Always Resetting a New Normal

My wife and I have just returned (despite all manner of resistance from the weather Gods) from Victoria, BC.

A few years back, this was an annual pilgrimage to attend what used to be called “The Cherry Blossom Walking Festival”. It was an IML (International Marching League) sponsored event, and we used to participate in the 10k (6 mile) and 21 kilometer (13 mile) events.

Victoria is a gorgeous town, scenically and architecturally. The walks, particularly the 21 kilometer take you on a stunning tour of Victoria, through the city, along the water and more. The first year we participated, we did so without any training. Boy did we learn the value of preparation! Amidst an international collection of walkers, some from Asia Pacific, some in military regalia (a contingent from Germany as it turned out), we limped across the finish line barely able to walk.

This set off a new hobby, distance walking and then race-walking. It’s amazing that what we barely completed in 5 hours, 3 years ago, we now do in about 3 hours and 30 minutes on a good day, or 3 hours and 45 minutes after taking too much of a winter off. And the 10 kilometer walk that once was such a challenge to do in an hour and a half, is now something we do several times a week at home in New York. Believe me this is not due to great athleticism. Anyone who has followed the ‘palate titillations’ portion of this Blog knows the hedonistic joys and excess to which I’m very happily prone.

Rather, the point is that you can re-set what’s normal through engagement, through application, and by willing to be uncomfortable enough — purposefully and in a focused way for a definite outcome (not masochistically) — to grow. You actually get ‘comfortable’ being ‘uncomfortable’ when it’s for the purpose of gaining a new aptitude or capability. That’s the only way we progress. We are willing to be ‘bad’ for awhile en route to learning how to be ‘good’ at something. My mentor and later collaborator M. Scott Peck used to say that there is a “paradoxical joy” that comes from being able to handle a greater magnitude of problem than you once were able to, and to be able to take it (relatively) in your stride. So the caliber of challenge that once knocked you for a loop, is now no issue. You are able to take on greater problems with the same expenditure of emotional energy, and perhaps even physical energy, that once was required by relatively trivial issues. That is the very essence of growth.

And indeed the walks seem perceptually now far more abundant in visual stimuli, in opportunities to savor the company of my walking companions, as well as some refreshing solitude for large swatches of the walk, because of the energy that isn’t needed to somehow force my feet to keep moving.

Two years ago, the organizers decided they could no longer keep the walks going. They said they were too ‘expensive’. I made so bold as to mention to some of the city authorities that since versions of these walks were running from the hills of Japan to Vancouver Washington, from Castlebar Ireland to Arlington Virginia (hence demographic density could hardly be an issue), that perhaps the problem was not the event, but rather how it was being run! Of course they disagreed! You will see this with clients as well, and frankly with many of us. We claim that our problems demonstrate that something is impossible or not doable, not that we’re handling it without the necessary acumen, acuity, perseverance or imagination! Much easier on our ego — but devastating in terms of opportunity cost. All those people who once came over to Victoria, presumably stayed in hotels, ate at restaurants, went shopping — surely there were ‘non-event’ windfalls for the city of Victoria? And therefore, surely sponsorships and other advantages could be secured as they have by other global cities to create “viability?”

Some local walking clubs decided to resurrect the walks under the title, “Phoenix Walking Festival” (from the ashes literally). They had over double the anticipated registrants for this barely publicized walk, organized by these non-profit clubs! So at least it’s back, albeit as a shadow of its former self, with far less by way of revenues, global PR, or people from around the world!  But hey, now it’s ‘viable’. Go figure…

Anyway, let’s all beware of assuming the problem is in the stars rather than in ourselves as the Bard suggested so provocatively and insightfully.

In Victoria, to mention those hedonistic aspects, we had a lovely suite at the historic Empress Fairmont. We found a place for savory Pho Soup (that gorgeously addictive Vietnamese delicacy), had superb Sicilian Pizza for lunch, luscious Gelattos, an impressive Raj-like Indian buffet one day at the Bengal Lounge at the Empress, a superb dinner at the Empress Room with a beautifully seasoned and textured crab bisque followed by a succulent canon of lamb with a Quintessa Cabernet 1999 and capped by a hot croissant bread pudidng (astonishing!), and the eclectic ‘Schnitzel House’ scored big once more with its escargots, Goulash and “Cordon Bleu” Schnitzel (with ham and cheese). We spent time together, with a beloved friend, took carriage rides, walked beautiful streets, and toasted the metaphor of our ‘new normal’ as we savored the challenge and exhilaration of the half marathon on Sunday.

We’ve decided that for us,  this time in Victoria, these challenges and joys, are VERY viable! We just have to continue to work on ourselves and our lives to ensure they remain so.

When walking or otherwise, that’s the game!