who are you now and who are you becoming?

The Sunday paper is doing its bit to support my plans to read more this year. A long listy article on essential reading and a ‘Yes, that!’ piece, A novel approach to life

We all ask each other a lot of questions: “How did you sleep?” “Where did you go on your holidays?” But there’s one question I think we should ask of one another as lot more often, and that is:”What are you reading?”

When we ask one another that, we sometimes discover the ways we are similar; sometimes the ways we are different. “What are you reading?”isn’t a simple question when asked with genuine curiosoity: it’s really a way of finding out, “Who are you now and who are you becoming?”

I like to read- crime, humour, light romance, worthy fiction, memoir. From time to time I buy books I’d love to read but don’t have the concentration for (Richard Dawkins, Owen Jones and others who try to explain the world to us). I seem to live in hope that my brain will magically recover the power to read anything beyond short factual articles and easy reads.

Just this week I had to stop reading the beautiful Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, its complexities too much for me right now. I will get back to it, eventually. (see above)

I enjoyed two humorous, twisty puzzly books: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion & The Last Honeytrap by Louise Lee Each of these is part one of a series. Series are good for those of us with addled brains- familarity helps- but much as I enjoyed these two, I know too well the disappointment of discovering the formula too soon.

What are you reading?

starting over

The holidays are finishing, decorations are waiting for the boxes, schedules are reappearing from under the mince pies and wine.

There are no ‘resolutions’. We muddle through and do the best we can, even if we sometimes try to shift our focus to different aspects. There’s no need to resolve to do that; it’s “do or do not”.

Our ‘all the good things’ jar has started re stocking. I love this random collection of  notes about good events gathered up during the year. We had several notes about Girl2’s netball team winning a regional competition, a note of clothes drying weather last March, and a reference to the circa 1985 souvenir from Knock sunvisor we were gifted during the summer. Not what you’d find in most of the reviews of 2016. We can go for ages without adding things, and some of the stuff reflects otherwise forgotten moments (Speccy lost some weight!!!) causing New Year hilarity.

I have a pristine work book ready to start the year. I love new note books, and always aim to be neat this time. That never works. I’m incapable of neat. Neat doesn’t have arrows and squiggles to join up thinking, or asterixes to remind me of the important stuff. When I grow up I’m going to take neat notes on a tablet, and know what they mean the next week.

Our charity has a million tasks to complete in the next few months, and, prior to the break I was feeling overwhelmed. How could we do it all? What would happen if we couldn’t meet the challenge? What if my brain stopped working and I couldn’t be an effective Chair? I’ve spent some time sleeping and reading and hanging out with my people and those issues haven’t crossed my mind. Now they’re back and I know I can handle them, with a bit of planning. I need to switch off. I need to read more books, listen to more music, take more walks, if the overwhelm is to stay away.

I can do that. Reading is good for me.

Happy 2017, bloggy buddies. Plan to be good to yourselves.

me, at an academic conference

I’ve been to a conference, feeling worthy, at the local university, on epatients, blogging and social media. It was about story telling and connection and sharing and learning and power imbalances. I spent days with amazing people, a peer amongst academics, and still got to sleep in my own bed and hug my little people.

Awesome.

I’d always intended to attend the event, but I was thrown by being asked to speak a week before. (I’d written a proposal months ago, and not considered it at all when it wasn’t accepted then.) Cue panic of research, sleep, more research, writing, sleep. I produced something and stopped writing when I got bored. I used some of my own story; I would use more the next time.

I often tell people about how all the stories matter, but appear to be reluctant to keep talking about my own. Do I think that ‘me as patient’ is too mundane to have any impact? Do I think ‘me as carer’ is out of date and the lessons have all been learnt? Oliver Burkeman’s article Why don’t we take our own advice? resonated with me. I’d encouraged one of the other speakers to apply, to tell her story, to share her experience, and yet I was freaking out when I had the chance to do so myself.

Marie on the power of stories in health, at a different event

Sally’s story from Saturday

My head is still buzzing. I have much to learn and relearn. I have ordered many books referenced at the conference. Fingers crossed my brain has the energy to read them.

How can we use stories to improve the system?

Work in progress…

an unexpected problem with reading

I was cosy and comfy in the caravan. There were bursts of sunshine and wandering on beaches. We were still in the honeymoon phase of Girl1’s return from foreign parts.

Mountcharles pier

We’d had the world cup chocolate boot presentation.

worthy winners

We’d been in a favourite shop and seen a real loom. No tiny elastic bands required.

Magee's loom

I had plenty of reading material, and was engrossed in a novel. All was well with the world.

The next morning I refilled the breakfast coffee mug and lifted my trusty Kindle, another day of lazy contentment planned. I flicked the switch, keen to get on with the story.

Nothing.

The screen was filled with half images and shadows of words (not a good sign), and didn’t change (a worse sign). I’d been here before, many moons ago, when my Kindle was still an infant. Amazon replaced it immediately. But now, the Kindle is elderly, obsolete. Dead. They don’t make that model any more.

farewell old friend

We have no internet access in Donegal which meant that I couldn’t set about finding a replacement until we came home. Also, I couldn’t simply continue reading the novel on my phone, because it wasn’t already downloaded to that device.

I started to read Spurs Fan’s football book, but it wasn’t the same. Less violence, for a start.

Once home, I began to investigate. I was briefly tempted by ‘Fire’, ‘HD’, ‘HDX’ and other random collections of letters before deciding I wasn’t going to pay good money for a flash tablet when I had a voucher that would practically cover the cost of a basic e reader. Doesn’t my phone do all the fancy stuff? (I have no idea what my phone can do.) After that I pottered choosing a cover and spent a huge amount of time trying to organise super speedy delivery.

Ha.

The colourful cover is here. The Kindle is not. I feel like I’m waiting for a baby to be born. “Is it here yet?” “Oh, it’s on it’s way!” “Still not here.” I’m pining for a bit of electronic equipment I’ve never met.

empty

I got the story finished. Jo Nesbo’s The Son. A bit long, a bit daft, but I enjoyed it. The reviewers didn’t. Lazy, they said. Turgid, they said. Perhaps my judgement was addled by the Kindle added suspense.

Or maybe I just enjoy some fun rubbish fiction*?

 

*other examples of this genre include anything by Lee Child or Janet Evanovich.