Quest for Running Songs, Week 3: “Stand By Your Gun”

This song was a pleasant little surprise this week! I have absolutely no idea what this song is about – I haven’t picked up on the lyrics and haven’t bothered to look them up – but the vibe is so utterly pleasant that it instantly puts me into a good mood when I hear it. It’s the kind of song I imagine would play in a movie when someone steps out of their house, smiling up at the sun shining while chirping birds flit all around, and marvels at how the day just feels unbreakably perfect.

It’s not a song that’s going to help you PR, but it has the potential to make part of a mile just a lovely, feel-no-pain experience. Enjoy!


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My Secret Life as a 15 Year Old

Do you ever feel like you have a secret life? Maybe it’s a side of you your coworkers would never expect, or a secret hobby your best friend knows nothing about, or a way of thinking your family would never identify as being yours. Regardless of what it is, it’s something you keep secret because somehow it just feels safer than putting it out there for the judgement of others.

This morning, I realized one of my secret selves is a 15 year old girl. When I woke up today, I saw a post that my favourite band had finally – finally! – released a new song and video, and the new album is finally – finally! - being released in May, and they’re going on tour in the Fall! My heart immediately started racing and I wasted not a second as I pressed play on the video link. Then I watched it again on the official band website, and then again on YouTube where I read the comments and started to notice some of the subtleties in the video.

At this point I should have been doing grown up things like my morning yoga, making a healthy breakfast and showering, but instead I checked Twitter to see what everyone was saying about the song, posted my own excitement about the release, checked the singer’s Twitter feed, then the drummer’s, and then the official Twitter feed for the band.

I eagerly soaked up everyone’s perspectives and, after watching the video five more times, I finally came to my own understanding of the lyrics and the excitement and anticipation for the new album began to explode inside me. I haven’t felt this excited about (perhaps even addicted to) a band in at least twenty one years. It’s a fun and weird place to be as a 40 year old woman.

Yesterday at work we had talked about age and life stages, and this experience has reminded me just how much my life stages are out of order. I had a baby when I was a teenager, so I lived two decades of serious adulthood and responsibility at a time when my friends were partying and exploring and self-discovering. Now, when society dictates I should be responsible and mature, I feel like I’m going back to finish that interrupted experience of adolescence.

Officially, to outsider eyes, I’m too old to be feeling this way and behaving this way. But really can you give me any good reason why? We’re all looking for something to relate to in life and, with all the crazy censorship and stigma around certain topics, if music is saying something I can connect to then of course I’m going to gravitate towards it. The messages in these songs have so much more authenticity and meaning than 90% of the conversations I engage in with the people around me on a day to day basis. Something about adulthood makes us feel like we need to be “fine” and “have it all together” or “fake it til we make it” – we stop having honest interactions; we learn to suppress and endure.

At some point I’d like to work up the courage to foster absolute authenticity in my real adult life, but I’m still figuring things out and not quite ready to fuse the fragments of my self into one coherent, public identity. I can’t help but wonder, though, how many of us actually have that soundly formed identity and how many of us are living secret lives just pretending we’ve got it all figured out. I wonder if anyone else I know has a secret teenager inside that comes out when they’re alone.

I wish I knew, I wish we talked about that, because I think it would be pretty cool for our teenagers to hang out sometime.

Quest for Running Songs, Week 2: “Yin Yang”

Although I’ve added a few new songs to my Shuffle, nothing has hugely inspired me yet so I’m pulling this week’s song out of my favourites list because it’s by a Canadian band that I think many people might not have heard of: USS (Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker).

Last year I signed up for a Spring 10K race to ease back into running after a bit of a knee problem through the fall and winter. Halfway through the race, this song came on and gave me that wicked mid-race boost I needed – so much so that I played it a few times in a row and occasionally burst out singing along. (Yes, I was that girl.)

I love how the laidback feel of the verses helps me relax into my stride, and then the chorus breaks into a raw energy that charges me up with these lyrics:

I got infinite ammunition
Coming out the yin yang
I got limitless stealth positions
Extract the champion

Give it a listen and see what you think.


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Car Salesmen

Tonight I spent two hours in a car dealership, representing my organization at a fundraising event the dealership was hosting. I arrived ready to talk to the public about what we do, the great programs we offer to women 18 and older. The problem was, nobody came. So, instead, I spent two hours trying to navigate the really strange world of car salesmen.

I immediately felt uncomfortable.

I spied a pretty regular-looking guy and started a conversation with him. Within two minutes, aggressive sales guy inserted himself into the conversation. The other boys mocked him for his lame pickup line (something about us both being in good shape). He made a weird, semi-insulting remark towards me then said, “that’s what I do, I pour the salt in the wound and then I make it better.” It sounded like it was right out of the PUA (pick up artist) playbook; it was revolting.

I reminded him that I work for a women’s organization, and that probably wasn’t the best tactic with me. He responded with a sideways insult about my sense of humour. A short while later he called me over to show me all the health food he had in his office space, including a giant jug of protein powder.

Time check: only twenty minutes into my two hour shift. Oh my god.

A young-looking guy stepped into the conversation, ‘apologizing’ for the first guy’s behaviour. I felt like a deer in a meadow, slowly being surrounded by hyenas closing in on me. Eventually, however, I managed to get him into a deeper conversation which turned out to be very enlightening.

Firstly, I didn’t know that car salesmen are solely commission-based, no base pay. This means they will say and do just about anything for the sale. He freely admits they don’t have a customer’s best interests at heart, they just want the sale. The average car has $1000-2000 profit to be made on it, so you can imagine how many they need to sell to make a decent living.

This young guy turned out to be the manager, at age 26. He said he had been scouted by a dealership straight from business school because he had the highest GPA in his class. He spoke with the cocky arrogance of someone who got too much money too quickly.

His whole job is to stand and watch his team working. If it looks like they’re going to lose the sale, he’ll intervene. If a customer is waffling about price, he’ll walk in and offer the deal, but it’s only good for that day. I asked him what he would do if someone came back the next day and told him they would buy the car elsewhere if he didn’t honour the price from the day before. He said he once let a person walk out over thirty cents, because he doesn’t want people like them (hagglers) in his dealership, they’ll just bring more people like them.

We had talked earlier about whether we love what we do. I told him I love my job, and that when I had been in corporate, I’d felt a piece of my soul die every day. He said he feels a piece of his soul die every day, but it doesn’t bother him.

He talked about the poverty he grew up in as a child, and how that is what drives him to care about nothing more than money. “I chase the dollar,” he said. “Money is what puts food on my table, nothing will ever be more important to me than money.” And he admitted it’s never enough, he’ll always want more.

He talked about how he’ll soon be relocating to a different town to help start up another dealership. He said he doesn’t have anybody to worry about so he’s free to move as much as he wants. He pointed to the ring on his ring finger. “I just wear this because it makes you trust me more.”

I was starting to feel a little sick. I joked that I was going to have nightmares tonight after being at this dealership. He said, “Because of the other guy right? I’m trying to make it better for you.” I responded it was because of the collective experience, but he didn’t understand.

Our conversation quickly ended as he was pulled away to a sales call and immediately protein guy returned. He had been observing me with the other guys and was starting to catch on that being aggressive with me was not the way to go. He tried a softer approach.

He talked about how some people put so much importance on the status symbols for their sense of self-worth, their identity. I asked him what kind of car he drives. He replied, “An old beater.” Status symbols don’t matter to him, he said. What matters is being smart with his money – saving, investing, not splurging.

I asked if he’d grown up in a family that was good with money, suspecting that likely his childhood was probably not all that different from his manager’s. Sure enough, he said both parents had been terrible with money. It makes sense, then, that money is so important to him too. We want what we don’t get as children.

It helped to begin to understand why these men were the way they were. They say we fear what we don’t understand and I have to say, through the two hours in that car dealership, I constantly caught myself holding my breath. It didn’t feel safe. I felt surrounded by deception, and the many tactics the car salesmen shared with me confirmed that’s what their gig is all about.

“You’re thinking about a white car, I’ll tell you they’re saying white is the hottest trend in cars this year. Who’s to say it’s not? If I say it to you, you say it someone else, maybe that makes it so. It’s all about perception.”

All I can say is, I’m going to start taking really good care of my car so that I don’t need to buy a car again for a very, very long time.

Quest for Running Songs, Week 1: “Running For Your Life”

In my quest for new running music for 2015, I’ve decided to start posting some of my favourite running songs as I search for new tunes to add to the Shuffle. I’m not talking about the usual “Mony, Mony”, “Born to Run” list. I’m talking stuff that’s a little newer, and maybe a little less likely to be hitting people’s radars. Yes, I know you elite runners don’t need music to get you through long runs, but I do! My hope is that if I post enough of these, eventually some of you fellow runners will help me out by sharing your favourites with me, too.

So, to get this started, here’s my song of the week:

“Running For Your Life” by Dirty Heads

We all know running is at least as much about mental strength as it is about physical strength, and sometimes the right song can re-ignite our Inner Fighter voice just when our tired legs are starting to drown it out. For me, what makes a great running song isn’t so much whether or not the beat matches my pace, but rather if the lyrics energize and inspire me.

This song is all about seizing the day and squeezing everything we can out of every moment. I have two favourite lines:

Tell the reaper to his face, ‘I ain’t scared of you.’

and

Running for your life, don’t waste it, the moment’s never right so make it.

Dirty J from Dirty Heads elaborates: “A lot of people think ‘Oh the moment’s not right.. I’m not going to take this chance, I’m too scared…’ If the moment’s not right, don’t leave it to fate, don’t leave it to luck, fuckin’ make it right. Find something in that moment, and do something about it.”

I can’t tell you how many times this song has given me a burst of energy just when I needed it most. It’s kind of like a GU gel for the mind. :)


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I’m a sponsored athlete!

Life is just full of surprises. After running my first half marathon last Fall, I was searching for ways to get more involved in the running community when I stumbled across an application form for a sponsorship program. It claimed to be “for all levels and abilities”, with a tagline: “You don’t have to be elite, just motivated and passionate about running, triathlon or cycling.” Intriguing! I decided to call their bluff and sent in an application.

A couple of months passed by. I amused myself wondering if I would ever hear back, and almost fell out of my chair when the email popped up in my inbox one quiet afternoon at work. The squeal was heard by many! I ran out of my office jumping up and down, “I made it! I was accepted for Team Running Free!”

I decided not to write a post that day because it just would’ve had a lot of “eeeeeeee!” and “yaaaaaaay!” in it, but now that I’ve settled down I really have to say I am so honoured to be representing Running Free in 2015. They are a small chain of stores that is aligned not only with my athletic passion but with my personal values. From their Re-Use Shoe Program that collects and distributes used shoes to local homeless people and overseas, to Mission Haiti that turns used shoes into a viable microloan program for Haitians, to their support of Run and Read, an after school program focused on children living in some of the most impoverished communities in Canada — they are doing really cool things in the world!

I am so grateful for this sponsorship program that gives amateur athletes like me a chance to step up and get involved in the running community in new and exciting ways. I will wear my uniform with pride, and to my fellow team members, I can’t wait to meet you out on the road!

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Suicide Warriors: Twenty One Pilots

I believe in this world many of us are suffering in silence, feeling alone among the masses with nobody to truly expose our pain to. I’ve written about this before, and every once in a while – especially on Bell Let’s Talk Day - the conversation about mental health and depression swells up into the mainstream for a while before it swiftly subsides back into the darkness.

Last year I discovered the band Twenty One Pilots thanks to their catchy song House of Gold hitting a local radio station. It intrigued me enough that I checked out the rest of the album and slowly, song by song, I became hooked. I even spent an entire 1.5 hour training run last spring listening to the same six songs on repeat. There was clearly something about Twenty One Pilots that was striking a chord within me.

After watching hours of interviews today, I’ve finally put it together: singer/songwriter Tyler Joseph is one of us. He wears his vulnerability on his sleeve rapping and singing about contemplating suicide, about feeling alone in the world, and about fighting just to get through the night. What sets him apart from every other ‘life sucks’ singer out there, though, is that he comes down into the pit with us and hands over a branch of hope to cling to. For example:

Am I the only one I know,
Waging my wars behind my face and above my throat?
Shadows will scream that I’m alone,
But I know we’ve made it this far, kid.

And I will say that we should take a day to break away,
From all the pain our brain has made,
The game is not played alone.
And I will say that we should take a moment and hold it,
And keep it frozen and know that,
Life has a hopeful undertone.

 (Migraine)

He is in the battle with us, holding our hands so we can try to get through those dark times, together. He shares in this terrific interview his struggle to find self-worth, the importance of journaling, and what might be the real meaning of success for him, while in his music he tries to teach us ways to gather up strength to push forward:

You think twice about your life, it probably happens at night,
Right? Fight it, take the pain, ignite it,
Tie a noose around your mind loose enough to breathe fine and tie it,
To a tree, tell it, “You belong to me,
This ain’t a noose, this is a leash,
And I have news for you, you must obey me.

(Holding On To You)

I know that I can fight or I can let the lion win,
I begin to assemble what weapons I can find,
‘Cause sometimes to stay alive you got to kill your mind.

(Migraine)

And guess what, he’s saving lives. If you look up Twenty One Pilots videos on YouTube and check out the Comments section, you will find comments like “TOP (Twenty One Pilots) saved my life” over and over again. Watch their PinkPop Festival performance and you won’t see fans waving signs that say “I <3 U Tyler”, TOP lovelythey are waving signs that say “Thank you.” A recent tweet on fan account @thankfulforTOP reads: “they stopped me from killing myself. honestly. i could not be more grateful, i love them more than words can say.”

Watching Tyler talk about each song on the hit album “Vessel”, his struggle is written all over his face. He doesn’t hide it but he also doesn’t wear it like some great marketable badge of rock ‘n’ roll. He puts it out into the world with a quiet, humble honesty. He’s a suicide warrior, fighting for his life and fighting for ours.

In that same interview, he talks about how he pushed to have an extra song added to the end of the album to deliver one last message to listeners:

“I will fear the night again. I hope I’m not my only friend.
Stay alive, stay alive for me.”

(Truce)

I hope this band keeps making music for years to come. They are a much needed voice in the world.

And now, to put a smile on your face after a bit of a heavy post, here’s a short clip of the two of them on the lighter side. (Who couldn’t love these guys?!)