Saturday, January 30, 2010

Life, unpredictable

Isn't it funny how life can be so unpredictable sometimes. Sometimes we're presented with challenges and just when we think we've figured out how we're going to deal with those challenges, the universe does something to prove that we are not the greatest power, and there are just somethings we can not control and must deal with no matter how much planning we've done or how unprepared we are.

In the first months of 2008 my mother was diagnosed with cancer. There was a tumor in her small intestine blocking the passage of food coming from her stomach. She underwent surgery to remove the tumor and then faced 6 months of chemotherapy to ensure there would be no spreading of the cancer. This was the scariest news I had ever received. I flew to Calgary to be with her during her surgery and see her through recovery as much as I could. But in the months to come, all I could do was be there over the phone to give her words of encouragement as she braved the turmoil of treatment without me. Not being there was torturous for me, although I knew she had support coming from every direction. Her family (my aunts and uncles) and friends made trips out from Ontario to visit with her. She had friends from every corner of her life come give her love, support and encouragement to continue through what I knew was the hardest thing she would ever endure. I went back to Calgary to celebrate with her after her final treatment in August 08. In the following months she received one green light check up after another, and life seemed to be getting back to normal. As we all expected, my mother was a survivor.

This past Christmas, exactly two years after her first diagnosis, my mother started her second bout of chemotherapy to fight the metastasized cancer in her lung. She moved from Calgary to Ontario to be close with her family in her sisters house in Bowmanville. I was there to see her for the holidays and be with her during her first treatment. It was December 29th 2009. I spent a few days with her once treatment started, but came home to Vancouver on New Years Eve.

Just a week later January 7th, I was on the first flight out of Vancouver to get back to Ontario as I learned that she had developed a septic blood infection and was now in the ICU in critical care. On January 9th, at 4pm, I sat next to her on her bed and held her hand as she died.

My mother was my best friend. My mentor. My hero. She was everything to me and everything that I am, I owe to her. I have to process and digest this reality so slowly and one tiny little piece at a time because if I think to hard about it, or try to understand that this has really happened, I actually feel like my heart stops beating. I'm getting through each day one day at a time. It's not getting any easier, in fact, it's getting tougher as each day is just one more since I've spoken to her last. I will be ok, although not likely for a while. I keep myself distracted, and when I'm sad.. I just be sad.

My blog is a personal journey that I've chosen to share with whoever wants to read it. I decided to share this news with you because I believe some of the lessons I've learned, or just the bit of life I've lived in the past 2 months will change who I am as a person. I've lost someone as close to me as I think anyone ever will be and I know that experience will have a substantial impact on the rest of my life.

Here are some of my new rules to live by.

1. You can never love someone too much. If you love them, tell them everyday. Show them everyday.

2. Be kind to people. Life is too short to hold grudges, be angry or bitter. Appreciate people for who they are. The world would be a different place if we were all just a little more kind.

3. Your family, whether it's your biological family, or those that are considered family are THE most important people. Hold them close.

4. You can have a great impact on people's life without even knowing it. Treat people with respect and tolerance and people will remember you for a lifetime.

5. Be thankful. Life is a wonderful, amazing thing. It's your choice to acknowledge that and enjoy everything it has to offer. It comes with challenges, but there are lessons to be learned in each one. Don't hold back - go out and get all you want out of it.

I get a lot of positive feedback from people in regard to my Ironman dreams and my general approach to life. Maybe that sounds strange to say, but I hear it often. It's a compliment, but it's also a choice I've made. I took the time to figure out what it is that makes me happy. What satisfies me? What brings me pleasure? What makes me proud? And after a lot of searching, I am only starting to figure out that there is no one thing. It's a thousand little things.

I tried searching for just one answer, and it seemed that just as I figured out what it is I wanted, and once I knew who I was... everything changed. Priorities change. Opinions change. Circumstances change. At first I thought this meant that I was lost. That I was never going to figure out just who I was or what it is that I wanted. But now I see the beauty in it. I will be a thousand things, and who I am will be something different to everyone that I meet. I'm ok with that.

My Mom gave me the tools I need to live a life of that measure. She taught me how to dream, how to not let fear control my life and to be the master of my own destiny by giving me courage to make my own choices. One of her greatest pieces of advice was to learn to live in the moment. Be present. If we're not, opportunities pass us right by.

More than ever, I vow to live my life in a constant attempt to live up to her standard. She was an incredible woman who touched the lives of man. She had a thirst for life and her dedication to being fulfilled and happy inspired almost everyone she encountered.

I will live the rest of my life in the presence of an angel, forever protecting, encouraging and inspiring.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Welcome 2010

My favourite thing about the New Year is that it's time to set new goals. Time to day dream about the impossible and start to process all the ways you can make them happen.

Goal setting can be overwhelming at times, especially for those new to it. There is SO much that you want to do, see, have, experience.. where do you start? Well, it gets easier over the years, especially once you start achieving the goals you set out for. It's encouraging and exciting to know that those crazy dreams you have just might come true. My advice - take baby steps. Set short term, small goals where you are most likely going to achieve them. Achieving goals, especially long term goals, is usually not done in one giant step, but is a combination of multiple smaller steps, done in time with other smaller steps along the way. The process is somewhat of a dance. Breaking down those steps is where the real work is done and goals are achieved.

2010 marks the end of a very important journey for me. The close of a chapter so to speak. In 2005 I made a 5year goal of completing an Ironman, and as many of you know, I am registered for and on track to complete my first Ironman this year in Penticton. So, I realized this morning, it's time to set a new 5 year goal!!!

For those that know me, they know The List. The List was first referenced (funnily enough) in my first blog posting of 2009. It's also accompanied by a photo of me before running the 2006 Honolulu marathon with the list written on my hand as motivation. Completing a marathon was the first item on the list (check). Completing an Ironman is number 2 (almost check).

I got so excited when I realized that it was time again to set a five year goal. It didn't even occur to me until today that I was due to make another crazy dream a reality. I was excited for a brief moment about all the day dreaming that I was going to get to do when it took about 30 seconds for my goal to come to me. (drum roll please).........

See the World!

5 years, 5 continents. I know technically there are 7 continents but I don't really need to see Antarctica (brrrrrrr) and I think I've had my fill of North America. Sooooooo, one trip a year I will see the world one continent at a time. Asia, Australia, South America, Europe and Africa. Wow - how cool is that?!

I've already got the wheels in motion for my first trip. I had been planning a trip for this April, but have since re-arranged to September. It makes more sense to take 6 weeks off post-Ironman and relax rather than pre-Ironman and be thinking about the training that I'm missing. So, the idea is to take 6 weeks in Sept/Oct and explore Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia).

2010 will be such a busy and exciting year for me. The Olympics are just weeks away, then 5 months of dedicated Ironman training, the big day August 29, 2010, then 6 weeks in Asia to reward myself for 5 years of hard work and determination.

In a midst all of this will be weekend trips away, training camps, roadtrips, I'll be moving, volunteering, working (?) and who knows what else. I can hardly wait.

I hope all of you had a great holiday season and I wish you all the best in 2010, whatever your goals may be.


50 Things About Sarah

1. Growing up in Toronto, I was always proud to call it home. Now, Vancouver is 'home' and I don't see that ever changing.

2. Triathlon changed my life. It made me a better person because of all the lessons it has forced me to learn. The physical benefits have little to do with what drives me to continue pursuing it.

3. Passion is what drives me. I feel blessed to have passion in my life and feel that everyone should find a passion no matter what it is.

4. I'm a bookworm.

5. Some of the people I consider closest to me live the furthest away.

6. My mother is my hero.

7. Silence does not make me uncomfortable. In fact, I find I am able to connect best with people that I am able to share silence with. Being able to sit in silence and people watch, enjoy the scenery, read a book or just sit back and daydream with someone is incredibly powerful.

8. I’m quirky. I do not like to wear pants without wearing shoes. I do not like to wear outside clothes in the house, especially on or in my bed (I change into “house clothes/sweats” as soon as I come home).

9. Un-tidiness/messiness makes me anxious. It's a condition once described as "cleanie-tidy-up-ous". Organizing and tidying makes me feel calm.

10. I love mornings and will get up before the sunrise every chance I get, Consequently I go to bed early.

11. I secretly love having people in my life that know me almost as well as I know myself. But I’ll never admit it.

12. I recently learned to knit and have become very fond of it.

13. I am fiercely competitive but lack natural athletic ability. It's a very frustrating and vicious circle.

14. I have a very active imagination. Not to be confused with creativity, that gene was completely skipped, but I often daydream about the wildest, most outrageous things that I, for the most part, can’t explain. Most often these include daydreams of being a rockstar or something where I’m doing some kind of performance in front of a crowd – like salsa dancing or something.

15. I didn’t graduate from college. I failed an elective "Introduction to Psychology" in my final year because I misunderstood the exam instructions and thought that I didn’t’ have to come back on the second day and do the other half of the exam. Two years later I took a night class at George Brown (in Toronto) and got the final credits that I needed. That was in 2003 and I still have not had my transcripts mailed so that I can “officially” get my diploma.

16. I hate parades.

17. My favourite sound is rain in the morning, it's one of the only things that I will stay in bed for. I will listen to it as long as I can.

18. I LOVE coffee. It's sometimes the only reason I will get out of bed.

19. I can not do math in my head. I will do simple addition/subtraction using my fingers.

20. I rely on spell check to spell inconvenience 100% of the time I use it.

21. I don’t obsess over “coulda shoulda woulda”’s or “what if’s” or “had I only”’s. I believe that everything happens for a reason.

22. I believe in setting goals. I use New Years Resolutions as goal-setting in disguise.

23. I want to write a book.

24. Can't is my least favorite word. There are so many reasons why you "can" and all to often "can't" is used as an excuse.

25. I don't believe in 'love at first sight' but I do believe that you can know right away if this is someone that you COULD fall in love with. I take love to seriously and think that it runs to deep to think that it could happen so quickly.

26. I remember fondly the days when horses were my life and hope that someday I can bring them back into my life.

27. I never had a nickname that stuck.

28. I can't do a crossword to save my life.

29. I have constant anxiety about life being to short to get everything that I want done, done. I am all to aware that we only have one shot at life and I am constantly worried that I won't get it right.

30. I love nights in watching movies. I like going out to movies even better.

31. I love getting flowers.

32. I don't do winter sports.

33. I don't do winter.

34. I am a sigher. I love to sigh. A big huge SIGH feels sooo good. It's often misinterpreted by those that are around when I sigh. I promise, it's not because I'm bored.

35. I speak my mind.

36. I believe timing is everything. I'm trying to marry that belief with the speaking my mind thing...

37. I am a list maker. I love making "to do" lists. I think I make lists just for the satisfaction I get from checking things off of them.

38. I would love to make a living as a writer. A novelist.

39. I think that making yourself happy should come first and foremost in everyone life. Sometimes it could be selfish, but if you are not happy, you can not make anyone else happy.

40. I'm learning every year that the things I know for certain, are not for certain at all.

41. I can be extremely socially awkward at times.

42. If life were a movie, I would want to play the supporting role. I never want to be a leading lady, but I'd be one of those characters that makes the perfect side kick. The movie is never really about them, but wouldn't be the same if they weren't there.

43. I keep my life full. Sometimes to a fault. I keep myself busy until I get overwhelmed with everything I have on the go. Then I cut back on everything and in a few weeks get terribly bored and start taking on more projects.

44. I like to work.

45. I'm extremely self conscious.

46. I love to learn. I have learned so much about myself and have paid attention to the choices that I've made, the consequence of those choices and the series of events around those choices. The process fascinates me.

47. I have learned alot about fear and the way we are all restricted by it. How it can dictate our lives without even realizing it. My mother taught me how to overcome fears, one tiny little fear at a time. Now, I look for things I am afraid of create goals out of them.

48. I have moved 15 times in my life. Gone to 8 different schools and lived in 6 different cites.

49. I love change.

50. I want to learn to cook fabulous meals, have people over for dinner and have them all talk about how good my cooking is.