Friday, November 26, 2010

only human

London writerfriend came for a Brighton sleepover. We had a delicious time - meaning, of course, nice food, including the oyster late breakfast (creme caramel for desert) followed by a beach walk - the sun always shines on these oyster breakfasts and I am thinking there must be some correlation here. Meaning also that we had a delicious time talking about life and stuff - and The Writing. I have given up on Nano in the sense that I am no longer adding up the word count and realising for the second time of trying that pushing myself in that way is incompatible with having ME/CFIDS and is therefore unlikely to work But on the other hand, having a month where one focusses on the novel, or any creative project, is a good thing and potentially sets something up for (slowly) working on - in bed, eating lots of toast (I listen to you, Ms Pants).

I am reading my first Kindle book. I have had the Kindle (birthday present from Mr. Signs) since September but have struggled to find what I wanted and find it extraordinary and frustrating that I couldn't get books by Tim Winton, Marilynne Robinson, Lorrie Moore and various other good, well-known writers. The book I am reading is not a novel but a kind of buddhist self-help book called How To Be Sick by Toni Bernhard. No surprises, it basically peddles the route of acceptance and positive thinking and it is perhaps a measure of how recently clobbered I have been with Symptoms that I pressed the order button for it, having seen it recommended on various sites. But the writer does herself have M.E. and it is strangely reassuring to be reminded of what we are up against and the importance of being kind and forgiving to oneself. I do not accept, though, the notion that when bad things happen there is inevitably some kind of silver lining or higher purpose. Sometimes shit just happens and it is just shit. And sometimes it is right and fitting to give utterance to this in ways that might not seem immediately compatible with Upekkha (equanimity; a mind that is at peace in all circumstances). And I do have a sneaking suspicion that those who continually harp about the benefits of the Ten Steps and things of that kind do perhaps protest too much and that Metta (loving-kindness, wishing well to others and to ourselves) can manifest in mysterious and apparently contradictory ways because, peeps, we are human and therefore complex, innit. I was at a poetry reading the other day, reading some of my own stuff as well as listening to others. One of the readers announced that she used to write miserable poetry until she discovered - well I won't say what, but you know the kind of thing - and now she just writes happy poetry. Nuff said. And another thing. My current Shrink (whose days are definitely numbered), on learning my interest in the teachings of a certain Jeepers of Nazareth drew my attention to the time he threw over the tables of the money-lenders in the Temple, not the first time my attention has been drawn to this when someone wants to make some point about the Son of God being angry and therefore human, just like us. But I prefer the story about when he blasted the fig tree to damnation for not giving him fruit when he wanted it. Now there's a Son of Man for you.

What was the point I was about to make? I have forgotten. And I have a script to read - something devilishly good written by the daughter. Oh yes.


Zhoen said...

Shit does happen, best that way, really. And if we look hard enough, there is always a silver lining, but that's because it's always there, nothing to do with the crap passing through. Two true statements, erroneously correlated.

Glad you've given up the rigid goal. Has it's purpose, but it's not a law.

trousers said...


word ver = waxest

Reading the Signs said...

Zhoen, I would feel uncomfortable making that silver lining statement - for though I may feel that as a truth for myself, I would not want to pronounce it as a truth for everyone. I like your observation about the erroneous correlation.

Trousers, are they trying to tell me that I have hairy legs?

Cusp said...

Agree my dear.....shit does happen and sometimes it is just that: SHIT. Not sure if there's a silver lining but sometimes, after a long ( very long) time you begin to see that maybe it was meant to happen that way and can see that there may be something worth learning. BUT it takes time and patience and openess of heart and spirit methinks....and sometimes the shit is so shitty that its all one can do to keep bloody breathing let alone look directly for the good.

All very nice but can also be intensely irritating and STILL not sure about the title...makes me think its a book about a career option and personally Id rather still be at my desk earning money, developing projects and chatting to creative energetic types than sat on my bum typing on this lapptytop.

Still Toni B is a good woman, of good heart and her book seesm to really be speaking to and helping people....'innit' you say.

Much love :O)

Reading the Signs said...

Cusp, re career option - perhaps we should think of setting up an employment agency. All that practice and experience must be worth something.

I agree, TB does sound like a good woman and does actually say good things. But I don't yet see where grief and mourning fits into the picture. And without making space for these in a situation of chronic illness, I'm not sure that real acceptance and joy is possible.

Toni said...

Hi. I'm Toni Bernhard. I found your blog because I have a Google Alert set for the name of the book and your blog showed up.

I'm glad you're finding it to be of some use. I just wanted to say that I don't believe anywhere in the book I say that there's a silver lining to having gotten sick and I know I don't say there's a higher purpose. I'm sorry if that isn't clear. In Chapter Three in fact, the theme is: shit happens and it's okay because it's just my life (paraphrasing Zen teacher Joko Beck here).

And I absolutely agree that we have to leave time to grieve and even mourn our old life. Again, I'm sorry if that isn't clear. I thought it was because I talk so much about the difficulties I had early on and even have now at times.

I hope you don't think I wasn't trying to set myself up in any high place: I have to work on the practices in the book everyday because everyday with this illness is a challenge (as I talk about in the last Chapter: In the End.

I know some people balk at the title but the title came first and so I decided to stick with it and most people really love it so I am happy with that decision. I would say that the overall theme of the book is that illness and wellness are not mutually exclusive.

I hope with all my heart that you get enough out of it to feel it was worth buying.

All my best to you,

Reading the Signs said...

Hi Toni,

Thanks for looking in. I am sorry if my remarks did not do justice to your book - it is horribly easy to toss things into a blog post that have not necessarily been properly thought out and easy to forget about the person who has put their whole heart into writing the book that one is being so apparently glib about. Actually, re the title - jokes apart - that was the thing that first drew me to having a look at the book. So clearly it is doing its work. And yes, I do feel it was worth buying. You say many things that I need to hear and remind myself of and you know what you are talking about with regard to ME/CFS to the extent that even an old-timer like me (had it since 1987) feels properly met by that element.

With all fairness to you and to me, my path is not the buddhist path - not up to this point at any rate. I believe that shit happens and that sometimes it is not ok and that in extremis it may be the ultimate gesture of our humanity to cry out against injustice, to give voice to our suffering, to rail against god for having forsaken us and to say "I thirst". Whether or not we believe that ultimately all will be justified and made good. And when I am hungry (for food, for justice, for health, whatever) I want to say that I am and for my 'I' to stand in, and by, my words.

But this is not a criticism of your book in particular, just something I come up against now and then.

I am still reading your book - have not reached the end yet - and there are things that I will be taking from it that I feel might help significantly.

One last thing to throw into the pot: I do think that you and I are lucky because we have been able to stop work - we have had that option. I know people who are not so lucky, and I remember well when my children were small and I so ill knowing that if I were a single parent without resources they would have had to be taken into care.

Good wishes to you.


Toni said...

It's great to hear back from you. I've been enjoying what I've read on your blog and am going to put it into my Google Reader so I'll get new posts.

I agree that we are so lucky that we had the luxury to stop working. If you've reached the chapter called Tonglen, you'll read about the realization I have about that when I forced myself to go back to work even though I was too sick to be there and, for the first time in my life, realized there were millions of people in the workforce who were too sick to be there but had no choice. If they stopped working they wouldn't be able to pay the rent or feed their kids. It was an eyeopener for me.

I'm so happy to have a new friend, even if we only met because of this lousy disease.

Reading the Signs said...

Thanks for those good words, Toni.

I looked to see if you have a blog but couldn't find one. Have linked to your website though.

That's So Pants said...

Hi Signs

Yes toast - much easier to conjure than madeleines and certainly more reliable in terms of crumb production, yet just as inspirational. I simply cannot understand why my masterpiece is so long in the making given the technological advantage I have over Proust.



Reading the Signs said...

Pants - and the madeleines only work when they are dipped in tea, which I would never want to do. Definitely toast - and Marmite.

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