The illusion of control

I had big plans for 2015.

Big plans. It was supposed to be the year of travels – A year when I would get more seriously into running, a segway into triathlon training, a year where I produced more short stories. Big plans. If you read my previous blog post, I was writing about how so many things were happening, and they were. So much so, I didn’t have time to blog about them at all.

As life goes, the moment you think you have control over things, they start to fall apart.

I’ve had itchy feet for a while now and was eager to get out of the office and go out to the field. At this point, I had spent a great deal of time working behind my desk, and haven’t had missions since the flood-mission in Kelantan earlier in the year. I love travelling and seeing new places and meeting new people, and one of the to-do-lists on my bucket list was to hike up the Great Wall. When the opportunity came for me to organize a workshop in China, the universe aligned and I was asked by my colleagues to join them on a hiking trip up a section of the wall which was about 1 1/2 hours away from Beijing.

The Great Wall of China - This section was about 30 minutes away from the Mutianyu gate - 1 1/2 hours from Beijing.
The Great Wall of China – This section was about 30 minutes away from the Mutianyu gate – 1 1/2 hours from Beijing.

The hike itself was amazing. It wasn’t easy – 2 hours up a steep section of the wall. In some areas, we had to get on our hands and feet to climb the wall – And since this section was secluded and wasn’t a tourist spot, we ended up being the only tourists there at the time. The view was gorgeous. I didn’t like the heat too much though, and I was fortunate I had brought my camelbak with me, so I had enough to drink.

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Hiking up towards the Watch Tower – Difficult climb, but the view was amazing!

I spent some time up at that watch tower, just soaking everything in – The view, the magnificence of the wall, the fact that I felt so minuscule compared to the vastness of the mountains surrounding me. I had a lot of thought about how my life had unfolded and how happy I was. I had my dream job. I was seeing the world. I was writing a lot. I was at the peak of my health. I didn’t want anything to change at this time.

Three days later, things started to go wrong. While my work in Beijing went smoothly and my training went really well, I was starting to feel physically tired. I had plans to run at a nearby park that evening, but told my colleague that I would head back to the hotel and sleep instead. This was the beginning of what would be a three-week nightmare. The next day, rashes started to appear on my face, and I was feeling sick at this point – Coughing, sneezing. I thought I just had the flu.

Two days later I touched down in Malaysia, looking like a zombie, and my family rushed me to the hospital. The rashes had spread all over my hands, and I was half-aware at this point. For eleven days the doctors and nurses fought to stabilize my temperature. I had high fevers. My liver was really swollen, and I looked like a lobster, with the rashes spreading all over my body. I had a haemorrhage in my right eye, blisters and pus in my right ear, which left me half-deaf, and to add to the mix, I was sneezing blood. We found out later that the rashes spread into my ear, nose, and all the way down to my trachea. I felt so sore, I couldn’t eat or drink very much. The situation got serious enough that if the doctors didn’t manage to stabilize my liver and temperature, I probably would’ve…expired from this world.

Needles are OW.
Needles are OW.

Whenever my family and friends visited, they would have this look of shock and horror on their faces – I couldn’t really understand why, until I looked in the mirror. *Shudders*.

The most frustrating part? Despite hundreds of blood tests, we never figured out what happened to me. As quietly and silently as the fever and sickness had come, it just went away. In the words of the lead doctor who treated me,  “You healed yourself.”

I had a lot of time to think about my life at this point, and suddenly everything changed. There were many parts of my life that I was still happy about – My job, my passions, but there was something missing. The feeling of helplessness, of knowing that your time on this earth can end just like that, and knowing that every idea of control that you have over your life has its drawbacks, woke me up from a stupor I didn’t realize I was in.

I am the author for my own life – I used to believe that with the utmost conviction and to some extent I still do – But here’s the thing about how the universe works – You get  what you ask for, but never in the form you expect it to be. It sounds like an oxymoron at this point and that I’m contradicting myself, but here’s an example:

While I was in Beijing, I sent a thought to the universe for a break. Some time off work. I’m a workaholic, so I always end up working even when I’m on holidays, but I kept sending the thought that I wanted three weeks with NO emails, NO work. Just sleep.

I got exactly that – I got three weeks off from work. I couldn’t respond or check my emails much. I couldn’t get out of bed. I was in the hospital and on bed-rest at home. I got the sleep I wanted.

It turns out, one of the things that was currently missing for me is to slow the hell down. I’ve always lived a fast-paced life. I wanted to do a bazillion things, always, and end up never getting them all done, which is fine, but then I’d beat myself up over it. I never had time to just rest, reflect, and enjoy each moment that I have in life. Being really sick made me wonder if chasing everything was really worth it.

There were many areas in my life I knew I had to improve, and one of them is that I am such a people-pleaser. I always want people to be happy with me, even if it meant silencing my own voice. I know now that has to change. If I don’t speak with my own voice here now, and just went along with what people said, what am I leaving behind but the parroting of other people’s ideas and thoughts?

We don’t REALLY have control over anything. Sometimes even the strangest things happen to you, with no explanations or reason whatsoever, and you can only ride the waves as it happens. Whatever plans you’ve made will unravel, so that new, better plans can come into place. As much of a control freak as I am, I am learning to trust the process and seeing where that takes me.

One step at a time
One step at a time

Here’s to recovery and riding waves 🙂 I’ll be spending my recovery time building my strength back, smelling the roses, and enjoying the time that I have on this earth. One step at a time.

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