The Life in Your Years


“It’s not the years in your life that matter…it’s the life in your years.” – Abraham Lincoln (*possibly*)

I had a completely different article in mind to write today. Instead I came across this article on the BBC website about journalist Helen Fawkes who died earlier this month.  It talks about how she faced her cancer with a ‘list for living’, blogging about her experiences both with cancer and with life. It made me cry as all too often stories like this do, I cry for myself.

This is quite a raw post for me to write and I feel more exposed and vulnerable than normal. I had a bone marrow transplant in 2001 for chronic myeloid leukaemia and have spent the 16 years since often grieving for the life I thought I would live before I received my diagnosis.  I have spent those years torn between fear of living and fear of not living enough. I am often paralysed, stuck between wanting to live, to experience this life to the full and yet unable to do so, terrified of what could go wrong.

I lost me after my transplant, I lost that person with dreams and plans for the future.  I wasn’t that person anymore and it took a whole lot of hard times, of fighting to get back to ‘normal’, to realise that person had gone and I was causing myself harm by holding on to that image of me.  Eventually I stopped looking back so much and looked for who I was now, for where I wanted life to take me.

My mind had other ideas though. It was almost like it saw me getting hold of myself and putting myself back together…and didn’t like it one little bit.  So it threw health anxiety into the mix.  Understandable perhaps given what had happened to me, the physical effects my treatment continues to have on me, the death of my brother and of Phillip’s parents.

Still it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to cope with. Constantly worrying whether this or that is a sign of something that is going to kill me, sheer overwhelming panic that I am going to die and the battling that goes on between my fear of doing anything and my fear of not doing anything, of not doing enough. I am tired of living like this.

So this article about Helen who faced her diagnosis with such a positive and open attitude really got to me.  She lived her life knowing her time was limited and determined to fit in as much as she possibly could. I cried for the years I feel I have wasted in not grasping hold of this life with both hands. It is such a brief, amazing, fleeting life we live and I am so aware of a need to make the most of it.  Too aware maybe.

I can’t do anything about what is in the past. Those years, all that time I feel I have wasted, well that is unchangeable.  And the future, who knows.  All I have is now, I need to stop worrying and put more life into my years.  So I am going to borrow Helen’s idea of a ‘list for living’ and fill it with things from the normal to the possibly impossible.  I don’t want a bucket list, that feels too much like having to achieve a list of things before I die.  I want things to aim for, I want to celebrate this life and I want to live it not simply be alive for it.

When my list is more than an idea, when it itself has life, I will share it with you. For encouragement, for support, for the sheer kick in the backside I will probably need to push through my worries to actually do this.  If you have any suggestions for my list, share away please!

If you are interested in reading about Helen’s story in her own words, take a look at her blog.

11 thoughts on “The Life in Your Years

  1. Pingback: Writing my list for living… – Jumbled Rambles

  2. I found your post with your list, and am routing for you to do/find all or at least most of them. You can do it!

    I found this post because you linked to it in the later post I referenced above. I am so glad I read it. It is an important post for me to read, too, and I’m happy you shared this.

    I have been on disability for about eight years now because of mental illness and am still struggling to get myself to a point of fuller recovery. I’ve grieved my “lost years” and still find myself spending most all day at home in my bedroom alone (except weekends with hubby). I know I can’t necessarily do everything that people without my illness can do, but I CAN make more and more moments rich and valuable. I have been a good list maker in the past, and know that just making the list is a brilliant start to achieving goals and dreams.

    I have been grieving the recent loss of my nephew who committed suicide last month. He was only 24 years old and was sick with depression most of his short life. Part of my grief is that I don’t think he lived enough quality life. I, on the other hand, had a brilliant life up until 30 years old. Quality is worth more than quantity, and quality can have different meanings in some years than others. I will say that in his short life he was a master photographer. If gives me happiness that at least he saw through his camera lens beautiful things in a most amazing way that not all of us ever do. I’ve preserved many of those images of his as a remembrance of him. They are beautiful. He was beautiful and I will look at them off and on for the rest of my life. And yes, I will try to get myself to make my own list to experience, and see my own beauties and pleasures.

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Writing my list for living… | The Ramblings of Button Jamboree

  4. Joanne
    Thank you for such a beautiful message. Like you I also going to start my “list for living”. A year ago I had an emergency brain tumor surgery that almost ended my life, and I’m still recovering from it. Nature and wildlife photography has been my way to escape and enjoy little things. You are great!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh wow – that is quite a major thing to go through! Glad you are recovering from it. Things like that take so much out of you both physically and mentally don’t they. It makes you so aware of how precious and brief life is doesn’t it….in my case I think it made me a little too aware. Am working on my list – I have some funny little things on it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. beautifully written Jo, much love & hugs to you and your bravery to share innermost thoughts & feelings. I read Helen’s article too, and it really got me thinking – about not putting things off, about why not make more of everyday (though that reminded me of the ikea advert – get out of my head! ) Yes anyway – would love to read your ideas – do I have ideas for you hmmm – well you’ve acted on one already about the group meet up – so yes let’s do it xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Carol for reading and taking the time to comment! Means so much to me when people do. I think people often think about the big things when making a list like this but yeah I want mine to reflect the everyday as well as the big. Am so bad at putting things off so hopefully this list will help stop that!
      Definitely yes about the group meet up – encourage the idea and drum up support for it at Glastonbury! Have a fabulous time!


  6. Beautiful… beautiful you… because you are.. that part of you remained the same in the person you were before and the person you are now. Beautiful soul 😊

    Liked by 1 person

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