Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Keys: Gratitude and Generosity

The two themes that have emerged over the past week are gratitude and generosity.

While I am frantically packing and getting ready for the Keys 100 race, I have taken the time this week to keep my focus off the race so much and to concentrate on the other things I'm involved in outside of running.

Where do gratitude and generosity fit in with running across the Florida Keys? Three different events this week brought me back to these themes, all separate situations, but related in an important way.

First, this past week was Nurses Week. In the past when I worked full-time, it seemed that I never got to participate in any of the Nurses Week activities because I was working, taking care of patients. This year with my part-time schedule I got to attend a class which got me thinking.

And someone else I've met recently who is a cancer survivor said something about gratitude this week that I've contemplated in the past, but the way she framed it with words was so perfect because of her experiences and genuine feelings behind it.

Finally, last night was the Foundation's Spring Benefit event, which is always a great time. The theme was fitting, "island casual", for my upcoming trip. The featured speaker emphasized the theme of generosity.

Being involved in these group learning activities and social events helps keep my running in perspective. Before I go into detail about how these three events fit the themes, I'll talk about the running.

Keeping the race in perspective is helpful, I haven't been so focused on this one, because it isn't a "big race" for me. It is a training run, a reminder of how to run this particular distance, which isn't my favorite, but it's an important re-learning experience.

Making myself run this distance will be good because it pushes me out of my comfort zone. It's a mental training exercise more than anything.

I haven't run the 100 mile distance in 12 years, since my last Leadville Trail 100 in 1998. I like the fixed-time events like the 24 hour, 48 hour, and Badwater-type distance races so much more, they allow me time to sleep, enjoy it, and not worry about a time limit.

The one hundred mile race distance never did agree with my body, I could always finish, but I felt rushed when I needed a nap, when my body was telling me to sleep, and I had to look at my watch and keep moving to make it in under the time cutoff.

I haven't had much time for the nagging little obsessive runner thoughts, like the fact that I've done just six long runs for this race, that I've averaged only 48 miles a week since the beginning of the year, that I've never run in humidity before, that I weigh more now than I ever have in my life, even after I graduated from nursing school.

Probably due to the fact that a few weeks ago I discovered Ben and Jerry's Key Lime Pie ice cream, a new flavor. Perfect for pre-race fat loading, with an island theme.

This morning I'm headed downtown to watch the finish of the Colorado Marathon. Among so many runners I know, I will be looking for Eric, a co-worker who is running his first marathon. I'll see the runners come across the finish line, glad to be done. What evaporates from their minds at this point are the little trivial nagging ideas in the back of their minds that runners obsess about. Have I trained enough? Am I prepared? Am I rested? Have I gained/lost too much weight? Will an injury flare up?

I was commiserating with Cat, my running partner, about these little things on our run this week, but we laughed about how we think the same way and it really doesn't matter. You're ready if you think you're ready. And I am ready.

And at the end of the race runners are just glad to be done, relieved to be able to rest and socialize and get back to normal. All the little worries are gone.

And I know I will be, too. I know what I will feel. That I am so fortunate to be here, to be able to run this race, to be able to take a vacation, to be with my husband for 20 years, that we have our beautiful dogs, and to have the life that we have.

And it's an opportunity to give. I hope that people will donate to the Foundation in honor of my race, but even more important is getting a message across. The message that we are all a community, we all depend on each other, no one goes through this life alone, and we are individuals, but we are not separate from each other.

Gratitude and generosity.

The Nurses Week presentation was about horizontal hostility among nurses. As I've said before, nurses are great advocates for their patients but terrible at advocating for themselves. In any workplace, interactions with other people can be the hardest part of a job. People bring their unresolved issues from their lives to work. It's a fact, no matter what your occupation is or where you work, it can happen at any level in an organization, and it can be vertical as well as horizontal.

I think gratitude and generosity both fit in here. When you appreciate what you have, you can be kind to people. Accepting them where they are, and not making assumptions or judgements. Appreciating them for who they are, different and separate from you, but connected. We always have opportunities to learn so much from each other, and to give each other so much.

Often the rewards we receive at work are material things. But in the workplace, simple things like a kind word or even eye contact, greeting people by their name, letting them know you recognize their presence and acknowledging that they exist, that you recognize what they do, shows them they are valued. These are such simple practices but so often get lost and forgotten in interactions with others.

The person I met recently, who touched me with her words about gratitude, was speaking with a group of us the other night, and the theme of gratitude came through in a way that I think many runners would benefit from hearing. She is not a runner, but she talked about the often-expressed notion that your health is everything. Not everyone believes that, but I think many runners do.

She discovered that when her health was at the lowest point during her cancer treatment, it allowed her to see all the other things she has in her life, that it changed her perspective on how she valued things.

The body is one thing, but the presence of friends, family, a spiritual presence, and so many more things are important, even if physical health is not optimal.

Runners can forget. They assume they will be able to keep on going race after race. Their lives and health often revolve around running. All it takes is an injury or illness to send a moderately obsessed runner into a tailspin. What do I do now? It causes a sort of identity crisis.

Sometimes I hesitate to put my event list on this blog because I have seen how tenuous life and health can be. I hope to be able to do most or all of those events, but it's not certain. There are no guarantees.

Finally, last night I attended the Spring Benefit. The featured speaker was a local oncologist, a warm, vibrant, highly respected physician who is also a cancer survivor. She spoke about generosity, our connectedness to each other in the community, and how this theme has tied her life together.

We are truly connected to each other. We give something to others all the time, every day, whether or not we are aware of it, with everyone we encounter. It can be as simple as kindness, or it can be something not quite as good.

We have a choice in what we give.

Make what you give a true gift.

p.s. Congratulations Eric for finishing your first marathon! Great job!

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