Where wonder reigns and hope exists

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Where wonder reigns and hope exists…

Every day I woke up on the train with a desire to feel the Sun. Instead, the day offered gray sky with hints of a snowstorm. The peaks of mountains were hidden, the distance made blurry by snow blowing hard outside but I felt irresistibly drawn to its other glories: the purity of the wind, the promise of imminent thunder, the morning whisper of birds. Fields of Canadian Goose. I never knew why the Canadian goose was a thing, now I know that there’s 1000s out there. Flying together in frigid weather.

As we made our way through the long curvy rail-roads of the North of Ontario into the Prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the scenery reminded me of Alaska as seen on movies like Into The Wild (spoiler, Alaska is one of the 7 states that I’m missing off my 50 visited states list). Eminent mountains, frozen lakes, endless fields and many sightings of wild animals. Out here, I didn’t take many photos. I was content to simply be in the presence of this majestic landscape, treating those moments with the weightiness and value they deserve.

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In every sight, wonder. In every step, curiosity. In every feeling, awe.

Imagine a scene — you’re standing next to thousands of migrating birds in a snowstorm with endless fields as a backdrop. Swans flutter in the distance like rising snowflakes. You feel part of something big, something that you’ve seen only in National Geographic.

What would you do if you find yourself in a moment like that? It takes time to sink in. We need to listen to what these moments are telling us. Standing in the snowstorm, I experienced nature’s intense power, while at the same time, I am reminded of its sublime beauty.

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It made me think about hope, about what hope is and what it is not.

Over the past few years, chronic illness/pain has grinded  me down just enough to feel on the true brink of hopelessness, a good few times. I never really understood hopelessness, until I was there. Where you’d take being dead for being alive, at any moment, because being alive like that doesn’t even feel like being alive. It’s worse than being alive because you’re suffering.  suffering in ways that are difficult to articulate.  It’s like being stuck in between being alive and dead.  A place of purgatory. But the thing about purgatory is that whilst you feel an emptiness. You don’t realize what a dark place you’re in until you get out and you can see again. Change happens. But it can happen literally overnight. Like it did for me. Even though we’re taught change usually comes over time.

Today the train ran 5.5 hours late. I’m not sure how, but I think it’s something to do with freight trains. This meant that we had a knock on effect on how little time we had in other stops. We had a quick stop with surprise wifi in Edmonton. It was just enough time and wifi to quickly post photos i had accumulated on instagram, and a brief update for Facebook and Twitter so my mom knew I was still alive.

As I write on Facebook, a FB memory appears that stops me in my tracks. It really brings it all back. A few years ago today, I was leaving JFK airport after a YOLO road trip. It was the end of summer after gaining a life-changing diagnosis, which i had spent mostly running away from. I still remember this moment with crystal clear precision, what I was wearing, the smells, the reactions. I can play back most of that summer memories like as if on tape. I left the USA thinking I might not ever make it back. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. I didn’t believe it was true.

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But friends banded together across Sandy Island, then the country… and then across the globe! sometimes I was throwing up too much or too weak to talk. But we kept going. Friends donated time, money, connections. Strangers sent mail, hundreds of photos. All in the hope to save my life or at least make me more comfortable and show support.

I told myself that if I ever get through this, that stuff would be different. There was still so much I still needed to see, so much time wasted, so much to do such as i wanna see my friends kids grow-up, and other friends grow in their confidence and careers and homes. I created a bucket list to help.

I wish I could tell you that the 5 years since have been easier. They haven’t. Even just under 3 weeks ago I was in the Emergency Room with suspected clots. Needles, needles, needles, so many needles, fevers, infections, a never-ending-headache, severe mucositis, so-much-pain, anti-nausea drugs that results in weeks of lost memories, teeth issues, corneal damage, a slate of other issues a little too graphic to write about, crazy painful out-of-nowhere leg cramps…

…all bumps along the road. But these past 5+ years have been really good to me (outside of the health stuff).

I do feel more and more slowly ‘normal’ with every year that passes, despite wanting it to come quicker, and gaining newer or older issues along the way, some weeks are really truly crippling bad – but the good out-weights the bad ones now. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get back to my old self. But maybe that’s just as well?

Because here’s the thing,  as Mark Brown said in his lecture on hope: hope cannot be transferred like a credit card balance. The hope that we feel for someone cannot substitute for the despair and grief and anger and sadness that they feel for themselves. (I learnt this the hard way. ) So, to make hope happen we must first understand what it is and secondly understand why it might be absent. To understand its absence we must understand what depletes it, what stunts it, what pours salt upon its roots and what blights it when and if it ever flowers.”

I never would have ever believed that people would have come together for me in the way that they did in my times of need.

I realise that sometimes we need these long quiet intervals when we can drift ourselves away a little bit from the current. To gain some perspective. To see how far we’ve come, because sometimes when you’re in the dark, it’s hard to see how strong the current has been. Plus it’s always the best feeling in the world is coming back.

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This morning as I sat looking up at the sky in the glass carriage, I saw uncountable stars. The wind in the valley murmurs at the approach of the sun and I find myself fixed on the single small spark of Venus as the stars silently surrender to the light. The first light of day finds my eye and we are connected.

Today, standing here with the mountains, the first light suddenly feels like the. first. light. and I breathe it in with both soul and senses. Here we can remake the world by understanding the world in all its messy, horrific, amazing glory.

A couple of years ago I was on a plane from NYC to the UK because I was dying.

Today I’m on day 3 of 4, on a train crossing the Canadian wilderness, a lil bit worse for wear (i need a shower pretty bad and i’m still harbouring all of my health issues) but I feel more alive than I have in a very long time.

( I Wrote this 3 days ago,I’m now in Seattle, WA – USA!)

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Post Traumatic Growth – Trying to Make Sense of Things

One thing that my friends know about me, is that I constantly think about our existence.

As a kid, during computer club after-school – after printing out a million pictures of Lil’ Bow Wow to add to my collage shrine to the pint-sized rapper – I then pretended to be a 16/17 year old on a Philosophy Forum (I was about 13/14). I didn’t grow up with books, no one in my family is interested in the human condition – in fact I grew up with the plight of survival – the art of just getting by. On whatever that was. Ketchup sandwiches for lunch because that’s all we had in the house, and the rent was due – and in massive arreas. But I constantly thought that there must be more. I would devoure and try to understand these philosophical ideas on time, and fate, and existence. Ultimately – being.

By the time I got to university, by myself, by my own hardwork – and my own investment and time – with some guidance from a few teachers that believed in me at school – I started to think that the shit that I had endured years of my life – was part of a destined path. An experience I had to learn from. It taught me about social justice, the differences between in having very, very little and having a decent amount, it made me know that society is unfairly distributed – the marxist in me. I thought that it was practice – to give me a sense of what it’s like – and that I had got to where I was (uni) so I had some tools, a way to help make a difference, using this experience in hand. I had – and still continue to do so – imposter syndrome though. I thought I’d drop out, that I wouldn’t be smart enough, ect, ect. But the complete opposite happened and I always quote my best friends at uni as the reason why I fell head over heels in love with art, with learning, with working even harder than I ever had before on this passion of mine.

I’d think of all the factors that lead me to meeting them, and decided it was fate. That I had acted in a specific way, met all these people- specifically for a reason. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have had a specific experience, they wouldn’t have helped me, ect. That it was kind of written in the stars.

Now, maybe it is – probably it isn’t. The logical person in me says – no way. It’s just coincidence and it would be the same outcomes irrespectively because I’m a pretty decent judge of character.  The person – which is by far a bigger part of me – knows that psychological this is some sort of coping mechanism. And that actually, every person brings something different to any and every situtation. And I know a kid from my background has actually jumped a bunch of odds, and so I believe it’s some sort of fate thing. But i know I haven’t got here alone.

When I fell sick. I couldn’t get out of bed. I think back to when I was around 24 – and I actually can’t remember that year very well at all because I spent so little of it conscious. I couldn’t reply to emails – I’d go to sleep at 6-7pm, and not get up until 1-2PM and I’d force myself to get up – I’d attempt some drawing commission work for 3 hours or so. Waiting for 5-6pm to come back around as a decent time to get showered and go back to bed and replay this whole cycle. Over and over. Every minute awake felt like I was being crushed, I’d have day-chills, nose-bleeds, nightsweats, and the worst pain.

I felt like I was going to die. I was angry, upset, in pain, why me? I had lost who I had spent so many years building. Smizz the kid who’d reply an email in an instant, who could juggle a bazillion things at once, who kept down and writing and who couldn’t understand why others couldn’t be as committed to making the change. I lost that. I had lost my identity. But it didn’t matter anyways – because was it even important? Crisis, or what.

But through my health experience, I naturally did what I had done throughout my life. There was some sort of reason why this had happened to me, surely. Just another lesson. I still feel shit, and I have a bunch of stuff that constantly keeps happening to me.  I knew this awful experience – throughout the healthcare system – meant that I could change it – even if it was just being there to listen to patients. My shitty health changed me.

Occasionally I feel stronger than I did before,  more spontaneous and open to new experiences and even quicker to laugh. I might still sweat the unimportant stuff – like ePortfolio, an exam, but I know deep down it’s kind of meaningless in the greater scheme of things.  Not that I haven’t struggled. I still have to deal with disorienting symptoms daily, and there are still days when I’m stopped in my tracks by grief. I still mourne the loss of the old Smizz. I constantly see my GP – like every few months, a plead with him that there’s got to be a way to stop feeling this fatigue, to stop feeling the pain.  Even so, I try and use all these experiences as a springboard.

I made the RADCARE radiotherapy Patient information app – which won an award. I won the Health & Wellbeing Student Award for Leadership, I’m quite proud that my patients seem to give really nice feedback about me to my mentors on clinical placement, I’ve drawn loads of stuff to help change patient experience, patient involvement, to engage people across the spectrum – from enhancing Prostate cancer care, to Dying Matters and the End Of Life Care Pathway, and now I’m going to Toronto – and Harvard over the next 2 months to learn more and bring back these experiences to see if I can begin to invigorate the pathways for better supportive care.

People always think jumping from art to healthcare is a jump. And perhaps it is. But I don’t really see it as that. In my many hours spent trawling through the internet looking for explanations, looking for things that can help with my pain/fatigue. I found that there’s a name for how I’ve built myself.  post-traumatic growth (PTG), a term coined by Richard Tedeschi, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. Dozens of studies have shown that trauma survivors can change in profound ways. And it goes well beyond resilience, or bouncing back from adversity. “With post-traumatic growth, a person who has faced difficult challenges doesn’t just return to baseline, which is what happens with resilience,” explains Tedeschi. “They change in fundamental, sometimes dramatic, ways.”

Whilst I still mourn my old life, how I could stay up later and was pain free -and ultimately more care-free. I’m not super sure I would change it on reflection. I feel wiser, I feel more emphatic, I know what’s important – my family & friends, I’m less of dick now, I feel even more motivated to get out there to help others, I’ve built the most unlikely friendships – even with my doctors – and working in healthcare has opened up way more opportunities for my artistic practice than I ever hoped to believe. I never knew that actually now is the time to be a healthcare worker artist!

now I’m not saying every bad thing has to have a happy ending, acceptance nor do you have to oozze rainbows and sickening positivity – sometimes I think that can be counterproductive too. I think it’s finding meaning on your own terms to give you some ownership to the shitty things that happen that are ultimately usually out of our control.

When I won the award for my app – I felt a huge massive amount of pride. Something I’ve not felt in a really long time. And I think it’s because I designed it – with my experience in hand – with my patients stories in the other – with my passion for making things and wanting to help people. I wouldn’t be here right now if I never fell sick and my life changed in a way I didn’t want it to. I can still barely see where I am going, I’m still amazed I’m still on my course, that I’m still alive. I think I felt the pride because i realized that to get here I’ve had to trust myself, to learn from my bodies failure. To know that I have the bestest friends and family behind me 100% of the way in whatever I do. Because, like I said, without them anyways – i wouldn’t be here now – regardless.

Time: Before I’m Gone

Time.

Time fascinates me no end. I’ve read a lot of theories about time.

Can you remember when the 6 week summer holidays used to feel so long and hazy and hot? And now, before you know it, it’s already summer when it was only just Christmas. And you’re left thinking? Whoa, time!?

I just read a book called Time Warped by Claudia Hammond, which talks at length about how we perceive time. One of her arguments is that as we get older, we have fewer meaningful experiences. We fall into a routine of sorts and life becomes less memorable, which makes our perception of time feel like it’s speeding up as we age. It’s kind of a sad idea. But it does put things into perspective. We should be doing more things that are memorable! YOLO.

Another theory, by Paul Janet, is that we perceive time as relative to the ‘absolute’ time that we can compare it to. For example, when you’re born a day will feel MEGA long because it is literally ALL of your life. By the time your 50, a year will be 1 50th of your life. So that could explain why summer holidays felt longer than they do now, and waiting around fro christmas felt like a small lifetime. Because in time-terms – it was.

I’m not too sure on the latter explanation, as last summer when I was trying to learn the ropes of clinical radiation oncology and juggle the worst headache – the weeks felt long. Oh so very long. Now I know what I’m doing more, this summer has flown by. The years do feel shorter though and so I believe that time is a combination of both of those theories.

Money and time are both saved and spent. The more money that’s in the market, the less it becomes worth. Similarly, when you become aware of your time – and if you think it’s running out – or becoming shorter – the more worth it seems the accumulate. However, money can be circulated, you can get it back by many means, but time is fully-spent. Once time is gone, you can never get it back.

Death is always a surprise. No one expects it. We are never ready. It is never the right time. By the time it comes, you won’t have done all the things you wanted and should have done.

Sometimes I feel like I’m cheating time. I’ve been run over, fallen from buildings, been in a fire, and more. When I fell sick – I genuinely thought my time was coming to an end. I have days and weeks where I believe I’m going to live many years into old, old age. And then I have some days where I feel so poorly, and have the weirdest shit happen to me that I wonder if I’ll be here next year.

And then I have days – like yesterday – where you get a text in the middle of the train station and it literally takes away your breath and makes you forget how to breath.  I didn’t know what to do with myself. It makes you realize we care too much about things that don’t matter much. I’ve preached this before and often. Because when I’m in my everyday cycle – where I feel ok. The weight of mortality – that painful reminder – isn’t as ever present compared to when I’m in great pain.

Now I’m suddenly feeling this sense of urgency, again. For everything. Especially to spend more time with my mom & my nan & my bro, and my friends, and the world; to try and see them sooner rather than later.  And to correct all the wrong doings I’ve done (just stupid teenager-y stuff) It’s a lesson I keep on trying not to forget (and sometimes I do, and that’s bad).

All this has made me think, it’s not so much that we have so little time; it’s that we have so little awareness of time itself.

So I’m preparing to leave things in a way that if anything does happen to me – sooner rather than later, I have left my mark – I’ve left a trail – of something. I’m going to write blog-posts – letters – cards – emails. Sporadically. Thanking, forgiving, offering, planning, helping, laughing, grieving, making up for lost time and maybe even cheating time in the process.

As my nan says, “It all feels the same,”. Let’s not get caught up in meaninglessness. And let’s enjoy every second we get – together.

To the importance of time & what gives it weight.

Much Love, SMIZZ

What 15 Years of Art Has Taught Me About My Life: If You Need Help, Ask. We Can’t Do It Alone.

As anyone who knows me, will know that the journey of illness changed my course, some-what drastically. I was prepared to dedicate my life to trying to navigate the art world path, and that alone. And I was having a good go at it too. But getting sick made travelling that rocky, unstable road of unemployment or quiet freelancing months difficult. Then the goal posts changed. 

 

I’ve been doing art – dedicated to it since I was 14/15 years old. You’d think half a life would be enough to get into a groove, but no. I went from a kid drawing scooby doo, to graffiti artist, to art school student who played around with architecture and socially engaged practices to institutional critique drawer, to an artist who helps to facilitates ideas for change. Age and maturity give you the eyes to see how you differ in subtle ways. But so does impending potential death sentences. One of my big insights from this year is that my polarities are inverted when it comes to knowledge in art and life in general.

 

Up to a few years ago, I had never been to the doctor. I lived a relatively carefree life. I had little empathy geared towards illness because I had never really experienced anything that hindered how I felt or what I wanted to do that wasn’t in my control. I was a night-owl. I stayed up late, all night, multi-tasked until 3am. I tried to make sure no stone was left unturned. I look back on my ability to juggle things almost effortlessly, and my never-failing energy levels with nostalgia, frustration and even a bit of jealousy at my current state of not being able to stay up past midnight (if i’m lucky) and needing to sleep/not having any real proper cognitive function for hours between 5-9pm because I’m so damn tired. 

 

Art was (is) key. The most important thing to me. I wanted to be an “art-star”. I wanted to be respected. I wanted to inspire, make people think about changing the world for the better. I wanted to make a living from doing this thing. I wanted to be in coffee table books, on blogs, I wanted YOUR job because i thought i could probably do it better. What an ego! Naturally, with wanting to be the best (lolz), or at least acknowledged, comes a big side plate of ego. I was starting to get somewhere too, and this just made me worse. People would give me compliments, stop me on the street. And I, not prepared for this part of my personality, would write my name all over anything that I was a part of. I needed recognition.  My personal relationships suffered from all of this because all I would talk about was art, my art, who was doing what wrong. My priorities had no perspective, no context. No depth. I thought art could change the world (which I still believe it can) because it had changed my life so much. I was just the small, stupid kid from the Donx who had never left South Yorkshire until I was 17, who was the first in her whole entire family to go to University. And here art was, giving me a passport to see the world and its beautiful people and cultures.  Art made me feel smarter than I was (am). People invited me in and it changed me for the better. But it also made me loose sight on what was really important in life. (Which happens to the best of us, in everything). Plus, I was young and reckless. I never went home, never realised just how much support my friends and family gave me in order to follow this narrow art path. I Never really offered support back to those who supported me, just kind of took and never gave back because I never really thought about it. My eyes were on the prize. Never really understood others personal plights, just the external structures/systems of which affected them. All of the time, missing the point – Mary Kelly once said that, “the personal is the political”.  I always thought that my practice was personal because of where I was coming from, underdog-thicko, poor, working class northern kid. But now, I’m not sure it was as personal as I thought it was.

 

But as I got sick, and I lost all that time during being undiagnosed too. I couldn’t be the force I wanted to be. I couldn’t balance all the plates. I couldn’t be present at all the art openings. I couldn’t even be present in person because I constantly felt (and still often do) like I was in a daze of pain/general unwellness/fatigue and heaviness. I lost my competitiveness. I’ve lost days, weeks – even months of my life.  People forgot who I was. I was starting to forget who i was too. I felt angry at  myself for not being able to shake off what was happening to me, for not being there, or being able to process the same amount of things. I stopped being able to do residencies. I kind of stopped applying for opportunities…. How do you even come back from such a thing? All of the promise that I had shown. Gone. Forgotten. Fickle. Meaningless. A performance of holding yourself together. 

 

But strange things started to happen. People started to share my work for me. I started to get more work opportunities through than I ever did when I was trying to be obnoxiously pushy, granted these opportunities weren’t immediately within the art world. I chose projects that were meaningful. That could really help to make a difference in the world, like working with the NHS or on TEDx.  I realised the amazing support network that surrounded me. My personal relationships began to flourish too because I was no longer fully neglectful. I became a better friend, a better teacher, a better sister and daughter. The pain I feel was transcended into new full blown up empathy.  I relate to people better now. Possessions and money lost all meaning. I now crave time & space. I feel happier. Art feels a little bit lighter. The sky feels bigger, the seasons more beautiful. I have a few scars but most marks are left on my psyche..

 

The thing is. I never asked for help. I was lucky enough that I had surrounded myself with amazing, loving, courageous, smart and kind people who never once thought to give up on me, or resented how much I talked about (my) art before who all helped without me ever needing to ask. I am now forever indebted to those who have and continue to help me, support me, help nurse me back to health. Who continue to help me navigate my art practice, and who send me work to keep me finically alive, who are helping me to slowly try and come back from this unexpected departure.  I’m not sure if I will ever re-bound back into the real art world. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to make a full recovery – both career wise and health. 

 

Most people use time to hone down and specialise. But specialising bores. It’s just a way to pigeon hole us into parts so other people know how to think about you. your place in societies cogs. Art for me has always been about closing the gap, turning the elitism on its side, helping the dark matter reveal it’s true potential. Allow the powerless to have some agency. I don’t believe it can be bound by discipline or industry. I always loved that about art. I’m using this extra time, my new found empathy, my obsession on cancer, my need to make a change, gain some stability in a life which seems to be dominated by so much uncertainty to gain new knowledge in a new area, and combine both things together – radiation oncology and art! 

By refusing to choose sides, you open yourself up to the idea that the relationship can be symbiotic, not combative. How can they be made at the same time, so they shine on one another, too?

 These are interesting questions. The kind you could spend a life pursuing. I tell you all this because the thing I’m left thinking is: how many people are out there are struggling?  Who need help, who feel like they can’t ask for help? How many of us are out there on our daily grinds, just trying to make it, who aren’t paying attention to those who hold us so close, who could need help too?

 

So, if  that’s you, and if you need help, ask. We can’t do it alone.  

It is a privilege to be here, alive, with you – my amazing friends. 

Smizz’s Bucketlist – Revisited – Nearly a year on

In a few months time, it will be a 2 years anniversary of when I got told that I might have cancer. A Lymphoid Malignancy to be exact. I’ve spent many, many posts dedicated to trying to get my head around not having an ultimate certainty that most 24 year olds have.

When you’re young, you kind of feel invinsible. Not in a Superman way – but in a – Oh yeah, let’s buy concert tickets for next year, or in 5 years we’ll buy a house sort of invincible. You make promises to do something awesome in the near future. In my case – I bought some plane tickets to NYC. My Doctor told me that I needed to cancel my trip.

And sure , the future is of course a never existing thing – a constraint of a “big picture” and no-ones future is ever a certainty – as you could get hit by a car or be in a natural disaster. But I’ve always thought I’d never make it to 30. I’ve always had this feeling that I wouldn’t live to be old. You can ask any of my  friends from high-school, I’ve always said this. But I always assumed it would be a tragic bike accident or something, not an illness. I mean, it still could be a bike accident that kills me off, but you know?

What does this mean for me? This past year has just ruined my bigger picture over-all. But that’s not a bad thing necessarily. I think sometimes it’s better to focus on smaller pictures, and so that these smaller pictures can eventually add to a collage of a more interesting big-picture.  “I’m on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend.”

There is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars. So, guys, I’m here for a good time, not a long time!  Last year I was worried that I wouldn’t make it back to the USA again. I panicked and made a Bucketlist.  And so here it is, this is an very incomplete, living list, re-evaluated, re-wrote. Over time, I’ll update it to add things I’ve forgotten and to cross off things I’ve accomplished.

  1. Show an internationally renowned gallery
  2. Get published in a nationally-distributed print publication
  3. Be on the cover of a major magazine
  4. Stay in a new country/ one place for a full year
  5. Own a genuine William Powhida artwork
  6. Learn to properly carve wood
  7. Skydive
  8. Run a marathon (practicing 5-10k runs in prep for this)
  9. Sail South America
  10. Learn to cook (I can obviously cook, but I wanna be amazing & i’m beginning to learn the craft)
  11. Speak Italian fluently (Started this)
  12. Live in Italy for a whole year
  13. Get a drawing on the cover of the New Yorker
  14. Surf
  15. Go to the Big Sur
  16. Ride the trans-siberian railway from China to London
  17. Create something that touches a hundred million people
  18. See actual lava
  19. Experience not being super scared to check my bank balance
  20. Create a piece of life-saving research
  21. Actually finish University & get a job straight away into Radiotherapy & Oncology/Medicine
  22. Give away a billion dollars
  23. Learn to make proper awesome cocktails
  24. Teach/Learn at an Ivy League University
  25. Sit in the Oval Office
  26. Meet Obama
  27. Buy a round of drinks for an entire bar
  28. Visit all of Thailand
  29. Visit Japan, specifically Tokyo
  30. Visit NYC
  31. Visit California
  32. Live in Brooklyn
  33. Live in Brooklyn again and for longer!
  34. See all 50 USA States! (up to 42 currently)
  35. Visit Patagonia
  36. Teach at University level
  37. Write a sit-com
  38. Be in a movie
  39. Live in LA or San Francisco
  40. Have my work printed in a Taschen Published book
  41. Work for a cool start-up
  42. Bike  at least 1 part of the Tour De France
  43. Find Love
  44. Visit Hawai
  45. Travel First class on a plane & not pay to do so
  46. Do what you love
  47.  Love what you do.
  48. Go to New Orleans
  49. Draw a TEDx Talk
  50. Sleep on a beach & look at the stars
  51. Go to a SNL live recording
  52. Skateboard down a San Francisco hill.
  53. Go to Bali
  54. Learn to Snow Board
  55. Live in Canada
  56. Make a positive difference
  57. Do something worth-while for others
  58. Private
  59. Private
  60. Private
  61. Private
  62. Private

Things that should always be strived for:

-Find true-love

– Be loved

Be a better person

– Be thankful for every day and all the amazing friends I have.

– Do what you love, and LOVE What you do (continue)

Faith & Doubt (Happy Chinese New Year, Y’all)

I like that Chinese New Year is celebrated in Feb. It gives us a reason and a chance to reflect on what we were hoping to do with the new year at the beginning of January.

Since I’ve been sick, I tell myself that i should never do all the bad things I do again. I should be a better person. I shouldn’t swear, or never drink another can of coke. I try to be the most clean-living person you could hope to meet. But life goes on. Things change, intentions get lost, you say another swear word & order a coke with your take-out food.

I had the MRI scan of my head on Thursday. I’m not a claustrophobic person, but it does feel really tight in there. It makes it almost hard to breathe. I was fine until they administered some contrast medium dye & I was instantly sick as a dog. I don’t think I’ve puked infront of people since I was 5. I spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself & embarrassed.  I had what they call a ‘mild’ reaction – something that only effects 1-5% of patients. What odds? Whilst in the machine, trying my best to stay completely still, breathe & not feel trapped or sick. I got thinking about Survivorship and our odds.

I tried for a while to live everyday  like it was my last. Whilst it was fun, and I did some wild things, kept saying “the drinks are on me!”, & i bought my mom ALOT of stuff for christmas, what I ended up with was a pretty shoddy bank balance of being waaaaayyy back in the negative over-draft. It wasn’t ideal.  When you live with this nagging small thought in the back of your mind that you might be dying, you feel like you deserve to spend the rest of your life on permanent vacation. And the reality is, you can’t. You must return to real life. Return to your family, friends, and colleagues.

But how do you slip back into the ordinary world, and your ordinary routine and being your ordinary self when you don’t feel like yourself? When you still feel gruelling poorly with probably only half of the energy you used to have?

I know quite a few people going through some tough things at the moment. All different kinds of tough. From family related, to money related. This is for you guys, to the people who are flagging, those whose energy is slowly decreasing in their personal fight. To those who feel like they’re loosing ground on something, or not responding, or struggling to face something. You’re amazing. What ever you’re going through, whatever it is – it can’t take away your spirituality, your intelligence, your friends or family. It can’t take away your love. Belief & Survivorship is everything.

 

How do you get through these crisis when you feel like you’re missing something, or feeling powerless? I, of course and unfortunately, don’t have the answer to that but I do know that you have to let others help you out, because it really does help. It’s others belief in me, and my want/need to believe in something better for myself and others that motivates me to keep on working. Since being sick, I’ve lost some of my independence  I moved back home to be looked after, I needed to be driven home from having needles stuck in my eyes at the hospital, I need my friends to casually bring up how I am doing so I can get off my chest whatever crazy things have been happening. Their support and belief has gone so far.

What you learn in survivorship is that you learn something new, a perspective almost. There’s this Chinese proverb – which says something like sometimes you need to burn down your house to be able to see the sky. It’s hard. And who knows if I will live, or if my friends problems will resolve themselves – but it gives us an excuse to have another chance at something. I want to work for something more than just myself.

I love riding my bike. One of my love/hate things about Sheffield is that it’s built on 7 hills. Big hills. One day when I was riding down a hill on the outskirts of the city, an unexpected bend came up in the road , a sharp unknowing dangerous turn turned into an open landscape, where trees lined up, and all these hills with the crazy chaotic awesome city behind me and peak ranges stretching to the horizon popped up. I realize now that this is my metaphor for how  life is.

The same bike, I’ve been hit by a car on twice. The second time it happened, i was stunned and found it difficult to get back up off my ass. That’s the point. We’re always getting knocked off our track. You don’t just overcome the odds once and that’s it… Things just keep, you know, happening.

A time to reflect, to gather your belief, get rid of any doubts is a good time. That’s why consciously  celebrating the New Year is a great idea. A month on from my last post about being better? I’ve began ALL of what I said I would do – with 2 exceptions that need to be solved. I’ve not been getting up early nor going to bed early. And I’ve been casually wasting time – like as if it wasn’t precious enough.

Well here it is, again, a reminder to myself. DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME SMIZZ. WORK HARDER. BE NICER. BE BETTER. – How to do this? I think organzing my time better would be a big help.

Dear friends, you’re a survivor – be proud. Don’t let doubt cloud your vision or challenge. See you on the mountain side. 🙂 HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEARS Y’ALL!

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