My twin passions of writing and walking arrived early. I was an eccentric and self-willed tomboy and bookworm who roamed round Epping Forest ineptly juggling an ice cream and A A Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh.
I was inept because I suffer from dyspraxia, a neurological condition that affects co-ordination, balance, memory, motor skills, and speech. My adventures in the great outdoors were often marked by scrapes – in both senses of that word. But my enthusiasm continued unabated, and my resourcefulness and resilience soared.
Now based in London, I’m living my dream life. I spend at least six months each year walking: discovering new trails, new aspects of myself, and new flavours of ice cream. But it wasn’t always this way. It’s been a long journey to get here.
In 1976, I left university with a degree in English and History, but with my creativity and self-belief at an all-time low. I’d always wanted to be an author, but my studies left me doubting that anyone would ever pay to read anything I wrote.
So, despite having a sense that I was here to make a difference, I spent my career as a corporate copywriter, turning complex financial and legal jargon into easy-to-understand language. I produced thousands upon thousands of words, not a single one of which ever appeared under my own name.
But, as my career blossomed, my health withered. My body was telling me that I wasn’t, couldn’t flourish in corporate life, but I didn’t hear the message. And so my health became ever more precarious, leading to long and frequent absences from work.
There was a brief respite from 2004 onwards when I discovered personal development and coaching, and trained to be a coach. The ill-health continued though: right up until my job was made redundant in 2010 – and beyond.
My strategies for dealing with my dyspraxia and corporate life were identical. I hid my difficulties when I could, minimised them when I couldn’t, kept calm, and carried on. But in spite of all the personal development work I’d done, I’d never dealt with my fundamental lack of wellness – and it showed.
By 2014, I couldn’t walk a kilometre without sitting down because of my back pain. I was also confined to bed two or three days a week with crippling migraines.
It was only when I asked myself what I could do that I reconnected with my inner resources and listened to my instinct which I’d ignored for so long. The result was an 800-kilometre hike along the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim trail in northern Spain.
This is how I discovered a creative, mystical, and non-judgemental force that enables us to emerge from the self-imposed limits and beliefs that compromise our wellness. It’s the force that’s unleashed by the mutually reinforcing activities of listening to our instinct and walking.
It’s also the force that’s allowed me, aged 62, to live another element of my dream by writing a book. Provisionally titled Stumbling into Wellness: Mystical Adventures on the Camino, you can download three advance chapters here.
Other places to find me
You can listen to me talking about my Camino adventures to Claire Taylor of The Story Mill, as part of her Thriving Beyond Stress and Burnout podcast.
If you’d like to contact me directly, I’d love to hear from you – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.