A week or so ago, thanks to some smooth moves (read: a very embarrassing public fainting situation) on my part – I found myself stuck, for a couple of days, in hospital.
Yep – your resident health blogger got stuck in a hospital ward, feeling very much the opposite of my runnin’, weight-liftin’, clean-eatin’ self. In fact, I was swept off to hospital so fast I didn’t bring a hairbrush – as you can see in the image at the top of this post. Arguably, it’s not my best look.
Anyway, I got trapped on the inside because my poor lil’ ticker was working double time to compensate for some seriously low blood pressure on my part – meaning a million tests, and hours spent strapped up to various machines. Although I did get to see (and hear) my own heart beat on an ultrasound-thingumbob, which I’d say was a pretty cool experience, albeit one I hope never to have to repeat.
But I’ll admit – being stuck in a hospital for a couple of days, on a ward where I was, by a solid 65 years, the youngest patient, having tests on my ticker… That gave me a lil’ bit of a wobble.
Hell – if you’re not going to have a minor existential crisis in a hospital bed, when are you?
As I said to the doc (who, by the way, was gorgeous – every cloud, eh?) ending up in hospital when you’re 130lbs down and an all-round advocate for good health was kinda depressing. My worry wasn’t so much that I was unhealthy at that moment, but that I’d done something in the past to lead to illness now – and that the hard work I’d put in since my pizza-eatin’, pill-poppin’ days wouldn’t be enough to offset it.
I think that’s a fear you don’t really escape when you’ve made a dramatic lifestyle change like yours truly – that one day, you’ll wake up and find yourself back where you started, or that the mistakes you’ve made in the past will come back to haunt you somehow.
Hell – I’m pretty sure that’s a fear everyone’s got, in some respect… Right?
So, I stewed. I sat there, for hours, with The Fear, combined with remorse over every slice of cake I’d ever eaten. Once it was clear I’d be staying overnight, I figured the only thing to do was sleep it out – or at least, try, given the beeping machines, coughing, and unavoidable hospital noise. I curled up, closed my eyes, and tried to chill.
Now, my ward buddies were three lovely ladies called Maud, Myrtle, and Lil – aged 95, 92 and 95, respectively. But damn, they had more energy than I do on a good day – and I’m a lively girl. So, while I was attempting a kip, they were happily chatting away about various things – how one of them used to know a certain pair of infamous criminal twins; how annoying it was that a bus stop in Islington had been moved without warning; how someone’s gardener had lived upstairs from someone else’s ma… Y’know. Small talk.
But then, they began to chat about how they felt about being in hospital. Myrtle wasn’t particularly happy with the food (and I was inclined to agree… I didn’t know it was possible for an omelette to be so bad.) And Lil was feeling blue – she’d been hoping to go home for a few days, but her discharge date kept being postponed.
I waited to hear what Maud would say, given she’d been less than impressed with certain aspects of her stay so far. She’d been the only one of the three with no real family to speak of, as far as I could tell – judging by the fact that she had no visitors, no snacks on her bedside table, and the fact that, when offered the ward phone, she’d joked “Who am I going to call, eh?”
So when she came out with the following – in an amazing Cockney accent I wish I could accurately transcribe – I was pretty damn surprised:
“I don’t mind. I’m only 5 years away from my letter from the Queen, and my life has been brilliant and I’ve done a lot of lovely things. Every day has been bloody good in one way or another, and I’m always meeting new people, even if it is in hospital. I might not be well but when you get to our age and you can still do and learn things, spending time in a place like this is a small price to pay to be healthy, isn’t it?’
I spent the next few minutes trying to commit that to memory, because damn – that was a statement.
Now, I don’t really have grandparents. I mean, I did, obviously – but for as long as I can remember, they’ve not been around. So I don’t have much experience of the kind of pearls of wisdom people come out with when they’re post-90. Maybe that’s the norm. But for me, in that particular moment, that was exactly the advice I needed to hear – even if it wasn’t aimed at yours truly.
I mean, it boils down to a lot of the stuff I’ve said here before – appreciate every moment, live every day mindfully, look on the bright side and focus on the awesome things yet to come – but sometimes, you need to hear someone else say it. Especially someone who’s got a hell of a lot more experience to draw on. Given I had the fear, and given I was beginning to doubt myself and my health a bit, those words, in that moment, were the cure for my emotional ills.
Eventually, I made my escape with a relatively clean bill o’health – although I’m to lay off the over-exertion for a while (and try my very best not to hit the deck when I get too hot – which, to me, is another great reason to look forward to building my autumn wardrobe – bring on scarves, jumpers and tights, I say.)
But I’d also be inclined to say I’ve learned something from the experience. I’m even more certain that livin’ every moment is the most important thing you can do – even when those moments aren’t all that glamorous. Choose to make things good. Choose to see every day as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to meet new people – and choose joy.
That, right there, is the logic I’m planning live by to 95 and beyond.