It’s an unusually gorgeous September morning by the river. The sun is just burning through the clouds, the Thames meandering past my window.
I’ve just come off a call with one of our new, enthusiastic think tank volunteers. A friend is sitting at my table, eating cereal and planning out the afternoon.
Tomorrow, I’ll pull on army uniform and head off somewhere to do something interesting for a day of military service. Later that evening, I’m chairing a Labour Party foreign policy discussion.
The next day, it will be back to journalism, think tanking and all the joys and challenges of an unusual but frankly quite rewarding life.
Fifteen years ago today, I awoke in the wreckage of my vehicle on a frontline in Sri Lanka, realising I was likely paralysed for life.
For a few minutes, I just cried silently, putting off the moment that I would have to call for help and make it real. It felt completely overwhelming. Sometimes, in truth, it still does.
This year, I’ve turned 40. That means I’ve been in this situation almost three quarters of my adult life. I don’t need to be told that I’ve done well, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t sometimes a sense of loss.
For most of the last 15 years, my primary weapon for tackling that has been my drive, a sometimes furious refusal to believe the injury might stop me achieving the things and feelings that I want from life.
There’s not a moment’s doubt in my mind that has been necessary, and that there may well be similar fights to come. What’s at least as important, though, is also finding the right space for softness and for gratitude. And, of course, the wisdom to know which to choose each route.
There’s been some pain, much of it put off these 15 years. It took me that long to have the second half of that crying session I started in the wreckage, I’m aware I’m still very much processing my very unique experience, and a life where each new opportunity can bring unexpected challenge .
According to Yale psychologist Laurie Santos, the trick to a happy, productive life is to have more fun. She recommends a variety of options – surfing, dancing, karaoke, exercise. In truth, many of those are more challenging to me now – but one of my revelations this year is that I need and can get better at finding and embracing more.
Where I currently stand is not perfect, but I’m happier in most of my relationships and roles than at any point before. The best are those that help me tackle rather than entrench those challenges, that make me begin to tenuously believe that I can actually make this work. Life is about connection and community, and I’m lucky to have amazing people round me.
On that point, it is a lovely day and I am heading out…