Moving – Lessons Learnt from Injury

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I move.

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.

Here’s hoping!

Guest Post by my lovely friend Abbie – wise words and I hope very much she is mended soon.

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Resolutions 2: The Energy Experiment

 

 

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The Thinker – Rodin
Tell me what you pay attention to and I will tell you who you are.
– Jose Ortega y Gasset –

I have decided after an inordinate amount of thought,  that this year there will be no resolutions – no vows to do this or that, or not. I don’t much like rules anyway and a life filled with what you should or should not do, with a Greek Chorus of inner voices constantly judging and criticising every move is somehow lacking in joy and spontaneity.

New Years Resolutions have become something of a standing joke in my house…. give it a couple of weeks and even the most resolute amongst us tend to be back on the old well worn paths – and with good reason: whilst acceptance and awareness are a pretty good start when trying to make changes, most of the patterns we’d like to change are controlled by psychological habits which suck up our energy  – some of which gain momentum over months and years to become programs that begin to rule our lives, potentially using up resources and crippling our actions and well being. They become embedded as well worn paths of thought and behaviour – often so well worn that we begin to buy into their story as they pose as real and necessary parts of our identity.  I can certainly testify that battling against these tides – or at least standing strong and resisting them, is hard work.

Without a steady opposing energy we’re at the mercy of these  “drive and crash programs” semi aware but unable to respond effectively. They’re infinitely more likely to be a problem when we re already stressed and tired, or when our energy is manic and unfocused. It’s a vicious cycle – the more out of balance we are, the more likely we are to be unable to oppose the self destructive behaviour and as a result in the long run it becomes more and more difficult to avoid the coping strategies that landed us up in this mess in the first place.

My resolve for 2016 is to attempt “The Energy Experiment”:

Given that energy and time are infinitely precious resources, I’m constantly astounded at how much of both I waste in distractions, meaningless behaviours, fueling the very habits I’d most like to get rid of. My attention is so frequently grabbed by (rather than given to) so much that’s neither fulfilling or useful: never ending internet trawling, mindless grumbling thought patterns, eating or drinking just to pass the time. Sometimes energy can be dissipated in ways that are less than obvious – One of my most energy depleting habits is the need to “hack life” to work out the whys and wherefores, I suppose to bring coherrence to chaos. The last few months – maybe it’s an Autumnal thing, have been a time for this kind of reflection as many of these recents post testify. It’s been immensely helpful for me to put pen to paper but I’m well aware of my tendency to get caught up in the patterns of thought and processing.

The irony is that the dripping tap of wasted time and energy results in less of both being available for the things I really value – the things I feel passionate about and that actually serve to make life better in the long term.

So The Energy Experiment is all about setting boundaries: an attempt to say “no’ with resolve when I’m tempted to expend energy on something that’s not worthwhile or that I cannot control or change. Sometimes a committed  “yes”  to see something through – with determination and energy even when things get tough and it would be easier to go with the flow,

I am sure sometimes I will fail, but I hope to find it’s worth coming back to these boundaries – I look at them as “edges”  – places to keep a watch on, to notice when they cave in or are too tight and to learn a few things.

It’s simple stuff: the theory is to cultivate awareness, chanel energy wisely and then act with commitment and resolve – attempting to be kind to myself  when things don’t go to plan, recognising that old habits die hard. Progress not perfection as a zeitgeist.

So that’s it for 2016

I’ve loved writing here – and am looking forward to continuing in a more simple and quiet form in the coming year. Thank you for reading and many good wishes.