We go about our daily lives, seeing to the kids, shopping, housework, feeding the family and generally doing a great impression of a circus ringmaster, (or a lion tamer!). Then we can put our feet up with a cup of tea or glass of wine and turn on the TV, go to the cinema or visit friends and relatives. All part of our daily cycle of life and very much taken for granted.
Having raised a large family, I know all about the rigors of everyday life not to mention balancing that with the demands, pressure and stresses of a career in management. But we cope. We are hard-wired, as a race, for survival and to varying degrees of success, we get through it all and often even enjoy it. We enjoy those moments when we can look back at the fruits of our labour with a satisfied grin.
We also interact with others along the way, each with their own daily stresses and strains and again, we just take them for granted and ignore them; “it’s not our problem” or “we have enough to cope with as it is” or simply just don’t care about others. I’m sure at some point or other I have fitted into one or more of those categories, I’m no angel.
There sometimes comes a point in life when you are given an opportunity to pause it all and reflect on the direction you are headed in and who, if anybody, you are affecting along the way. It may surprise you to find out that most of us realize that all is not as rosy in our gardens as we thought. We may even come to realize that we don’t like ourselves or the way we behave towards family, friends, work colleagues or even people we meet in the street.
If we are sensible, and I believe most of us are, underneath our facades, then we should take this opportunity with both hands and use it to shake the weeds out of the gardens of our lives. Re-assess and change our priorities. For most of us, the moment of pause is more of a shock to the system; a wake up call! We are shown in no uncertain terms, that we are being given a very rare second chance at things and only a fool would waste the opportunity.
My wake up call came a number of years ago when I was admitted into hospital with Deep Vein Thrombosis in my legs and then in my lungs. This led to other complications, the worst being Pneumonia causing my lungs to partially collapse. I was laid up in hospital for just under two weeks with nothing to do but think. Then, about eight months later, I was back in with a second attack of Thrombosis and Pneumonia. I pulled through it all but in the words of my consultant, I had had a couple of very lucky escapes! When a consultant tells you that, you tend listen.
I like to think that, thereafter, I changed as a person, a father, a husband and hopefully as a friend. I stopped worrying and stressing over the petty drudgery of daily life and started to smile and laugh a lot more; take a more laid back and accepting outlook to life. I even started writing what would ultimately become my debut novel, Hey Up, Matron!
I was later diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, (…the hits just keep on rolling…), and have been learning to live with the ups and downs of this insidious disease for a number of years now.
One thing I’ve learned throughout all this is that there are many more similar sufferers out there than you would think. As anybody who is living with a ‘hidden’ illness like this will know, it becomes frustratingly hard to do even the most trivial things like dressing or bathing. Even getting about the house has you panting out of breath and feeling like you have just run a marathon. Your life changes so drastically as in my case I’ve had to give up my 19yr management career and rely on my family for help and support. For somebody as physical and independent as I used to be, this was a serious culture shock for me. Many who suffer from these hidden illnesses also have to manage bouts of depression and/or anxiety along with other medical and mental complications.
You’ll notice that I refer to the conditions as ‘hidden’. Depending on the severity or stage of the condition, from the outside you may look quite normal and even relatively healthy. But ‘hidden’ inside, away from public view, the picture can be very different! I always liked the analogy of a swan. On the surface of the water they look graceful and regal but under the water where you can’t see, they are paddling like hell to keep going.
So from now on, as you go about your daily lives, just take a moment to think about the person sat next to you on the bus or train; across the room or even passing you in the street. Think that although outwardly they may seem fine, that they may well be dealing with a terrible and sometimes life threatening disease and yet they are still trying to get on with their lives with as little fuss or attention as they can.
Smile more; say a simple “hello” or “good morning”; be more friendly and helpful with each other. For these ‘Hidden Hero’s’ and that’s truly what I believe they are, are all around us, doing whatever they can just to get through; to survive another day coping with more than we could probably imagine and still managing to smile!
True hero’s, one and all.
©2015 Darren Scanlon. All rights reserved.