Tucked away within a box of elephant knick knacks – it was an old Pop-Tarts box, frosted blueberry – I found this little book. It’s got to be at least 10 years-old, probably more. I’m not sure which one of my kids wrote it. But I have a pretty good idea. She’s a very creative child, who is no longer a child. Even if she was bored when she made this, she was creative with her boredom. Now I have immortalized it on the internet. “So if you do not want to read about nothing… I suggest you browse a different website.”
Given that my level of physical activity has been so long for too long, as I wrote about yesterday, I felt in need of a book to read that would inspire me to get motivated and pick up the pace, especially in light of a 25K trail race on my horizon in April.
The first book that came to mind was North by Scott Jurek. The first reason this book is an inspiration is that Scott Jurek himself is an inspiration. Just look at some of these accomplishments:
- Appalachian Trail Speed Record: 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes: 2,189 miles – 2015
- U.S. record for 24-hour road run: 165.7 miles – 2010
- 7 x consecutive winner of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run – 1999-2005
- 2 x consecutive winner of the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon – 2005, 2006
- 3 x consecutive winner Spartathlon 152 miles-Athens to Sparta, Greece – 2006-2008
That should be more than enough inspiration for any runner. Much more is listed on his website at www.scottjurek.com/about-scott.
The second reason that this book is an inspiration to me is due to my long connection with the Appalachian Trail. I remember dreaming about hiking the whole trail as a kid before I ever set foot on it. It’s still a dream, but in reality my experience of the trail is limited to several miles in New Jersey and Pennsylvania on either side of the Delaware Water Gap. Even so, there is a certain magic I feel when I’m on the Appalachian Trail, a sense that if I really wanted to, I could keep going for hundreds of miles in either direction. I remember when Scott ran the trail in 2015. I followed him on social media. I regretted not being able to be at the Delaware Water Gap when he crossed into New Jersey. I read North when it came out in 2018. I laughed. I wept. I ran more. I’m trusting it will have the same effect on me on my second read.
Read more of my Appalachian Trail related posts at this link.
A Sign from the Running Gods?
So, I pulled North of the shelf. How should I break down the pages to finish before the Hyner Challenge in April? What about a chapter per week starting tomorrow, Saturday, January 2? Let me check the number of chapters: 17. What is the date of the race? Saturday, April 24. Let’s see how many Saturdays there are between now and then. January 30 will be 5. February 27 will be 9. March 27 will be 13. April 24… race day… will be… 17! No way! 17 Saturdays! 17 chapters! Finishing the last chapter on the day of the race! Perfect!
God help me run!
Where are we going? By most accounts, 2020 was a helluva year! The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted normal life. Politicians have disrupted life even more with draconian lockdowns and other not-scientifically-proven means (e.g., face masks) to control the virus by controlling people, while COVID-19 cases/deaths are the highest in those very same draconian states. Where are we going now? And by “we” I mean me and my family because that’s my number one priority.
But Doing Well
Thankfully, my family and I have done well in 2020. One of my daughters and her husband caught the virus. But they recovered with no problems. A few in my family have earned less of an income because of lockdown restrictions. But no one is completely unemployed. We all got the sacred stimulus checks from our governmental overlords. I got my second one today, actually. I figure, I pay too much in taxes as it is. So, thanks for the refund, Big Brother.
My wife and I took a big step forward in 2020 by buying a home. The financial planning and actions we had taken over the past few years paved the way for us to purchase a house during a year in which many folks experienced financial hardships. I am not calloused about that. Plus, after seeing the financial losses others have had has caused us to make additional plans to further improve our financial wellbeing.
My Personal Road Forward
First of all, my direction for for 2021 includes finding and taking the next step in my career. I have a fair sense of direction for this and I’ve begun working with a career coach again. My plans include certifications in WorkFusion Automation and ITIL, a return to regular blogging on my career website, and continuous business and technology learning (as always). All of this is priority numero uno because everything else dependents on my ability to maintain/increase my wealth.
My second priority is to make repairs and improvements to our new home. Our fireplace and chimney are scheduled to be rebuilt. Coverage for the cost of this was negotiated with the former home owner. However, since moving in, we discovered that the roof needs to be replaced. Estimates from roofers are in progress. We will have to break open a few piggy banks to cover this expense. Also, the dishwasher croaked and we hate the stove so much we want to kill it. There is painting and other repairs/maintenance to be done. The grounds need a thorough spring cleaning this year. A very large tree needs to be taken down. New flowers and shrubbery need to be planted. I’ve got my eye on English laurel to be planted between the pines along the western edge of our property.
Another priority high on the list is to address my physical condition. It’s really gone to pot. Potbelly, that is. I feel lousy. My physical activity has been reduced to almost nothing for reasons I don’t want to get into right now. So, I have a plan to increase my running and walking activities. I am registered for a tough trail race in April and another in September. I have a big hurdle of losing at lease 20 pounds and running more regularly to be in any kind of shape to survive those races.
Another priority that is needed for my mental health is to take more time to make art. I’ve been spending more time drawing and painting lately. What I really need is to spend more time organizing our garage. There’s enough room in there to dedicate an area as an art workshop. But some of the other needs around the house are higher priorities right now.
In 2021 I want to increase the number of books I read. I read only 23 in 2020. That’s on the low side for me. But to be fair to myself, I took three college classes in 2020 (Business Law, Principles of Marketing, Principles of Management) which included close to 1,000 pages of reading that I didn’t include on my list of books read. I will take another three classes in 2021. But I still want to up my personal reading game this year.
I was just reminded of another priority. It’s a priority above most other priorities and interwoven with many of them. I’m speaking of loving, teaching, and enjoying the company of a toddler. I was reminded of it just now because he is crying like a madman because he wants to bake and decorate cookies NOW. He saw kids on TV doing such. Those kids had made sugar cookies from scratch and were decorating them with sprinkles and icing and all kinds of jazz. I made a compromise: we will use a store bought chocolate chip cookie mix (too many other things to do to be making cookies from scratch) and decorate the cookies with tubes of icing. We will do so as long as he calms down while I finish this blog post and allows me to clean up my desk.
And with that I am off to start 2021.
Look into the eyes of your beloved and ask deeply, “Who are you, my love, who has come to me and taken my suffering as your suffering, my happiness as your happiness, my life and death as your life and death? Who are you whose self has become my self? Why aren’t you a dewdrop, a butterfly, a bird, a pine tree?” Ask with your whole body and mind. Later, you will have to ask the person who causes you the most suffering the same questions: “Who are you who brings me such pain, who makes me feel so much anger and hatred?” To understand, you have to become one with your beloved, and also one with your so-called enemy. You have to worry about what they worry about, suffer their suffering, appreciate what they appreciate. You and the object of your love cannot be two. They are as much you as you are yourself.
Continue until you see yourself in the cruelest person on Earth, in the child starving, in the political prisoner. Practice until you recognize yourself in everyone in the supermarket, on the street corner, in a concentration camp, on a leaf, in a dewdrop. Meditate until you see yourself in a speck of dust in a distant galaxy. See and listen with the whole of your being. If you are fully present, the rain of the Dharma will water the deepest seeds in your store consciousness, and tomorrow, while you are washing the dishes or looking at the blue sky, that seed will spring forth, and love and understanding will appear as a beautiful flower.
-Thich Nhat Hanh
“Teachings on Love”
I’ve been wanting to read Dune again for a long time. What better way to kick it off than with a pumpkin spice latte?
It’s all about the spice.
Don’t it make my brown eyes blue?
If you don’t get it, you really need to read the book. It will spice up your life.