Level-Up: Part 47
I tend to know what I’m going to write about here before I get to Sunday. Every week has a theme or an event where I’ve learnt something, good or bad, and presents itself as the obvious topic of this post. This morning I didn’t really know what I was going to say about this week. I spent most of what was a very long shower running through the days and some of the previous weeks’ activities. This past month or so has been quite the ride, hasn’t it? A couple of trips to the city centre by myself, returning to the spot where I first became ill alone for the first time, using the local train on my own on those same occasions, ending counselling on a high, going on my first cinema visit in a couple of years and not ending up on the floor and, of course, last week’s mainline train journey to Bristol where I tested how my vestibular system might react to high speeds, travelling backwards and underwater tunnels. It was tiring just typing that, let alone recalling all the strength it took to not only get through them, but also to find the energy to enjoy them. And that’s just a list of the positives! The negatives are equally exhausting.
I don’t have a triumphant story to share this week, I’m afraid. I don’t have a sad story either, it’s just been a quiet, head down, working, trying to sleep kind of week. I know people love those tales where I’ve overcome some element of my illness that holds me back. I do too. They’re as pleasing to share as they are for others to read. Your airpunches are definitely felt from here. But some weeks are less eventful and I don’t want to manufacture things so that I have a glorious victory to share. The quiet weeks don’t just happen that way, I have to make a conscious effort to allow for rest time so that I don’t burn out. I don’t always relish the prospect of having to stop to catch my breath, but I’m learning. And in all honesty, I’m a lover of comfort anyway: soft new pyjamas, comfy beds with lots of pillows, oversized mugs of tea, delicious comfort food, expensive candles, a stack of shiny magazines, good books, my XBox controller, my iPad and Netflix. Bliss.
In reliving this past month though, I’ve thought about how much I’ve had to push myself beyond my comfort zone and sometimes put myself in awkward, uncomfortable situations in the name of getting something good out of it. I thought about how many times I’d faced the bad stuff: I can’t do this. This is going to stretch me to my limits. I’m too tired to walk these last few streets. People will laugh at me if I’m too poorly to stay. Will I let everyone down if I don’t make it through this? Will I be letting myself down? What if it all goes wrong? As the garbled quote that often pops up on Instagram says, ah but what if it all goes right?
None of the more positive things I’ve done over the past few weeks, or the past four and a half years really, have happened by chance. Maybe some of them have been a nice bit of serendipity, but in general they happened because I saw all the pitfalls and felt terrified but I did them anyway because I knew there had to be something good on the other side. I know most of us tend to switch off when we read stuff like this. If I’m not in the mood I’ll keep scrolling past it or close the page too. But it’s becoming clearer to me through my recent experiences that the more you push through the bad stuff the quicker you get to the good bits. They’re there, but you have to go out and find them. I get it. Sometimes there just isn’t the will or the energy to push. I’ve had a thousand or more days like that and will no doubt have a million more. They’re not failure, even though they can feel they are sometimes. I’m certainly not painting myself as some kind of PMA junkie. I’m really not. I’m not special. I fail a lot and I beat myself up about it every time. But I’m finding out that if I jump off the edge of the cliff, sometimes there’s a softer landing than I was expecting.
The thought of taking a chance on something you’re not sure of can be petrifying and there’ve been plenty of times where I’ve fallen flat on my face. I make a massive, embarrassed fool of myself most days. And sometimes I literally fall on my face. Homer Simpson will forever be my spirit animal in every way.
But there are other moments where I’ve jumped off the cliff and there’s just happened to be a branch to hold on to where I’ve been strong enough to grip it for longer than I thought I could. There might be a ledge to stand on or a parachute you didn’t know you were wearing suddenly opens. Or you might find that your friends had spread out some crash mats so that it doesn’t hurt when you land.
Let’s be honest, life can be complete shit. It rewards the undeserving and holds good people down. But if you take a chance on getting something right, at least you’ve got a tiny shot at making it better. So, ask for that pay rise you’ve been mulling over that you know you deserve. Say ‘I love you’ even if you’re not sure it’ll be said back. Start that taboo debate you know people will disagree with but you really think needs an airing. Submit your work to that competition. Talk to the girl who smiles at you on the bus stop every day. Press the button on that overseas working visa application. Say yes when someone asks if you need help, even though it’s scary. Start the small business that keeps calling you. Accept the compliment when someone tells you that you’re gorgeous. Maybe they’re not trying to make you feel better. Maybe they just really really fancy you. Jump! It might go terribly wrong, but it might be amazing. By not doing it at all it’ll definitely be rubbish.
I’ll try to remind myself of all this the next time I’m questioning myself, letting my broken self-esteem beat me down or I’m absolutely convinced I can’t do something. Because in reality none of that bad stuff is ever more than a heartbeat away. I’ve already decided that you’ll all hate this post and I’ll look like an idiot. That’s probably true, but I’m hitting publish anyway.
Every Sunday I record my health achievements and discoveries for the week here. To find out why I decided to start doing this, you can read an explanation in the first post of the series here.