The Other Side of the Story

Recently a friend of mine had to meet with my ex for work reasons. She wasn’t sure if he remembered her from four years ago, but throughout the meeting she felt very uncomfortable. In a moment of anxiety when he left the room, she shared with a woman in the room that it felt weird for her and that she used to work for his ex-girlfriend. The woman tartly replied, “Well I know the other side of the story.”

Over the four years since the breakup, I’ve heard from various people snippets of what the Other Side of the Story sounds like, and it’s pretty amazing to me how he has managed to reframe himself from perpetrator to victim.

I bet the Other Side of the Story doesn’t include how he was making plans with me one morning to get a shared financial advisor to plan for our future, and then on the same day after I left for work how he packed every single item of his from my house and moved out. He even thought to grab the kayak – on a cold February morning – and drive it home 45 minutes away. He then even stopped to get a new haircut before he finally showed up at our shared workplace, came to my office at the end of the day, closed the door and announced, “I’m not going home with you, I’m breaking up with you.” No conversation, no dialogue, the decision had been made and that was the end of that.

Maybe the Other Side of the Story talks about how he repeatedly asked me to take him back just a few months later, but I bet it doesn’t include the part about how I had told him on the day he broke up with me that he’d better be completely sure that’s what he wants because there would be no going back from this decision, the way he was carrying it out.

Probably the Other Side of the Story includes how “controlling” or “selfish” I was because ‘we always did what I wanted to do’, despite my constant requests that he tell me what he wants and needs, something he was ultimately unable or unwilling to do. I suppose it’s much easier to blame someone else for your unhappiness than to take responsibility for it yourself.

But definitely the Other Side of the Story doesn’t include the night he raped me about a year after we had broken up. I was extremely vulnerable, having quickly entered a complicated relationship with an emotionally abusive man who had effectively crushed whatever self worth I’d had left after the breakup. And despite the fact I told this ex he could stay over but I absolutely didn’t want to have sex with him, and despite the fact that I said no several times as he kept climbing all over me, he didn’t care and ultimately got what he wanted when I gave up and laid still to hurry up and get it over with. The next day he had the audacity to tell me how special the night was, I replied that I was angry and reminded him that I didn’t want that to happen and that I had told him so repeatedly. I didn’t call it rape that morning, but he recognized that’s what it was and eventually I was able to name it that, too.

I can’t help but remember stories he’d told me about how his ex-wife (before me) was disengaged during sex, and how after several unhappy years and a period of time without sex, he decided maybe if they had sex again it would help the relationship. She ended up getting pregnant, the relationship didn’t get better and he left her while she was still pregnant. I wonder if that’s part of the Other Side of the Story he tells other women about his ex-wife? Probably not, though I remember when he told me, he still managed to somehow come out sounding like the victim. If I knew then what I know now…

I don’t tell people the bad things he’s done because I don’t want my experiences with him to cloud other people’s friendships/working relationships with him, I don’t want to put people into difficult positions of feeling they have to take sides, and I believe whatever happened between us should stay between us. But I’m getting pretty tired of hearing from third parties that so many women are sitting around saying “that poor guy, he deserves to have a nice girl.” I bet girls say the same thing about the emotionally abusive asshole who came after him, too. People have no idea.

So please, if ever you feel compelled to take sides after an acquaintance’s relationship ends, try to remember that no matter how nice this person seems, there’s an OTHER Other Side of the Story and you have no idea what it is. But maybe if you knew it, it might change the way you see the person, maybe in pretty significant ways. At the end of the day, all you know is nothing more than just that… a story.

New Shoes, New Lessons Learned

Today was a hell of a day. After a couple of days of not feeling great and skipping training runs, I finally pushed myself to go out for my first 10k on a trail. The incentive? On the way to the trail, I would stop off at the store to finally pick up my first pair of trail runners. My Saucony Guides have been getting pretty beaten up doing double duty and I need them to last until my half marathon in September, so I’ve been on the hunt for a pair of trail runners that offer similar support and width to the Guides so they can work side by side with them through the next few months of training. After a few visits to Running Free to get fittings and advice, I finally decided on a pair of Brooks Cascadia 10 men’s runners today – free, thanks to the sweet sponsorship of Brooks and Team Running Free!

I immediatelIMG_20150702_171708y headed to the trail, a little nervous about doing 10k in a brand new pair of shoes but knowing I could always switch out to my Sauconys mid-run if I needed to since they were in the car. There was no need. The Cascadias were super comfortable and the tread on them was incredibly helpful on those uphills… so many uphills! (I’m beginning to hate uphills.)

Though the run was a beast to get through – I really struggled to find any enjoyment or motivation today – I ultimately did manage to crank it out and finally arrived back at my car after almost 11k of ups and downs only to discover that my car key was gone from my pocket. Somewhere in that maze of forest trails, my little black key had fallen out. After a few minutes of searching, I realized it was a hopeless endeavour and accepted that it was gone.

Thus ensued a series of phone calls to roadside assistance and a new friend to make arrangements to first be able to get my house key out of the car, then be driven to my house to get my spare car key, and finally driven back to the forest to get my car.

So today I have learned three important lessons:

1) Don’t store your car key in your pocket while you’re running, no matter how secure you think it is or how many times you’ve done it before. Sooner or later, it will fall out.

2) Always make sure your phone is fully charged before you go out for a run, because you just don’t know how much you might need to use it before you’ll get a chance to charge it up again.

3) No matter how miserable the hills feel, you will get through them. And I think we all know quitting feels more miserable than hills anyway, every time.

Notice that not one of those lessons was don’t run too long in a brand new pair of shoes. My body feels no worse than it would have after a trail run in the Sauconys and I think the hills actually felt marginally easier thanks to the wicked treads on the Cascadias.

So despite the car key foibles, I think today was actually a pretty successful day. And I’m happy to welcome Brooks into my running shoe family – I get the feeling we’re in for a hell of a ride.

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The Day I Lost My Mind (or…)

I either lost my mind today, or today is the day I dared myself to be greater than I ever thought I could be.

You see, I’ve been struggling with running motivation this Spring. A month ago I finally picked a half marathon for July, set out a training plan and then promptly strayed from it just 3 weeks in. July quickly began to feel like an unrealistic goal so I decided to give myself more runway and started looking at Fall races.

I had two possible goals in mind for this year: one was to run another half marathon, and the other was to consider running a 25k. Every year I hope to push myself just a little bit more with my running and I figured 25k would be a safe little jump. What I didn’t realize was that 25k races are rare, and almost exclusively trail races (as opposed to road races).

I’ve never been a trail runner. I experimented with a trail run a few weeks ago, and have done two since then and that is the full extent of my trail running history. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, trail running requires a lot more strength than road running, burns 10% more calories and is quite a bit harder because there’s no room for error. You can’t sloppily trudge your feet forward when you’re tired or mentally check out to help the time go by because you’re too busy dodging roots, adjusting to changes in terrain, and dealing with hills… so many hills. My poor quads.

legs day

However, there are many things I love about the idea of trail running – being in nature breathing fresh air, lots of shade on those hot muggy days, staying mentally engaged figuring out where the next footfall will go, and the fact that it’s less about time and more about completing the distance. I also love that it will turn me into a super strong, kickass athlete. I am in love with the idea of trail running.

So, this Fall this crazy girl with only one half marathon under her belt will be running a 25k trail race just two weeks after completing her second half marathon. I’m not sure why I like to terrify myself by setting overly ambitious goals, but maybe that’s what it takes to keep me moving.

Now I’m in the process of creating a blended training plan that focuses primarily on getting ready for the 25k but still builds in enough road running so that I’ll be able to (hopefully) get through the half marathon without any injury. I think the key to success will be lots of strength training and lots of hill training; it looks like squats, planks, and lunges will be my new best HardisGreatfriend. Just to be clear, nothing about that sounds fun to me, but I’m so drawn to the idea of discovering inner greatness that I can’t resist the temptation to try.

So here I go. Hopefully I’ll have some pretty wicked race reports coming this way in the Fall and some rock hard quads to show off.

Wish me luck!


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Quest for Running Songs: “Planetary (GO!)”

I’m usually late to the party as far as music goes (and fashion, and slang, and well pretty much everything really). Today’s post is a prime example. As much as I had originally planned to keep these Quest posts to current music released within the last year, I have recently discovered My Chemical Romance, a band that was around for 12 years and broke up 2 years ago. But hey, if I missed them then maybe someone else did too, right?

Although their song Teenagers totally perked up a long run last week, this song “Planetary (GO!)” from 2010 is my go-to song from these guys right now. It is so high energy, I challenge you to try to sit still through it – you won’t be able to! Big sound and driving rhythm back these infectious lyrics:

If my velocity starts to make you sweat,
Then just don’t let go
And if their Heaven ain’t got a vacancy
Then we just, then we just, then we just
Then we just get up and go!

Ladies and gentlemen:
Truth is now acceptable
Fame is now injectable
Process the progress
This core is critical
Faith is unavailable
Lives become incredible
Now, please understand that,

I can’t slow down
I won’t be waiting for you
I can’t stop now
Because I’m dancing
This planet’s ours to defend
Ain’t got no time to pretend
Don’t fuck around,
This is our last chance

So what are you waiting for? Click play and just, just get up and go! (And since you’ll probably want to sing along, you can check out the rest of the lyrics here. :))


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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.