I’ve just had an absolute gem of a weekend – a mini holiday. There was nothing that special about it in many ways – we didn’t go to an amazing place, we didn’t stay in luxurious accommodation, we didn’t have superlative food or a fantastic time with friends. But what we did do is things that I haven’t been able to do for many years. Things that I didn’t even know I was missing. Things that by themselves weren’t that amazing but coupled together made me giddy with delight. Things that until a month ago, when I recovered from chronic fatigue, would have been impossible.
Four weeks ago, the conversation with my partner would have gone something like this: ‘you want to just go away for one night on a whim? No way, I can’t do that.’
‘What do you mean? ‘Oh, let’s just walk from the campsite to the sea…..and find some food there. Are you daft? I can’t walk and go out for the night. I can’t do both. What if there’s nowhere doing food at the other end? What then? I couldn’t handle that.’
If I had been persuaded to set off walking: ‘What do you mean, we’re going to get there after 8.30pm? After all the pubs are likely to have stopped doing food? Oh god, no. I haven’t got enough energy for this.’
It certainly wouldn’t have been me making the suggestions. But now, four weeks later, my other half is no longer the bad guy and I am the one coming up with the ideas. But then four weeks before I couldn’t have done any of these things without triggering the extreme tiredness of chronic fatigue.
As we walked, I started to feel more and more delight –on a path I’d never been on before, heading to a town I’d never heard of, wondering ‘could we get any food other than a bag of crisps from the local pub?’. I was exploring. I was having an adventure. I was happy. Each of these small thing added up to contentment. Nothing big – just lots of little things.
I felt laid back by the complete absence of stressors from the last fourteen years of chronic fatigue. No need to worry that I wouldn’t be able to manage the walk; no need to worry that I wouldn’t be able to handle a potentially stressful situation of hunger and tiredness; no need to worry that I would end up sitting in the pub restaurant like a stuffed dummy; no compulsion to worry about the time. Just a feeling of adventure.
As we walked into town, the adventure started. ‘There’s our backstop’ I said, pointing to a Spar. Casually we walked past one restaurant, a strange looking pub, a couple of takeaways, a sign to another pub. I wanted to see the sea and any fear about not getting a meal wasn’t going to stop me. Amazingly, feelings of concern and stress had been put to one side as I just put pleasure first. In fact, fear and concern weren’t there at all. Somehow I knew we would fall on our feet and even the prospect of the worst offerings of the local shop didn’t daunt me.
Perhaps it was the sight of the sea calming me or perhaps, it was seeing the trip as an adventure. This was something to be treasured.
Half an hour later having seen the sea, having been ‘rejected’ by the seafront café, a pub and a Chinese, I sat beaming, giddy with happiness in our last stop, another – completely empty – Chinese restaurant. And just to make the memory more perfect, the food was good (but not superlative), the lady behind the desk was welcoming (but not overbearing), the style was basic café (rather than stylised ambience), its sound was echoing voices rather than life and laughter. Our experience was just right, warts and all.
Now that my chronic fatigue is over, I can look back and see what it gave me: an appreciation of each little possibility, each little pleasure, and no need – no need at all – for perfection.
The next day whilst walking along the banks of the river in Arundel, we were talking about how things had changed now I was better, what a full a day we’d had – an outdoor breakfast at our campsite, a walk along the beach, orienteering, watching the river go by as we ate lunch and now an explore and a walk. Reaching for my hand, my other half said to me: ‘I’ve got my friend back’. And so he has.
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