The Phone that Might Ring

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I’ve spent most of the last seven years in a homicide unit.  The work is often intense.  There’s always pressure – on some days the vice grip squeezes harder than others – you always feel something: a horrific scene, a family’s grief, the urgency to prioritize public safety, the slow and often frustrating grind of the court system.  The phone that might ring.

That was the hardest part for me.  Being on-call.  I tried to be stoic.  I often reminded myself that I had no control if my cellphone rang.  By that point someone was already dead.  All I could control was my reaction.  Answer the phone, be professional, and begin the investigation, an investigation that almost always takes many months, if not years.

That mindset – controlling what I could control – helped.  But it was a constant challenge.  My phone was always with me.  In the bathroom, beside my bed, jammed in the center consul when I was driving anywhere.  A day off never felt like a day off when I was on-call.  I could not relax.  When I was on-call my wife and daughter were on-call too.  Every family decision or plan had to take into account – what if the phone rings?  What if I must leave immediately and be gone for days on end? 

That phone accompanied me on countless trail runs.  We live in a neighbourhood surrounded by trails.  The cell service is exceptional.  I could be alone in the woods, confident that if someone called, I could answer.  Trails runs when I was on-call were not the same.  I’d stuff my running vest or backpack with a pen, paper, and a cheat-sheet to remind myself of the questions I had to ask, and the direction I had to provide, if someone called me and told me there’d been a murder.

Dozens and dozens of trail runs while on-call.  Sometimes the phone rang, but I was never called out for a homicide while running.  In fact, it was while running, on the trails, that I came the closest to being able to relax.  The magical quality of putting one foot in front of the other again and again sometimes made me forget that I was on-call at all.  That didn’t happen often, and when it did, it might just be for seconds or minutes at a time.  But it did happen.  Running has that power.

This was my last week in the homicide unit.  I didn’t say “goodbye” to anyone.  I don’t like that word.  There’s a finality to it.  Saying goodbye might have brought the simmering sadness I felt to the surface.  I felt the weight of leaving a group of friends and colleagues who experienced the same daily pressures I did.  The experiences we shared created bonds that transcend time and space. 

In a few days I return to nightshifts.  I know lack of sleep will affect my body and my mind.  My family will be effected.  My daughter has never known a dad who is gone all night and sleeps during the day.  There will be adjustments for all of us.

I also know that on days when I’m tired, with brain fog that feels like a hangover, I will head to the trails.  I will put one foot in front of the other. And the magical power of running will help restore me.

Running with Pain

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A couple days ago, I hit the treadmill hard.  Two and a half miles at almost maximum effort.  It hurt.

There was only one other person in the gym.  A big guy.  Strong and tough.  He was hammering the weights.

Between strides and sets we shouted encouragement to one another.  “Good work,” and “keep it going.”

It was early in the morning.  Still dark and cold outside.  Classic rock boomed. He grunted while he lifted.  I fought to keep pace with the belt spinning below me. 

We were driven and we drove each other.

And we were distracted.  His family had recently been hit by a significant health crisis.  We weren’t talking about it in the gym.  But I bet his mind went there, even when lifting heavy weights.

My mind drifted too.  To a family I know that recently received devastating health news. 

My body hurt.  Not injury pain.  But the pain of significant effort.

When it hurt, I thought about something.  I thought that I could not outrun the pain.  Straining, tensing, groaning, tightening up, did nothing to make me run faster or smoother.  The pain was inherent to the speed – the equivalent of 10 laps of a track at the edge of what I capable of doing.

I thought that I could not outrun the pain.  Instead, I had to run with the pain.  Pain was my companion.  It wasn’t going anywhere.  I tried to breathe smooth.  I tried to run effortlessly.  I imagined that pain was an entity, as real as a person, running beside me.  My new running partner.  Sometimes I let pain sneak ahead, and I tucked in behind it, like pain was leading the peloton and I was letting pain do all the hard work, while I drafted along.

When I was running with pain, I thought, “does the analogy hold?”  When real life hurts – not some meaningless run on a weekday in Victoria – but real pain in real life, can we try and do the same thing?  Can we run with pain?  In real life, pain is rarely two and a half miles in sixteen minutes.  Pain is often days, weeks, months, and years. 

I don’t know if the analogy holds.  But I wonder if it does.  When things are bad, nothing is more prominent than pain.  It dominates.  It may be impossible to defeat.  But maybe we can run with it, beside it, knowing it’s not going anywhere, but also knowing that neither are we.  That when we give maximum effort, and have someone close to us, providing encouragement, that we can continue.  And that we can tuck in behind the pain, knowing it is strong and fast and will take the lead, but we can get behind it and it will pull us forward towards where we are going.  Wherever that might be.

I don’t know if the analogy holds.  When I think back to the hardest times in my life, I don’t know what I did, or how I approached it, other than day by day.  I didn’t name pain or think of it as my companion.  So, I don’t know.

We’re not far from 2023.  I hope to take on some significant physical challenges.  One race or event every quarter of the year that will test my fitness and force me to train to pain.  To push my body so it will grow.  Pushing my body will mean pain.  Fast runs, long runs, and heavy weights.  In that sense, I’ll be inviting pain into my life.  My choice, for events that I choose on dates when I want to do them.  Not real life at all.  But when I feel that voluntary pain, I will imagine that pain is my companion that will be with me for the duration.  I won’t outrun it.  But I’ll stick with it.  Until I get where I’m going.  We’ll get there together.  To those events.  Through those events.  And whatever will be will be. 

That morning in the gym reminded me that running and training and events on the calendar are both crucial and inconsequential.  For so many of us they are integral parts of our lives, yet they’re not really life. 

I emerged from this week with few answers and many questions.  Questions about fairness and good fortune and the unpredictability of it all.  And a question about pain.  Can we run beside it?  Does the analogy hold?

At Home

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A lot can happen in a short time.

I spent much of the last month away from home – almost two weeks in the Fraser Valley taking a course, and then a short stint on the west coast of Vancouver Island, as part of a team assigned to an investigation.

Wildfire smoke clogged the valley, the debris of millions of incinerated trees hung in the air for days on end.  The floating particles found their way into my lungs and permeated my clothes.  Every piece of clothing I wore outside reeked.

While I was in the valley, a police officer was murdered not that far away.  I was in a room full of cops when the news broke.  Grief hung in the air, as real, and more hurtful than the ash from the fires. 

Everyone on the course had many years, even decades, on the job.  The officer who was killed, had barely three – her career was in it’s infancy, her life, in many ways, just beginning.

When the course ended, I drove home.  The wildfire smoke did not dissipate until I reached the ocean, more than 100 kilometers away.  I took a ferry home.  I was so glad to see my family.

I took the same ferry again last week.  One of thousands who gathered for the slain officer’s funeral.  Her family, friends and colleagues spoke so well.  It was clear that she was a special and remarkable person. 

It was in the days between ferry rides that I was on the west coast of the island.  My unit investigates death.  The small town where this occurred is a tourist mecca.  However, we were not there as tourists.  We stood out everywhere we went in our pressed pants and dress shirts.  A few days in this town reinforced a truism of our work – that when someone dies suddenly and unexpectedly, the effects are wide, profound and long lasting.

Despite my observations, and my job, none of the things I write about above were about me.  My career, and my current job, put me in a position where I have the privilege of trying to play a part, however small, in trying to help people through dark times.

However, the things I write about above do affect me.  They continue to mold and shape me even though I’m over fifty years old, with more than two decades on the job. 

This morning I’m at home with my wife and daughter.  There’s coffee and juice, waffles, dolls and a Barbie movie.  A perfect Sunday morning.  Outside it’s grey, the fog hanging over the trees reminiscent of the wildflower smoke which hung over the valley.

Today I will run on trails, read whenever I have a spare moment, call my parents and hug my girls.  I’m thankful to be at home.

The Trails I Love

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It hasn’t rained for months and the trails I love are dust not dirt.  Steep inclines are virtually impossible to climb, because the ground falls away.  Downhills are treacherous because my trail shoes have nothing to grip.  It’s like sliding down a sand dune at the beach.  Every run is hot, with the sun beating down, and radiating back up.  I finish every workout filthy, covered in sweat and grime.  And I love it.  I love overheating, and being dirty, and dropping to the ground mid-run to crank out some push-ups, and then getting back up looking like Pigpen from Peanuts

The trails I love are so close to my home I can be there in minutes.  Hundreds of people live around them.  And I almost always have them to myself.  They feel like my special place.  My little secret.  I go there to train hard.  I lift rocks, and logs.  I run with them.  I carry them.  I squat them.  I don’t need to pay for a gym.  More weight than I could ever lift lies on, and around, the trails I love.

Last year I saw a bear.  It was only about fifty feet away.  I was scared, but I stayed calm.  I backed away slowly.  He, or she, took little interest in me, as it lumbered along its own trail, at its own pace.  I barely merited a sideways glance.  Every time I go out to the trails I love, I wonder if I’ll see a bear.  I don’t want to encounter one.  And yet, a part of me always hopes I will see one again.  From a distance of course, and a perfectly safe vantage point.  A bear that’s disinterested in me.  A bear that lets me revel in the majesty of one of Creation’s most incredible creatures.

I was home alone when the Queen died.  I was shocked, and a little numb. I had never known a world without the Queen.  So, I walked to the trails I love, and I sang “God Save the Queen,” to myself, and I was thankful for a woman who lived her life with grace and dignity.  I remembered that she was not perfect, which reminded me that none of us are.  Perfection is an impossible legacy.  Dedication, fortitude, service to something bigger than ourselves – those are obtainable – not easy, but obtainable.  The Queen showed that for over seven decades.  She gave us all something to try and emulate.

I’d give anything to do a hard workout on the trails that I love. It’s been a while.  But my body can’t.  I was part of a team of law enforcement officers that ran 129 kilometers in three days last week to honour peace officers killed in the line of duty.  It was a very special, very sacred, event.  It was also an event I started with a sore knee.  A mildly sore knee.  A doctor or physiotherapist probably would not have said, “the best thing for your knee is to run 80 miles, mostly on pavement, over three days.”  Now almost a week after the run concluded, my mildly sore knee, is constantly hurting.  I’m not in agony, I probably won’t need surgery, but something’s not right.  Doctor Daryl tells himself that rest and stretching will do the trick, and, in a week or so, all will be right with my left knee. 

Even if my knee wasn’t hurting, I still wouldn’t be running.  Thanks to Covid.  I tested positive a few days ago.  It hasn’t been awful, but it’s affected me.  A laundry list of mostly mild symptoms:  weariness, coughing, loss of taste, night sweats, something going on with my right eye.  I have nothing to complain about. I’ve  improved daily.  And my path to normal began yesterday when I left the house for the first time in three days to walk on the trails I love.

In a few weeks, November rain will arrive, and the same trails will be flooded.  The days will be grey, and I’ll return from runs sopping and caked in mud.  I will gripe about our wet winters and the lack of sunlight.  But the trails I love will remain beautiful.  Shine or rain, they exude stillness and peace, bring comfort, guide me towards stillness, and help me be my best self.

Tinged with Sadness

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Late last year someone challenged me to write a piece that wasn’t tinged with sadness.  I haven’t, and I’m not sure I can. 

Thanks to Susan Cain, I have a better understanding of why.  The same author who helped me understand being an introvert has now written ‘Bittersweet.’  Bittersweet is a way of being, “a tendency to states of longing, poignancy, and sorrow; an acute awareness of passing time.”

I’m bittersweet.  To the core.  I think about death daily.  Susan Cain reassures me that’s okay when she asks the question, “How should we live, knowing that we and everyone we love will die?”

Thinking about death daily means I think about life.  About the people, values and things that matter most.

About my daughter, who just had an epic Sunday morning meltdown, sparked by her fear of being alone in the home, when I took my coffee and laptop to the front porch.

A front porch I chose because it offers me beauty and silence, a cool breeze, flowers, and bees.

Epic meltdowns are not uncommon.  Our daughter is highly sensitive.  She feels joy intensely and sometimes rages uncontrollably.  I’m proud of her though.  Twice in the last two days she has used breathing – one minute of quiet deep breathing alone in her room – to calm herself and end her tantrums.

I’m trying to use breathing to better myself.  Over the last few months, I’ve started to meditate almost consistently.  The essence of that meditation is the breath.  Focusing on the breath, recognizing that thinking will interrupt that focus, and then returning to the breath.

Meditation is training for the mind.  It need not be religious or spiritual.  Its benefits are supported by science and by high performers – elite athletes, Navy Seals and Fortune 500 CEOs are meditating and they’re speaking very publicly about it.

I’m not searching for a Holy Grail.  I’m just trying to be a little bit better.  A better husband, father, cop, and human being.  And a little bit happier.  Maybe even ten percent happier.

All those things are possible. I feel it already from my brief foray into meditation.  I know it, because of books like ‘10% Happier’ by Dan Harris.  I’d known about this book for years and listened to Harris’s podcast occasionally.  But I only read the book a few weeks ago. 

I couldn’t put it down.  I recommend you pick it up and not put it down either.  Harris is a journalist who writes honestly about his career and the highs and lows of his life.  He holds nothing back as he takes you on his journey of inquiry, scepticism and ultimately commitment to a life that includes meditation.  It’s also a life that recognizes the impermanence of everything. Dan Harris thinks about death too.

I exercise daily – running and strength training.  Days off are rare.  I now understand that meditation needs to be a part of my daily routine.  The mind and body are not just inextricably linked, they are part of the same whole.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time with Susan Cain and Dan Harris, diving into their books.  And then earlier this week, Cain appeared on Harris’s ‘Ten Percent Happier’ podcast.  It was one of those moments where I felt like my worlds were colliding in the best way possible.  If you have an hour, please listen.  If you have more time, get your hands on ‘Bittersweet’ and ‘10% Happier.’  Both books will enrich your life.  Read together, their power grows exponentially.

It’s tranquil on the front porch now.  My daughter has calmed down, she’s in the backyard with my wife, happy and calling for me, “Mr. Daryl … Dad.”  She’s excited about going swimming later today.

I’m sipping coffee.  Writing.  Content. Knowing that I can be both bittersweet and happier.

I Used to Watch…

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I used to watch ‘Meet the Press’ every Sunday without fail.  A political junkie, I relished my weekly immersion into U.S. politics.

I used to watch Sunday night baseball on ESPN. The Yankees and Red Sox.  The Cardinals, Dodgers and Giants. Every game was an opportunity to relax, and a reminder of my childhood.  When all that mattered was baseball.

I never watch Meet the Press anymore. The closest I get to it is the fading coffee mug my wife bought me years ago.

Baseball comes in snippets.  Five or ten minutes at most.

Life changes when children come.  That’s normal and to be expected.

However, most dads aren’t 45 when they have their first child.  I had four and a half decades of mostly living for myself.  Doing what I wanted when I wanted. 

That’s not easy to give up.  I have an innate selfishness.  I like to get what I want when I want it.

There’s a reason this blog is titled, ‘Reader, Writer, Runner,’ and not “Political Junkie and Baseball Fan.’  When life required me to prioritize, politics and baseball went out the window. 

Reading, writing, and running sustain me.  They nourish the essence of me.  My aging essence. 

Every day I’m conscious of my age in a way that I wasn’t in my thirties and forties.  There’s a starkness to being in my fifties that doesn’t go away.  I’m reading a book about an ultramarathoner who ran a 50 miler in 2001, weeks after September 11th.  The runner had just turned 60.  Which means, he’s over 80 now, if he’s still alive.

Twenty years doesn’t seem very long ago.  Maybe because September 11th is seared into our collective consciousness.  Twenty years is sobering.  Twenty years from now I’ll be in my early seventies.

Twenty years from now my daughter will be twenty-six years old.  An adult.  Forging her own path, with the confidence and vibrancy of youth.

Now though, she’s still just a little girl.  Instead of watching Meet the Press on Sunday mornings, I watch ‘Come Play with Me,’ a YouTube show about dolls.

Instead of watching baseball, I’m in the park, playing with my daughter.  If there is anything better in the world, I don’t know what it is. 

One of my favourite podcasters, Martin Yelling, talks about the seasons of life.  I love the analogy.  It helps me accept being a slower runner, and a reader who is helpless without his reading glasses.  Time takes a natural toll on speed and eyesight.

Time offers gifts too.  It was a gift that I became a father late in the seasons of my life.  I’m a fifty-one-year-old dad who bought his daughter a book about fairies a couple of days ago.  When I gave it to her, she squealed with absolute and pure joy.

This morning instead of Meet the Press,we may play croquet on our back lawn. Tonight, instead of the Yankees versus the Red Sox, we’ll be at the park.

There isn’t anywhere else I’d rather be.

Scattered Thoughts

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I’d like to write more, but often I’m pressed for either time or ideas.  Sometimes a photo prompts my next piece. Usually something happens that I feel compelled to share.  When the ideas strike, the pieces often write themselves.  I’m just the conduit.  At least that’s how it feels. 

Today I have time but no ideas.  Photos but no stories behind them.  Many things on my mind, and none of them flowing through my fingers.  More like scattered thoughts colliding.

I’m fifty-one.  Maybe closer to death than high school.  I was thirty when I became a cop.  I remember driving home at the end of a nightshift, pulling into the driveway, and wondering: wondering when I’d feel like a grown-up, wondering when I’d feel comfortable in my own skin, wondering when the world would make sense.

The world still doesn’t make sense.  Yesterday in Buffalo, New York innocent people were slaughtered in a grocery store.  I grew up near the U.S. border.  My parents shopped at that grocery chain regularly.  The grocery store is called “Tops.”  I can still hear their jingle in my head “Tops Never Stops Saving You More.”

I’ve given up trying to make sense of the world. That’s not going to happen.  Which ironically, may be an important step in having a better understanding of myself.

I may not be there yet – understanding myself that is – but I feel like I’m on the right path. It’s only taken half a century.

Fatherhood has helped.  Not that it’s easy.  Every day I grapple with being a dad.  When to discipline?  How to teach life lessons?  What’s the best way to help an innocent child become a strong and confident girl?

Until very recently I listened to the Marathon Talk podcast.  The hosts embraced the notion of trusting the process.  It’s fine to have a goal, but the goal is secondary to the work you do along the way.  It’s the steps that matter, whether in marathon training, or raising a daughter.  Any goal is the product of the steps and moments that came before it.  Take your steps.  Live in the moment.  Keep your eyes on the horizon.  Never stop moving.

I became truer to myself when I stopped eating meat.  I eat a whole food plant-based diet because I believe it’s my best chance to live a long and healthy life.  There’s more to it than that – changing the way I ate showed me that, daily, my ideals and values could be in alignment with my actions.  That was a powerful lesson. 

Veganism led me to Rich Roll.   Rich chronicled his journey from addict to endurance athlete in his book ‘Finding Ultra.’  His podcast guests are leaders in their fields; health, neuroscience, athletics, and the arts.  Podcasts have reshaped the path I’ve taken in my life. They’ve changed the way I breathe, encouraged me to write, inspired me to wake up at 3:00 a.m. to run miles in the dark, and, conversely, prompted me turn my alarm clock off because sleeping may be the best thing any of us can do to promote physical and mental health. 

I used to have one or two books on the go at any one time.  Recently it’s been five or six.  Although the world doesn’t make sense, books help me navigate my way through it.  I’ve been reading about survival, hostages in Iran, a German general kidnapped in wartime Crete, the latest Reacher novel, a collection of essays from Jedidiah Jenkins, and Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.  I read with a pen in hand, underlying meaningful passages.  I read with my journal by my side, and I copy especially meaningful passages into it.  Great writing moves me.  Incredible stories inspire me.  They all help me focus on my process and my path ahead.

My wife and I have a close friend whose mother is terminally ill.  Words so often fail in those situations.  So we sought the answer in words more eloquent than any we could ever express.  We sent a copy of Susan Cain’s latest book, ‘Bittersweet’ which is about grief.  Cain wrote ‘Quiet,’ a book about introverts.  It helped me better understand myself.  Without having read it, I know ‘Bittersweet’ will be an eloquent, thoughtful work which will help people all over the world.

I have a friend who did something special yesterday.  He ran one hundred kilometers in fourteen hours.  That’s more than two marathons.  He suffered.  He endured.  He finished.  His achievement was even more remarkable because of his training.  His longest training run was 10 kilometers.  He’s in excellent shape.  Obviously that helped.  But, on paper, no coach would draw up a training program without incorporating much longer runs.  On paper he should have done 20-, 30- and 40-kilometer runs.  He didn’t.  He didn’t need to. His mental toughness is off the charts.  He ran sixty-two miles yesterday with his mind. 

The mind.  That’s another thing podcasts have helped me appreciate.  The power of the mind.  To heal.  To create.  To help us reshape ourselves through meditation, and by visualizing the lives we want to lead.

Two more scattered thoughts.

Yesterday we adopted a kitten.  Her name is Molly.  Our daughter’s name is Molly.  We’re going to have to rename our daughter.

The pictures of the fallen trees are from a cutblock not far from our home.  I walked through it, and although it was undeniably apocalyptic, it wasn’t awful.  There was beauty in the desolation, and in the rich green forest behind it. 

Nails on the Trail

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The trails near our home are open to everyone.  The backcountry beckons.  I run while others mountain bike, hike or walk their dogs.  Some ride their dirt bikes or quads.  Sometimes when I run, I hear their engines roaring in the distance.  When we cross paths, I breathe exhaust fumes instead of fresh air. 

But the forest and trails are vast and my encounters with motorized vehicles are always fleeting.  I wave or nod to the riders as we pass one another.  We have different interests but a shared love of the outdoors. We mean one another no harm.

I love to run hills.  There is nothing better for the legs and lungs.  And I’m lucky.  I can walk out the front door, and minutes later be doing a grueling uphill workout.  Long and steep it holds the false promise of reaching a peak.  But there’s no summit for a long time, just short breaks, and then more inclines – steep dirt tracks with scattered rocks and boulders.  They’re ideal for trail running.  And motorbikes.  Sometimes I see the bikes themselves.  Usually tire tracks are the only evidence of their presence.  They are loud but my encounters with them while running are rare.  And we can not hear them from our home.  But others must, because this isn’t the backwoods yet.  More like the shared backyard of a subdivision where hundreds of people live.

A few weeks back I was running up one of these short, steep trails when I saw a nail laying on the ground.  And then two nails, and a third and a fourth, seemingly buried in the dirt intentionally, all over the trail.  Each one placed carefully and with malice, guaranteed to puncture the tires of a dirt bike, or a quad.  Equally guaranteed to pierce a dog’s paws or a child’s flesh.

I picked up eleven nails and filed a police report.  I returned a few days later and found at least ten more.  Maybe I’d missed them the first time, buried underneath the dirt and rocks.  Maybe whoever put them there had returned. 

It is in our nature as human beings to hurt one another.  We hurt those we love.  We hurt people we hate.  We hurt people we don’t know.  So, I was not surprised to find those nails on the trail.  Not surprised.  But saddened and angered.  Thankfully, no one was hurt. 

I still run that trail.  I was there yesterday.  I found six more nails.  One was visible, churned up after I ascended, I spotted it on the descent.  I excavated the area and found five more.  I picked them up and added them to the now harmless pile of nails I’ve created inside a nearby concrete barrier. There are thirty nails in that pile now.

Thirty.  Someone carried thirty nails to that trail, got down on their hands and knees, placed them individually along both sides of the trail and right down the middle, and then covered them with dirt and rocks.  That’s cold. That’s premeditated.  That’s malicious.  That’s humanity.

The dark side of humanity. 

We’ve had illness in our family recently.  Metaphorically one of us stepped on a nail on the trail.  That nail was Covid.  It hit hard.  Its effects are still being felt.  Things are improving but not back to normal.  In the toughest days we saw the best of humanity.  A sibling and parents who dropped everything to care for the one they love.  Friends and neighbours coming to the house and offering their medical expertise, bringing soup, dropping off cookies.  Flowers and well wishes arrived from across the country.  We saw the best side of humanity.

The absolute opposite of nails on the trail.

The World Should Stop

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There are moments when the world should stop.

Like the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this week.

Innocent people suffer immensely while we go about our lives.  Last night was movie night at our house.  Fairy tales and princesses for our lovely six-year old.

In Ukraine, how many six-year old girls are terrified?  Right now. 

Ukrainians fight back. Fiercely.  Inspiring the world.  Civilians picking up rifles, and turning bottles into Molotov cocktails.

I pour my second cup of coffee.  Think about the mountain bike ride I’d like to go on.  Or maybe bouldering at the climbing gym.

Time to check Twitter.  What’s the latest from Kyiv?  Not Kiev.  Is that all we can do for Ukraine?  Spell, and pronounce, their capital city correctly.  Retweet their heroism?

My mom was born in Nazi occupied Netherlands.  I wish my grandparents were still alive.  I’d ask them what it was like to be young parents in a war torn land.

The world didn’t stop for my grandparents.  The world mobilized.  Canadian soldiers liberated my mother’s hometown.

There won’t be any Canadian soldiers in Ukraine.  NATO intervention could lead to global war.  Nuclear missiles might fly.  We fight with economic sanctions, and kick Russian banks out of SWIFT, a banking system none of us had ever heard of until two days ago.

The world should stop.  But it doesn’t.

A few minutes ago my daughter asked, “can we play Go Fish?”  “No,”  I responded, “I’m writing something.”  My no lasted for about 10 seconds.  We’ve played three games since then.

The world should stop.  But it doesn’t.  And the people of Ukraine fight on.

Bury Things Deep

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Sometimes the first time my wife learns about something in my life is reading about it on readerwriterrunner.com. 

When we first met, I told her that I liked to “bury things deep.”  Maybe I was exaggerating for effect.   There’s a difference between burying things, and not talking about them.  I’m very good at not talking.

But I don’t bury them.  To do so would mean hiding them away, somewhere within me – walled off from myself and unexamined.

I’ve seen a lot of death and misery in the last two decades.  Death and misery come with the uniform.  More and more over the last few years, I’ve seen colleagues suffering.  Sometimes one incident is the proverbial last straw and the weight of what my friends and colleagues have seen becomes too much to bear.  Sometimes the one incident is so awful it does it on its own.  For others, there is no one incident, just accumulated suffering.

I’ve learned that when this happens to my colleagues, they are injured – a physical injury as real as a broken leg. 

I’ve learned that this can happen to anyone, at anytime.  And not just first responders and veterans.  The pandemic has made things worse for everyone.

Last week I got a call from a close friend who was going through a tough time.  I don’t think I could have handled the things he has weathered.  He inspires me.  I think he would acknowledge that for many years he buried things deep.  And that part of coming to terms with those things is the opposite of burying them.

There are a lot of ways to shine a little light on dark places.  You’re probably already doing them. 

I read a lot.   I read with a pen in my hand and a journal by my side.  I underline passages that move me and copy some of them into my journal. 

I run.  Almost every day.  Sometimes listening to music that transports me a million miles away.  Sometimes in the stillness of a forest where all I hear is the stream that flows beside me.

I write.  Things I haven’t yet told my wife get posted online for anyone in the world to read. Anyone in the world, including my mom and my ex-wife and my ex-partner.  That’s a varied audience.

I talk.  Sometimes. One of the things I value more than anything in this world is going for coffee with my wife, at least once a week.  We have one or two favourite places.  We sip Americanos.  And I actually talk.  Things that have accumulated throughout the week come out.  And speaking those words, to her, over coffee, always feels good.

I’ve always known how important, reading, running, and writing are in my life.  I knew it instinctively.  I felt it in my marrow.  But I’ve increasingly also come to understand that it is when I read, run, write, and sometimes talk, that I shine light on darkness.  Far from burying things deep, I actually deal with them head on.

Postscript

I thought about some of these things last Sunday as I ran with good friends as part of the Wounded Warriors one day run from Sooke to Sidney on Vancouver Island.  This year’s team is gearing up for their 600-kilometer run from the north island to Victoria later this month.  (As a former member of the team, I was privileged to be able to join them for the one day run).  The funds they raise help first responders and veterans going through difficult times.  Those funds also help their spouses and children.  If you’re so inclined, you can visit Home – Wounded Warrior Run BC (akaraisin.com) to learn more, and perhaps even donate.

Thank you.

Daryl