Love is …..

What is love?

Apparently that is one of the most searched questions on Google. I know I have asked it myself.

Love is an emotion I am not sure I feel or receive.

Odd, isn’t it. I am married to my best friend. I have three kids. I know I probably do love them, but identifying that emotion is beyond me.

I know when I am cold. I know when I am hot. Happy. Sad. Hungry. In pain.

But I struggle to identify love.

Yes, I say I love things. Chocolate. Coffee. This book. That movie.

I don’t tell people I love them. Even when alone in the middle of the night, sitting with my dying mother, I found it hard to utter those three words. Eventually I did. Maybe she had been waiting for them all her life too, she died two hours later.

No-one told me they loved me when I was growing up. It was not the done thing.

I have lived most of my life struggling to even like myself, let alone love me. I took it as read that perhaps I was not very loveable. Even Andrew doesn’t really declare his emotions for me. The language of love in our family is a strong dialect of sarcasm. My kids are incredibly fluent. Though Robbie checks in with a touch on the shoulder as he passes. Jonny steals my glasses as he goes by. Juliet talks to me these days – high praise indeed. Andrew says, if he doesn’t add “you stupid bitch” to the end of his sentence, that is good enough.

But last night I felt something which I assume was love. For a person. Luckily it was my husband. He has been particularly supportive as I wrestle with a problem. I looked at his face. And this huge wave of warmth and emotion swept through my body.

Love.

Wow. I love my husband!!

Did I say it? Nope. Too chicken.

Maybe when he wakes up. Though the emotion I feel towards his snoring is definitely not love!

PS: Some of you might poo-poo the sentiments expressed above. Please remember this is what I feel, not what you perceive me to be or feel. My journey of healing through counselling has reinforced the importance of owning my feelings and emotions. No one has the right to judge me on those.

I know I have warped views on some things – love, sex, body image. I am working on them in my own time.

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Celebrations

Happy birthday.

Two little words which say so much and so little.

My birthday is very soon. It is a “big one”. For a number of years peer pressure has been on. “What are you doing for your 50th? You have to have a party.”

Well, actually, I don’t. And I am not.

I am not worried about turning 50. In reality I will be one day older than the previous day, an experience I have coped with every day since the first morning after my birth in 1964. I am really looking forward to being in a new age group for running. Fist pump!!

I am worried about the birthday rituals.

Growing up birthdays were big. One of my early memories is standing on a chair in the kitchen beside mum. She was mixing a cake. For me. For my third birthday. We were talking. I remember happiness.

I remember turning five and going to visit Granny, a little wizened body in a bed. I showed her my new school suitcase. It was brown. It was a Sunday. I started school the next day with two others. I was only in that class for three weeks, getting fast tracked through the primers.

I had a party at seven. Again at 10. I remember my friend giving me a card telling me how great it was to be in “double number digits” – I remember her getting the words muddled. I was also one of the last in my school year to hit the double digits. Only Rachel was younger and she was a Seventh Day Adventist so they didn’t even have birthdays. I remember being horrified at that thought.

I quite like the idea now.

I had my 19th birthday in London, accidentally finding a gay bar in Hampstead. My 23rd birthday in Vancouver, almost getting arrested for drinking on the beach. My 24th birthday in the Sinai, riding a camel with no steering!

My 30th was set in 1964 – ladies a plate, men a crate. My 40th was a girls’ own karaoke party. And a big family dinner.

I like birthdays. But recently not my own.

Is it the advent of FB where your worth is measured by the number of people listed as friends. Where you post your birthday openly. And total random strangers wish you a happy day. My birthday is not listed. The people who matter to me know when it is.

So the big five oh. A couple of years ago I said to Andrew I didn’t want a party. But I wanted to acknowledge it in a big way. Like doing the Coast to Coast. Not Ironman, too cliched. He vetoed that idea. Put me on a lifetime ban. Too expensive to enter. To expensive to outfit yourself. Too much time/money to be spent in training. I acquiesced.

The Big Five marathon in Africa? Nope too expensive for us both to go. I wanted to share such an occasion with someone.

He said he would take me away for a week in the sun. I chose northern Queensland. He would organise it. Time ran out. He had no passport. No flights booked. Nothing. I offered him an out and said what the hell. Let’s go to Queenstown.

But less than three weeks out, I cannot trust him to have done anything. With three children, a business, his mother having a heart attack, I can see my birthday just slipping down the priority list.

I wish it would just slip off the radar completely.

Because honestly, I would rather not have it. Then I cannot feel disappointed.

But it is not presents I crave, but presence. It is not a FB reminder to post something inane on my wall, it is knowing that someone thought of me and what would make me smile and feel loved. Any day. Everyday. Not just one day.

I am over birthdays. I think we should celebrate our love for people every and any day. I am part of this initiative called paying it forward, where you randomly give or do something for someone because you have been thinking of them.

It has been fun. A dinner voucher emailed to a friend in the US for her local restaurant. Flowers to cheer up a friend having a bad day/week/life at work. And the smiles on three friend’s faces when I gave them little brooches I had made (pretty badly) celebrating their unique careers – priceless.

I like birthdays. I like presents. I like cake. I like parties. I’m just not that keen on my own. Unfortunately, the alternative is death!

Happy birthday. So cliched. Here’s to celebrating Happy random thinking of a special person day.

The title picture is from Mick Inkpen’s storybook, Kipper’s Birthday. About a dog who invites all his friends over for a birthday party “tomorrow” but forgets to deliver the invitations. Consequently he celebrates alone, feels unloved. But the next day, his friends turn up with things for a party. Kipper is a much loved character to my kids.

Simple Pleasures

This is about the fourth attempt I have made to “blog” recently. But all the previous efforts have been discarded. I really had nothing to say. My husband would probably agree this is true most of the time but I carry on yacking away.

My title of the blog is 50 things which make me go Wow. And this morning is a wow morning. For the sheer simple pleasure of sunshine. And falling leaves. And taking the time to sit.

It is late Saturday morning. I had been doing inside jobs and it was cold. Our house is definitely colder and damper than it used to be and it was never known for its ambient temperature. I was cold. But when I came outside to hang out the washing, which began steaming as the sun hit it, I was surprised how mild it was.

I brought a cushion and my knitting and set myself up on the garden bench right beside our front door.

I still wore my beanie though, partly to keep my head warm (I am a reptile) and partly to measure againstq as I knit another beanie the same for a young friend.

The air was still. Sounds of the city filled the air, traffic going about its business, kids playing on the school playground, the neighbour’s toddler complaining.

Then there was a clatter, a lot like the sound of reindeer hooves on the roof in Clement Clarke Moore’s famous poem.

I looked up, and one of our oak trees was just shedding its leaves. Rustle, rustle, rustle. They fluttered and flew across the blue sky, discs of gold and green, zig zagging their way to the ground.

Adidas pounced and killed a few. But most managed to land on the lawn. Where they will lie until they annoy me too much and I will rake them away.

It is even warmer now. I can take off my hat. A sunny day in May. A simple pleasure. A wow to hold and recall when winter really sets in.

Half-Marathon; Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love My Body

I just read this and I wanted to share it.

The Z-Axis

I’ve never told anyone these things. My parents, my sister, my friends – no one. So heads up. You’re the first to know.

For the last few years, I have grown, slowly but steadily, to despise the way my body looks.

When I was a kid, I was always told how skinny I was. I didn’t break fifty pounds until I was eight years old. In high school I was always the smallest – height and weight – of my friends. I grew up knowing, somehow, intuitively, that ‘being skinny’ was something good, that it was something I should maintain. In high school, that belief was confirmed and reinforced by magazines, friends who were constantly ‘dieting’, and my school’s insistence on athletic rigor and social ostracism of students who didn’t fit the body ideal. But I was always warned that, as a woman, ‘my time would come’, I would have kids…

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Keep calm and run a marathon.

Murphy has a lot to answer to. His law seemed to prevail this past week. If it could go wrong, then it would.

There was the last minute accommodation kerfuffle, which finally got sorted to everyone’s satisfaction. There was the realisation that I had neglected to book a flight with bag and my suitcase was slightly too big for cabin baggage. I bluffed my way through that one. There was Signor Grumpy who refused to allow me to order a full sized meal of pumpkin risotto even though it was offered as a side. Consequently I was a little hungry going to bed the night before a marathon.

There was losing everyone in the crowds 10 minutes before the start and still carrying my gear bag. I finally found Rodger in the starting chute and he ran forward with my bag to give to his wife.

It was now less than five minutes to the start. Time to take some deep breaths. Focus. Five months of training was about to tested.

Someone began to sing the waiata, and then the rest if the kapa haka group joined in. Straight into the haka. The countdown. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. BOOM!!! The cannon blasts. We were off.

The running of the 50th Rotorua marathon. A marathon chosen because this is my 50th birthday month(ish).

My goal was to head out at 5:05 pace, hold it steady through the hills which were fairly steady from 5k with a big saddled climb between 20 and 25k, and then one last long climb at 30k.

I checked my Garmin. It just didn’t look right. Shit. The last time I had worn it I had been on my bike and it was still set in bike mode. I couldn’t remember how to change it. Dammit. Damn that bloody Murphy. I would have to run with it registering average speed in kilometres rather than pace. Oh well.

First k done, I felt really comfortable but the pace (which flashes with every k in tiny little writing) was 4:52. Too fast. I tried to slow down, but literally couldn’t. The next 10k were pretty much all bang bang bang around the 4:50 mark. I felt really easy.

It was tough running though, through the suburbs and then alongside the main highway out of Rotorua to Hamilton and Auckland. There was a lot of traffic, and noise.

We had driven the route yesterday so I knew vaguely what lay ahead. A lot of hills barely noticeable in the Holden but big climbs on foot. I am strong on hills and have the experience now to keep a steady pace on both sides. First 5k done in 24 minutes. Seems slow for a 5k but not in a marathon.

I first ran Rotorua in 2008. It was only my second marathon and I was pushing for 3:50 which would have been a Boston qualifier in those days. I went out too fast, burned on the hills, and suffered through the final 18 kilometres into a headwind, for a time of 3:55. No Boston for me that time.

So I knew Rotorua was a tough taskmaster. As we had discussed the previous night, it used to be called the Rotorua Challenge!

With all the snafu over my gear bag I had not managed a final pit stop. My gut had been iffy for the previous 36 hours and you’d think would have had nothing left. With all my blood going to the muscles, luckily it seemed to forget it had wanted a final visit to the poop deck. (I have been reading about Captn James Cook who mapped NZ in the Endeavour). My bladder was on temporary hold.

This race had big numbers for a NZ marathon. I was not running alone. In fact I was tripping over people, especially at drink stations. At one stage I flung my arm out to give a thumbs up to a bagpiper and nearly took someone’s eye out. He was trying to pass on my inside. Whoops.

My running club had six people running in our distinctive royal blue singlet with bright orange horizontal stripe. It clearly states Christchurch Avon Athletic Club, front and back. It was great. So many people cheered me on, “Go Christchurch”. A lot of NZ feel sorry for what we are living with, and many if them have not actually spoken to someone who has lived through the earthquakes and flooding. It was very warming.

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My bib also had my name on it. So I got a lot of “Go Robyns.” That really helps. Everyone got a thumbs up. The volunteers on the drinks station all got thanked.

We are leaving suburbia, and running closer to the lake. Rotorua is the centre of the geothermal region. There is an ever present smell of rotten eggs. And little pockets of steam just vent out of the ground, anywhere and everywhere. Boiling mud. Spouting geysers. It is surrounded by volcanoes, long since extinct, but not so far south there are still Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngarahoe. I was going to be mightily pissed if volcanic activity ruined this weekend!

10k done in 48 minutes.

A couple of dudes caught me. They had bunches of blue helium balloons. They were the 3:30pacers. I was still worried about my pacing, feeling it was too fast, so I planned to stick with them. My AA goal was sub3:30 but I really thought that was a fantasy considering the hilliness and my PB is 3:27. So my more realistic A goal was 3:32 but I expected to run 3:36, and would be happy with under 3:40.

I hadn’t set split times to meet. This was was going to be run by feel/effort. Because it was also the NZ marathon champs I knew there were some big names. And because it is located centrally to the biggest population bases, more people would attend. Not so many North Islanders bother to travel when the champs are in the South Island.

These pacing guys were running steadily, but I felt they were running a little fast for a 3:30 finish. Still I kept up with them through the big hills. They were big hills. Climbing for about 2k, traversing a saddle for just under a k, up again and then a long steep descent. I knew this is where you could trash your legs for the long run home. The balloons got ahead of me a bit. But I thought if they got home in 3:30 and I could still see them, then I would hit my 3:32.

Through the half way mark at 1:44. My Garmin was running between 200 and 300m ahead of the k markers, but there was a clock at halfway.

We hit the turn for home just short of 25k. Six years ago this is where some bastard tied a parachute filled with bricks onto my waist and I struggled to tow them home. This time I was tired but focussed. My average speed was 12.5k. That used to be my top interval speed on the treadmill! Oh how I have learned so much.

Other people seemed to have attracted the load of bricks. There were a lot of people walking now. We started another big long climb. I thought I could see another blue and orange singlet ahead of me. I pushed a bit harder and closed the gap. Sure enough it was Rodger, struggling. He has been dealing with an ongoing hamstring-glute injury and trying to fix it with wacky-doodle treatments. He was aiming for a 3:10 finish, even though it was obvious he was never going to do it. I always wondered if I would beat him this weekend. In the end he pulled out at the 30k mark. Sorry Rodger. With true Kiwi love and support he has been the butt (pun intended) of all our jokes since. The best being that it was the start of the duck shooting season, and Rodger bagged the biggest duck (a cricket term which means you are out for no runs).

That bloody headwind was back again. It was tough, mentally and physically. I felt like I was making no progress, whereas I was still running about 5:13 pace. My maths head was tired and I was doing crazy calculations. I wanted to walk. I wanted to stop. I wanted to be there. My toe hurt – there was a blister eruption growing. Must obey the rules and not wear new shoes!

But the ks kept ticking off. I kept battling the wind. I kept pushing it harder than I wanted to. The road is interminably straight. I have been passing people but still being passed by others. There are the half marathon walkers taking up space. And the next day driving it in reverse to the airport, we noticed what a steady climb it had been.

Somewhere we veer off but where was it. The ks are still ticking over. Down to 10 and then nine. Past the airport. Eight. Seven. Here’s the turnoff. This is shorter than around Hagley Park. There’s the finish over there.

Six. Five. Four. I ran four in 17mins last week. I have 23 minutes to run four this week and still break 3:30! Three. Pak’n’Save must be here soon. That is the final turn to home.

Two kilometres. Twelve minutes left.

One kilometre. And Pak’n’Save. The crowd goes wild. The support is incredible. The previous night we had secretly texted our estimated finish time to Andrea. The closest to their time would win. My text was simple. “3:32. Fuck!” But I knew that the others would have finished and they would be waiting for me.

We turn and run under the arches and down the river to the Rotorua Museum, a big grand old Victorian building. I cross a timing mat. People are yelling my name. My team mates. I sprint (or what counts as a sprint at the end of a gruelling 42k) past Mr Orange guy, aiming to get a gun time of under 3:30. It was 3:29:23. Net time 3:29:04.

Someone put a medal around my neck. Someone else stopped me and took my photo. I grabbed two bottles of Powerade and wandered out.

Andrew RJ and Richard found me. Congratulated me. Hugged me. There was Rodger. More hugs. And John. Another hug. I told them I needed to lie down, pass out, throw up or crap myself. Getting mixed messages from my body.

We met up with the wives and walked back to the hotel, a mere 500m away. Planned to reconvene for a soak in the mineral hot pools at 2:30pm.

I showered. And nibbled. And tried to sleep. But couldn’t. Eventually I wandered into town for some food. Macaroni cheese – yum, yum. Runners were still streaming in. We met up and went to the pools. It was really lovely sitting soaking the body in hot water, overlooking a steaming lake, birds flying. I don’t cope with the heat so I sat on the side and just soaked my legs. Had a bit of a swim in one pool. It was so lovely. The pools were filled with runners. There was a lot of sharing of war stories.

We went back to the hotel, met at the bar for a celebratory drink and walked back to the prize giving. I had found out by then that I had come fourth in my age group. Better than I expected. John had also come fourth with a time of 3:03. Rodger was a DNF. Richard had returned from the Paris marathon followed by four weeks in Europe. He was just behind John, considerably slower than his usual 2:50mark, but undertrained, overtired, and carrying a flight cold and a hip injury. Andrew ran 2:53. He found it tough too.

We went down to the prize giving. I was astounded to find that in the NZ Marathon Champs I had come second, John picked up a bronze medal.

What a wow. It really was a tough marathon. It was probably also the first marathon I really battled. Usually I get two weeks out and give up on my goals. Or sandbag. Or sabotage myself. But this time I just kept pushing and needling away. One more k. Just keep going. Run your own race. You are doing great.

Today I am tired. I never sleep well after a marathon. My toe hurts from my blister. My butt hurts from powering up those hills. I am hungry – need to find breakfast! But I am not terribly stiff at all.

And I am justifiably pleased with myself. Considering I have only five weeks left in this age group, I am still kicking some serious butt!

So every though the final days were fraught with obstacles, I overcame them and kept on kept calm(ish).