get at night. This means that even a 30-minute class was not a reality.

Overall, I've done more yoga these past 46 days than I've done in the past five years, so that's a bonus. And I'm craving more.

I followed videos from Lesley Fightmaster on YouTube. I love her classes.

Biggest successes for me were in loosening up my lower back with Cobra and Upward Dog, improving my yoga push-up posture, deep glute stretches and hip opener with Pigeon Pose and working mobility into my right big toe with Downward Dog. 

After Michael commented here that he thought that Lesley had passed, I went online to find out and discovered this to be true. She sadly took her own life in November 2020. She had spoken about her struggle with depression, but you wouldn't know it from her online class videos. Another confirmation that the real world is not what we see online. 

Even though I wasn't a regular follower, I had done a bunch of her classes here and there and they were the only ones that I liked - after having tried a bunch of instructors. I just clicked with her tone and pace and how she put the classes together. There was no need for me to try any other instructors once I'd discovered her. Learning that she'd passed gave me a bit of a knock - another vibrant, caring, sharing, giving person gone.

This is a nice remembrance post about Lesley on the LA Yoga website.

This closing from the article resonates with me:

At the end of her introduction video on the Fightmaster Yoga YouTube channel, Lesley tells us that our yoga practice can create, “a loving, positive energy that will spread throughout (our) world” and that the greatest benefit of our practice is the community and friendships we form. She continues, “when you make positive changes, they affect everyone around you, making the world better because of you.”

Her videos are indeed a legacy and I'll continue to follow them. Her husband and son are now putting out videos on Lesley's channel - I haven't tried any of them.

There something else about her classes that I really appreciate. 

Each class she ends with us sitting upright on our mat, legs crossed. We put our hands together and then place them on our head, heart and mouth as Lesley says:

Hands to forehead, reminding us to have clear and loving thoughts;
Hands to heart, reminding us to have clear and loving intentions;
Hands to mouth, reminding us to have clear and loving communication.

Good to remember - thank you Lesley.

So, I wouldn't consider myself wildly successful with this year's birthday challenge but I'm taking it that most is better than none and I'm ok with this, especially as the challenge has given me a kick to keep up a regular practice. Not every day, but regular. That's a win.

Celebrating 46 on the mountainside

My 46th birthday came around on Saturday 18June and it proved to be a 24hr affair as I spent the day and night as an aid station marshal at the George Mountain Ultra Trail event.

This trail ultra has been around for four years and each year they've added new course distances. This year the 100km route was the new addition to the 10km, 25km, 42km and 60km routes.

I missed the event last year as I was in Joburg so I took the opportunity to jump in this year. Events always need helping hands.

On Friday afternoon I was positioned on the gear check station at race registration,which was really good fun and interesting. 

For race day, on Saturday, task was to be on an aid station team at The Cross, a landmark on the side of the mountain overlooking George. Our aid station 'leader', Koot Steenkamp, I know from many years ago when he participated in my Forest Run events. He has been down this way for a few years and he has manned this aid station in the past. His partner Chanelle was with us and a lovely young chap Kuyler. Then we had company of a pair who were with us throughout the day. They had many friends participating in various courses so being stationed here meant that they could help and also cheer on their friends. It was an excellent team with a lot of energy and bounce.

I hiked up to the aid station around 7h20. This point is on the Vertical Kilometre route at around 350m. I was toasty warm by the time I got there at 8am.

By the time the 10km runners started to come through an hour later, the sun had reached us and the day looked to be a stunner. But, we knew that rain would be on the way.

Rain came in around 10am - not torrential, but wet nonetheless. It rained lightly for just over and hour and while the rest of the day was mostly overcast with higher or lower cloud elevations passing through, we were lucky not to be wet again. 

This point is an exposed, windy spot so even once the rain stopped, I ended up keeping my rain jacket and rain pants on for the rest of the day and night. 

The 25km course is the only one that didn't come past us so after the 10km we then saw the 42km, 60km and later the 100km runners.
Being busy, with lots of runners to assist made the day pass very swiftly. The hours just disappeared.

Looking across to the zig-zag descent from Tonnelbos trail.

While the 42km and 60km races are exciting and well attended, the 100km race is the really gruelling one. We were positioned at the top of the Sungazer trail, which is, plainly, a murderous ascent. It comes after the ghastly Tonnelbos trail.

I've done Tonnelbos a few times, most recently 3 to 4 weeks ago. It isn't nice on fresh legs and it isn't nice when you have 30, 50 or 90km in your legs. Mud, roots, rocks, eroded trail, slippery and attention demanding. It is pretty and scenic, but it is hard, hard going. From Tonnelbos, it is a steep downhill on the Sungazer trail and then a wicked climb to The Cross. We were the light at the end of the tunnel with 5km to the finish. 

The night was windy and cold, but clear and the setting was great with the sparkling lights of George below. We could see the checkpoint on the dam wall and enjoyed using our headlamps to signal to each other. While we could only just make them out in the day (we were invisible to them), at night our respective lights were clear beacons.

My old AR and trail friend Bruce Arnett was the winner of the 100km course. He is a local living in Wilderness and an exceptional athlete. I first met Bruce in 1999 at the second running of Skyrun, which he of course won. It is really incredible how Bruce has been too of his game for the better part of 25 years (and before) - still beating runners half his age (he must be around 52 perhaps). He set the course record-to-beat of 12h32 and completed the 100km in daylight.

The last 100km runner came past us at about 3am. We packed up and headed down, catching them crossing the finish with only minutes before the 5am cutoff. I was home by 5.30am and enjoyed a good sleep.

I've been out of the event scene for years so it was great to be there, and especially with such a well organised and attended event.

This was a really nice way to spend my birthday. Outdoors, active and involved.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

Other people's problems are easier to solve than your own

I was chatting to someone close to me today - having a catch up of news and recent happenings.

He has a bunch of challenges in his life and he can't get past any of them.

From my perspective, the solutions are really, really easy. 

This ties in with a comment I made to a psychologist friend over the weekend. She works in the public system. Our psychiatrist friend was saying how she couldn't handle listening to people's problems and issues all day, which the psychologist has to do. I asked the psychologist whether she found it frustrating to listen to people's issues, which are big to the person but probably quite trivial and easily dealt with in the big picture. Their solutions are probably simple and clear - if they'll just make those changes. When you're in the trees you can't see the wood.

Then, I think of things that were of big concern to me seven years ago and how I'd eat those concerns as an hors d'oeuvres now, with barely a burp.

This someone... he is in a live-in relationship with someone half his age from a different cultural group. The relationship has its challenges. He isn't working and doesn't need to work because he has a regular income. He has too much stuff, accumulated over decades, and is drowning in it. Making a house move is terrifying for him because he can't face dealing with his belongings, which he doesn't like to let go of. 

He said to me that he can't travel because he doesn't want to leave his house in the hands of his partner if he is away. 

I asked him whether he heard himself say that sentence and that, if I said to him, "I can't come visit because I don't want to leave my partner alone in my home because I don't trust what will happen there while I'm away", he would tell me to get the hell out of the relationship. Any good friend would say the same.

From my perspective, he has money and no fixed responsibilities so he has the freedom to do whatever he wants. 

To me, the solutions to his problems are easy. Sell the house, put items you really want in a storage garage and get a truck from an auction place to clear the rest out. Selling the house also helps to solve the 'complicated domestic relationship' issue. Go travel from the west coast of South Africa to the east coast and live life.

He has had a challenging few years with lots of stress and some illness. I'd like to see him travelling around the country, visiting places and enjoying experiences - while he has good health and mobility to do so.

But, he won't. 

His mind has created a cage and he is locked inside. No amount of prodding from me will get him to unlock the gate. He has to wake up one morning and decide to do so himself. Time isn't kind and if he leaves it too long it will be too late for him to do all the fun things he should have started to do years ago already. 

The stresses and challenges that I'm dealing with at work also have an easy solution. I see it but I'm not quite ready to take the step. I often think about this, wondering at the cages I may have created. How much is real and how much is perceived?

In an online interview I watched a few days ago, a question from viewer had something to do with making changes when you're older and these changes having more significant consequences because you're older - often without a safety net.

It is easier to clean out someone else's garage because it is free from history, sentiments and emotions. In the same way, it is easier to solve other people's problems rather than your own.

It is useful then to be able to put yourself in the role of your own friend and to ask, "What would I say to a friend in my position?". Then, you just need the courage to take your own advice.

Monday, 6 June 2022

Find three reasons

The monthly calendar that is sent to me by a friend each month was titled Meaningful May for the month of May. Each day's block has a few words that remind, nudge or guide you towards more meaningfulness - like "Focus on what you can do rather than what you can't" or "Listen to a favourite piece of music and remember what it means to you".

For Tuesday, 31 May 2022, the entry reads, "Find three reasons to be hopeful about the future".

Know what? I'm stumped. 

By any standard, I have a good life. I live in a great location, I have friends and family, I've got amazing dogs, I run my own business (through ups and downs and challenges) but I am not very hopeful about the future. Or my future.

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), "having hope is having an expectation that something good will happen in the future or that something bad won't happen". 

Man, I'm the girl on the couch, holding a taser, waiting for the boogeyman to burst through the door.

There are a number of issues that my mind turns over regularly, 

I'm not hopeful for the environment, marine life, sustainability, reducing deforestation and halting the melting of Greenland and Antarctica. 

I'm not hopeful for the millions of school children in South Africa whose only meals are served by their schools. I'm not hopeful that they will have the homes, upbringing, education or jobs that they should have. 

I'm not hopeful that the hundreds of thousands of young people who have left school or tertiary education will find work. Or that those older people, who had jobs and lost them because the business that they worked for haven't survived, will be able to find jobs to support their families.

I'm not hopeful that there will be, in my lifetime, a decrease in the current rising number of teenagers with serious behavioural and mental health issues; and I'm less hopeful that there will be sufficient professional help for them - as well as for adults with mental health issues. 

I'm not hopeful that prices of fuel and the knock-on increases in food, transport and goods costs will come down and that earning potential goes up. There are so very many people on the edge; too many will fall over. This is not just a 'tightening of belts'. This is serious.

I'm not hopeful that South Africa can kick the rot of corruption and pocket lining at the expense of its people as well as the lack of maintenance and infrastructure development, and the wrong people in the wrong positions because of their political affiliations instead of their experience and knowledge.

An article I read online about being hopeful says, "Being hopeful relies partly on having a sense of control; it’s the idea that you can exert an influence on the world around you and that the actions you take can have positive consequences in your life."

I think that this is part of the problem: in all of these things I've mentioned above, as well as many work challenges, I have no sense of control. 

I can compost, but I can't save the Amazon. 

I can stop using plastic shopping bags and clingwrap, but I can't force those around me to change their behaviours. 

I can pick up litter daily on trails, but I can't get the people to stop throwing their wrappers and bottles on the trails.

I can help a lady to get to study for a course to do a job she will love, but I can't give her a job that will make all the difference to her household. 

And I can't give jobs to the 80-something mostly completely unqualified young people that applied when I advertised a position last year. These people are unlikely to get jobs anywhere.

We can't make kayaks and I can't fulfill orders if we don't have plastic.

I drew up a YOLO ad last night to promote the other products that I have brought in - all of them being long-lasting, reusable alternatives to single-use items. 

YOLO is indeed an acronym for You Only Live Once. I was thinking of a tagline of sorts like, "You only live once. Live a good life".

While I have not been able to think of three reasons to be hopeful about the future, I can still live a good life where my actions are inline with my values and expectations for how I'd like the world to be.