Thursday, 30 April 2015

Time flies, but not always to where I want

Early last week, a colleague asked me how my ankle was, and if I was back to running yet.

I told him, 'No, but it feels really strong. I have an appointment with my physio this afternoon, and I'm confident she'll say just another week or so.'

Perhaps I was a little optimistic.

It seemed like I had already been off running for a long time. A really long time. Surely my prescribed eight to twelve weeks was already up?

But when I counted back the weeks, there were only six…and that included the week immediately following the injury, during which I did very little first aid and virtually no rehabilitation—which Mimi said did not count.

She was pleased with my progress, but still wanted me to hold off until the full eight weeks. She hammered the point home by cupping my shins, and then drilled it in further with a few carefully placed (agony-causing) needles.

The good news is, it's only another week or so until I'm allowed to give my ankle a little test run. 'Just 50 metres,' Mimi said, 'in a straight line. And only if you can perform twelve calf raises on that side as well as you do on the other side, and only if you can hop in all directions.' (Never mind that I don't think I've ever been able to hop in all directions.)

It's really tempting now—I find myself dashing across roads and looking wistfully at other runners' shoes as I walk briskly around town. And I'm cutting it really fine for my race.

But I am regularly reminded that I'm asking a lot—rolling my ankle on the walk to work, a sharp pain when compressing the joint while rockclimbing up a chimney. And I'm cutting it really fine for my race.

It's a careful balancing act because if I return too soon, I will probably re-injure my ankle and it won't be rehabilitated in time for my next race. But if I leave it too long, I will not have enough time to build and taper for the race.

In the mean time, I guess I'll just entertain myself with other forms of exercises, such as the climbing I just added to my repertoire.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

So, how was it for me?

I've spent the last couple of weeks watching others do things I wanted to do. Or at least, they were things I thought I wanted to do.

It wasn't as tough as I expected, and there are many logical reasons why that might be the case. It might be because the weather conditions at both the ANZAC Ultra 2015 and the Coburg 24 Hour were horrendous. It might be because I was acutely aware that my ankle still occasionally bothers me as does the probably-associated foot tingling. It might even be because actually being at Coburg made me feel like I was still a legitimate contributor to the whole running scene—even if I only had a real effect on the performance of one runner.

But I suspect the real reason is far less complex: it's probably just because I didn't want those things so badly after all.

Now it's just a simple matter of figuring out what I do want…

Monday, 13 April 2015

True friends

So my last post wasn't about running, or even about not running. Some of you noticed this. I wasn't sure how it would go down and I'm pleased that (so far) I haven't been publicly slammed for it. I'm a little disappointed in the response, though.


Well, despite having way more hits than most of my recent posts, I got fewer comments across all social media sites. Some of you private messaged me, and I felt torn—touched by your concern, but angered by the silence that persists.

Let me be clear: I am not angry with anyone, or disappointed in you. I'm grateful for each one of you who got up the courage to think about my post and especially for those who commented, 'liked' or shared my post, even in private. It scares me to make these stories public, but your support makes it worth the risk and gives me the courage to keep speaking.

I am angry that abuse affects so many people, but we are too scared to talk about it—scared of the repercussions, scared of losing people we love, scared of disappointing others, scared of being exposed with only our words to protect us. At least, I think we're too scared. I know I was too scared, otherwise I would've spoken out sooner.

I guess some of you might also be upset at the prospect of hearing how I was treated, perhaps by someone you know, maybe even by someone you like. You might be questioning your assumptions. Or you may have just rejected my words because you've always been treated well by the same person.

I know it's a difficult subject. I know that for many people it becomes a case of 'he said—, she said—'. But I didn't ask anyone to side with me. I didn't ask you to break off your other friendship. I just stated in non-negotiable terms that I wouldn't accept the blame.

Despite this, a few people felt it was their place to placate me, to encourage me to move into a space that would fit with what they already 'knew'. To make comments like, 'Sometimes two of the nicest people just don't gel.'

I felt awful about the way I responded, but it needed to be said:

…it's comments like that I don't need…nice people don't call their girlfriends fat. They don't call their girlfriends cunts. They don't complain about everything their girlfriends do. They don't blame everything on their girlfriends.

By suggesting that this is just two nice people failing to get along you are doing what he does: you are telling me I deserve some of the blame and you are saying that his behaviour towards both me and [his previous ex] was perfectly acceptable, and that's not right.

That attitude is why one woman a week dies at the hands of a current or former intimate partner in this country.

It's good that you're not judging, but by not judging his behaviour as wrong, you are implicitly judging me as being deserving of those actions…

What many people don't seem to understand is that true friends don't shy away from issues like this. Or, to steal from a major Australian campaign against drink driving: mates don't let mates abuse their partners.

True friends recognise that an abusive partner probably didn't set out to be a bad person who hurts the people he claims to love. True friends believe the abuser probably doesn't like that part of himself, and would want to change if only he could recognise his problem.

So a true friend speaks up, and says, 'Mate, you're tops alright and I know you'd never want to hurt anyone. But there's a bit of a pattern here, right? Something's going wrong in your relationships if these women think you're hurting them. Maybe we can do something about that. Maybe we can talk to someone who can help you understand why these women might feel like that, so you can avoid it in future.'

Note that this approach has no prerequisites other than genuine concern about both parties involved. You don't need to take sides. You don't need to believe his actions were deliberately or even unintentionally abusive. You just need to believe that his partner has genuinely been hurt by his actions, and that if he's a good person he won't want that. (And if you don't believe that, why do you even want to be his friend?)

Could you be that true friend? Could you start that difficult conversation?

I think some of you could, and right now I'm going to shout out to a close friend I greatly admire, who has just stated her commitment to speaking up: Mandy-Lee Noble. Mandy is a fierce thinker. She constantly seeks new knowledge, questions the validity of the assumptions underpinning her world view. You may have seen her comment on Facebook or Google Plus:

Tamyka, I think this a brave post. We need to ask ourselves who we are trying to comfort when we trivialise mistreatment and then place it in the context of the positive aspects of the abusive person.

Wow. In just a few lines, she's not only nailed my point but completely hammered it home. But offline, she said so much more:

…it highlights a silent but strong sexism…If a woman is being mistreated it is because of something she did. I hear this all the time. 

When setting expectations about behaviour within an intimate partner relationship, the woman is expected to consider the man's entire life experience and how it may affect his behaviour, and the woman is also expected to consider how her behaviour may affect him. The reverse does not apply. It is everywhere and insidious: 'She must have done something to warrant it' or 'but I know him to be such a nice guy'…  

I do not know the circle of friends who are directly involved with the post,  and yet I am aware of some of the details which are not nice but were told to me by people who continue to be in a friendship with the person in question…In the past I have seen people treat others badly and continued my relationship with them because they were not treating me badly.  

In future I will be speaking up.

And that is the greatest thing any of you can do to help me. As I said earlier, I understand this is an uncomfortable subject. But if you feel brave enough (and safe enough) to make a comment publicly on FB or on the blog post itself, or share this post somewhere that others can see it, I would greatly appreciate your contribution to breaking the taboo.

Friday, 10 April 2015

It's not me, it's you

Warning: this post contains some confronting material and, while I'll avoid using names, if you know me personally then there's a good chance you'll know some of the people and events I've mentioned.

This isn't intended to cause offence or embarrassment—I'm just recounting events and my interactions with some people who just don't get it. Yes, it's subjective, but all human experience is subjective, and it's best we recognise that. It's ok if you come up with a different interpretation from mine, but if you recoil from what I've written here then I hope you interrogate that feeling and its source. I hope you will apply your critical thinking skills: is your conclusion logical? Are you equitably processing the evidence presented? Or are you buying into culturally perpetuated myths and the practice of victim-blaming?

Over the past week or so I've been faced with making the awful decision about whether or not to attend a friend's party. I want to go, but it will mean seeing someone whom I really don't want to see, whose face now makes me feel sick because of the way he betrayed my trust and disrespected me. I don't want to be anywhere near him.

But more than that, I really don't want to hear yet again that I've misunderstood him, that I should be sympathetic and understand his perspective, that his behaviour was perfectly reasonable or acceptable given his upbringing and cultural influences and the way I was acting.

What I mean is:

I will not let you blame me.

Somehow, because I was abused before, you see a pattern. You see a common thread and that thread is me. You blame me. You justify it with the many stories that shape your world view, stories you've heard both from him and from the cultural environment you were raised in, stories you believe are an accurate representation of reality.

I don't tell you any stories, because you silence me with your tacit and sometimes vocal support for his behaviour, his generally being a great guy.

You do not see the other fabric linking these two chapters of my life, the one that is no mere thread but rather a smothering woven blanket: our society teaches men that it is acceptable—expected, even—to disrespect and hurt women.

You believe there must be a simple reason for his treating me this way and you turn a blind (willingly ignorant) eye, believing it's best left 'behind closed doors'. You believe that it was something I did that made him call me names, threaten to hit me, and continually tell me all the ways in which I was inferior to him, simply because—what? Because he has a penis?

You believe that, because he didn't hit me, it 'wasn't that bad' and he didn't really hold any power over me in the relationship. You believe that I wouldn't stay if it was that bad, because you believe I always had the power to leave.

When he did things that hurt me, I acknowledged the possibility that I might be overly sensitive because of my personal history. I gave him many chances, always reassuring him that I knew he didn't mean it, always making the excuses for him when he didn't make them himeself. It was never enough—I always disappointed him.

You believe him when he turns my words around, and tells you that I was oversensitive and I always took what he said so personally, that I always thought the worst of him and read into the innocent things he said and did.

You believe him when he tells you that I was manipulative, selfish, demanding, unloving. That he loved me so much, and I never really cared for him or gave him what he needed, even though he asked for so little.

You believe him when he tells you he was scared of me and my irrational behaviour.

You believe him when he says he doesn't understand why I want nothing to do with him, why I won't even speak to him.

You believe all this, and I know you do, because I believed all this about his ex-girlfriend. So I understand your ignorance, and I forgive you.

But I will not be subject to your opinions that perpetuate victim-blaming. And I will not listen to your narratives about this relationship or this man until you show willingness to correct your culturally embedded ignorance. There is only one common thread here, and it has nothing to do with my relationship history and everything to do with his.

Monday, 6 April 2015

So lucky

So I didn't get to run the ANZAC Ultra 2015.

But I did get to cycle 66 km with Susannah, and stop for a coffee (and cheesecake!) with Ruth and Verity, on a stunning day in South East Queensland when it was meant to be miserable and wet. We had bright blue skies, smooth roads and no nasty headwind.

Susannah checks our navigation.

Not a bad consolation prize.

My ankle is getting stronger and I'm optimistic about what Mimi will say on Wednesday. I've been cleaning a lot of the clutter out of my life (and currently working on my wardrobe) and I feel happy knowing that I've only got three races on the calendar for the rest of the year, and plenty of time to build for them.

Today is one of the good days, I guess. I've had more wins than losses, so when I check the runners' progress on Facebook, it's exciting rather than upsetting. I make no promises that this mood will continue into next week—it might vanish with my last bites of Easter chocolate—but  I thought it was worth documenting because it's part of the process of healing, and of living.

It's that day

I wasn't really sure how I'd feel when this day rolled around. The day before the day I was meant to start a very long run. The day before the ANZAC Ultra 2015.

When I started typing this post, I still wasn't sure how I felt. So I did that thing where I avoided thinking about it and got super productive instead. Today's theme was out-with-the-old, so I started sorting through the 100 running tops I own. Yes, I have really acquired that many over the years. It's not cool. But of course, it's still something to do with running, and I ended up thinking about the race again. It's taken me all day and the clock has just ticked over to the next day, the one where the runners actually start.

So, how do I feel?

Yesterday I joked that I went for my first run back—five metres when the lights changed as I crossed the road. But I also walked almost 7 km on both Friday and Saturday, so that's significant progress, in my not-so-humble opinion. It's still a long way short of 450 km, so I'm not sorry to be staying at home—it's the best decision I could've made. But I am sorry that I won't be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

I'm also very, very excited for the runners who have made it to the start line, who are about to embark on this adventure and learn new things about themselves, and I wish each and every one of them a wonderful experience out there. I will be watching from afar and sending my happiest running vibes!

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

From fear to frustration

Words just can not even come close to describing how much I want to run right now. I will try anyway—

The setting sun paints the clouds as a slash of pink against a fading blue sky. I drive through the escaping streams of rainwater water that wash the hillsides clean. The air is crisp and dry now after the earlier downpour. I've been seated all day and still I sit, caged in this mechanical beast as it lumbers toward the forest. At last I am free. I step out, curl my toes in the dirt, and run. The sweat beads on my forehead and at my temples; it collects at the nape of my neck and trickles down my spine, tickling like a feather…perhaps one of the Powerful Owl feathers I found on the very same trail some months back. I run until my legs hurt and then I keep running until I can't feel them any more. Then I run a bit more, because I can.

It won't happen. It can't happen.

I've been doing pretty well so far—the jealousy is fading away and being replaced by a genuine excitement for the participants who get to run the ANZAC Ultra. It probably helps that I managed to ride to work yesterday, and home again. It was only a total of 26 km, but that's 26 km without pain. I even managed a short stint out of the saddle. (And I'll also confess: I had to brace myself for unclipping my right foot when I dismounted.) I can almost walk normally, and bear weight properly on my right ankle, and go down stairs with only a little trepidation. I'm starting to see how I will be able to run again, like I used to. It's not just a dream anymore—it's something that will probably happen for real.

But now race day is fast approaching, and I'm feeling frustrated about not running. I've hit that time when I should be frantically packing all my gear and writing up a race plan for my crew, who probably won't even look at it because they'll know I'll change my mind anyway. The race team is emailing us regularly and I can't even peek at Facebook without seeing a stream of posts relating to the event. And instead I'm cancelling flights and thinking about what chores I might get done over Easter.

I was due to fly Friday. So, I reckon the next few days are going to get really tough.

Bear with me.