We have fab. skies in Cumbria: you can’t help but stand and stare at them sometimes, and feel your inner self somehow being tugged up towards them, whilst your feet remain on the earthy – and often wet and muddy – ground. The trees at your side reflect your stance: their roots deep into the earth but their branches reaching up for the clouds. When I sing I feel the same: my feet are rooted to the ground, giving me a firm base, but my voice and my heart are trying to reach the sky.
The weather has been simply stunning recently and the outdoors has been calling all the more loudly than usual. Whilst I’m desperate to get out on my bike, I know that I’ll find it uncomfortably cold: and also rather than cycling for hours I do have plenty of other things – including work – which I’m meant to be doing (and have, in fact, done quite a few of). I have however been out for a run for the past three days. Each time I’ve run up to the Ridge and to Ridge Woods, my breath short in my chest to start with as it’s so cold, my fingers and toes icy.
I had my camera with me yesterday and took the photos here: I wish I had taken it today. As I got to the top of the first hill and glanced across to the north, to the Scottish hills, I exclaimed ‘Wow’. The white frosted icing covered mounds in the distance shone in the sun under a bright blue sky; and once again I was struck by how much I love living in the countryside, as the scenery changes from one day to the next and you’re so aware of the seasons.
I’ve said it so many times before: my spirits feel lifted (and also calmed) when I’m out running, particularly at the tops of hills. I feel a strength in me to overcome all obstacles, whatever they may be. Yesterday all the times I’ve been told I ought to or ought not to do something had been spiralling in my mind before I went out, and whilst I was running I was aware how completely disregarding them had not resulted in complete disaster but often taking what had appeared a risky step had resulted in something positive.
Almost as a poem they listed themselves, the do’s and don’ts which had come sometimes from my own worries and insecurities and sometimes from other people:
“you said I was crazy to switch to music…” Look at me now – I’m a singer; a good singer…
“you told me I was not to chuck in a well paid job and go to be a holiday rep…” But I had one of the best experiences of my life, and came back with a calmer attitude to ‘career’ and continued up the career ladder more quickly, confidently and successfully than previously – it got work into perspective
“you worried about me having children in my 40s, even saying ‘was it wise’ when I was pregnant with Edward…” Look at my three gorgeous, healthy, lively children, who have given me so much self-confidence and love
“you said a freelance lifestyle wasn’t reliable enough; that the income wouldn’t be steady enough…” It’s scary but it feels like exactly the right thing to do, it feels as if I’m getting the balance right, and I’m convinced it’s going to work
“you told me I wouldn’t be doing mountain biking ‘in a few years’ time’; that I was too old to be entering long runs…” Well, I don’t see why not. I’m still trail running and skiing and this year is the year that some of us ‘from the old days’ are going to get back together for a mountain biking weekend – the only question being whether we drag our children along as well.
“you said my husband shouldn’t leave me…” But he did, and what a gift he gave me: more freedom to be myself and for us both to be happier.
I loathe 9 to 5; what I ‘ought’ to do; what is ‘wise’; what is ‘sensible’. All too often I get wound up and worried by thinking too much about what I ought or ought not to do – things always work best when I follow my gut feeling, my intuition rather than listening to insecurities and doubts. I’m not a crazy risk-taker but David and my sister certainly always thought I was more likely to take risks than they were. Some of the people I most admire are those old people (aged 80 or so) who still run marathons or do parachute jumps. Many of them are far braver than me and take far greater risks than I ever will: I have no desire whatsoever to do a bungee jump or a parachute jump (the thought of either terrifies me). However give me an invitation to try out some off-road 4 wheel driving, or to drive a rally car, and I could be tempted.
As I ran home the low winter sun rested at head height and blazed straight into my eyes. “Il cuore ha le sue ragioni che la ragione non conosce” – Blaise Pascal, from my Italian calendar for this weekend.
Follow your heart. Your heart – not anyone else’s. And aim right up there – right up to the sky. As someone said to me on Saturday, “you only have one life”. Make sure it’s a full one, and live it with as much joy as you can muster.