The haunting, intriguing Muslim call to prayer floats across the city as I sip sweet Arabic coffee in a cozy cafe in Amman, far FAR away from my comfort zone of paradise in New Zealand. And it strikes me, for the umpteenth time, how the F**K did I end up here again??
I've been absent from Make it Dirt and social media in recent months, instead enjoying time connecting with myself and others in the real world. Oh yea . . . and I've been running. Preparing for an ultra-marathon no less. Next week I'll embark on a 5 day, 250 km meander through the stomping ground of Lawrence of Arabia. Thanks to the efficient bush telegraph of NZ, many of you know about this already. But what you might not know is (and I know many non-runners question this regardless!) . . . WHY?!
This time I'm not out to prove anything, to myself or anyone else. I have no expectations around results (= liberation)! And I'm not "running away from my problems". I actually won the opportunity to participate in this adventure!
Rewind to the wee, small hours one sleepless night back in March. Following the death of a best friend and my father last summer, it was a fah-reaking loooong season of sleepless nights. I had tried all the *healthy* go-to-sleep routines - chamomile tea, no screentime after dinner, early to bed, gentle yoga, reading, breathing exercises, meditation. When none of that proved to be effective I resorted to the tried and true distraction for my monkey brain - yep you guessed it - mindless scrolling on social media.
Only a few minutes deep, an ad from Ultra X popped up on my Facebook feed "Win an entry to an ultra marathon in Jordan - CLICK HERE". Obediently, I clicked here. Now, at this point I was about as far from wanting to run as I could possibly get. Grief had taken a mammoth toll on my body. It was still in shock - my legs were weak, my muscles were chronically low on energy, it was as though all my juge had blown away into the never-never. During that time, even after just a short walk I was utterly exhausted and ready for a nap. An ultra marathon was certainly out of the question.
So, the words "ultra marathon" didn't exactly light any spark of enthusiasm for me. And, given I reckon I sway to the sane side of the crazy scale, it probably wouldn't on a good day either. But, in Jordan. That was like teenage-boy-Lynx to a flame.
The idea of an adventure in Jordan was something my friend Caleb and I had discussed (read: bombarded eachother with frantic, excited messages over) once upon a time. Caleb was a best friend (. . . and my only friend, he joked when he first met my parents!) and at one stage was the only person I truly trusted. He had a huge heart, a wicked sense of humour, and was always full of cheek.
He was killed in a tragic accident last October. His sudden exit from this life left myself, and many others, devastated and heartbroken.
Caleb taught me a lot about myself, was always an enthusiastic supporter, and nudged me down a path of spiritual discovery that I've since hurtled down at breakneck pace. A journey that steeled me with knowledge and insights that I've clung to to help get me through a damned awful rough patch.
Buoyed by the thought that Caleb would say a big HELL YEA to this adventure, I put my entry in. Why do you think you should win? I shared my story about Caleb and finished by saying that this event would be a tribute to his "get dressed f**ker we're going on an adventure" attitude. Butterflies were flapping all around in my stomach and up into my ribcage (much like they are now about sharing this post!). No one ever wins these things anyway, I told myself. Buuuut this time, there was an odd feeling stirring inside. I sensed that if someone did win, that someone would be me.
A month later I heard from Sam Heward, co-founder of Ultra X . . I was in! Out of 400+ entries they had picked mine and a male's entry as the winners.
Shit. Just. Got. Real.
It's been 6 months of 2 steps forward, 1 step back in training, but winning this entry was ultimately what flipped my energy and psyche switch to *ON*. I have put my life on hold since Caleb's death, and subsequently the passing of my father and grandfather. It has taken all of my strength simply to get out of bed each day and stay afloat.
The thousands of steps I'll be taking in the desert are a symbol of the thousands of steps I am yet to take in a life without these 3 incredible men in it. And will pave the way for me to grasp the concept that what I've lost in them, I'm finding in myself, and in other new wonderful people in my life.
As the plane touched down in Amman on Sunday morning it dawned on me (through a deluge of tears) that I was shaking off another one of those heavy cloaks of grief, and throwing it to the gutter. Whatever happens during the run, I'm ready to grab life by the goolies and live vibrantly once again.
Let's rock and roll!