It is the first day of my summer holidays, and I’m delighted. I had a lie-in. Woke up feeling relaxed. It was finally here. The day that I’d been waiting for, for weeks on end. The hallowed first day of the summer holidays.
My husband has known me for over 10 years now, and he knows things about me, that I forget about myself. How I need to drink water after a shower because I get dehydrated; when I’m feeling tense or drained, I need to get to the gym because the weights and the cardio make me feel a thousand times better……and he also knows how difficult I find the last day of the school year – even though my body may have been crying out for it for weeks…
I have just finished working with the most amazing group of children, (every year I feel like this about my class), and this year it’s such a wrench saying goodbye to them all over again. The amount of love I’ve received from these children has been phenomenal, and I’ve absolutely adored them. Everyday this week, I’ve come home, my arms laden with gifts and cards – some handmade, some bought – all equally precious, thanking me for what I have done for them. And I’ve been immensely grateful, some of the unexpected messages have touched my heart, and I’ve found it difficult to switch off.
Thinking about a group of children everyday, thinking about what they need – teaching isn’t just teaching – you’re counselling; you’re nursing; you’re caring about their aches, pains, cuts, dry skin, fall-outs with friends; home-life issues; sharing stories; knowing when to be sympathetic; knowing when to be humorous; knowing when they’re hungry or tired or grumpy or just too plain-old-hot.
So, I’ve been dragging myself out of bed everyday. Giving myself pep-talks – come on, you can do this! Three more get-ups; two more get-ups; one more get-up; final day. And then I come home. Drained. Physically and emotionally. And I realise that I won’t have to care for that set of children everyday anymore. And it hits me – like a lead balloon – every year, without fail – and like a fool, I never see it coming. I’ve been so preoccupied with my own tiredness and needing to get to the finishing line – I forget how sad I get when I come home, knowing that ‘that’s that’, for another year.
But it’s not just incredible, loving children that I’ve met this year. I’ve encountered some phenomenal adults too. Once in a while, you meet people who are absolute beacons of strength and positivity. People who have suffered loss or illness in their lives, have had to make life changes, and haven’t let life beat them, get the better of them – instead they walk around, head held high, as an inspiration to others.
One person I met recently, was really successful in her job, running half marathons, working hard, playing hard, never resting – then her world came crashing down as she developed ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’. From being a hyper, energetic, high performing individual – she described the pain she felt when she couldn’t even put one foot in front of another to walk. In order to recuperate, she had to make substantial life choices – give up the job that she was doing, concentrate on healing her body and getting back to a position where she could function again. She’s in a much better place now, but as it’s a condition that will never go away, she has to be careful not to overdo things, to know her limits, slow down before things spiral downwards for her. Whenever she sees me though, she’s always greeting me with a massive hug and a kiss, making sure that I’m ok, telling me not to work too hard – and I feel humbled.
And then I met another incredible, phenomenal woman. I only spoke with her for 7 minutes. But I don’t think that i will ever forget her.
My friend introduced me to her, and explained that she wasn’t well. I felt confused. In front of me sat a petite woman, I guessed in her 40’s, with glowing mocha coloured skin, shiny black hair cut into a bob, sitting quietly and still – just an immense sense of stillness about her. She opened her mouth and in a very matter of fact way explained that she was living with cancer. Bewildered, I didn’t know what to say, but the fact that she was so open, made me feel that she wouldn’t mind if I asked her questions. I was right, she didn’t mind. She explained that she had breast cancer, but the doctors were not able to operate because the cancer had spread to her spine and ribs. The doctors were incredible with their treatments, and she had carried out a lot of research to support their treatments with a massive lifestyle change and using alternative remedies too. She explained how cancer thrived and was most comfortable in bodies with a lot of acid. The acid was in processed foods and food that contained a lot of pesticides and growth hormones. She was having a mainly vegan diet and only bought organic food to reduce the amount of acid in her body and make the conditions in her body, more alkaline based.
I asked if stress caused more acid in the body, she replied most definitely. It’s so important to eat well and avoid stress as that helps your body so much.
If it was up to me, I would have carried on talking to her for as long as I could. But I had to leave. But she and her words stayed with me.
Both women made me think that we – everyone – we have to slow down. We must slow down. We are a world of people pursuing money; having the nicest houses; having the nicest cars; having the best holidays; leading the high life – but does any of that matter if you don’t have your health? Mental health? Physical health?
I, for one, am going to slow down. Love life. Love people. Not stress. Not worry. Eat well. Be happy.
Life is too short, and on the flip of a coin, circumstances can change within a heartbeat. So I will avoid those who enjoy drama, those who enjoy competition, those who revel in the misery of others, those who are there to make life harder for others. And I pray that I meet more people, who inspire me, who remind me of what life is really about – people who make the world a much better place.