A good, gloomy day for an existential crisis

Today I woke up feeling like it’s one of those days when I need to have a full-blown IMG_3147existential crisis.

Don’t worry. These rarely last for more than a day or two.

I wish the writing bug bit me more often when I am in a solid, content state of mind. Being solid and content does happen to me sometimes, you know. Unfortunately for my blog readers, it’s my down states that make me feel like I REALLY need to write and get it all out there. Writing to me is what food can be to others. It makes me feel better when I’m down.

Ever since I woke up I’ve been asking myself: What the fuck am I doing with my life? And… Why does it seem like every single person who locks eyes with mine wants to drain my bank account?

When I find myself in this position, I’ve learned to ask myself another question: Well, what would you rather be doing?

Now that question is starting to feel like a trick question.  (more…)

Peeling faces

Several years ago, I was in such a bad place that, for a few moments of time, I considered suicide.

In those moments, I truly thought that death was my only way out.

I am so grateful that someone inside me allowed those moments to pass.

It took me a few years to get myself out of that bad place. Things got worse before they ever got better. But I’m glad I let that moment go.

And in a way, I appreciate that I had that moment. (more…)

The Michael Phelps in me

I get so frustrated with my selves. In my head, I’m the magical combination of a Michael Phelps, a Mo Farah, and a Chris Froome. Yesterday, for example, I was doing a long distance open water swim. Less than a year ago, I was literally crying as we were driving towards a lake in which I was set to swim a mere 400m. During that swim, I couldn’t catch my breath most of the time from anxiety. I had to front crawl a bit, breast stroke a bit, then tread water a bit while I calmed myself down. Now I can swim 2km with very little trouble at all. I’ll still get small bouts of anxiety if a wave splashes water into my throat or I find myself swimming over ten jelly fish, but I’ve taught myself to control the anxiety, calm down, and just keep going. So here I am yesterday doing my sea swim and thinking: I’ll bet the people on the beach think we’re so cool. I’ll bet they are wondering how we’re so fast. Then, as I scramble out of the water and onto the beach, my daughter says, “Mama, why were you swimming so slowly?”

The Michael Phelps in me was NOT happy with that comment.

That’s how it always is. I’ll be running and thinking the people on the roads must think I’m an Olympic athlete training for Tokyo. Then someone significantly older than me flies past.

I know I’m not supposed to compare myself to anyone else. My focus needs to be on making my today self stronger and faster than my last year self.

Someone tell that to Michael Phelps, please. He’s really starting to irritate me.

Bound to my high school scars

I’m a 48-year-old woman and I still get regular nightmares about having to study for high school or university exams. I’ve been scarred for life.

I can’t imagine that this is how things should be. I’ve heard from several friends that they have similar nightmares. I’m thinking it might be safe to assume that there are lots of people out there who also have these nightmares.

I’d like to blame our educational systems for this. There’s just too much emphasis on test results. In most countries in the world, your entire future depends on the results you get on exams you take when you’re nearing the age of 18. Most 18-year-olds have absolutely no idea what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

When I was 18, I wanted to get into something sciency. (more…)

Male misbehavior, self-blame and cultural boundaries: A glimpse into a woman’s mind

I’m one of those women! I repeated to myself incredulously.

For weeks on end, I had allowed a man to do something to me he shouldn’t have been doing, all while I blamed myself.

Had one of my daughters told me the same story, I would have picked up on it immediately. If it had happened in Egypt, I would have immediately turned into a full-blown monster.

Why had it taken me so long to realize what was actually happening?

I had a brief glimpse into the mind of abused women without having an experience nearly as horrific. It has caused me intense distress, however.

Part of me still thinks it’s a petty thing. And that gets me even angrier with myself. (more…)

Adventures and races: embracing the dread

I find it very difficult (impossible, actually) to understand people who say they really enjoy

I think this was after my first triathlon. I wasn’t even happy AFTERWARDS here.

training. I also find it very difficult (impossible, really) to understand people who get all giddy about and at races they are participating in.

Mind you, I can completely understand that going to a gym class three times a week and meeting up with the gals afterwards for coffee is a truly enjoyable experience. I also can completely understand how going to a running club twice a week and running with people at a pace you can hold a conversation at is really fun.

Those levels of effort are not the ones I’m talking about.

I’m talking about people who train for marathons, triathlons, ultramarathons, ironman races, or arduous adventures (like kayaking across the ocean or climbing really high mountains) and who are constantly going on about how enjoyable their training is. Or you go to the event and they are all bouncy and smiley just before. What the f#$@ are they all happy about? I ask myself incredulously. We’re about to put ourselves through hell! How the heck is that exciting? (more…)

Training me…and me

“WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS TO MEEEEEE?” yelled the complainer, thrashing her arms and pounding her legs on the ground. “I’M SICK AND TIRED OF IT ALLLLL!” Had there been others, she’d have made quite a public scene. Fortunately, as always, they were alone.

“You know very well why I keep doing this. Now, when you’re done throwing your little tantrum, you will get up, put on your running clothes, do your warm-up drills, and get out there and run,” said the wiser one, very matter-of-factly.

Sometimes the wiser one makes the complainer go swimming at 6:30 in the morning. Other times she makes her go cycling in pelting, freezing rain. She’s a relentless slave driver. Just as the complainer never gives up on her whining.

My training is probably more of a head battle than anything else. (more…)

A rambling post about training

I’ve started training seriously. Not that I’ve ever not trained seriously. It’s just that I’ve ramped up the seriousness level a few bars. It’s not going to be easy. Not that it ever was.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my anxiety seems more under control (I’ve had mild undiagnosed anxiety for years). I don’t know if this has anything to do with my new training program. What I do know is that I sometimes wake up in the morning feeling anxious, but that seems to go away once I’m back from training. It’s nice not feeling anxious all the time.

I’ve been getting recurrent injuries that have held me back from training the way I’d like to. Running gives me shin splints. And I’ve had on-and-off knee pain. The last time I got knee pain it stuck with me for weeks. It was bad. I gave my body the rest it needed to get back to being pain-free, while still swimming and gyming to keep a certain level of fitness. And then I decided to go to the experts.

I’m now working with a triathlon coach! It’s so interesting working with someone who actually understands this stuff. We had many email exchanges, a few phone calls and we went together to a physiotherapy center in town that treats British Olympic athletes. The physio examined me at length on two separate visits and then wrote a very long report about all the things that are wrong with me (there were a lot). It took a lot of self-pep-talking to see the positive side to that report. It’s obvious that giving birth to four children has affected my body. Falling off my bike and dislocating my shoulder has also. (more…)

The hatred is everywhere

I’ve learned to numb myself to most of the horrible news we hear almost everyday now. I try to avoid the details and only have a general idea of the goings-on. I convince myself that these events, no matter how frequent, are really only rare. It’s only because we’ve become hyper-connected that we hear about every bad thing in the world. I tell myself that bad things have been happening in the world since the world began, but that good things and good people are what make up the majority on this planet. I tell myself that the voice of evil is just very loud while the voice of good is apparently meek, otherwise we’d all have a very different perception of our world.

I watch the news, find out about the terror attacks, the wars, and the dirty politicians and pretend that I can still live a good life without having to deal with all that. If I told myself otherwise, I’d just feel so helpless. No. I already feel helpless in a way. I’d feel too helpless.

I can numb myself to the news. I’ve been fortunate enough for most of the bad stuff to be at least an arm’s-length away from me that I can I just get on with things.

I can numb myself to the news. But I am completely incapable of numbing myself to the hatred, intolerance, bigotry and encouragement of or incitement to violence I now often see from people I think of being “just like you and me”. There seems to be so much of it and it’s everywhere. Social media has opened up doors to what’s really going on in the minds of people. It’s like it’s opened the floodgates that previously held in check all the crazy thoughts people hold inside and try not to let out in public.

There’s so much hatred. There’s so much anger.

There is a context to the hatred and anger. They aren’t borne of nothing. But that hatred and anger aren’t solving the world’s problems. They are fuel to the fire. Why can’t people see that? (more…)

Is change on the horizon in Saudi Arabia?

Only recently did I realize that it’s a country I love to hate. I have a lot of baggage with Saudi Arabia and I so wanted to remain angry at it. But even as I got on my first flight back to the country in around 15 years, I found myself unable to quell the little bit of mounting excitement that I felt about going back.

I first went to Saudi Arabia in the 70s. I went to the 7th and 8th grades there. Before that we lived in the US. We returned afterwards to the States but went back to Saudi Arabia, where I spent my last year of schooling (11th grade) before I went off to university in Cairo, Egypt. My father remained for most of the rest of his life. He only left when his health no longer allowed him to continue teaching at university, many years after the typical retirement age.

My story with Saudi Arabia is complicated. I think I actually liked it as a young girl. During my younger years, I thrived on change. I’ve never been able to relate to children or their parents who worry about changing schools and leaving friends behind. My way of thinking was that my friends would remain my friends for life, no matter where I ended up in the world. Moving somewhere else only meant that I got to make even more friends.

Saudi Arabia was so different from anything I ever knew. But it was an adventure. (more…)