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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chablis by the sea

A weekend at a friend's house, directly on the beach. Beauty. Pure beauty. Few words to explain. Even pictures lack the sounds and the scents of the ocean. But memories are infallible.

Late afternoon view from the master's bedroom

Backyard (a one minute walk to the beach)

Footsteps in the sand, declining sun



Moonrise 2

Morning view from the kitchen

Morning coffee spot

Morning salt spray

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Floating memories

Geoff LMV, Flickr

“I, or any mortal at any time, may be utterly mistaken as to the situation he is really in.” 
― C.S. LewisA Grief Observed

The girl who's not fazed by much (including snakes, spiders and open wounds) almost had a panic attack when she discovered that her basement had become a wading pool after the latest big rains.

Among other things, a very precious box was sitting in two inches of water: the box that contains more than 25 years of personal diaries (mostly written between the ages of 10 and 20) and creative writing attempts.

The box was salvaged. After further investigation, however, most of its contents proved less valuable than one could have thought. Personal diaries mostly containing soliloquies about this and that crush or fling, usually followed by this and that breakup, become kind of repetitive after a while. Sure, there are some cute or insightful passages, but for the most part, the voluminous production will be better left unpublished.

The one part of the diaries that might prove worthy of sharing exposes the reality of the grieving process. For months after my father passed away (when I was 24), I filled pages and pages, longhand, trying to pour onto paper what was too heavy to keep inside.

It worked. Both the process and the result were successful.

Which takes me to the "writing as therapy" theory. Have you noticed how much writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, songs) serves the purpose of catharsis for overwhelming emotions? There are so many examples. Unrequited love might be one of the most fertile source of inspiration of all, whether it's induced by a love that one longs for in vain, or by a past love that has seen its last days, but lingers cruelly.

Suffering, and the need to exorcise pain in general, is a powerful source of creative production, including in the written form. Coming to terms with a difficult experience, like the loss of a loved one or the loss of one's own health, often creates a compelling need to create. And if pen and paper (or the keyboard) is your favoured outlet, writing can be a powerful coping mechanism.

It wouldn't be surprising if I spent some time re-reading my grieving journal in the coming weeks, especially since my father's birthday is coming very soon, followed three weeks later by the date he passed away. If I find anything that I believe worthy of sharing, I will 1) translate it to English 2) post it here.

While I wrote my own grieving journal I was also reading another one, that of C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed). Religious or not, every reader can gain something from it. Excerpt:

“One never meets Cancer, or War, or Unhappiness (or Happiness). One only meets each hour or moment as it comes... One never gets the total impact of what we call 'the thing itself.' But we call it wrongly. The thing itself is simply all these ups and downs: the rest is a name or an idea.” 

In the meantime, you can also read this blog of a young psychiatrist dealing with cancer.

Have you ever used writing as a form of therapy?
Have you used other people's therapeutic writing as your own therapy?

For more water related posts, look no more:





Sunday, September 7, 2014

Every day deserves a workout

Sam Howzit, Flickr

Last week I found myself caught in a debate about weight, BMI, body fat and all those indicators of health. A friend complained that his BMI puts him in the "obese category", which he visibly thought was an exaggeration, as were the 30 pounds he "should" lose to fall into the upper end of the "healthy BMI" range. I asked him if he knew his body fat percentage, since it's another useful measurement in times of uncertainty. Again, he said that his BF % also indicates that he needs to get significantly leaner to be considered healthy.

The conversation then moved on to other, more subjective ways perhaps, to evaluate whether your weight is acceptable or not, i.e. healthy. Someone suggested that the best indicator of a healthy weight is whether or not you like the image you see in the mirror. I politely had to disagree. Instead, I suggested, you should base your evaluation on the way you feel when you walk upstairs, play with your kids, carry heavy grocery bags. I added: "and how you feel on scorching hot days".

Numbers, as accurate as the calculations may be, are only one side of the story. The way we see ourselves is no better. We are all biased toward our own appearance. Anorexia nervosa is a good example of people highly overestimating their size. It's also been said of obese people who go on to lose a lot of weight that they still consider themselves big afterward, as if it had somehow permeated their permanent identity, no matter how small they actually become. As for me, having been thin all my life, I did not even recognize the fact that I had become overweight after my second (and partly bed-rested) pregnancy. My identity was that of a thin woman, and the fact that I was now significantly bigger did not register until I actually lost the weight and looked at post-partum pictures of myself, a few years later.

I have been fit. I have been unfit. 1-2 years ago I was in the best shape of my life - I had a personal trainer, went to the gym 4 times a week on top of running (toward a half-marathon) another 4 times a week. Right now I am not at the top of my abilities (e.g. I could not run a half-marathon tomorrow), but fit I still am.

That is perfectly acceptable. Being in an elite athletic shape (which has never been my case) might not be sustainable full-time; even "real" athletes go through phases, as I discovered when I coached university level triathletes.

Being unfit, however, shouldn't be an option. As a teenager I remember thinking "I wish I don't ever become completely out of shape". That was before I realized that wishing (and hoping and thinking and praying) has absolutely nothing to do with fitness. Fitness is something you grab by the horns and never let go.

Even if you don't feel like it.

Even if you're too busy.

Even if you're too sore.

Even if you're too tired.

Even if you're too stressed.

Even if you're too depressed.

Or simply not in the mood.

Your mood has nothing, I repeat nothing to do with whether or not you should exercise. In fact, there is a very good chance that your mood (and everything else I just listed above) will improve once exercise becomes a habit.

Just go.

30 minutes suffice and you only need your body weight and comfortable clothes. You don't need to push yourself to intense pain or until you throw up, either. As long as you can feel your breath, heartbeat and sweating intensify, you're probably doing it right. Struggling to keep balance is also a sign that you're working on something meaningful:

Try doing this on a floating dock!

Do it. Every day. It's a gift you are giving yourself.

What are your main obstacles when it comes to exercising?
How do you overcome them?

For more on health, weight, and the accuracy of BMI measures, click here.