I am light years away from the busyness and activity that was my world before I was laid low and diagnosed with CFS/ME! Gone are the ‘badges’ I used to wear and polish with pride: ‘engineer’, ‘manager’, ‘chairman of trustees’, ‘counsellor’, ‘prayer minister’, ‘regional leader’, ‘mountain climber’.
The only badge I have now is ‘beloved of Jesus.’ My favourite Bible character then, was Elijah strutting his stuff on the top of Mount Carmel. A more appropriate personality now, would be Amos, sitting under a fruit tree keeping an eye on his sheep.
This is one of my oil paintings. It’s of the source of the River Derwent in the Peak National Park of England. On one of those sort-after sorties into the wilderness. I followed the river as a stream, winding round higher and higher through the moorland heights. The sides of the valley were splashed in heather in bloom and the banks of the tiny stream rippling between banks covered in vivid green moss. A beautiful stimulating scene, it still stirs me when I look at it.
I have since had to learn new ways, working with ‘what is!’. No more assaults on moorland crags and traversing mountain ridges to complete a challenge. I have become content with a few hundred yards gentle amble – at the most, on the flat, with the wind behind me, on a good day – just to ‘be’ and taking in what is close to. There wasn’t time before, I was in too much of a rush. I now appreciate what is ‘under my nose’ so to speak. This was what my heart longed for, what my soul was crying our for. Be still and take it in. The blackthorn blossom on stark black branches, the kestrel poised for the attack, the early powdery willow catkins shaking in the breeze.
I have found that there is life in the solitude. A change from ‘head’ to ‘heart’. Much-needed time for relationship, first with Father, then my wife and family and the occasional friend. To stop and listen and consider.
The transition between the two worlds was hard, even painful, devastating, and at first most unfair. It was like being catapulted into the unknown. The way forward through the fog was only indicated by a signpost with one word, ‘God!’ I am so glad that I was given the grace to go this way.
But note: there came a time for Amos to go in obedience and deliver his message.
Filed under art, artist, Christian, Christianity, chronic fatigue, creativity, disability, family, healing, health, health & wellness, illness, Jesus, lifestyle, M.E., personal, relationships, retirement, spiritual
I was clearing out our basement the other day and came across my walking boots.
They haven’t seen the light of day since I was diagnosed with M.E.. They are very good quality Zamberlins. Although they are Italian, they were made on a British last for the wider Anglo Saxon foot. They took my strong legs securely up many a mountain peak, across moorland bogs and along northern dales. I loved walking in wild places and felt stimulated. Not only that, but I was shown valuable spiritual lessons in the solitude of those wilderness walks.
My weak leg muscles meant the boots had to be put away. It wasn’t just the walking that was curtailed, but much of the Christian work and activity that gave me so much fulfilment. That season of my life was over and I had to let it all go before I could enter into the next. Whatever that was to be?
It took time for me to come to terms with the situation. I had to work though with Father God, the feelings of loneliness and the loss of activity that gave me value, the loss of social contacts, strength and health. Also the grief I was experiencing wasn’t just for the immediate loss, but long-buried grief from years past. I came to realise that unresolved grief can in itself use up valuable energy and affect fatigue.
I cleaned and lovingly oiled the supple leather, before placing the boots back in the box. I don’t want to part with them yet. It’s no good giving them away, they would hardly fit anyone else, as they are moulded to my feet. I’m OK with the mountains though, even though I still get a thrill and a tinge of sadness when I think of them. I will be walking again, but more of the gentler kind.
I’ve since had other kinds of mountains to face. Mountains of fear, doubt and illness. As I accepted the situation and found healing, my vision was renewed and broadened. I began to discover latent gifts and talents and had more quality time with my wife. I began to learn new ways and find satisfaction in doing what I was able.
What I originally saw as a terrible loss, is turning out to be a life-saver.
My employers were having yet another reorganisation and all the new jobs were up for grabs. It seemed like disorganisation to me, as I couldn’t see anything I identified with and felt I had reached the end of the road. I spent the weekend tramping Bodmin Moor to decide my response and came to the conclusion that I wanted out. Three years later that’s exactly what happened.
Early retirement seemed like a dream come true, it was like being on honeymoon. I had the freedom to follow what I had always wanted to do, although I wasn’t exactly sure what that was.
I celebrated with a few days of hill walking. I never felt more stimulated than when amongst the hills and mountains of the Brecons, the High Peak and especially the Lake District Fells. My wife and I followed this up with what we called ‘our trek,’ touring up the west side of Great Britain as far as the Isle of Skye, across to Edinburgh and back down the west side via Lindisfarne, Nottingham, Cambridge and calling at friends on the way. Thirteen different beds in six weeks! We both became involved in Christian voluntary work, especially me. I found it very fulfilling and thought it was what I was made for. Year by year, the involvements grew and snowballed until it was almost like working full time again. Then things began to change.
I suffered a heavy bout of ‘flu and just when I thought it was over, I was hit with another virus infection that just wouldn’t go away. Eventually I decided to go for a walk with a local group of ramblers to work it off, that had always worked in the past, but came back absolutely and totally exhausted. Our doctor examined me and after blood tests said he thought I had post viral syndrome. I asked how long does that last? He smiled – I like our G.P. – and replied with just the hint of a shrug, “a year?” I was handed a leaflet on my way out. I felt numb and realised I was own my own.