We all need inspiration in our lives. Inspiration fuels us, it stokes the fire so to speak and gives us purpose. Without it, life would be shades of grey. As I said in a previous blog, we are all inspired by different things. It could be a story, nature, music and, of course, people. If we are lucky, we will meet many people who inspire us on our journey.
One such person for me is Joanne Cliff. I met Joanne about two years ago when I started to play pickleball. (For those of you who don’t know what pickleball is yet, check it out online. It is one of the fastest-growing sports today. Basically, it is a racket sport that combines badminton, tennis and, table tennis. It can be played indoors and outside so it is really suited for the Saskatchewan climate. So much fun!)
I was still working when I met Joanne, and I was impressed and I admit, envious, of her abundance of energy. I mean, there I was, exhausted after a day at the office and wanting to do nothing but turn on the TV, and there she was, talking about how she had played three hours of pickleball in the morning and was ready for another two hours that night. It made me look forward to the day that I could also play pickleball in the morning and the evening.
Well, I have since retired and although I’m not playing pickleball in the morning and the evening, Joanne continues to inspire and amaze me.
Joanne is the kind of person who, most of the time, has a smile on her face and a positive outlook towards life. She loves to try new things and can usually be found on the pickleball court, in her garden or off in the country searching for hidden objects!
Last year, she decided to cycle every street in Saskatoon before she turned 65. Now we’re not talking just the main streets, but every street. . . .that means cul-de-sacs, bays, crescents, everything! And she did it! She rode through windstorms, rainstorms, sweltering heat and cold temperatures that would send most riding full speed for home. She loved it, saw a lot of really cool things, met some interesting people and learned a lot about the city. This accomplishment and the ease with which Joanne completed it impressed me so much that at work I created a powerpoint to share with newcomer immigrants and refugees. It was a teaching tool . . . they got to see the entire city from a completely different perspective.
Over a cup of delicious tea one cool fall afternoon, Joanne and I chatted about life, motivation and inspiration.
“This is normal for me,” she said. “I was always an athlete. I played softball and badminton. I’ve always biked and walked.” She recalls her days as a switchboard operator with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (then called the Saskatoon Health Region). She would leave her house at 5 am, bike to work, hit the gym, shower, work a 12 hour shift, and then ride her bike home. For breaks, she would go outside and walk and if that was not possible, she would climb stairs. “I wasn’t one to sit around!” Oh, and she was also raising three children at the time! Exhausting!
When Joanne’s husband retired three years before her, he said it was important to have a plan and something to do such as a hobby. She took that advice to heart and when she retired six years ago, she ramped up her involvement in the local pickleball scene.
Besides her dedication to pickleball (playing, coordinating and helping with tournaments), Joanne also finds time to do several fabric/sewing-related crafts including quilting, and crocheting. She loves to garden and spend time with friends. On top of an already active life, Joanne is always up to a new challenge. In 2017, as part of Canada’s 150th birthday celebration, she took part in a ParticipACTION event based on 150 physical activities that define Canadians. The event challenged Canadians to get off the couch and try something new. She placed 39th in Canada and was first in Saskatchewan, trying out 148 sports! Which sports did she miss? White water rafting and dog sledding. Go figure!
“It was a lot of fun. I did many activities with family and friends, but mostly on my own. I was out walking one day and met a young woman on a skateboard. I told her what I was doing and asked if I could give it a try. She left me! It was great!”
But, even after trying 148 sports, pickleball is still where her passion really lies. In the last seven years, she has won bronze and gold medals at the provincial level and went to the nationals in 2014. “It has made retirement a lot more fun. It’s a social thing. I’ve never met a pickleball player I didn’t like.” (Gosh, Joanne, thanks!)
“It’s important to have something to fill your time. It’s your niche. It’s exercise. It’s your community.”
Her other passion is geocaching. She started this with her husband in 2008 and now also goes out with other friends. She has geocached in 16 countries!
As we all know, some days it is tougher to get out of bed than others, and it can be difficult to do anything that requires physical exertion. Or mental, for that matter. What is Joanne’s secret? What fuels her energy and enthusiasm to fill every minute of her day?
“I think part of it for me is exercise. I had a mini-stroke 19 years ago and doctors told me I had to exercise to stay healthy. The kids were younger so I was busy doing things with them. That stroke scared me and since the chance of having another one was 80% I had to do something to reduce that number.
I enjoy it (being active). Sure, there are days I fall asleep in the chair after supper. I like to get up in the morning and do things; I get up between 6 and 7 and I am in the gym by 8. I walk, bike across town, play pickleball for three hours, bike home and do yard work. I don’t like to procrastinate. If the weather is nice I like to work in my garden because tomorrow it could rain. The more I exercise the more energetic I am. I also have to eat properly and get proper sleep.”
If you can get Joanne to stop long enough for a chat, you’ll find she’s a wealth of information about fitness and ways to enjoy retirement. Her main advice? “Get involved. Everyone needs volunteers. Community associations are the greatest because they’re local. You get out and you meet people. Also, it’s important to be grateful and wake up every day being grateful.”
Joanne admits she is a “list” person and likes to set goals for herself. She even has an Action for Happiness calendar on her fridge that she follows daily.
Like Joanne, I also believe in setting goals. They inspire and motivate me, but the trick is to know your limits so you don’t set yourself up for failure. And although I will probably never bike every street in Saskatoon, or play five hours of pickleball in one day, there are so many other things I can do. It’s all about being open to trying something new.
Hmmmm. I’m going to take a page out of Joanne’s notebook and lookup today’s Action for Happiness. Sept. 22: Take your time. Make space to just breathe and be still. Yes! I can do that! Especially after playing pickleball last night indoors for the first time in more than a year. Being still sounds very appealing!
Who inspires you?