Just a Little Run Around the World

Guess what this book is about?

Yes, Rosie Swale Pope really did run around the world, alone, on a continuous journey – including through Siberia, Alaska, and Greenland during the winters! It took her five years and 53 pairs of shoes, and when she was finished, she was 61 years old. She is my new hero.

On her 32,000 km run, she was “followed by wolves, knocked down by a bus, confronted by bears, chased by a naked man with a gun, and stranded with severe frostbite” – plus suffer broken ribs twice (and kept running), was stuck in an Arctic snowstorm for days, and had many more unique and even bizarre experiences. Hers is truly an amazing accomplishment.

Then, when I looked her up online, it looks like TODAY, like January 9th, 2017, she finished her run across the United States, from New York to San Francisco. If that’s right (and it’s not just some weird internet auto-date thing), then what a cool coincidence!

What I thought while reading this book (other than she’s amazing, of course):

Here again is the recurring evidence of the value of dividing big goals into small tasks. Some days, it’s run 20 km, some days it’s a struggle to go 100 meters. Yes, she had days like that. And she kept going, one day at a time, 100 meters at a time, until she accomplished her goal.

But even more impactful to me, I thought about how we limit ourselves. Our goals usually run to paths that are far more trodden than Rosie Swale Pope’s. The sad thing is, even if we want to run the road less travelled, the specific idea of what “our thing” is, may not even cross our minds.

Our first limitation is our thoughts.

I may not want to run around the world – so what do I want to do that I haven’t thought of yet, simply because my thinking is limited?

That question is for all of us.

What great things can we all individually accomplish if we allow our imaginations to fly to the “impossible” and then, 100 meters at a time, turn that dream into “possible” and then reality?

That’s worth some thought.

 

The Law of Diminishing Intent

I heard of the Law of Diminishing Intent a few days ago, and my first thought was, “Wow. There’s an actual law for this?”

Yes. Yes, there is. This is the principle behind it:

We have a great new book idea that is going to change the world. It’s important, it’s beautiful, it’s simply amazing…

OR

We’re going to get healthy. We are going to exercise and eat organic and look fantastic…

OR

We’re going to learn to speak Spanish and then immerse ourselves in the warm and welcoming culture of Colombia on an epic adventure …

OR

Insert your AMAZING GOAL here!

And then with every passing hour, as our usual lives continue to simply be our usual lives – kids need rides, jobs need worked, the TV shows we’re invested in need to be watched, supper needs to be cooked (and it’s delish, so why not take seconds) – the Law of Diminishing Returns kicks in. As we put off our AMAZING GOAL to do our usual activities, our vision and intent – once so sharp and exciting – starts to fade. Our goal eventually becomes something we need to get around to doing, and then we never get around to doing it, even eventually.

We’ve all felt it. We’ve all done it. There’s no shame in it. It’s a normal human response and I’m sure there was some survival value to the tendency to not shake things up if they seemed to be working just fine. BUT we may want this dream to become a reality, and the way I see it, being forewarned that the Law of Diminishing Intent is an obstacle to us all is the same as being forearmed.

Here is a way that I think we can avoid the Law of Diminishing Intent:

1. An hour after we decide to act upon our AMAZING GOAL – which still gives us time to feel the uncomplicated joy – set aside the time we’ll need to accomplish this goal! Literally schedule it in. One hour after supper. Fifteen minutes in the morning. Whatever works for us.

2. As we continue to think about our AMAZING GOAL, adjust it. Because its so new and unformed it may change quite a bit before our first scheduled session. We may even decide it isn’t an AMAZING GOAL after all, and drop it. That’s okay.

3. During our first AMAZING GOAL session, set up the things needed to accomplish our goal. A gym membership? A computer language program? Maybe it’s simply time to work on it, as with writing a book. In that case, prepare our document, and start writing.

4. During our second AMAZING GOAL session, work on our AMAZING GOAL, and for every session after that. If our AMAZING GOAL is ongoing throughout the day, like the goal of becoming healthier, we can use our session to analyze our progress. Either pat ourselves on the back repeatedly, or assess where we didn’t do as well as we hoped, and figure out why and how to change that – without condemnation and shaming ourselves of course. We want our AMAZING GOAL to improve our lives, not make us miserable. Which brings us to…

5. Keep our AMAZING GOAL sessions positive! Be our own best friend. Encourage ourselves. And if we have supportive people in our lives, tell them our AMAZING GOAL so they can support us too.

6. And finally, keep our AMAZING GOAL sessions fresh. If we ever go into our session without feeling the joy, give ourselves another related task that promotes our AMAZING GOAL in a non-direct way. Some examples: Learning Spanish: find a Spanish speaking TV show and give it a try. Writing a book: write a bizarre but fun scene with our characters that we would never put in our book. Better Health: read inspiring stories of others who have accomplished great feats, whether it’s overcoming health problems or running around the world. See what I mean? Nose-to-the-grindstone is not always the fastest way to accomplish anything, and self compassion and forgiveness go a long, long way. We are not machines!

I’m sure there are lots of other ways to overcome the Law of Diminishing Intent. I’d love to hear your ideas – and implement them!

Ciudad Perdida

Two days later, we hiked into Ciudad Perdida. The trip up to that point had been amazing: the cloud forest vegetation and flowers, the river, the indigenous dwellings, coca plants, and so much more.

The second day of hiking, we passed an elderly indigenous woman on the trail. She asked with hand signals for a hiking stick from a woman in our group, then with stick in hand, flipped a scorpion out from beside the rock at her feet, and proceeded to pound it to death.

Weird Catepillar

Weird Neon Catepillar

Another time, Quapak, our guide, told us that a snake had bitten a mule right there – and he pointed to the creek bank I was standing on. Two days later, when Quapak hiked back, the mule was still at the water’s edge, but it was dead. Needless to say, I crossed with exceptional care.

I was pretty happy to not see a snake close up, or a tarantula, but I was a bit disappointed that there were none to be seen from a distance. However, we did see this strange creature, which to me, looks like it could be related to a nudibranch if we’d found it underwater.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.

A few of the 1,200 stairs up to Ciudad Perdida.

 

Finally, on the morning of the third day, we crossed the Rio Buritaca, and climbed the 1,200 stone steps into Ciudad Perdida, gaining 400 meters (over 1,300 feet) in less than a kilometer.  It was a brisk climb but not as challenging as that first day when we climbed 640 meters (2,100 feet) beneath the blasting afternoon sun. Now, trees, some with hundreds of pounds of epiphytes attached, towered over us, vines hanging to the ground.

At the entrance to the city, we made an “offering” to show respect to the indigenous culture. I gently tossed a leaf into the sacred circle, and after a shared minute of silence, we walked into the city, which consisted of stone walled circles, filled with earth, the platform foundations of the houses that had once been there.

The city was abandoned about 400 years ago, though the local people continued to use the site for ceremonial purposes. Only the Mamo (the medicine man) and his family continue to live there, a short distance from the main circles.

Circles and stairs.

Circles and stairs.

These days, thirty more people also live nearby – soldiers. An observation post is on the mountain above the highest circle, and the soldiers keep watch, fully armed and ready to protect the visitors.

The stone circles became bigger as we moved higher on the ridge. As in countless civilizations around the world, the more successful families had the biggest circles and the best views. When the rest of the group stopped at the biggest circle, the one reserved for community gatherings, Brad and I kept climbing, up and up, from circle to circle.

Finally at the top, with only the military post higher, we looked back to see our group grown small below. Oropendolas built hanging nests in some tall palms nearby, their tail feathers flashing yellow in the sun. A pair of green parrots flew by, and then a red bird, and one so blue it looked startling against the blue of the sky. Beyond the stone city itself, the expanse of mountains and valley stretched to the horizon, the first mist of the day starting to gather among the trees.

I was standing in a lost city in South America, something that a year ago I would’ve thought was impossible and, considering our financial situation, irresponsible. Okay, so maybe that part hadn’t changed.

A beautiful view.

A beautiful view.

 

 

But the sight before me, the almost audible hum of energy in the air, the cry of the birds as they enacted their eternal dance, the vines swaying rhythmically to the hot breaths of wind, even a hiker’s laugh from down below – they combined to make that experience far more “real” than the cost, and in that moment, the cost became permanently irrelevant.

So I guess at the end of my life, I’ll die a few thousand dollars poorer, but that’s okay, because I have no doubt that I became much, much richer during these few hours at Ciudad Perdida. And that’s what I call good value.

Life + + +

Jardin SquareThe wind sways the tree tops in a silver sky, and I find I’m mesmerized by their stark northern dance. So different from what I was seeing just a few days ago. I was in Colombia, soaking in the heat, sights, sounds, and smells of a culture that is very different from my own – and very attractive. I can see why writers and other artists gravitate to South America. It is place alive with passion! Everything is less reserved than in the north: the people, the vegetation, the colours, the streets, the churches… Life on overdrive!

The night we arrived in Sabaneta, a neighbourhood in Medellin, I saw my first example of this. We stayed in an apartment with a local woman, Adriana, who was very hospitable, welcoming, and kind. From her fifth story apartment balcony, we watched the street as night descended and saw groups of adults sitting in their plastic chairs in circles on the sidewalks, talking, gesturing, and laughing. Happy, loud music floated up to our balcony. Teens hung out in small groups, joking and teasing each other. Younger kids played with a skateboard, taking turns, running, shrieking with joy, and quickly moving to the side whenever a car honked to signal they needed to drive past. A searchlight swayed back and forth in the sky, and later in the night, the fast paced music and sky was regularly punctuated with fireworks. What was the celebration? Nothing, our host told us. It was just a normal Saturday night in the neighbourhood, hanging out with friends and family in a multi-generational gathering.

As the next weeks passed, I became even more impressed by the values of the people there. Family and friends not only seemed far more important than ego and influence, but those things hardly seemed to be in the running. The people were very accepting of us foreigners too, though I must admit, at first I found the expressive welcomes a bit intimidating. It felt weird to feel so welcome – until it began to feel good.

I learned a lot of things in Colombia: things about the culture, about the plant and animal life, about the history of an amazing country. Just as importantly, I learned to a much deeper extent the value of an open heart, and once again, I was reminded of how our cultures, both societal and familial, shape us. I also learned things about my own life that I just wasn’t seeing clearly before, because my perception was wrapped in my own personal convention, built up over years, or in some cases, a lifetime.

The picture here is one of the few available to me, since one of our bags went missing somewhere in the Mexico City airport and our camera was inside. Until it’s found (if it’s ever found) this photo will have to do. It’s not even of Sabaneta, but the square in a small town outside of Medellin, called Jardin.

We may not have come home with all of our luggage, but honestly, I came home with something far more valuable. A fresh perspective. And a very strong desire to move to South America!

The Importance of Purple Hair

AvatarThis is my avatar on a site I share with writing friends. A while back, I changed my hair from brown to purple, just having fun, and then the jokes started about the power of the hair. Well, this week the purple hair feels limp and faded. “Bad” stuff has happened, but because of my commitment to live as if all things are possible, I did my best to embrace the experience.

My theory for this choice: if I fully feel my sadness instead of trying to force it into becoming happiness, and feel the loss and betrayal instead of trying to deny it, then I’ll move through the emotional shock faster. This meant no hiding from the sadness, no making futile efforts to make things appear better than they are, no pretending that the situation isn’t serious, plus accepting that my relationship with someone I love may never recover. It was (is) hard. I felt old and tired, beaten and dejected, like a big lump sluffing around. Believe me, it was uglier than it even sounds.

However, by yesterday morning, it seemed like I may have chosen wisely. I felt lighter and slightly more energized than the days before. I was still really sad, but still, life seemed a touch sunnier.

Then today, after encouragement from my husband and friends, I went for a walk in the rain – and had an epiphany. This is it:

When things get tough like this, I need to remember to set my own value and not react to the value others put on me. I need to treat myself kindly and take care of myself psychologically, spiritually, and physically, to keep myself strong during challenging times. Just as important, I need to do if for the right reason. If I try to patch up my psyche just so I can be of further use to others, I’ll always be weaker than if I do it out of self respect and self care.

And finally, I need to remember that I may never have a good relationship with this person – because she chooses her own value and her own life path. She may never accept me. Her choices are hers, mine are mine, and our individual value is not determined by anyone but ourselves. While it really hurts to think she may never want me in her life, her choice is not a statement on who I am.

Since I choose my own value, I’ll try to see myself honestly as I work to be my best self – and maintain that bright, shiny purple hair, of course – even when things get tough. Fingers crossed.

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I am living this year with the view that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. What this year may include: growth in living without past resentments and programing, overcoming fears, achieving career goals, developing stronger, more loving relationships, and acting with more open kindness (click here to read an amazing true story of kindness). You have just read my Week 7.  Thank you!