This is a note on hope.
Because hope is important. And like that streak of sunshine across your face on a February day, a glint of it feels pretty great too.
A year ago I'd been signed off work for the 'foreseeable'. And I found with each passing day a new task beyond my capabilities. This included, but
• Putting on socks whilst standing. Very tricky.
• Speaking whilst standing. Garbled.
• Brushing teeth whilst standing. Messy.
And so to Google, to find proof of others before me that had been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Sydrome, but were now living each passing day standing, toothbrush in hand, whilst holding insightful chatter.
Instead Sue. (Well, we'll call her Sue). Sue, late sixties, whose writing was representative of a generation that suffered diagnosis of psychosis and a hell of a lot of eye rolling.
Sue was determined (and quite within her right), that the world need know her chronic illness plight. And WordPress was her soapbox. On and on, in a bid to validate, she typed lengthy descriptions of her struggle.
Well Sue, props for hitting up WordPress, but God, you made me feel like crap.
That vision of returning to work, breezing through the doors, gliding into the meeting room on wheely chair ('welcome back' banners held aloft, fist pumping, high fiving) was met instead by 19 cats, a moldy fridge and a disconnected phone line. Hope was lost.
And then I started this blog and hope started to land in my inbox.
Whilst there was nothing more frustrating than an email from an unknown: "I've seen your writing. Guess what, I beat ME and now I'm climbing Mount Kili!...but I actually don't know how or why it slowly retreated or how long it'll take for you", there was nothing like it either.
Sometimes on a rough day Sue and her merry band of Persian cats still come to mind, so I log onto my email for a quick hope fix. It might be a message sent about a chronic illness navigated admirably, or one of ME entirely overcome. All at some point have served as just the thing to brush me off and set me back on two - now far more steady - feet.
This weekend I travelled to Milan, with three of my oldest pals. A trip where we walked unplanned and talked until midnight and learnt how to say, "I'm allergic to shellfish" in Italian and ladled tea from a saucepan. A trip where we sat on a wall, and took a photo and got stuck in a lift, but the stairs would have been ok and each morning we stood and brushed our teeth in a row.
On our final day my Fitbit even told me that I'd walked 5,000 steps by 4pm. I tapped it twice just to check.
So now I'm the one who has the chance to say - guess what. There's hope! If you've just found this post - congratulations. You have all the attributes of an excellent detective (this surely buried in the realms of online). But also, here is the proof of someone just like you, that felt the rug pulled from under their feet a year ago, who just yesterday was the stereotypical Brit abroad.
This by no means indicates that health is achievable if you just try and hope hard enough. A positive attitude is ideal, but if you're experiencing the deep clutches of ME it doesn't stop your legs from giving way underneath you. Just felt it right to recycle that little bit of hope that was once typed to me.
My friend Rose has an analogy. Take your woe real up close. Then zoom out. Way out. Bit further, until you're taking tea with Tim Peake*. Now look again.
All of us humans busying about, all so different, but really quite the same. And there are a fair few of us. Which (by absolutely no calculation) means that if you're having the worst time of all, you can pretty much bet that someone out there has experienced similar.
The problem with struggle is this; once it's past, once you've propelled yourself far from it, who wants to hang around and chat about it some more?
But maybe we should forget that typical Brit stiff upper lip, and get chatting about our hardest nights, of clammy palms and stinging eyes, our longest days, our challenge overcome. Not dwelling on our downs, surrounded by Galaxy wrappers and last night's lasagna, but speaking frankly, openly, honestly and proudly. Everyone's had that crappy time. Wear your rise like a flashing badge of honor. (Unless you're trying to fast track to X Factor finals. In which case this doesn't apply and please stop immediately.)
Sharing your unique slice of experience shouldn't be regarded as self-indulgent. In fact, it could be just be the kindest thing you've done all day. Because someone, somewhere may catch your words (on gale force breeze), see you standing firmly on two feet, and feel that streak of sunshine on a dank February day.
p.s also had first glug of prosecco in a year. Tasted like a sweet, sweet dream.
*He's in space. If you didn't know, where have you been?