Glancing through Facebook, it’s easy to believe that for most people, life is a series of joyful moments. Even knowing that social media is a highlight reel of people’s lives, it’s easy to start believing that others are always happy.
In reality, I think of life as more of a climb. Some days a struggle, but most often a climb.
I’ve had the opportunity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro twice. The night before the summit push is long, cold, dark, and tortuous. There are many times I asked myself why I was doing it. Reaching Uhuru peak at the break of dawn, it all made sense. When we’re in the struggle, it’s often hard to see the point. Glancing back in the darkness, the distant glow of headlamps of the other groups weaving their way up the mountain reminded me of how far we’d come, even though we weren’t yet at the top.
We judged our movement by the needs of the group, taking breaks if people were struggling, telling stories, and singing songs when spirits needed to be lifted. We knew we were going to do this as a team, and that we would leave no one behind.
By husband Joe has led over 7 school groups up Kilimanjaro. Of the people who attempt to summit Kilimanjaro, about 50% are successful. With these school groups, after months of training, group work, and team building, the success rate is almost 100%. What I have learned from this, is that we work best in teams. The second time I summitted felt harder than the first. Although the photos look the same, they represent two completely different experiences. Both of which were preceded by many months of training.
Perhaps life is like this, a climb, punctuated by triumphs and joyful moments. If I’m not having fun today, that’s okay, as long as I’m content with the longer term journey. Wherever you are on your journey, we invite you to reach out and join us as we move forward, together.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych. Executive Director, Landing Strong
As is the case with any vacation, my goal is to relax and recharge, allowing me to give my full attention and energy to the things I care about once I return home.
How do I do this?
For the next seven days, I’ll be back-country canoe tripping through Killarney Provincial Park, one of Ontario’s most pristine and spectacular wilderness preserves. It’s inevitable that at times I‘ll be uncomfortable: fending off bugs, carrying heavy backpacks over long portages, or sleeping on bumpy ground. Joe, Kyle and Mackenzie are psyched about eating porridge every morning…me not so much so.
I know from past experience though, that it’ll be well worth it. I can relax by doing less, or challenge myself by doing more. Generally speaking, the most important aspects of self-care that I practice involve expending energy. It may involve camping, doing art, reading, writing or walking in nature. Some part of me is generally in motion. Sometimes I do it well, sometimes not.
We often think of relaxation as being a passive activity: slowing down, watching Netflix, and giving ourselves permission to do less. Sometimes this is true, but if it becomes a pattern, it’s no longer relaxation. It becomes a pattern of existing.
So this week I’ll expend some energy to get out of my head, and into nature and connection with people I love.
I know some of you are off doing the same – playing music, camping, fishing and surfing.
If your old interests aren’t serving as a source of inspiration anymore, it might be time to try something new. As we change, so do our needs. That’s why we’re introducing “Community Connection” days into our programming at Landing Strong. Open to anyone who is on the path of recovery and has participated in one of our workshops, these days will offer a chance to get together in a fun and restorative way. We’ll start advertising them in the next few weeks.
If you haven’t participated in any of our programs yet, consider signing up for one this fall. We are always welcoming new community members.
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych. Founder, Landing Strong
Just before Christmas, I had the chance to accompany a competitive girls basketball team to a tournament in Arizona. In addition to watching some great basketball, my husband Joe and I had the opportunity for a hike up Camelback Ridge, a famous trail in Echo Canyon Park. As we passed the trailhead at 4pm, a park ranger warned us to be back down by 5:25pm. Confident and energetic, we forged ahead, making the steep climb to the peak by 5pm. At the summit, we stood proudly among a gathering of happy people enjoying the spectacular view. A friendly and hard-core looking hiker warned us that the 5:25pm deadline was real, and the park gave out tickets to anyone who is late getting off the mountain. We laughed and took a series of great photos to the warm glow of the setting sun.
Making our way down, we continued to take great photos. We started to be passed by a series of ultra-marathon looking types jogging quickly by. Enough runners passed that I started to think that maybe they knew something we didn’t: either, they were being chased by wild game; or the 5:25pm penalty was real. With a surge of energy, we started to sprint down. My husband laughed at me, as he’s never seen me scamper down a mountain slope with such glee. It had become a game – Belinda versus park ranger. With sixty seconds to spare, we made it across the finish line. I looked around to give the ticketing officer a high-five, but none was to be found. Enquiries with other hikers revealed that ticketing is a practice, but seldom enforced. However, the large number of foolish hikers stranding themselves up on the mountain after dusk with only their cell phones to guide them was real. The emergency response team is frequently called to help pull people out after they injure themselves after dark.
All in all, what could have been a stressful situation ended up being the highlight of my trip. Sometimes when we’re stressed situation, it’s hard to see the silver lining. Only afterwards are we able to reflect on the strength, courage or skill it took to get ourselves out of it.
Although I know the journey that each of you is on might be difficult, we hope that you are able to take time to catch the sunset or beauty that exists within it.
Warm regards from the entire Landing Strong Team,
Belinda Seagram, Ph.D., R. Psych. Founder, Landing Strong
One of the physical hazards of being a psychologist is that much of my working life consists of sitting. It’s literally killing me… hence part of my motivation to create a program that is engaging and physically active. I want to move with you.
Have I mentioned that my family is hard core into fitness? I just returned from a vacation out West where we participated in the Great Canadian Death Race, followed by a back country hiking trip through the Rockies. It’s the Seagram idea of fun. What is the Great Canadian Death Race you ask? It’s 125 km of mountainous terrain covered by a team of five people over a 24 hour period. No, I did not compete… I’m not at that level. I was the support crew.
My daughter Mackenzie, the Landing Strong Director of Wellbeing and Community Engagement, played a vital role with the team, tackling a 38 km mountainous section. She killed it. A graduate from Acadia University with a psychology and nutrition double major, she practices what she preaches. She represented Acadia’s Cross Country Running team for four years, last year making it to Nationals. She has also competed at the Canada Games representing Nova Scotia in a Biathlon; and in her free time summited Mount Kilimanjaro twice. In her down time, she works on getting me to reach for hummus instead of cookies. Shall we say, it’s a work in progress. I’m grateful that we have someone so uniquely qualified to help us get active and engaged! Mackenzie is setting the food plan for Landing Strong, coordinating community activities, and planning outdoor adventures for us. She is also generating much of the health promotion social media content that we are putting out over Facebook and Instagram. The quirky sense of humour… that’s her. I hope you will join me in welcoming her to the Landing Strong Team.
Do I sound like a proud parent? Well I guess I am, but I am also incredibly proud of the huge talent we have assembled in the Landing Strong Team. It’s bursting with passion, expertise, enthusiasm, and commitment. Over the next few weeks, I will be introducing you to various members of the team, so that you have the opportunity to get to know each of us on a more personal level. Over time, perhaps you will share with us details about your journey, so that we might walk together.
[In the team pic attached L to R: Dale Block, Joe Seagram, Kaitlin Proksch, Kyle Seagram, and Mackenzie Seagram.]
Connecting with Belinda
Founder Belinda Seagram, Ph.D. shares regular blog posts to inspire you during your journey.