The Paper-Shredder.

Hi.  It’s been a minute.

My last blog post was written in late October 2019, just over six months ago, after more than seven years of weekly or bi-weekly posts.  The truth is, I just ran out of ideas.  My posts became harder to write, harder to come up with, harder to find the time for.  I started my website as a way for you to get to know who I am;  a landing spot of sorts, for you to find me, wherever my physical practice location may be.  But as time went on and life got busier, the joy that my writing brought me was not outweighed by its place on my to-do list.

NYC marathon finish

The 2019 NYC marathon finish line; I’m in the neon yellow shirt.

My last post, 948km to NYC, was written five days prior to my once-in-a-lifetime run at the New York City Marathon.  That run could not have gone better, and my dreams were realized; I qualified for both the Chicago marathon (as of this writing, still currently scheduled for October 2020) and the Boston marathon, set for April 2021.  And then life got busy.  My level of busy had been building for years; as I increased my work hours, as my practice grew, as my kids got older, as my responsibilities increased.  And the blog posts that used to free-flow from me, the stories that used to pop into my head and unravel their words to me many days before my deadlines, simply dried up.  I couldn’t find the time to honour my thoughts, to write out my dreams, to delve into my creativity.  I was on the road to burnout, and even though I could see it, feel it, and identify it, even as I was in the eye of the storm, I felt powerless to stop it.  So I stopped writing instead.

Then Covid happened.

And my world stopped.

You see, I’m a busy-body.  I love to be constantly in motion, I thrive on multi-tasking, I have a hard time with rest and downtime and lack of structure.  Brene Brown calls it “over-functioning,” and explains that rather than feel vulnerable, over-functioners go into action mode.  Um, my hand is up.  That’s me.

The first few weeks were tough.  There were a lot of tears, a lot of disbelief, a lot of fear about closing the clinic, financial anxiety, wondering how I would cope, how we could rebuild.  So I did what I know how to do: I kept busy.  And yet the quiet times slowly crept in.  The sleep-ins became later, the reading on the couch became more frequent, the puzzling with a podcast became more regular.  Big lessons have unfolded over the last two months, and I’ve found the time to listen.  To slow down.  To introspect.  To think.  And yes, to write.

The most recent lesson I learned happened last night.

You see, in the frenzied early-Covid-cleanout of our basement storage room, I came across a box of old clinic financial forms, dated 2008-2010.  For the past many weeks, I have been working my way through shredding these documents, a little bit each night, as my husband reads Harry Potter bedtime stories to the kids.  Last night I came to the end of the box, and in a nudge from the Universe, the final month I pulled from the bin was labelled “January 2009.”

Let me explain: in January 2009, I was nine months pregnant with my first child.  My brand-new clinic was eleven months old.  My stress level was high, my bank account was low, and I wondered how I’d ever get through the obstacles ahead of me.  Looking back, eleven years later, I remember the stress.  I remember the overwhelming emotions.   It was perhaps the most challenging year of my life.

But it brings me strange comfort to look back on this snapshot of 2009 and put it through the paper-shredder.  I got over those hurdles, I made it to the other side, when it felt like the other side was really far away.  And so I trust that, as my resiliency is being tested, my coping skills are being pushed, and my obstacles seem staggering, I will look back, and I will put 2020 in the shredder.

And you will too.

Keep your head up, and your shredder close.






You Have the Rest of your Life to Live

I have had this poster plastered to the side of my filing cabinet in my home office for a very long time:

101 Ways to Cope With Stress-1

It was given to me by a teacher in high school, in the midst of my grade 12 year, when the pressure of University-entrance GPAs was at an all-time high.  I think that teacher could see then what I couldn’t; that everything comes down to one step at a time.  I’ve never been great at seeing the forest for the trees, and my emotions overwhelm me regularly.  When I was a teen, I was still figuring out how to deal with this part of myself.  As an adult, I’ve tried to embrace the passion in my personality and harness my energy effectively.  I now call it ambition (if you talk to my husband, he may chose a different word to label  this trait of mine).

IMG_2034I’m currently in the midst of a stressful time in life; we’re moving to a different neighborhood and there’s all of the logistics and ups-and-downs that comes with that transition.  As I was doing some paperwork last night, I glanced to this poster and the phrase that stood out was “look at challenges differently.”  I see a different phrase every time I look, but “look at challenges differently” seemed perfectly timed for my current situation.  Good advice, great coincidence, perfect reassurance.

This poster has been hung on my University dorm room wall, shipped to Toronto in my move-across-the-country trunk, tacked above my desk as I prepped for my chiropractic licensing exams, and now taped to my filing cabinet and moved to three different houses.  It’s approaching 20 years old, is dog-eared and sun-faded, and it’s one of my most prized possessions.

It reminds me of where I’ve been.  It gives me clarity of where I’m at.  It gives me hope for where I’m going.

My favorite part is the last line: “you have the rest of your life to live.”

Running Scared?

We can put metal detectors inside stadiums.  We can put security guards inside schools.  We can put security screening inside airports.  But we cannot run a marathon without feeling vulnerable.  Not after yesterday.  Not after the carnage, the panic, the awfulness, the violence, the terror, the evil that happened in Boston.

I ran the Boston Marathon in 2003…

Race Last Name, First Name
Time OverAll
Sex Place
Div Place
DIV Net Time City, State, Country
Boston Marathon
Swelin, Ashley J. (F23) 3:45:56 6251 1124 / 889 FOpen 3:38:40 Toronto, ON, Canada

It’s been ten years since I high-fived the students cheering at Wellesley College, willed myself up Heartbreak Hill, and cried tears of pride and joy along the finishing stretch on Boylston Street.

I originally wrote today’s blog post last week, and titled it ‘Boston’- I was going to share with you all of the things that running Boston taught me.  Silly things, like how sunburned you can get over the course of 26.2 miles in Boston in April.  Inspiring things, like “you cannot run fast if you do not put in the training.  The same goes for anything in life.  Work hard”.  Special things, like how your parents will do anything for you- even come to Boston and stand five-people-deep for four hours for the chance to watch you cross the finish line. It’s been ten years since my parents stood right where yesterday’s second bomb went off.  

But you know what, fellow runners?  We must unite.  We must be strong.  We must not be scared to go to a movie, or send our kids to school and ourselves to work, or go to Boston and run a marathon. I can’t make sense of this tragedy because it’s senseless.  I can’t explain this tragedy because it’s inexplicable.  I can’t imagine this tragedy because it’s unimaginable.  But when these senseless, inexplicable, unimaginable tragedies happen, we must cope.

And the way most runners cope is to run.  We cope and we run and we run and we cope… and the miles tick by.

I’m going for a run.