It’s February, dark and blustery, and the garden seems so uninviting as I sit on the sofa, negotiating the latest dip in my ‘recovery journey.’  Oh how I’ve come to hate that cliché; this is my life and not a story in a magazine.  I came so close to the end of my ‘journey’ last summer, but a story worth telling, or living, never proceeds in a  straight line to the expected triumph; it dips and swoops, swerves suddenly towards the denouement on the final page.  Read a book and you have a tangible guide to its length as the thickness of pages shifts from left hand to right.  A Kindle is more of a mystery; you have to look at the tiny percentage figures at the bottom of the screen to judge your progress.  In real life there is no knowing when, or how, the story will end, only a constant guessing, hoping, despairing, hoping again.  Will I recover fully or is this as good as it gets?  Encouragement from other recoverers cheering from the side-lines keeps my hopes alive, but the thudding in my chest sows doubt.  

A ‘journey’ describes the twists and turns of the whole experience, but sometimes the whole is too big to comprehend or to face. I have learned over the past three years to use a different metaphor for my daily navigation of life with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.  I spend my days on a tightrope, keeping it taut beneath my feet, strung between the twin poles of rest and curious exploration.  How much can I do today before my elbows and knees turn to water and my heart begins to thunder in my chest again?  Only I can tell.  I have learned to titrate, to push a little further and check in … okay still?  Yes … push a little further … okay still?  Hmm, maybe … time to stop for a while. Last summer I strode out for miles, relishing my progress, my recovery, before infection struck. Today I am stuck to this sofa, facing the prospect of re-treading those hard-won steps .

The crazy flight of a bumblebee breaks me out of my musings.  A gust of wind has caught its impossibly large body and thrown it forward along the line of the hedge.  A bumblebee!  Suddenly spring and hope rush into my mind with an awareness of just how much has changed over the last fortnight, even the last week.  Sometimes you just need to stop and look back to see how far you have come. With that bee comes the realisation that the days are stretching towards spring, nature is stirring and if a bumblebee judges that it is warm enough to venture out and feast on my crocuses, my honeybees will also be on the wing.  I smile at my latest memory of them, huddled around their newly made winter fondant as the snow began to swirl.  Enjoy your taste of freedom girls before the February journey wobbles back into frost and storm.

The bumblebee has achieved what my willpower couldn’t and pulled me to my feet again.  Heading for the back door I spot a load of clean washing sitting in the machine.  The old me grumbles, ‘that will still be mouldering there in the morning.’  The new me asks, ‘I wonder if I could hang it out in this wonderful gusty wind?  Let me try.’

I carry the basket slowly, stopping to peer into the upturned faces of purple crocuses, marvelling at the diamond rain drops held against their gold-dusted anthers. Then I negotiate another dip as I see the frost-blasted skeleton of my creeping rosemary; up again at the lush juicy fronds of land cress and new spikes of garlic, planted from my tightrope last November.  This is becoming more of a rollercoaster than a tightrope, but each dip is followed by a bigger surge until, at last, the laundry is flapping in a gale. I am grinning with the sense of achievement and basking in the scent of fresh laundry, crushed grass, damp ground and wonderful new growth.  That’s enough for today, but it is enough, for now, to keep me moving forward towards that last triumphant page.