Sunday, June 19, 2011


If my tone has been brash of late, it is because there has been no real possibility of touching base, coming down to earth, to home ground. We who live with chronic illness find different ways of managing to live with it. Mine has often been to fly above it, at some level. There are benefits to this - one connects to another winged, or at any rate less encumbered, self. But in doing this one also leaves the suffering and disabled self lonely. For if we who suffer (I use the word to mean 'put up with') chronic illness cannot be alongside ourselves, then we become bereft. It is hard enough to be so long in the world, substantially cut off from life and living, without bereaving ourselves of ourselves to boot. I picture myself at the foot of my bed looking down on the person lying there in her red and white, tinsel-threaded pyjamas (June but still cold in Blighty), saying:
look, I'm sorry but I can't come here any more - ok? I really like and respect you but it drags me down and, to be quite honest, it's boring. You only get up to do essential things like washing and preparing your increasingly dull meals - we don't do enough fun things together. I've got stuff to do. I'll send a postcard - bye.
Before you go, I say, what actually are you planning to do?
She scratches her head, distracted. She is wearing my Purple Trousers, Weird Fish hoodie and Adidas trainers.
Long walks on the South Downs - I want to get a dog, did I tell you? Staying with a friend in her caravan in Scotland. Signs Cottage needs attention, plan to sort that out. Theatre, poetry gigs, concerts - and swimming again, in the sea this time.
Sounds good. What else? Anything you missed out?
Writing, she says. Lots and lots of writing - my novel, and poems.

And then the truth strikes. She needs me for that. Wherever she flits in the astrality, if she wants to write, she has to come home to the ground of her being, which is the person lying there in the pyjamas.

I am seeing a nutritional therapist and am on a really impressive hardcore regime, almost everything you can think of cut out, morning smoothie includes linseeds, quinoa flakes, rice milk - you get the picture. The therapist is a medical doctor who was herself chronically ill for ten years. She comes recommended. Any substantial improvement, I'll be shouting about it.


Cusp said...

What a great way to explain the conundrum that is life with chronic illness: so easy to get bored and when you do, after such a long time, it's hard to know if you're bored with life, yourself or the bastard illness.

If there's success I shall buy you an old-fashioned meagphone so you can shout from the Downs. Hope so :O) x

Reading the Signs said...

It's the bastard, Cusp - I'm actually very rarely bored. But I think the split has been essential at times.

If success, I'll shout so loud I won't need a megaphone!

Zhoen said...

Every tiny improvement is call for wild celebration, celebrated very quietly.

Digitalesse said...

So wonderfully described. I think we can all relate to what you say.

I dread to think what the 'real' or rather idealised 'me' would reckon to the ME-version of me. The 'real me' would be seriously underwhelmed, if not downright scathing. I better not give a voice to that persona, I'd shock myself!

Reading the Signs said...

Zhoen, an excellent plan, I like the notion of a very quiet, wild celebration. I picture the North Beach in Iona - green stones.

Digi, I don't necessarily think of the other one as the real me - rather the one that splits off from the sick body - a kind of excarnated me. Truth is, she can't wander so very far without me. But I don't tell her that.

Mim said...

Reading you, both of you!

tpe said...

Beautifully done, Signs.

If the physicality of life’s demands may sometimes defeat you, there is an escape route sitting just above your neck. And, as you already clearly know, “this is where the good stuff goes down; where we may chance to touch the obliterating infinities of our better angels”. I’m quoting myself, of course, but this is occasionally allowed (if always entirely ghastly).

Get a dog.

Kind regards and outright admirations etc….


(PS. Your dress sense never fails to enrage me.)

The Tame Lion said...

Wonderful! Inspiring!
Always remember:
All of us are always here to support you.

Reading the Signs said...

TPE - TPEeee! No sooner are you back (hooray!) than we have something to argue about (yess). For "the obliterating infinities of our better angels" (I intuit rather than know what these are) do not reside exclusively, or even at all, above our necks.

Tell me where is fancy bred,
or in the heart or in the head

If I had to choose I would say the heart. Not that this substantially takes away from what you say - below the neck, above, whatever. So actually, perhaps we don't need to argue after all.

And it's too splendid and all to see you.

You know what, though? For one moment I thought that The Tame Lion might be you too, in some other pretendy guise. But it isn't - not at all (have a look, do).

(I am pleased beyond telling about the enragement effect).

Tame Lion? - you did, I admit it, get my attention with those two words, and it's quite true that I'm both wonderful and inspiring. I'll - er - take a rain check on the support offer.

tpe said...

You felt - even if for one moment - that I may have been The Tame Lion? Hmm. I have no sensible response to that. I had a look and he seems to exclusively tell set-piece jokes. I'm sure each and every one of them is good, of course, something to warm our hearts with, but I can't think of ever having told a joke since long before leaving school.

Reading a joke, however, is far, far preferable to being cornered by a ceaseless joke-teller. (Has this happened to you? Do you know such a creature?) The thought of such a thing is exhausting. I'm impatient for the thing to be over well before the first Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman have got anywhere near the bar door. I'm already crying softly before they leave their homes. It kills me inside.

Hello. It would have been good to start off with an argument, Signs - familiar, welcome and moral - but neither of us is up to the task at the moment (fact) so we'll just have to grudgingly accept a kind of ceasefire. Besides, you did a rather skillful job of smoothing my rough-edged non-sequitur, for which I'm minded to be grateful. (Not for long, though, okay? Like milk, a sense of gratitude eventually goes off - turning sour in the mouth and becoming entirely unpalatable.)

In any event, I'm just passing by to say "hello, lovely to see you and what are you up to today?" - and to wonder in what sensible way you may have felt your tone had been "brash" in these past few blog posts of yours? I may be missing something - seems unlikely - but everything seemed non-brash to me.

Get a dog.

(I may use these words to sign off all exchanges in future. Not just to you, but to everyone. Makes sense.)

Reading the Signs said...

The 'gratitude' aphorism is good, TPE - perfect, even. Did you make it up? I will borrow it from time to time, if that's ok with you.

Jokes: the mater used to invite all sorts to dinner parties. A famous writer-for-TV came once and told endless jokes. At the end of the evening he leaned over to me and said you won't get very far in life if you don't laugh at people's funny stories. But I like funny stories. I don't tend to get jokes, as such. (Sorry, Tame Lion).

I want a dog, but so many things come against it. Cat of Signs, for one, would not tolerate it, she being of a highly sensitive and nervouse disposition. Mr. Signs, also, not keen. And I could not promise to walk the dog on a regular basis. If one wants a thing enough, there if often a way, but I'm not sure how I'd overcome these obstacles.

Keep reminding me, though.

tpe said...

I’m sooo glad you noticed and liked the gratitude thing. Yes, I made it up on the spot as I was writing to you and found myself unusually pleased with it. Thank God for you, Signs, of course, but mainly thank God for me.

(By all means use it and claim it as your own, sure. I’m secure with my place in history. Besides, as I was working in your blog studio as I produced my art, you would probably be able to lay claim to some of the royalties, anyway.)

There is a horrible pressure involved when someone starts telling a joke. I bitterly resent having to fake a (thin) smile. It makes your face sore after a while, I find, if the person has a bag of these things at his disposal. It’s like a form of bullying. Or is that too harsh? Good for you, anyway, for sitting through an evening of jokes without laughing. That takes nerve. Let’s just never go to a dinner party together, okay?

I already knew most of the reasons why you couldn’t have a dog, don’t worry, although the fact that Mr Signs isn’t keen is (possibly) a new one to me. I’ll get my thinking head on…….

I may be gone some time.

Reading the Signs said...

Have you come up with anything yet, TPE? I still want a dog.

tpe said...

Ah, Signs. If only.

I would walk over (pleasantly chilled) coals to help you, of course, but my head simply isn’t coming up with anything – it seems to have stupid on speed-dial and won’t let me call anything else.

(I’d got as far as having Mr Signs taken care of - think Corleone - and finding quite the laziest breed of dog. This disturbed me, so I gave up.)

The only halfway sensible thing I could think of was hiring a dog-walker (one of my sisters does this). I'm never entirely sure about this, though. It somehow feels wrong - and may very well become prohibitively pricey as the days pass into years.

Back to the devastatingly blank drawing board.....

Reading the Signs said...

Please don't suggest getting a budgie or a hamster, that's all.

There is always next incarnation ...

tpe said...

We once had a shared-pet budgie (fairly charmless). And I once had a hamster (lovely). There is no sensible substitute for a dog, however, so that would certainly never be one of my suggestions. You can relax, Signs.

(If you have a garden, however, and sufficient space in the very near vicinity - forest? - where the dog might roam freely.....half the battle is won. Or, at the very least, it remains unlost and fightable. Still dreamable, perhaps, which is vital.)