I’m not naturally sporty, fitness doesn’t come easily. I sat in the ‘arty’ corner of the common room at school, not the ‘sporty’ one. As an adult however, no longer bound by once comforting school-time cliques, fitness is important. I run – I’m no ironman but I regularly run 12k and sometimes the occasional half marathon. I surf – I’m not very good at it but I have a lot of fun being tumbled in the waves whatever the weather. I walk – I love a good stomp over the cliffs when my legs ask me not to run.
The best advice I was given about parenting was ‘keep them moving’. Don’t tell them to exercise, just keep them moving: rolling, splashing, stomping, tumbling. Chase them, fly them, spin them and whatever you do, never, EVER tell them you’re going for a walk. An adventure, a hunt, an explore… but never a walk!
This has all become a given to me, balancing moving with working, parenting and drinking coffee with friends is life. And it’s a good life…. when the balance is right. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago why I exercise, I would have told you that it buys me the right to eat biscuits, to drink guilt free wine, it keeps me fit enough, and is a good example to the children. Truth. But not the whole truth. It’s taken me until now… 40 years into life’s crazy journey to really understand WHY I move, and what happens when I don’t. Three weeks ago I broke my ankle, not just broke but shattered it. An unfortunate accident with a skateboard and with the help of a hefty amount of metal, it will be fine. I try to keep perspective and remember how lucky I am – I don’t have to live with this forever.
I fight the guilt of feeling sorry for myself, guilt for my permanently disabled dad who lived and died with a body that didn’t work properly, guilt for the millions of people living with disability without hope of healing, guilt for people who suffer these injuries in parts of the world where they don’t have the medical care we have, who can’t get prescription painkillers to get through the day. But even with the voice in my ear telling me to be grateful JEEZ it’s hard! The reason it’s hard is not the pain, it’s not the inconvenience, it’s the NOT BEING ABLE TO MOVE! Of course I can hobble about and go out in the back of the car when somebody is kind enough to take me, but I can’t push my body until I feel it working hard. I can’t pull on a wetsuit and feel the freeze of the winter sea biting my face. I can’t get out of breath and feel my lungs burn. More than these physical sensations though are the emotional ones. I can’t escape when life/work/kids drives me crazy, I can’t step outside when I’m facing a problem and walk until I’ve confronted it, I can’t let the sea wash away my worries, I can’t run until that decision I have to make has been made and it’s hard. Suddenly the scales that keep me…well… me are wonky, the balance is wrong. My head is foggy, I’m more short tempered than normal, I can focus on nothing, working (I, conveniently, work from home) is like wading through PVA glue with skis on, I cry at the drop of a hat, laughing feels like quite hard work and things which normally don’t really matter to me suddenly matter too much.
My mental health has been affected by my accident as much, if not more than my body, and that has been a real shock and an amazing revelation in equal measure. Now I understand why I have to keep moving! Why I have to keep the small people moving! I am giving them (and myself) much more than a healthy body, I am giving them a healthy mind and the ability to cope. I suppose I’ve always known that, but now I REALLY know that, and I know too that I AM lucky. I have the luxury, even through my less-than-sharp brain, of perspective and of a future full of movement. Call me optimistic, but I’m expecting to swing back the other way in a few months and experience the mental agility of Einstein, and bounce and happiness the like of which is only experienced by Tigger.
Guest Post by my lovely friend Abbie – wise words and I hope very much she is mended soon.