Lifestyle

Acts of kindness

ACTS OF KINDNESS

 No act of kindness is ever wasted -Aesop

I have a spreadsheet that records all of the Weekly Wisdom quotes we’ve put on our blackboard. I recently came across this quote and it got me thinking about a very special act of kindness, and one of my most favourite memories.

Rewind to 2008

I was 25 and living in shared accommodation on Lefkada Island, Greece, in a little village called Vasiliki. My boyfriend at the time was doing a windsurfing course, and I decided to tag along to work, travel, and to live the carefree backpacking life that everyone made look and sound so incredible. Eventually, we would base ourselves in London and travel all around Europe (everyone else was doing it).

If we were to do the “instagram vs. reality” for this scenario?

INSTAGRAM: group of super cool-looking, Ray Ban-wearing youngsters in the middle of a party on a yacht. Drink in hand, laughing at something really funny.

REALITY: fat Emily, crying, and emotional-eating Nutella crepes in her room.

I have nothing against Nutella crepes but, dear lord, emotionally eating them is dangerous and subsequently negates the amazingness of the crepe itself because the repercussions far outweigh the deliciousness. After eating my emotions - my unhappy relationship, my hateful job, my loneliness, my lack of direction, my desperate need to feel settled and at peace – I put on 10kg in a 3-month period.

I’ve had a few periods of depression in my life, and this was one of them.

Every day, I would walk through the village to the little café where I worked. I think I got 3 or 4 Euros an hour to take orders, serve customers, and be bossed around – it was miserable, and I hated every second of it. I remember having a chat with Cookie a while ago, who said he would cry before going into one of his earlier jobs. I’m sure most of us have had THAT job (although we may have held it together a bit better).

It wasn’t always totally miserable at work, though. Tourists would come in every now and again, and I’d usually get into good conversation with them; about their real lives, and about the island and what it was like living there (obviously I didn’t tell them THIS story!) I remember meeting a girl who had just moved to Abu Dhabi to teach, and she told me all those crazy far-fetched stories from the Middle East. At the time, I had no knowledge of the UAE, and was like “pfffft that definitely does not happen and is definitely made up” (obviously, I now know that they were true, so I’m sorry nice stranger for accusing you of lying! 

The best parts of my day were these chats, where I’d connect with happy people and forget what was happening in my own life. One day, a sweet English couple stopped by and we got into a great conversation after I had commented on how lovely her earrings were. Their names were Mandy and Paul.

The thing about those conversations though, was that they were only temporary distractions – the tourists would finish their holiday and go home, and I would stay stuck where I was.

A lot of the finer details have been forgotten from this time (I usually don’t even remember what I did yesterday, so 10+ years is a real stretch for me) and so I only really remember general themes, for example, my unhappiness and the fact that I got fat.

It was probably a few weeks after meeting Mandy and Paul when I turned up to work and my boss, Yannis, said “Em-e-lee, you have mail”. I remember that the envelope was addressed to “The girl from Australia who works at XXXXX Café Name” (I do not, however, remember the name of our Café).

I don’t remember what was written inside, whether it was a card or a letter, but I will never forget how I felt when I saw those lovely earrings. Mandy had gone back home, had found the exact same pair, and had sent them to the perfect stranger whom she had met on holiday. 

I don’t know what compelled her to do that – did she sense that I needed some love, and did she know that it was going to be the only happy moment I would remember from my entire time overseas? Did she know that It would be so monumental that I would never forget the thoughtfulness and kindness of her act? Did she know that it would be one of my motivations to try to be more thoughtful of others (if I could make someone else feel half as happy, then that would just make my day!) Did she know that I would still be talking about it 10 years later?

She probably didn’t. She probably wouldn’t have realised that it would make such an impact on me, except for the fact that we are still in touch today and that I try to message her every time I think about her kindness. She’s followed me through my 10-year journey of settling into Dubai and building my life with Craig, and I’ve followed her as she’s watched her two daughters build their lives and reduced her working hours to enjoy life as a grandma. When I told her about the blog she replied, “the one thing that always strikes me about kindness is how the tiniest gesture can do so much”. Ain’t that the truth 

How amazing would it be if we had more of those people in our lives or if we were that person to others?

As you go off into your incredibly busy day, remember that no act of kindness, big or small, is ever wasted.

Emily x

IMBALANCES

BITS, BALANCES & BRAS
(Actually, it’s HABITS, IMBALANCES & SPORTSBRAS but I thought that had a cool ring to it. Right??)

I can actually say that I have been exercising for 32 years (unsure of if that makes me sound good or just old). Our extremely hard-core army Dad would take me running with him when I was 4, sparking a lifelong relationship with exercise and giving me a few good decades of experience to ponder upon.

Each session, run, game or competition that I have ever experienced has made me that little bit more aware of my body, from what’s going on internally – tightness, range of motion, niggles, pain, strength and weakness – to what it is actually capable of doing (the fun stuff). For me, this is one of the most powerful benefits of physical activity – to be more tuned in and better able to be behind the wheel, if that makes sense.

And what I am more tuned in to these days, are my imbalances.

IMBALANCES

ON ONE HAND I love it, because I find it fascinating to learn stuff about my body. We’ve known each other for a pa-retty long time, so when I discover something new I feel like I’m peeling back layers of the onion, you know, like Shrek. I’m like “Aha! So I need to strengthen/stretch/mobilise XYZ”. Or “so that’s why I’m struggling with bla-dee bla bla”. In my mind it’s an important clue as to how I can improve performance, functionality, and my physical health (all of which I value highly) 

ON THE OTHER HAND….…as the lovely Lina once said after Fed’s Gymnastics Class, “I hate having imbalances, it annoys me”. And I don’t know why, but it does. It really does. Being the control-freak that I am, is it because I can’t stand that I can do something well on one side but not the other? It’s not even! Or is it because I know that, without balance in my body there is an uneven equilibrium of work, which is only going to snowball the imbalance if I don’t address it (I already have 17,000 things on my to-do list!) Imbalances can lead to niggles or injuries over time, and no one has time for that – I’m highly impatient and the worst rester ever (as I’m sure most of you will understand)!

Nevertheless, imbalances pop up everywhere I go - inside and out of the gym. At the gym, I notice that my left arm doesn’t pull as strongly as my right, and my right step-up is weaker and less stable than my left. Among other things. At home, I notice that I am way more proficient at scrubbing dishes (and doing most things) with my right hand, or that I always bend down to pick things up with my right arm, while shifting towards my right hip. Sometimes, I’ve stopped myself, put the object back on the floor, and picked it up with my left arm while shifting my weight to the left – on top of feeling weird, I notice how much tighter I am in this position, and how uncomfortable it is. No wonder I use the other side all the time – it’s easier!

Are we creatures of habit or creatures of comfort. Probably both. But what came first – did I always pick stuff up with my right, creating more mobility and movement in that pattern from continuous practice? Or, did I start off by favouring that side because it was easier, eventually turning it into the habit I have today?

HABITS

Whatever came first - the chicken or the egg, the movement or the imbalance - I’m now more aware of my habits and how they feed into my imbalances, especially when it involves using the same arm or leg to do the task over and over again. Some BASE 3 members may have heard me nag “make sure you turn in the other direction,” or “be sure to step up with your left leg as well” – I do apologise for that, I’m sure it’s the last thing you give a shit about when you’re knee-deep in a WOD. It’s only because I love you.

But I do wonder – do our seemingly innocent habits contribute in some way to the imbalances in strength, range of motion and skill that we experience in training? Is grip strength on my left side weaker because I automatically carry things in my right hand? If I were to start carrying groceries, or my gym bag, in my left hand instead, would I see a difference when I’m doing Farmer’s Carries? Perhaps. Probably. Everything adds up eventually, especially when it comes to our adaptive bodies, right?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Why don’t you analyse your own habits? Take notice of how you use/move your body in mindless activities you do daily. Have you ever tried to brush your teeth with your other hand?  Or (I hate to add this in here) scroll through IG with your other hand, using your other thumb? What about getting up off the floor – always use your dominant leg to stand? Bet ya do ;)

Why don't you try something in the opposite way to how you would normally do it? Go against the grain. Weirdly and frustratingly, I've started trying/learning to take my sportsbra off with my left arm crossed on top of my right (instead of the right over left). Guys, you won’t understand the struggle, but it’s real sometimes. Ladies, if you can do this easily, I am impressed because I feel like I’m in a straight-jacket and it takes me about 2 minutes – no control, no mobility. Yet, the other side is at least 27 times better.

I don’t imagine that my PRs will shoot up, but I wonder, if I keep practicing and improving this new movement, what implications would that have on my training, my posture, my movement? In the same way that we learn to progress on our Olympic lifts, surely any improvement (even in such a small movement) would indicate that I have developed some sort of muscular control or strength, or joint range of motion (even if ever so slight)? Does it matter what the caliber of the movement is that I’m learning from? I mean, are bigger movements, like the snatch, more important or beneficial to me than a smaller movement, like learning to take my arms overhead with the weaker arm leading? Or is it only important that I’m practicing something different, and that my body is learning something new?

Because I have a feeling it’s a bit of everything, I’m going to keep my mind wide open to all movements and exercises, big and small, and regardless of where they occur (movement is movement, right?) Although I would love to be proficient at everything, left and right, I see my imbalances as opportunities to improve, and have really enjoyed the challenge of working to do so (it is so satisfying when you notice changes!)

DO I THINK I’M RIGHT?

For me? Hell yes. For you? Maybe, maybe not – that’s for you to decide, but I do encourage that you give it a go. Whether you aspire to function better as an athlete or as a regular ol’ human being going about your day trying to prolong physical health and quality of life, dial in to your movement and habits to get a better understanding of your body. And when you find something? Cool! Shake things up, break routine, switch sides and be bad at something for a while, google for exercises, ask a coach, learn new stuff and get totally frustrated at yourself! Be a work in progress. It’s awesome, you’ll love it. And, if you need help formulating a master plan you know what to do. (But just in case you don’t…give us a yell, silly!)

Em