Thursday, March 28, 2013

The magic mountain

Saying that I had the privilege of growing up in a magical place is close to an UNDERstatement. Perched on the cliff top that looks out over the Valley of Lauterbrunnen and surrounded by a facade of majestic mountains, Mürren is truly a magical place. Ironically though, I had to leave the quaint little village for a few years to come back and appreciate it for what it is and what it gives.

Growing up in Mürren you take your liberty for granted. From an early age kids are allowed to roam the streets on their own, go skiing and sledding, running free like kids should be! The school is exclusively small and individual. I always say that we didn't learn the stereotypical stuff academically, but we learnt alot about nature, our surroundings and social behaviour. Eventhough it didn't seem great at the time, school is still school no matter what, I am so thankful that I went to school where I did, learning to love and respect nature, learning the importance of teamwork to get to the top of the mountain, learning the importance of accepting physical and mental challenges in life and overcoming them.

Mürren harbors an energy that is hard to describe but incredible to feel. Some people find Mürren liberating some people find it imprisoning. My favorite aspect about Mürren is that it looks straight over to the Eiger, the father of the mountain chain that frames the Valley. How the Eiger gained its name is still not known, but it is commonly associated with the German word "Eigen" which translates to "own". And its Own mountain it is, with the famous Eigernorthface ascent that has challenged many climbers, and a tunnel that runs through the mountain with two viewing-windows that spoil you with breathtaking views.

In my memories of growing up the Eiger is omnipresent. Every morning I awoke to the sight of the Eiger... Sometimes it was just its silhouette I saw, sometimes it was temperamental with  gnarly looking clouds hanging around its summit, sometimes it was pure and simple standing out framed by the clear blue sky, and sometimes it stayed hidden behind a curtain of clouds. I always attempted to sketch the Eiger, trying to get a perfect picture of it, but nothing can ever do its original beauty justice.
Since I've been back I can barely take my eyes off the mountain, always looking to it for strength and comfort, looking to it for its beauty and character. Looking to the Eiger gives me a sense of Home and belonging. There have been many occasions, this winter, where I have been out running and hit the famous wall, feeling like I can't take another step, wanting to sit down on the spot and not move any further. Somehow, in those situations, my eyes naturally wander in the direction of the Eiger and as soon as my eyes see the majestic King I am filled with energy and I always find my second wind.

Nature has many faces and we can all find that source of energy in our own way; for some it might be the ocean, for others the forest or simply a spot in the middle of nowhere. You just need to open your eyes and see it or close your eyes and feel it. The Eiger is my unconditional energy source, a wonderful love affair.

Go out and find yours!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Draft

Sunday was the day I awoke my roadbike out of it's wintersleep, hanging up the skis instead. The weather forecast wasn't looking all that promising with strong winds and snow forecast. I had it set in my mind that I was going to ride my bike on my day off regardless of Snow, Wind or Sunshine.

As I was descending through the valley I was excited like a little kid at christmas. Feeling the chill of the wind rush past me, letting my legs settle into a comfortable tap, noticing how much easier the bike let itself ride now that it had a clean chain and pumped tires (I should do that more often!!). As I emerged out of the valley I rode towards the Thunersee, a perfect 60km loop from Interlaken that extends from the lake front, through the city of Thun, winding up through cave tunnels rewarding you with a gorgeous view of the lake. The weather was better than I expected... until I hit the lake. Gusty winds started to make their presence noticeable, creating little waves that danced around on the lake, raising fallen leaves back into the air, making me pedal hard as it hit me head on. In that moment I couldn't resist the thought of how nice it would be to have the advantage of someones draft. Being pulled along in their windtunnel, thus, making it easier for me.

That thought initiated me to think that a draft, in cycling, is not all that different from the draft we sometimes seek in life. There comes a time when we all crave to be in someones windshadow, pulling us along, making it easier on us, leaving the control and decisions of pace and direction in their hands. Thats how it was when I had Anorexia. I was waiting for that person to take me by the hand and pull me along, pull me out of the hole I had fallen in to, showing me the way I had to go, allowing me to let go of all thoughts and responsibilities.
The problem with Anorexia was that I wasn't moving forward at all, if anything I was moving backwards. So if I wasn't moving forward how could I even hope to get sucked into a draft? I was stuck... Until the day I got admitted to hospital and there were people, not just one, but many, who took me by the hand, helped me get back on the bike and helped me get sucked into a draft.
I was determined to stay in that draft, all the way, until I was better. It seemed so easy because all I had to do was what I was told to do. It felt safe, like no one or nothing could touch me there. Caught in the draft I began to gain more strength, strength to fight. But there were many times where I fell off the back, still moving, but moving alone, batelling to find that draft again.

On that sunday I had no advantage of a draft that I could get help from, but at unexpected times the wind would change and I felt a little push from behind, making it, even if just for a moment, feel effortless, giving me that little boost I needed. I began to enjoy challenging the headwind, not letting it get the better of me, standing my ground, seeing it as a challenge that would reward me with a feeling of accomplishment at the end. Anorexia, just like the headwind, is a challenge. She challenges you head on, trying to lure you into her draft, a backwards draft. I have learnt though, that her draft is weak compared to other drafts. The positive always outweighs the negative if you allow it to. A healthy draft will lead you toward victory, a negative draft will lead you to defeat.

A draft can lead you towards your destination, towards the finish line, but you always have to cross the line on your own. At some point you have to trust that you can keep moving forward in your own strength, even being strong enough to let someone else rest in your draft, leading their way, letting them trust in you.

As I wound my way back up the valley I was lucky to have the wind in my back, gently pushing me up the steady incline... It was a different kind of draft.
 Drafts come and go, sometimes you get sucked into them, sometimes you fall off the back and sometimes YOU are the draft. Just keep Moving!

"Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance you must keep moving forward".

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Random acts of Kindness

Do you know the feeling you get when you do something  nice for another person, something unexpected, sometimes simple sometimes extravagant? It's an amazing feeling not just for the person you are doing something unexpectedly nice for, but also for yourself. It creates a wave of joy which, often, has a ripple effect, inspiring people to spread the feeling of unexpected happiness.

In todays society it is all too easy to get caught up in your own little world, letting stress levels build up, creating pressure that, all too often, causes the corners of our mouth to be pulled down by gravity instead of smile. Sometimes we forget to open our eyes and look around, acknowledge the world we live in, acknowledge the people who live in this world. The ironic thing is, that it can be so much easier and simpler to make someone smile, to make ourselves smile, than we think. I am learning that true happiness comes from the little things, because they begin to compile, like little puzzle pieces, creating a patchwork of happiness. Moments of happiness compiled. In saying that, Happiness can come from big things too, like a house, money, success, but they tend to be temporary gratifications, unless we make them a piece of the puzzle and they fit in to the picture of happiness.

An amazing friend from the US came to visit me this winter -  Jamie-Lynne. She is truly one of a kind with an incredibly big heart, a friendship I know will last forever. Before I went to visit her in the states we did a countdown, which consisted of us doing as many push-ups, squats and crunches as days were remaining until I got there (so 30days would mean 3x30 of each of the exercises). Jamie loved the idea, and never whinged at all (she sais with a tone of sarcasm in her voice), but at least the number kept decreasing as opposed to increasing. When the time arrived for the next countdown we decided to do something more selfless. Something that went beyond gratifying our own happiness. With that in mind I came up with the spontanious idea of doing a RANDOM ACT OF KINDNESS everyday. It didn't have to be a certain shape or form, the only criteria was that it came from the heart. We began our countdown with a wave of enthusiasm, texting one another everyday about what RAK we had done today and the affect it had on the receiving person. Through our exchanges we got double gratification, first we were gratified by doing the RAK then we doubled up on that emotion by telling one another and encouraging one another.

In the beginning it was, speaking for myself, a challenge to come up with the right kind of ideas, always feeling a little pressure like what I was doing was maybe not quite enough. Until the moment I realized that by feeling that way, I was missing the point. I began to learn that the nicest Acts of Kindness are on a personal level as opposed to a materialistic level. Sitting down for coffee and acknowledging the person sitting beside you, engaging in conversation and then, if conversation continues, Randomly shout them another coffee. It can be an honest compliment, a genuine smile or helping someone carry their groceries to the car.
The story that captures the core of this challenge the most is the day Jamie went to Starbucks (drive through) to get a coffee and told the lady at the counter that she would like to pay for the order of the person behind her. As Jamie went back that afternoon to get another coffee (Coffee is awesome!!) the lady at the counter told her that she had created a ripple effect and that the next 5, or so, cars behind her paid for the order of the person behind them. I mean seriously, aren't you just smiling hearing that? I love it!!

As the time continued to pass I began realizing that Random Acts of Kindness were becoming like second nature to me. I began thinking less about what I could do today (as often I woke up in the morning pre-planning what I could do today), and rather went with the flow and took the opportunites when they presented themselves. I began growing more aware of the life around me, paying more attention to the people passing me by, be more aware of the expression on my face. If I could randomly give an elderly person a lift  home from the supermarket, or buy the homeless guy some food for his loyal animals, or send someone a random text thanking them for who they are, I would be aware of it and do it.
The reward of a true and genuine smile is incredible, as the reciprocating persons eyes light up with surprise. It is a truly addictive feeling, that warm fuzzy feeling of contentedness.

My picture of happiness is becoming more and more colorful day by day, its an artwork that is priceless. As Mum always says to me "its the little things that count", those words ring a sound of truth.

Hey, thakyou for you. Thankyou for reading. SMILE

xox Belle