I was emailing this morning with the splendid Aliki Chapple* about M.A.I.R.O.U.L.A, the one-woman show she translated (from Greek) and performs in, which I worked on with her last year, and which she’ll be showing again in March.
And about how working solo always brings up fears that are often less obvious (better hidden?) when working in a company. How deciding to do a solo show, or taking one out of the cupboard and trying it on again, is full of expectation and fear and possibility and hope. Hope that we will make it through the scary bit, hope that the being alone, the tightrope-walking-in-public (which all shows are to some extent but solo shows especially) will be worth it, and trusting that – no matter how fearful we are, facing a rehearsal process, facing an audience, facing the blank canvas of me and you in a room together – we WILL come through the other side.

And then … what a good analogy all of that is for illness, and especially the surgery journey I’m facing now. I’ve heard quite a few horror stories about how long it’s going to take me to heal, and how much pain I will be in, and I know I am not a patient patient. I know I hate being dependent (even on my much-beloved), I know I am a hugely independent DO-er of a person. I like being like that. I like myself when I’m strong and vibrant and able.
What I know I learned from my last cancer journey, is that it IS a journey (not, for me, a battle or a fight, I don’t use or like the military metaphors), but a journey.
And I will be different on the other side.
That’s quite hard, because for the first time in my life (at 50!) I’ve been pretty happy – with who I am, with how I look, with what I’m doing – with me, for the past couple of years. Increasingly so, more than ever before. And now this. Which will change my body (again), change what I’m doing, change what I need, change me.

So I’ve been thinking about this tunnel, this journey, this winter – from which there will come a time of light, an end to the journey, and spring.
There will, because there always does.

Emailing with Aliki helped me to think this :
I know I’m heading into a hard time. I’m scared (of pain, of what else might be there in my body, of what’s to come). And yet I also know that the hard things I have been through – as well as the good things! – have often been places of learning in my life. And it feels like I’m slowly growing a plan to try to find out what is in the tunnel of pain/healing. I’m interested that, even from a place of trepidation, I can be interested in it! Keeping interested might be a way, when the fear comes, to let it in and find the gifts it has.
(nb, this is not stuff I had formalised before writing it to Aliki, as I sat on the tube, sometimes I only understand what I understand AS I write or speak it.)

And tunnels and winter and journeys are very Persephone/Proserpine*. And she is one of the most interesting of characters, she and her mother. And pomegranates are amazing, life-giving, full of their Talmudic mitzvot seeds.
Maybe there are 613 things to be learned in this tunnel journey.
If I look for them.
613 gifts.

Here’s one for you.

Sarah-Jane brought pomegranates.
Sarah-Jane brought pomegranates.

Also, to mix metaphors and myths and Greeks and Romans, if Persephone is off on the journey, then maybe it’s important to remember to take care of Penelope, waiting at home. This journey is always very hard on partners and family too.

* and here’s Aliki’s blog about her side of the show-making process that prompted this blog. it’s brilliant.