Riding to conquer cancer June 2011

My life on the clothes line!
Yesterday morning I hung the washing out.  This is clearly not a monumental event.  Most of us do it regularly but yesterday the enormity of what I have taken on suddenly hit me.  And, to me, this ride feels enormous.

My clothes line feels like the best possible symbol of the current ‘eclecticrity’ (one of my hobbies is making up new words) in my life.  There was, for all the neighbours to see, a summary of my current priorities and projects.

At the risk of getting totally boring, let me list it for you – 3 pairs of jodhpurs, 3 pairs of bike short, 3 bike tops, 2 sets of farm clothes, 3 business outfits, 2 pairs of jeans and an assortment of underwear ranging from the sturdy sporting collection to lace and ribbon.  That’s it folks, my life on a washing line.

So enough of the laundry summaries.  How is the training going I hear you ask?
Well I’m stoked!  After the initial, ‘getting to know Bertie’ ride which I already recounted to you, I followed that up with an exhilarating 30+klms, mostly on the flat but with some reasonable inclines (no hills yet).  I felt I had plenty in reserve but decided that would do me for my second run (and my second time on a bike in a long time).

I had been pondering how to manage regular rides with a farm to run, a business to manage and a horse to get ready for competition and decided having the bike with me as much as possible was a way to go.  So when I had a client meeting to attend in West End, I popped Bertie in the car and after the meeting exchanged the work attire for the bike gear and had a glorious exploratory amble around West End and over to Toowong and back.  Hills have now been introduced.  Bertie and me still feeling great.

I set myself a target of 35klms for the next ride and headed out from Boondall bound for Sandgate and beyond.  Bertie skipped along happily (well ‘skipped’ isn’t quite the word for a bike but you know what I mean) and even the driving head winds  we encountered on our return didn’t deter us.  42.19klms (yeah!!!!!), with hills and head winds, ok so now we are training.

Yesterday, after hanging out the washing, I headed off for a short run.  Decided I could fit just an hour in between work assignments in the office.  We took on more hills plus a bit of a ride down memory lane.  I decided to take Bertie to Philip’s old house (where he lived before we moved to the farm).  Yes, it was sad, so many memories of our first few years together but I felt Bertie needed to really know why we were doing this, and whilst I never need to be reminded, the memories become the motivators and the sadness spurred me on.

On other practical fronts.  I’m currently in the process of organising to see a sports nutrition specialist.  Getting the diet well set from the start being some insurance against burn out and break down.  I’m also not backing up big rides yet.  So having done the 40+ I followed that up with 15klms.  I know my body will need to back up longer rides but I’m wanting to build the stamina and appropriate muscle tone first.

Also important, I seem to remember from my basketball days, is varying the exercise.  Fortunately my horse Mischief provides a gorgeous alternative and I’ve increased my riding with her both to help with my muscle development and also to ensure we are both ready for competition that starts in April (switching from horse saddle to bike saddle is quite a funny experience).  Any other thoughts and ideas welcome!!!!

Fund raising has now also officially started and my heartfelt thanks to everybody who has donated so far – I really appreciate the help and support.  I’m keen to get some local businesses involved and ideally to get a couple of events off the ground.  Ideas, suggestions, offers of help all welcome.

That’s it folks, wish me luck!  Talk to you again soon.

October 2010

Much pondering has been done on when life starts and I have my own questions about when it ends.  Does life start at birth, conception or even before (is the possibility of life a start?) and does life end when we stop breathing, responding or interacting.  48 hours before my partner died he stopped responding, it was like the driver had left the vehicle with the motor running. His heart was beating (just), he breathing was laboured, he failed to respond to any stimuli.  Then, suddenly, it all stopped, like the vehicle had suddenly run out of petrol.  Does petrol make the vehicle go or does the driver (and what or who is the driver)?

In the pre-dawn moments of last Thursday (23rd September) new life appeared in my paddock.  The gorgeous Clydesdale mare Mischief gave birth a magnificent filly.  One minute there was just Mischief and then suddenly there was two bundles lying looking at us.  Did our new girl's life begin at 4.35 am on 23rd September or some eleven and half months ago, or maybe even before that when plans were being made for mare and stallion to meet (for at that point the potential for life was there).

I'm not sure the answers to such complex questions are freely available to us, however, the answer to a far less complex question is absolutely available.  On this day, in this moment am I alive?  My answer is a resounding yes, therefore, our most helpful response can only be to make it the best moment, the most valuable day possible.  Note I didn't say happiest, I didn't say most successful, whatever is happening how can we make it the best it can be?  I suspect our new girl has some answers to that but right now she seems content to gallop with gay abandon and sleep in blissful delight, and I think I might try to follow her example.

March 2010

Well anybody who knows me well will already have guessed what this month’s discussion is about – Birthdays!!!!  Why, because March is my birthday.  There is a date in March that my mother is adamant was the day I was born (and she should know) and another date that my grandmother predicted would be my birthday (and she was rarely wrong in her predictions) so to save confusion and any accusations of bias, I celebrate everyday for the whole month – why?

Because birthdays are so special, they are ours, they marked our arrival and they celebrate our existence and one day isn’t nearly enough so we all need a whole month.

I always start March with a special birthday meditation.  I often follow the Buddhist practice of meditating on death, but on March 1st I meditate on life, my life, and I set visions for the forthcoming 12 months.  Throughout the whole month of March I will make a concerted effort to do something special every day.  Now ‘special’ doesn’t have to mean expensive, indulgent or self obsessed.  One day might be just to cook myself my favourite dinner (and enjoy eating it alone if everybody I know is busy), another day I might give myself a whole hour to just lie down in the back garden and stare at the sky.  Music will feature for me, I’ll probably run away to my favourite coffee shop (The Flying Nunn in Samford, it’s gorgeous) a few times, I’ll start reading several books and leave them open all over the house, I’ll laugh more loudly then usual and naturally family and friends will feature in my celebrations.

My dear friend Chris calls March ‘the festival of Joni’.  When is your festival?  How are you celebrating your life?  If birthdays aren’t meaningful for you what other marker could you use?  We are all special, our lifetimes are unique and wondrous, even when the road is rocky there is something there to learn and celebrate.  Why wait, go one, do something amazing for yourself today!

April 2010

What lies within?  A fascinating question don’t you think and one which might be interpreted in lots of ways but my interpretation is about the inner us!

I have spent my entire life waiting to be creative.  I waited until just last year to start singing, until just a couple of months ago to start playing a musical instrument (the guitar), until the other week to be a song writer and am still waiting to be an artist.  Well this is what I would tell people until recently but is it really true?

The truth of the matter is of course it isn’t.  I wrote my first song on a beach in England.  I left England when I was 10 so clearly I wrote it before then.  I can still remember it, it was about feeling lonely and realising that the sea, sand and wind were there to keep me company.  One line says ‘and I’ll take the sea for my friend’, see I can remember it.  I can remember the tune as well.  So the song I wrote the other week is far from my first, it is just the first I have acknowledged and actually shown to people.

I started singing long before I can remember.  In my memory I have always sung, it just never felt good enough to put out there, so I sang in my alone moments.  As a child that meant at the bottom of the garden, as an adult it was often in the car.  This month alone I will probably sing on a stage (with people listening) at least 3 times.  Again, I didn’t just start singing; I have just started letting people listen.

My music room is full to the brim with instruments; it is a music room to delight any musician.  Everything has a story, some of the stories are uplifting and inspiring (like instruments brought home from travel in exotic places) and some are heavy and sad (the piano with all its memories, my dad’s piano accordion still seeped in sadness) and some are just new and exciting (the guitar that I can now pick up and strum or pluck).  Music has always guided my soul; it’s just that I have only just allowed myself to follow its lead.

And the painting!  Well the paints, canvas and easel are all here, tucked in cupboards and hiding under beds, but in April I will put them together without need for perfection or beauty, rather just because my spirit desires it.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention my book!  Well it’s underway and I’ll tell you more about it when it is finished, but it is progressing wonderfully.

So the point of this is?  Rather than waiting for your creativity to emerge, be unleashed or get discovered, think instead of all the creative things you already do and probably have always done, then feel free to add some more.  We are all creative, I truly and firmly believe this, are you letting the world share that precious part of you, or like so many are you hiding it away, afraid of being judged and found wanting?  Whether your passion is cooking, gardening, writing, drawing, singing, dancing, sport or any of the endless options available to us, celebrate your passion by unveiling your creativity today. The only person who has to enjoy it, appreciate it, look forward to it is you, and if others do too then that’s just a bonus.  Good luck!