charity

The Significance of Pain ~ Walking 30 miles in a day for Make A Wish

Pain. It’s temporary they say. It will pass.

It’s true. Pain is a temporary thing and it does pass. But while you are experiencing it, well, it hurts.

Stating the obvious. It hurts.

Last Thursday I decided to do the second part of my charity challenge for Make A Wish. Having successfully cycled coast to coast, from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, 326 miles in 3 days, I set off at 6am to walk from Cheltenham to Worcester. A marathon in a day.
I will be completely honest. I had trained and was ready to cycle over 100 miles for 3 days in a row.
My walk was around 30 miles in total including walking to the station to get the train to Cheltenham and back home from Worcester Cathedral.
Had I trained? No. A few walks with my family down by the river or the canal. But no. No specific walking training.
Just a high level of fitness from cycling and a willpower to succeed and a determination to finish.

I first felt my ankle after a few miles. I recognised the pain. I had experienced it before, many years ago while trekking in Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and in Nepal to trek to Everest. The outer bone that protrudes from my left ankle was sore and getting worse. The lateral malleolus…a bone you never think about, until it hurts.

So I walked on, in increasing pain. Every step I was conscious of my ankle rubbing, bruising, and being painful.
What can you do?

A. STOP!
B. Call a taxi / family and pick you up
C. Ignore the pain
D. Keep going
E. Smile / grin and bear it
F. Swear and shout and feel sorry for yourself.

What did I do? C,D&E

What did I think about doing, even briefly? A,B&F

Pain is temporary, but it hurts.
How do you ignore pain? It is easy to tell yourself to ignore pain, not so easy to listen to and follow your ow advice. But I focussed on some key facts and reasons to keep me motivated;

• You chose to do the walk
• You wanted to do it
• The walk will end at some point
• The pain is not stopping you from physically putting one foot in front of the other
• You believe you can do this
• You are walking in beautiful countryside
• You are walking on a lovely warm September day
• You know where you are going, you know the route
• Your pain will pass, for many children they live with constant pain and discomfort
• They can not turn off their pain and it may be more intense and more difficult to ignore
• You have a goal. You have an objective. You have made a committment
• It is easier to quit than continue. Don’t take the easy option
• People believe in you. They have supported you
• People have donated so you can do these challenges, and ultimately help life limited children
• Every step is a step in pain, but a step closer to home
• Focus on your purpose, not your present discomfort
• Be mindful of where you are, why you are there and the pleasure, not the pain you feel.

After many hours walking, passing quiet villages, along winding country roads, past hills and farms and alongside rivers, listening to the gentle sounds of an English afternoon in the countryside, I reached my destination by the River Severn and Worcester Cathedral.

I didn’t jump for joy and celebrate wildly for successfully walking a marathon. I said a quiet well done…actually more of a ‘job done’ and thought about getting a taxi home.
But the traffic was terrible and it was such a lovely evening that after 27 miles, I decided to walk home.

Ignoring the pain.
Remembering the pleasure.
Thinking of the reasons why I did it.
Knowing I had honoured my daughter Milla. Remembering her spirit. She lived a life of discomfort and pain, there was no let up. Her cerebral palsy meant painful spasms and stiff muscles. It also meant she could not walk.

So, I walked 30 miles. And each step my ankle reminded me that pain was something many children like Milla had / have to endure constantly.
But also that my pain was nothing.
It would fade.
Yet the memories of that day of solitary walking would not fade, the enjoyment and the amazing support and the money raised. £1,200 to help Make A Wish continue to grant wishes that create lasting memories.
But neither would the memories of my inspiration fade. My daughter Milla.

I walked for her, because she couldn’t.

Learning & Education, Motivation and Change

Too Old To Learn

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I’m too old to learn. Honestly, I must be. I’m 50. I mean who reaches the age of 50 and says, yeah, let’s learn stuff? I need to learn lots of new things. I need to study more. Come on, let’s be a bit sensible here. At 50, I know everything. Right?

If only life were that simple. Go to school and college, maybe university and that’s your lot. That’s you all finished. Nothing more to learn, no reason to study anymore. Just go and work and enjoy your life, free of the pressures of discovering new information and ideas.

How terribly dull life would be.

At 50, I feel my capacity for learning has increased, not diminished. I am more curious about things than I ever was at school. School, the last great bastion of learning, but regulated and controlled by necessary structure and requirements. Little choice or flexibility in what YOU wish to learn about, rather than what the government imposed curriculum says you must learn.

Today my interests are broad ranging and eclectic. Not the stuff of secondary education curricula. Volcanoes and earthquakes, the importance of silence and mindful thinking, ambient and experimental music and soundscapes, road and cyclocross cycling, vegan lifestyles and cooking, language and culture, history and the arts, opera, flamenco guitar, poetry and creative writing, contemporary novels and travelogues. I could go on, but how many of those subjects are taught in the high school system, even briefly.

A bit of physical geography, history of course (bound within the general limiting world view of British history, not the global context) , perhaps music (appreciation as opposed to theory, form, structure and influence), English language and literature (again limited in its scope by the sheer weight of the English literary pantheon – yet at school I was spoon fed Chaucer, Shakespeare, Wordsworth and George Orwell. Spanning the centuries, yet barely scratching the surface of creative English expression).

Learning for me has come through the evolution of my own personal development, discovering new interests and finding some things I had dismissed previously as boring or too difficult, actually of merit and worth and surprisingly very interesting.

Take opera. I grew up on 80’s pop, indie and rock music. All synthesizers and wailing guitars. Opera was never music I had listened to, nor explored. Yet, my father loved the classic tenors, Pavarotti and Domingo, Carreras,  Gigli, Caruso, Bjorling. I shunned it at the time, but hearing Una Furtiva Lagrima, or la Donna e Mobile or the Toreador’s song must have registered somewhere. Because with age, I found a new appreciation for tenor singing, for the craft and skill, the dramatic and romantic voices that were suddenly projected on to a popular platform during the 1990 Italy World Cup. When football and opera collided in a perfect marriage of expression, beauty and enjoyment.

Subsequently, the world of opera opened. Not just the wide repertoire of the tenor, but the vast and dynamic field of opera. The enjoyment from watching the great ensembles sing in chorus, the comedy of Donnizetti and Rossini, the dramatic story telling of Verdi and Puccini, the lyricism and poetic beauty of Bizet and the musicality of Mozart. And the arias that elevated opera to world renown. Nessun Dorma, E Lucevan la Stelle, Largo al Factotum, O Mio Rimorso, E’ la Solita Storia, The Pearl Fishers duet, The Queen of the Night Aria.

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But with learning comes the desire to know more, to delve further, to discover and unlock the secrets to this new world you have opened. And thankfully no longer do we need to trawl libraries and await monthly journal publications; although there is a joy in spending an afternoon in a library, consumed by words and silent wonder and a pleasure as the latest journal or magazine bounces on to the doormat. Learning has never been so accessible. A few clicks on the internet and you are taken immediately to wherever you want to go. The world unlocked, the door wide open and the vastness of knowledge awaiting you. Just walk through the door.

My father was a military man. A soldier and an officer in the army. 30 dedicated years. A passion for all he did, yet the inflexibility the military affords to its personnel. Times, dates, schedules, their whole life controlled and regulated. A time for rest, a time to play, a time march and train and exercise, a time for learning. But the subjects of the military’s choosing. Could a 20 year old private spend hours over the works of Verdi? Not to the detriment to their career, their job and the role they were training for.

What did my father do the moment he left the army in his mid 40’s? Learn. Study. He took ‘A’ Levels in politics and geography and passed with A grades. He went on to complete a Masters in Health and Safety management. He is 71 now and studying for a Phd, a doctorate. His thesis is about the ‘Efficacy of Managers in the Third Age’ – ie the effectiveness of managers in their 70’s and 80’s, using their wealth of experience and knowledge to the betterment of their (perhaps retired from) companies and their employees. At a time when many would be happy playing a round of golf and booking a cruise with SAGA holidays.

So, as I take inspiration from my father, I can see there is value and worth in continuing to learn. We are bound only by the limitations of our own curiosity, not by age. At 50, I am spending more time with my head in a book than I do listening to the diet of The Smiths, The Human League, The Cure, ABC, etc that I always used to do. These days you will often find me sat at the table, early in the morning, 5am while the world sleep, sat in silence. Alone in my thoughts, reassessing what I know and what I have learned and how I can apply that knowledge. Or sat, writing a poem, looking at photographs I have taken and critiquing them myself. Or sat reading, absorbed in the words and knowledge of others. Ready and willing to learn. Wishing that I was 15 not 50 and better suited to the rigours of education. And more prepared, as I am now, to give time and thought and dedication to learning.

We are never too old to learn. We can always learn from each other, from the world around us and the information at our finger tips. But as important is that we help open the door to learning and knowledge for the next generations. That we pass on not only our knowledge, but also our desire for learning and discovery. Today, the younger generation are very often consumed by smart phone apps and social media. A world of selfies and pseudo-stardom, minor celebrity, desire to go viral and a need for likes and shares and a validation of themselves by universal approval and acceptance of their ‘status’.

But I would encourage another way. By all means interact and use your Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Take pleasure from it. But, let these apps fire your imagination. And let them lead to learning. You see a photo of somewhere you have never heard of. You can either dismiss it, swipe to the next post or photo, or you can be taken there, immediately. Open Google maps, Streetview, Wikipedia, visit their homepage, learn the history, the flora and fauna, the landscape, the climate.

We are bound only by the limitations of our curiosity.

And we should always have the capacity for learning and should never ignore that curiosity. No matter how old you are.

PS, if you have read this and have considered you are not too old to learn or improve your English…then get in touch. I would be only too happy to help you and unlock the door to the English language!

To read my poetry please visit

http://www.frobipoetry.com or go to instagram @ajfrobisherpoetry

Best wishes,

Tony Frobisher, Worcester, September 2018

 

 

 

 

charity, Motivation and Change

And in the End

And in the end…

And in the end it was all worth it.
The pain and struggle, the exhaustion, the sweat. The constant monotony of turning the pedals for mile after mile. Hour after hour. Day after day.
The ceaseless bumping and rattling, shaking and jolting over cracked and broken roads, the hundreds of unknown, unfamiliar roads and streets, undiscovered towns and villages that passed by in a blur.

To reach the end of any journey is to reach a point of contemplation, of reflection, of validation. Was what I have gone through of value, of note or significance. Or was it just that. A journey. Start to finish with nothing of importance in between.

After returning from my coast to coast challenge, and completing 3 days of cycling over 326 mountainous, hilly and windy miles from Aberystwyth to Lowestoft, I have had chance to reflect.

The distances I cycled each day were easily achievable for anyone with a good level of fitness, experience on the bike and a determined mindset.
100, 112 and 114 miles respectively.
But as I know very well, it is so easy to talk of achievement before it has been accomplished. “I am going to cycle from coast to coast in 3 days”. It is said with a casual confidence. An implied certainty. A tacit guarantee. I will do it. No question.

But there are always questions and doubts, uncertainties and intangibles. The ‘what ifs’…will my body cope, what if I get sick, what if I have a mechanical problem I can’t fix, what if I have an accident, what if I just…stop?

Yet the journey would be far less interesting without that element of uncertainty and risk. When you are flying down a steep descent on a deserted mountain road at 35mph, with no one around, one mistake could be a disaster. A pothole, a sheep straying into your path, taking a corner too fast.

The journey is about overcoming your apprehension and fears and encountering and dealing with obstacles you will face. Mental, physical, or emotional.

From the steep climbs, to the wind and cold, the sapping tiredness, the aches and pains, to the nagging worries in your mind, the voice telling you to stop, the emotions that toy with you and make you question what you are doing, the ‘so what?’ that runs in your thoughts…so what if you have done this journey? What have you proved?
It all conspires to work against you.

So what.

So what did I prove?
A 50 year old man can cycle solo from the West Coast of Wales to the East Coast of England in 3 days. I didn’t land on the moon or discover America. But I proved that a journey is more than just miles and reaching an end.

It is about awareness. Of our place on the planet. It is about appreciation. Of our beautiful world and the environment we inhabit. It is about recollection. A chance to spend time alone. In thought and memory. Recalling time spent happy with loved ones no longer here.
But most of all it IS about achievement. It is about confirming the “I am going to”. About bringing the guarantee to a reality.

And silencing doubts and leaving fears behind.

This journey was not just a cycle challenge. It was to raise awareness and money for a special charity, Make A Wish. I raised £1,100 which is fantastic. But it was also in memory of my daughter Milla. And by cycling and engaging people in my journey, I have sought to honour Milla’s memory and to keep her alive in my heart.

Thank you for reading.

Tony20180906_17453820180906_17393320180907_06395620180907_06370420180907_07433320180907_15405620180910_08524320180909_170655

Motivation and Change

Resolution – That New Year Promise

resolution (noun) /rɛzəˈluːʃ(ə)n/

i)     A firm decision to do or not to do something.

ii)    The quality of being determined or resolute.

iii)   The action of solving a problem or contentious matter.

In just over a week 2017 will come to an end and a new year will start. 2018 will arrive to fireworks, jollity and a promise – or two.

New Year’s resolutions. Those promises we make to ourselves silently, in thought – yes, this year I am going to (lose weight, get fit, run a marathon, change my job, be a better person, volunteer, stop smoking, stop eating all the biscuits, learn the piano, learn a language…etc).

The braver ones among us will announce with some fanfare to our loved ones and friends and work colleagues…’My New Year’s resolution is….” As if stating it publicly will create an implicit guarantee, rather than a tacit agreement by you alone, resulting in a more focussed, determined you to stick to your promise, to follow your resolution through.

So that is the 1st of January sorted. The resolution made. You sit back and feel satisfied that you have done something positive. Until. Until…. A week later and you still haven’t been for that run, you are still gorging on the Christmas chocolates, the biscuit tin is empty (again) and you are still sat at your desk doing the same thing that you wish to change, but don’t feel as motivated to start looking, applying, going for interviews etc etc.

It is all too easy to state what you want to do, or to think it. But to effect that change takes determination, will power, motivation, desire…or put it another way – resolution. To undertake life changes, some minor, but others significant and enormous, is to apply mind and body to the task. To create an achievable goal, to apply resolution in order to achieve your resolution.

The saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ is very apt. No one expects you to stop smoking overnight. Or go for a 1km jog on Monday and run the marathon on Wednesday, or sign up for English language lessons in January and be reading the entire works of Shakespeare (unabridged) in February. A resolution needs perspective and clarity. It needs planning and timescales. It requires a sensible, achievable goal oriented programme. Step by step, each step walking towards an initially distant objective, but one that comes closer with each step – even if at the beginning we are unable to see it.

The reason we fail to follow through our resolutions and feel deflated at having failed so soon, is a lack of planning and setting goals.

A few years ago I ran the London Marathon. Something I had long wished to do, had previously signed up for and had to withdraw after knee surgery and wished to attempt at least once in my life. I resolved to do it. Although my training commenced seriously in  October (the marathon takes place in April), every run from 5km to 8km to 10km 15, 20 etc felt painful, slow, frustrating. At times I felt I would never be able to run 26.2 miles or 42.1km. But I followed a marathon runners training programme for beginners (and I am not built for running…too many biscuits – another failed resolution).

The long dark evenings or cold freezing mornings 2 or 3 times a week, sometimes only at the weekend, saw me pounding the streets alone, kilometre after kilometre, miles after mile. It was hard…wind, rain, cold, dark. April and the marathon seemed so far off. But as each run passed by, the days and weeks of training turned into months and as the new year arrived, I could sense the objective – the destination, coming into view.

By April I was ready and focussed. It was the hardest and most painful, but most enjoyable event I have taken part in. Joining 35,000 other runners around the streets of London, cheered on by hundreds of thousands of spectators. Many times I had thought about giving up during training, but I resolved to do it. And because I had a clear plan, a timescale and achievable steps, I was able to complete my challenge.

What time? Sorry…what time did I do it in? Oh..well, let’s say I did’t break any records. I finished in a respectable (for me) 5 hours 22 minutes. But the time was never my goal. Sure, I had hoped to run around 4hrs 45mins, but found the actual marathon harder than I anticipated. But it did not matter. My resolution was to run the marathon and to complete it. That is what motivated me. The fact I raised around £8,000 for the Make A Wish charity was of course another hugely motivating factor.

So; ‘Resolution’. It is a goal, a promise to do something ( or not do something…no one has ever said ‘My new year resolution is to start smoking!). Or it can be strength and determination, focus. But it is also solving a problem. Or resolving a difficult issue.

We are all conflicted at different moments in our lives. We all have problems to face, whether personal problems or issues at work. Stresses and frustrations, confusion and choices and dilemmas. But resolution can only come through communication.

Communication internally, our conscience speaking to us, a debate with ourselves, weighing up the pros and cons, making our our decision as to what we believe is the best course of action. The hardest aspect is to carry out the decision we have made, to have the courage of our convictions. That issue you fundamentally disagree on at work…the easiest thing is to let your colleague or boss carry on doing it ‘their way’ – let them take the fall when it goes wrong. But to resolve to challenge them and to try to persuade them that their way is wrong and yours is right takes more courage. To engage in conflict rather than avoid is not an easy thing to do, even if you are in the right.

But communication extends beyond our own thought process. A problem shared is a problem halved. Again another truism. How often do people sit and wrestle with problems in their heads, unable to sleep through worry, working themselves into a state of stress, making themselves ill undecided what to do for the best. When what is needed is someone who can sit, listen, not judge, offer impartial advice, suggestions and encouragement. Again, the hardest part can be finding that person you trust and taking that first step of saying, ‘Can I talk to you about something….?’

But once you have committed to resolve the problem, to find a resolution by actively thinking through your problems or seeking out someone to discuss with, resolution will come far more smoothly and satisfactorily.

So this coming new year my resolution is to create resolutions that are positive, life changing and realistic. Achievable and with a planned approach that has a clear timescale. I will continue to apply resolution to everything I do. It is far better to try and fail, than never having tried at all. Maybe my goals and resolutions will fail. But I won’t know unless I try.

And finally, I will be far more proactive and mindful in tackling problems. I will have that rational, sensible debate with myself and I will ensure I discuss problems and seek out advice from family, friends and colleagues when I need to. And not assume I can resolve every problem myself.

Whatever your New Year’s Resolutions, I hope they are successful and life changing for the better.

Just stay off the biscuits….it is easier said than done. But if you want to run that marathon, a chocolate hobnob or 6 is not going to help.

Best wishes

Tony