Friday, 8 July 2011

Trudging through treacle

I’ve been at a conference these past two days, doing a lot of networking and catching up with friends and colleagues. Yesterday somebody asked me, ‘What are you passionate about at the moment?’ The honest answer is ‘I don’t really know’.
These past few weeks I’ve been feeling tired, without a lot of energy to be interested in things. Even just doing everyday things takes quite a lot of effort. Not much creative thinking or imagination going on. In response to the recent post about Iain (Rolling rocks), Natalie wrote about ‘ballet-dancing through treacle’. I’m not sure I can manage any pirouettes or pas-de-deux just now. Trudging through treacle is about the best I can do.
‘Hey, wait a minute’, you’d be forgiven for thinking to yourself. ‘I thought this bloke – and this blog - was all about giving positive messages. What’s he doing spreading doom and gloom?’
Well, the answer is that life’s been tough recently. Not for me specifically, but for people I care a lot about.  My wife Sue’s just had her right knee replaced, and it’s been hurting her like mad – we know it will get better, but it’s very hard going just now. My brother is not recovering from his major surgery as quickly as he’d hoped, and that’s getting him down. And our dear friend Carl has been seriously ill, admitted twice to hospital in the past couple of weeks. 
Life’s becoming intrusive. There’s a bit too much stuff going on for my liking. Its making me aware of contingency, of how things we take for granted suddenly might not be there any more, or might change in ways we just don’t expect - or want.  William Boyd writes brilliantly about this, especially in Any Human Heart.  I’m doing my best to look on the bright side, offering these lovely people constructive advice and encouragement. But you can’t shrug it all off. Sometimes it does get to you.
I know this is how a lot of people feel, a lot of the time. And with much tougher loads to bear. During my most recent surgery, I heard about living with recurring lung cancer; dealing with the sudden death of an older sister and the expected death of a younger brother; having to respond to severe homophobic abuse at work; and the trauma of a dawn police raid for suspected drug dealing.  There is an awful lot of suffering about.
When I ask them how on earth they manage to cope with all this, patients often tell me ‘I plod on, doc, I just plod on’.  They know life is tough, they know there’s not much they can do about it. Sometimes it’s just a matter of wrapping ourselves up against the elements, battening down the hatches, and keeping on doing the things that need to be done.
I’m going to revisit my post on well-being recipes, because I’ve realised the best way out of this is to take the advice I give others.  Maybe watching some cricket, climbing a mountain or diving through ocean waves will do the trick. I’ll do a bit of reaching out, maybe find a hug or three.  And I believe there are some fresh starts just round the corner. Sue’s knee is going to get better, and I’ve just seen a photo of Carl back home, cooking up something in his kitchen.
In the meantime, I'll plod on. I’ll pat myself on the back from time to time, remind myself how well I’m doing, considering what’s been going on. Trudging through treacle – maybe I’m gathering ingredients for a delicious sticky toffee pudding.    


  1. Here's a ((hug)) from me , Chris.... and one for Sue ((hug)) too !!
    I wouldn't mind a bit of that pud !! :)
    It's easy to get bogged down and feel everything is too much... suddenly your mind is full of negatives. I've become quite good at concentrating on the good things lately ( like you say about knowing Sue's knee will get better and Carl cooking) Our kitten Poppy is a lovely distraction and I've found myself enjoying the flowers , birds , clouds in the sky a lot more. I am starting to appreciate the lovely things around me and not to let the negative eat me up ( It was at one time). I know for some people it is very very hard to do that....
    I'm going to get a biscuit now as I feel in a sweet mood haha x

  2. Thank you Dr. Chris.
    I have a constant, faint, underlying feeling of "trudging" and today it seems to have raised its head. You're right, the suffering of others is tiresome yet it's necessary work to take this on and to help others.
    Knowing that as a human I can offer help and love to others and also keeping myself occupied with many activities helps me enormously, as does mindfulness (keeps my mind from thinking too much!).

    I'm in the process of "cultivating loving-kindness" which will hopefully help me to keep giving without the feeling of emptiness.

    Thank you for sharing.
    Big hugs to you and hoping your trudging turns to some form of dancing soon, ballet or otherwise x