It was the first night of our trip to Center Parcs. The rest of the Marshall clan hadn’t yet arrived, so my little family of three were exploring. Whilst Phil was talking to reception, Lottie the dog and myself sat outside watching the world go by. And that world was full of children… and sport… or children playing sport! Yep, as I sat with my little fur baby, I realised that every one, every group, every family had a child in tow. And all were on their way or returning from an adventurous activity. Toddlers with hair wet from swimming, teenagers waving their tennis rackets around, infants zooming about on bikes. And it suddenly hit me hard. Center Parcs is full of people having the life I always hoped I’d lead.Before I developed Pulmonary Hypertension, I never imagined that one day I’d get ill. I never considered that I’d develop a condition that would never go away. Nor contemplated that my life would not involve children or walking or teaching or climbing mountains or travelling. I knew exactly the future I wanted. I knew exactly the path I hoped to tred. And I was so very close to having it all. But then I was thrown a curve ball that knocked me over, rolled me around and left me sitting in the dust. A ‘no entry’ sign now covering my old way. And I could have stayed in the dust forever, staring at the life I’d once dreamed of, longing for what I could no longer have. But instead I found a different trail to follow (read the blog). And it’s been full of sights I never imagined I’d see, and experiences I’d never previously thought about. And it’s been good. Really good. Strangely, I’ve had more happiness in these past six years of illness, than in my day-to-day life before PH.
But on my new footpath through life, although I’m taking a different route to all of my friends, I’m happy. I don’t feel alone. I watch others living the life I thought I would have -becoming Mummies, jetting off to foreign climes, training for races, getting promotions at work, buying bigger houses- and feel joy for their joy. I crawl through gaps in the hedge to join my friends on their path whenever I possibly can… and watch with excitement and love, through the leaves, when I can’t. Furthermore, I’m surrounded by lovely online PHriends, who are also walking the same journey as me. I watch them having fur babies, travelling in motorhomes, holidaying abroad… and feel inspired and excited about my own future. Life is good. But on that sunny evening in Center Parcs, I felt alone. The odd one out. Everyone in the holiday resort was leading my imagined future. And there was no way for me to be part of it. I can’t swim or play badminton or abseil off trees. I can’t ride bikes or have a spa day or paddle a kayak. And I can’t have children. At that moment, Center Parcs became a kind of in-my-face reminder of what I can no longer have. And it hurt. So as Phil and I scootered back to our chalet, we talked about our original path and our new path. We concluded that in a parallel (well) world, we would have enjoyed the resort… but on our new journey there are far better places for our family of three. Places where we can all join in, all have fun, and where our new life shines. Later, I texted my best friend and told her everything; declaring that I was dreading the week ahead. Five days of living in a sweet shop when on a diet! 🙂 But then something fabulous happened. My little nephew and niece arrived. And although four year old Mei-Yan hadn’t seen me for nearly a year, she ran over for a cuddle, jumped on my scooter, and demanded a story. And brilliantly, the rest of the week was the same. I had a fantastic time being their aunty! They are gorgeous children; funny and kind and adventurous and active… and oh so very loving. And amazingly, wonderfully, thankfully, my body was on top top form. It found its fifth gear! For the first time ever, I was able to lift them in the air for cuddles!! And be with them more than any holiday before. Ever present. It turned into a week of happy aunty moments. Snuggling up to read a bedtime story, brushing my nieces hair into pig tails, messing about on the playground toys. Playing “This little piggy” repeatedly with both at the same time, chanting “see ya later alligator” whilst racing with them on my scooter, excitedly spotting deer and squirrels and baby moorhens. And happily I also found activities that I could join in with too. Playing crazy golf, sailing an electric boat on the lake, watching the children do the ropes course. Dog walks in the woods, pool and cola in the afternoon, multiple meals out. It was a super trip.
Before we knew it, the week was over and we were driving home. And it was only then that I thought back to how I’d felt on the first day, and remembered how wary I’d been about the trip ahead. And it was brilliant to realise that I’d been so busy enjoying myself that I’d not thought about what I was missing. Although there was much I wasn’t well enough to do, I’d found fun activities I could join in with and enjoy. And although I didn’t have my own children in tow, my niece and nephew had enough love and energy for us all. In fact, I’d not once thought about the other path, the other life I might have lead. Instead, I’d found fun and joy on my own trail.
Once again I was reminded that we make our own happiness. We cannot direct the winds, but we can adjust the sails.