Sharni Montgomery, Running for the Afghan Women's Writing Project
Sharni Montomery is a self-proclaimed couch potato living in -- and blogging from -- rural Australia. Nine weeks ago she decided to get off the couch, spend nine short weeks in training, and then run a 5k. Why? To raise money for the Afghan Women's Writing Project. Sharni made a video for her blog Sharnanigans! to get the word out about her project:
Sharni has spent the last two months running, chronicling her mission, and raising money. Can one woman in Australia make a difference for women in Afghanistan? Sharni's run is on Saturday, and she graciously agreed to talk with me a little bit about why she's doing this, what it's been like so far, and what's next.
Mir Kamin: I want to know more about why the Afghan Women's Writing Project. I mean, it's a great cause, but there are lots of great causes out there. Why this? What makes AWWP so meaningful to you?
Sharni Montgomery: As all the women who blog would understand, to write is to breathe.
I have been writing to make sense of my life ever since I was five. My wardrobe is choc-a-bloc full of diaries lamenting anguish at being the last girl in my year to get a bra, confusion about boys, sadness from losing a pet. These days the journey of motherhood, or family life, grief, loss and love have all been worked out through this medium. Writing has been my outlet, my therapy; it is mine, but I can share it. If I couldn't write about my experiences, I would not feel the clarity I do about my life. Even the very difficult parts of my life have been made easier, or at least clearer, by putting them down on paper (or these days, my blog).
This is why the AWWP appealed to me. To write about our lives is to make sense of our lives, to find meaning in our lives, and to connect with others. From what I can understand, life as a woman in Afghanistan is incredibly challenging. I cannot do anything much to change the challenges, unfortunately, but I can help them use the one thing that I would be lost in my life without: the power to write and share their stories and experiences.
I sincerely hope, that, like me, the women of the AWWP can come to a higher understanding of their world through their writing, and through sharing it, can feel empowered.
MK: Tell me about your history as a writer.
SM: I wrote my first book, Animals of All Shapes and Sizes, when I was 10. Self-published, still well-read by the six family members who were given a copy, and now enjoyed by my two year old son.
But seriously, writing is my world. I adore writing; writing is my thing. I have written articles for the Sydney Morning Herald, Practical Parenting Magazine and an Aussie website called "Our Patch" which focuses on life in Rural Australia.
The most rewarding writing I have done? Creating my blog. For the last two years writing almost daily on my website has been the most enriching writing practice for me. I am hoping that 22 years later I can come up with my second book as I have so many stories I want to tell.
MK: What's been the toughest part of training, physically?
SM: I live in a very hot part of Rural Australia, in a small town called Hay. The weather is dry and hot, hot, hot. Walking outside on any given day between November and January (the times I chose for my training) is what I imagine walking into an oven might be like. The heat has made me physically exhausted. I am an indoors type and the heat has hit me hard. Add to the equation a plague of grasshoppers, flies and mosquitoes and you have very uncomfortable outside conditions that have made me want to curl up under the air-conditioner and cry! Over Christmas my town -- which has been in drought for the last ten years -- flooded. I had to change running routes and be on standby to sandbag our home. All was well. Much to my disgust it appears even more creatures and creepy crawlies have decided to join me on my run so to avoid the river.
I sometimes feel like the Pied Piper with a band of creepy crawlies following closely behind, if not on me. Swallowing flies has definitely been one of the lowlights.
MK: What's been the toughest part of training, mentally?
SM: Having never been somebody that can run, I have had to constantly fight an argumentative, nagging mind who I have discovered doesn't have much faith in my ability. I didn't realize just how powerful and negative this voice in me was until I took up running.
"We need to stooooooooooop!"
"Walk, walk you can't do this!"
"You'll never make one kilometer let alone 5!" are common thoughts of my journey. (Not to mention some of the really old, nasty ones: "You haven't even lost any weight running," "It's too hot!" and "AHHHHHHHHHHHH!")
Through persistent training, I am slowly learning to quiet this sabotaging soundtrack by drowning it out with my new getting me into the moment mantra: "One foot in front of the other." This journey has been so transformative on every level. Becoming aware of that little sabotaging voice and finding ways to dampen it can only be helpful in other areas of life.
MK: How much money have you raised as of this writing, and how can folks pledge and support you now?
SM: $4570 has been pledged so far which has been nothing short of amazing! Anyone who would like to pledge needs to just leave me a comment on my blog or on my Facebook fan page letting me know how much (so I can keep track of the tally). Once I've completed the run on January 8th, payment can be sent directly to the AWWP website either via Paypal or check.
MK: What's next after this? Will you continue supporting AWWP, or another organization? Do you feel like you've become a bona fide activist?
SM: You know, I have not planned what is next, just as I didn't plan this. I came up with the idea and just rolled (well, ran, actually) with where it took me. Perhaps next I will roll for a cause. No, I joke.
No, I don't feel I have become an activist. I just feel I have become more myself. To me connecting with others, reaching out to others, and becoming more of a part of the global community -- rather than just another person in my One Horse Town -- is where I am meant to be. I am just trotting along on my journey and doing what feels right at the time. There is no plan. I do know that the AWWP has a special place in my heart and I will continue to do what I can for it from Down Under. But who knows what is next!
MK: Will you keep running? (As a dedicated couch potato, myself, I'm very curious to hear the answer to this one!)
SM: YES!!! I have actually been nervous thinking of what will happen on January the 9th (the day after my run). Take away my motivation and goal and... yes, this will be my test. I have really formed the habit now of getting out there every day and I intend to keep it going. I will have to set myself a goal or distance to keep myself motivated methinks!
MK: Sharni, what inspires you?
SM: I am inspired by people. I am inspired by real people. People who are themselves. People who are brave enough to be who they are. People who overcome hardship, or look hardship right in the face and act in spite of it. I am inspired by a lot of things. I love the connections and friendships I have made with so many real people the world over. I am inspired by the kindness and generosity of individual human beings since taking on this challenge. I honestly believe that one person at a time, one foot in front of the other, is key to being the change you want to see in the world. My philosophy of life and on my website is "The grass isn't greener on the other side, it's greener where you water it." I am inspired by anybody who regularly takes out the watering can to green up their own patch.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I find Sharni's commitment to the AWWP, her training, and her outlook pretty darn inspiring. I loved having the opportunity to get to know her a little bit better, and I will be cheering her on during her run on Saturday. Good luck, Sharni!
BlogHer Contributing Editor Mir Kamin is inspired to think about ways to green up her own patch, now. She blogs near-daily about issues parental and otherwise at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, and all day long about the joys of mindful retail therapy at Want Not.