Monday, November 24, 2008

- and pigs might fly

I have an ongoing ambivalence about how or to what extent I blog about M.E. On the one hand I want to speak the truth, or at least my truth; it is important both for my sake and the sake of anyone who might be looking here whose life has been affected by M.E.; and in any case every aspect of my life is affected by it so to pretend otherwise would be like not mentioning the elephant in the room. But on the other hand it would not interest me to write a blog that tells each detail of how it is in my daily life. It may, actually, be an absorbing thing both to write and to read, but I wouldn’t have the heart for it, preferring often to “tell all the truth but tell it slant”. If an image can speak for me then I am satisfied, and what I leave out is probably as eloquent as what I might actually say.

Despite everything, though, I find myself challenged. I have resisted, as many do, allowing the illness to define – to become what I am, even though there is so much I have been obliged to give up because of it (for it does seek me with a great and purposeful passion and intent). I have said that it may hold sway in my life but it is not what I am. A certain Process I engaged with last year encouraged us to think in terms of “doing” M.E. rather than feeling it was something laid upon us. This is obviously, in theory, an empowering idea and I can’t argue with those who have taken up their beds and walked, but though I gave it my best shot the process didn’t work for me. I am still taken, however, with the idea that M.E. is something I am “doing” – in the sense that I am trying and, in some respects, succeeding in living a life that is fulfilling and creative in spite of, and in the context of, an illness that is, as I say in my profile, against all things creative.

Yes, it is the very devil. I have just spent the best part of this month fighting a losing battle trying to push it away so that I could get on with a writing (extended prose) project because something in me refuses to accept that this (M.E.) is what I now “do”. But I can’t help remembering what Quentin Crisp once said:
“It’s no good running a pig farm badly for 30 years while saying, ‘Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer.’ By then, pigs will be your style.”
In other words, we might extrapolate, you are what you most consistently do. But is that true? Because, folks, right now I am not properly doing much of anything – well, unless you count seeing Shrink (who is in my bad books at the moment, but more of this anon). And though it’s not what one might call fun, I don’t feel any less connected than ever I was. I still hear voices. Think the fir trees are speaking to me. Am probably going bonkers. Which might not be good for prose but is ok for poetry.

Back to the drawing board, I reckon.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Despite being born to a mother who once ran around a street where none of the children had any shoes, I suppose I am what people would call middle class. I have never got the hang of it, though admittedly I haven’t ever put in much effort. The lower sort are easy and you don’t actually have to do much at all as long as there is a degree of respectability attached to your situation in life; respectability and a sort of predictability, something measurable in terms of the kind of things one would expect to possess and have achieved en route from birth to grave, these forming the basis of a collective lower middle way of existence – the shared experience, if one can call it that.

Upper middle is essentially the same, but the houses are bigger, the stakes higher and there is usually more money, inherited or earned, often both. There are circles of friends. Not just friends, but circles of them, and to have a wide circle of friends is something to be aspired to. These friends, one assumes, are in some way linked, connected. Or there is a connection. Would the checkout worker living in a council flat with her asbo kids be part of that circle? Unlikely, though she is by no means disallowed. But she doesn’t count in the same way as the wide Circle does.

There is, or should be, a network which you are part of, with which you actively engage. Networking is something you need to be good at doing. If you are not, you should have the knack of being popular because then you will most likely be in the right place at the right time.

I think it is too late for me, I will never get the hang of it. In any case, I’m much the same as I used to be in the playground. The good girls were too good for me, the bright ones were too clever and I was not adventurous enough to go with the bad ones. So I hopped around on the margins – much as I do now - and mostly (but not exclusively) hang out with other marginalistes, as well as bouncing the ball around on my own, which doesn't look like fun but is. Especially if you are no good at games.

I am still supposed to be in the wardrobe but I have not been well. Nothing new there obviously, but what I mean is I have not been well enough to write very much, or at least not the thing I was hoping would grow into a novel. I was emailed by someone who asked if I would like to be a featured M.E. (CFS) blogger on a site that focuses on health matters. Although it was nice that someone approached me because he liked my writing, my heart sinks a little at the thought of being so firmly identified with my Condition. I wondered whether to change my profile, but I’m not going to do that. Happy to note, though, that the label Writing tops the M.E. one. Just.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


In the forest I found a holly tree
and thought of you

studded with red berries so early
a cold winter is coming

I wondered if you knew
anything at all as you lay

dying in your cot all seventeen
months of you a bruising

whatever nailed you to life
gave up the ghost

I found also a bed of bracken
piled on a makeshift manger

too late and far from you
but these I bring for you

the holly berry and the manger
pray for us