Wednesday 28 June 2023

Sticking to it

How do you make yourself do things your higher self wants to do when your lower self doesn't want to do them?

I contemplated this question on the treadmill today around the 4 minute mark, as my lower self didn't want to continue whereas my higher self wanted to run 3 kilometres in fewer than 18 minutes. My immediate answer was "Practice," and that is indeed what we are doing when we are fasting or forcing ourselves to scrub the tub or to apologize for a misdeed. We are practising rising above the lower self to live up to the goals and values of the higher self. 

But as a matter of fact, my lower self wanted to go the the gym today only because she knew that if she did my higher self would reward her with a sticker. And suddenly I realize that my lower self is known to my oldest readers because--goodness gracious--she's the "bodice riper" writing Inner Child. At last my attachment to stickers makes sense. 

A sudden thirst for stickers came over me after months of buying sheets of stickers to send to my youngest relations. I had begun writing letters to them and thought that if they didn't enjoy the letters at least they might enjoy whatever else I tucked in the envelope. As there is not a wide variety of flat gifts, this is usually stickers. 

These are not the boring coloured dots I used last year to mark my visits to the gym and study sessions, mind you. No. They are either cool or super-cute. And then I found out about hobonichi art--that is, the art of drawing, painting and affixing stickers to one's own daily planner. Why, I wondered, was I marking off my study sessions with red and green dots when I could celebrate them with actual Polish and Italian flags? And why ink in a boring barbell when for very little money I could buy a multicoloured sheet of them? 

I couldn't think of a good enough reason, so I ordered some Italian flags and asked Polish Pretend Son to get me some Polish ones.

Now, as we all know, the first half of 2023 is coming to an end, and it may be time to review how our New Year's Resolutions are going. Mine involved eliminating anxiety, eating 5 portion of fruit and veg a day, 240 gym workouts, reading and writing both Polish and Italian 6 days a week, and writing letters to my younger relations.  

As it happens, I do not have stickers for eliminating anxiety and eating fruit and vegetables. However, I have been using boring old yellow dots in my planner to indicate sun therapy, which we're supposed to get first thing in the morning to help us get better sleep at night. Fruit and veg... Well, maybe I should invest in some fruit and veg stickers because I have been much more successful with the gym workouts: 98 so far, which will mean an even 100 on Friday morning. 

Interestingly, though, stickers alone did not keep me at my books. Despite my cheery flags, I studied Italian only 10 times in January and 6 times in February. In January I had only 5 sessions with Polish and and in February only 9. However, I seem to have had a language revolution on Shrove Tuesday, for after that the gaps between stickers are few. 

I studied Italian 21 times in March, 25 times in April, 27 in May and 17 so far in June--the sudden drop explained by a long weekend in Poland. As for Polish, the numbers are even better: 21 times in March, 26 times in April, 26 times in May and so far 24 in June. Thus, Poland is beating Italy 111:106. 

There are two reasons for this sudden spurt of study. First, I hit upon two challenging, but not too challenging, courses of home study: this gave me something similar to return to every day.  Second, I think the Catholic mind is more primed to accept Lent as a time of hard work, sacrifice and overcoming lazy impulses. 

Meanwhile, B.A. occasionally asks why he doesn't get stickers for the various chores he does around the house, and at last I have ordered him a set: they include cheerful skeletons and the motto "I was brave for the radiographer." 

I was going to add a photo, but I have to rush off for vigil Mass, tomorrow being a HD of O in Scotland. Thus, I'll do it later.  

Thursday 22 June 2023

The Next Battle

I apologize, dear readers, for neglecting you. My mornings are taken up with the accounts, language learning, and going to the gym. My afternoons and evenings belong to my employer. At night I sleep--or try to. 

Occasionally I wonder if I should have displayed so much of my life, unfictionalized, for readers, but I seem to have come out unscathed. Indeed, if anything, writing so much ended my chatterbox ways. Of course, I am still capable of conversation, but the only time my voice is guaranteed to take a frenetic note now is when I talk about Benedict Ambrose's brain cancer battle 6 years ago. I always feel wrung out and exhausted afterwards--a symptom, if I remember correctly, of post-traumatic stress. 

Therefore, I am not particularly interested in talking at length about B.A.'s latest diagnosis. 

When I mentioned to him a year and a half ago that I had a sore back, he said that he had one, too. Being a woman, I went to a doctor and then to a physiotherapist and did exercises to strengthen my core. Being a man, B.A. did nothing. Eventually, however, I ordered him to go to a doctor, which led to his oncologist suggesting he have--just in case, just to put his mind at rest--a scan of his spine. 

And B.A., who already has the remnant of a very rare tumour in his brain, turns out to have even rarer tumours in his spine. They settled there after behaving in a very singular fashion--breaking off from the parent tumour on his brain stem and migrating southwards.  

We discovered the existence of these tumours an hour before we had planned to leave our home for the airport and Italy. B.A. explained this to the doctor who telephoned with the news, and the doctor said we might as well go on holiday anyway, as a week's delay wouldn't make a difference. This was in late May.

Naturally I burst into tears and indeed cried myself to sleep that night in a strange bed within 200 metres of the Mediterranean Sea. B.A. was his stoical, cheerful, and optimistic self. In the morning, in the Italian sun, I cheered up. We lived the next six days to the fullest. When we returned to Edinburgh, we discovered that B.A.'s oncologist was also optimistic and that she had a good plan for controlling (if not curing) the tumours. 

The tumours are so rare, she said, that she didn't know if she could cure them or not. However, she assured us, the reason for their spread was not metastasis but mechanical. As spinal cancer can kill a man in four months, this seemed to explain why, after over a year of an aching tailbone and a host of other ailments he had simply thought the post-cancer "new normal", B.A. is still alive. 

So now he is on steroids, which make him bouncy, energetic, loud and slightly distracted. And I am not on anything, so I am lethargic, quiet and sleep late. In a week or so, B.A. will begin a new course of radiotherapy. And I will continue swimming the breast stroke in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch of contemporary news, as that is my duty and my job. 

We have cancelled a pleasure trip to Poland, but the doctor sees no reason why I can't go on a work trip to Canada in mid-July. Therefore, I will at least be spending some time with my family before radiation leaves B.A. feeling tired and ill. 

It is sad--even crushing--to think that B.A. felt tired and sometimes dizzy and ill for so long because he thought it was simply the "new normal" and nobody told him differently. Naturally, for the rest of his life, every time he mentions a slight ache, I will assume it is life-threatening and beg him to call his oncologist. 

I think the only thing left to say is that I have often thought about long-term "Seraphic Singles" readers overjoyed when they found "the One" and embarked upon a new life that turned out not to be a bower of bliss but a rocky journey featuring miscarriages and serious illnesses visited upon either their children or their husbands. 

This may or may not be a lesson to those who despise their Singleness and long for marriage. Of course, a life for which you take a permanent vow may feel more meaningful--whatever the innocent suffering--than one for which you have not. Whether it actually is more meaningful depends on the reader. A unvowed Single life dedicated to service is certainly more meaningful than a Single life dedicated to experiencing the maximum of pleasure and the minimum of pain. 

Married life is not a refuge from pain. However, there is a lot of joy--even at the most unexpected times--and hope.