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.

telling tales: #invisibleME

As always, I need to manage my time and my health better. I’m busy or asleep- but it’s nearly rare disease day, so we should know to expect no better. I’m less concerned with conference detail this year- that may come back to bite me- but I’m doing assorted on line courses and preparing presentations for several events, so my brain is full.

I rarely do anything in the evenings. I flop in a heap beside the fire and snuggle little people or a little dog. Sometimes I read, mostly I watch TV. (What will I do now that Wolf Hall has finished?)

But Monday’s event was important, and local. I’m on the steering group for the project of which this was part- I didn’t want to miss it. It was an opportunity to chat to politicians, patients and policy makers about ME & fibromyalgia. All I had to do was blather to the folk I was sitting beside. They’d come to learn and I tried to help. Patients and carers told their stories, very powerfully. The emotion was clear. Invisible conditions, invisible people. It was moving and exhausting.

Health Minister & organisers
Health Minister & organisers

 

One man was overwhelmed and unable to participate. His wife tapped me on the shoulder.

I read his story to the audience. A story of many years, much expense, and little change. A story of worrying that his wife was dead in the bed. A story of staggering disbelief and arrogance from health professionals. A story of a family of warriors. It was an honour to share that. It needed to be heard, to be listened to and to be valued.

I tell the story of my mum at the start of every presentation. It’s why I do what I do. I’m looking forward to all the stories I will hear at our event next week.

Marie reminds us why it’s not just important to hear stories. It’s important to tell stories. It’s part of who we are, and how we heal. How we stop ourselves from staying invisible.

 

H is for healing

Much as I look forward to it, I’m always a bit bothered when school starts again. All those people moving on, experiencing new things, learning about life and themselves. This is my ninth September staying in bed- I was off work, still expecting go back in a week or two, when Girl2 started nursery school. We have all changed since then, but I’m still in my pyjamas.

With nobody in the house, I finally have the space to deal with the random bits of paper that have gathered up during the summer. I’ve discovered the things I forgot to do, or didn’t finish. I haven’t yet found anything I did brilliantly and forgot about. There are no pleasant surprises hidden in the paperwork.

Jake is lying in the sun, sleeping. He follows me about, finding a comfy spot close to hand. He has a lot of sleeping to catch up on, making the most of long days with nobody dancing around him, or posing him for ‘selfies’, or trying to get him to play. Peace for an old grumpy dog. But last night, he had me in tears on the street. Sobbing on Sunnyside Street. Another dog,  a short lead, a sniff, a wag and- in a heartbeat- each dog going for the other’s throat.

I was defeated. What sort of fool was I anyway, if I couldn’t even walk the dog without a crisis? Anxiety and doubt were overwhelming.

I’d spent the morning filling in an application for a training course- what a laugh. What made me think I could be a ‘leader’ or an ‘influencer’ when I could hardly leave the house? How could I persuade the GP to medicate me heavily when he knew I gave presentations to big wigs? I’d seen him there; he’s related to a big wig. I’d pretended well that day, but the truth will out. I was weeping in public because one grumpy dog met another, and it was all my fault. Everything was my fault.

I couldn’t go to bed and huff- Spurs Fan had to go to a meeting and somebody needed to be a grown up. It was time to hide in a book.

Dawnriser raved about H is for Hawk; I’d never heard of it, but read a few other reviews and bought it. I’d looked at it on the shelf and wondered what was wrong with my head. I know nothing about birds. I don’t even want to know anything about birds. Yes, I know something of grief, but we all do. I’d bought a hardback book about a blimmin’ bird and I was never ever going to read it.

But last night I needed to be distracted. I needed to be taken away from my own mind. That big bird book would do. This was its chance to captivate. If I were beaten, so be it. It was just that sort of day and I wasn’t going to feel any worse.

Five hours later I realised I’d need to sleep.

The book is sitting on the table in front of me now, calling to me, and I’m not opening it. I have things to do. I will do nothing else if I open the book.

I’m fascinated, involved, totally engrossed by the goshawk (never knew they existed) Mabel and her owner Helen, an academic and experienced falconer. Helen is struggling with death and grief; Mabel is a young bird, learning about living. “Her demeanour switches from everything scares me to I see it all; I own all this and more.” I went to bed after a key moment- “A baby hawk that’s just worked out who she is. What she’s for.”

I’m unlikely to experience a late blooming of interest in birds of prey, but my faith in the power of a well told story is reinforced. Today I feel like an addict, working out how long I hold off until I get back to it. How long will the mundane messages take? Maybe I could finish the book first? Or just read a chapter? (Not even fooling myself with that one.)

kafka, book, axe, sea

So, there it is. The solution to being left behind, shrouded in brain fog and too anxious to leave the house. The solution to my just about everything.

A good story, well told.

Read a book. Always. Read a book.