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Your Wellbeing: appreciating our wellbeing

Revd Chris McDermott, Lead Chaplain for the University of Sussex.

I hope this does not sound like a whine as the intention is quite the opposite. It has more to do with how whine-worthy stuff that drops into our lives actually can frame some positives for us. This has been my experience with health recently.

Of late I have come to appreciate very much my level of wellbeing – physical, mental and spiritual. As often is the case, we come to value things even more when we experience something of a set back.

For myself I have been used to a regular pattern of intensive exercise. Back in March I was literally running up mountains during a visit to Sichuan province in China. On campus, the stairs leading to the higher reaches of the university grounds have been an occasional gym as I would ascend them with some speed and energy on occasion. Cycling has also been a longstanding habit for me. Then suddenly ...

Suffice it to say that in recent months I have experienced something of a decline – fortunately, it would seem, a temporary situation – due to atrial fibrillation, diagnosed early in the summer. Likely many of you are familiar with this, as it is not an uncommon problem with the heart.

I have since had to put the bicycle aside, use the bus a bit more and definitely not run up steps and be careful about the level of aerobic exercise I do. It has been rather disappointing to adjust my patterns to the situation but it has also enhanced my appreciation of my own wellbeing - scuppered for the moment by this momentary feud with the heart.

The creative habits - an aspect of wellbeing, I also think - came into play here as I reflected on the relatively sudden experience of recent developments:

Heart Beat

Erratic errant beat
behind this slow blood’s
all-too sedate pace
and snail-crawl through
circling veins and capillaries.

It lost its place in the score;
a poor percussionist
and dyspraxic drummer
whose rhythm is out of sync.

Utterly unexpected.

Just weeks before
I had run sheer ascents
in daily vertical routines
and upward plummets
of stairs, steps and steep hills
mounting summits with steady stride
to the beat of a steady heart.

Ah, that mighty
upward gaze of
confidence and unfailing vigour
now of a sudden is pinned
beneath the weight of a
a throbbing muscle
ill equipped to collude
with the lie of ageless youth.


So for the moment I will write, take what medication I need - not run, etc. - and wait patiently for the minor surgical procedure that I am assured has a high chance of setting matters of the heart right again. And I look forward to running up steps, biking up hills and returning to a level of activity that I have been used to – at least as close to that level as is possible.

We value our wellbeing most, it seems, when we are deprived of it - and perhaps find compassion for those who live with chronic health issues at the same time.

So celebrate it! Nurture it! Above all, appreciate it! I am certainly less inclined to take my own wellbeing for granted.

I mean that from my heart.

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By: Sean Armstrong
Last updated: Friday, 12 October 2018

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