Evening clouds

Evening clouds
Sunshine and Clouds

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Running on, there's no excuse...

I need to start at a finish line, mid 1990s; not only is this line an end, it's also a place to begin again. To go back a long way to the first start, my last couple of years at primary school were under the same teacher; his approach to me was essentially psychologically abusive, particularly when it came to sports. My secondary school career was not blessed with imaginative approaches to activity, only team games and swimming lessons. Those experiences did not leave me with with a strong desire to pursue fitness. In the last year or so at school they got round to providing circuit training and I began to find pleasure in individual activity. Post school was less active and the onset of shift patterns once I was in nursing seemed a reasonable excuse not to take too much exercise; after all I was in a physically demanding job. In those days gyms were places to learn boxing or body build; Chris my fellow student in my set did enjoy sports and persuaded me to run occasionally around a nearby park. Roll forward about 15 years.

Now in a role with regular hours I'd attend courses and conferences where some of my clinical colleagues would swim or run during spare time; I was impressed but sitting in the sauna seemed preferable. Then as a Macmillan nurse an opportunity arose to volunteer to represent Macmillan Cancer Relief (as it was then) in a London Marathon. There were few places and I was confident I'd not be picked; I'd seen so many fitter colleagues who be sure to get signed up. What made me think I could do a marathon? I'd found the development of the London Marathon a fascinating phenomenon and thought as a Londoner it would be good to enter it “one day”. I was at this point close to 40 and decided I'd like to try the marathon before I got to that age.

You can guess what happened - in October 1994 I was told I'd got a place in the Macmillan marathon team. Dumbfounded I gathered my wits and realised an acquaintance at the time knew about running a marathon. He advised me on the type of footwear to acquire and offered training help to get to the 10-11 mile distance by New Year's Day 1995. After that his own elite runner training required me to take it from there. So that in April 1995 on what turned out to be a nice warm sunny day I crossed that finish line; no speedy time just the intense pleasure of crossing the finish line; that one I started with above. Along the way I'd grown to love the improved fitness, the ‘buzz’ of the endorphins and the knowledge that I'd conquered the ghosts of my scholastic sporting past.

After that as the family expanded and ‘life’ took over running faded; the excuse list grew. And now I'm nearing the stage of needing to refine retirement plans and have had brushes with potentially serious health issues. I noticed too my love of the couch, the only place to be after a long though sedentary day. So taking more note of what I should and should eat and drink and having started taking regular medicines I began to see colleagues in the We communities making a difference to their lives through #NursesActive on Twitter. I was impressed and a little envious; and then it hit me I had no excuse not to be fitter.
Now there are apps that will help you start to run and gradually gain in what you can achieve. I'm amazed at how quickly my little hairy legs have got back into the groove; the buzz of accomplishment alongside the fresh air and better sleep are a bonus. I'm investing in me and my future health as well as enjoying the sensation of feeling better equipped to face each day both mentally and physically.
That 1995 finish line, and the last staggering steps down the Mall was a place of endings and beginnings; it feels good to take time for myself and to make sure that now I'm 60+ I'll be around and in better shape than I have been in a long time.
Thanks to all those supporting #NursesActive and supporting The Cavell Nurses Trust; look at the myriad activities nurses have so creatively participated in and ask yourself if you really have a valid excuse not to do something active. Remember, you're really worth it.
Crossing the finish line, 2nd April 1995, waving in victory and forgetting to stop my timer!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Times for tears

I have recently wondered if had been developing hay fever; I've had ‘leaky eyes’ and perhaps a few sniffles at various times. I'm pretty sure though that there have been times when I've shed tears. As family will tell you simple things on tv will set me off; dare I say it extreme reactions to great acts on Britain’s Got Talent is an example.

At other times though other things have acted to set me off. Frustration at my own actions; delight in others successes; hearing inspirational stories and hearing news of those who have died.
After a busy time at work and recent terrorist acts in the U.K. I found myself suddenly anxious too. This caused me to reflect on what life was like at the heart of the Irish ‘troubles’ when I spent lots more time in central London. As I write I feel much less troubled about risks particularly as I commute by car each day.

What sparks the tears though? As I've reflected on my career in recent times I've recalled times of sorrow and delight. I've said before that my passion is about getting end of life care right for those who are dying. I've also said that in the position I'm in now means I have many people that I care for in our organisation. My actions can have ramifications that are unexpected; to get it wrong as I've owned I might do before, is frustrating though it becomes a vital learning experience. 
A contrast to this is seeing the investment in others resulting in their development; finding ways to study and change their lives as well as simply passing on messages of a thanks for a job well done is another cause for celebration. Yes, a potentially tear jerking time.

Obituaries of people who've been in the public eye, such as Peter Sallis who had entertained me for so long can induce a weepy episode, particularly when set alongside the news of multiple killings on Manchester and London streets. One person I recalled was Lawrence S. Newcombe who died in 1987 (with 30 others) helping another person in the King’s Cross fire; he trained as a nurse at the same hospital as me and I recall him as a force of nature.

My joy at the achievements of others has been filled today as one son, who is proudly part of the NHS has passed his training course and now has heard he has a job in the department he works in. Lastly however the inspirational story telling by people such as Tommy Whitelaw provokes my lacrimal ducts; he reminds me of the importance of knowing something of the person I'm with and finding out about their story. Being able to share our emotional reaction with those around us is powerful and emphasises our joint humanity. Allowing times for tears is as useful as sharing laughter; for me it's important we're open about this too.