The universe it seems is not without a sense of irony...

No sooner had I put the finishing touches to the blog piece on "If you haven't got your Health..." than the universe decided to re-enforce the message through taking my health away from me.

It is true to say I have been blessed with good health with hardly any days off sick in my working life. That track record has not been compromised as I can still work, although now for the second time in 57 years I find myself amongst the unenviable group of back pain sufferers.

I don't know how it happened, possibly a slight twist of the back at the wrong time, and then a gradual increase in pain over the week as the 'Pinching of a nerve' played out across my lower back. Although easing a little now, the pain returns swiftly and uncompromisingly to remind me, I'm still here... if I do not proceed with the utmost of caution in these 'tender days' of recuperation.

I could have sided with the views of my 'late mother' who I can hear (and see) now saying, "I told you not to write that 'blog post' you were tempting fate for sure and now look what has happened."  A caring / loving viewpoint, but not too positive or encouraging as was often her style.  I had become a victim of my own earlier decision to write about the importance of health she would have knowingly surmised.

Reflection is an important part of my life

For my own part I like to reflect on things. I have been reflecting on things since I was 12 years old, although I didn't have a clue what I was up to back then [recent video with Otis Ogle on reflections here]. But for me reflecting provides the opportunity to re-look at something that has happened dispassionately. Devoid of emotion we can often see things way more clearly, as if it had happened to a good friend and we're now trying to help them see the positives in something that on the face of it was a bad outcome.

Of course the negative reflection could go something like this... just letting you know I've only created this as an example I don't spend any time looking at things negatively.

Right so there you are a fit guy, who exercises, eats good stuff, cook your own food, understand nutrition, don't do 'bad' things like 'smoke' or 'drink' excessively and then you crash and burn... so you might want to keep quiet for a while or otherwise "people" might mock you... Look at him, does all the right things and still ends up 'broken'. "I drink, eat, smoke and I'm fit as a fiddle" you might hear people saying, as you conjure up negative thoughts in our creative minds!  What is the point of doing all the hard 'Health & Wellness' work when you get sick anyway? Our internal voice, the ever 'helpful friend' might throw in for good measure! ...

Note on this : Negativity = zero growth, nor is there any new opportunity, just a negative view of the situation. I can of course continue bashing myself over the head to accept being 'the victim', not worthy of anything better... life just happens to me thinking!  But, as you might also see, I don't have any control over it, if I CHOOSE the negative approach... but fortunately this is not obligatory.

Some Positive outcomes from my (temporary) bad back

Before I get into this I want to restate my experience here is (hopefully) very temporary. Having gone through the very real issues with back pain, my heart goes out to those who are afflicted with this on a more permanent nature.  It affected so much of what I did or could do on a daily basis and although this blog is written in a lighthearted manner I have no intention of making light of what for many is a crushing ongoing situation.

Reflection 1 - I'm not invincible

As my father became more frail due to illness I watched as he went from being able to do anything, to not being able to lift a bag of compost from the boot (trunk) of the car.  I was grateful to be able to help of course but I pondered how that must feel, and that image (scene) has stuck with me till this day. To be so able that you could do anything you wanted just on a thought, to now being limited and curtailed as our bodies slowly deteriorate.

Reflection 2 - Our bodies are awe inspiring... 

This memory of my father was quickly re-assembled and presented to me as a reminder to give gratitude and daily thanks to my body. As I have investigated (like a seasoned detective) the various muscles, ligaments, nerves and bones in my lower back, pelvis and legs I was staggered and dumbfounded at the complexity and absolute awesomeness of the human body. I know, I know, of course I've studied biology, seen the discovery channel and documentaries... but actually living the pain, and understanding what actually goes on without a moments thought or conscious action to give us this mobility and flexibility (without pain) is awe inspiring  ... just walking down the street, painlessly, something we all just take for granted, WELL... from now on I won't be taking it for granted!!

Reflection 3 - Slow down

This reflection is coupled with treating our bodies kindly and with respect. These flesh and blood homes that have been lent to us to house our souls for our time here are ours to enjoy. Blessed with a wondrous set of senses from sight, which we use to see this beautiful world we live in, to touch that enables us to feel the presence of those we love... and then all those emotions we feel, love, sadness, humility, gratitude and loads more besides.

If we don't slow down though, we are in danger of missing the journey, the human experience, and everything that comes in that wonderful gift which has been bestowed upon us. It is an honour and a great privilege to have this opportunity to 'Be' here at this moment. Imagine being evaluated at the end of our life on how well we have utilised this gift we have been given... what would you say?

Reflection 4 - We need others and each other

When we are incapacitated as I have been, suddenly things that were easy become difficult, take much longer, or are impossible even. For some that can amount to 'calling in favours', for me, I am blessed with people around me who have been more than pleased to help out.

These things again can be things we just take for granted. Post a letter, get a few provisions (milk, tea, coffee)... jump in the car, driving, walking, even making a hot drink or a meal.

Retrospectively I have thought how fortunate I have been with those around me, but in truth we put in the work to build our connections and relationships. It's a worthwhile exercise to do, reflect on... who could I rely on, who would come to my aid if all the chips were down.

Over the past 30 years certainly people have become more independent, and we have let our connections and relationships slip. Perhaps in the challenging times we are in, we are going to need more community spirit, more 'coming together' again. This reflection has reconfirmed how important it is to understand however much we might think we are an autonomous independent person... we aren't. We are part of a whole one thing. We are totally interdependent, without other folk doing what they do, we are finished.

Reflection 5 - Learning to Receive

I find it very easy to give. I like giving to others, I like to feel I have made a positive contribution to other people's lives, but, on the other hand I find it very difficult to receive. There is no greater teacher than illness to force us to face the reality of 'receiving' from others.

In truth if we are passionate 'givers' and give relentlessly without opening ourselves up to receive we are highly likely to be unbalanced. Even the greatest of 'givers' must replenish the 'well' and receive...

Many hands came to support me during this period of incapacitation. Normally I would bat them away, "no thank you I am fine" ... but as a giver if people bat away my desire to help I would feel a bit miffed, as I offered my support... people genuinely feel good about helping others... and in this case the 'other' was me. A lesson learned (again) and once again humbling for me to realise I had slipped out of balance on this one.

Reflection 6 - Fragility of future dreams

When we are unceremoniously cut down in our tracks by an ailment it is a very sobering time. I like to travel and I have a place in Budapest. Apart from the issues with travelling under these bizarre times of Covid-19, travelling and visiting others is a big part of my life. Without your health then travelling becomes either impossible or definitely much more of a challenge.

Not only travel though. With a bad back I listed a series of things that I either couldn't do, or would be severely restricted. Sport (Table Tennis in my case), Walking, Cycling, Driving (painful, short distances ok), going to places to look around... so many other things too... carrying things, moving things about, cooking would be more difficult, I wouldn't be able to mooch about the town just looking around... Relationships, who wants to be with a wounded soldier (so many limitations on what you can do). Even bedtime activities might be severely curtailed... and what about family? Kids, or grand kids would be affected too.

The future looks very different without your health, a lot more grey and a lot less colour. When I looked at what would be absent from my future life if I didn't have my health it brought on a bit of a sweat to be honest.

Reflection 7 - Enjoy Now

Now, and the health we enjoy right this minute might be all we have left. It could all come crashing down tomorrow. One of the big lessons I have learnt during this period of incapacity is to enjoy each and every moment. None of us knows when this might be brought to an abrupt end, or be changed irrevocably for ever.

Learning to live in the moment means we experience all that we can at each moment in time. Not waiting for the future or reliving what has passed already, but what is happening now, the only time we have any control over anyway is now.

Now is such a rich sensory experience and yet we often glide through it not even noticing what is happening before us.

Conclusion and final words...

To be honest this has been a bit of a wake up call for me. For so long now I have just taken my body for granted. I've been blessed I know with a body that has served me so well, but now as I approach the culmination of another year I realise through this experience that I haven't respected my body enough... that will now change!

As my body slowly repairs itself, I now vow to pay way more attention to my physical body, increasing my awareness and being attentive to it's needs. I also vow to improve my body beyond its fitness levels before I was incapacitated... I watched my mother slowly deteriorate after each fall or complication... if we return to the same levels of fitness or even improve each time, that should delay our decline / demise.

Last point... we only notice our health when we lose it

As I continued to work on getting back to full fitness I actively walked about, stretching, and using the muscles to prevent tightness and assist the recovery process... I pondered how each step required conscious thought. Each step required me to consider the implications of taking that step. Would I stretch another muscle, pull a tendon, and cause pain in another part of the body.

Sub-consciously our body is responsible for translating an idea (movement) producing the right hormones, enzymes, and whatever else it needs to contract / expand the right muscles, ligaments, tendons to carry out our intention. It considers where we want to go... gets the balance in our body right, looks at everything we might bump into, any danger... you get my drift...

I took a couple of decisions into my conscious mind (as was needed) from the subconscious as I was injured. These were additional items about increased risk, likelihood for pain, and how much weight to put where... and yet after a few days I was exhausted. How absolutely amazing is our body that does all of what it does without us even noticing!!

Being injured has taught me what an incredibly awesome ship we are each piloting, and we walk around as if it is a beaten up old chopper bike (cycle from the old days 1970) from a bygone era.

Worse still we show such little respect for this amazing piece of kit. Apart from doing everything it does without us, on autopilot, it is also constantly trying to remove toxins and poisons we keep putting into it... not only are we are failing to respect our bodies, but, we also go out of our way to damage it too! ... thereby adding to its challenges.

Time to take Responsibility for our health!!


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