Who wants to live forever?

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I do – I actually do, although technically I know this is impossible, but it won’t be for want of trying. I exercise, I eat healthily, and I tend to keep stress levels down, although this is much harder now than it was before. Therefore I have a new goal in life – to make it a long one. I’m serious – I want to become a centenarian.

Its not even a new goal – I’ve always wanted to live forever, and have said to anyone that may have to make decisions about my future at some point – don’t switch the machine off, if I can think, blink, breathe, then that’s life, and I want it. What’s new is that I’ve realised that I’m planning for decades, not just for next year, or even for next month. I’ve broadened my horizons, in other words. I’m looking long term, and so my new shorter term goals are going to reflect that.

Short term goals, then – what has happened, and what’s changed?

First of all, my running. I had a very inconclusive outcome to my knee arthroscopy, which I won’t go into here, as its a dull tale, but the surgeon didn’t say that my knee was full of arthritis and my running days were over, which I’d been led to believe may have been the outcome. Therefore I have found a new physio who is a runner – a really good runner, in fact – he wins races. He is confident that building up my weak vests medialis oblique (my inside quad) is the key to pain-free running. Pain free!! So that’s not – ‘here’s how to minimise the pain’ or ‘here’s how to stop it getting any worse’, but ‘I’m 99% sure you’ll be running pain-free’ – and the 1% of doubt is about me doing my exercises, not whether they will be the solution.

Who cares if he’s blagging and has no idea what he’s talking about? The point here is that he’s given me hope, and that’s good enough for me right now. So I’m bridging and squatting and raising and clenching and clamming … and NOT running. He conceded that I could do 3 miles twice a week, but when I pressed him he admitted that this was for my mental health, not for the good of my knee. In the long term, a healthy knee will improve my mental health, because running pain-free will make me very happy indeed, therefore I will do whatever I need to do to achieve that, without any concessions at all. I will be patient – Parkrun will be this year’s Christmas present. There’s my first short term goal towards a long term outcome.

Secondly, stress reduction. Whenever local news programmes feature the region’s latest centenarian, they always seem to be pretty chilled out folk. I want to be like that – clearly chilled out = long life. How can I be a teacher and chilled out, though? How can I be the parent of a child for whom the local authority is not helping and be chilled out? Ok, so there are some stresses I can’t escape, but I can work out better ways of managing those stresses. Since my cycling accident I have lost some of my resilience to stress, so its on my agenda of short term goals. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help, so I’m trying to let go of that – and when I am given more jobs than I have time to do at work, then I work a bit later than I did before, but I am also learning to let go of the jobs at the bottom of my priorities list. So I have a new priority category, namely the “I’ll do it when an actual person actually says I have to do it by such a time, but until then, just leave it” category. It feels quite freeing to have assigned some jobs to that category. So my second short term goal is to avoid some goals altogether, if I can get away with it.

Thirdly – events and motivation. I have really enjoyed the push of training for big events – half marathon, marathon, ironman, ultra marathon. I get a training plan together, and I stick to it, with great commitment, and the big build up is all part of the event day itself. I love it all, and I love the medal and the big feed afterwards. This is why I signed up for another ironman for 2016 – on a whim, actually, but knowing that I’ll commit and train and have something to work towards once my knee is fixed and I’m back running. The thing is, I’m not back running, yet … “but you will be, so it’ll be good to have something to look forward to” … yes, it will, but its a big chunk of time, and I haven’t had a strong base of running or, well anything this year to build on … “zero to hero – an even bigger challenge, then?” Yes, and I like a challenge, but we’re talking about stress reduction here, aren’t we? So is a big challenge like an ironman an adventure, or a stressor?

The answer is, who cares what it is, if there’s a chance of it being a stressor, then cut it out. So I have – I have withdrawn my entry and removed another potential source of anxiety or stress in my life next year. So no big adventure for me? … Wrong!! Here comes the cheesy bit … every day can be an adventure … allow me to illustrate …

We had a big meeting today about our son’s future. In short, the answer was “no”, well actually it was “the answer’s probably a ‘no’, but we won’t even give you this answer for another couple of weeks, but once we do decide to give you the answer, you’re welcome to challenge this, and then your case will be heard in about 5 months’ time.” Now actually challenges like that are the mental equivalent of a mammoth swim, bike, run event. In a sense its even better, because this is a team event – Carol, Anders, myself, our advocate, and others are on ‘our team’. We’ve been training, and learning the rules of the game, and lost this match, but rather than rocking in a corner eating chocolate and feeling sorry for ourselves, we roll our sleeves up, do more research, get back on our bike and start pedalling again. This means that I’ve spent another evening researching the arguments the local authority were presenting to us today, have written more emails and gathered more evidence … and missed swimming.

It doesn’t matter that I missed swimming, because I’m not training for anything, now, so there is no pressure. “But what about your fitness – training for events gives you a focus, something to aim for, something to motivate”. Yes, it does, but I’m happy and extremely proud to be able to say that, probably for the first time in my life, I’ve arrived at a point where sometimes I exercise because my body really wants me to. Yes, you’ve got that right – I train for the fun of it. No plan, no schedule, no training session – I just walk, or cycle, or Elliptigo because I want to. And yes, this IS less than before, and therefore people I know are getting faster than me, but this is NOT a big problem.

Therefore my third short term goal is exercise when and where I want, with whom and on what I want, without any programme or forthcoming event that dictates otherwise.

Finally – new house! We now have the keys to our retirement bungalow – ok, so its a bit premature to be thinking of retirement, but its all part of the long-term plan. Older people find it an emotional wrench to be forced to move through failing health and / or mobility – well not if they’ve moved already they won’t!!! At some point in the next few weeks (hopefully) we will be moving into a small, quiet, pretty little place with low bills, minimal maintenance and quick access out of the city for weekends away. It’ll be a new start, a new chapter, and yes, an adventure!! There are lots of problems to solve – but I’ll call these projects, not stressors, and since we have no moving day, we can just tackle each problem as and when we want. So the fourth short term goal is a set of goals – pack up, move, decorate, sell current house – in whatever order feels right.

So there we have it – my long life strategy – plan to do a whole lot less in order to live forever, or to a 100 at least.

Mind you, I wonder how long I’ll actually be doing this before my finger starts to hover over the beautiful “Enter Event” button … oh the thrill of that moment …


Open Letter to Children’s Services in Yorkshire

My wife and I are like you – we care about children, and thought we could help a child, so we adopted two of them.

Nine years later, one is dead and the other is waiting for you to decide what to do for him – in fact our children have done a lot of waiting.

At first, a psychologist said they needed to see a therapist “without delay” because the neglect they’d suffered from birth had preventing them learning to make attachments, but you made them wait since they were “due to be moving” from foster care to adoption …

Then they came to us and you made them wait again, since they were still “settling in” with their new family. In fact you never found them help in forming attachments, did you?

Our son had a lot of difficulties settling into primary school, but you said he wasn’t struggling enough to be entitled to a proper assessment of his needs. So he waited …

At high school we asked you again to help him, and again you made him wait. While he waited he struggled to behave at home as well as at school – we didn’t know what to do, and we couldn’t cope. The family suffered, and his sister struggled, too. Everything was falling apart …

So he waited until a doctor diagnosed him with a psychological disorder, and only then did you decide that he did have special needs, and let him go to a special school. In fact you also thought he may have autism, but then you made him wait over two years to find out that he did …

He liked it at special school – the teachers knew how to help him. They helped him with a lot of every day life things. But when you said he had autism, the school was meant to organise some help with that – but he’s still waiting for help with his autism
In the meantime his older sister was still struggling – to come to terms with so many things in her life. She couldn’t settle with us, and went to you instead. You gave her a place in a hostel, and she liked it there, with her boyfriend. But she was so needy, and she heard one of you say she was “beyond help” … yet still you made her wait weeks to see a mental health worker.

But I guess she’d waited too long, and the pain was just too much for her …

We don’t know if you contributed to her death – two years on and we are still waiting for you to publish the report

Our son misses his sister very much indeed

You said he’d be ok at a mainstream college – so off he went, but he wasn’t ok, and his grades got worse. We looked at a specialist college instead, in February, and applied for a place. The college asked you for information and then one of you took six weeks to fill his form in.
One form – six weeks?

Since then you spent literally months deciding whether he could go.

I tried to hurry you along – time was ticking, the new school year was approaching. Change is hard when you have autism, you need time to get your head around it.

But still you made him wait

“He’s getting depressed”, I said – “he’s spending all day in his room and not seeing anyone”, I said – and still you make him wait.

And now we are into the fifth week of term and we’re all fed up of waiting.

Along came an educational psychologist – “I can see that time is a priority – I’ll write this up straight away and get back to you really soon” – he’s still waiting
He went to another college for help – “we can help, we just need to get in touch with colleagues, and then we’ll ring you back” – he’s still waiting for that phone call

So we went to our MP, who’s assistant got in touch, and said he’d get a colleague to help – our son is still waiting for that help

We live in a world of instant communication – Ronnie Pickering goes viral within a few days, and yet you can spend literally months communicating a message to each other
None of you is singularly responsible, though, because its so easy to say you are waiting for someone else  … Yet collectively you have made our children wait and wait and wait, while their childhood, their life, seeps away
Please tell him what he can do, he’s really tired of waiting


the Holmes family