Quest for Running Songs: “Not Today”

Yesterday I was on a really hot, humid, sweaty run just grinding out the miles when one of my favourite new songs came on: “Not Today” from the newly released Blurryface album by Twenty One Pilots.

To me, this song is a celebration of defeating that voice in our heads that tells us we can’t do something, we can’t accomplish what we want to accomplish. I don’t know about you but that voice talks to me a lot when I’m running, telling me I should just stop because I’m too tired, too hot, not strong enough, etc. But when this song came on mid-run yesterday, it crushed that self-defeating voice with its chorus:

Heard you say “not today”
Tore the curtains down, windows open now make a sound
Heard your voice, there’s no choice
Tore the curtains down, windows open now make a noise

I got a huge grin on my face, picked up my pace and may have even air drummed a bit – apparently I had energy to spare! There’s something about the trumpet in the background, the never-give-up message and the build up to sheer joy at the end that makes me burst with energy.This song makes my heart so happy, I already can’t wait to run to it again.

Give it a listen!

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Quest for Running Songs, Week 4: “Savages”

One of the things I love most about running is that it affords me the luxury to let my mind wander and to ponder any thought that flits by while my feet are moving.

I chose this week’s song because not only do I love the chorus, but some of the questions it poses got me thinking and totally distracted me from the last big hill I encountered towards the end of my run yesterday. For example:

All the hate coming out from a generation
Who got everything and nothing guided by temptation
Were we born to abuse, shoot a gun and run
Or has something deep inside of us come undone?
Is it a human trait, or is it learned behavior
Are you killing for yourself, or killing for your savior?

I’m already inclined to delve into nature versus nurture arguments and to try to make sense of why people do bad things, so this song is right up my alley. If it’s not quite your thing, try “Froot” by the same band – it’s a catchy song with much lighter lyrics.

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Atheistic Conversations with God

I am an atheist. I was born and raised Catholic (mostly in paperwork only), but turned away from religion in high school and never turned back. Eventually I decided that the form of spirituality I believe in is universal energy – energy that swirls all around us, to which we contribute either positively or negatively with the energy we exude.

And then last week I had conversations with God.

I was driving on a snow-covered road in Iceland, absolutely terrified I was going to die. I was sleep deprived, the weather was terrible, the rental car was tiny, the landscape was unidentifiable, the winds were bullying and the road was almost impassable. I had been gripping the wheel so tightly for hours that my wrist was seizing up. And that’s when I started talking to God.

I didn’t try bargaining for my safety – I wasn’t going to be one of those people. I was very open and upfront. I told him (“him” because for me, God is a male energy) that I wasn’t even sure I believed he existed, but I could acknowledge that I didn’t actually know. (I suppose that makes me more agnostic than atheist.)

I told him I didn’t want to die in Iceland because I didn’t feel like I was done with my life yet. I’ve been learning and growing so much, I feel like there’s more left for me to do and I’d like the chance to do it.

I told him if I did get to live, I still wouldn’t be going to church or praying because those things just don’t fit into my belief system. But I would keep trying to be a good person who does good in the world because that does fit with who I am and who I try to be and, at the end of the day, I believe being a good person is what really matters.

I talked to him until eventually the road cleared up and, after a 6.5 hour drive, I finally arrived safely at my destination – shaken, exhausted, and a little bit changed on the inside.

IMG_6083On the last night of my trip, I arrived at my final guesthouse which happened to be across the street from the famous landmark Lutheran church, Hallgrimskirkja, in Reykjavik. Since ascending the church tower was on my list of things to do, I went straight over and checked it out. It really was a lovely view! I decided to check out the inside of the church as well and, before I knew it, I was sitting in a pew head down in another conversation with God, crying. That was unexpected!

I shook it off, pulled myself together and hit the town for a nice stroll, crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc and the best catfish I’ve ever had. As I wound my way through the streets back to my apartment, I thought about what an emotional roller coaster this trip had been. I passed the church and noticed it was still open. I puzzled again about my breakdown earlier that day. Before I knew it, I had passed my apartment, circled the block and was sitting in the church again, crying again.

I remember in that conversation asking God to have my back. I told him I wasn’t asking for help and that I was fine with doing all the hard work to get through my life, I just wanted to feel like he was looking out for me. There was no answer. I wondered what I was doing there. I wondered why I didn’t want to leave.

I wasn’t having any great religious revelations, but it was starting to feel comfortable to be in church. There were no priests or pastors, no benches for kneeling, not even a Jesus on a cross to remind us of our evil ways. This church didn’t feel full of punishment and judgement; it felt like a gentle space to be in, a safe place to be vulnerable.

IMG_6102The next day, first thing in the morning, I strolled down to the waterfront to see the famous sculpture, Solfas. Throughout almost the entire duration of my trip to Iceland, it had been cloudy and/or rainy. As I arrived at Solfas, the sun broke through the clouds and lit up the sculpture in the most beautiful way. Nobody else was in sight, I had this perfect beauty all to myself.

As I started walking away, still revelling in the gift of that precious moment of sun at such a perfect time, a light rain began to drizzle. I turned back for one last look at Solfas – a beautiful rainbow segment had appeared in the sky behind it. It lasted maybe a minute, each colour band in the arc so clearly defined like I’d never seen before. The world felt so perfect, my soul felt so still.

At that moment, I felt the universe – “God” perhaps – was answering back, a quiet acknowledgement letting me know he was there with me. No big promises, no great revelations, no demands – just a peaceful presence, like two old friends sitting side by side on the sofa in silence. I smiled and said thank you.

Best conversation I’ve had in a long time.

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.