In between the published works –
the novel that did OK
a story in that collection put together by MA students,
a poem here, a poem there
the joy of a short-listing
the folder of ‘no longer on submission’ scribblings
there is the ‘other’ stuff.
I couldn’t fit it all into the bookshelf:
hours spent tinkering with broken friends, instead of broken sentences;
days spent with Netflix, instead of cutting, instead of copy-pasting;
weeks spent holding the cat, instead of the pen
piggy-bank empty and smashed. All spent.
Tears leaking from the hot water tank
shredded text messages used for mouse nests
reams of progress stacked, dormant
still in their polythene. Sterile blank pages.
Where is all the work I could have done
if other people had been
kind? accepting? loyal?
had trusted my life had to be lived this way?
Because we are moving house soon, I want to take this opportunity to write a love letter to my GP.
No, not that kind of love letter.
I am still very much married to Mr HB, thank you.
My GP is amazing. We have navigated some tricky times together – always together, he doesn’t tell me what to do – with my family’s care. He knew *zero* about trans kids but is 100% supportive.
I suffer from migraines (or bad headaches, if yours are worse than mine) , and recently I over-medicated with the one medicine that used to work. We found an alternative.
And he is always there to help with my very poor mental health, my all new asthma, my dodgy hip, the list goes on and on…
The guy is a hero. Just wanted to go on record with that.
I have always told my kids that I’m built for comfort, not for speed, but it seems to become truer the longer I live. ‘Asthma often comes on in middle age,’ says the nurse. Ouch, I think. But he’s got a point.
I’d been cycling three times a week and doing yoga most days, and I’d wondered why I still couldn’t climb the stairs without getting out of breath. At least that mystery was solved.
A few weeks later, and I’m at the GP with the huge list of THINGS I tend to have to talk about these days. One of which was my hip. ‘It’s been a bit sore,’ I said, ‘but it’s OK if I stretch it out.’
Yeah, I’m not a doctor. I have ligament damage and/or bursitis and I’m not to do yoga for a month.
The wee one came downstairs looking like he’d been punched in the eye, and I would usually blame his older sibling – of course! – but a) they haven’t quite graduated to actual punching yet, and b) I’d seen it before so I knew…
it was a stye.
I know he would’ve been capable of going to school. It isn’t even impacting on his vision (he is playing Minecraft next to me as I type). But he was so sad when he woke up, and school finishes at lunchtime on Fridays. It might be a stress thing, he’s had an eventful couple of weeks at a new school. Or not.
Am I a lax parent?
I’m getting a bit bored of judging myself, to be honest. He’ll be fine, and I doubt it’ll impact on his overall education. He’s only 9!
The dog’s not well. And having a sick animal is a proper pain in the particulars, for various reasons.
The first thing is that when she’s floppy and listless and won’t eat and you don’t know what’s wrong, and, you know, she’s quite old… well, it’s something you can do without. Secondly, when the vet reassures you that she’s not dying and then the treatment begins, you have to administer medicine and change dressings. It’s you she’s always trusted never to harm her, but it hurts sometimes and she just wants to be left alone. You can see in her eyes that she doesn’t understand, and you can’t explain. That. That’s the worst part, probably.
Also, you have to stay by her side and nurse her, 24/7, for a while. Which, when you think about it, isn’t such a bad thing.
You know when you think you just have a bit of a weird habit and then, 40 years later, you find out it’s a recognised syndrome?
I’m not going to talk about it in detail, but if you want to look it up, it’s called excoriation disorder. And I’ve not been diagnosed with it officially, it would be classed as ‘mild’ I think. There’s a test to do with ‘interfering with your daily life,’ and I don’t think I’m there, most days (thank goodness!).
What’s interesting is to observe my reaction to this new knowledge. I’ve been under a bit of stress these last few months and I’m adding in these behaviours as evidence of how I’ve been feeling. I’m using some of the advice online to manage the symptoms. But they haven’t stopped.
Knowledge is not always power.
I have a birthday soon, one I once imagined I’d never reach. I expected youth to last forever, but at around fifty, it finally became clear that it wouldn’t, it hadn’t, and it would never be mine again. That was a decade ago. Time now for a brief review.
In my fifties, I have, among other things:
- Deepened into sickness, and got better
- Made friends
- Lost friends
- Changed location, and changed again
- Explored my depths with shamans and sacred medicines
- Bidden farewell to all of them
- Seen my nest empty
- Become a widow
- Learned to grieve
- Questioned the nature and existence of happiness
- Proved myself wrong
- Seen my name on a book cover
- Met myself in other incarnations
At thirty, or forty, or fifty, these things were as unimaginable as being sixty was. Was youthful me so lacking in imagination?
Grateful for another thing that might not be considered classic gratitude material this week.
My notso successful writing career.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s going OK. I have crunched this year’s submission statistics, and not only are they a huge improvement on last year’s, they are above the average (which I believe is 1/7 acceptances: I had 1/4.2 this year!).
But despite this, I’m not working with multiple deadlines or receiving lots of requests for work. So when I wake up, like I did on Sunday, with a wee cold, I can stay in bed, drink Lucozade, and the edits and submissions can wait another day.
While I’m (not) on the subject, it’s OK to take sick leave when you are ill. My feelings on how this is perceived in UK workplaces would require more than 140 words for me to rant about!
‘I take zero damage from zombies, dungeon slime and cochineal beetles.’
How lovely! I thought. Wouldn’t it be great if you took zero damage from life?
If we could go through life without hurt feelings or hurt bodies, no diseases or chronic conditions? Never having a heart broken. Not getting that cold that starts as a streaming nose, turns into a throat full of blades and then a chest like a tight sleeve straining to let air through. Never caring about what other people think of you. No coughs that just won’t go away. No aching limbs, no migraines, no scary diagnoses, no chronic pain, no broken bones. No death, no grieving.
Do we have to feel pain to experience love?
So, if anyone’s looking for me, I’ll be in Terraria. (It’s a computer game.) I take zero damage there.
Here is an update on how I am feeling.
I am nearly two weeks into taking my daily pill. I have some paid freelance work today, and I’m driving to the meeting where I’m expected to take a minute of the proceedings.
My usual thoughts at a time like this are as follows:
‘I won’t be able to keep up with my shorthand.’
‘I won’t be able to read my shorthand back.’
‘I won’t be able to follow what is going on.’
‘I won’t make my deadline for the draft.’
‘Someone will tell me I am not dressed smartly enough for this job.’
And my personal favourite: ‘Am I heading to the right venue at the correct time?’
I am driving to the meeting.
I am thinking – ‘I’ve got this.’
It was a good call to go to the GP.