I’ve been trying to post this Brene Brown video for a week. My friend Steve emailed it to a group of us a few weeks ago and then another friend from school brought up her in class today. So, you’ll have to click the link because I’m not tech savvy enough to figure out how to embed it.
I’ve been thinking about the power of words lately. Particularly about the power of positive words. But before I get to that, I need to explain the back story.
I don’t know if you’re like me at all, but a hurtful word or cruel criticism can easily ruin my day. I can replay a negative comment in my head for weeks, and unfortunately, in some areas of my life it can really rock my confidence. This turns into a terrible cycle where because my confidence gets shaken and because of this I’m leery of taking risks and because I am not taking risks, I’m missing learning opportunities and so on and so forth. You get the point. It’s a nasty cycle.
Words have a lot of power.
So, back to strong words. I’ve been doing clinical placements at a hospital and as a student have been living in a very clear power differential. Preceptors/staff have power. Students have no power. Clients/patients have questionable power. The implications of these power dynamics are so vast and I’d need a million blog posts to explain it all. I’m just trying to give the context that I often felt like I was at the will of the “system” and had to just bide my time and learn what I could.
But somewhere during all of these placements, I had a stark realization (It’s sad how long it took me to figure this out)…my words could be my power.
It started in the breastfeeding clinic. People don’t generally come to a breastfeeding clinic to see a lactation consultant when everything is hunky dory. No, the often come when there is a concern with their baby’s weight gain, or milk production, or latch or what seems like a million other possibilities. Mother after mother (and often couples) would come in looking exhausted, confused, sore and worried. Generally overwhelmed. One of the nurses that I worked with would often tell women that they were doing a really good job (because they were!)
Then I stated to do this. I would look a woman in the eye and say, “You are doing a really incredible job. Your baby is well loved and so cared for!” Then I held the eye contact. Of course, I was saying these things because they were true.
And you know what? I could see it in their eyes. Words have power.
Then I decided to try my “kind truth speaking” to people who have power above me. I told the wonderful nurses that I was working with specific things I appreciated about their care (often these things were about how they treated clients with dignity and respect and- and mostly, how they used their words).
None of this is rocket science. But as I used my words to speak the truth that I was seeing to people, I felt like I was regaining some of my own power that I felt was lost to the system (based on my student status).
But I am getting better at speaking words that grow souls. Jussie would call this “naming the things we see in people.”
During the marathon there were loads of strangers cheering and all of their words helped us keep going.
I heard about Cold Specks this summer when she was nominated for the Polaris award. I was fortunate enough to see her at the Hillside Music Festival in Guelph later the summer. I found her performance absolutely captivating. This song is one of my favourites. I hope you enjoy.
Yesterday I ran a marathon. All 26.2 miles of it. I wrote a little bit about my nerves here a couple of days ago and now, here I am on the other side of things to write my race recap.
First things first. We did it.
We actually did it.
Somewhere around mile 23 Jus and I said to each other, “you know, deep down there was doubt that we could do this.” But there we were…mile 23. And we did do it. Running magazines often talk about “trusting the process” and suggest “resting” in the fact that your training will carry you through race day. Trust is a hard thing to have when you have never, ever, ever run that far in your entire life. But, I think the next time a friend runs a marathon, I will spout the “trust the process” wisdom. Because it’s true.
Ok, let’s back up a little bit to the beginning, shall we?
Deb, Ollie, Matt, Jussie and I went to Niagara on Saturday to get our race kits. The swag bags were actually pretty awesome and we got sweet long sleeve highlighter yellow race shirts. Afterward, we had the “prescriptive” pasta dinner. The food was bland and our waitress was crusty and I would have really liked to have a glass of wine.
We went and saw the movie Argo after. It was great.
Hotel to sleep.
Up early for race morning. Bagel. Nerves.
And then before we knew it, it was 10 am and we were lining up at the start.
Let me tell you the very best thing about this whole marathon experience…the FRIENDS we met on the run.
This race only had 1500 marathoners. It was small and friendly. We ran the first 6 or so miles with a really nice couple from Pennsylvania. We met a hilarious group of older Japanese women who had run a number of marathons before. We chatted with Dimitri from Greece who was running 4 North American marathons in a month and who asked if we were brothers. And we met a guy from Calgary who was on his honeymoon…and his wife was “way ahead..” We ran for a while with Lilianna from London, ON- originally from Colombia. And at the very end, it was Cindy who, when we started walking with 2 miles to go said, “pick it up ladies, I’ve been trying to keep up with you, let’s move it.” And then there was the “60 year old” with the strong Boston accent who kept asking spectators, “is it still Sunday?” He wanted to race us to the finish and is one of the many reasons why we had such big smiles on our faces at the end of the race.
The other best part was our cheering squad. A marathon, or any race for that matter, is over in a few hours. But our friends and our families- those people are what our lives are really about. They are the true blessings in our lives.
Deb, Matt, Maja, Krista and Luke were the best cheerers we could have asked for. My mom and Jussie’s Dad and Aunt were also there and that was the BEST. Seeing their smiling faces and knowing that they would all be at the end was something to look forward to. They gave up their Sunday to race around Niagara trying to see Ollie and Jus and I and that makes me feel supported like nothing else.
I can’t wait to be a cheerleader at one of my friends’ next race.
Finally. Jussie was the best running partner I could have ever asked for. We had fun. We made multiple videos during our race (and I can’t wait to share once it’s all edited!) We sang songs. We laughed. We complained. I 100% could not have done this race on my own. I have so much respect for the brave runners that were out there for long stretches alone. It’s not easy to be in voluntary pain and to be alone inside your head. So much respect for those runners.
In fact, so much respect for all of the runners, cheerers, volunteers…everyone. Running really does bring people together.
Today, I am hobbling around and taking it easy. But my heart is so full of gratitude. Mostly to our friends and family but also to the Creator for the gift of these bodies that can work so hard, for land so beautiful you don’t get bored of how pretty it is for 26.2 miles, for sunshine, for pumping hearts and new friends.
I wanted to pop in and share some nerves news. Two years ago, I trained for a marathon. I was training by myself, during the first year of my Midwifery program. My training was mediocre and most of my runs were like pulling teeth. I did the longest run before the race (20 miles/32km) and I just knew this race wasn’t going to happen. My left IT band was pinched, I was limping and I could barely run at all. So, I bowed out of the race. I lost my money and I didn’t run the race. It was a disappointing decision, but it was the right one.
The last year I ran the half marathon of the same race.
Then, when my friend and neighbour decided that he’d like to run the Niagara International Marathon in October. I decided this was my time. I was off-call all summer. I had ample time to do long runs. My friend (and other neighbour) decided she’d run the marathon too. Tomorrow is race day.
Here we are. 18 weeks after we began “training.” Our expectations have changed. We just want to finish the “race” together- with smiles on our faces. Preferably,upright.
All this to say that I’m a a bit nervous for tomorrow. I want to finish strong. I want to embrace discomfort and avoid suffering.
We went to a really sweaty, stretchy yoga class this morning. That was helpful, I think. The instructor said,
“You have everything you need inside of you.”
“Your body knows what it needs.”
“All you need to do is breathe in and out; everything else is extra.
I’d like to think this is true about running. And life in general.
Here’s to 26.2 miles tomorrow. Here’s to the privilege of having blood pumping through my legs and being able to move my body. It’s all a gift. It is.
For some inspiration, I checked out the other posts I’ve written about my running journey. You might enjoy some of the videos that I’ve found. You can see them here.
“Compassion is not a bending toward the underprivileged from a privileged position; it is not reaching out from on high to those who are less fortunate below; it is not a gesture of sympathy or pity for those who fail to make it in the upward pull. On the contrary compassion means going directly to those people and places where suffering is most acute and building a home there,” ~Henri Nouwen
1096 days is a lot of days and at the very same time, not a lot of days at all. 1096 is the number of days that “wife” and “Penman” have been added to my list of identities.
Our wedding seems like it was yesterday and it seems like it was a million years ago.
This year I have learned more about what it means to be tied to someone; to you. I’ve learned what partnership looks like. I’ve learned that it’s possible to run in all of the directions of our dreams and how we can only do this because we know where home is. And my home is with you.
I love you more on day 1096 than I did on day 1. Thank you for choosing me then and for choosing me every day that has followed since. You are my best friend. Love isn’t a strong enough word.