Midnight Musings

Despite it being the season to be jolly, I’ve been feeling pretty serious of late. As world events continue to astound and upset, I find myself constantly calling into question where we as a species will end up. I fear I already know the answer. It is incredible to think we have so much knowledge and power at our disposal, and yet we are on a crash course to destroy ourselves. We have not learned from past mistakes, and we are rapidly destroying and outgrowing the planet we call home. Even if we do manage to colonise another planet, how will any but the richest survive? And what will we be? Destined to live forever more as the Universe’s parasites? We have evolved so much and yet we cannot free ourselves from corruption and greed. These two things are threatening our existence, yet most of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand rather than acknowledge what’s happening and fight for change.

What is our purpose, here, on this planet? Were we really created by chance? I know the evidence seems stacked against there being a ‘God’, in whatever guise He/She may take, and yet I find myself questioning if it might just be conceivable that we aren’t alone in all of this; that something is watching us, guiding us, pulling our strings. Maybe ‘God’, maybe a superior species. For all we know we could be some alien experiment; a whole world in a snow globe on an alien life form’s office desk. I kind of like that idea.

If there is a God, it’s hard to understand how such terrible things can happen without some sort of intervention. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it was never God’s role to save us from ourselves. Only we can do that. But will we? As things currently stand I’m just not sure.

6362e5f11d68bc0bab74854b69b2091a

Advertisements

New Endings

Today I am tired: dog-tired. Lately I’ve been burning the candle at both ends and the outcome is not pretty – bad skin, concentration span of a gnat (not intimately knowing their cognitive capabilities, I acknowledge this may be unfair to gnats) and the general feeling that I am clinging to my raft on the fast-flowing river of life by the tips of my fingers, with only moments to spare before I fall off and am pulled beneath the murky depths (that last bit was the hungover melodrama speaking, best to ignore it).

But today four things happened that snapped me out of the downward-spiralling torrrent of my own selfish emotions:

  1. I read the news from Calais, where fire is ravaging through the Jungle camp as I type this, and, at the very same time, unaccompanied minors are being sent back there to wait until they can be processed.
  2. I heard a piece of  news from England, which nearly made my heart burst with happiness and joy.
  3. I received my fourth book through the Facebook book exchange I signed up to a couple of weeks ago, which has gone some way towards restoring my faith in humanity.
  4. I watched this video by Prince Ea, which made me realise that those of us who are lucky enough to live in relative freedom are the masters of our own destiny. We can make as many excuses as we like for why we don’t put ourselves out there, but in the end all that will come of our procrastination is regret.

Too often we let our minds wander, thinking of all the paths we could go down but failing to take even the first step along one of them. Fear is a paralysing force, and a toxic one. So many of us stay in the trap our fearful minds have set for us, instead of facing our fear head on and saying, you know what? I’m not falling for this. Not again.

Collectively, as Sapiens (I urge you to read that, by the way, it will change your perspective on everything), we’re not doing that great a job of things: segregating ourselves by our countries of origin and religious beliefs, killing our planet, killing one another. But individually we can still make a difference. For all our faults, we humans have such capacity for kindness, for love, for hope. Even in the Jungle, where those awful fires are burning and people’s future is so uncertain, people are dancing. I’m sure those very people could teach the rest of us a lot about what it means to be happy, and how little we really need to find happiness, and peace in our hearts.

As Prince Ea says in his video, you cannot go back and make a new beginning. But you can start now, and make a brand new ending. It’s not too late to change ourselves, or to change the world. All it takes is courage: to feel our fear and do it anyway. I don’t know about you, but I plan to do exactly that.

feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyway-quote-1

Woe is Me / Fat Arses and Cake

I’ll admit it: I’m fed up. It’s been three weeks exactly since my last run – you know, the one that put me firmly out of action for the Rome Marathon 12 days later, and also catalysed the depressing spiral of back-related issues which, over the course of the past 21 days, have included – but not been limited to – the following: General/dull lower back pain/stiffness; acute lower back pain; acute pain in right buttock (particularly uncomfortable when sitting down); shooting pain in right shin (particularly uncomfortable when walking); numbness in lower right leg (problematic when attempting to walk due to tripping over of self); tingling in toes of right foot, inability to walk without being in excruciating pain (especially when involving stairs).

For the past five months I’ve been an exercising powerhouse. Now, all of a sudden, it’s a struggle just to walk around the block (and when I say walk I mean hobble at a woeful pace – put it this way, in a sports day full of geriatrics right now I’m pretty sure I’d come last). The worst thing is not knowing what the problem is – well, I have a fairly good idea it’s something disc-related, but have to wait another fortnight for an NHS physio appointment to establish the root cause of the injury, and thus begin the arduous process of trying to fix it. In the meantime I’m floating on a sea of unease, unsure whether to rest, to exercise, to use heat, to use ice, to take this painkiller or that one – or just to drink copious amounts of wine (always the preferable option). And, as is always the case in these situations, everyone’s an expert, so I’ve been inundated with (mostly very helpful) suggestions about what I should and shouldn’t be doing – my concern being that surely every back injury is different, to some extent, so what works for one person might not work for another (in trying someone’s suggested exercises, therefore, might I not be doing myself more harm than good?).

Since my lowest ebb last Friday I have at least managed to keep away from the Tramadol – a last resort in pain relief (though really floaty light) – although the diazepam’s been making reappearances from time to time when the pain wakes me in the night (as it did last night). In my more positive moments I think it’s getting better and chide myself for being a big baby, but in the lower ones when I’m writhing on the floor with pain or unable to climb the stairs without feeling I might pass out I just want to give in and cry. I’ve been signed off work but my conscience won’t allow me not to work from home, so to add to the frustration there have been repeated attempts to access emails remotely and locate files from the server that I’m sure I’ve sent myself in the event of this eventuality but which seem to have deleted themselves spontaneously upon sending.

Put simply, having a bad back sucks. This experience has been exhausting and depressing in the extreme, and has made me feel enormously sympathetic towards all who suffer chronic back pain every day of their lives. I can at least be fairly confident that with time and patience (the latter sadly not being one of my strong points) I will heal, and that one day (soon? Please God, let it be soon) I’ll be back in the gym and training for my next big challenge, whatever that may be – but not everyone has that luxury. So I will close on a positive note: Normal service will resume shortly. In the meantime I’ll be sitting on my increasingly fat arse eating cake.

Image

What I may look like soon if I can’t start exercising…

Hong Kong: Day One

After an eleven hour flight, only three of which we actually managed to sleep (and even then only fitfully), we touched down in Hong Kong at 2pm this afternoon. One train and an expertly blagged free bus later we were standing outside our guest house on the 13th floor of the infamous Chung King Mansions hammering on the door and staring forlornly through it at the empty reception desk. Fortunately it was only a few minutes (and a passing cockroach) later that someone appeared to let us in. Somewhat less fortunately we were then asked to pay the  balance in full for our two night stay (£100), despite me having thought I’d done this months ago through the booking website. Unable to get online to verify this (great idea Tesco banking for refusing to let customers log on from abroad unless they confirm a text message you’ve sent them – however Three, as I’ve discovered today to my chagrin, don’t automatically set new customers up with data roaming when abroad. How then, pray tell, am I meant to confirm a text and log on if I don’t have phone reception to receive it?) we reluctantly handed over the cash before being led to our cell-like “double” room.

The trauma of the room behind us we attempted to shake off our tiredness and go out-a plan made somewhat trickier by the horrendous backache that’s crept up on me over the past few days and is now not only fully fledged but also, it would seem, here to stay (bodes well for the days of trekking ahead…). It took all of my strength to get out of the guest house but happily once we were out things improved immeasurably.

We’ve spent this evening wandering around the night market, sampling lots of yummy street food and taking a promenade along (culminating in a night cap overlooking) Hong Kong’s stunning harbour. I’m still in pain with this stupid back ailment but we are at least firmly back on track with the holiday enjoyment, which is very much the most important thing. Next stop New Year’s Eve and I cannot wait!

image

Incapacitated

So, it turns out the satisfaction I felt after six hours spent cleaning out my bedroom on Saturday afternoon came at a price: Namely, acute back pain.

With hindsight lugging heavy bags of rubbish around with scant concern for my posture was foolish, but it’s too late to turn back the clock now. What started as a niggle is now a full blown injury (I won’t deny being a hypochondriac, but this time I’m not lying when I say I’m in agony) but with grit, determination and a LOT of painkillers I HAVE to get through it-because believe you me, there’s no way in God’s green earth I’ll be missing Glastonbury.

Once I’m at the festival I’m sure I’ll be fine-I can self-medicate with cider and sloe gin-it’s just the getting there that’s the problem. More specifically, it’s trekking across numerous fields carrying a rucksack bursting at the seams with mattresses, pumps, tents, tinned food and various other paraphernalia that’s the problem.

Still, I suppose as a seasoned festival-goer I should embrace the challenge, slap a heat patch on my back and give it my best shot-I may fall before I even reach the front gate, but at least I’ll fall knowing I tried, and with a can of gin and tonic in my hand…

 

 

Welcome to a runner’s worst nightmare…

When my alarm went off at 6am this morning I was unimpressed (to say the least), and wondered momentarily just how bad it would be if I didn’t turn up to the Wholefoods run I’d spent the last ten weeks training for. But I somehow managed to peel myself out of bed and get my stuff together in time for the 7am taxi pick up.

As we drove towards Kingston I was naively optimistic that the weather may not be as bad as predicted after all, but by the time we pulled up in the market square the snow was falling and it was nothing short of freezing. Clusters of runners stood in every doorway, huddled together for warmth and staring at one another forlornly whispering, ‘why are we doing this again?’

By the time the 16 mile race started I could no longer feel my fingers and was starting to doubt my ability to complete the race (never a good thing at the very beginning), but before I knew it the horn had sounded and we were off. Once my body temperature began to rise I settled into a comfortable stride for the first eight or nine miles, quite enjoying the scenic part of the route beside the river (less so the rather more grim road section).

By mile ten, however, I was struggling – badly. The cold had crept into my bones and my hip joints were so sore I felt like a 90 year old. I’ve never felt pain like that in my hips before (in all of my training runs they’ve never so much as ached – mind you, if it was ever below five degrees in my training runs I tended to exercise in the gym. Oops) and was unsure what to do, so I slowed down for a couple of miles to try and ease the pain. When I realised it wasn’t going anywhere I changed tack and opted to run as fast as I could manage until the finish line, figuring I could at least then stop and rest.

Fortunately the strategy paid off and through gritty determination, sheer bullishness and an inordinately large amount of sugar-based stimulants I made it across the finish line – in a respectable 2 hours and 31 minutes and 29 seconds. I had hoped for a sub 2:30 time, but given the horrendous conditions I’ll let myself off.

It’s a miracle I’ve managed to drag myself to the computer to type this given how much pain I’m now in – walking up the stairs feels like as big a challenge as climbing Mount Everest right now, but it was worth it (I think). If not for the glory of completing the race, then for the huge amounts of roast lamb and chocolate cake I was treated to by my parents afterwards 🙂

Important lesson for next time (yes, I’ve already signed up for another race – this time a half marathon, Run to the Beat, which is at least in September so can’t possibly be as cold as it was today. RIGHT?): Train outdoors even if it’s cold so the unpredictable English weather doesn’t screw you over totally on race day. At this rate I may be loaded onto the plane to New York in a wheelchair on Tuesday (note to Jen: I won’t!!)…

Image

On Loss

Today is the funeral of a girl I know who tragically passed away in a car accident three weeks ago. She was just 32. Although I haven’t seen her for several years, I remember her as being beautiful, funny, kind and talented – she was an actress and, I recently learned, an aspiring playwright. I can’t imagine the pain her husband of two years is going through as he struggles to come to terms with the bottomless chasm of his grief – they were together since before I knew them, so he must feel he’s lost a part of himself. I just hope that one day he (and her family and friends) will be able to look back at the many happy memories they shared with fondness rather than pain, though I imagine that will take a very long time.

Being slightly removed from the situation by virtue of the time that’s passed since I last saw them, it feels somehow self-indulgent for me to wallow in grief. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her since I found out. It just seems so unfair that someone with such a zest for life, who showed so much promise in her career and was such an incredibly lovely person, should be so cruelly snatched away and cut down in her prime. I know the same could be said about everyone who dies young, I suppose this is just the first time it’s been someone who I really knew, and it’s come as a terrible shock because this is normally the sort of thing that happens to other people.

When I first found out I wrote a post about trying to take what little positives there are from such a tragedy, so I’m reminding myself now to make every day count, to tell everyone how much I love them and to be the best person I can be. But somehow all those promises feel like little more than hollow reassurances today, as I think about the fact a bright star isn’t with us anymore, and the sky will be a darker place without her in it.

I’m going to close with the poem I read at my grandma’s funeral years ago, by Mary Elizabeth Frye. It makes me cry every time but I think it’s beautiful:

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep,
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain
I am the gentle Autumn rain

When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quite birds in circled flight
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die

Rest in peace, Katy. You may be gone, but you will never be forgotten x

I chose this picture for today because it was taken in one of the most peaceful places I’ve been, Taliwas in Borneo.