Sunday, 29 December 2013

A blank piece of paper...

2014. The start of a fresh new year full of hope and plans. The annual magical mystery tour into the next 12 months. We all try to plan the future, but the future has a habit of being a bit of a rebel. It doesn't like being told what to do.

So the future is always full of surprises. Tricks up its sleeve. Some of its mischief is a pleasant surprise. But sometimes what it had planned without telling us leaves us in despair. I think you can see where I'm going with this.

Or you might not. Like the future, this blog can be full of surprises.

Twelve months ago, as I made another cuppa for Diane to take up to her as she rested in bed trying to shake off this nasty bug we thought she had, 2013 still held a lot of promise. So much we were going to do.

How quickly the future sprang its devastating surprise on us and wrenched Diane from me in just a few weeks. It left me devastated, alone, our plans turned to dust.

The grief was unimaginable, even if I had been given time to imagine it. The shock, the pain, the anger, the rage. All these overwhelming emotions swirling around. Everyone expects those and, boy, they do not disappoint.

But there were still other surprises in store. Some good, even. Nobody is more surprised than me to lose shedloads of weight and be on the brink of my first marathon just a year since being 24 stones, diabetic and unable to get up a flight of stairs without joining Kermit’s nephew on the stair half way up for a breather and a catch-up.

I was literally shocked into getting fit - well, at least fitter - and I became a runner at 57 after a lifetime of being activity-averse, as Nigella might put it.

Now in just over 100 days off running my first marathon - inspired by my extraordinary wife Diane's courage - to raise cash for Breast Cancer Care UK and Derian House Children's Hospice in Chorley, Lancashire, around the streets of Rotterdam where she spent her childhood.

I want to tell you when that moment of surprise inspiration came. So pull up a seat and get comfy.
It was a short while after Diane's funeral.

I was sitting staring at, rather than watching, the TV and thinking, as usual, about Diane. I would do this for quite a while, trying to make sense of what had happened. I have not yet managed to solve that one. I’m told there’s no answer to that question: Why? So I reckon soon it will be time to stop asking it.
So there I was, when suddenly a thought came into my head, an image that has stayed with me ever since. I am at a desk on which there is nothing but a blank piece of paper. There is someone standing at my right shoulder. It feels like an authority figure, seems male. Not Diane, then so this isn’t one of those spooky “She came to me” stories. I think she sent him, though. Whoever he was. Maybe an old teacher. Maybe Mr Bogart, who taught her in Rotterdam and of whom she often spoke. Never mind. Probably not relevant.

The figure reaches out and hands me a pen. He points at the blank piece of paper. That's the rest of your life, he says, start writing it.

I realise in that moment that Diane wanted me to have a go. At anything I wanted to. She didn’t want me to sit and mope, she wanted me to get off my backside and sort myself out. She had always worried about how I’d cope on my own. This was her telling me to buck up and get on with it.
I realise that the future is all we have, even if it doesn’t do what we want it to. We must try, we must strive, we must do our utmost. And maybe, the future will from time to time be kind to us and let us achieve one of our dreams.

One thing is certain – not trying is not an option. Not trying is letting Diane down. Letting down everything she did when she was alive to get me to where I am now. She was the driving force behind all I did then and nothing has changed. She still drives me on. That’s what the black piece of paper was all about. Her motivating me, as she had always done in life, her telling me to reach higher, achieve more and be better.
I think that’s what is behind all this health kick and marathon lark.

So as we stand on the starting line of 2014, we should be reaching for our dreams. Tell yourself anything is possible, and then go for it for as long as the future lets you. You'll be surprised by how far you can get. It's a lot more than just 26 miles.

I was reminded of words Diane said in the early, bleak days following her diagnosis in 2006. We feared the worst, thought we had just a few months left together, and Di made me promise to live life without her to the full. She was sure I would struggle on my own, and was determined that I shouldn't face the future alone. So she has stuck around for a while, inspiring me to hopefully get more of it right than wrong.

Fast forward to 2013 and me at the desk. I take the pen and start to write. As we approach the end of this terrible year, I have nearly reached the end of the first chapter, which will come to its dramatic – and possibly hilarious - conclusion on Rotterdam's celebrated Coolsingel finishing straight in April.
Then when it is done, I will begin to write the next chapter of the rest of my life... and right now I have no idea what it will be.
And maybe one of the surprises the future will have up its sleeve in 2014 is to let me succeed at a few things I try to do.

So do we look back on 2013 or forward to 2014? I will always remember every awful moment of the last 12 months, and there are still moments to come when tears will return, when days will be bleak. January 5 would have been our 18th wedding anniversary, February 6 will mark 12 months since Diane died. Eight days later, 12 months ago, we all gathered to celebrate her life and say goodbye. Tough days ahead.

But 2013 is already written, already set in stone. We can’t change a word of it. That chapter is closed. So leave it and put it up there on the shelf next to 2011 and 2012.

As for 2014, that’s still up for grabs. I have already made a start. The paper's not blank anymore.
But there's still so much left to write…

No comments:

Post a Comment