Getting fit can be an expensive business. New running shoes last week - and bathroom scales this week. I decided the "bathroom mirror" measurement was too subjective - my body-image perception has become so warped that I can (in my eyes) go from obese to trim overnight.
So on the principle that objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, and two other things that I can't remember) I splashed out on a set of Tanita scales that measure not only weight, but also bodyfat %, body water %, muscle mass, and bone mass. Also, humiliatingly, it will tell you what your 'metabolic age' is, and give you a 'physique rating' as a mark out of 10.
I scored a mere 5/10 this morning, but as I see it, that gives me plenty of room for improvement, and measurable improvement is a powerful motivator.
Am I over-obsessing about my weight? Quite possibly. But it matters to me that I a) feel good in my own skin, and b) convey a positive image of the benefits of an active lifestyle. So it is almost part of my job description to be fit and look fit.
Although I think that maybe I do go on about it too much. The journalist who wrote an article in last Sunday's Observer about me picked up on it - but has also written a really good, thoughtful analysis. As Nicole, my friend and PR coordinator said, "It's one of the first interviews I've seen that sincerely tries to get to the heart of what motivates Roz to do what she does!"
Read it here.
One of the things I love about my lifestyle is that I never know who I'm going to meet next.
Yesterday I got a text from Mark Featherstone (who I had first met in Devon a couple of weeks ago, but had previously nearly met in mid-Pacific - see my blog for Oct 9) to say he was in San Francisco to check up on Cheyenne, Steve Fossett's record-breaking catamaran, and would I like to see the boat?
I certainly would, so I turned up at the dock in Alameda and Mark showed me around. The Cheyenne is an amazing craft - although her overall dimensions are huge, her twin hulls are like knife blades, designed to scythe through the water, so the living space below decks is minimal - no more than a few feet wide and extremely spartan. My rowboat, the Brocade, is almost on a par comfort-wise, but cost several million dollars less and goes an awful lot slower.
The tour over, we went down to a local beach to watch a former Cheyenne crew member and a group of colleagues test out a conceptual 'kite' boat. This is an extension of the relatively new sport of kitesurfing, which in turn evolved from windsurfing. Check out the kiteboat website to find out more. The idea (as far as I could gather) is that when the winds at sea level are too slight, by using a kite instead of a sail you can take advantage of stronger winds a few hundred feet up.
After a mobile phone call to the crew, I was offered the opportunity to join them. I wasn't exactly dressed for the occasion, but took off my boots and jeans and waded out into the shallow water in my underwear to clamber on board. It's not often I introduce myself to a group of total strangers (all male) wearing my undies (that's me wearing the undies, not the strangers), but nobody seemed too bothered. They were too preoccupied with trying to keep the huge kite aloft to notice some random underclad female stowaway.
The boat is still very much a prototype, but I've since seen impressive video footage of the same crew using a kite in conjunction with an outrigger canoe, skimming at high speed across the waves in Hawaii. We went at a relatively sedate pace in the light Alameda winds yesterday, but the concept definitely has mileage.
Not for me, though - I'll stick to my oars.
[photo: launching the kite from the beach. These guys had wetsuits. I didn't.]
"To one with wisdom beyond your years, I would be interested to know more about the process you undertook to know what life's work or endeavors might resonate with your inner being. Society stands at hand to fool or encourage one into traditional or expected pursuits."
I received this comment from Tony Philpin in response to my last blog. It got me thinking. I don't present myself as any kind of a guru, so please don't take this as a definitive 'how to find your life purpose'. It's merely my attempt to summarize the very haphazard process that I went through over the course of several years.
As I see it, there are 3 strands to this enquiry - from the top down, they are:
1. Purpose: what is the point of being me?
2. Personality: what are my personal preferences and strengths?
3. Project or Profession: what will I do day-to-day to live out my purpose in a way that suits my personality?
I didn't figure out my own personal 3xP in any methodical way. There was one formal 'exercise' that I did, which was to write 2 versions of my own obituary - imagining myself at the end of my life, I wrote down
a) how I would like to be remembered, and
b) how I was more likely to be remembered if I carried as I was.
At that stage of my life, about 7 years ago, there was a dramatic difference between the two. It was a major wake-up call that I needed to make some changes if I was going to end up with a life that could be proud of, rather than lying on my deathbed with a heart full of regrets. Now, I am pleased to say, I am much more on track for the obituary I want, having made a large number of incremental steps over the years, out of my old life and into a new.
You may find it easier to try and complete this sentence: "[insert own name] will be remembered for his/her outstanding contribution to mankind because..." or "[your] life was special because..."
Some other tips and hints, again based purely on my own experience and with all appropriate disclaimers:
- Don't be afraid to make mistakes. I muddled around a lot, trying out various lifestyles only to find that they didn't work for me. These experiments were not 'failures'. Thomas Edison said: "I haven't failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work." Eliminating possibilities is all part of the learning process.
- It is an iterative process. I didn't manage to find a purpose, then analyse my personality, then identify a suitable project. For me, it was a much more meandering process, with each of the 3xP informing the others, gradually over a period of time.
- Relax. There is no right or wrong answer. There were lots of other projects I could have taken on, other than ocean rowing, that would have been a good expression of my personal values. Ocean rowing just happened to tick more boxes than any of the others. But a time will come, when I am (even more) old and decrepit, when I will need to find a different pursuit.
- Listen to your heart as well as your head. When I had my 'lightbulb moment' - the flash of inspiration to go row an ocean - I was not especially trying to find the answer. Some people have their best brainwaves in the shower, when their subconscious has been mulling on a question overnight and suddenly out pops the answer. For me, the inspiration came while I was driving and in a similar alpha-wave mental state. I immediately knew it was perfect - it just took a bit longer for my heart to convince my head that rowing an ocean was do-able.
- Remember that a life purpose does not have to be a spectacular grand gesture. Your life purpose may be to clean public toilets. Somebody has to do it, and it may be the one thing that you find more satisfying than anything else. But whatever you choose to do, do it to the absolute best of your ability. Quality is the key. If you clean toilets, make sure they are the best, cleanest, most beautiful toilet facilities anyone has ever seen.
To quote Cyril Connolly: "We must select the illusion which appeals to our temperament and embrace it with passion, if we want to be happy."
Or George Bernard Shaw: "Life is not about discovering yourself, it is about defining yourself."
In other words, this is not so much about 'discovering' a life purpose. It is about deciding on a purpose, and committing wholeheartedly to it.
Well, that's what I reckon anyway. Try it and see. What's the worst that can happen?!
P.S. On a more mundane note: I went to see Brocade a couple of days ago. She is fine, and safely ensconced in a hangar in the East Bay, awaiting her chance to shine next year.
And today I treated myself. I rarely buy things, as I don't need much in this life. But these two items seemed worth splashing out: a new pair of running shoes, and a TomTom sat nav kit for my truck. I will be doing a lot of running and a lot of driving over the coming months, and want to minimize my chances of getting injured and lost respectively.
[photo: random shot of my sister on the West Highland Way in Scotland last month - or maybe some reference to the road less travelled...]
Three people in the last three days had asked me if I'd seen the film Into The Wild, so I thought I better had.
Directed by Sean Penn, it tells the story of Chris McCandless who, inspired by Henry David Thoreau (whose Walden was an influence on me as well - it partly inspired my decision to start rowing oceans) set out into the wilds of Alaska in search of solitude, self-sufficiency, and himself. The story didn't turn out too well for the hero, but the ideal underlying his ill-fated adventure is still valid.
As Sean Penn said in an interview about the film, people should be encouraged to "take risks - not reckless endangerment, but at least make the heart beat faster ... to make the effort to step outside of their comfort zone."
He added: "The main issue is that ... each individual in their own way must be ready to do whatever's necessary - to make a real job out of finding out who they are, and to do it on their own terms."
I agree. I spent many years in a job that was not 'me' - it didn't match my values, but I continued with it for so long because it was what was expected of someone with my educational background, and all my peers seemed to be happy enough in similar jobs. At the time I didn't know myself sufficiently well to figure out why I found it unsatisfying and unfulfilling. It was only when I started to put in the hard work and got to know myself better that I began to understand why it wasn't working for me.
Once I had started down that path of getting to know myself and pushing my boundaries, it got exciting and rather addictive... and that is partly why I decided to row across oceans. The Atlantic was my Alaska, but unlike Chris McCandless, fortunately I lived to reap the benefits of the experience. Spending 103 days alone on the ocean is an extreme but very effective crash course in personal development.
What did I enjoy most about the film? The look of intense alive-ness that Chris McCandless has in his eyes when he looks around at the natural wonder of Alaska, and knows that he is in the right place.