Saturday, March 21, 2009

Humble Me by Nora Jones

This picture collage illustrates some of the views I have scene over the past month. Some of the pictures are from Amsterdam and Den Haag, while others are from Bermuda. The majority of photos came from a biking excursion through the Duins (dunes) in Den Haag. A bike path runs from Schevenigen (the beach in Den Haag) to Utrecht. One day before I leave, I hope to bike the 60 km path. Until then, enjoy these photos. Sorry for the small size of the picture.

xx Rach

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Grandpop's Wisdom

Sometimes I wonder, what exactly is the purpose of life? Now, I am not asking this in the philosophical, deep essence of the question - so please don't expect a discussion on religion or philosophy (remember I play sports for a living, I don't think I am even capable of a conversation in those areas). I am simply asking, what the hell are we supposed to do with our short little lives? What is the goal? Is there even a goal?

Some theories I have come across: the purpose of life is to make a lot of money. The purpose of life is to have a lot of kids. The purpose of life is to serve others. The purpose of life is to learn as much as there is to learn. The purpose of life is to find your passion and do it. The purpose of life is to have fun. . . etc. . .

Just call me difficult, but none of these answers really get me. Yea, each theory is meaningful in its own way - but on the whole, they don't do it for me. Ponder this: if you make a lot of money will you feel your life's purpose is fulfilled? Likewise, if you have a lot of fun, have a lot of kids, serve others or learn everything there is to learn, will you have fulfilled your life's purpose? If you answered yes to either of these question, I am jealous. I wish it was that easy for me.

I guess these answers are just too absolute for my liking. They are too action-driven and goal-oriented. There appears to be no continuance once the desired action is achieved. I am seeking a different answer. Perhaps, though, I have already been told the answer.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in early September. I was back in Berlin. I had just got home from the Olympics and I was making arrangements to head to Holland. It was a bit strange at home on this Saturday morning. Mom and Dad had traveled up to Connecticut to watch Hannah play and Melanie was already at hockey practice.

The house was shockingly quiet. I had no plans, no engagements, and no motivation to really do anything. But the sun was shining, the air was crisp, and my body was demanding some caffeine. So I threw on a pair of my my mom's sneakers that were laying by the front door, and I wondered down Hamilton Avenue. My destination: DUNKIN DONUTS.

I ordered the usual - Large Coffee with Cream and Sugar. Then, I stepped back outside into the beautiful day. If Berlin was the type of town where people walked around on nice days, like Chapel Hill or The Hague, then I would have meandered about the town on foot. But for those of you who have driven down the White Horse Pike, you know Btown is not that kind of place. I needed a new destination.

Since being home, I had yet to visit my Aunt Donna and Uncle Joe, my God Parents, who lived on the other side of the railroad tracks. I decided to take advantage of the weather and make the trek. Off I went, coffee in hand, to visit the Beebe's. I didn't know it at the time, but this decision may be one of the most meaningful decisions of my life.

When I arrived at Aunt Donna's, a whole 8 minutes late, I heard some muted chatter coming from the back yard. Naturally I walked around the house to see who it was. To my liking, I discovered my Aunt Donna and Uncle Joe, along with my grandparents sitting in lawn chairs, drinking coffee and enjoying the sun (much like I was). Perfect I thought.

After the customary hugs, and family banter, I sat down and engaged myself in the conversation. I have always enjoyed conversing with my elders - they seem so wise to me. My Uncle is a Deacon at the church, my Aunt works in the courthouse, my Grandmom, well, she seems to know something about everything, and my Grandpop, well, he is just a sage.

So we were talking about everything from A to Z, and then they started to ask me about my recent experiences in Beijing, and about my intentions to travel to Holland. I spoke about these experiences almost apathetically. To compete in the Olympics had been my dream since I was young - I had achieved it, and yet, I didn't really feel any sense of fulfillment. I only felt a little more lost and empty - the dream that once filled my mind and heart was gone. The dream had faded into a reality. I tried to muster up some enthusiasm about where I was headed - I mean come on, rach, EUROPE - pretty cool. But as much as I tried to pretend, they could see through the guise.

Maybe my Grandpop saw the purposelessness in my eyes as I spoke about the happenings of my life, or maybe he just knew that I was pleading for some sort of advice or guidance. So the sage he is, my Grandpop spoke words that continue to resonate in my mind today.

He said, "Rachel, in all I have gone through recently (my Grandfather has been courageously battling and beating cancer) I have come to realize that life is about all the people you meet along the way."

He continued to speak along those same lines talking about all of the people who he had met in his life and the impression they had made upon him. He spoke of how people can make a lasting impact on your life even when they cease to be "in your life". They may enter for the shortest period of time, a day, a week, a year, or a decade, but in that time they can change you and impress upon you some sort of meaning. And all you have to do is simply open up and share yourself with them.

My Grandpop shared his wisdom with me on that beautiful September day: the purpose of life is to share it. No matter what you do, how long you do it, or how successful you are doing it, share the journey. There is no greater purpose than that.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Can We Go Back. . . ?

What was life like before the internet? What was the first thing people did in the morning? Brush their teeth? Well, I don't do that until after I check my email, facebook, myspace, bank account,and news sites; I also sometimes wait until after the odd ichat and/or skype conversation. My teeth can wait. And as they wait, maybe, in the mean time, I'll get an extra dose of my caffeine fix, yummm coffee.

I mean was it seriously possible to keep track of all your friends before facebook? Before the fb, did you have real friends; I mean real relationships that required real conversations? And what was it like to have interaction without an audience (I mean, come on, wall and status posts are a total public display of how cool (or uncool) you think you life is).

But who am I to hate, I am just one of the victims (or am I the abuser?). I am an internet junkie. Come on, HALLO, you are reading my blog.

So for a day, I propose a world with no facebook, no email, and no mobile phones (or blackberries). An internet-free day. If you want to get in touch with someone you have to either pick up the land-line (preferably with a cord) and ring-a-ding 'em, get out the pen and stationary to send a post, or drive, bike, train, or walk to their home.

Furthermore, you must make plans prior to leaving the home and rely on those plans until the plan is executed. Translation: no last minute text-cancellations. And no caller ID to screen that certain someone's call that you said you would meet up with but really don't feel like it anymore.

Ok, so maybe internet free day, should be technology free day - so no GPSs allowed. Before making plans, you need to acquire all the necessary details - you must plan your travel route, write out directions, and agree on a specific location. Do paper maps even still exist?

Seriously, is this even plausible. I like to consider myself an idealist; but in this case I have to be realistic - I probably wouldn't survive.

I have been writing this post uninterrupted for the last 25 minutes. In FB time that is like eons. My home page is going to be abuzz with some serious updates. Please forgive to be the abuser I am. All smiles here...


xx Rach

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pushing Back. Sharing the Load.

Its funny how the simple, often insignificant events in life can become metaphors for life's bigger lessons. Let me give you an example:

On Fridays before training at KZ, our team has core stability training. This is the Dutch alternative to American weightlifting (I prefer the Dutch way - less bulk, more cheese.) Anyhow, core stability is run by our team Physio, Lars. Lars typically runs us thru a few exercises in an attempt to develop core strength.

One of his favorite drills is to have us partner up and squat back to back. The aim is to see which pair can stay squatting longest.Lars likes to pair us off by height - this means I am usually with the tall, extremely thin, 18 year old Marloes. Now, don't get me wrong, Marloes is a total gem - she is an avid watcher of Gossip Girl, my favorite tv show (we often discuss this topic during training) - but when it comes to strength, I sometimes fear I am a bit too weighty for Marloes.

On Friday, we were getting ready to perform the exercise. Round 1: We both squat down, back to back. Marloes is pushing against me, but I am just yielding to her weight, trying to hold her up, afraid she can't handle my force. Bam! We immediately collapse to the floor - I just couldn't carry her weight and my own. Round 2: We get ready to squat down again. And again, I yield to her weight pushing against me - and again we fail - Bam! down we go. Round 3: We squat down into the same position, knowing we were unsuccessful in our first two attempts. Marloes, though, with the wisdom of her youth, says, "Rachel, just push back against me." I figured I ought to take her advice, because the previous method wasn't working. So I pushed back against Marloes who was pushing back against me - these equal and opposite forces pushing against each other gave us balance and strength. We stayed standing. For a long time. And, we won round 3.

Now the fact that we won isn't the important part of the story (eventhough I love winning; and despise losing.) I was thinking about this exercise last night before bed. There is an interesting lesson to be learned here. Sometimes, you have to push back against the world - you have to lean against others even when they are leaning against you - sometimes that gives you the stability to stand. You don't always have to carry other people's weight in addition to your own. Sometimes, your only option isto push back against the world, and, hopefully, the world will share your load.