I find the winter months difficult. My skin is quite sensitive and I find the multitude of layers I have to wear when it’s cold press uncomfortably against my skin. I don’t get the cosy thing other people often claim, I just feel itchy and still cold. The worst thing though is the lack of daylight. I noticed a while ago that I suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). I’m probably at the milder end of the spectrum, but I certainly notice my mood change if in the winter months I have a couple of days where it’s overcast, or I don’t get outside. The term ‘SAD’ is slightly misleading in my experience. I don’t feel sad, it’s more like hopelessness. I walk around as if the darkness is literally pushing down on me, and I struggle to motivate myself to do anything. Earlier in the month I attempted to cheer myself up by listening to a Christmas playlist. The upshot was that after about 20 minutes, I wanted to switch to the bleakest playlist I have instead.
I met CB when I joined a little book group, a little while after moving to Edinburgh two years ago. In that time I probably met her only a handful of times. Often she wouldn’t make it to book group, and for a long time I had no idea that was often down to health issues. All I saw when she was around was a huge smile, an even bigger heart and an infectious joy that seemed to radiate from her, hugging everything around her. As I got let into the world of my fellow book groupers, I got to know that she suffered from a few chronic long term conditions. That she would suffer from chronic pain and fatigue. I cannot imagine her daily life, and how difficult it would have been. How unfair the world might have seemed, and yet in spite of this, she simply sparkled with life. She made it seem so effortless.
I had another low day recently. There was no reason for it, at all. The day was beautiful, the sun shining, one of those crystal blue winter days where shadows strike against dazzling frost covered landscapes. I was cold and miserable. Wifey was pushing me to go out for a walk, and internally in my head I was fighting the same battle. The logical part of me knowing full well that a walk would do me good, and knowing that the forecast is that the clear skies are coming to an end. The rest of my brain sulking to go home and hide.
All of this at the time seems all-consuming. To try and explain it to my wife, I find myself tearful. Annoyed with myself, knowing that what I’m doing is selfish and illogical.
When I heard the news that CB was dying it made no sense. All I could think about was how full of life she was. How I couldn’t put the two together. A few days later she died. I sat in bed, reading the email again and again and again. I cried. I tried again to fit the pieces together, but still nothing in my brain would do it. Days on, and I still can’t. Simply using the past tense seems a betrayal to her smile.
In reality, I’m so lucky. I have so much privilege in this world, and I have to catch myself when I forget that. Even doing this parkrun tour, it’s an amazing thing to have done, and I often take so much of my ability to do it for granted. Yes, I suffer a few days in the winter months, and I lean heavily on my wife who is incredibly understanding and patient when I’m horrible to be around. If I can take anything positive from the sad news, I want to be more like her. I want to take that inspiration, and try to be more joyful, regardless of what life throws.
When I started out, the aim was to do all of the Scottish parkruns in 2017. In September at #31: Portobello I had then completed all that were available, and off I went to get into cross country. Two more courses appeared since, but I was committed and had to wait a while to get to #32: Troon, and finally with just a day of the year left to go – Plean. Or so I thought, but then Scotland had other ideas. Around 11am on the 29th December, snow started falling in Edinburgh. A look at the forecast for Plean, and the snow looked much heavier. I sent a text to a friend over in Stirling to see how things were, however he wasn’t in Stirling and said the view from East Midlands airport didn’t give much of an indication. I scoured social media to see if I could glean anything, and finally around early evening the cancellations started to roll in. Plean was amongst the casualties savaged by treacherous looking ice and snow. In honesty, were I looking at the course, I’d have made the same decision.
In the last few weeks, two more Scottish parkrun courses have already been announced, including the much fabled course in Shetland. I’m incredibly excited about doing that, since I’ve never been before, and I’ve long been looking for an excuse to go. Crichton also starts in January, meaning those in the Borders no longer have to go to Carlisle if they want to do a parkrun. If the rumour mill is to be believed, there are others coming as well. Though it’s maybe slightly disappointing that *technically* I’ve not finished the challenge, it’s pretty clear that this is something that will never be finished. If there’s one thing I’m thinking now to finish off this year, it’s to try and remember what I have done, not what I missed out on. Besides, I get to keep on trekking around Scotland, seeing places I would never have gone to otherwise.
Happy New Year folks, I hope your 2018 is full of wonders. Maybe set yourself a ridiculous challenge. Go on, it’s fun…