On re-finding my words (The Recovery Series)

(I’ve been fighting with the pain for a few days so haven’t been able to put anything up for the week. It’s better now, so I have a few more things to say.)

I’m lying in my bed. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember pain like this. Even the brilliant drugs that they give you in the hospital doesn’t work. So what best to do with pain but to write. This is my recovery series. It mightn’t make much sense. I blame the pain

There are some things that I enjoy that most of the people around me do not find in the least bit interesting. This often means that most people in my profession find me incredibly boring, or probably think that I’m up my own arse most of the time. I have very little interest in fashion, celebrity, and for the most part know not very much about theatre. Theatre is one of those beautiful things that just happens to me; it’s tidal, usually swooping in and enveloping me, casting me about in its currents, sometimes dashing me upon rocks, finally spitting me out on a distant unknown shore or washing me up on the same old familiar sands. I don’t feel the need to understand theatre, or to engage with it in anything other than this ethereal and unstable dance. We are lovers, eternally so, without the need for obsession. And we are private, so other people’s relationship with theatre has no bearing on us. I can’t name names, don’t know what songs come from where, don’t know what’s coming in or what’s going out, never know what’s going on. I am always an outsider at parties and opening nights. But, you cannot make important that which is already a part of you. It is like trying to make your leg important, or your heart, or your breast. It’s already there, you don’t think about it. You don’t have to study your leg, or go on about it. You don’t have to become an expert in other people’s legs. They have them, that’s ‘good-enough’ knowledge. It would be an inexplicable loss if my leg were to be removed. The same with theatre. It’s like my leg. I need it, but I don’t have to talk about it all the time.

But I also have another leg.

So, I’m a big, BIG, fan of psychology and philosophy and all things mind, subjective and objective. And I’m also a great big fan of reading textbooks and writing essays and doing research, which is mostly incongruent with the interests of my peers. So I keep my psychological musings and excitement  of learning for long, drawn-out, wine-fuelled talks over the dinner table with my loving, patient knight. And he’s always up for a good debate, if only because, but for being incredibly agreeable in every other sense, he’s intellectually argumentative.

But one of the things that I have found that is a side effect of pain and medication is that words go awry. On the page, they swim and do a merry ceilidh, coming in and going out, linked together and then far apart. My eyes have to chase them, body tackle them to the white space, pin them down wrestler-stylee, by which time meaning has become fed-up and flounced off in a huff. Getting to the end of a sentence takes an age. And the spoken word has taken its fair share of the Tramadol effect. My spoonerism rate has skyrocketed and sometimes I trail off because I’ve forgotten where I put my hat. I haven’t been speaking on the phone, because for the most part, I don’t make sense, or I forget to make sense.

We spend so much time looking for meaning and purpose, in our lives, our actions, our thoughts. But I spare a thought today for how important words are in the construction of that meaning. The stories we tell, to ourselves, of ourselves to others, all rely on a common understanding of the way in which we put words together. Our knowledge, our identity, our personality and even our memories are put together by words on a string. What we know and how we know it is transmitted by words, acquired through words which fire the neurons that affect the other neurons, that whizz and bang through the finite organ that is our brain into the infinite regions that is our mind. If we lose our words, would our pictures suffice? If we do not use our words, would meaning suffer?

I am happy that I can continue to put these words down on the page. But don’t try to have a conversation with me right now, my words just keep on failing me.

Published in: on March 3, 2013 at 6:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On change (The Recovery Series)

I’m lying in my bed. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember pain like this. Even the brilliant drugs that they give you in the hospital doesn’t work. So what best to do with pain but to write. This is my recovery series. It mightn’t make much sense. I blame the pain.

There has been a lot of change lately. In these few days alone the concept of change has become solid to me. I have become acutely aware about the difficulty of change. People often say it, as if it’s easy – ‘If you don’t like the way you look, change your diet’, ‘If you don’t like your job, quit and change to another one’, ‘If you don’t like the way you think, change your mind and think a new thought’. Happy-clappy, self-helpy, new-agey literature is full of change for those who are hard pressed to spend their spare change on yet another dust attractor for laden bookshelves of ‘better-you’.

Change is hard.

It’s difficult to change my position on the bed, which always wakes the angry boob-ferret, who immediately protests with his inner scratching. The smallest adjustment is a struggle and brings about a merry dance of negotiation with space, time and gravity. This minor change is excruciating. Changing my clothes is another challenge, with that task comes friction, and friction of any kind is not nice. Friction is charged, causing pain on the rubbed and resentment of the source of the rubbing. Only hurt remains. Changing the dressing on the scar has been a beautiful battle, it meant touch and closeness and that brought with it a fresh hell. I wanted the source of my soreness to remain motionless, to calcify in its present state, harden and become strong, without the interference of hand just right of my heart.

Aren’t all those reasons why we never want to change?

It’s easier to stay the way we are. We desire new bodies every first of January but want to remain untouched by discomfort. We shun movement in favour of epicurean delights (What would the Epicureans say!) because we just don’t have the time, the energy, the motivation, the will. We will accept unfair situations and decline to negotiate our sense of worth in unequal and uneven relationships because we don’t want to upset anyone or ruffle any feathers. We toughen our souls and allow ourself to remain out of reach, become callous and sharp, so that our tiny, frightened, beautiful hearts doesn’t become broken yet another time. We live in fear, because fear is comfortable. Perhaps it is not so painful now, because we have become accustomed to the pain of not getting what we deserve. Because that is all we deserve.

Change is painful. Not changing is even more so.

Published in: on February 25, 2013 at 7:45 pm  Comments (2)  
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On becoming reconnected (The Recovery Series)

I’m lying in my bed. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember pain like this. Even the brilliant drugs that they give you in the hospital doesn’t work. So what best to do with pain but to write. This is my recovery series. It mightn’t make much sense. I blame the pain.

I went to the hospital on my own. It made perfect sense to me. There was no reason for anybody else to leave home at 7:00 in the morning and get on a train and then get into a taxi only to be told to sit in the waiting lounge for what may be 8 hours (and it was). My knight in shining armour would be called when needed, and would arrive perfectly on time, even if he did go to the wrong hospital and would finally get to the correct hospital half an hour after he said he would be there in 3 or 4 minutes time.

And somewhere in the quiet, I got very lonely. I realised that I hadn’t really heard from anyone. In the hushed ward, I suddenly was very alone. Well, not really, there was Lynne in the bed to my left, who refused to take out her contact lenses, or to remove her nail polish and makeup, reading Hello magazine and telling me how little confidence she had in everybody there because she couldn’t have a coffee and 9:30 was usually breakfast time and a nurse of 40+ years experience could barely get up from the floor after helping her put on her anti-embolism socks which she could have just done herself. It was difficult to be alone in Lynne’s company. But Hello called her back and the silence ensued and I went back to feeling rather sorry for myself.

Confession – I am not always close to my family, both by proximity and by relationship. I love them all, but I am a terrible communicator. I don’t like telephones, I rarely write letters or cards or emails, unless it’s business related or urgent. I don’t remember birthdays or special dates (it was about 8:00 in evening before I pootled downstairs to my loving prince’s office and asked if it was our anniversary – we had both forgotten). My family lives in different timezones, and we’re, none of us, good at counting. I’m basically a rubbish member of my own family.

But I have got a good one.

My mother led the charge, up hours before she should ever be, calling all to prayer and showering us in her unwavering faith of a God mightier and more good than had ever been conceived of by the mind of man. She has enough faith for everyone on my ward. Man, she has enough faith for everyone who needs it and more than a little for those who think they don’t. There she was, on my phone that I should not have been using on the ward. My brother, a man of few words, most of those funny, was there with his love and his thoughts soon after. My baby sister, all capital letters and exclamation marks, joyously admonishing me to GET BETTER SOOOONNNN!!!! YOU’LL BE JUS FINNNEEEE!!!! and making me giggle, which rumbles the butterflies in my tummy and jolts me with a heady mix of anxiety and elation.

I heard from my older sister the day after. She said she had been hesitant to write since finding out that I was going to the hospital. I understand. I truly do. She’s there too, sending me her good thoughts, sure that I will have a smile on my face.

Under the gleam of the knife, my family was there. Perfectly there. Perfectly on time. Just like my knight.

Published in: on February 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On becoming body aware (The Recovery Series)

I’m lying in my bed. It’s been a while, but I don’t remember pain like this. Even the brilliant drugs that they give you in the hospital don’t work. So what best to do with pain but to write. This is my recovery series. It mightn’t make much sense. I blame the pain.

In the middle of last year, my breast started to bleed.

Just like that, no explanation, no trauma, no illness. It just started to bleed. I dutifully went to my GP, but as appointments are hard to come by, by the time I got into the doctor’s office, the bleeding had stopped. I was told to go away and to keep and eye on it. I trust doctors, so I went away and forgot all about it. At Christmas time, the bleeding returned. Back to the doctor. Quickly to the hospital. An examination, ultrasound and mammogram later and soon I was in surgery.

Abnormal cells.

Cells, so tiny, so significant. All merrily working away, specialising, doing their thing. All with their function, single-mindedly fulfilling their only known duty – to build, to grow, to survive. They have no meaning, no purpose, no malice. They are just cells, merrily living their cell-life, doing their cell-thing.

But their cell-thing could kill me.

You become so acutely aware of your ‘self’ when you are told that your ‘self’ is broken in one way or another. I became so aware of my skin, aware of sensations on and in my body. I became aware of my breasts, and this time not just to bemoan their size and the inadequacies of engineering that befell them regularly. My breasts – they were mine. And inside of them something was attacking me.

Except it wasn’t attacking me. It was just doing what it did. It didn’t have me in mind. It wasn’t holding a grudge against me. It wasn’t plotting or planning my demise. It wasn’t jealous, or fed up of me. It wasn’t trying to rise above me, or hold me back. It was just doing what it did, in its own way, with no knowledge of my existence. In fact, with no knowledge at all.

So I became body aware, not in the sense of finally understanding the frailty of it all, the underlying fragility of life. I knew that anyway, you merely had to turn the news on and watch tens of thousands die, or just the one, senselessly shot by one who loved her the most. I didn’t need reminding that ours was a feeble flame, shaking against a mighty wind, resilient but vulnerable. But I became aware of the meaningless-ness of things. Of the fact that things just are, that they happen and then other things happen and that this life is just a series of happenings one after the other, affected by or affecting other things. And that all we can do is get on with it

And hope, because we have knowing, that how we act will have meaning.

And know, because we have hope, the the actions of others might not mean what we think.

Published in: on February 21, 2013 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Someone else’s story

The next time someone cuts in front of you in a queue, the next time someone bumps into you, takes the last of something off a shelf, joins in the group, drinks and leaves without paying, and you feel that rage bubbling up in you, feel that indignation rising, know this…

That person did not do anything to you.

Most times, unless a person has particularly malicious intent, people do not have you locked in their sights, hoping to do you harm. Even if the person has malicious intent, it is their own pain that is the source of their intention and you just become the unwitting recipient.

You are not the centre of other people’s stories.

The annoyance you suffer stems from the fact that you feel someone has broken some personal rule, some individual code of conduct. Someone has broken the rules. The difference is they are YOUR rules. You are failing to recognise that they have their own code by which they are living, and that they are the centre of their own story. You feel slighted because they are not the centre of yours.

The next time the quiet frustration and sense of injustice bubbles up, take a moment to breathe. Breath reconnects us to our centre, reconnects us to the very source. Follow your breath in and out. And as you exhale, let love carry on the breeze. Love yourself enough to not give yourself anxiety to hold over things you cannot control. Love the other person, because everybody needs a little bit more love coming their way, whether they know it or not. Love the situation, because it has brought you back to yourself and to the awareness that there are other people in the world who exist with you, each making their own stories, each adding to the colour and richness of daily experience.

Take responsibility for your authorship. What will be the quality of the lines that you are adding to your and someone else’s story

Published in: on September 26, 2012 at 9:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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The hour hand of life. (Nice one, Mr. Nietzsche)

Importing posts from my other blog. Here is one I prepared earlier. Enjoy.

Life consists of rare, isolated moments of the greatest significance, and of innumerably many intervals, during which at best the silhouettes of those moments hover about us. Love, springtime, every beautiful melody, mountains, the moon, the sea – all these speak completely to the heart but once, if in fact they ever do get a chance to speak completely. For many men do not have those moments at all, and are themselves intervals and intermissions in the symphony of real life.

Friedrich Nietzsche sure had a way with words. Got me to thinking about being an ‘intermission in the symphony of real life’, about being yourself a moment of waiting, being a Human-Waiting, a Human-Sitting, a Human-Longing. Even a Human-Being. And not a Human-Doing. I leave you with the quote to mull over yourselves. Be a Human-Thinking for a while. Then get outside and do something.

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 10:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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Work in progress (working progress)

We spend so much time changing ourselves for people, begging them to take us, to want us. We want them to love us, not for ourselves, but for our ability to become what they require of is. We want to be perfectly blank for them. We want them to see what they want in us.

But those of us that are successful are precisely so for none of those reasons.

They are beautifully, wonderfully themselves and challenge others to accept them as that.

They are changed for no one. They bring themselves only and stick two fingers up to those who do not want that. They are singular and proud

Singular and proud.

Published in: on January 13, 2012 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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