Retreat, Retreat!

A few weeks ago my son wanted to listen to some music.  His friend had a little ipod and he wanted in on the action.  So I dug through that drawer that we all have in our house that is stuffed to the gills with all the crap that we don’t throw out or find proper homes for and found an old ipod nano that I had bought for Darko’s birthday (although indirectly and selfishly also for myself) back from the days where I could still run and we even sometimes ran together.rpk-tramplin

I charged it up and handed it over and he wondered around the house shouting too loudly until he was bored of it all and left it lying on the floor with all the other endless stuff that gets left there.  I picked it up to have a little listen.  Songs from another lifetime.  Because it belonged to my husband there was a lot of guitar based stuff on there.  And because it was also sort of mine there was a lot of Yann Tiersen.  It was interesting to listen to the contrast between tracks.  Then lyrics from one of my husband’s songs jumped out at me.

Retreat. Retreat. I’ve fallen at the low tide.

It was just one wee line in a song by The Editors.  I probably bought the CD for him back when we still did things like that.

But it thrummed through my head never the less. Retreat. Retreat.

Because I feel more tired than I can possibly say,  because I feel like the scales I’ve been holding over my eyes have fallen away and I’ve seen that nothing much matters really, not really, because I can no longer believe that there was a reason for it, for any of it, there is no great twist in the story, no sudden reversal where the jigsaw puzzle clips into place and makes a pretty picture.  The picture is broken, broken and it can not be fixed. Not ever.  Because the world isn’t turning to make us pretty pictures, we are just shadows burning each other as we pass by and some of those burns are going to be permeant, some of those burns are going to brand your damn skin.  Because I don’t experience things the way other people do, I just don’t.  I still want the world to be christmas morning, I am still looking for it, freshly fallen snow to cover up the shit.  But there is no snow, the weather just does it’s thing, it doesn’t mean anything either.  There’s no great message to it all, no purpose, we’re all just bubbles waiting to burst.

So retreat, retreat and shut the fuck up Stephanie because quite frankly I am annoying myself.  Just lie around and watch Jamie Fraser take his top off on Outlander or read shitty, awful books with improbable and stupid  love triangles over those somehow special girls with magical powers.  Distraction is a beautiful thing.  That’s why we all do it.

So I’ve been quiet.  Not really writing, except for rubbish. No poems. Fuck the poems. I’m tired of them.  And they are clearly tired of me.

There have been a few weeks like this.  And of course there has also been sleeping and crying (I cry a lot, it’s not really a cause for alarm, I am abnormally teary) and trying to feed my children with food that isn’t covered in  breadcrumbs. All of that.  But mostly I’ve just been done with it all.  The talking about stuff like anything really matters.

And yet here I am, waffling on again.  So yes, there was a little moment this week that made feel like writing.

It was a very small thing.

A thing that was a ripple out of something I had done a few years ago.  Nothing special, that’s important. This is not one of those moments where I say yeah, everything is so bland and ordinary but look, look at this special thing I did!  I did nothing special. I just bumped along doing the usual crap I do.  But my usual crap bumped someone else along and years later the result of that bump sparked into something else and I got to see that happen.

Small things helping small things.

So there is always that.

Later in the week I sat in my Primary 6/7 theatre class watching them dance.  We do this a lot. It’s all improvised.  They are one of my favourites because they go with this work more than most.  And we talk about a lot of things in that class (weirdly we talk a lot about how rubbish their sex education is but that’s another post for another day) but we also talk about the space we are making for each other.  About how in this moment they have the freedom to just really let go and be them.  The doors to the world are closed and therefor the doors to themselves can open wide.

And there they were, in the middle of a six minute dance improvisation and if you’ve never watched work like that before then let me tell you it’s pure bloody joy.  To watch, to do. And I thought small things.  Little sparks.  Little bumps.

I am mad as a box of frogs. I am never going to be a ballerina.  I am  never going to be most of the things I wanted to be in fact.  My life is a supermarket shopping queue.  Ordinary, dull, a lot of waiting and looking for distraction.  But here and there our ordinary things can touch, not to burn, not to  brand but to spark, maybe a little heat, maybe here and there a little fire.

So yes, retreat, retreat, I’ve fallen at the low tide. Haven’t we all. I am operating from the gutter.  But even down here there’s the odd moment where all the things that don’t really matter still  manage make something interesting.

 

John Wick: Chapter 2(2017)


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Chronic Illness and Work – a few notes

Today I am paying a price.  It’s not too big a price, I am lucky. It’s pennies, not pounds.  Still it is a price none the less and the bank account is a little smaller than it was before.  Today, if I am lucky, I will find ways to replenish stocks, to balance the books again so that tomorrow I am ready to go back out there.  But there are no guarantees.Заборыvisualcage

For three years now I have lived with chronic illness.  I don’t like to admit this actually, it’s like Voldemort, don’t want to name the bastard.  In fact my Dr once made me cry when he told me off for my persistent denial at having a long term condition.  I didn’t….don’t…want to give in.

But life is not a battle and the truth is I do have a long term condition.  And I am learning everyday how to manage it better.  But there are no absolutes, no definite answers, nothing is black and white or certain. And this causes confusion.  For me, yes, because I don’t know what I can get away with before I trigger a flair up, but also for others.

How is it I can manage to do some things and not others.  Why on this day can you do x, y and z but today you can’t even manage a, b and c?  People don’t understand or assume you are lazy or lying or both.

And the answer?   I don’t know.

Seriously.  I just don’t know.  My body is a mystery to me these days.  It’s not reliable.  It tricks me, lies to me, lets me down.  But it’s mine, so I have to work with what I have to the best of my ability. What this means, most of the time, is learning the art of pushing through.

When is it safe to push?  When is it not?

Truth be told I HATE having to push through.  It scares me.  What if I push too hard and I end up really floored.  What if I can’t get up? What if I am so ill I can’t cope?  If you’ve been there once then the fear of going back never really leaves you.

Towards the end of my time as a teacher the hardest part was having to push through.  Push through pain, nausea, bone tiredness.  Teaching is not the sort of job where you can have a quiet day if you feel a bit off, there’s no hiding by the photocopier available, no work from home option.  Each time that bell rings a class is going to file its way in and if I was in pain then it was just awful.  Nothing to be done but try and push, always wondering will this be the day when it goes too far and my body breaks.  But there were worse things than that. There still are.

It’s the silence. It’s not being able to tell anyone because no one wants to hear that you are not well AGAIN.  Who cares.  And because people don’t believe you.  And back then I didn’t really have much in the way of proof.  Of course now I have a big black and white report from a specialist but it doesn’t change much, people don’t care, they still don’t believe you.  And why should they, it doesn’t make much sense.

If last week you managed to do all that then why today can’t you do anything?  If you can run a youth theatre rehearsal all day then why can’t you just get a job? If you can manage to go to France and do a week of physical theatre work then why are having to go to bed this afternoon?

It doesn’t add up.

But here’s the truth.  It doesn’t add up for me either.  I don’t bloody know.  I wish I did.  God I miss my old life, knowing my body would always work, not having to deal with constant pain, being able to do things that I loved to do, not having to chose between two options because you know you can only physically manage one of them.

But here are some ways that it might make more sense.

Firstly – I do pay a price. Most times.  Yesterday, yes, I rehearsed all day.  By mid afternoon I was in pain.  That night I was useless. Today, I am treading as carefully as I can.

I can handle teaching my youth theatre on a Monday night only if I clear my Tuesday.  So I can go to bed if needed, and it is often needed.

In France, yes it was six hours a day of movement based work.  But I had full autonomy over that movement.  I could work gently if I needed to, I didn’t need to push hard. Secondly I had no other responsibilities. So no cooking, cleaning, childcare.  I worked, I rested. That was it.  And I also had two days where I did struggle, I was sore.  I just had to work with it best that I could in that moment because the work was beautiful and I loved it.  That always helps.

I am in bed by nine most nights and I sleep until seven.  I do all I can to keep my diet plain and simple so my nervous system doesn’t kick off.  I can’t run anymore even though I loved it.  No gym either.  They just set me off.  So it’s yoga or nothing and yoga has been a bit of a life saver truth be told. I love moving and I hate not being able to do as much as I would like.

I know people wonder often why I don’t just go and teach again.  I just don’t believe I would survive it, physically, emotionally or spiritually.  I might be wrong. Never say never and the parts of the job I loved I miss but right now no, I think it might break me and I am already a bit to broken for that.  I don’t think I would mend a second time.

At the same time there is a sense of lostness that goes with not really having a job.  Yes I deal with all the childcare and yes I run the youth theatre but I am not employed and sometimes that feels a bit rubbish. Like I am a bit rubbish because no one is paying me to do things. I don’t much like it.  But I am lucky, lucky that on most days I can minimise my moments of having to push through pain, I can take breaks when I need to, I can monitor my pain levels and adjust accordingly.

I will say this before I go.  If you haven’t had to deal with chronic illness then you don’t know.  It sounds obvious but really, you don’t.  You might think you do.  You might think you’d just get on with it that you would be different somehow, that you would push through not matter what. I can tell you now you would not or if you did you would not do it for long and still be on your feet.  Our health is a precious,  fragile thing and once it is broken you don’t get to play hard anymore.  Not because we are lazy, not because we don’t want to but because we want to keep ourselves in the game the best we can.

I am playing the game the best I can. It will not always be enough.  And I am sorry for that.  But I am painting my pictures with the colours I have left, I will make them as bright as I possibly can.

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Some days…..

…are just days for eating chocolate before noon

and some days are just days

for being alone, a favourite room

and some days are just days

for blankets, beds and books

and some days are just days

for the letting off of hooks

and some days are just days

for thinking, pen and paper

and some days are just days

for putting off till later

and some days are just days

for lighting up the fire

and some days are just days

for letting go of a desire

and some days are just days

for holding your own hand

and some days are just days

for having nothing planned

and some days are just days

for having to let go

and some days are just days

for being OK with I don’t know

and some days are just days

for long and little walks

and some days are just days

for slow and tender talks

and some days are just days

for giving dirty laughs

and some days are just days

for things that cross our path

and some days are just days

for dusk right through to dawn

and some days are just days

for letting things be wrong

and some days are just days

for the now or never

and some days are just days

for staying dry in stormy weather

and some days are just days

for not thinking of the cost

and some days are just days

for taking off and getting lost

and some days are just days

to let tears do their thing

and some days are just days

to tune up our hearts and sing.