Monday, April 30

blog envy

Today I had an attack of blog envy. I was browsing one of those beautiful blogs – you know, the ones where the writer designs her own page, and takes scrumptiously creative photos, and writes inspiring words. She is stunning too, of course. I looked at my own frumpy page, my drab posts, my lack of comments...and I thought about how I didn’t own a camera or have the faintest idea about HTML. Suddenly I didn’t feel inspired by her page anymore, I felt flat and miserable.
And then I hurried off to the gym, where I had to stand right in front of the mirror because of my late arrival. I couldn’t avoid that life size picture of me right before my eyes. I noticed my fringe which was kinky from sweat, and these two hideous pimples which decided that my arm would be a nice place to bloom, bold magenta, for all to see...and then I glanced around the room and glimpsed this girl, this perfect girl. She wasn’t shaking and red with exertion; she just looked fresh and lovely. I looked back at me, and that horrible, slimy, Envy stared me back in the face. 
The envious person grows lean with the fatness of their neighbour - Socrates
So I plodded home and felt blah. If only I had the energy so-and-so has, if only I didn’t have to stay at home all day, if only it hadn’t been me...if only I was more talented and capable...if only we could afford this...if only....if.....if......
if only I wasn’t so envious I might stand a chance at joy.
I was thinking about ways to pry Envy off me, before he strangles me. I thought, well, I could just lock myself away inside my house, never look at blogs, never look at shops or other a blind fold and super-glue it on.
 But life is meant to be lived, not avoided.
I could choose to live life appreciative and thankful for all the blessings I have – focus so fully on what I am grateful for, that I begin to be thankful for other people’s good fortune too.

picture source

So here’s a snippet from my ‘thankful for’ list:

Life itself, and fresh new days

Ben, who cherishes me

My family, who ‘get’ me and my long illness

The caring doctors, who bulkbill me and try hard to fix me

Our church, which is a place of love and God-focus

Dear friends, who lift my spirits and give me the giggles

Our sweet flat with its red door and balcony

My pure silver flute

The fast metabolism I inherited

My naughty fluffy rabbit

My ability to walk, talk, think, dance, laugh, cry!

Knowing that this life isn’t all there is

My ‘well’ hours and days

The arts – how rich they make my life

Books, beautiful books – and the ability to read

This peaceful country

The invention of chocolate (particularly 85% Lindt) and antidepressants...

Once I began writing my list, I couldn’t stop. There was far too much to record. I started feeling overwhelmed. And ashamed – for being such a selfish brat as to overlook my privileged and beautiful life. Ashamed of ignoring my blessings, and wanting to steal someone else’s.
It’s amazing how much happier I felt once I’d re-focussed; stopped comparing, stopped wanting and self-pitying. Next time Envy comes, I’ll slap the list in his face.
I am so blessed by a generous God.

Thursday, April 26


picture source
i lie on the couch for the hundredth day
the flat is so silent, so still, so alone.
my heart feels this grief it cannot say...
i wish for a voice and i wait by my phone.
how many years will this illness linger on?
i hoped it’d be two, but it’s already three,
i wonder if sobbing would make it be gone.
i want to feel well, live a life pain free.
i long to study, to walk out that door...
and not return home till 6 pm.
 then flop on the couch, and not be sore,
and spend the evening with energy spare.
i have a good week, and i dare to hope,
then a rough patch which knocks back me down.
sometimes i feel i cannot cope -
in this storm, in this black, i might drown.
i used to be strong – to study, to work
but now i can barely remember those days...
my whole world has changed, greyness lurks,
and i feel this sorrow as my body decays.
why was it me? and will i get better?
and how do i keep plodding along?
i wish You would tell me, write me a letter.
i struggle to smile, to laugh, sing a song.
but there is a glimmer amid the pain...
that helps me strive to dance in this rain.
this life is a moment compared to the next.

This is my sickness song. It's worth the listen.
by Casting Crowns

Friday, April 20


one of those weeks where i no longer cared about anything.

i didn’t want to pick up my flute. i couldn’t face baking muffins. i detested the idea of going to the gym, again. i felt scatty, so scatty. a foggy grayness settled over me, from the endless monotony of  daily routines.

i tried to make myself keep going, keep plodding along that well worn path. it only intensified my blahness.

 so i went to the library, chose three new books, and snuggled up to read them. i painted my nails, i gave my blog a face lift, i went to body balance instead of cycle, i wrote letters to my grandparents.

we make routines for our benefit, not our imprisonment. if your body is begging for some rest, it’s probably because it needs it. why do we ignore how we feel so often? if i’d listened to my body when i was a teenager, would I be chronically ill today?

i’m feeling better. fresher. smiling. more motivated. sometimes the cure is so simple.

it’s not lazy to listen. it’s possibly the greatest investment into a healthy life. i wish i’d learnt this earlier.

Wednesday, April 18

a creative mind

My first year of school consisted of daily sobbing episodes during maths, where my teacher would take me out to the toilets to calm me down. I seemed to live there with those toilet rolls and brick walls. Writing stories and imagining non-realities were the things that gave me joy. My astute parents asked me whether I’d rather take gymnastics classes or ballet lessons. Next thing I knew I was wearing little ballet slippers, a pink leotard, and learning to stand in first position with my tail tucked in. There commenced my passionate love affair with dancing. I didn’t just dance in the studio; I danced down the hall way, up the street, in front of my mirror, and all the way back to my next class.
At ballet, age 14

I was captivated by the magic of the stage, the expression, the poise, the other-worldliness of the art form. It made me feel ecstatic and free. The exquisite beauty of ballet minimised the pain – the grating of my raw toe on sandpaper Pointe shoe, the sting of mentholated spirits on a fresh wound and the exacting military regime of class. I felt alive when I was dreaming of being a ballerina, and working towards those fantasies.
I'm second from the left - a ballet concert

 And if I wasn’t commentating about my make-believe life at a full-time ballet school, I was spending time with my black horse. There aren’t photos of him because my parents couldn’t afford him, but he was beautiful. So were the fairies I cared for, I wish you could have known them.
My parents always said I lived from one excitement to another. It’s true. I was always looking forwards, hoping for something...I was never quite here in the mundane present. Practicalities bored me to tears. The sensible and functional were my ‘off switch’. But why is it important to peel potatoes faster? Why can’t I daydream? Why should I wear runners on this walk when they look so hideous? Aesthetics won every argument. I spiced up my real life with forays into different eras and lifestyles. I perpetually relived scenes of myself as a boarding school student in the early 1900s, or a princess, or an actress. I fantasised that a movie director would one day walk down the street and see in me the exact face he had pictured for his next film – and little me would launch my glamorous screen career, Audrey Hepburn the 2nd. Every book that I read, ballet that I watched, film that I saw was an invitation to venture into a new life or idea, and then imagine it while I played my flute or danced.

But I shouldn’t be writing in the past tense! I’m giving the illusion that I have grown out of these ‘childish’ dreams and moved onto maturity. The thing is, while Ben is away studying the physics of x-ray machines, I am at home hosting TV shows, coping with life as an Edwardian lady, and generally steering clear of concentrating on the dishes, or the vacuuming. Or else it’s writing a blog post in my head, planning my soap making or collage projects, wondering what it would be like to have a disabled child... Is it any wonder that I grate my knuckles, drop glasses, and spill nail polish, just as I did when I was young? “Concentrate on the task at hand,” was something my mum used to repeat to me day after day. If I concentrated really, really hard on the recipe I was making, it was sure to be a failure. And if I let myself day dream, it was sure to be a failure. So I decided it was best to go with the most enjoyable option, to pass the time and numb the boredom. I honestly thought I’d grow out of it because I hadn’t met an adult like me, but I become more doubtful by the day. I have these terrifying visions of my future daughter catching me in the kitchen saying,
“It was such a privilege to work with everyone on this film. Yes, it is hard juggling my acting career and family, but we make it work...blah, blah, blah.”
She might think I’m mad. Or maybe she’ll ask me what I’m imagining, and tell me that she is a poodle for the day?
My imagination was never looked down on at home, isn’t it considered healthy and essential for all children? Once when I was about 14 I told a young guy about some of the things that I think about. He was concerned, genuinely worried about my mental state. That day I learnt that it’s fine to make believe as a child, but do not admit to it when an adolescent (let alone an adult!) I should have reminded him that I was created by a creative and totally sane God. When does that beautiful and crucial part of a child become worryingly eccentric? I’ve never ever heard a ‘grown up’ friend talk about their creative thoughts. But I know, and am whole heartedly convinced that I am not the only one. If choreographer’s weren’t lost in the stories in their heads, they couldn’t write the ballets they do, nor could authors, or painters or musicians – they dream, they have to dream to create.
When I am inspired or passionate or fired up about something, it’s inextinguishable. It burns so intensely inside. I have to hop out of bed at midnight to write an idea down, I have to listen to a piece of music ten times over to relive the thrill of the emotion, I can’t help but jump up and down, and up and down with excitement. I don’t believe this is something to grow out of, to restrain and curb. I’m grateful that despite the strong pull of gravity and reality, so much stronger now that I have so little strength, I can still soar. And I’m grateful for all the writers, and ballerinas, and composers, and painters who’ve gone before, for their creativity and dreams. I hope the day comes where I can contribute to the arts in some small way, and keep the fire burning.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will.” 


Bernard Shaw

Friday, April 13

professional people pleaser

My psych asked me this question:
What would say if young guy came up to you in the supermarket, said you were gorgeous, and asked you to expose yourself?
I replied: I’d say NO WAY!
I wouldn’t share that with anyone but my husband. That’s a pearl, that’s mine and I know it. So is the money in my wallet, the writings in my diary, my deepest thoughts...some things are too precious to give away lightly. I am not obliged to give away parts of me to people. I’m not obliged to say ‘yes’.
When people ask me, “What do you do?”, I feel yucky inside. That is the most basic of questions, the famous conversation starter, and the bread and butter of first meetings. It’s meant to be an impersonal kind of way to break the ice. And they’re looking for a simple answer: I work, I study, or I mum.
I don’t have a simple answer. In a world where life is measured by what we ‘do’, the fact that I neither study, nor work, nor have babies sounds like a cop out. So, I then feel I should explain about my illness – the journey of the last 3 years of pain and learning is so personal and deep that I can never do it justice in a short conversation, and I don’t want to share it with just anyone. For me, that question is personal, really personal. And the full answer is a pearl.
I figured out yesterday something I never knew:
I don’t have to give away intimate details of my life. There’s a space between me and other people: My thoughts are mine, theirs are theirs. They have no claim on mine, and I have no claim on theirs.

 I don’t have to share just because I’ve been asked ‘what I do’. I’m used to working my butt off in an assignment even if I am unwell, cleaning the house when I have a headache, catching up with friends for longer than I can cope with, and telling people the ‘pearls’ of my life when I don’t want to. I tend to cave in to pleasing people. I’m a coward as I let people drag information from me, and don’t tell people when I need them to leave. I will do more than I can handle to supposedly keep someone else happy or not offended. I hate to think they might think badly of me, that they will judge me or dislike me.
So in the process of ‘pleasing’ them, I run myself down, leaving little energy for other things. I spend energy where I shouldn’t and that’s not right, by me, or by others.  Never mind what people think –  I can leave them to their thoughts. I will act the best way I can, and manage my energy as wisely as I am able.
When strangers ask me what I do, I’ll say,
“That’s a very long story. How about you?”
“ I do the best I can in life. What about you?”
If you have an idea of what else I could say, please do comment.
And if I need to end a conversation or a catch up after half an hour– I will end it then, regardless of how awkward I might feel doing it at first, or how they may perceive it. I’m a terrible conversation-ender, so this is going to be a challenge.
I’ve been living to please others for too long. I thought I had to give if asked, and give till I drop. I’m learning about the space between me and other people. And that space is a healthy thing, it means that I can be me regardless of what they do or think.
I’ll do the best I can!

Sunday, April 8

death by chocolate

It’s a few minutes until the clock chimes 1 O’clock am. I’m pleased to announce that I have already had an hour or two of sleep. I just thought I would pop out of bed for a quick swig of apple-cider-vinegar and boiling water. It’s one of the most shiveringly healing substances I’ve discovered.
I wouldn’t be awake right now if it hadn’t been for some ‘risk taking’ I fell into this afternoon. I say ‘fell’ because it would seem it was an accident, I got carried away as all self discipline and caution left my side.
I declared I would not eat chocolate this Easter.
No bunnies, no caramel eggs, no lindt, no cadbury. No, I would be a true dietary martyr and bask in the knowledge that my restraint had avoided me feeling unwell.
This afternoon, my husband and I headed down to Chapel Street for some deliciously satisfying opp shopping. I had a brief love affair with a fur hat, a pair of leather shoes a tad too big, a rabbit pom-pom beret, and a red woollen dress – the latter being the only beloved that I actually brought home. My husband poked around the pictures, the old rings, the books, and advised with all the honesty that only a man can, when things didn’t suit me. He kept spying sweet treats, and making deals that after one more shop we would sit down and eat something tasty.
We passed a place called Chocolateria San Churro’s , with the words ,’sweeten thy soul’ in calligraphy on the front window. That was enough for Ben, but I wasn’t convinced until I saw a couple outside eating what looked like a bite of paradise. We both half ran inside.
I still had some restraint while looking at the drinks menu. I would have a decaffeinated latte with soy milk. That’s right, no sugar, no dairy, no caffine... the trouble arose over by the counter when gazing into the cakes shelf.  My beady eyes instantly located the luxury I had seen being consumed outside, and my equally sweet-toothed husband saw it too. We did toy with the idea of some lemon meringue, or a brownie – but I feel for both of us this was just a brief pretence of reasonable decision making. We had both inwardly made our final choice.
“We’d like a piece of Death by Chocolate”, we declared to the waitress.

Waiting for its arrival at our table, Ben pointed out that for me, it really could be ‘death by chocolate’. At that moment it dawned on me that he was terribly and frighteningly correct. So I began justifications – it’s Easter, this is definitely worth the risk, tomorrow can be awful so long as we enjoy today...anyway, my psych thinks I should do more risk taking.
Death arrived. It was dark, as expected, and layered and there were more pure chocolate and cream sections than there were cake. We plunged our forks into the dairy laiden, sugar oozing delight and enjoyed the texture and happy feelings on our taste buds. We were going strong. It wasn’t long before Ben regretted ordering his hot chocolate – just far too much chocolate, he said. He wished he’d been as wise as me and bought a latte to wash it down. I was starting to feel a certain heaviness, as though the chocolate had reached the top of my throat. I lay my head on his shoulder.  This cake was hard work; we should have eaten it before we’d spent our strength on shopping. We weren’t half way through our shared monstrosity, and already we were playing with our forks content to just look at it. For two master sugar consumers, we had really been conquered.
Next, we began planning dinner. “I think we should just eat the rest of the roast chicken, and broccoli,” said Ben and I agreed with all my heart. Broccoli, what a refreshing vegetable. I longed for it just as I had longed for the cake half an hour before.
“And we should both take a vitamin C, and drink a mug of apple-cider-vinegar tea.” I suggested.  
We both hoped that these home remedies would be the antidote to death. I wished I’d brought a hip flask of potent cures, in the unlikely event of succumbing to serious temptation.
Eventually we felt well enough to leave the cafe, and asked to take home our cake in a carry bag. I’m not sure that it was a good idea. We mentioned dying again another day soon, perhaps Monday. I think I might just leave that to Ben.

Saturday, April 7

You know you have chronic fatigue when...

--> --> can’t remember the last time you went two days in a row without pain killers...
...your doctor orders blood test after blood test, but they never come back with a clearly detectable illness... shed a tear (or many more) when you hear that your blood test results are good yet again... your mind, you’ve divided your friends into two categories:
1.       Those who get it.
2.       Those who don’t... find catching up for coffee with most people a draining experience, and rather stressful...

Talking is exhuasting. desperately wish ‘they’ would hurry up and figure out what hell is wrong with your body...
...most people comment on how well you look despite your near death state... could fill a tome with all your bizarre symptoms...
nausea, migraines, fainting, blocked ears, sore jaw, weakness... grab onto hand rails, handles, and walls when shuffling around...
...a sore throat and swollen glands doesn’t mean the onset of a cold, it’s an everyday occurrence... never promise to be anywhere, because you won’t know if you’re up to it until a few minutes beforehand... often feel blah, or you’re on anti-depressants and love them dearly...

I love ciazil, I really do. possess a pensioner concession card despite being in your 20’s...’re sometimes too tired to walk to the kitchen and get food, so you lie on the couch, hungry, until someone can help...

Oh for a wheelchair...’re such a perfectionist that you always get distinction, to the detriment of your health... find that when you tell someone you’re having a good patch, your health suddenly turns bad again –jinxed!...

(and wonder if it works in reverse...)
...your brain wants to do everything it ever did, but your body refuses...
...your partner does more cooking and cleaning than you... either long for or own a little companion dog who is your faithful friend in sick times...
Bichon Frise - my dream puppy’re dying to hop into bed at night, but when you get there, you can’t sleep...’ve revised your life goals from ‘get a degree, have a career, and have 4 kids’ to ‘feel reasonably well, and try to have a baby (one day)’... wear makeup when you go out because you don’t like the bags under your eyes or the ‘gray look’... get up in the morning, but the energy required to do so sends you back to bed... called ‘relaxation’, such as watching a movie or reading a book, is now in the ‘tiring activity’ basket... say words back to front and make up brand new ones because your brain forgets the correct ones...
Me, tired:
So, will the campsite have a dronglop? How do I tell if the cooken’s chicked?
Me, very tired:
I’ve never shit before....oops! I meant sworn!
Me, extremely tired:
Dad calls my phone. I pick up and say to him, “Hi Dee, it’s Dad.”
...reading this post has amplified your persistent headache, so you’re off to lie down...