If you’re a driver you should know all about this phrase. I do because my 12-year-old Alfa Romeo has such sensitive Italian wheels the tracking goes out of line regularly. They blame it on the speed bumps on so many residential roads these days. If I forget to have it checked and altered regularly the very expensive tyres wear on the edges and have to be replaced – not good for the bank balance.
Both important then. Of course, as a car owner I know this! But I’m not very good at remembering to get them checked regularly and my choice of vehicle appears to be pretty high maintenance!
All of which is a useful analogy for the journey of life and the vehicle of the soul. As I get underway on this ‘book journey’ how is my personal tracking and balance?! It turns out it’s a little off: I have been encountering vibration and uneven tyre wear. I should have remembered, I am high-maintenance too! I am a bereaved mother writing about my son’s terminal illness and death, diving back into all that anguish and grief and it’s not even that long since it all happened. Did I think I could just swan along without any emotional effects? I suppose I thought I could cope because I coped so well at the time. I’ve been surprised by my reaction.
After the massive encouragement of my day at the British Library, I actually DID manage to do a couple of mornings of research on Monday and Tuesday. I looked through the early blog posts and found some online comments I didn’t know Sam had posted – new insight into how he was thinking. I then spent the following morning beginning to look for lost photographs, wanting to give myself the overall context of those years. My record of 2009 – 2015 was stolen in the burglary of May 2017, so I’m trying to piece together what I have left in other places – facebook, Google photos, on my iPad, etc.
I started with 2009, the year Sam’s double vision led to his first brain scan but we didn’t yet know it was cancer. 3 years ago I wrote this post about that year. As you see I was aware of the 7 year anniversary and already deciding to compile a book, but aware it was probably too soon, too raw. It is now 10 years on from that beginning and the 10 year cycle has provoked my renewed commitment to the project.
But – on Wednesday I was exhausted. On Thursday I was exhausted. I talked with trusted friends and my counsellor, who encouraged me. “This is a good thing to do, you can do it! But of course it will be draining: you’ll need at least the same amount of recovery time as work time, if not double. You are facing the trauma again…” I’ve been seeing it as a mountain to climb – but the good news is, I don’t have to go straight up the incline. The path winds round and round on a gentle gradient. It will take time to get to the summit with lots of rest stops to admire the views. At the moment I am walking round the base, pushing through thickets of trees and scrub, just finding the path. That’s OK.
On Friday I woke up with muscle pains all over! Ah – I’m ill. Again. A virus – probably a cold, causing this fatigue I so often suffer with. Cancel ‘work’ – take it easy over the weekend…
But I became SO angry! I felt miserable. It’s horrible feeling ill, being hampered by one’s body, but this felt more than that, like a battle within, to do with starting work on the book – because of course the research had made me sad. It seems I have an internal rebellion on my hands! Emotions I didn’t feel the first time around are making themselves felt – saying sensible things like “I don’t like this! What happened to ‘no more looking back’?!” and “We spent 10 years going through this sadness! Do you really want to spend another 10 years on it?!” This anger and inner confusion has stayed most of the time since then – except when I agreed to totally forget writing a book. I was peaceful for some hours then, before hitting the vacuum left by aborting my project…
It’s as if I am driving a wagon looking down on 2 horses. On the left side is Track. She is focussed, pulling steadily forward towards her perceived goal. Her top 4 strengths (according to Strengthfinders) are responsibility, activator, connectedness, strategic. She is a go-getter, likes to get things done – sees the big picture and works towards the goal. She is Sally Ann/Martha (from the Bible story). She has the bit between her teeth! She can cope – she is famous for it.
On the right side is Balance – Mary/little Sally, my inner child who didn’t have much of a childhood, to whom I have promised some laughter, fun and play in the coming 10 years, a Sabbath rest after 60 years of working hard to do the right thing. She is quiet – has generally kept quiet until finding her voice recently. She pulls off to the grass verge when she is fed up or tired. She wants to drink from the stream, enjoy the sunshine, lie down in the green pastures. It’s really her who should be the leader of the team – and she was the one having the tantrum! She can’t cope, it’s all too much and too painful. 😦 So I decided, “OK, I’ll stop – I don’t have to do this…I don’t have to climb this mountain. I’ll give up this stupid idea, no wonder people don’t do this, it’s far too traumatic.”
That was on Monday night/Tuesday morning and as I said I felt peaceful about it – phew. But then came the backlash of disappointment, loss of purpose and the response from Mrs Responsible: “No! You can’t abort this – it’s already conceived!” It is – it’s inside me. Do I kill it? Let it die? Am I not a writer after all? Then what am I? Just a child is fine, but… Back to feeling conflicted! Oh dear.
To BE… or to DO? Clearly to BE wins. Any doing has to flow out of that. I’ve been such a DO-er all my life it’s hard to change. But making any major decision while feeling unwell isn’t a good idea – resting until I get better is. The aches and pains are beginning to go now, though I’m quite low and fed up with having to cope with all this – with my own maintenance! Do I need new tyres or can I get away with straightening up the angles to the road?! As my counsellor said – the choice is entirely mine, to stop, to start, to stop again. Both desires are in there and there is no right or wrong answer.
Thanks for helping me process – this does help. I can’t promise a book any time soon, but the material is all on the blogs anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if it never happens. I have to keep asking myself WHY I want to put myself through this…!?! The answer must be, because it’s there, already in my heart, conceived and growing, awaiting it’s time.
Meanwhile it’s one day at a time, finding the grace to walk the journey. Today I’ll take the horses out of harness and enjoy the freedom of the fields. Let’s see how we go.