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.
Here’s one for you.
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.
Hi Stella. I’ve just been through a lot of pain. Improving now. This helped me.
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow. — Mary Anne Radmacher
oh I love that. I need that courage. little voice courage. thank you.
Interest is really useful too. Harriet used being interested to get her through her whole journey; her destination was very different from yours, obv, but she was so interested in everything that was happening and how it affected her that it kept her level and helped her deal with the fear, and the pain, and the whole process. That and the courage that lets you be afraid and still go on; just to breathe. One step and then the next. Fwiw I’m with you all the way. xxx
I think interest is the only way (for me) to do this. It’s happening anyway – I might as well be interested! It’s not as if I can run away …
thanks Ali. and love there being a Harriet link. xx
I felt like you – happy with my body and where I was as a turned 40 (mostly) and then the kidney transplant call came, 2 weeks before half of my life on dialysis. It will be 6 months next week. I am such an impatient patient and spent so much energy and time stretching myself at first, desperate to find whatever is that new sense of normality and stubbornly denying that my auto-immune nephritis wasn’t in me and so it wasn’t me who was going to put this gift at risk. And it’s there and I’ve slowed a little and am finally being able to settle a little and work again. The love that’s come at me these last months has been unexpected and pretty amazing, though I continue to resist thinking ‘when I am well I will want a more aspirational way of being’ whatever that’s about.
Anyway, beauty is deep and your feisty eloquent open words resonate and comfort. I’ve struggled with red pomegranate juice – they’re not easy fruit to spoon into and are recommended for me to eat right now. So your blog is a reminder about what is nourishing in many ways. Thanks Stella
thank you Polly. we have a friend with a new kidney (and I had a nephew who shared kidneys, liver, heart on his death), and I know for our friend what a big adjustment all of the dialysis/transplant time was. let alone half of one’s life on dialysis! such a lot of life. I wish you well and good journeying.
Hello. I found you from my visit to first night… Frankly I am not sure that is quite right but this and your blog grabbed me “for some reason”! While I haven’t traveled this particular path, I’ve traveled many life-changing journeys thru my body’s proclivities. In Buddhist thought, suffering is a basic human teaching as there is no escaping it as we dwell in these skin-bags. While it won’t do much for the pain-meds do help that-it helps to ease the playground of mind.
I wish you well on this Lunar New Years Day, the Year of the Horse! Woot! 😉
yes, the Buddhism I practice teaches “suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy”, yoking the two together as if to be very clear that they will both exist. I am, however, interested in the possibility that ‘suffering’ might not be ‘suffered’ if we approach it from a different perspective … (and I guess I’m in the process of finding out!)
“Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy, regard both suffering and joy as facts of life and continue chanting nam myoho renge kyo no matter what happens”. After a number of years of suffering from depression i am finally beginning to understand and experience the joy of overcoming that suffering. Strangely grateful for the journey i have been on..