Re-birth Day

I slithered to the floor of the bathroom and was immediately aware of zooming out of my body at great velocity, speeding down a long tunnel which I never got to the end of…

I heard Anadi calling to me, ‘Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful’ – ‘I’m here’ I replied, ‘ I’ve been somewhere else’… Later Anadi reminded me that I had then said ‘It would be very symetrical to die on my birthday…’

It was May 12th 2019, my 60th birthday.

I had woken at 6.30am needing to go to the loo, on sitting up the world span, ‘Wooah’ I thought, and made my way rather haphazardly to the bathroom and back… On lying down in bed, the spinning in my head increased wildly and I felt extrememly nauseous, “something very not right is going on with my body’ I said to Anadi…

I felt I might actually be sick, which is how we came to be in the bathroom, me on the floor, with Anadi witnessing me ‘leave the building’… He said my eyes were open, but I wasn’t there, my breathing was ‘odd’ and I was pouring sweat..

He called for an ambulance…

Emily and Michael the paramedics who arrived were wonderful, reassuring and patient… It took an hour for them to be able to move me off the floor onto a stretcher…

This time last year, May 12th 2018, I was completing a 1075 kilometre journey across Spain – in my bare feet… I had arrived to sunny joy with my family and friends who either ran the last leg with me, or were waiting to cheer me in… And so I celebrated my 59th birthday arriving in Almuñécar in fabulously fun and festive style!

It took me many months to recover from the challenge, but by November last year I was starting to look up the road for a new adventure.

I have always enjoyed setting a goal, and my lifetime quest has been to aim really high, but then connect to the step and let go of any attachment to an outcome… To truly experience the Zen of running, where being a runner disappears and instead I become running…

Barefoot Across Spain‘ had leant itself to this experience hugely, the words of the Spanish poet Antonio Machado; ‘Walker there is no path, we make the path by walking it’ – had been my watchwords for the entire journey…

And so by November, I decided I would challenge myself in an entirely different way… I wanted to see how swift I could become ‘for my age’… I discovered there was a big 5 kilometre race happening on my birthday actual, at Gatwick! It couldn’t be more perfect…

I applied myself to my training and my 5K time started to improve, the speed in my legs gradually returning…

A month before the Gatwick race, I was in Majorca with Malcolm and some Running Crazy runners, including Katie and Tony who had run some of my epic journey across Spain with me… I raced a 5K around the streets of Pollensa in glorious Spanish sun and achieved a time of 21.23.

This ranked me 8th fastest 55 – 59 year old at the time this year in the UK , and would have made me the 2nd fastest 60 year old ( had I been 60!)…

All was looking good…

I had thrown a 60th birthday party too, a fabulously fun affair, which I had chosen to have on the Friday night to allow some recovery time. I had danced the night away, but I don’t really drink, so it doesn’t come into any equation with party recovery for me…

I shared an expresso martini at the end of the evening with my friend Jane who had decorated Urban Ground Coffee shop where I held my fiesta! She has a similar head for alcohol, so sharing one drink for an evening just about does it for us!

On Saturday night, I jokingly said to Anadi that perhaps I wasn’t the most rested I had ever been for a race, but I was feeling good and went to bed feeling ready to run…

As I lay in the ambulance, looking at the blue sky through the window in the roof, I had to clear a slight feeling of diappointment – and then I let go of the race and embraced the birthday I was actually having.

Being where I am, with whatever is happening, being fully present is my lifetime, daily practise.

Of course to do this, we must be present to every feeling that courses through our being… When Emily, the paramedic, had shown confusion at my ECG, I had to clear some fear and prepare myself for possible death – as it happens subsequent tests have shown my heart to be super duper top level healthy…

But we are all living uncertain lives… My practise has been to become safe within myself, with the truth that nothing is certain, as was graphically demonstarted to me on my 60th birthday.

If we are truly where we are, even within sadness, difficulty , disappointment, then we are fully alive.

This is our life here and now, whatever is happening… It is important not to let the mind create stories…

I had a wonderful birthday, a different birthday to the one I had ‘planned’ – but a wonderful one never the less… I didn’t ‘think’ thoughts or stories, like ‘I’ve spent 6 months training for this race, it’s not fair, this is my birthday…’

And any fearful thoughts were fleeting…

I stayed with what was, which was quite a wibbly wobbly unsteady world for some time! Of course, I told the entire staff in Redhill hospital that it was my birthday! And a nurse called Matt brought me a delicious birthday cup cake…

I had many many medical tests, but I was with Anadi, and we were having a lovely time together, and I was receiving birthday wishes and love from many friends and family… For a while I had still thought that I might be off and out of hospital, so that we could make it for my birthday lunch booked at The Dalloway in Russel Square…

This was not to be…!

They discovered a shadow on one of the scans for my brain, which they thought might be a TIA, (Transient Ischemic Attack – mini stroke) and so I was properly admitted to hospital… When they gave me this news, I had a brief feeling of tearfulness, but it passed quickly…

I was wheeled to the ward where my birthday lunch of a baked potato and baked beans soon arrived; followed by a pair of green pyjamas – and I became an official patient!

I was there two days – our plane to Spain flew off without us – and then discharged because the doctor could not believe I had had a TIA… All my co ordination tests and balance tests – once I had stopped being so dizzy and wobbly – I had ‘passed’ with flying colours… She therefore suspected an inner ear virus causing a vertigo attack, but because of the scan showing ‘something’ (which she reassured me could simply be a ‘dodgy photo’) , she booked me in for a further MRI to fully clear up any doubt…

I spent 45 minutes yesterday in an MRI ‘tube’… I do not particularly like being in an enclosed space! I was instructed to lie completely still…

This was a time to truly practise vipasanna breathing meditation…

‘Well done’, the nurse said as she lifted the helmet off my face, and the heavy ‘thing’ off my body… ‘How was your first MRI experience…?

‘I don’t really like being in enclosed spaces’ I replied – ”So I closed my eyes and watched my breath…’

I will have my results next week…