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.


Anonymous said...

Wishing I had something useful to say. Concious that I do that label thing through the Chronic Artists blog but the intention is to celebrate the arty labels understanding that it comes from admist a sometimes somewhat suckky health position. That health label doesn't mean one is any less of a writer or artist. But sometimes I feel the achievements are so much more when you have sucky health to contend with.

See? Nothing useful to say. Hope the muse comes to you and the ME buggers off.

Cusp said...

Glad you're back. I thought you'd got stuck on top of that blessed wardrobe or got so comfy up there that you'd decided to stay. Litte did I know that you were poorly and tucked up aloft with hot water bottle, medicaments and Mr Signs running hith and thit with the lightly coddled egg and vitamins. I hope you got Poesie to put on her strict German nursie uniform

I know exactly what you mean about being an artist who happens to have/be...... or an 'M.E. artist' All the time I worked in 'Disability Arts' there was tension around those labels and now I'm incapacitated myself I have no wish to have my identity (in terms of 'being in the world' or being an artist) overwhlemed by a medical label. Having said that I do belong to the Chronic Artists webring and I see a place for it. It's one place I go for companionship, solidarity, advice and then I go other places when I want to expose and explore other aspects of my identity

Hope you're feeling better ...or as better as possible x

Reading the Signs said...

Rachel, I think what you are doing is quite different - and I really had intended to join the Chronic Artists group but couldn't get my head around what I was supposed to do. Yes, even though you (and possibly Cusp also) tried to explain. Ach, I will have another go.

Nice to see you - and please don't think you have to say anything useful when you come here.

Cusp, there were no medicaments, hot water bottle etc. Coddled egg forsooth! I've still been doing all the cooking here ok? And chasing the bastard rogue cats that come in whenever I'm not looking and terrorising my own dear mog. No, it's just been the usual. I can stil "do" things but find it very hard to properly focus on the writing when bogged down by bloody myalgia. Oh, and someone phoned today asking if I'd heard of this wonderful new cure etc. (the L.P. just so you know).

Anyway, it's fine. Just same old. And re Chronic Artists, see reply to Rachel above.

My word ver is schleep - sounds like Poesie

Cusp said...

Oh well that's all right then ! ;0)

So long as you have the strength to schlepp round for kinder, katzen & kuchen you're doing OK ....except for the bastard myalgia which stops you from doing what you want really to be doing. I find it tends to leave no space for any nurturing activity: only the barest manageable necessities.

As I thought and said out loud the other day to my M.E. daemon
'Why don't you just **** off and leave me alone'

See .... I'm just as capable of saying nothing useful: unuseful but well meaning: c'est moi !

(You know what I think of nuff sed)

Zhoen said...

Good to read you again.

Labels are rarely any good except for organizing inanimate objects. Not healthy for people.

Collin Kelley said...

Sorry you've been feeling badly. My remedy is a marathon of season four of the Doctor.

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, you have an M.E. daemon? I think that should be demon, to distinguish it from the other good, inspirational kind. My one (demon) is called Garth at the moment. I'll probably post about that at some point.

Hi Zhoen, thanks. I think labelling groups can sometimes be a useful kind of shorthand in a meandering such as this, but it should be said that some of my best friends are etc. etc. :? (supposed to be smiley face with suble ironic twist in mouth).

Collin, I am listening! Have already asked for the entire Buffy the Vampire collection for Xmas - but The Doctor is good for all seasons and conditions, it's true. Hm, will think on it further.

nmj said...

I know exactly what you mean about labels - I hate being labelled as someone with ME, but I probably wouldn't have become a writer if I didn't have ME. Anyway, it's safer to be in the margins, I prefer living there too.

Mmm, but the wide circle could have its own kids with ASBOs, and the supermarket worker could easily have good kids and not live in a council flat, and perfectly fine people live in council flats... but yes, Britain is still so horribly class-ridden - it is doubtful the person you describe would be part of the wide circle. That's what I love about French films, you often get classy professional women falling for men on the wrong side of the tracks, they frequent the same bar, unlikely to happen in a British film.

Hope you get some writing done in spite of it all...

Digitalesse said...

Like you, I cannot stand to have my identity as an illness. My spirit, my soul, my persona - call it what you will - will not be re-defined by a diagnosis of ME/CFS.

The class system is a very interesting one. I grew up on one of Glasgow's large peripheral housing schemes and I felt well and truly the outsider there, having to follow my own path whilst negotiating my way around the neds and juvenile delinquents. I hated school, and even though I was academically able, I was frequently was in trouble for truanting. Most of my time 'dogging school' was spent in the reference section of my local library. I never felt that school encouraged me so I was pretty much left to my own devices.

As a student, I found that class barriers certainly existed, not in an overt, nasty way but because of my accent and how I spoke. I was treated like some kind of novelty act. I was also hugely lacking in general knowledge - I knew nothing about classical music, I had never read 'quality' newspapers (only the Glasgow Evening Times and the Daily Record), and a bottle of wine was Eldorado - the disgusting stuff that the jakeys would drink on the streets.

On the other hand, I was a lot more streetwise than my peers, I was a lot sharper and less naive. My friendships have always been based on sharing a common interest, with people from many different backgrounds.

I think that many of us here - the ME bloggers - are people who were capable at forging their own path in life prior to becoming ill and that our 'outsider' strengths and skills have provided us with considerable survival strategies.

Cusp said...

Sorry..... I did mean demon of course: foggy and late

Reading the Signs said...

NMJ, I like the new photo of you (seen it on your blog but not here).

It took me a long time to realise that margins was also where I wanted to be. Haven't considered the safety element, but will ponder - yes, perhaps that applies here too.

I was stereotyping simply for the purposes of this meander and would never say if a person is one thing then another automatically follows - though can see the post perhaps suggests that. Argh.

Digi, this was very interesting. And what it highlights, I think, is how actually all of us are, at some level, unassimilated and "other" - but some are more other than others.

Yes, and I have sometimes thought that the actual business of having M.E. also sharpens up the ability to develop survival strategies. For to tell the truth I was not much cop at forging a proper path, but I sure as hell would be now.

Cusp, Don't worry, I'm keeping an eye on the demons and the daemons.

Anonymous said...

Ah well that's alright then as my saying useful things is a bit limited at the mo!

I could do with making that whole Chrnoic Artists thing easier to be listed under and with a better name and lots of other Good Ideas. At some point. Maybe ;o)

Cusp said...

Really interesting comments on here about class, otherness and 'fitting in'. For myself I'd guess that looking at me others would always have seen me as lower middle to middle: child of teachers, headteachers, grew up in a semi in the suburbs of London, went to a Grammar School, spoke standard english etc etc.

In fact I never ever felt like I fitted in and never ever felt comfortable with it all. I've always felt, somehow, 'other' and having M.E. has just added to that --- mainly because it's a condition that isn't understood, properly acknowledged etc --- like me.

Professionally I was always good at networking. I was good at bringing people together. Personally I am not. I think in all honesty that I don't want to network and have no desire to be where I'm 'supposed' to be.

I remember a work colleague/acquaintance (though she would have called me a friend) who was very very successful professionally. She worked 'in the media' and made sure her name was on every list, every network, every party, every launch. At home she made sure that she spun the plates of friendship (what she called friendship) as speedily as any circus act....parties, coffee, house warmings..etc. But actually it was a terrible veneer. There were few true friends and she was always exhausted, never relaxed enough to just be who she was --- a rather vulnerable and frightened woman rather than the 'have it all' career girl/domestic/sex goddess she liked to portray. I didn't have the energy or ambition then and I don't now.

The one benefit of growing older is that I care and notice less and less how, whether, if I fit in or how people view me. If they don't like how I am it's their problem and not mine.

I wonder if a condition like M.E. hits people harder if they were always very aware of their place in the hierarchy and their network of friends. The people connected to this little ub (i.e. the Signs hub) seem to all be outsiders and, in some way, always have been. Perhaps likeness attracts even in a virtual world

Kahless said...

"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"

I get that!

Oh and great to see you back from Narnia.

Reading the Signs said...

Rachel, I think as the years with M.E. have passed I have developed something I imagine is akin to dyslexia when it comes to understanding certain kinds of instruction or information. Mind just shuts down. It's very weird.

Cusp, I have been considering this. But it still hit me very hard. I had two tiny children and so many plans. What it never did, I suppose, in spite of everything, is rob me of a sense of identity. That's the nub, I think.

hi Kahless, from what I know of you, I might have guessed that you would get it.

trousers said...

Class confuses me - because I allow it to, perhaps wilfully. I don't feel any sense of identification with the class I'd probably be defined as being within though.

I shan't say much more on that since I will run the risk of getting tied up in knots about it all, but it was good to read your thoughts on it.

Warm and hopeful thoughts to you as regards your health and well being - I'm heartened to see you back from the wardrobe, but wish it was because you were feeling better than you are.

nmj said...

I am the same with instructions, Signs - they can often be incomprehensible. I think the way ME hits you is in direct proportion to what stage of life you were when you got it and how severe the symptoms... how you cope is down to many factors. We all have different severities and different senses of loss... I find it quite hard to remember the pre-ME me, I have to conjure her up - I was nineteen. I had strong self-discipline - academically - and that undoubtedly helped me get back to university part-time (eventually) and although I have a strong sense of self, I certainly lost the person I would have become if I hadn't got unwell. I think that we do have a sense of the outsider by virtue of having ME, but then I think most people with chronic illness do, perhaps to a lesser extent cos they don't need to scream & shout to be believed.. and hello, trews, are you not in bed yet? - you snuck in while I was previewing my comment.

nmj said...

PS. Class confuses me too, Trews, my mum grew up in a council house in central Scotland, my dad grew up in a posh house in India (his family later forced to move to Karachi). I grew up in a middle class suburb, and I am very glad I went to a comprehensive if that doesn't sound wanky.

Gael said...


Reading the Signs said...

Good to see you Trousers - yes, well it really is just meanderings. It is, as they say, good to talk - even when to no particular purpose. I think I need a warmer coat next time I do the wardrobe.

Hi NMJ, between you and me I sometimes wonder if RTS isn't a bit of a misnomer as the signs are very often scrambled by the time I come to reading them. But don't tell anyone, I have my reputation to consider ...

Gael, I am intrigued. I've heard of leaving pebbles (o) but (.)? A grain of sand perhaps? It does the job as well, I reckon :)