Video by Luke Koch de Gooreynd
I've become part of a small movement that has set out to help my local community in a corner of North West Oxfordshire to become medically proven as one of the healthiest in the UK.
Here's a taster of Chippy WellFest, a full day of talks, discussions and getting people's bodies moving to challenge the way we all think about and prioritise our health.
The project is being pioneered by Nick Parker, who has managed to keep a terminal cancer diagnosis at bay. Nick had an especially aggressive form of prostrate cancer, but last Christmas became one out of the 17,000 people who are living into their third year from stage 4 of the disease. While Nick will never be able to be complacent, there are currently no indicators of cancer in his body. He did it through relentless experimentation and along the way has doggedly pursued what it truly means to be healthy. Nick is on a mission to transform the way we all think about our health - something that now reaches far beyond the medical.
Inspired by the Blue Zones Project in the US, Chippy WellFest is focusing on the role of community in transforming wellbeing. The focus isn't only on longevity but also what it really means to live well.
My own take on all this comes from the way that ME/CFS has forced me to build a life that fully supports my health. And to see that I can be 'healthy' even if I have a chronic illness (luckily for me, it could at long last be a rapidly diminishing chronic illness). A while ago I had the sense of what I needed to create, and imperfectly started to describe it as 'A Spacious Life'. For all of us, it means not only being more conscious of what we put in (and on) our bodies, but also our activity levels, making sure we get enough recreation whether that's moving fast or rest and down time. It involves our sense of purpose, work we have the headspace to enjoy and the feeling of belonging in a community. It means fully accepting the immense pressures some of us face - work, children - and yet still building a lifestyle that has some give in it. Time to STOP, to slow down, room for self care, enough minutes to stop and chat to someone and participate locally. It requires extra slack in the system for when things go wrong. In reality it is as much about what you choose to let go of as what you to take on.
I was one of the 12 speakers at Chippy WellFest and the day wasn't only informative and inspiring. Catharsis was the last thing on my mind as I walked onto the stage to share the wisdom that living life with ME has given me, but catharsis is exactly what happened. I've turned a page in my recovery story and can start giving much more back now.
An ME/CFS Thriver