when life gives you pause…

Stop. And listen to what it is trying to say to you.

I’ve spent the last few months, getting back from the Camino trying to get to the point where I could do an ocean swim. Wrecking my rotator cuff in 2011 and not having it heal properly has put paid to any sort of freestyle action, so I was going to do the 1000m version of the swim by breaststroke. I was pretty much there too. I can comfortably do 1500-2000m in a pool, and could do it in open water (I take forever though), but I managed to wrench my shoulder again last week – so no ocean swim for me. The fact that my knees are starting to complain about the correcting of my feet and ankles means, in all likelihood, if I do the half marathon on the 17th Feb, I will be on crutches again. And where I now live, and after the last time, I do not want to go back there again. Pilates and Yoga is also off limits. All the will safely be open to me over the next few weeks is a kickboard and endless lengths of kicking (I have just invested in a snorkel for this – as it is probably to only thing that will keep me sane).

I spent so long sitting and not being active due to pesky things like my knees and my wrist during my university years, that it has been an absolute delight to be a) back in the water, and b) being able to be more active than I had been in a very long while. To have my joints disagree with the sentiment is highly, highly irksome. But I guess life is giving me pause, and telling me to choose one thing, and go with that. And it’s difficult.

I love to walk. I love the pace, the cadence, the being a part of the scenery and not rushing through, the ability to observe, and to contemplate. To be able to interact and to enjoy one’s surroundings. And I can walk. Not that wiggle your hips ridiculousness, but to stride. A good walk is just amazing. But sitting here, with ice packs on my knees and triple-clicks through both knees when I climb stairs now tells me something. I’m hoping it all sorts itself out in the next couple of months as the bones and joints realign properly from all the work I’m doing with my ankles, but my walking may have to be toned down some. And this saddens me.

And then there’s the water. I love water more than I can tell. Just looking around at my photos, water is a significant part of the memories I keep in my frames. The sea soothes me, and, as I have mentioned in my Camino posts, being too far from water pains me. I feel quite anxious and upset if I’m not near a coastline. Canberra was hell for it. Even Melbourne, really, was too far away from the ocean for me. To wake up in the morning, and walk out onto the driveway and see Wellington Harbour is a balm for the soul. The South Coast even more so – and nothing can beat a stormy coastline for sheer perfection. To be in water is… I may not be the most graceful thing in the element (I know many who are heartbreakingly at ease in water – real merpeople and a joy to behold) but I am comfortable just messing about.

Swimming, like walking is also a very introspective activity. Again, if I get the right pace and cadence, it’s sublime. Time flows all around you, and you move with little effort. There is no ability to observe while swimming though, but it is all contemplation and concentration – and eventually – complete automation. A moving meditation, if you will. You are literally in your surroundings, as the water envelopes you, and you have to interact directly with it. But in many cases, you’re not going anywhere, and that’s what I love about walking. The journey. I’m not going to realistically be able to do anything open water-ish to be able to have that sensation through swimming. I can just working on swimming more strongly, and perfect my technique, but that’s probably the sub-total of what I am able to do. It’s just a more friendly element to me than the hard earth.

It is a difficult choice, but I think I am going to have to sacrifice the serious walking for a while, and swim to build up my legs, ease the joints, and work on the stamina and flexibility I need to be able to do things like the full Camino, or the Cinque Terra, or the Routeburn and Heaphy Tracks. I need to take some time, and concentrate on making myself as strong as I can be in water, to build up my strength on land.

But this also needs balance. My brain needs to be engaged. I’m going to be working hard on my French this year. And doing something about all my WiPs in progress (I have one from mid-2011 sitting next to me that I’ve been working on today, and will try whack a significant chunk of it off tomorrow), as well as all these books I want to read. I’ve also enrolled in Harvard’s edX course on The Ancient Greek Hero with Gregory Nagy (whom I cited endlessly in my PhD), and in MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming (I always thought I should have gone back and done CompSci – now I can).

If I can keep the body/mind balance in check – I think this will be a good year. It’s going to be challenging, but I like challenging. I like balance. There’s much to be said about spontaneity, and a great deal about planning. I think I can strike a mid-ground with both. Yes, this should be fun.



  1. Balance all in life – the good, the bad, the ups and downs. Keep perspective and it will become clear. You are what you are and you shape your world as you see fit. Enjoy the time to think, rest the body and rejuvenate yourself – da buddha!

    1. That’s the challenge, isn’t it? And accepting what lands when the die is cast. 🙂

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