Slow Down!!!

June? Already??!! We are half way through 2014, and I was asked to reflect on it, but do find it a strange time of year to already be doing so. Usually June is busy, not reflective. By June we are all fixed in our routines, and (in Britain at least) dreaming of the promised sunshine. Thinking back on the year gone by usually happens for me all of a sudden somewhere in the middle of November. Now that I think of it, this always happens in November, I don’t really know why. Perhaps because the end of the year is looming and I am thinking about all the things I didn’t quite get round to doing. Looking back through my diaries I can see several ‘November Again’ entries. It is always November that gets me. But perhaps it isn’t a bad idea to look back on the first half of the year, now; that we still have a 6-month-shot at carrying out any plans we had in the New Year.

Now that I look back on the first half of 2014, I realise that something important has changed this year. Something important that I might not have been able to place in time had I not looked back until my customary November panic. As I sit at my desk writing, I am aware of a scruffy list I have placed on top of a messy, and surprisingly high, pile of other lists. In the past, my endless lists, (which are nothing new) would have been a reason to stop writing and get back to work as it were, running and completing errands; reasserting goals, making them more realistic…if not crossing them out altogether! As I sit and reflect on the last six months, I realise that this year has been a bit different to the last few. Although it has raced by, like the last five years or so; faster even, I have felt able to do things in my own time, and for once, not been getting annoyed at myself for not fulfilling my January, February, April goals on time.

Since my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in late 2009, my perception of time has been constantly changing. At first, it was all about doing as much as I could in the time I had left – MS kind of reminded me that we are not here forever. I sort of panicked and decided I needed to focus on things I really wanted to do. I started learning German, took up drawing lessons, learnt to use a sewing machine, really got into yoga, took up the bass guitar, started singing lessons, decided to write a book, all this on top of a new healthy lifestyle, all at roughly the same time (!) Soon I started to work as a teacher full-time, and still had most of these other plans in the back of my mind, picking up one then the other on weekends or holidays and after hours of marking homework!

MS has been a wonderful eye-opener. Although initially I rushed in all directions trying to do everything, it has also made me learn to enjoy the moment, and to reject unnecessary stress and distress. And, gradually, as I have learnt to maintain my health – both physical and mental, it has also made me realise that if I am going to live well for as long as I can, I need to slow down when I have symptoms/relapses – or rather, before they begin at all.

2014, for me has been putting this last, important realisation, into practice. I have lots of goals and lots of things I was expecting to have started this year, that I have not yet been able to. But there is one thing that has really started to change; I have slowed down, and learnt to stop when I need to rest, before reaching the point of no return, the point I always reach; where I have overdone things, again. This, for me, has been a tremendous achievement, and I am working each day to remind myself, that although time is whizzing away, there is no point in doing everything, if it eventually means I will reach a point where I can no longer do anything anymore. I am also very pleased to have stopped like this; mid-year, to notice this change, which I have known for some time now; was a necessary one.

A close friend of mine turned 30 this year, and as I thought about useful things to tell her in this significant year; the year that I too will turn 30; I came across a very wise piece of advice for 30-somethings: You can’t have everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well. This made a lot of sense to me. Instead of spreading yourself thinly, trying a bit of everything; the key is to try to do fewer things, well, in-depth and whole heartedly.

I feel like the universe has been trying to tell me this since the death of both of my grandmas in late 2013. When my grandmothers of 95 and 89 who had lived 4456 KM away from one another their entire lives, never meeting; died within a month of each other; I felt they were both sending me the same message: that I am not going to live forever, that no one is immortal. In my reading I have come across a similar message. I am currently reading the books of Carlos Castaneda. He relates the teachings of Don Juan, who argues that the only life worth living is that of a warrior; someone who performs every act as if it were their last on earth. The universe is telling me that I will not be here forever and so I’d better get on with my plans, and do them well!

Although I have decided on a few things to focus on, my main personal goal is to stay well, and to do this, I need to continue to take things slowly. So I am not worrying about not accomplishing too much this year; I have already achieved perhaps one of the most important life goals for myself, as part of my management of MS. I hope that you too will have decided on a few important things to focus on; and if you haven’t yet decided/started working on it – you still have six glorious months in which to do so.

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