Tuesday, 13 January 2015

"Don't read this or you'll go blind"

(For any Erikson fans who haven't tried these yet, I recommend you do. They're hilarious.)
The title above is the “warning to lifestyle fascists everywhere” which opens Steven Erikson ‘s novella The Healthy Dead, one of the Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. So, if you don’t like what you’re about to read and this results in loss of vision (whether temporary or permanent), I accept no responsibility whatsoever. I told you not to read it.
The Healthy Dead parodies modern society’s obsession with health and fitness and “what is good for you” with gleeful aplomb, hence I’m echoing the warning to start this post. There’s a reason for this.
I’m sick of being bombarded by what is (in someone else’s approximation) “good for me”. Aren’t you?
This week is my first week back at work post-surgery, and I’m virtually singing from the treetops in rapture. The novelty of being at home recovering had more than worn off.
Anyway, I set myself up for something of a fall in picking up the magazine left on the seat next to me on the train home one evening. I think it was Glamour, but in all honesty I can’t remember. You may not believe me, but faced with a choice between the denizens of the 17:52 to York or burying your head in any reading material to hand so they don’t talk to you, you’d read Glamour too.
One thing that should probably always be borne in mind with magazines like this is that whatever you’re doing is not enough. However fit you are, there’s always an extra spinning class you could take (I still don’t know what spinning is), and however happy you are there’s always another yoga session to be completed. I think I mentioned buying a yoga DVD some time ago. It’s still at the bottom of one of the moving boxes, probably breeding weird yoga-doing dust bunnies by now. In short, you should always bear in mind that YOU ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
So, don’t read those sorts of things and that solves the problem. Right? Right...?
Sadly not, because in my experience you never have to go far to find someone who has taken this ideal to heart and now thinks it’s their life’s mission to fix everyone else. By fix, I mean make sure they do things their way. Deviation is not tolerated and individual thought is most certainly not required.
On a basic level, we all know eating well and exercising are good things. I’m not here to argue with that. However, I am endlessly irritated by the idea that only one person’s preferred form of exercise is valid, or that their lifestyle is eminently superior. I can’t quite decide whether I think these one-size-fits-all people are just excessively narrow-minded or in actual fact not that bright – because you don’t have to apply many brain cells at all to realise the idea is utterly ludicrous.
For a personal example, the next person who comments to me about my lifestyle in relation to chronic illness is going to regret it instantaneously. Hell hath no fury like a small lady whose had enough of your nonsense.
If I want your opinion, I will ask for it. Otherwise, the likelihood is you don’t know nearly enough to make what you’re about to say remotely informed. So here’s a refreshing new idea for you: just shut up.
I know what my body can cope with given that it has Petunia in tow, and I also know that it can cope with far more now, three years on, than it could when I was diagnosed. I’m probably as fit as I’ve ever been right now – despite the fact I’m not exercising every day or attending a gym.

(Yes, but I've developed an unreasonable dislike for turning right, so sod you.)
“Never get anywhere with that attitude”, will I? Just watch me.
Something that commenters of this ilk seem to wilfully forget is that Fibromyalgia (or indeed any chronic illness) is not a bad habit. It’s not a singular health-impacting issue like for example drinking too much or not eating enough. It’s an illness, and it’s here to stay. Therefore, I can’t stop drinking, eat more, start running or take up any other one-step solutions and expect the problem to be solved.
You know, I might even brand that on to the next offending individual’s forehead. This is going to require a very small typeface indeed.  
Since I started with the fitness point, I may as well tell you what I get up to on this front. I do Pilates several times a week (I’ve a couple of DVD routines memorised now, which is nice), and I do basic things like squats and sit-ups just about every day. I’m planning to try a jive class and return to horse riding as mentioned previously. I also really need to crack the dancersize DVDs out again, but since we moved to the Upside Down house it’s a case of needing to rearrange the furniture each time I want to do so and that makes me lazy.
There, I said it, the diabolical L word. I’m inside right now but I can’t see any fire raining down. Lightning has yet to strike the building in response to my presumption, and the lynch mob have yet to appear to confirm what a terrible person I am.
If being lazy is indeed such a terrible thing, then after my three and a bit weeks of recovery from my operation I have definitely become firmly entrenched in the ranks of the hopeless. I did very little, mostly because I had a sewn-up hole in my head which protested if I did anything more. Joffrey was horrible, but the surgical site that was Not-Joffrey-Anymore certainly made up for it in being grumpy about any sort of activity at all. However, I also did very little because I could.
For a short time, it was glorious. I soon grew bored of it, but that short period of total “laziness” (otherwise called relaxation and recovery in this case) was very good for me. I wasn’t doing any of the usual things that were “good for me” (including eating properly, but neither would you if you could feel the stitches pull with every bite) but, oddly, it didn’t kill me. Rumours of my resulting demise have been greatly exaggerated.
I appreciate it’s the time of year when the lifestyle change idea is firmly set at fever pitch, but what you really should be thinking about is what *you* want to change for *you*. One size does not, despite rumours to the contrary, fit all. If you want to get fit, find an exercise you enjoy which suits you, no matter anybody else’s sneering or know-better attitude. You won’t continue with something unless you enjoy it, so that should be your foremost criteria of selection.
If you want to make changes to your lifestyle, be guided by what makes you feel good. If it isn’t yoga, for instance, then I promise you that’s absolutely fine. I realise I keep bashing yoga, but while I’m certainly not against retrieving my DVD from the mutant dust bunnies and giving it a try at some point, it’s probably the “fix-it” suggestion I grow most weary of hearing. 
In short, in fitness as with all things in life, do what suits you and makes you happy. Sod everyone else.
If the lifestyle fascists don’t like it, stick copies of The Healthy Dead everywhere in eye line. As Mr Erikson was good enough to warn them, they might indeed go blind.  

Settling down with more Tales of Bauchelain and Korbal Broach, and wishing you all many spoons xxx

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