You may have read astounding, inspiring life stories of people who have miraculously healed from terrifying illnesses, diseases that we think of as incurable and fatal, diseases that we fear so much that we use euphemisms to avoid saying their names. I certainly have, and I love these memoirs - they inspire me and I often turn to them when I need to remember that life is infinitely more unpredictable and mysterious than we tend to believe.
This is not one of those stories. I am not dying. The problem is, I'm not living either. Can you relate? I'm nearly 40, and I'm afraid of everything, except perhaps death itself. No, death is a rather friendly thought in my imagination, it represents the end of my grey existence. A final letting off the hook of the life I'm too scared to live. I do fear my deathbed though. I have no doubt that if I were dying today, the regret would be total, it would be suffocating.
And today - as I recover from my 5th attack of Multiple Sclerosis and as the steroids and midsummer Sun burn the faintest break in the thick cold cloud of the depression that has been my prison for over 2 decades - today, I begin to create a new me. A new everything. Because I don't want to be too afraid to live any more. I am making a promise to myself, a solemn vow right here on this Tuesday afternoon pavement table, surrounded by rucksacked tourists, street traders and baby buggies, to do whatever it takes to finally inhabit my own life. There are no sacred cows here. There is nothing I will not do, try or sacrifice if I believe it is required.
Those stories, the ones that end with the once terminally ill person dancing off into the sunset - happy, healthy, healed - they always seem to start from a life-and-death moment, don't they? They're in the hospice, with days to live. The tumours have spread to every organ system. The doctors are about to switch off the machines.
If I carry on for the next 20 years as I have for the last 20 - flash forward to 60 years old - that could be me. And maybe I too would have a miraculous recovery, write a book, and dance off into the sunset. I believe it's possible: I know that the body has an astounding ability to heal itself, given a chance. So why wait to get that sick?
When would now be a good time to start?
For once, I'm making a proactive choice. I'm not going to wait till I'm dying to start living.