From the thrill of booking the ski trip I never thought would happen again (see my blog B+ isn’t just my blood group …), I went through silent tortures of wondering if I had done the right thing. Would it be a return to a sport I had loved or would I spend days watching others? And if I had to watch, would I be able to keep to my promise that I would smile even if all I could do was watch the others? Even worse, was I going to end up hurt and really going backwards…? So for 8 months I fought my inner demons to keep positive, stick to exercise routines, maintain my energy levels with diet and supplements and above all remind myself the most important factor would be to stay mindful and listen to my body and be honest about my capabilities. So for anyone who read “B+ ” and awaited the follow up, here it is …..
I am euphoric, amazed and yes, proud of myself! Not because I hurtled down steep slopes at speed (no, not this time!) but I did ski for 3 hours every day. I kept control of my speed and direction, didn’t harm myself or others, but most importantly, I listened to myself, mind and body and ignored the little demon that wanted me to get on that chair lift one more time, or come down faster, or take the steeper option. I skied when I felt good and stopped when I knew I had used up my energy, happy to sit in the winter sunshine of the piste restaurant watching other skiers and enjoy a hot chocolate with a dash of Cointreau thrown in – bliss!
Anyone who doesn’t understand invisible, energy draining illnesses, that can flare up and then almost disappear, can probably not understand how good I feel. Many who don’t and can’t understand the nature of this condition, look at me and say, “You, how did YOU go skiing?!” it’s back to the disbelief factor, I can feel the unsaid words they think I must be lying, I can’t really feel that bad. But I have never given in to that and can’t afford to have people like that in my life. No one should feel they shouldn’t do their hair and make-up in case some (well-meaning?!) person says, “Well, you LOOK well” – hmmm am I not allowed to? It actually helps me to feel better if I can make myself look better. Do I have to spiral into deeper depression just so someone else believes me when I don’t feel good? No, I mean more to me than that.
I may have been out on that glorious mountain, enjoying the thrill of being on the slopes, but there is always the unseen that I do try and hide. I had an amazing memory making holiday with loved ones, that I feel so incredibly grateful for. No-one but those loved ones, saw me hobble into our apartment, depleted of all my energy for the day, and crawl into an exhausted sleep, hopeful I would get another great day, but never to expect it. I live not just day to day, but more hour to hour. I start each day with my sands of energy time, and some days it is gone in a flash. But instead of hating my illness (like I did in the beginning and confess it still creeps in when I am down) I try and appreciate all the times I do have. Maybe I am more appreciative of what I have now, my good hours are a true blessing.
Hidden, invisible, disabilities have difficulties that others cannot comprehend. You lose friends. You withdraw from social life when you feel bad, only wanting to be out when you can show your good side. This increases the view from others that you always seem OK, so why do you cancel, how can you do something one day and not another? I don’t understand myself and can’t explain, there are no answers, I wish there were. But I have stopped beating myself up about what I can’t do. I have to accept my limitations and truly make the most of those lovely energy bursts with pain reduced to bearable. In those times I am more than happy, I am deliriously happy. Those who love and care for me share my good times with me. When I can’t do something, I hate letting anyone else down, but I let myself down even more if I push beyond my capabilities as then I will suffer longer. Those who love and care, they let me do that. They let me choose how to spend my energy without criticism or reprimand. Those people who are still in my life, I love them more than ever for believing me.
Maybe that’s why going skiing with those very special people is what made it so wonderful. I know the temptation for them is to help me, ask if I am OK, am I sure I can do that ….but they didn’t, and I thank them. I said I would be honest and would not do anything that was too much, would not push too far, and in return they had to treat me as normal. We didn’t mention my illness the whole holiday. The fact that I would get up of a morning and take two maybe three hours until I was ready to go out, was never a problem. Gentle warm up stretches based on my yoga workout, lots of water, healthy breakfast and an energy conserving walk. Time on the slopes and then creep back to rest. Never once did I feel a spoil sport for needing an early supper, alcohol free or at altitude it would drain me further. Then to bed early, but with a smile of my face and happy dreams. Dreams really can come true if we don’t ask for them to be unrealistic.
I guess healthy avid skiers would see my week as horrendous, but for me it was more than I hoped for. So much so, that the deposit is paid for next year, and I will continue to be positive. Disabilities don’t mean we have to give up, we adjust, and getting the balance right is an accomplishment that brings depression busting success. Not every day can be a good day, is it for anyone? But when your hard work pays off and you get to enjoy experiences that seemed out of reach, the result is truly euphoric. Unfortunately that feeling doesn’t last, so I just keep working at being true to me, and I know the next great day is on its way ……
Be Positive is my life’s mantra. Well it is now that I have turned 50 something and want to make the very utmost of all I can get from this life. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy, and no I am not some super woman who has a perfect life and all working out as planned. In fact my life has been full of set backs and there will be more, of that I have no doubt.
I also contradict myself a lot, and this may not make any sense to anyone who doesn’t experience battles within, but to stay positive I daily fight my demons. I can be excited and buoyed up one moment only to find myself depressed and subdued the next, so if I put my rose-tinted glasses on, forgive me, but this seems to be my way of finding my positivity.
So, if you are still reading, I would like to share a rather impulsive trip I have made and why….
One of the most exhilarating holidays I have ever taken was to go skiing. It surprised me to be honest, as I was never one for exercise per se and loved nothing more than my two week holiday in the sun, with a daily swim being plenty enough for me! But, fate being what it is, after many years of my dad not being part of my life, he appeared at my door one day totally out of the blue. To make up for lost years, and in an effort to be reacquainted, he and his new wife wanted to treat my daughter and myself to a holiday – and that was to take us away to the beautiful ski resort of Montgenèvre. The breath-taking beauty of the snow covered mountains together with the nervous-excitement of the sport was addictive. It was also a perfect bonding experience for my dad and I to find we had something in common – we both loved this adrenaline sport. I have been fortunate to have experienced 3 ski holidays but the last time was over 14 years ago now.
Life being what it is, skiing was removed from my agenda.
I met my husband 12 years ago who introduced me to another adrenaline sport – motorbikes! I loved donning the leathers and riding pillion, going to British Superbikes and MotoGP – until that wasn’t enough and I did my CBT, passed my test and got my own R6 – yes, me at age 40 an adrenaline junkie! Even did track days!
Skiing and motorbiking to me felt similar, not just in the nervous-excitement and adrenaline, but the feel of the air against you and the very movement itself. We talked about going skiing but just never booked it. It’s one of my regrets. I would have loved to have shared this experience with him.
Then my whole life seemed to come to a halt as I suffered from unexplained chronic pain. Finally diagnosed 6 years ago with a chronic pain disability I sunk into depression. I grieved for all the activities I was no longer able to do – from a lay in the sun girl I had transformed into loving an active lifestyle, but never a gym bunny or workout person. The pain became so bad I had to give up my job in the City and move from our house to a bungalow as I could barely crawl up the stairs!
Countless hospital appointments, MRI’s, pain management, mindfulness the list goes on, not to be discussed here, but I had a sudden mind change where I did not want to let pain dictate my life. I didn’t want to keep grieving for what I couldn’t do anymore. I always kept a diary, re-read my entries, and didn’t like hearing my pessimistic voice. Researching my options, I finally came out of denial and accepted life had to change. I joined a yoga class, gentle and relaxing and met some wonderful people none of whom had to feel sorry for me.
Amazingly, although I wasn’t looking for yoga to “make me better”, I was just looking for something that I was capable of, as the weeks went by I started to feel better. Not just physically but mentally too. I still have bad days but I appreciate the good days so much more. I know as long as I listen to my body and don’t push it beyond it’s capabilities for any one day, I can do more than I ever thought possible.
So, back to the skiing. Well, my daughter said she and her partner wanted to go skiing for her birthday next year. They caught me on one of my rose-tinted glasses I can do anything kind of days. So no surprise I said to my husband “shall we go too?” I always regretted not sharing this experience with him and I am now so excited to be returning to the ski slopes.
I know I will ache, and I know I mustn’t over exert myself. Maybe just an hour a day for me, maybe I will only manage an hour on the first day and be so creased up I won’t be able to do anymore. Who knows? But I am going to “B+” I will continue with my strengthening exercises, I will have some “snowdome” trips and even if my skiing is only an hour, I will love that hour, as it will be more than nothing. I will love the atmosphere. I will enjoy being with my family. If need be I will smile and watch the others, and maybe just use my time to write in a beautiful inspiring setting. Fool hardy or opportunity grasper, maybe I am a bit of both – as always, but I believe we only regret the chances we don’t take. If you want to know the outcome, my adventure will be titled “Slippery Slopes ….”
Once someone has wound us up, it is very difficult to unwind, frustration and irritability grow making everything they do exasperate us further. We become the proverbial elastic band that will eventually ping and hurt someone in the process. How do you get things back to a happy balance?
Take this morning. Countless times I have asked my daughter, who is back living with us following the break-up from her boyfriend, to put the recycling rubbish in the green bin, non-recycling in the yellow bin, food in blue and garden waste into the mauve bin outside. So when I lift the lid on the green bin for my paper rubbish I see an old Easter Egg box. Halleluiah! At first I feel pleased as paper rubbish is in the correct bin! It doesn’t last longer than a few seconds as I realise Easter is long past and almost immediately see that there is other rubbish stuffed into the box. Of course I now have to investigate further and take the box out of the bin to examine its contents. Perverse! Why do I have to do this? Why can’t I just leave it there and trust that it’s all recyclable. I know it won’t be though, and I can’t help but prove myself right! So I take a look and sure enough it is stuffed with totally non-recyclable rubbish. Is she deliberately trying to hide it from me? Is she deliberately trying to annoy me? Or at the age of 24 does she really need lessons in which bin to use? Is this actually a new subject that should be on the curriculum in schools, one that youngsters need to pass to be a good citizen! Or not an annoying one! Maybe it is already and she just failed that subject abysmally! Whatever the reason, it has touched my irritation button and all I want to do is throw the contents onto her bed and shout “I am not the rubbish fairy! Now sort it and put it in the right bin”. Sounds stupid doesn’t it, but boy am I fuming!
Added to the inability to see what the fuss of re-cycling is all about, is my perception that she doesn’t understand what it means to clean up after herself. Big aggravation! In fact, she has not returned home alone but has her baby Molls with her too. In truth, Molls is actually a dog, but to my daughter she is her baby and can do no wrong. I really do totally understand this. As irritating as it may be for me to admit, it is probably my fault she is like this. As her mother and role model she has seen me humanise pets since the day she was born. She was younger sister to “Fizzy cat” until the age of around 3, when Fizzy then magically became her baby brother, until we lost him at the grand old age of 18. We grieved together inconsolably for weeks, turning to months. The fact we lost him over 12 years ago has not stopped tears of loss appearing whenever I come across a photo or a memory comes to mind. Cruel bitter sweet memories, initial happy recollection followed swiftly with the pain of loss. Everything good has its counterpart.
So, back to Molls; irritation, but really not the dog’s fault. Katie has a heart of gold. Molls became her rescue when she learnt that having travelled half way round the world to be with her adoptees, they had at the last minute looked at a photo and declared she was not the dog they met on the beach and didn’t want her. Molls arrived in Charles de Gaulle airport, Paris, having come all the way from Mauritius. So how did Katie happen to even meet Molls? Totally, annoyingly, my fault!
I had been on holiday to Mauritius in the summer and fell in love with a beautiful, mistreated, young, stray beach dog. We fed and gave her affection daily and then felt a huge sense of guilt at leaving her to fend for herself again when we left. I cried about leaving her there to an unknown future. Once home I researched about the abuse and cruelty prevalent on the island and berated myself at leaving her there to this fate. I found a rescue that worked to bring the dogs to the UK for rehoming. I had been on a mission to raise funds and get the beautiful stray bought back to the UK and give her the best life ever. I totally acknowledge now that I was not acting realistically, all I wanted was to save her. My husband told me again and again that it was sad over there but we had two dogs here, what if they didn’t get on, what if it didn’t work out? But I was determined that it would work, I was living an idealistic dream. And so, after a roller coaster chain of events I was told she was booked on a flight to Paris. I called on my daughter to help me with the journey and, the gem that she is, she takes a day’s holiday from work and off we go on the drive to Paris.
It was actually such a feel good drive. I was excited and feeling high on the prospect of being a saviour and my stray to totally love being rescued. Katie was very dubious and cynical. Knowing me and my health issues, from the start of my mission, she had said, “Mum, your own two can be too much for you at times, you won’t cope”, but I wouldn’t be told, no, I just wanted to be understood in my need to save this poor creature. I see now that I was understood, but concern for me was higher on the agenda of those who loved me than for the dog I wanted to save. My stubborn determination won.
We did have a laugh though. It wasn’t an easy journey as we experienced high winds and rain, but we laughed through most of it. We drove, talked, laughed and didn’t have many niggles. I felt Katie being very patient and supportive with me. The drive was long and tiring. I don’t choose to do long drives with my health, but I was buzzing and so proud of myself for this achievement – I actually amazed myself, and Katie. We had a lovely evening meal and saw the sites of Paris via Uber. Then I had a very poor night’s sleep, belatedly tormented with anxieties about what I had got myself into.
Early the next morning was the scariest drive I have ever driven; dark, pouring with rain, on the wrong side of the road (for us), sat-nav not receiving signal, misguiding road signs and so much traffic. Katie was amazing and managed to calm a very stressed driver. When we managed to park in exactly the right bay of the right car park, we just looked at each other and laughed, nearly hysterical from a combination of fear and excitement induced adrenaline. Amazed we had done it.
We waited in arrivals for ages. The plane had landed but no dogs were coming through and we worried something had happened. The rescue try to save as many dogs on one flight as they can and I had agreed to drive another dog back for her adoptive parents. The other two were being collected by another lady who we had been talking to whilst waiting. There was a palpable air of nervous energy. Finally, out they came, four dogs in total with flight companions, Katie and I looked at each other, smiling, Katie had tears in her eyes, she felt it too. I went straight to my stray’s crate and she instantly calmed, I felt she remembered me, she was safe. Katie was with Molls, our other 4 legged passenger, and was calming her. Within half hour we had two dogs in their crates in the back of the car, and off we head back to Calais to get our train back to the UK.
Once we had navigated the roads out of the airport, we recognised the easy straight route and relaxed, we laughed, we felt exhilarated. A moment I will never forget, Katie looked at me smiling but serious and said what a wonderful thing I had done, and she understood now, and knew I had to do this even if it didn’t work out. My beach stray would be safe now whatever happened. I didn’t know then what that would be. We shared emotion and experience that would never be repeated but always remembered, she said, “I am so proud of us mum”. Yeah, me too.
It was during that emotional, euphoric journey we heard from the rescue that Molls, no longer had a home to go to so could we detour at Folkestone and take her to the kennels they used before continuing on our way. Well by the time we got to the train at Calais we had been with these dogs for approx. 6 hours, had several “comfort” stops and humanised them as we saw their joy in being given food ,water, freedom (albeit walks on leads), love, kindness and the warmth of the car and clean blankets. We tried to make the rest of their journey as pleasant as possible after the trauma of an 11 hour flight in a freezing cold hold of the plane, trapped in a cage hardly big enough to stretch in.
This was when Katie was by now nearly in tears at the ordeal Molls had gone through to now be put in kennels and not have a loving forever home to make it all worthwhile. So because of the empathy and care she feels, she asked the rescue group if she could keep her. On a foster basis at first so that if it didn’t work out they would agree to look for a home for her as they would have to do now anyway. For now she would have love and patience, a life worth living. That is how we now come to have Molls living with us, as my daughter is so much like me she wanted to rescue and give this poor dog a home – yes, all my fault, I have raised a caring, rose tinted glasses wearing daughter!
So, back to my aggravation this morning, that was the fact that Katie had not cleaned Molls’ food bowl from last night, the very something I have asked her about since she moved back in months ago. The dried food on the edges requires me to soak and clean it off before I can give Molls her breakfast. Why? Because Katie doesn’t really have the time or thought for this? Maybe she just knows and trusts me so it really doesn’t cross her mind, but she will need to when she moves out again into her own place. It irritates me because I really don’t want to be having to do this, to have extra work, even if it does only take a minute or two. Then Molls shakes and I see her hair “fall out”, well that’s how it feels to me while I am hyper sensitive and I scowl at the hoover as it gets plugged in yet again.
It’s not just my irritability that makes me say this, but the concern and desire I have that my daughter makes the most of her life and every opportunity in it. I cannot but feel that keeping Molls is not the right scenario for Katie right now, in the same way she could predict “pre-Paris” that another dog in our home wasn’t going to be easy or good for me. She could see clearly it wouldn’t work even though she admired the virtue of my intent, I wouldn’t hear it, and it didn’t work. I can feel good again about my stray as she is now living in her perfect forever home, in retrospect, far more suitable than the life I would’ve given her. She was only with us a month, but every day got harder and harder on me until I sobbed my way to the kennels where, broken hearted and disillusioned, I had to leave her. One of those bitter sweet memories as her photos still make me happy then sad.
I understand Katie and know she loves Molls. To give her up will be heart-breaking and is unbearable and unthinkable for Katie right now. But, if the time comes, just as everyone else could see with me, Katie may need to make the hardest decision for the sake of Molls and herself. Katie has done an amazing job with Molls, she is now house trained and responsive and would be snapped up as an easily rehomeable dog. She may need to be with a family who are home for her, and maybe Katie needs to have more free time. But she won’t see this at the moment, of course not, not now, she is too much like me. She will have to make her own decisions in life. She will have to decide when she moves out if it is too difficult or if it is too difficult for Molls to cope with. Maybe she will need to love the dog more to let her go and give her what she needs if necessary. At least now Molls knows that humans can love her. Who knows, but I have to trust she will make the right choice for them both and the right choice is never a failure.
Katie didn’t say on that memorable return journey that I shouldn’t have saved my stray. Having met the dogs and other people involved in the rescue, along with living the emotion of the experience, she felt it was totally right what I had done, she was so proud of US. And I am so proud of you my daughter, so much like me!
So how do we get things back to a happy balance? Remember the good, and is the irritation worth the energy in the scheme of things? Remember the love and what’s important. Maybe I am not right all the time! OK, so maybe I have unwound, just a little, until the next incident!