Monday, April 23, 2007

Taking a stand for happiness

I ran a report of my running history over the past several months yesterday. I was quite happy to see that my total ascent and descent has more than doubled since moving into Bamenda. It sure feels like that is so!

Had a great 13 mile run yesterday, although my left knee is now bothering me, particularly going downstairs, which is a bit of a bother since I live on the 4th floor of my building. I used the camelback that I got for my birthday (just received last week) and it worked well. I was afraid it might bother me, but I knew it would work better than one of those water bottle belts. And it was fine. I did get a bit of an abrasion under my arm, but I think that just means I need to wear a short-sleeve shirt rather than a tank top.

Saturday I took most of the day to do a mini meditation retreat. The strongest "message" I received was that I need to adjust my attitude--and I can. I watched my mind being automatically drawn to looking for "what is wrong here" with the effect of making me feel bad. But I realized that I can simply take a stand, that is, decide and tell myself, that I am happy. Then train my mind on all the things that make me happy. And do more of the things that make me happy, that feel good, that feel right and do less of the things that feel bad. And one of the things that feels bad is thinking negative thoughts. Even though it is familiar and easy and "natural" and automatic. It doesn't feel good. I feel much better when I am moving things forward, when I am being with people, when I can see the beauty, joy and/or humour in life.

Part of me thinks that it doesn't make sense to "take a stand for happiness," but I know this is exactly what I need to do right now. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with my life. Of course, I would like to have more close friends and I would like to have a life partner again. I would like to have more companionship here and I want to be fully engaged in meaningful work. Now I could either concentrate on how I, or my circumstances, are falling short of what I would like. Or I could concentrate on creating what I want and need, to the best of my ability and accepting the reality of my situation. When I contemplate the former, I feel anxious, angry, victimized and stuck. When I contemplate the latter, I feel relaxed, engaged, enthusiastic and energized. So the right choice seems obvious!

Even though my knee hurts, I am very happy that I did a good long run yesterday. One thing I noticed is that I felt most at ease, most relaxed and comfortable, after about 5 or 6 miles. Maybe it was because I was "on the way home" at that point, but I've noticed this before--at a point where my mind would expect to be feeling tired, I am in fact feeling very much "in the flow." This sort of experience makes me wonder whether I might feel really good training for a marathon. I have been thinking about running a marathon for a couple of years, but there aren't many that I can get to easily from here. I'd love to run the Mt. Meru Marathon in Arusha, Tanzania which is at the end of July or so, but a flight to Tanzania costs about $800!

Well, I am sure that when the time is right, the marathon and the means will show up.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"She does sport everyday"

I received what I considered to be a great compliment the other day. The woman at the checkout at New Life Grocery said she recognized me from running ("doing sport" as they say here in a direct translation of the French) in Ndamukong -- one of the main streets in my neighborhood. Then she turned to the man who checks bags at the door and said, "she does sport every day!" In a world of weekend warriors, it's impressive to them that I actually exercise every day. That made me feel good.

One benefit of running on poorly maintained dirt roads is that it forces me to stay present -- I have to keep my eyes on the road and look where I am going or else I am in danger of falling, especially now when the road is often wet and muddy.Yoga offers the same benefit. Since I have a natural tendency to always want to be elsewhere, these are good practices for me. And it helps to make each run, each day, new. Even though I have a small variety of routes to run, the weather changes the terrain enough to make me very aware of the differences. This is something that is much less apparent when you run on the road. When I bike, the road appears very differently to me because I am going past things so much more quickly and the things I need to be aware of on the bike are somewhat different than when I am running.

Because I am living and running in the city now, I do not say "good morning" to every person I pass (I'd have no breath left to run if I did!). The further away from my apartment I get, the more rural it becomes and there are fewer people, so I do greet people more frequently out there. Nonetheless, being the only white woman who runs -- and whom I think many people have ever seen run -- makes me quite recognizable. So far, after only a couple of weeks, I've met two people in other contexts who said they saw me running in the mornings. Bamenda may be a city, but in many ways it still has that "small town" feeling.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Well, the whole Internet thing has been frustrating this week. On April 1 I moved to Bamenda and, simultaneously MTN (the cellphone company) disconnected their cellphone-based Internet access because the "free trial" is over. Even though we signed up on the 2nd or 3rd for a plan, it's now the 14th and there is still no access. That means I need to go to an Internet café which is okay except that the only one near my apartment that allows me to hook my computer into their network has been having trouble with their provider for a few days (guess who? MTN!)

Don't let the web-based promoters fool you. Putting everything on the web does NOT make it accessible. It is almost painful to write e-mails in my web-based client because the connections here are so slow and I can type so much faster than the letters show up on the screen. For some reason, although the cellphone access was very, very slow (due to limitations in cellphone technology), the connection tended to be stronger -- so my mail would come down and go out, just slowly.

In this midst of that irritation, thank goodness I have running. That is going well. I am discovering new paths around my side of the city and I have biked to work a couple of times which is really an adventure here in the city. (One thing I learned the other day is that, at least during commute hours, the safest place to be is in the middle of the road because the taxis pull over with no warning every few feet and there are hundreds of people on the sides of the road.) I realized a few months ago that mobility is very important to me -- something I really appreciate -- and now I realize that communication/the ability to stay connected with people is equally as important. This week I'm only achieving 50%, but I'm happy to have that.