There are lots of after effects when you do something negative in life – and over the years I’ve carried around more than my fair share of regret about lots of things I’ve done – or (more often) not done.
Right up until the day she died my mother was trapped inside memories of her past, and consumed by bitterness about people she believed had somehow slighted her or opportunities that she felt had been denied.
I always viewed her as someone very different to myself – as unlike me she regretted nothing and everything bad that had happened in her life was simply someone else’s fault – until one day, when the universe held a mirror up to my face and I unexpectedly saw a reflection of her looking back at me.
I realise once again as I type that 18 months after she died I’m still coming to terms with what her passing means to me and the ways that she affected me both in life and death.
Although I blamed no one but myself just like her I’d become trapped by inaction and my own addictions. She smoked – whereas I ate and drank.
However I had instead become stuck in the present rather than the past. I lived my life a day at a time with no promise of a different future and little hope for change.
Today (I write this on Monday 24th in the early afternoon) I feel invigorated by the after effects of cumulatively positive choices. I’m crackling with energy and a sense of personal renewal.
Although my muscles ache from my activities over the last few days I barely notice the pain at the moment because I’m looking at a brighter horizon than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.
One of the things that I never mentioned in my Snowdon posts was the different emotional tones of the ascent and descent. On the way up we were surrounded by energetic and predominantly youthful climbers who (mostly) were powering up the slopes and leaving us in their dust.
There were also lots of ‘hello’s’ with people and little chats about which way was the best route to make swift progress.
On the way down we saw group after group walking with purpose, wearing bright tee shirts proclaiming that they were climbing the mountain because of the loss of a loved one – or for a charity. We overheard snapshots of tale after tale as we passed people during our descent – but almost all were along the lines of ‘if you feel tired then think of (…) he would have loved the view and been so happy today’.
I walked by one woman on her way up as she was describing the tumour in a loved one’s head and how it was growing uncontrollably. One of her companions put a hand briefly on her shoulder as I passed.
Another child shortly after, holding her mom’s hand clambered by me enthusiastically rattling a small pink plastic bucket full of change with a picture of someone sellotaped to the side.
One man was making his way slowly up in silence on crutches.
They were all walking to remember lost loved ones, those still fighting to stay alive or trying to make sense of tragedy by doing something good that might prevent it happening again in the future.
When I got to the bottom of the mountain at the time I could only think about how much my muscles hurt – and the day after I was just overwhelmingly happy about having finally climbed Snowdon after a year of saying I would.
Now I’m home and reflecting on my time away I can’t help but notice how alive I feel – and how precious life is. It’s meant to be lived and I intend to take advantage of it every day that I can until I die.
I think that I partially feel this way so acutely because in many respects I feel like I’ve had my own near death experience.
I don’t mean to be over dramatic or attention grabbing. I’ve not stepped out of the path of a speeding train or fallen from a great height and survived – but when I break my past down those examples are kind of what’s happened to me – but in slow motion.
Not so long ago I was hastening my death – and without realising it I was doing it by becoming just like the last person in the world that I wanted to be compared to.
Then it hits me.
Just like the little child with the pink bucket I was walking up that mountain because of a loss. Although I didn’t realise it at the time every step was taken in my mother’s memory because the moment of change that made it possible came to me when I was looking into her eyes.
She never meant to give it – but it was her final parting gift to me.
I’m not sure why that transformative spark arrived when it did. I’m not even sure that if I was faced with the same circumstances again on a different day that I’d have come to the same conclusion. I don’t know how to fix anyone else and generally I don’t always know how to fix myself – but I’m glad that a random selection of electrical impulses and memories collided in my brain at just the right moment and conspired to give me my life back.
The only thing that I know for sure about myself these days as everything about me changes physically and mentally is that I want to continue to be better.
Today someone contacted me privately and showed me their half a stone slimming world certificate. ‘I just wanted to show you this…’ they said ‘… I finally did it!’
It made me smile from ear to ear. That person had found their own moment in time to move forward and taken the crucial first few steps to begin.
A week ago another person messaged me to say they’d made a significant change in their life that would dramatically improve their health. On and off we’d been talking about this for some time and a few days ago they found the strength and courage to be who they wanted to be in life – and to cast off their self imposed burdens.
I realise now that I’ve heard a lot of stories like this over the last year and a half – and the greatest gift I’ve received from sharing my progress (or occasional lack of it) hasn’t just been the generous (and often humbling) personal support that people have given me – but the energising and empowering shared tales of personal battles with their own demons.
Each and every single one of us is free to be the absolute best versions of ourselves that it’s possible to be. All it takes is one little moment where enough is enough and you decide to do something different.
So internet – I can’t tell you how to spark change because I don’t know – but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you can climb your own personal mountain.
Whatever it is.
However long it takes you to get there.
Regardless of how you feel now.
Life can be better than you can possibly imagine if you want it to be.