Category Archives: Emotions

Building A Future?

woodUntil fairly recently, I had dreams of taking a Doctorate in Creative Writing.

After the utter implausibility of finally mastering a Master’s through much trial and error (plus a decapitated mouse which appeared in my first, futile attempt at short fiction), I thought, ‘why not?’

I duly collected leaflets about available courses and being a mature student. I scanned blogs of those gone before, downloaded information and looked into funding. I even attended a Postgraduate Student Fair and found myself surrounded by kids I was old enough to parent. But. I could do this?

I can’t.

I’ve read the case studies. Bright-eyed eager (young) people with many, many awards under their belts and obscure research titles to their names. I’ve read the tiny success rates about securing funding and have looked in to alternative sources of funding, i.e. living like a pauper for six years, existing on Super-Noodles and crackers.

I would love to surrender my life to this dream over the next three years, or six years part time as I still have to work. I want to be immersed in writing and carry a notebook confidently into the nearest cafe, flick open a fresh page and jot down suitably astounding and genre-defying remarks.

I can’t.

There’s not much funding out there for a getting-on-for-mature MS blogger who fancies herself as the next Sylvia Plath.

So, I have a brand-new, shiny idea.

After much googling and sending-off-for-information, I have decided to retrain (perhaps) as … a carpenter.

Brimming with excitement, I laid out my life-altering plan to The Boss, aka My One-Time Best Friend over a coffee. After he stopped laughing, he asked why.

Well. After project-managing many building projects, I felt confident that I could carry out such an artisan craft, all by myself. And a training course would merely solidify all that I have learned these last years?

I like the word ‘artisan’ and pictured a future workshop where I would wood-turn and create dove-tails and suchlike. It would be a dusty, arty place, with deliberately mismatched chairs, a Scandinavian name and hand-thrown pottery mugs.

He mentioned that I could already cut architrave, lay floors and use a drill. I was even a passable tiler (praise indeed from The Boss, although I am an excellent tiler, if the space is small enough and I can sit down).

He queried my MS – would I be able to cope with the course? Yes – he could be my helper, if needs be. This didn’t go down so well, so I won’t be telling him when I go for the interview.

What do you guys think? Have I got enough drive to cut it in the World of Wood?

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Bored Now …

palletsThere’s a dissertation-sized hole in my life.

After an initial frenetic and unseemly hedonistic flurry of trash telly, food, books and gossip magazines, I’m very, very bored and can’t face another jumbo-bag of Bombay Mix.

It’s time to Take Up A Hobby, especially as I will also become an Empty-Nester this year.

I want to reassure The Teenager that I have a fulfilling hobby/social life and won’t be eaten by a pack of wild dogs, at home alone, surrounded by piles of old newspapers and junk mail while he’s away at Uni.

I have many options, some more promising than others. Inspired by The Great British Pottery Throw Down on telly, I investigated clay. Sadly, I don’t have an outhouse where I can build a kiln or a pottery wheel. Undeterred, I looked into air-drying clay, but you can’t really do that much with it beyond napkin rings and small plant pots, so another idea came to a dead-end.

I looked into jewellery-making and bought a magazine all about it. I know how to use pliers and a blowtorch, a pretty good start. I just don’t know how I’d cope with fiddly beads and delicate bits what with my dodgy MS hands. So that was that.

I gave up knitting just after my diagnosis and I gifted my guitar a couple of weeks ago. My sewing machine was donated to a friend years back and crochet confuses me. However, I can make mini ghosts from toilet paper, a bit of thread and a black Sharpie but that’s seasonal.

Upcycling pallets was my next great idea. I see a lot of pallets in my line of work. What if I were to take one apart and put it back together to make seedling racks, coffee tables or outdoor sofas? After having a look on Pinterest, I realised it had already been done to death. The other thing I see a lot of at work are sewer pipes but I can’t see anyone wanting to buy a table made from the stuff, even with the ewwwww/exclusivity factor.

So I’m back to what I know a teeny-tiny bit about – writing. I shall write. I will suffer for my art, drink black coffee and pace the length of my house, anguished and deep in thought. I will produce the Next Great British/Brexit/Scottish novel.

I do have an idea in mind. It’s gathering pace and I think it could just work. So I’m going to put up all my failed-hobby bits and pieces on Gumtree and invest in some hand-ground extra-strong coffee. I’ll tell The Teenager I’ve taken up ballroom dancing, but between you and me, I’ll be writing. Watch this space …

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Leaping Into The Unknown

leapParalympic champion Kadeena Cox, who has MS,  won gold in cycling and athletics last year.

She has now had her UK Sport funding suspended while she takes part in ‘The Jump’, a Channel 4 winter sports programme.

They claim it is ‘due to the nature of the activities in the show’, i.e. ski jumping. Cox later tweeted, ‘B4 judging my decisions ppl should imagine living life as a ticking time bomb. MS has changed my outlook on life, so I’m gonna enjoy skiing.’

Well said, on so many levels, and how short-sighted and discriminatory for UK Sport to judge her decision rather than supporting her as a fantastic role model?

In my own way, although much more small-scale, I know exactly what Kadeena means. All of us with MS have a ticking time bomb and a lot of us want to cram in as much as we can, while we can.

Back in 2011 when MS first made itself known to me in all its hideous colours, it was the shocking obliteration of my mind that spurred me in to action. My very first proper symptom was being unable to speak properly – I was weird enough to have a lesion sitting right on the speech part of my brain, so I started speaking nonsensical English with a German grammar form, fumbling for words and generally having the lights go off, one by one.

For an aspiring writer, it was devastating. I had almost finished my second degree, in the hope of spring-boarding to a great career. Suddenly, I couldn’t string sentences together and essays proved impossible. Luckily I was given amazing support and time extensions and finally gained a 2:1. It was hell, but I did it. MS was not going to beat me.

So what’s the most ridiculous thing I could do next, given the circumstances? Start a blog. Of course. Start writing. Go after that life-long dream, which in my case was way less sports-oriented and more becoming a writer. Why not? That ticking time-bomb.

Even more ridiculously, I signed up for a Master’s in Creative Writing. Lol. It was awful, I nearly withdrew, I got support, and I’m now in the middle of typing up my dissertation.

Kadeena uses the word ‘judging’ and she could not be more right. People do judge you. If you have a disability, you should do exactly what society deems appropriate and if not, you break some unwritten protocol. I’ve been told, ‘what were you banging on about, you got a 2:1?’. Yes, but only after working ten times as hard as I would have pre-MS. I’m stubborn like that.

I’ve been told, ‘You? Take a Master’s?’ Yes. I like to challenge myself, not on the ski slopes, but on paper. It’s been a voyage of self-discovery (i.e. most of my writing is awful, but some of it is good). I’ve been pushed beyond mental endurance and it has been good for me. Horrible at the time, but in retrospect, fantastic.

So could you just stop judging us? Why not get a life instead?

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New Year, Same Old?

awesomeYep, it’s that time of the year again when I take a notepad and scribble down some resolutions.

Looking back at the ones I’ve made over the years, I might as well just chuck my list in the bin; I still haven’t mastered the art of cooking rice and I haven’t learned how to play the guitar. I’m still single, still fat and still trying to work out what I want to do when I grow up.

Despite all this, I’m going to make some resolutions anyway just for the sheer novelty factor:

  • Experiment with wearing black clothes (slimming) and quirky jewellery (interesting).
  • Borrow my friend’s dog – exercise (gah) but a chance of bumping into a nice single man (note to self, must not be carrying a bag of dog poo).
  • Host dinner parties – with only three kitchen chairs. Perhaps supper parties? Or just skip the food and make some killer cocktails instead? Good chance to showcase black tops and big bead-y jewellery?
  • Come up with a book club choice my book club actually enjoys.
  • Be brave enough to take my laptop to the local arts cafe to work on My Novel, even though it’s not a Mac. Could be awkward. Maybe wear a big hat and dark glasses.
  • Give up any hope of becoming a poet.
  • Buy one of those big eye-shadow palettes and learn how to use it.

Hmm.

Maybe I should concentrate on what I’m grateful for, rather than my shortcomings. I may always be fat. And single. And I may never come up with a book-club-pleasing title. I might never get in to black clothes (I have a cat, she has fur).

So what do I have? A huge amount:

  • A brilliant, funny, intrepid Teenager.
  • A weird, funny cat.
  • A healthy appetite for life and all it has to offer.
  • A fantastic support network – thank you a million times.

As we put the horrendous year that has been 2016 behind us, I’m looking forward, not back.

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A Yuletide Pity Party

grinchI worked yesterday, although I’m sure The Boss wished I hadn’t.

I grinched and grumbled the whole day, threw an almighty strop over a designer radiator and sulked in the van while The Boss gamely measured up our new, muddy building site.

When I got home (after flouncing out the van and nearly breaking an ankle in the process), I collapsed on the sofa, before promptly falling asleep.

Nerve pain, usually kept under semi-strict control with medication, had sneaked past it and was having festive fun dancing with clogs on all over my body. Hard to describe and difficult to ignore, my body was inflamed with the darned pain. After I woke up, I lay still, wishing beyond hope that it would go away.

My stomach grumbled but I couldn’t get up. I passed a few hours like this, intermittently bursting into tears whenever a Christmas charity advert came on TV. The Teenager popped down a couple of times to ferret through the fridge and sneak a few mouthfuls of squirty cream (he denies it, but I know the sound).

Eventually I ate two mince pies without squirty cream, cried a little more and gave the cat some Dreamies before I went to bed. I slept a straight ten hours, virtually unheard of as late as I’ve also been plagued by the scariest, most bizarre nightmares. Anyway, I got up, fell on to the sofa and lay there pitying myself a bit more and watched the news about Storm Barbara (Really? Do you know how many jokes I’ve had?).

So I sulked about the storm’s name and the nerve pain cranking up again. I sulked about there being nothing on TV. I sulked when I found out The Teenager had demolished the rest of the mince pies. And then, A Christmas Miracle.

The Boss texted me. He was going to Ikea and would I like to join him? Well, I could just as easily sulk in Ikea as at home – and have more reason to – so I went. Best. Cure. Ever.

It was blissfully quiet, I got to stock up on candles and had a leisurely coffee while watching harassed parents attempt to control their over-excited toddlers. Been there, done that. Nerve pain? Still thrumming away, still painful, but with the company of a good friend and a change of scenery, just about manageable.

This lull allowed me to reflect on how lucky I am to have you guys to offload to, to grumble to and to feel part of a larger group of good mates. I love your comments and your emails and who knows what my fifth year of blogging will bring?

p.s. If I hear, ‘Barbara’s going to be very windy’ one more time, I’ll cry again …

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