Sunday, November 27, 2022

Of the Before and the After

The Potting Shed by Lore Pemberton. 
On my Christmas wish list, Click on the image to get to her website.

I had planned to pop on here and say something cheerful about winter being nearly here, but it feels like we have crossed that invisible marker here in the Midlands. Winter is already here. The past week has been full of huge downpours, torrents of raindrops that hurled themselves at the windows and roof, drumming percussive music through the week. Whole days have been blackened by rain clouds, battered by winds. Taking the train to Gloucester, I could see the silver glint of flooded fields by Bredon Hill, the hill itself looking dark and already folded into hibernation. Occasionally, a wild sunbeam would break through the cloud, sending down a fierce bright light that made me blink. 

On Monday, my friend came over with her little boy. 10 months old and already staggering around like a wee drunk man, bow legged and hands raised up for the sheer joy of motion and speed and independence. He is a joyful whirlwind, a tiny tyke, a terror of all cats and bearer of childhood nursery germs that I had long lost all immunity to. 24 hours later, whilst hoovering up what I hoped was the last of the rice particles he had liberally blessed the carpet with, I felt an ominous itch in the back of my throat. 

This has been a proper, old fashioned cold, the like of which I haven't experienced since the Kid left primary school. Stuffy of head and nose, full of catarrh, throat like sandpaper, eyes like heavy hot marbles and sleep punctuated by a cough that would scatter the crows. Bravely I have soldiered on through it, meeting grant application deadlines, project end deadlines and meetings that could not, would not be shifted. But now I'm ready to lean into it, give in to it. Lie on the sofa with a cool flannel on my forehead, a soothing drink to hand and someone else to cook. To give credit where due, N has been dying to do this for days, it's only now that I have the capacity to lay down tools and let him. 

Own. Worst. Enemy. 

But I am ready for winter now. For fresh air walks in the morning that leave your cheeks pink and tingling from the nip of a frost. For gentle yoga meditation in a candlelit evening, emerging blissed out into a house that smells of rich stews and baking bread. To take up a craft again, pick up the knitting needles or crochet hook and not care if the end result is any good. For the time to make bread and stews and soups. For woodsmoke, and citrus, and spices. 

Not that I can smell anything right now, and I was about to write "stupid cold".  Which is reflective of how I treat most of my conditions. They are stupid because they get in the way, they stop me from doing the job I loved, they cause me pain. 

But it occurs to me that this is the wrong approach to these things. It lacks grace and understanding. It tries to set the bar to how things used to be when, truth is, it can never be that again. As a friend said last week "it's okay to be angry about them but don't let that anger become all you feel". So, it is time to reach an accommodation, an acceptance of where I am now. To develop an intuitive understanding of what my body is trying to tell me, instead of rushing over it because there are things to be done. To consider a new approach to my body instead of feeling like a failure because it doesn't work like it used to. 

Chronic pain is the worst bedfellow, it sucks as a walking companion, and I've raged bitter war against it, but maybe, this Winter, I can take the time to recognise it for the signpost it is. The one that guides the way to a better, more sustainable life, overriding the itching temptation to eat all the chocolate oranges under the tree and carry on as before. 

'Before' is a closed box; 'After' is a wide, open landscape to explore. Let's see what I can find there. 


  1. Sorry you've got such a nasty cold, it has been circling here as well, the urchins were quite unwell with it. I love a cold winter walk as well, it was lovely out there this morning. Your positive approach is just right re your chronic pain I think. Here's to a better, more sustainable life indeed. CJ xx

    1. I've been making more of an effort to walk in the morning - a fake commute - otherwise I can spend entire days not seeing outdoors. And I don't want to miss any foggy, frosty mornings this winter! The positive approach has taken a while to set in place, but I'm much calmer for it. Wisdom coming with age! Hope all well with you. Txx

  2. It is so hard to reframe things but it nearly always rewarding when we do. I hear you on wanting soldier on when you are ill but you are so right that resting is the best thing we can be doing for ourselves as well as everyone else lest we past it on. Hope you are feeling better soon.

    1. Finally beginning to feel better, thank you. It's a real sticker this cold and I'm curbing my impatience to be up and rushing at my usual speed.


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