How my chat with a 90-year-old friend reminded me what matters - Sophie Mei Lan

It’s time to worry less about our dress size and consider our mental health more, writes Sophie Mei Lan.

Tuesday, 4th January 2022, 4:45 am

I enthusiastically messaged my family when I went to the toilet unaided. I am so appreciative to sleep in my bed because I can now climb the stairs to reach it at night. I am 33.

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Community spirit can help to banish the blues - Sophie Mei Lan

When it comes to reflecting on this past year, it is easy to focus on the hospital stays that I have had, ‘what’s wrong with my body’ and the pending surgery that awaits.

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Sophie Mei Lan is focusing on health and wellbeing as she looks ahead into 2022.

Or I could focus on the people that have continued to support me, the fact that despite failings I received free healthcare, I had an iPad to write from my hospital bed and I had a safe home to recover in.

We’re all perfectly imperfect and there are times when we feel overwhelmed by trying to clean a house, do life admin, and work from home on New Year’s Day.

Ok, that was me, until a former dance student of mine accidentally called me.

I hadn’t heard from the 90-year-old since I had been in hospital so I assumed that with my hospital stays and getting my ‘main job’ as a journalist back on track that she had forgotten me.

But she too had been in hospital and now recovering in a nursing home as she had a stroke.

“Now I can’t walk, I wish I had gone on all those walks I’d put off,” my eldest but most enthusiastic bellydance student explained after sharing how we had both fought against our bodies in younger years.

“Perhaps we’ve both been taught an important lesson to appreciate the simple pleasures, like taking a step without a determined conscious effort. Or even when your bladder works!”

We have been conditioned to believe our body’s journey is just to ‘battle our bulges’ or we will achieve happiness if we 'drop a dress size'.

But real wellbeing is about appreciating the simple pleasures in life, being connected within our bodies and minds, and, most of all, connection with each other - even if it’s via a serendipitous phone call.

Once we give up the fight against ourselves, we can achieve better clarity and take real control by using that determination to join together supporting one another just as we are. This all helps to gradually shift our mindset as we realise we all have strengths and the more we focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t, the better we will feel.

For me, community is queen so I am relaunching our lockdown women’s health community as Women’s World of Wellbeing, a safe space for women from all walks of life to support each other on our journey to wellbeing, from expert tips to sharing stories.

As we finished our accidental call, my 90-year-old student added: “But I will walk again. I will just dance with you from my chair for now.”

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