This is a guest post from my sister, who you can find as @apricotmuffins on twitter.
I’m not bragging, I’m stating a fact. My body works pretty well for me, and through no fault of my own. Sure, there’s some issues here and there, I have slightly dodgy knees, but nothing I can’t cope with. I get a knotty back, I prefer to avoid bread because I get awful heartburn on occasion. I have a disgracefully irregular period, but that’s about the height of my health worries. All of those things are small fry, they don’t affect my ability to function on a day to day basis. They don’t make me stop and think seriously about whether or not I can do something. I can push myself, and like a rubber band I’ll spring back quickly with little consequence. I’m sure a few of you reading are the same. Your body does not give you too much trouble in your daily life and you are able to put any health problems you might suffer in the background for the most part.
Not many people, I think, realise how lucky they are to be healthy. To not have to worry about how much they can do, how far they can push themselves and what the consequences of doing so will be. To not have to plan and prepare every single detail of their life, to be mindful of places they can’t access, things they can’t eat, activities they are incapable of.
I can have a dodgy sleeping pattern and all it really does is make me a little more tired the next day. I can sit in a crap computer chair for hours and all I suffer is a sore bum and a need to stretch. I can push myself to run and exercise and use my body, and feel the air rushing through my lungs painlessly and easily, to feel the thrill of my heart racing and my blood pumping. I can dream, and think, and muse, without my nightmares or my sadness encroaching on my mind to a point of debilitation.
Know this: at any moment, of any day, you can have your health snatched from you. That thing, that allows you to function without worry, it can be gone in an instant. You might see it coming, a slow descent into health problems which build up to a point of true disability, or a quick accident, a breaking point in which your whole life turns on its head. You will not always be so fortunate as to not suffer long term or even permanent health issues. Age will get us all eventually, but along the way there are many opportunities for things to go wrong.
We, who are healthy, are extremely privileged. Call it a gift, if you like, call it chance if you don’t, but don’t ever think you’ve earned it. Ever. Even people who work to maintain their health start off in a position of being able to do so, many people never even had that. Many people will never be able to ‘pull’ themselves out of bad health because it simply is not an option. It’s a rare and fragile thing, to recover fully from a major health issue. It takes many doctors and experts and help from outside, and even then people might never go beyond simply working around things rather than through them.
Please, I beg you, don’t take your health for granted. I have been doing so for years, riding on the fact that I’m young and fortunate. Its taken seeing the deep suffering of my loved ones for me to realise I will not always have this blessing. To realise that I’ve been squandering it, abusing it, relying on it to shore me up as though its a strong and definite thing, when its anything but.
Please, do those things you keep meaning to do but never get round to. Take up that sport, go for that walk, sing, dance, be creative and fearless. Use yourself and the greatest tool you have to enjoy life. Because when you lose that tool, you’ll realise what a gift it really was.