Open letter to my mother

July 25, 1997

Dear Mom,

I’m trying to write you this letter, but I fail to find a constant stream of thought and the perfect articulation of words to paint an accurate picture of what 19 years has been like without you. It’s impossible to express the loss of a parent at the infantile age of 21. Legally, an adult, but so far from being prepared for the true realities of life.

Did 19 years really go by? 21 is too young. 21 is too young to lose you. I had so many expectations of moments we were to share, and advice you were to impart on me. Even thinking back now, I find myself rejecting the stream of events that unfolded. The diagnosis. The expected time remaining. The treatment. The end. It all went wrong, and you were stolen from me, our family, your husband – our world.

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Every day I miss you to my very core, and every day I find solace and comfort in the strength I have from you, the care for others you instilled in me, the values by which you’ve raised me and how I live by them daily. I find peace and calm from those very things, because that is the only way I can get through a day knowing that you’re not here.

I fear I’ll forget pieces of you, as I desperately grasp onto our every word, touch, glance, laughter, learning. I have memories but they’ve softened over time. Have I filled in the the gaps accurately? Have some memories slipped through never to be remembered again?

The weight of these thoughts could collapse a person’s reality, and they have from time to time, but an attitude of unbridled gratitude for the constants in my life have been my saviour. They provide a euphoric lightness that grounds and surrounds me daily and has allowed me to find inspiration and positivity in all areas of my life.

The path I’ve chosen at each turn and crossroad ahead of me may not have been what we had originally imagined or planned, but I know you’d be proud and happy for me. I’ve surrounded myself with the best people who inspire, appreciate, and care for me. I come home to shared love, laughter, and support from a man who is my forever. I think it’s everything you had ever wanted for me as a parent.

So, today, in your memory, I paid tribute to you the best way I know how. I climbed a mountain, as I have in previous years, and let the air fill my lungs. The struggle and effort of each step was muted by the magnitude of the grief from the loss of you.

Your youngest daughter,

Linda

Saying Good-Bye

In less than a week, I’ll be saying good-bye.

I’ve had long hair for 25 years, and I’ve always said that I would only cut it if I was going to donate it.  Well, now’s the time.  So, in less than a week, I will be saying good-bye to at least 10 inches of hair.  But, that hair symbolizes more than just hair.  I’ll be saying good-bye to part of my youth, a piece of my identity, a security blanket.

BUT, to that, I say:
  • to my youth: I’m only as old as I feel and I may be 40, but I feel young!
  • to my identity: As each day goes by, I am more sure of who I am and the way I see myself is not directly related to the length of my hair.  I am a life partner to the best man I know.  I am a fierce and loyal friend to people who enrich my life beyond my expectations.  I am a community connector.  I am a runner.  I am forever grateful for what I have, and will strive to be more.
  • to my security blanket: Along the journey to the place where I currently plant my feet, I stopped needing you.  So it’s time for YOU to be free of me.

NOW, since I’m #DiggingInto40, I’m turning the tables on an action that once scared me.  I am filled with anticipation and excitement.  And, to extend my passion for giving back, I am raising funds for charity.  The charity I have chosen is Wigs for Kids BC, a 100% volunteer-run program out of BC Children’s Hospital that provides wigs to children with cancer and other serious illnesses at no charge, as well as essential drugs and feeding supplies not covered by MSP.

I WILL raise at least $3000 – the cost to create a wig. The labour alone costs $800. I WILL be a zero cost to this charity to improve the quality of life for 1 child.

I’m matching the first $1,000 so if you can spare a few dollars, I’d really appreciate it. It’s for the kids (truly!).

Yours in gratitude,
Linda

Live Audaciously.

20130824_132127_13Sometimes, in grief, there is clarity and good reminders of what I already know.

Ten days ago, I lost a dear friend.  Today was the funeral service.  And it was hard – DAMN hard.   I’m going to tell you a few things about my friend Doug.

  • When we met over 10 years ago and became friends, he questioned whether or not we would stay friends.  He said all of his friends have disappointed him at some point and it was just a fact of life.  I happily proved him wrong year after year and he realized that I was just going to stick around.
  • He was good for my self esteem.   You see, Doug was about 20 years older than I was.  This confused others, but neither of us cared.  He was a friend and friendships are ageless.  We shared many long talks and he often gave good advice.  If it was bad advice, I’d tell him because I knew I could.  🙂   So, many times, he boosted my confidence saying things like .. “if I was 20 years younger, I’d be asking you out on dates everyday.” (when i was moaning about not finding a good partner)  “if I could afford you to pay you what you were worth, i’d hire you in a heartbeat.”  (when i was job hunting)
  • He knew how to make me laugh.  Knowing that he was 20 years older than I was, he would pretend to be the creepy guy, but was never able to pull it off.  He’d answer the phone “Linda’s Massage Parlour – we never rub you the wrong way.”  And things of the sort.
  • We appreciated each other.  And would tell each other.
  • He lived a life that I admired.  He was fiercely in love with his wife on a daily basis.  He ran a good business.  He hired good people.  He admitted his shortcomings.   He invested in people he cared about.  He was often optimistic.  He was ever curious.  He loved his inner child.

Sadly, Doug was also sick and his life was cut short.  It sucks for him.  It sucks for everyone around him.    He was a gem.

So, with that, I leave you with two words:  Live Audaciously.

Forget the saying of “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” I say, keep your friends close and drop your enemies. They’re dead weight on your brazen path in life.  Shed those negative people in your life, like they’re the last 5lbs you wanted to lose.  And love the good people in your life passionately.

An Emotional August

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Do you ever feel so overwhelmed that you become speechless? Does your heart ever swell so much that the only way to express it is through tears? Do you ever sit back and wonder how you got to be so lucky?

Those thoughts and feelings have been coursing through my blood for the last while. August was an extremely emotional month for me – so much so that I needed to give myself some time and space to find the right words. But, the right words will never come so these will have to do.

Like I said, August was an emotional month. I couldn’t have packed more into it:

There were only 5 weekends in August and 3 were full. Somewhere in there, I had to fit in training for my next ultra (Cle Elum 50k), lead the lululemon Robson Street Run Club, see friends and family, and relax.

In and amongst all of that, two very unplanned things happened.

On the Wednesday before SeaWheeze, it was a day like any other. Work during the day and then Run Club. Run Club gives me so much. I had a vision at the beginning of the year for Run Club and it was to build a run club that was a strong tight-knit supportive family, and it was very much becoming a reality. These amazing people inspire one another, support one another, motivate one another, and they make Wednesdays the highlight of my week. The fact that they are continually present for one another and for me is a pretty special thing. On that day, we were planning a route that goes down Bute to the seawall and then running along the seawall. Andrea, an educator from the store, asked if we could do our weekly icebreaker at the park a few blocks away and I agreed. The weather was gorgeous and it’s a nice short walk. So, that day, like any other, we left the store and walked up Bute towards Nelson Park. Two blocks in, a group jumped out cheering and with signs – it startled me! My first thought was, “Who are we surprising?” and then, “Why don’t I know about it?”

Lo and behold, that person was me. Earlier in the year, I set out to start an initiative called #GoalForward. It was an initiative to bring together the things I was passionate about – community, running, goals, and philanthropy. People would apply for #GoalForward, a program where they would get rewarded in charitable dollars for attaining a SMART goal. I would offer to coach and guide them along if they wanted. If not, it was just a matter of connecting with them and if they crushed their SMART goal, then I would send them $100 in charitable dollars. The money from which I was drawing was part of another campaign – One Year, One Percent. This campaign challenged you to put aside 1% of your annual earnings towards charity. I took this campaign and topped it up to an even $1,000 to be given out to 10 people.

lululemon Robson Street was surprising me that day with the gift of paying it forward. They were supporting my #GoalForward initiative by gifting me $500 for the program. So, now, I am able to pay it forward and reward 15 people instead of 10. I was humbled, floored, and overwhelmed with gratitude.

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The second occurrence was around SeaWheeze. I was a Pace Beaver last year and it was so much fun. This year, I was asked to be a Pace Beaver again and I was definitely excited. I was going to be pacing 2:10 and was so happy about it because that was the goal time of some of the people in my run club. Not only do I get to watch them train up to the half marathon distance, I now get to bring them across the finish line.

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Kat, Alex and Winnie from Run Club were toeing the line with me and my fellow 2:10 beavers, Susan and Marisa. The gun went off and we set out to find our pace. Susan, one of the other 2:10 beavers, and I were keeping each other in check to make sure we weren’t going too fast or too slow. Our strategy was to give ourselves a couple of minutes cushion and to finish just under 2:10 so that anyone who finished with us would not only reach their goal of 2:10, but they would in actual fact crush their goal. Not too long after we started, I realized Kat was the only one with us so I kept my eye on her, encouraging her, reminding her to fuel, pointing things out on the course and throwing in a few comments and jokes along the way. We were also running with another girl who ran SeaWheeze last year and she said that I got her across the finish line in her goal time – awesome.

We entered Stanley Park and I knew things were starting to get tough for our group. But I knew we could do it. For Kat, I knew she had it in her to do it. After all the physical rigours of training, it all comes down to a mental battle. When your body starts to get tired and sore, self doubt starts to seep its ugliness into your brain. Distraction is the best remedy. So we kept the chatter going – or maybe it was self-chatter for me. We got to Lumberman’s Arch and saw Maya, another Run Clubber, cheering and it definitely lifted spirits. There’s a big hill at Lumberman’s Arch and Susan and I were shouting encouragements to power up the hill. When we got to the top, we realized we had almost lost our group so big brakes came out until they caught up. Oops, a bit too excited. I still hadn’t seen Kat and I knew that it would be bad news if I continued without her so I didn’t. We were well under our goal time so I basically hung back until I saw her. Then I continued forward in baby steps until she caught me. My Run Club knows that I’m a bit of a mother hen – I call them my babies, in fact. So, to leave one of my babies to fend for herself – not going to happen. All the while, I knew I had a responsibility of being a Pace Beaver. But I had time. I had minutes to spare. So I was safe. Kat and I resumed our positions – me slightly ahead and her just slightly behind. I kept telling her that she was going to get her goal (and she was!), that we was doing SO great (and she was!), and that we would do it together (and we were!). I told her not to rush it. We were going to do it in HER pace, not mine. When, and ONLY when she saw the finish line, and if she had it in her, she could pick it up, but we were going to cross that line together.

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And damnit, we did. And it was fan-freakin-tastic. I can’t even express the emotions I was feeling – words don’t do it justice. I was so proud of her. That day changed both of us and we will forever be bonded by that experience.

And, if you check the results, she actually finished 2 seconds ahead of me. 🙂

The Girl in My Mind’s Eye

It’s interesting to see how certain life choices can completely transform who you are. In my mind, I’m still just a revised version of the old me. The old me didn’t make a lot of good choices, didn’t have a strong focus in life, and certainly didn’t have an athletic bone in her body. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind’s eye, she’s still there and very present. Only those that knew me in that time can attest that, at that time, that was me. I think one of the reasons why she’s still so prominent is because she embodies many of my insecurities. She’s the voice of the ‘I can’ts’ and amplifies my fears.  She’s the one who says I’m not good enough or worthy.  As hard as it is to swallow, she is still me and I haven’t let her go yet.  It’s a daily struggle and a process. I am, however, aware that I’m a very different person now and am so much happier and I’m surrounded by amazing people in my life who love, support, and inspire me. I couldn’t ask for much more.

thenandnowSixteen years ago, I never would have thought I would be a girl who would run for 4 hours through the trails in Whistler, which included a bear encounter (2 bears actually) and a soak in glacial run off waters.  Sixteen years ago, I wouldn’t have pictured running my 4th 50km race in a few days.  Sixteen years ago, I was 20lbs lighter, didn’t do ANY exercise – actually, I didn’t really do ANYTHING and that’s not an exaggeration – and wasn’t sure what to do with my life.. and I smoked.  Not only did i smoke, but I was also bulimic.  I also didn’t necessarily keep the best company. You know those Asian girls that you would see at the night clubs that dated a few shady characters who were on the wrong side of the legal line? Yah, I was one of those.   Again, poor life choices.

Now, I run ultramarathons, lead a run club that is full of a phenomenal group of people, have a fun career that ties together philanthropy and sport, am realizing my passion for building an inspiring run community, have built and continue to build strong life-lasting friendships with people that humble me, and I am loved. There is a focus and a purpose to my life and it’s ever-changing and is being constantly refined.

I don’t know how it happened – it’s all a blur.  All I know is that I am falling forward toward positivity and possibility in my life, which stem from beautiful experiences and rare people.  I am continually thankful, inspired, and ever so lucky.  And one day, she’ll just be quiet and be happy for me.

Two People Who Rock My World

Today was pretty darn good day, even though it’s not quite over. First day of the Chinese New Year and I spent the first couple of hours running on the North Shore with my puppy and a couple of friends and then spent the afternoon with my parents. Truth be told, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the afternoon. My parents had been fighting so I thought it was going to be a Father-Daughter afternoon date, but it was a happy family trio for the last few hours.

I think back about the goals I wrote out for myself this year and it really focused on 3 themes: diversity, community, family.

After the last couple of years focusing on work and running, I started to think that my mind wasn’t as strong. I’ve always had ambition, determination, and perseverance in work and running and these were waning. I needed balance. I needed diversity. So, aside from those two things, I’ve focused on adding diversity in my life, from reintroducing yoga and reading a book a month, to trying different activities like skiing, skate-skiing  and swimming. I’ll also be throwing in a few more fun, not-so-serious events this year, like the Bagel Chase and the Ragnar Relay NW Passage.

Late last year, I took another turn in my career and entered the non-profit/charitable world (for those legal sticklers out there, there is a difference in the two). I spent the last 4 years working full-time in events and, although I loved it, there was a piece missing that I needed – giving back to the community. Perhaps it was a lack of giving back to the community to which I felt most connected, but regardless, there was a void that needed to be filled. And, for those who have worked in events, it’s not the most balanced lifestyle, so I needed a shift.

Image..which leads me to family, and the inspiration on this blog post. It’s amazing what one afternoon can do. I am the first to admit that I get pretty wrapped up in my immediate world and can function in tunnel-vision mode for quite some time. Everything else has to fit in those rare, empty spaces. I take my parents for granted and how they are always there. The pace at which they move is immensely slower than mine so I just think they’ll be there when I get one of those rare, empty spaces. And they always are. Today, however, I slowed down to their pace and it’s actually quite lovely. Almost necessary – for my sanity and for me to remember to reconnect with my family. They are, by and large, the most important thing in my life.

It’s funny – in my goal for diversity, I’m reintroducing yoga to my life after roughly an 18 month break. Each class I go to, I’m to focus on my breath. But today, after the afternoon with two wickedly awesome loving people who rock my world, it reminded me to take a breath, step back, and enjoy. I got all that, and I didn’t have to spend an hour in a super hot room trying to bend my 2×4 body into ungodly positions. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂

On days like this…

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On days like this…

when you realize you forgot your lunch at home
when the weatherman lied and said it was going to be 9 degrees and you only brought shorts for your run
when the rain and wind are coming at you so hard, it feels like it’s hailing golf balls.
when your ears are so waterlogged, you’ve temporarily lost hearing
when so much rain gets in your eyes, they sting
when everything is so numb, you feel like you’re not wearing any pants
when your hands are locked in a claw position
when you realize it really is hailing
when you get that moment and then…

you decide to run 10miles instead of 6miles
you forget where you are
you think of this as fun
you find it so peaceful
you realize you’re smiling
you wish you could go on forever

…you find that moment of bliss.

Just remember: No one got stronger because they wimped out on a run.