There's one part of a song that I like a lot, Baz Luhrmann's Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen):
Enjoy your body
use it every way you can...
don't be afraid of it, or what other people think of it
it's the greatest instrument you'll ever own
Maybe I didn't appreciate this before my transplant, before I lost any control over my body. I certainly took the poor bloody thing for granted and assumed it would last forever.
Now lovely people often congratulate me on getting through my liver transplant, which is so kind, although I do find funny considering I did nothing but lie in bed begging for food while other, astonishing, people worked tirelessly to save my life, so I can't claim pride for that. I can - and do - have pride however in how hard I've worked to get this body back to being strong again afterwards. I find it a huge comfort that I have been able to do that much for myself at least. That I was able to somewhat 'retune' the 'greatest instrument I'll ever own'.
And I think having this pride is perhaps why I've noticed something that makes me want to shake my phone recently! That more and more of the Instagram accounts I follow, or the running articles I read, celebrate being, for want of a better word, mediocre and ordinary, especially women. And as controversial as it may be to say, I think this is a massive shame and a huge injustice actually. Feeding each other the message not to push ourselves and our bodies means we're giving each other excuses not to explore what these brilliant bodies we have can do. Which means you'll never know! And what's to celebrate about that.
Maybe it's that the messages are misconstrued. By telling each other to 'be kind to ourselves' we read 'have a long bath and drink some wine' when really, being kind to yourself in a way that matters and will last, is pushing yourself physically or mentally and getting yourself closer to your goals. We can all make each other feel better about giving up on something we don't want to do, or find hard, or embarrassing, but wouldn't it be an awful lot kinder to push each other on, hold each other to account and actually stick together to accomplish our goals? There's so much happiness to be discovered in the pain cave!
Sticking With It
Six months after my liver transplant, I competed at the British Transplant Games and managed to gain five medals, including gold for the 800m. The games were an enormous milestone for me, one that I'd been aiming for ever since I'd managed my first wobbly step three days after surgery. I'd given myself a big task to even get to them, my doctors weren't optimistic and it often looked like I'd be able to do no more than walk laps of the track at best. But getting to them was my goal, and I set out to achieve it no matter what.
Before my wound was ready for me to run, I walked. I walked and walked and walked to try and get back some of the muscle I'd lost after three weeks lying in a hospital bed and weeks before that being poorly. When I was ready to push my heart, I joined a small, friendly gym and went to spin sessions. It was a long time before I could manage the whole class but each time I went I could spin for a little longer. And when I was able to start running again, I did, every single day, however slowly.
And I hated it.
I hated being a slow runner, being overtaken by everybody. Wearing baggy t-shirts to hide my swollen scar-riddled stomach. Nonetheless during that period I ran whenever I could, no matter how much I hated it.
I was incredibly hard on myself. Incredibly frustrated with my slow progress. Angry at my slow legs, my weak abs, angry that this had happened to me at all. Really angry about that sometimes. But I kept at it, kept focussed. I almost didn't go to the games because I didn't want to embarrass myself, but I did go, mostly because I knew how much I'd regret not being there.
And low and behold I won a bronze medal in my first race. A bronze medal! I couldn't believe it. And in that single moment, every frustration I'd had, every run that had felt horrible or embarrassing, was forgotten, and the glee and the pride were overwhelming.
Be Hard on Yourself
I know that in my life now I'm lucky to have a huge motivation. I have somebody else's liver to keep healthy and safe, and I have my donor to make proud. And that does often cross my mind when training gets hard. But that wasn't the only reason I achieved something that to me was so important. I achieved it because I was so hard on myself, I gave myself no excuses, I pushed myself and my body as hard as a I sensibly could. I didn't relent. Through all the tears, all the embarrassing parkruns, I kept going and kept pushing, and I know I'll be able to look back and I will always have that achievement all to myself.
So this sort of 'celebration of mediocrity' that's going on, that it's great being ordinary rather than striving to be the best we can be, that being kind to ourselves equals ignoring our goals. Well I think it's really sad actually.
It's sad because if I'd been content taking the easy path after my transplant, then I wouldn't have that achievement to look back on, and I wouldn't have experienced those enormously happy emotions at the time either. And I think it's moments like that, the memories they create, that is the most valuable thing any of us really has. The things we'll smile about on our deathbed.
It IS OK to Fail, Just Acknowledge It
Please don't get me wrong, I fail a lot, give up a lot, I eat too much sugar, I miss runs because I just cannot be bothered to leave the house, or find a clean sports bra, I give up halfway through a hard training run because it hurts too much, but I do NOT tell myself it's OK. It isn't OK, I'm letting myself down. And it's because I acknowledge that I'm letting myself down that I don't do it again the next day. Instead I achieve that goal and, crucially, I feel absolutely bloody brilliant because of it. And then I get to eat butter-saturated crumpets to celebrate.
It's too easy to hide away, to tell yourself you're doing your best when it gets hard. But pleeaase don't give up! Please don't be mediocre. You know deep down if you've pushed yourself as hard as you could have, gone into the dark depths of the pain cave. And if you don't let yourself believe it now, you'll definitely believe it when you cross that finish line and you haven't achieved your goal, or beaten your PB.
For the Body and the Mind
I suppose this blog post is a long winded way of saying there is so much joy and pride to be had from being the best version of yourself. And to be honest, I've written this as much for myself as for anybody, I may push myself in the right direction with my run training, but other aspects of my life are much harder to get in control of. And ultimately I would hate for anybody to let me think it's OK not to be fulfilled in them! None of us are perfect, so let's help each other achieve our extraordinary!
I'd love to hear your comments on this :)