Waves, Currents & Time: Lessons from nearly a decade living with pain.

A few days ago, it was the 9th anniversary of when my life dramatically changed by an illness. It feels weird calling it an anniversary, and it feels weird monitoring the time that has passed, and making a note on what’s happened since. It keeps me grounded, a reminder that we are owed no time. But it also feels necessary. I think as humans, we need stories/narratives to help us understand things. And this helps me deal with the after currents of that fateful time.

When we were younger there wasn’t any classification of time beyond tenses, however, for adults, over the years time seems to get categorised along a new dimension; that of quality. Since I now live a life that’s likely to be much shorter, I wonder a lot about time. But I think categorizing time is the wrong method.

We delude ourselves into thinking that spending ‘Quality Time’ is the best way there is. As an effect, we end up spending significantly less time and miss out on countless beautiful moments serendipity would have presented to us.

After that fateful illness event & everything it encompassed, my life fractured hard, time was broken.

My timeline branched for me.

In one timeline, I went on living in Sheffield and NYC, building this proper some-what self important/self-absorbed/ego-based art practice, that was my life.

But in the new timeline, the one I’m living in today, I spent months in hospitals and in bed at my mom’s house in the Donx, going through various tests & treatments and feeling more pain than I’d ever felt before, unsure if I’d ever get to leave or live.

I had 100’s of people rally around me and literally saved my life — something I think about every single day. A literal second chance. Months… nearly 2 years later, weak and hobbled, I was forever changed.

I kept coming back to this question in my head: What’s a meaningful life – and whether I had one? Because is there any point in saving my life if it wasn’t a meaningful one?  

I couldn’t get my old life back, even if I wanted to; because it didn’t fit anymore. But I was gifted a new one. Back here in Doncaster.

I can tell you those were the most painful months of my life, and even though I am still living with the legacy of chronic illness today, I know I’m in the right timeline, in the right multiverse.  

One where time suddenly became way more important, and my “where/why” had changed.

It is now a where of friendship and love. Not just one of loss. For me friendship is a tool of social activism. It’s about the renewal of our imagination about who we are and who we wish to become.

It’s about being in a discourse and engaging in things about others and us. To be or want to be entwined in allegiance!

I came out of that time with a list of things I’d always wanted to do, terrified of being back in the hospital in a year or two with regrets. So I got going.

I retrained & graduated top of my class in radiotherapy & oncology & won a bunch of awards for my patient care & research. I adopted a border collie dog. I did more inner work, took bigger risks – like going for councillor and I travelled to a ton of places around the globe on my fuck it list.

One thing on that list was surfing.

And here this taught me more about time, and living.

The surfer is never done surfing.

Each wave can be completely different from the next. The ocean is the definition of chaos and power.

Some waves are slow and crash quickly. You might get a lousy wave and manage to pull a few tricks out of nowhere and impress the judges. Other times, when you get that perfect wave, but you mess it up.

In surfing, letting the present moments pass to seize on supposedly better time ahead is a waste. A reminder that however hard we try, we can’t plan or wait for raw emotions to show up.

Each wave is different.

But the wave you get is the wave you get. And that’s life.

There’s always one more wave to catch. A community is never truly done.

I wonder if surfings purpose is to teach me to be patient.

You have to realize at moments that you’re on nature’s schedule. And nature’s schedule is never perfect or convenient. There is no substitute for being there, and there is no way to schedule the most important moments of your life. They just happen or, if you’re not there, they just don’t. It doesn’t go according to some predetermined plan. Epic surf days, piss poor ones, and average ones are all part of the journey.

The communities and artists journeys are the same. Much like the surfer has to be patient enough to develop their style, the artist and community has to be patient enough to develop a voice.

If you do either of these things for long enough, you’ll realize that waves come in sets. Unfortunately, the only way you learn to avoid the impact zone is by getting caught in it. It’s a lesson in timing. Like falling in love, it’s just right or just not.

And if you decide to take the journey, you should be ready for the ride of your life. But catch one good wave and you’ll be hooked.

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Surfing, like art, is thrilling precisely because of its unpredictability. Its about depth, and as a lifelong practice.

Being an amateur surfer makes me realize that sucking at something where the stakes are low can lead us to a better place.

Seeing ourselves repeatedly doing something we suck at — no matter how trivial — might make us a bit more sympathetic to how hard so many things really are: trying to navigate health issues, listening to our neighbours, or changing hostile cultures.

By exposing ourselves to the experience of trying and failing we might develop more empathy. If we succeed in shifting from snap judgments to patience, maybe we could be a little more helpful to one another — and a whole lot more understanding.

We forget that the deepest conversations, emotional moments, instances of intimacy that grow a relationship are often unplanned. Also, you get to learn more about yourself and others on such regular occasions.

Here in this branched timeline, I devoted myself full-time to living as if I was on borrowed time.

It’s easy to answer the question, “How would you spend your time if you only had a few years left?  Or what would a place be like in a parraell universe” It’s much, much harder when you don’t know how much time you’ve got or don’t know how to create change.

At a quantum level, we have  probability waves, instead of particles of solid objects, describing the various positions that could potentially be occupied. Surfing waves of energy gives us new belief that we can create some sort of change.

The most fundamental change in this new Doncaster multiverse is that I no longer act like our time’s infinite. That’s our default mindset, but it’s a lie.

I only have so many hours or days with my mom or my dog left. I can only read so many more books. I only get so many more christmases, or surf sessions, or birthdays, or phone calls with friends. So I’d better choose what matters to me.

I have learned that there’s a BIG difference between being alive, and FEELING alive. So it really drives home whatever time I have left, I have to “own” it.

I’m a believer in the ordinary and the mundane, something we forget to enjoy. Money is circulated, time is spent – we can always get money back – but we can’t ever get time back.

As i’ve said over the last 8 years on here, I have some time, and if I use it well, it will be more than enough.

We can’t stop the waves, but we can learn to surf.

Published by smizz

I've had this blog since I was 17. I use it process thinking & work. It's changed with how my life has changed. Artist → Re-evaluating life→ Rad Oncology graduate + public health worker→ @lab4living PhD-er → Want 2 make a positive difference → Rule-Breaker → LIVE DRAWZ! → councillor! → Loves cities → rides fixie → adventures → wanna be ramen master → <3 Tokyo + NYC

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