At the weekend, I was blessed with an unexpectedly ‘good’ day. What that means in practice is that I woke up feeling as sludgy, stiff and achey as usual, drank my coffee, piddled around on FB, writing websites (I read a lot more about writing than I ever spend doing it) and daily dharma posts for an hour or so till my stomach felt ready for food. I ate a tasty breakfast prepared by The Boy, and took my morning meds. There followed a further hour as I rested in bed, doing much the same as already described, while the painkillers settled in, and by that time I have gleaned enough information about my unholy trinity of currently-most-debilitating symptoms – pain, fatigue, and noisy, discombobulating head zaps – to work out what level of activity I might aspire to.
So, after two hours, toast, tea and tramadol, I surmised this was a day that I could feasibly get up. After washing without feeling the all too familiar lurch of nausea that accompanies the zaps, I decided it was also a day I could safely put clothes on. Success! On such days, from thence forward, anything I do/achieve is a bonus, so rare have been days when I’m not wearing a duvet and bedsocks combo. The Boy came through looking glum. He had one of his headaches.
I am a person with a chronic illness living with a person who has a chronic conditions. The Boy has asthma, bad enough to require daily puffs on two different inhalers. To make matters worse, he also suffers from what is unfortunately a familial trait of cracking headaches (actually, we have all suffered from migraine – my genes apologise, kids). He gets a few every month, and they knock him off his feet, requiring regular paracetamol and a restful day lying in his darkened bedroom, dozing away the pain. That’s ok, I said, it’s coincided with a decent day for me, so get some paracetamol down and pop off back to bed. I’ll do the dishes.
I did the dishes. I decided to tidy up the kitchen too. So I emptied the house bins, took them outside, sorted the recycling, dumped it into the correct buckets, then thought wait, I must pace. Sat down, had a cup of soup and some crackers, did a ten minute guided meditation and thought, gosh, this room hasn’t been hoovered since the tree came down… I’m not going to detail every bit of everything I did on Saturday. Because although for me this constituted a day to be starred in the diary, I’m acutely aware of what a drag it is for people to read what is essentially a description of very mundane, routine, household tasks. Things healthy people do every day, without a second thought. Unless the second thought is ‘God, I hate housework’.
So that got me thinking about one of the major obstacles to building a sustainable, rewarding life when one’s world consists, more or less, of a few rooms and small garden. How can I hold onto friends, relationships, when my daily life largely revolves around me, me, me: eating, drinking, meditating, stretching, resting, all solo and with my own health in mind. How do I offer an equal friendship when I have so little to talk about? Never mind that I’m hobbled by the inability to participate in things that create shared memories – going to the cinema or theatre, exhibitions, out for birthday meals, going to dinner parties, even staying awake for the New Year Bells – or to do the little favours that cement connections, like getting joyfully hammered when someone gets a new job, or staying up all night with a pal to diss mankind when her partner misbehaves. When friends call me or come to visit, the most obvious second question after ‘how have you been’ is ‘what have you been up to’. I do like the suggestion of subversive mischief in that second query. Unfortunately, the answer is becoming a bit of a broken record. I’ve been in bed. I’ve been on FB. I’ve watched a lot of telly on every terrestrial channel, plus Netflix, Amazon, Now… I’ve listened to audiobooks. Drama and documentaries on the radio. Podcasts. I’ve probably knitted something new since last I saw them. If it’s been a good week, I’ve managed not one, but two showers and washed my hair. If it’s been a great month, I have hoovered.
Obviously I’ve been feeling the absence of a big, spiky stick to beat myself with recently, because this has been on my mind for a while now. The worry that I’ll be bored by a life limited to the size of a mattress has tilted a full 180 degrees and I find myself worrying that I myself will become the bore. The things I valued about myself have evidently diminished, I feel the effects every day. I can’t think acrobatically at all, I need a good ten minutes to write some stuff down and let it percolate, painfully, drop by drop, through claggy mental filters. My wit has dulled. There is nothing worse than starting what I think is a hilarious riposte, to find that I’ve lost the second half of the sentence and am reduced to muttering, pink-cheeked and foolish. I forget important dates my own, never mind other people’s – so key events in their lives drift by, and the most common opening in my text messages is ‘I’m so sorry!’.
This isn’t a cry of anguish at all. I really do appreciate how lucky I am, not only to have a close and loving relationship with my adult children and to live with my very caring son, but to have good friends who remember me as I was and appear to be handling (and excusing) my verbal and mental regression a lot better than I am. Basically, despite the changes in my body, to my mind, the fundamental fear we almost all share remains. That is, I don’t want to die alone. And if I am unable to sustain friendships (or even, beyond my wildest fantasies, a loving relationship), that is what I dread I am destined to do. So, as if I haven’t enough in my knapsack to weigh me down already, I’ve added a bit more. Not just how can I prevent myself from becoming bored (and lonely), but how do I prevent myself becoming boring … and lonely.
I have no easy answers, says the Universe. Well cheers, say I.