Knowing when you feel content is a tough trick in life. Is this harder or easier for someone, like me, battling with a long-term illness like cystic fibrosis (CF)*?
Being ‘in the moment’ (as is the modern parlance) and realising when life feels right or even perfect is a wonderful sensation for any of us. When it happens to me I have a sense of tranquillity; where I feel balanced and almost invincible. Simply put, I just feel utterly happy to be alive and grateful for all my blessings. I’m delighted ‘as is’ instead of wanting ‘to be’.
Recently I had the fortune to enjoy a whole day of such joy…
7:00AM It all started on a Saturday morning. I had got up early with Felix. As he’d done so well at school I had bought him a new Tintin book (In America) which he’d been wanting for a while. I left it downstairs for him to find as a surprise. On seeing it on the lounge table, he did a double-take and with unbridled joy performed his ‘happy dance’!
8:00AM We both enjoyed that Saturday morning luxury of not having to rush about as we would normally do on a work day/school run. While eating porridge we watched the ‘Despicable Me 2’ film which always makes us guffaw and features our favourite song ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams. Katie joined us for breakfast before driving off to near-by Kingston to go shopping.
9:30AM While Felix was getting changed, I took the chance to quickly view my emails and read a note from my recent CF acquaintance, Lucy Watson, who lives in Australia but originally comes from England – not only have we been mentoring each other on CF survival tips and health supplements but it turns out that both our mums knew each other from CF fundraising decades ago. Proof if ever needed that this is a small world.
10:30AM We met up with my twin brother Jez and his partner Julie and in the lush Spring weather we first visited the lovely grounds of a Buddhist Temple in Wimbledon before spending the rest of the morning and lunch in Wimbledon Park; a stone’s throw from the Wimbledon Tennis Championship courts.
It was the beginning of a glorious day with blue skies, bright sunshine, daffodils blossoming – a welcome break from the months of heavy rain that England has endured. It quite literally put a spring in our step as we trekked around this beautiful park.
12:15PM Before lunch Felix was feeling peckish so Jez offered him a tube of refresher sweets. Turns out that Jez carries sweets on his person whenever he meets me to mitigate against any diabetic hypo I might suffer – such a caring and thoughtful gesture and typical of him. Felix appreciated the gift as well!
This was followed by a game of crazy golf with Felix – I was delighted that he’d improved his technique and was now prepared to wait for me to finish putting on each hole before speeding off to the next tee.
13:30PM After dropping Jez and Julie at the top of Wimbledon Hill, we had a brief rendezvous back at home with Katie before I got changed into my field hockey kit and drove to the Bank of England sports ground in Roehampton for my London Edwardians league game against a strong Kenley team.
14:30PM I was asked to start the match. During the warm up, I reflected on the recent tough IV treatment I’d endured where I’d undergone grave doubts whether I’d be fit enough to play hockey again, let alone actually start a game. When in the midst of a depressing IV session, which can drag me down like quick sand, there are absolutely no guarantees of playing sport again or being properly active. When walking up a flight of stairs can cause me untold breathlessness, the thought of playing competitive sport is furthest from my mind.
Whenever I play hockey these days, just being on the astroturf pitch brings back salient memories of my dad, rest his soul. I always look to the sky as I start every game and have a quiet chat with him, which helps me to feel his presence once again. He hardly missed any of my games when he was alive and it invigorates me to think he catches every game from the lofty heights above.
16:30PM We had a hard-fought and much deserved 3-1 win over Kenley which at times tested my fitness and lung capacity to the extreme. This was followed by the usual post-game team refreshments in the bar along with all the sporting rituals of naming ‘man of the match’ and ‘idiot of the day’. (I was not named for the latter award in case you were wondering). It was in the bar that I began to feel that happy glow of post-exertion tiredness that envelopes me like a snug duvet and emphasises exactly what I’ve physically put myself through.
18:00PM Back home for family time, Felix bath and his bed time reading of the new Tintin book. It brought back sweet memories when I was a child as I used to enjoy reading and being read these books by my parents.
19:00PM Once my boy is asleep, I’ve got a short window to sit at my laptop and edit another chapter of my forthcoming CF-related book which is due for publication in early May. I recently discovered through email correspondence that the publisher’s proofer of my book has a young brother with CF and she was shocked and pleasantly surprised to review a book about the illness – another small world moment!
20:00PM I had some light dinner with Katie before popping out to Balham in London for my hockey friend Tina’s birthday drinks; which allowed me to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen for a while and to celebrate the earlier hockey win. Beer always tastes better after a sporting win…
23:45PM Back home on the tube before midnight for a well-earned sleep. Lying in bed, Katie stirred which allowed me to hold her hand briefly without waking her up. As I drifted off to sleep, I reflected back on the day that had just occurred. It was an extraordinarily busy but wonderful day. It was a special day, despite the fact that I still fitted in all my CF and diabetes medication. (I purposely decided not to highlight the actual array of treatments during this day, but rather focus on the good moments).
A constant stream of love, joy and happiness pervaded through the whole day. Although it didn’t merit performing my own version of Felix’s happy dance, I was positively buzzing inside. I felt pure gratitude. Today was a memento for me to treasure always.
It served as a timely reminder that happy days can often be just around the corner which is particularly uplifting following some dispiriting times, like my recent IV treatment. It provided another deposit in the ‘Tim Wotton Bank of Hope & Well-being’ that gets severely pilfered during the rough times when my health crashes.
From my own experience and that of others I know, people with a life-threatening condition have a pronounced ability to not only identify but to fully appreciate magic moments and days as they contrast so strikingly with the usual daily hardship.
Indeed, I strive to defy the ravages of CF in order to keep as well as possible to be ready for and enjoy days like this.
‘Oh, such a perfect day
… just keep me hanging on’
Lou Reed – Perfect Day
I will keep you posted on my life affirming moments, trials and tribulations as and when they happen. Please keep reading and sharing my blog and sign-up (on the right hand side tab) if you have not already done so.
Yours cup half full.
* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 10,000 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations. For more information and to find out more view the CF Trust Website.