I’m trying to remember how many months it is since I set my course for 2019. Certainly by the new year I had a clear theme I was determined to pursue and that goal dictated a lot of the choices I’ve made this year. I stopped doing the extra classes I’d been enjoying, stopped putting so many meetings with friends in my diary, joined the East Midlands Writing School group that meets weekly in the city. I was finally, 10 years on, going to focus on making the story of Sam and his brain tumour into a book. Many readers of my blogs and facebook friends have said this should be done and I do know deep down this has to be right.
So I gave myself a timetable. You may have read about it here, because one of the choices I’ve made in pursuing this goal is to start blogging again – about the process, about my life and faith, about whatever seems relevant. What else have I got to say? Every life tells a story, every family is on a journey: I have found my voice through writing and am convinced what I have to share is applicable to others so I make no apologies for all the self-examination – it provides my raw material, it’s what I know. My question to you is what do you know?! Until we know ourselves growth is impossible, but once we discover the treasures of darkness within we can begin to be healed and to help others find healing too.
And that’s all well and good, but it takes courage, grace and energy. My focus was clear even as recently as 2 months ago on the anniversary of Sam’s first MRI on 1st April 2009. Although I had to put off actually sitting down to begin, it was definitely all there at my fingertips and I had no doubt that was what I was going to do. Sunday 19th May at the British Library was the perfect launchpad – it lit the blue touch paper and fired my enthusiasm and determination at the perfect time as I started work that very week. I was going to actually be a writer and make a book!
I have managed 2 days. I have virtually given up already. I am in total inner conflict about whether I actually want to do this at all. The whole idea seems impossible – a mountain I don’t even want to climb. I have triggered the grief all over again and feel sad and tired and ON TOP OF THAT now have to face the self-ridicule of not being a writer after all! So what am I then? What am I going to do with the rest of my life? I feel physically ill and exhausted and lost and depressed.
Welcome to the creative process! Seriously, my project is bound to be extra-hard being so personal and focussed on our bereavement, but all the doubt, excuses, confusion, resistance, are pretty much par for the course… Because I think this is all part of it, part of me doing my book, part of me becoming a writer! (I hope!)
Take one life, cut it open, look inside. Find the childhood first, identify the traumas and wounds, strengths and weaknesses. Check out the relationships – good ones and not-so-good ones. Discover various friends and relations, which culture, faith and newspaper your subject prefers. See how the years go by and follow the choices made – the sowing of seeds, the faithfulness or lack of it, whether sinned or sinned-against. Is forgiveness present in the mix or do you detect bitterness? Sense of humour? Arrogance or acceptance? “Lord have mercy on me a sinner” or “I did it my way?”
Aren’t people interesting? Don’t we love heroes and villains, goodies and baddies, comedy and even tragedy? Of course I want to ‘join the conversation’ – I can’t lose my nerve now. But my plan, my timescale, my pre-conceived ideas have had to go out of the window. As someone wisely said, you can’t push life up a hill in a wheelbarrow, you have to get into the wheelbarrow and let life carry you. Then wait and see what happens.
What has been happening? Looking objectively at 2019 so far, the best thing, the most encouraging event, was having my photograph, poem and beginner’s paintings chosen to be printed in the University of Leicester Yellow Book and having them on display in two art galleries in the city. The Yellow Book is all about ‘I Feel Better When’ – creativity, colour, light, nature, expression all in aid of mental health. Mental wellness is not just the opposite of mental illness – it’s a foundation we all need. But all I seem to have done since coming back from our Easter break in Brittany is be ill, go on holiday and be ill. Fortunately, it’s time to go on holiday again now! But clearly this pattern has to change on my return.
I guess 2019 isn’t quite how I imagined. I set myself up with a project and it has come back to bite me. Despite the misery of illness, fatigue and sadness, I still have hope that I can learn from and grow through this journey, somehow stay on track and in balance at the same time, pacing myself, living one day at time.
I have felt like giving up, but I choose to keep going, holding on to my dreams, my cherished memories and hard-won wisdom, treasuring all the gifts and blessings of my life. I’ll try to remember to be kind to myself and lean back in the wheelbarrow. It’s taking me to Sicily for a while.