Everybody wants to be inspired. It’s what Social media is perfect for. This morning, when I woke up, the first thing I saw was a video about an 80 year old Chinese guy who’s making a name for himself as a catwalk model. The Tweet’s no longer available, I assume because the company hijacking the inspirational message didn’t own the copyright. If that’s not a metaphor for life right now, I don’t know what is.
People call me inspiring, but the truth is that I’m just being selfish. This is me, doing the stuff I’ve always wanted to do but previously wasn’t possible. It is, like it or not, putting myself first: health (both mental and physical) needed to be addressed before I got too set in my ways and age made progress at the rate I wanted impossible. From the outside, stories sometimes appear lit differently than is true viewed from within. Society dictates that when we are presented with a question, there is often only one answer. That’s science’s fault, to a point: when empirical evidence exists to explain just about everything, trying to pretend its magic or just luck doesn’t really work as a reason. That’s why (despite on certain days it appearing otherwise) this is no longer the Dark Ages.
Except, in the last decade, Science itself is facing up to the reality that what has remained as ‘the truth’ for centuries is now being challenged by our own ability to combine technology and reasoning. Some very well-cherished standards from greats like Einstein are coming close to being reassessed, and once you start poking the established world… well, that’s how wars start. Don’t forget that science (atomic theory) became a weapon that kickstarted a period of societal uncertainty that lasted for decades. Challenging existence itself is a big deal. You could argue that pretty much every religion on the planet did just that too at inception… but I’m getting away from the point I want to make. Me, over here, being selfish is as much a seismic alteration in my own mind as any change to gravitational theory. No, I won’t be remembered for centuries to come, but the decisions I make now could assist the next generation of my family to do just that.
This morning, I found myself wondering why so many carry an unswaying belief there’s just one ‘answer’ that works for them.
This all started as I poured pomegranate into my porridge, which has been my way of stoking up on a reliable sugar fix for a day without it. Then I began to think about dieting: so many people offered me alternatives when I began this journey: some worked, but at least one may well have contributed to the failure of my gallbladder. Some swear by Weight Watchers, others need supplements coming out of their ears… the approaches to getting thinner are almost as varied as the people who try and sell them as the ‘answer.’ Except, in the end, that magic formula can’t be written on a blackboard. It becomes totally unique to you. Mine involves only the minimum of sugar and carbs, daily exercise and an inordinate amount of stretching. Oddly, the stretching has become almost as important as the exercise, as this is where I think about what is happening to me.
The exercise bit is great fun and very enlightening when I have my trainer to help. However, when I’m alone it is hard and I want to stop. My balloon is burst by the realisation that if you want ANYTHING that’s both sustainable and fulfilling, it has to take time. Instant results grant no satisfaction, which I’d argue is true with absolutely everything. Some days you wish it would all just happen, but when that is the case the consequences are normally too terrible to speak of. Once you grasp the inevitability of fighting chaos, then you need distraction. I distract myself all the time when I’m working out, and pretend its not happening. That helps time pass faster. It is why they put TV’s into running machines. Once you’re able to grasp that you’re using a machine not to pretend its a sofa? Then you make progress.
A lot of people have come together to help me produce my redemptive path. When people ask for advice, therefore, I always feel like a fraud. I cannot give you the answers. People make millions from self-help tours, inspirational speaking and book/DVDs on how to get fit, be happier, live longer and they’re all selling their own story. Just because it worked for them does not mean it will work for you, yet for years I bought into this belief that somehow, someone could magically make me what I am now. The only person capable of doing that? Me. Take away your magic crystals and downward dogs and seated rows, none of it actually matters one iota unless I DECIDE SHIT IS GOING TO CHANGE. That has been a fundamental shift for me, too. I wasn’t ready for it in my youth, certainly not prepared after the birth of two kids. Only now am I properly receptive, and that’s the key.
If you don’t feel you need to change, how will it ever happen?
The other key here is fear. Knowing members of your family have passed in their 50’s is a great motivator. Understanding that hormonal changes can potentially produce brittle bones and impede physical exertion… that asthma could cripple progress in the winter months… all of these eat at a rational mind that says you’ll live longer if you just do nothing. Except, I won’t live a satisfying life. My depression will consume everything and… no, not going there any more. I refuse to allow other people to dictate my life. I can manage asthma with exercise, can hold back the effects of ageing with it too. I am a time traveller: I have the body of a 38 year old woman and am almost 51. The mental benefits of long term exposure to endorphins is enough to convince I’m not stopping now. This, quite frankly, is the best my life has ever been.
I am not your salvation, I do not have all the answers. Nobody does, except you. That’s why, when you are diagnosed with a mental illness, it is only one part of an extremely complex puzzle. Knowing what you are is, of course important, but no two people suffer depression in the same way. You can bond with a fellow sufferer over the means by which your condition overlaps, but pretending there is one answer for everybody is dangerous. Some will be totally receptive to your thoughts, some perhaps too much as to be swayed and influenced and that’s why I always get a bit nervous about pretending I am something I am not. The Universe will offer solutions to your problem, science can rationalise a lot of them to 1’s and 0’s but only you truly hold the answers. It is up to you to listen to your own voice, to accept your identity (faults and all) and set your own journey to redemption. This is why the real heroes in this world never need to tell others what to do.
They understand that the only real truth is that which you discover for yourself.