Archive for August, 2011

18th August
written by Randy

Something strange happened this week.

I returned from New York early Monday morning and went straight to work. Then after work went out for drinks with a friend. All this time, I still had with me my backpack in which I had taken my clothes for the weekend.

But somewhere along the way, I misplaced my bag. Frankly, I just forgot about it. I left it on the bus when I got off. It was only after some time had gone by that I finally realized that I didn’t have it, and I realized that a large portion of the few remaining things I own were probably gone forever.

But the weird thing was that I wasn’t very concerned. I stood on the sidewalk thinking about what I’d be losing — nearly half of my wardrobe along with a few of my other remaining possessions — and the thought of replacing those things didn’t bother me at all. In fact, it kind of excited me!

It’s strange; I’m dangerously close to reaching my goal of owning 100 things or less, yet it seems the less I own, the less I care about the few things I still have. Things are losing all their meaning in my life.

In the end, the bus driver was an extremely nice lady. She stopped the bus at the next block and walked back to me with my bag. But now I’m tempted to just throw all that stuff away…

15th August
written by Randy

This weekend I met a friend in upstate New York and we ran Warrior Dash together. It was a lot of fun, but it was also much more difficult than I had expected.

I’m doing runs of 3 miles or more several times per week, so knowing that the Warrior Dash course was only 3 miles, I expected it wouldn’t be terribly difficult for me. I was wrong.

I’ve been running in the very flat city of Chicago. In all of that training I’m doing, there is almost no climbing. But New York is not flat. And worse, the Warrior Dash course was designed in such a way that it was more than 2 miles of climb, and maybe 1 mile of (steep) descent. I was pretty gassed right from the start.

I made it, and it was fun, but wow… holy cow was it hard.  And it served to remind me that regardless of how well I’m doing en route to my marathon, I’m still not in particularly great shape, and I’ve still got a long way to go.

11th August
written by Randy

I love it when I learn something that becomes a metaphor for something else. That’s what happened this week at dance class.

I always felt clumsy and uncoordinated on a dance floor, and I thought attending dance classes would teach me the footwork I needed in order to get past that. But I’m finding that the most important thing in dancing isn’t the footwork at all… it’s actually all in the hands.

When the dance goes well, it’s because the lead went well, and when the dance goes badly, it’s because the lead went badly. I could have terrible footwork and no clue about the steps, but if I feel the rhythm and provide a good lead, my partner will dance well. Meanwhile, I could have perfect footwork and amazing steps, but if I give a weak or indecisive lead, my partner will be lost and the dance will fall apart.

As it turns out, this is a huge realization for me. My whole life, I’ve been a believer of such advice as “lead by example” and “don’t be pushy”. I’ve always been the type of person to provide a suggestion and then get out of the way so people can follow it if they want.

And interestingly, this came through in my dance as well. For turns, I would put my hand up and wait for my partner to spin. For changes in step, I would just sort of change and hope she was paying enough attention to notice, and follow. Basically, I was “leading by example” and putting all the responsibility onto the follower to, well, follow. (That’s your role, so do it!)

This week at dance class, I realized what was happening and I changed my style of lead. That is to say, rather than just putting my hand up and waiting for a turn, I figured out how to gently pull my partner into a turning motion, and rather than confusing her when I changed steps, I figured out how to gently push into a direction that tells her the change before I do it.

Basically, I learned how to be a leader.

It’s weird to think of this being such a revelation at 35 years old, but I suppose it’s better late than never. Our partners want to be led; they need a gentle push to tell them which direction to go. Indecisiveness breaks the step, so don’t go there until you’re sure. Leading by example is hard to follow. It’s dancing, but it’s also life. That’s cool.

8th August
written by Randy

There’s something energizing about reaching the half-way point. This really stood out to me yesterday morning as I decided to challenge myself to 13 miles — 3 more than my previous longest run.

The first two miles were easy, but the next four started to feel like drudgery. It sucks when you’re going and going and you’re not even half-way yet. But then it happened.

I hadn’t yet turned the corner, but I looked at my watch and saw that I had gone 6.32 miles. For all practical purposes, that was half-way. And when I looked up, there was the sign for the street where I would turn.

My body was already tired and in pain, but suddenly I felt energetic again. After that, every step put me closer to home.

And now, with both knees in pain and my achilles tendon inflamed, soreness in places I didn’t know I had muscles, in spite of the fatigue of three months of torturous training, I’m feeling energized again by the realization that I’ve reached half way: yesterday, I ran a half-marathon.

There were no crowds cheering. There was no finish line. I didn’t get any congratulations. But silently and alone, I reached a huge milestone: the half-way point. This thing is no longer the impossible. And from here out, every step gets me closer to home.

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2nd August
written by Randy

Tonight was the third dance lesson. As usual, it was half an hour of swing and half an hour of salsa. The salsa was a bit imperfect and, well, that’s just how it goes.

But swing finally started to show some promise tonight. In fact, we’ve been learning to slower music, and when the instructor put on something a bit faster we were both scared. But as it turns out, swing is easier with a bit more pace to it!

Basic back steps, inside and outside turns, and a couple of different frames, and we were on our way! For the first time in my life, I felt the ability to be a dancer, rather than just part of a couple rocking to the beat of a song… and that was truly exciting. Not for an entire song yet, but long enough to feel like we were doing something we felt, rather than something we’d memorized. If for nothing else, that feeling alone was worth the cost of the lessons so far.

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