It Meant The World

Nobody seems to like the posts that I write when I’m happy, where I talk about all the good stuff. This is probably because stuff that is good to me is boring and normal in the eyes of most, and it means that often, I don’t share the good. I don’t need to let the good things out, I like to hold onto them, but you guys read along through all of the bad, and part of me feels that you should share in the good times too. So… warning: This post, and the continuation of it that I shall post immediately afterwards, is about a really, really nice few days. It’s about my first ever spa experience, which I went to with my mum, and I even managed not to make her want to murder me (although she did tire of my company at times). It’s about my amazing, amazing unofficial family member across the pond, and the brilliance of WordPress’s comment feature (which is actually how we “met”). It’s about gifts I didn’t deserve at all. It’s about good times. And I’m sorry if that’s boring. But I’m not sorry if nobody likes it, I guess. Because I just remembered that I started this blog to help myself, and it has done and continues to do exactly that. This is my pressure-free blog. This one is the one where I feel the pressure to re-read and limit what I write.

13th September. Day 1:

Bags packed this morning in a hurry, my mum and I took my dad’s car, and drove off.

I received a package from someone I met through this blog (I say just “someone” but she’s actually a very dear friend to me, and she feels like family). She lives across the pond in America, so I had to go to the post office to pay the customs charges and collect the parcel she had sent. I opened it in the car to find a card saying that she was thinking of me, and a silver necklace.

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The dark bits on the necklace are actually dark blue, which is one of my favourite colours. HOW AMAZING IS THE HUMAN THAT SENT ME THESE? (Beyond words, is the answer to that question)

The necklace is a hamsa hand (according to the internet). I felt all the feels upon opening the gift, but I felt them even more when I learnt what it meant. The necklace is meant to represent the hand of god (of any faith, apparently). According to this source, “The Hamsa Hand is an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. In all faiths it is a protective sign. It brings it’s owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune.” And then that necklace meant the world to me. THE WORLD (you hear that friend across the pond, it meant, it means… THE WORLD). I was, and still am, incredibly touched by her kindness. And figuring out when it would have been sent, and when I was first told that she would be sending me something, it meant even more because it was so appropriately timed. I rode that high all day. I may still be riding it. I’m still wearing the necklace. I’d like happiness, luck, health and good fortune. I already have all, actually, because in comparison to some I have it beyond easy.

I then looked at my phone and saw a comment from yet another wonderful human across the pond who seems to enjoy reading along with my blog, and is a veterinarian… I felt all the feels all over again. But genuinely, every single comment I get makes me feel all the feels. This one was just touching and I still struggle to wrap my head around the fact that people who follow this blog actually… Follow my life, I guess.

We drove on, my smile almost as bight as the sun (which was beating down relentlessly). It was hot and humid, and near where we live in Kent, a temperature of 34 degrees Celcius was recorded (hottest September day for 65 years I think). As a brit, I am not used to hot summers. I’m used to summers that feel like winter but with shorter nights and warmer rain. My heart doesn’t like the heat, nor does any of my body, actually. It was so hot and humid out that I stepped out of the lovely air conditioned car and felt like I was standing with someone breathing on me. It was 32.5 degrees where we stopped for lunch in a lovely little old country pub, and the thick air was like hot breath in my face.

I’ve never experienced a spa before, or a fancy hotel. I was awestruck from the moment we walked into the place. We paid a ridiculously small fraction of the price for our room (which we would never have even dreamed of being able to afford at full price), and as they messed up our booking we were upgraded to a “superior” room.

It reminded me of a hospital (without the trauma and the terror and the illness…) in that everyone walks around in dressing gowns and slippers (… but nobody judges you or gives you pitying looks), and the staff constantly ask if people are ok and if there is anything they can do to help. Honestly, my brain found it surreal. The staff treated you like you mattered in a world where few of us really do. I felt awkward and out of place being treated so strangely, but I learned to relax. My mum kept telling me that the things I was so astonished by were normal for health clubs and spas, but I was honestly blown away by everything.

Reviews slated the amazing place we stayed at, saying it was run down and not worth the money, but it was so above anywhere I’ve been before and I thought it was really fancy. Yes most of the walls had scuff marks, some had mysterious dents, and a lot of the paintwork was cracked or chipped and peeling… Yes, there was quite a lot of mould between the tiles of the swimming pool, and a light dusting of it on the plastic grates that covered the overflow bit from the pool… And yes, the carpet in our room had a big hill in it where it had been pulled up and not put back down properly… But the place was so, so fancy and the staff and the service (and the food) were BEYOND amazing and so much nicer than anything I’d ever experienced before.

The first thing I wanted to do was swim. So I did. I could go on about how astonished I was that they provided towels for you, or that the showers had shampoo and conditioner dispensers but… Oh wait, I just did. Anyway, I swam 10 lengths of a 25m pool. After 4, I was tired. After 10, I wasn’t too tired to carry on, but I was tired enough to stop. The wheezing and crackly cough hit me in the shower. I was breathless for an hour afterwards, and very surprised at how little it had taken to make me feel so awful.

The pain from my procedure last week had reduced to a moderate discomfort. We were still querying the possibility of a post-op infection (even though the doctors gave me a course of antibiotics to prevent infection in light of my immune system’s tendency to open to doors and let any old germ in). During dinner, the mild discomfort grew to a roar. I was sat hitting my legs together under the table, unable to sit still from the pain. We headed back to our room instead of wandering round the grounds, because I was in too much pain to human, and also I didn’t want to miss The Last Leg (it’s a tv show with three awesome humans running it, and to my delight during the Paralympics it is now on every night).

Three hours after my swim, Skippy (my heart) was still unhappy, and he was letting everybody know about it. And yet, I was thrilled at the idea of being able to just wake up and swim. Also, I almost gave up on the idea of exercise – my heart just cannot cope right now. I wrote an entire piece in my notebook about it, which I will probably post today or tomorrow, but it made me question a lot of things.

If I were healthier, I’d come here and put my body through hell in the pool and the gym – focus intently on training, and then try a bunch of spa treatments (not that I could actually afford any spa treatments). It seems to be a prime retreat for “gym bunnies” as I’ve heard them called.

Day 2 (sorry guys, it goes on):

My mum woke me up at 8:15. She woke. Me. Up. I haven’t had such a good night’s sleep in ages. I slept enough to dream between the terrifying hospital nightmares that are apparently inevitable. I had a bad dream about my uni parents (nowhere near the scale of the nightmares where I relive my most traumatic experiences). I went back to uni and they acted like I didn’t exist, they told me off for ever talking to them ever, and treated me like crap. I don’t think I could ever talk to them anyway. Maybe Uni Mum. Speaking of mums…

It’s weird being with my mum. It’s nice to be with just her, but it’s awkward. She doesn’t listen when I try to make smalltalk – she visibly zones out or just sits playing on her phone or messaging her friends the entire time. She said that she doesn’t know what to talk to me about. And I realised we have hardly anything in common, and that she knows nothing about my life now (she thinks she does, but simple stuff like “I’ve never seen you where this top before” when I’ve been wearing it at uni almost every other day for the last month… She knows the bit of my life she sees in her house, and that person isn’t me. That house isn’t my home). Our conversation became very… Functional. Each one seems to have to serve a purpose and so starts with questions such as:

“What time do we need to leave on Saturday?” (I move into my new uni accommodation on Saturday, and therefore will be home, back in LONDON. I love that city far too much).

“Did you bring enough clothes?”

“What food are you going to cook for your first dinner?”

“Where are you going to put _____”

“What clothes did you pack?”

I felt like most of the time she ignored all the nice conversation we’d had, the civil conversations, and just got all stressy and started telling me that I was talking to her wrong. Which made me not want to bother. Which made my tone slip up. Which made her angry, and rightly so, I guess.

After a fancy buffet breakfast, where waiters poured our drinks for us and brought us tea in our dressing gowns, and the butter was whipped and came in little shell shaped china dishes… I went for another swim. I managed 15 lengths of the pool and felt relatively ok afterwards – or at least, nothing like last night. My mum (who never, ever swims because she… can’t really swim and hates getting her hair wet and stuff) got in the swimming pool and swam a couple of lengths.

I’m not good at being in a hotel – I made the bed all nicely and tidied the room before the maid came, because I found it weird to think of others doing those things for us and it made me feel bad. My mum and I went for a slow walk around the grounds. We sat by a pristine football pitch – professional athletes, footballers, actors and models had stayed in the place we were staying at, and I just sat and watched the mist on the hills in the distance. I was knackered from my swim, so when my (completely inactive but for some reason suddenly adventurous) mother decided to take us back to reception and hire bikes, I was glad when she settled for a game of table tennis instead and a smoothie.

Lunch was another buffet, but it was the fanciest buffet I’ve ever seen. All of our food was complimentary, and it said we were allowed a three course lunch. They didn’t specify whether it had to be three different courses or not, so naturally I had three mains (I started with a plate of potatoes, rice, noodles, veg, 2 fillets of fish, chicken… Moved on to a huge bowl of noodles which the chef cooked in front of us… And then had a plate of just salmon, some random white fish, and chicken)… Then I realised nobody was paying any attention to what we ate, so I had three desserts too. My mum said that I’d “taken healthy eating and made it… eating.” And that it would have been healthy eating if I hadn’t eaten the equivalent of lunch for a week.

We read books and I got another smoothie, and then we went to the thalassotherapy pool, a treatment which was complimentary with our stay. It’s basically a huge circular salt water pool of bubbles and water jets, and you sort of just get beaten up by salt water for 50 minutes, which is meant to give you a full body massage. They said if you had diabetes or heart problems or low blood pressure or had any minor surgery lately (and many, many other health hiccups that I can’t be bothered to list) then you shouldn’t do it (I had a lot of the stuff). I looked at my mum. She looked at me. Nobody else moved and I was too embarrassed to leave the room or anything, so I shrugged and just got in the pool. It was amazing. The water jets were under such high pressure that they hurt you if you got too close, and pushed you into the middle of the pool if you didn’t hold onto the rail, but in just the right position it was sooooo nice. I’ve never had a massage before, and I left the salt water feeling really heavy and sleepy, but it was so, so nice I wish I could experience it again someday.

I walked straight out of the thalassotherapy pool and got back in the swimming pool, because something kept pulling me back to the water. I swam 10 lengths. For the first time since I swam for a club (so… since I was… 14?) I managed 2 lengths with no pause in between. It was a gentle, slow breast stroke, but it was efficient and I was so happy to have managed two consecutive lengths. I switched to freestyle (I can’t do full stroke, because flutter kick kills my heart). I had the lowest stroke rate in the pool by a fair way, and was the only one swimming freestyle with no kick, but I was the fastest, somehow. I focussed intently on technique, trying to start off with a good technique so that as I train more I will develop good habits. If I had the energy to kick as well, or to pull at a faster rate, I’d be good at this. I’d be fast. I thought to myself. My mum swam with me again. I taught her how to do breaststroke kick, because she was doing dome weird scissor kick and holding her body at a weird angle in the water. She couldn’t move forward very far at all with each effort, and I kind of realised that my body was a little bit superhuman to be able to get through everything I put it through and be able to move pretty well from one end of a pool to the other.

I went in the steam room with my mum afterwards. I wasn’t meant to, because my heart hates heat. I hated it. It made me feel ill. The air was thick and my lungs already thought they were breathing soup (I thought it might clear them, but my theory was wrong). I felt it in my chest, the swim. The tightness and the wheeze settled in, and my heart was aching and wouldn’t calm down. But this time I was sure that the swim had been worth it.

On the first night of our stay I tried scallops, which I’d never had in my life, but we were only charged £2 for because the meal was complimentary… I repeated this on the second night, because I couldn’t decide what they actually tasted of… (And I’m still not sure). Over dinner tonight, I brought up the subject of swimming at university, and how I want to swim more for the social side of things than to seriously compete. My mum knows I was told not to swim, but she also knows that I’m going to anyway, so she didn’t say anything. Until I said that you need to swim 100m in 1:30 to make the competitive squad, and she looked up at me and said, “You could probably do that, actually… But don’t.”

25m of pull takes me 30 seconds or just under (I keep my stroke rate low to focus on technique)… But I couldn’t do four lengths of full stroke. So… Nope.

My uni friend who used to live in Hong Kong messaged me when we got back to the room to tell me she’d bought me two t-shirts because they just made her think of me. She sent me pictures of them. I felt so awful that she’d bought me things that I apologised to her. She ignored it and laughed on with me. The t-shirts are humorous t-shirts which are VERY “me” and I was really shocked that she’d bought me gifts as my birthday isn’t until the start of March! I felt all the feels all over again. People are too nice. Too. Nice. I really don’t deserve these things, any of them.

I’m not sure what this post was, it was happy me, I guess. I’ve had no access to wifi so I’m posting it all in one big boring post. Ok ew this post is long, I’m really sorry.

This break with my mum, the gifts, that comment… All of it meant the world to me. On the day that stuff like this doesn’t, feel free to slap me.


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