When I was very young, I had a good sense of who I was. Unlike most kids who talk in the third person, I knew it was ‘me’ and ‘I’ doing these things; enjoying or disliking, hurting or loving. In those days, what I was was very much defined in the positive; ‘I do this’. Now, it seems as much focused around what I do not.
I do not live in a house. I do not go to work. I also don’t play sports, socialise much or go on holiday and I am not the person who first offers to help a friend or family member. Thinking about these things has made me wonder how much of our actions defines who we are.
I used to do a job where I promoted the benefits of physical activity to the people of Coventry. When I joined the team, I had a dramatised perception of what they were like; sitting in an ivory tower, tapping away at text that had to be between size 11 and 14, thanks to some handy guidelines. They paid people to interact with the lovely people of Coventry; very rarely did they do much interaction themselves. But, in joining the team, I didn’t want to be like that. Like always, I wanted to be different (with a strong sense of self).
I believed (and still do) in the Gandhi saying ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’. So sitting down all day in front of these screens wasn’t an option. I was off to a good start; I did a lot of physical activities in my life, from cycling to work at least once a week, to playing squash, or walking to the shop, pub, friends house – whatever, wherever. However, I felt I had to embody this belief that we should move more, within the work environment. I started to hold as many of my meetings as possible, as ‘walk and talks’, where we had the meeting while walking around the city we were trying to do good things for.
Those days for me seem long gone, with chronic migraine blighting my aspirations for being super-fit as well as pretty much any career ideas I once had. I now do a fair bit of sitting down, but try to limit the screen time when my brain will let me focus on more complicated things, such as printed words on paper or a conversation – with another person! I took so much pride in being active whereas I now believe the recommendations for physical activity actually put a lot of pressure on people like me who find it difficult just to get out of bed some days.
The change of chronic illness has ripped away so many of the parts of me that my family and friends are probably struggling to recognise this person who looks and sounds the same. I now live in a narrow boat and am technically a traveller, or ‘water gypsy’. I am proud of this new found status, but it provides complications which infiltrate into my social, medical and any possible working life. If I decide to live in a static home does that then make me different person? Or if my health suddenly improves – what then? It feels there are so many variables that have changed, and could change again, it’s hard to keep a grip of who I am – or am not – at times, when my actions often do not mirror what slowly ticks round in my sometimes-functioning brain.
My very core life values have been shaken about, punched in the face, and sat down for a good interrogation. I feel like I am still figuring out who I am, and how what I do reflects or changes that. I hope people around be are bearing with all these changes; migraine has made me a lot more selfish which has helped my health, but sometimes gives me tunnel vision which I need to peak out of every so often.
I don’t have an answer for you – never mind myself ! – on these questions I’ve posed. I’d welcome your thoughts either in a private message, or in the comments below.
A waiting room for change, we’re all self-engrossed
Being that change, what I miss the most
Having trouble? I’ll catch your fall
Instead i’m left, no use at all
Social occasions, a feel-good host
Just another, of what I loved the most
I can be helpful or well, that’s my choice
So i crowd back into, my inner tortoise