Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Road goes ever on and on...

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.”

JRR Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

On approaching the topic of looking forwards and not back, it appears my brain is far too mired in all things Middle Earth to not go straight to the above. What the heck, it's a nice song.

What I get from this verse – and notice I didn’t say “what the author meant”, because there’s nothing irritates me more than assumed knowledge of literary intent – is the importance of looking and moving forwards. I figured that makes a reasonable post for the beginning of the new year.

It’s not an unreasonable philosophy for life in general but I think it’s even more important in the context of long term ill health. There’s always a temptation to study the past and attempt to figure out where health took a turn for the worse and why the immune system was led astray (the fickle swine).

The problem is that looking backward is the bane of acceptance. Having one eye over your shoulder will not make you well, will not provide the answers you wish for and will not bring any sort of peace.

One of the questions in Invisible Illness Awareness Week’s 30 day challenge was why you think you have your illness/es. Personally I gave up searching for whys and wherefores a long time ago, as it’s pretty counter-productive and leads nowhere. Things happen if and when it is time for them to happen, and I don’t put any further thought into it.

Something threaded throughout this blog over the last ten months (I can’t believe it’s nearly a year old!) is my belief that only in acceptance can there be any sort of recovery, even a recovery marred by lack of a known cure. I’ve just realised that’s an inadvertent Albus Dumbledore quote, but who am I to fly in the face of a good piece of advice however I come upon it?

(I never said he got it right all the time... image from reddit.com)

Part of this process for me was understanding as much as I could about the conditions I was diagnosed with. The community of Chronic Illness Cat which I help to admin has been invaluable in this regard, as it’s often difficult to know what to file under the already diagnosed headings as opposed to anything new. More than all that it can be a tremendous comfort just to hear somebody else with the same condition go “Yep, me too. Rubbish isn’t it?”

I still have some things which I think are separate, but until they either settle into a pattern or occur more frequently I’ve accepted I’m just going to have to leave well alone, because the only option is another painful round in the ring with Gastroenterology. I will go down that road again only if I feel there is no other choice.

The attitude of looking forwards helps in another way also. Retracing steps usually only serves as a reminder of all the things you have given up or had to miss out on, sacrificed upon the altar of your damned unpredictable illness. I’m not saying this is an entirely pointless exercise, as it can always add another flavour to your appreciation of the here and now and for the things you have held on to and that’s nothing to be sneezed at.

However it’s so much more productive to appreciate what’s coming up ahead, both what you know of and what remains to be discovered. Alongside the things outside of your capacity to achieve, there is so much potential for what you can. You don’t have to move mountains or make paradigm-shifting discoveries. You don’t even have to do anything that anyone beside you will appreciate. Striving to delight only an audience of one can be a most rewarding experience.

In writing this I obviously had a think through what is coming up for me in 2014, and there’s plenty to smile about. The night before I turn a quarter of a century old I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream in seeing the beautiful Lipizzaner horses and tremendous riders of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna perform, and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say I will be watching from the front row. The fact it’s in my hometown makes it just that little bit more special. 

(Image from talktomeaboutaustria.com)

In my continuing refusal to give up on music, I’ll be seeing Trans Siberian Orchestra again. The first time was for my twenty first birthday and it was the first time they’d been to the UK so I am very excited to repeat the experience. A little bird tells me my favourite band will be back on our shores so myself and the partner in crime will be off to find them, and I’m also heading to see The Lion King stage musical for the second time (I couldn’t resist!)

As a result of the discoveries and successes documented in With Strength I Burn, I’ll also be returning to Catton Hall to see my Bloodstock family again. 

More generally though, I’ll have lived in York for a year in February and it’s been wonderful, and returning to full time work has been more successful than I expected. It’s still exhausting and my sickness record will never be perfect, but all in all it’s going well. Now I’ve got this exercise routine sorted I’m looking forward to what next summer will bring. I never expect miracles in the winter but there are certainly some improvements despite the cold, so I’m looking forward to the place I’ll hopefully be in once it warms up.

I've posted on here before about the new-found necessity of a car which I hadn't anticipated before spending my first winter in York. Well, in the New Year it will be time for me to say goodbye to KvltKa and let her go to the great garage in the sky. For all her foibles and problems she's been a good car in many ways. I do get oddly attached to my car for reasons as yet unknown to me, but even so we've reached the point of no return in which the cost of keeping her roadworthy just doesn't stack up as a good investment any more. At the end of this week I'll be greeting her replacement, an alpine blue Hyundai i10 which we've already nicknamed the Tardis for the colour and the deceptive chasms of space inside for what is still a small hatchback. My initial test drive was full of the hilarity of kangaroo petrol and nearly sending myself and the salesman through the windscreen with over-enthusiastic braking, so I can't wait to get driving properly.

Something that has been in the back of my head for some time is the idea of taking on a walking challenge in aid of a Fibromyalgia charity, probably FMA UK. I'm limited as to what build up I can do in the colder months because, stubborn creature though I am, it would be unwise to push my limits in the winter when it won't really contribute and is more likely to cause injury, flares or both. 

However, Alex and I have spoken about starting slowly once the temperature starts to warm up. I won't be doing the challenge in 2014, and it may not even be in 2015 but it feels good to have a vague start date in my head for when to begin the gradual process of working up to it. Having accepted that the more famous Yorkshire Three Peaks walk is going to be beyond the limits of both my health and my fear of heights, the particular one I have my eye on is the White Peak Walk - twenty six miles through my old haunt of the Peak District.

Am I mad? Probably, but it's always been my belief that those who can, should. I'm not entirely sure yet whether I'm in that category but I'm prepared to give it a damned good try to find that out. There are plenty of people with such severe cases of Fibromyalgia that they are completely bed ridden, registered disabled or at least unable to leave their house. I feel I should try to put my relative good fortune to some sort of productive use.

(The view from Monsal Head in the White Peak - with views like this, can you blame me for my choice?
Image from dphotohrapher.co.uk)

In February The Retired Bridgeburner will be a year old. I’ve enjoyed writing but more importantly I’ve enjoyed interacting with all the amazing people who’ve been kind enough to read in the first place and then foolish enough to stick around. Thank you all, and I look forward to continuing our conversation.

So to round up on the theme of looking forward and appreciating what you have and what is yet to come, I’ll quote a different musical.

Enjoy your new year, stay safe, save spoons and dance like it’s the last night of the world.

Happy new year everyone!

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