Sunday, April 14, 2013

Reactions to First 130 pages of A Life Without Limits

Hopefully those of you who have jumped on board with the LTE book club are enjoying our first book, A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington.  By now if you've been reading about 9 pages a day, you should be up to around page 126, so let's just call it 130!

So here are my reactions so far.  What the book has made me think, things I can relate to, etc.  All page cites are to the hard copy book:

Page 47:  "It's all too easy to see a homeless person on the street almost as a non-person. It doesn't really occur to you that they have a life and a family and have often been in so-called 'normal' jobs.  But at some point, or points, along the way they have encountered adversity and have been unable to cope.  A lot of them were ex-Forces.  They had become institutionalized, and had left the system without any support."

I love that Wellington is always conscious of those in need around her and around the world.  For her, these social issues strike a deep chord within her.  I can relate to that.  How many of you try to talk to the homeless people you see on the way to work or as you're out getting your morning coffee?  There are two homeless men that I usually see and talk to on the way to work or when I'm out getting my afternoon cupcake!  Both of them sell Street Sense, the homeless newspaper, and both have fascinating stories.  One of them, Ivory Wilson, just published a book on Amazon called A Player's World: Wanna Be a Pimp?  It's about his life as a pimp and how it sent him on a downward spiral.  His hope is that it will encourage other young men not to take that same path. His life story is one of despair, drugs, and ultimately, redemption.

But those two men don't represent a fraction of the homeless people I encounter in this metropolitan area.  Yet, many of them, I don't speak or even see.  I'm a hypocrite, just like all of you...And yes, you are.  Unless you stop and talk to or give money to every single homeless person or person in need that you see, we're all hypocrites.  But that's ok.  The flip side of that is that even if you talk to one person in need or help that one person in some way, you've made the world a better place.  That's all we can ask.

Also, the next time you see a person in need, remember, as Wellington points out:  "Your own problems paled into insignificance."  Always keep perspective.

Page 52-53:  When Wellington first joined the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as a "civil servant," I could relate to her enthusiasm. That's how I felt when I first joined the Government as an environmental attorney.  I too, was "bapti[zed] by fire; I was flying by the seat of my pants."  It was exhilarating and rewarding.  Then, later on she explains:  "Something else had been growing inside me in 2003, and that was the sense that my work at [the Department] was not making the difference to the world that I had hoped it might.  I was becoming disillusioned with all the bureaucracy and red tape."  (page 62).  Again, I can relate, and find myself in that exact same position now....

Chapter 6 - Nepal:  This whole chapter made me want to quit my job and go ride around Nepal!  The "sixteen-day bike ride from Lhasa" that she describes (pg 74)  is the exact type of endurance activity that I think calls to so many of us.  It's brutal, physically and mentally demoralizing, yet so unconscionably rewarding.  This chapter shows how Wellington truly started to find herself.  What it leaves me struggling with, however, is how can those of us who can't afford to take off and bike around Nepal, start to find ourselves?  I posed the same question to myself when I recently watched the movie The Way, with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  It's about hiking the El Caminio (the way) through Spain. Thousands of people do it every year and it takes at least a month (depending on your pace and how long you stay in towns along the way).  People do it because they're in search of that elusive "something."  My heart longs to buy a plane ticket, pack a bag, and set off to walk the El Camino on my own.  But again, responsibilities here preclude that.  So what can we do instead?  I have yet to figure that out...

Page 93: Wellington talks about her diagnosed "weakness in [her] core, [her] glutes and hamstrings[.]"  You're preaching to the choir sister!  I have the same issue and it's something I need to be much more diligent about working on.  This is also one of the other reasons I find Wellington so relatable.  Not only is she so open about her eating disorder, but she's honest about the fact that her body needed work to get to the level she wanted.  All athletes think that. All athletes think their core is weak.  But Wellington's weaknesses were much more similar to what most of us women face.  Even more than that, however, is the fact that she turned all of her weaknesses into strengths.  She wasn't resigned to having a weak core, and neither are we!

Page 101:  Wellington talks about the swimming weaknesses that Brett Sutton pointed out.  Again, preachin' to the choir!  It almost made me want to go out and hire Sutton and break out my paddles and pull buoy!  Again, she shows her weaknesses...and then in the end, shows how they became a strength.

Page 123:  I love the email that Wellington quotes from Sutton.  My favorite part:  "I hope you are receiving the point i am making here.  it's time you forgot about, 'woe is me, all these coincidences,' and got some self-discipiine in your head.  the training you got a handle on, the walking around in nerd lad you have not.  you get over that the same was as improving an athletic weakness.  BY KNOWING AND BY TRAINING IT OUT.  life is nothing but a habit.  get to work."

One of the other important ways in which I relate to Wellington is her "nerdiness" - her own self-proclamation as a "muppet."  I too am clumsy.  I too get wrapped up in all the details.  I too flail around like a muppet.

I bust may ass with training, but what do I do to mentally train my mind and my spirit?  Mental focus is such an integral, yet often looked-over, part of training.  Not only does having a strong mind and spirit keep you going, but it keeps you upright.  If you're not in the moment and totally focused on what you're doing, you'll likely end up on your ass.  It's so easy when you're out on a long run to just zone out, letting your mind wander.  Maybe you're thinking about the problems in your life, maybe it's happy memories, maybe it's what you'll make for dinner.  Whatever "it" is, it's depriving you of the moment.  It's also making you more susceptible to stepping on a rock and twisting your ankle.  Or getting hit by a car.  This is where road running, I think, is a disadvantage over trail running.  It's so easy to zone out when you're running on the road.  You do that running on the trail and you'll be on your ass in a flash.  Running on the trail forces you to focus on every step, every rock, every tree root...every moment.  When you get to the point where your mind can be that focused, you're actually free.  You hit a meditative state where you are completely within yourself and your surroundings.  Not anywhere else.

It's possible to reach that meditative state off the trail too, and not just running on the road, but in every day life.  Do I work on that though?  Nope.  Instead, I (like Wellington) seem to focus on what's happening to me.  I focus on all the obstacles that have fallen in front of me and think "woe is me."  If you come across a fallen tree on a trail run, do you think "that tree fell just to be in my way!"  No, you think "well, let's just go around or over it."

After being reactive for so long, my mind has just developed that habit.  But, like any muscle, I can retrain it to do something different.  To not look at something that is being acted upon, but as the object that is doing the acting.  To be proactive instead of reactive.    To take control.  To be in the moment.  To really see myself in my surroundings.  Only then will my mind be as strong as my body...

I hope you're enjoying the book...

What are your reactions so far? 

1 comment:

Jen said...

I have been touched by her openness about her struggles with her body. It is a potent concept for me to recognize that even someone who has literally achieved great things with her body has had struggles. It is not only humanizing in someone I have long admired, but it somehow made me feel as though perhaps I could let up on myself a little bit. I have to admit, I went back and re-read several parts of this. I have been getting someone disordered in my eating of late and reading this made me just, I don't know... recognize it? It's a good thing.

P.S., I truly loved her biking around Nepal!