Year of Positive Change, Month 1: Daily Exercise

Today is the first day of the first month of the Year of Positive Change and my first target:

Exercise Daily

I want to be fitter, to be healthier and to be able to really challenge myself physically in 2014 and beyond.

Twice now I’ve trained for the 3 Peaks Challenge and had to cancel the trip at the last minute and each time I’ve settled into my old patterns of not doing any exercise and letting myself slip back.

At the end of 2013, I promised Gareth that I would run a 10k in his honour with his sister and brother, I intend to stick to that promise. Can there be any great motivation?

Beyond that, I just want to escape this nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough with the new life I’ve been given.

Six years ago when I was first recovering from my transplant I promised myself that I’d make the most of these lungs and really push myself, but I haven’t.

Broken promises are the worst things in the world, but when they are to ourselves they are so easy to overlook. [Tweet this]

This month, then, I will be doing some form of exercise every single day. I’ve started a gym programme on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and I’ll be looking to add some yoga and dynamic stretching in on the off-days, with maybe a good walk on a Sunday. Here’s what I hope it will achieve:

  • I’ll be fitter.
  • I’ll be happier (I’m told daily exercise is great for perking you up.
  • I’ll be more grateful for the ability to get up and do things, which so many people aren’t able to do.
  • I’ll feel like I’ve made a really positive start to the year, tackling one of the things I struggle most with first.

I’d love you to join me if you’d care to. It doesn’t have to be as drastic as I’m taking on, you could perhaps commit to taking a short walk each day – once round the block in the evening, say – but just commit to getting yourself off the sofa, out from behind the desk or away from the kitchen for just a few minutes each day.

I’ll be publishing weekly updates here, so feel free to keep me in check (or motivated with your own story in the comments) or connect with me on Twitter or Google+.

Will you be undertaking a short piece of daily exercise? Commit to it in the comments below.

Year of Positive Change

It’s fair to say that 2013 has not been a great year for us at Lewington Towers. There has been a pretty significant break in my blogging and, in many ways, our lives over the last 12 months.

I’m not going to go into great detail here (for reasons which will become apparent), but there has been altogether too much illness, downsides and death this year.

But, as I reflect on the previous 365 days I realise I have a huge amount to be grateful for despite everything that’s happened.

My wife and I survived what I hope may be one of the toughest years of our marriage just six months into it; certainly it’s been the toughest year of our relationship together to far, all 8 years of it. We’re stronger now than we ever have been before.

My newest niece was born. Not being a parent myself, I can only imagine the feeling to hold your own child in your arms, but beyond that there can be little else that can compare to the joy of holding your brother or sister’s baby in your arms and feeling such an overwhelming sense of love and protection for them.

In a very mundane way, we are still in our loving, warm home – we can pay our bills, we can afford some little luxuries and, if we were to compare ourselves with others around the world, we are extremely privileged.

We are surrounded by friends and family that love us, who support us and who would stop at nothing to protect us if they could.

Starting fresh

Both K and I sincerely hope that 2014 is going to be a better year for us, but regardless, I’ve realised how important this blog (and its ideas) are to me.

I stopped blogging for long periods in 2013 because I couldn’t see the light – I couldn’t find things to smile about, couldn’t see the positives in the mire of terrible events, couldn’t enjoy life for the gift it was.

So this year I’m resolutely turning over a new leaf. Inspired by Leo Babauta’s Year of Living Without I’ve decided to instigate A Year of Positive Change.

Positive Change

I wanted to focus on positive change because that’s the best way – for me at least – to stay motivated towards doing something good to change things in my life.

Too much of the things people vow to do around the turn of the year is about not doing things, about subtracting from your life the things that you enjoy in the name of some sense of “proper-ness” and a desire to be better.

My theory? We get better by becoming more than we are now, not less. Sure, there are things that giving up will make better. If you give up food, you’ll certainly grow thinner, but who wants to live a life without food?

This year will be about finding positive changes I can make in my life and, each month, choosing just one thing to work on to try to form a lasting habit that will take me forward into the many successful years to come.

Tomorrow I’ll launch my first monthly challenge and I’d love for you to join in. There is no reward or prize, nor any punishment for not achieving what we set out to do, but I hope that the sheer force of the positive energy and willpower will help to shape 12 months of positive change that will get me closer to the happiness I want to feel and the person I want to be.

And if I take anyone else along for the ride with me, so much the better.

Leave me a comment and let me know what one positive change you’d like to make in 2014. Positive means no “stopping”, no “less”, no “fewer”.

To Gareth

How do we mourn the loss of a friend?

How do we explain the inexplicable?

Grief’s many forms come to us unexplained, uncontrolled and unblemished – pure, raw and all-encompassing.

My instinct is to write, to share my experience, perhaps in the vain hope that catharsis will come through the words on the screen.

But now as I sit and write, as I try to find the words, wait for them to flow, they refuse to come.

You died on Boxing Day. I’ve been friends with your family through your sister since before my transplant when she set up an organ donation campaign at Durham University and included me in it.

I’ve shared the peaks and troughs of life with all of you over the last seven years of friendship – through the highs of getting married to the lows of losing loved ones – and your death is one of the toughest.

I try to smile. I try to remember the wonderful times we shared, like our mini-tour of Hadrian’s Wall this summer. I try to remember the laughs, the fun, the frivolity.

But grief doesn’t always give us what we want.

Instead I’m left thinking of the hole you’re leaving in your family, a family who have had to endure too much. A family of such belief and faith and certainty that I don’t understand the trials they are being sent. A family of such closeness, such togetherness, that losing another member of it is too much for anyone to contemplate.

At the same time, though, it’s hard not to feel a sense of wonderful gratitude.

I’m grateful to have known you, sir. I’m grateful to have known your wit, your views, your humour, your idiosyncrasies, the broadest of smiles, the most contemplative of minds. I’m grateful to have had chance to discuss the good and bad bits of new Doctor Who episodes as they were broadcast, grateful to have understood your passions and your passionate dislikes and everything that made you the man I knew.

Most of all, I’m grateful to the wonderful donor and their family who, when all else was falling in around them, took the bravest decision of all to grant the gift of life to a then-14-year-old boy whose heart was failing. I’m grateful that your family had nine more years to enjoy their son and brother. I’m grateful that you lived to meet your baby brother, who also left us too soon. I’m grateful that you were given enough time for me to meet you, to get to know you and to consider you a friend.

There is no escaping the sadness that your death brings, the black cloud of disbelieving grief that just wants you to drop a sarcastic comment on my Facebook status update one more time. There is no escaping the fear, the knowledge of the inevitability of something similar happening to me, that comes with transplant-related deaths. There is no escaping the reality that we’ll never hear you laugh again.

But there is no escaping the gratitude we all feel to have had our lives blessed by your presence.

And that’s what I’m going to cling to.

Gareth, sir, look after Theo, keep an eye on us and lie peacefully in the knowledge that you made our lives all the better for knowing you. Thank you.

Mindful Christmas

I’ve written before about trying mindfulness. I’m not always very good at it, but this Christmas I want to make more of an effort to get it right.

It’s been a busy and difficult year for us, 2013. Not one I’d care to remember to fondly or regularly.

Don’t get me wrong, lots of lovely things have happened, but lots of really quite horrible things have happened, too. After 2012, when I turned 30, celebrated 5 years post-transplant and got married, this year was always likely to be less exciting/brilliant, but I don’t think either of us expected it to be quite so rough.

The sum of the year is that I’ve not spent enough time with the people I love, for various reasons. Top of that list of people is my amazing wife, who has had to put up with far too much and, if I’m honest, with far too little support from me.

So this next two weeks, while I’m off work and without hundreds of things to think about, I’m going to concentrate on being mindful and present in everything I do with K.

Not only that, but I want to try to do the same with all of my family; to enjoy their company, to let annoyances flow over me and to keep focused on the gratitude I feel for everything they give me in my life &emdash; and I’m not (just) talking about Christmas presents.

Next week I’ll be sharing my plans for 2014 and how you can join in if you’d like. Until then, have a wonderful Christmas and remember to keep that gratitude in mind through everything you do.

PS – if you’re still stuck for Christmas presents, you could always give someone you love my book. (US link here)

Press ‘Go’

I want to restart, reinvigorate, reignite and generally revamp this blog.

I want to make it look nicer and easier to read on your phone.

I want to create a plan for what I talk about and how I communicate my thoughts and ideas.

I have even been considering porting all of this over onto a different site.

I want to do all of this, and that’s my biggest mistake. I’m waiting for things to be perfect, for everything to fall into place before I commit to anything. That, dear readers is never going to happen.

Just get going

“You learn how to pursue great things when your footing is unsure, when the shores are unsteady and the road is far away, when the very next step you plant may indeed be more difficult than the last.” AJ Leon, The Pursuit of Everything

I’ve got to know AJ a little over recent months, through interactions on Twitter, through signing up for his conference next year and through reading his work. I highly recommend the latter to everyone.

Reading AJ’s post in my inbox today made me realise that, like walking on a beach, my footing was unsure. Rather than using that as an excuse not to move forward with anything, I need to use it as the reason to do it.

I’ve tried and failed at so many things over the last 6 years since my transplant and I’m often disappointed in how easily I give up. I don’t stop to praise myself for starting.

Without a beginning, no story can exist. If I want to live the life I want, to help people achieve more, to communicate ideas that resonate with people, simply to write, then I have to keep starting, keep chasing and keep going.

As soon as I stop, I over-think. When I over-think I paralyse myself. Paralysis is an artist’s worst enemy.

So this is me, pushing “Go”. This is me getting started (again). This is me saying things don’t have to be perfect and spot-on and just right before I get things out there. They just have to be.

What are you sitting on and waiting to be perfect?