Looking backwards

Today, I was going back through old emails to check for any stray receipts as part of the process of preparing my US taxes.

My inbox currently has 5,568 unread emails in it. When I worked in office jobs I was able to maintain inbox zero. But in my personal life, my inbox doubles as a sort of to do list, and so much more, and things just tend to pile up.

Reading these, I moved backwards in time. It felt a bit like excavating a former self. It really hit me just how hard the past couple of years have been.

Normally, it all feels a bit surreal, or as if it were someone else’s life. Things are so different now. But when I see the emails, it almost feels like I am right back there, in the thick of it.

There are emails of flat hunting mixed in with receipts for baby clothes. Notes to self about chemotherapy side effects jumbled in with reminders to buy birthday presents. The amount of life – and challenge – that we faced was unbelievably overwhelming.

My email inbox is essentially a snapshot of my mind at the time, and dipping into the past brings it all back.

Those aren’t necessarily easy feelings to process.

Today, I started a course on Mindful Self-Compassion with Breast Cancer Haven. This is something I hope to share a bit more about later, as I get to grips with it. However, the general premise is that mindfulness, connection to shared humanity, and self-kindness help us operate more compassionately in our lives – both with ourselves and with others.

In the workshop, we did an exercise today where we laid our hands on our own heart, feeling the warmth and comfort. Looking at the emails, I needed to do it again. An inbox feels like a private place – I’ve never been consistent with a journal, so this is the catchall for where I write notes to myself. Looking at what was on my mind, all the pain and struggle it represents. Thankfully, getting in touch with my own heartbeat felt calming and grounding.

I’ve started trying to whittle the emails down bit by bit. It’s the right thing to do to let them go.

But I find it hard.

There is so much grief I still need to process about what has happened over the past couple of years, and seeing the fabric of my daily life takes me right back to those challenging times.

It is painful to look at those moments, but there’s also a perverse kind of pleasure in it. There is something magical about being able to step into the mind of my former self. It may not have been so long ago, but I was in a completely different place a year ago. I couldn’t even walk confidently without my cane. We were still fresh off a chaotic move. I was prepping for a trip to NYC, making little lists of packing reminders. It all comes flooding back.

Part of me worries that by deleting those old emails, I’m also discarding the truth of how my reality felt at that time. Yes, I have memories, but it’s not the same as encountering emails as written artifacts. (This reminds me a bit of my play Broken Pieces, where I was playing with this theme many years ago.)

There’s a part of me that always yearns to hold onto the reality of how an experience felt at the time – what were the emotions? The elation, or the pain? It feels like how it felt in the moment is somehow more real than the memory.

And while that may be true, I don’t think healthy to try to stay in that place where the past feels like the present. Our memories are designed to be burnished by time, to age and grow as experiences take on new meaning as our perspective grows and changes.

If we are so focused on holding onto those experiences from the past as if they were still the present, it creates a kind of emotional clutter that keeps us from living our lives right now.

Tonight, I cleaned out about a hundred emails.

But I still feel torn.

What I want to remember most about my past is generally not the big events, but the small moments and the quality of how the fabric of my life felt at a given time. Seeing things like Amazon receipts and reminder emails makes the past feel present again.

It’s a kind of time machine transportation that no polished journal entry can ever emulate.

Even though I know I need to let go, it’s so hard to actually press delete.

Photo by Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk on Unsplash

Visibly pregnant

I belong to a Facebook group of ‘Mothers Who Make’, and someone shared this inspiring post from Paloma Faith:

𝖨𝗍 π—‚π—Œ 𝗐𝗂𝗍𝗁 𝖾𝗑𝗍𝗋𝖾𝗆𝖾 π—‰π—…π–Ύπ–Ίπ—Œπ—Žπ—‹π–Ύ 𝖨 π–Ίπ—‡π—‡π—ˆπ—Žπ—‡π–Όπ–Ύ 𝖨 𝖺𝗆 𝗉𝗋𝖾𝗀𝗇𝖺𝗇𝗍. 𝖨 𝖺𝗆 π—€π—ˆπ—‚π—‡π—€ π—π—ˆ 𝖻𝖾 π—‹π–Ύπ—…π–Ύπ–Ίπ—Œπ—‚π—‡π—€ 𝗇𝖾𝗐 π—†π—Žπ—Œπ—‚π–Ό 𝖺𝗍 π—π—π—‚π—Œ 𝗍𝗂𝗆𝖾 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝗐𝖺𝗇𝗍𝖾𝖽 π—π—ˆ 𝖿𝖾𝖾𝗅 𝖿𝗋𝖾𝖾 𝗂𝗇 𝗆𝗒 π–»π—ˆπ–½π—’ π–Ίπ—Œ 𝗂𝗍 π–Όπ—π–Ίπ—‡π—€π–Ύπ—Œ π–»π–Ύπ–Ώπ—ˆπ—‹π–Ύ 𝖺𝗅𝗅 π—ˆπ—Žπ—‹ π–Ύπ—’π–Ύπ—Œ! 𝖨 π—…π—ˆπ—π–Ύ 𝗆𝗒 π—ƒπ—ˆπ–» 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝖼𝖺𝗇’𝗍 𝗐𝖺𝗂𝗍 π–Ώπ—ˆπ—‹ π—’π—ˆπ—Ž 𝖺𝗅𝗅 π—π—ˆ 𝗁𝖾𝖺𝗋 𝗆𝗒 πŸ§π—π— π–Ίπ—…π–»π—Žπ—† 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝖨 𝗐𝗂𝗅𝗅 𝖻𝖾 π—ˆπ—Žπ— 𝖺𝗇𝖽 π–Ίπ–»π—ˆπ—Žπ— 𝗉𝗅𝖺𝗒𝗂𝗇𝗀 π–Ίπ—Œ π—†π—Žπ–Όπ— π–Ίπ—Œ π—π—π—‚π—Œ 𝖼𝗋𝖺𝗓𝗒 𝗍𝗂𝗆𝖾 𝗐𝗂𝗅𝗅 π–Ίπ—…π—…π—ˆπ— (π–Ίπ—…π—Œπ—ˆ 𝖺 π—π—ˆπ—Žπ—‹ 𝗇𝖾𝗑𝗍 𝗒𝖾𝖺𝗋). 𝖨 𝖺𝗆 π—‡π—ˆπ— 𝖺 π—Œπ—„π—‚π—‡π—‡π—’ 𝗉𝗋𝖾𝗀𝗇𝖺𝗇𝗍 π—‰π–Ύπ—‹π—Œπ—ˆπ—‡ 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝖨 𝖺𝗆 π–Ίπ—…π—Œπ—ˆ 𝗁𝗂𝗀𝗁 π—‹π—‚π—Œπ—„ 𝗂𝗇 𝗉𝗋𝖾𝗀𝗇𝖺𝗇𝖼𝗒 π—Œπ—ˆ π—π—ˆπ—Žπ—…π–½ 𝗅𝗂𝗄𝖾 π—π—ˆ π–Ίπ—Œπ—„ 𝗍𝗁𝖾 𝗆𝖾𝖽𝗂𝖺 π—‡π—ˆπ— π—π—ˆ π—‹π—Žπ—‡ 𝖺𝖿𝗍𝖾𝗋 𝗆𝖾 π—π—ˆ 𝗀𝖾𝗍 π—Žπ—‡π–Ώπ—…π–Ίπ—π—π–Ύπ—‹π—‚π—‡π—€ π—Œπ—π—ˆπ—π—Œ π–Ίπ—Œ 𝖺𝗇𝗑𝗂𝖾𝗍𝗒 π—‚π—Œ 𝖽𝖾𝗍𝗋𝗂𝗆𝖾𝗇𝗍𝖺𝗅 π—π—ˆ 𝗆𝖾 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝗆𝗒 𝖻𝖺𝖻𝗒. π–³π—π—‚π—Œ 𝖼𝗁𝗂𝗅𝖽 π—‚π—Œ π—Œπ—ˆ 𝗐𝖺𝗇𝗍𝖾𝖽, π—‚π—β€™π—Œ 𝗆𝗒 πŸ¨π—π— π—‹π—ˆπ—Žπ—‡π–½ π—ˆπ–Ώ 𝖨𝖡π–₯ 𝖺𝗇𝖽 π—π–Ίπ—Œ 𝖺 π—Œπ—π—‹π—Žπ—€π—€π—…π–Ύ π—π—ˆ 𝗀𝖾𝗍 𝗁𝖾𝗋𝖾. 𝖨 𝗁𝖺𝖽 𝖺 𝗏𝖾𝗋𝗒 π—π—‹π–Ίπ—Žπ—†π–Ίπ—π—‚π–Ό π–Ώπ—‚π—‹π—Œπ— 𝖻𝗂𝗋𝗍𝗁 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝖨 𝖺𝗆 π–Ίπ—…π—Œπ—ˆ π—‰π—‹π—ˆπ—‡π–Ύ π—π—ˆ π—‰π—ˆπ—Œπ—π—‰π–Ίπ—‹π—π—Žπ—† π–½π–Ύπ—‰π—‹π–Ύπ—Œπ—Œπ—‚π—ˆπ—‡. 𝖑𝖾𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖺 π—†π—ˆπ—π—π–Ύπ—‹ π—‚π—Œ 𝗍𝗁𝖾 π—€π—‹π–Ύπ–Ίπ—π–Ύπ—Œπ— 𝗍𝗁𝗂𝗇𝗀 π—π—π–Ίπ—β€™π—Œ 𝖾𝗏𝖾𝗋 𝗁𝖺𝗉𝗉𝖾𝗇𝖾𝖽 π—π—ˆ 𝗆𝖾 π–»π—Žπ— 𝖨 𝗐𝗂𝗅𝗅 π—Œπ—π–Ύπ—…π—… π—Žπ—‰ 𝖺𝗇𝖽 𝖨 π—π—ˆπ—‡β€™π— β€œπ—€π—…π—ˆπ—β€! 𝖨 𝗂𝗇𝗍𝖾𝗇𝖽 π—π—ˆ 𝖻𝖾 𝗏𝖾𝗋𝗒 𝗋𝖾𝖺𝗅 π–Ίπ–»π—ˆπ—Žπ— π—π—π—‚π—Œ 𝗐𝗂𝗍𝗁 π—’π—ˆπ—Ž 𝖺𝗅𝗅! π–³π—ˆ 𝖺𝗅𝗅 𝗍𝗁𝖾 π—ˆπ—π—π–Ύπ—‹ 𝗉𝗋𝖾𝗀𝗇𝖺𝗇𝗍 π—π—ˆπ—†π–Ύπ—‡ π—ˆπ—Žπ— 𝗍𝗁𝖾𝗋𝖾 π—π—π—ˆ 𝖺𝗋𝖾 π–Ίπ—Œ 𝗂𝗇 π—…π—ˆπ—π–Ύ 𝗐𝗂𝗍𝗁 𝗍𝗁𝖾𝗂𝗋 π–»π–Ίπ–»π—‚π–Ύπ—Œ π–Ίπ—Œ 𝗆𝖾 π–»π—Žπ— π—Œπ—‚π—†π—Žπ—…π—π–Ίπ—‡π–Ύπ—ˆπ—Žπ—Œπ—…π—’ π—Œπ—π—‚π—π—π—‚π—‡π—€ π—π—π–Ύπ—†π—Œπ–Ύπ—…π—π–Ύπ—Œ, π—…π–Ύπ—β€™π—Œ π–½π—ˆ π—π—π—‚π—Œ.

Paloma Faith, Facebook 2020.09.24

I really admire her openness in sharing her pregnancy – and also in sharing that she doesn’t expect to feel or look glamorous in the process.

I also did not feel the pregnancy ‘glow’ – I was too busy feeling, and being, sick. But even so, throughout the experience, I felt such pressure to somehow keep up the act of seeming like my normal self.

I have marvelled at the women who seem to do this so effortlessly. Getting to watch my sister and close friends go through pregnancy, I’ve realised that some women can do this because they just have an easier time. They look like advertisements for maternity.

Some people keep up a good act. But some people genuinely feel pretty great and normal.

It feels like there is an unspoken expectation we should all be this way. I felt like I was somehow letting down feminism by having such a hard time functioning when I was pregnant (oh, the irony!). I took on way too much. And I suffered for it.

Yes, willpower can accomplish amazing things. I pushed this as far as it could go. And I know I had easier pregnant circumstances than many people. (Something I beat myself up with repeatedly while I was expecting, thinking I shouldn’t be having such a hard time, or should be doing more to keep up with other people.)

But bodies don’t follow rules. And willpower has its limits, especially where medical issues are concerned. While for some people things are very smooth, for others it is an intense and demanding medical experience. It takes energy just to get through the day with the demands on our bodies – and our minds.

The most embarrassing part to me was that it didn’t just affect me physically – I felt a mental fog from the hormones that really impacted my ability to focus and function. It made me feel so stupid and embarrassed.

We are often tempted to hide this women aren’t labelled as crazy or nonfunctional. But things like forms were absolutely beyond me, which was a huge challenge to my identity as someone good with detail-oriented work.

I realise now that I hadn’t suddenly become stupid, my brain was just focusing me in a different direction. But I felt so ashamed that I couldn’t handle as much physically or mentally when I was pregnant. It was quite depressing to feel less functional in the ways our society values because of changes in my body that felt beyond my control.

I wish I had the confidence at the time to adapt my art to suit my changing life and body, instead of trying (poorly) to keep up appearances.

Hats off to Paloma Faith for letting herself be visible and vulnerable in this process. And to have a non-glamorous journey to motherhood, without feeling that needs to be hidden away. This is great example to women/mother artists out there who want to be their whole selves, without the pressure of performing a perfect pregnancy.

The best advice I ever got on parenting

Back when my sister was expecting her baby, one of the things they did was get everyone to share their best piece of parenting advice.

I still find myself thinking about this on a regular basis.

The best advice I got came from a taxi driver. He had a young child who he loved deeply, and was so proud of.

He said, ‘You can never take too many photos and videos. Ever.’

He was right.

They grow so fast, and when the moment is gone, it’s gone. Even if it feels like overkill, err on the side of more. It’s even more precious to capture the ordinary things, or the low moments, as it is the special occasions.

It’s those little things like the mispronounced word or funny habit that was so precious is suddenly gone.

I try to take lots of photos, but when I look back in my phone, I see that some days, I only manage a snapshot or two. It’s hard to know when to interrupt the moment to photograph, and when to just live it. But looking back at the images and videos from when she was a baby, they are unbelievably precious.

I think it’s important to document some of the hard times as well as the good ones. Sometimes you’ll look back and wonder, was it really that hard?

Last week, I took a video of my daughter having a borderline tantrum. I was present and engaging with her at the time, but I realised I only had photos and videos of smiling and laughing. And that is definitely not reflective of our full reality. I wanted to be able to remember what it sounded like and felt like, when she was furious her daddy wasn’t home because she wanted a cuddle.

It’s always possible to delete things later if they feel inappropriate, but we can’t go back in time.

The good news is, there is always a fun new stage around the corner.

Still, I try to remind myself to document as much as I can.

I never saw that taxi driver again, but his advice has stuck with me for life.

As I wrote to my sister, it’s a way of making a very ephemeral process (i.e. being in the moment with a small child) feel real, and it will be a gift for you and your child as you create the story of your family.

(PS Digital backup system is a must!!!)

Photo byΒ Lavi PerchikΒ onΒ Unsplash

How do we heal?

How do we heal?

When we are torn,
We know that invisible forces
Work to put us back together again.

We look at the changes
And think it is just the magic of time,
When really, a million microscopic moments
And tiny actions have come together
To create a web that holds our bodies together,
To repair what has been broken,
To restore and renew:
Our cells and ourselves.

It seems to happen so slowly.
The changes are so small
We cannot see them unfolding.
It is easy to make the mistake
Of thinking nothing is happening.
But our bodies reach towards life
Whether we ask them to, or not.

This is important, detailed, complicated work.
And important, detailed, complicated work takes patience.
Every scar is a labour of love.

Do you have the patience
To let your body do its work?
Do you have the patience
To let your soul heal its wounds?
Or do you wrap everything
In a slapdash bandage,
Concealing and constricting,
To protect the most tender surfaces
As you rush on with your day.
Do you have the patience
To wait for the healing that is your birthright?
And the wisdom
Not to get in its way?

Photo byΒ Roman TrifonovΒ onΒ Unsplash

This is how to pick the perfect exercise for you

This post was inspired by my mom. She was talking about what it’s like being a woman in her 60’s, trying to stay healthy and active.

And she gave me the greatest tip for choosing a form of exercise.

Instead of looking at the young people who are involved in whatever you are thinking about, look at the people who have been doing it for decades. Don’t just focus on what it will do for your body now, think about what is coming on the road ahead.

All this to say – in her age group, the ‘yoga ladies’ seem happiest.

It’s worth noting that my mother doesn’t actually practice yoga, so this isn’t a quest to convert others to what she is doing, but instead an observation.

Many of the runners she knows find themselves struggling with a string of injuries. . Or people involved in competitive sports find themselves frustrated as their bodies age and they lose their edge.

Of course first and foremost, you should do what you love, what excites you, what gets you out of bed. Not everyone can love yoga.

But if you’re on the fence or feeling unmotivated, seeing the difference it can make to your life in the years ahead is a great reason to get involved. Don’t just look for who is fit – look for who is happy.

Photo byΒ Wesley TingeyΒ onΒ Unsplash

Blackberries

I was too prickly, too wild,
Too thorny, too demanding,
Too aggressive,
Too unruly,
Too chaotic,
Too big.

Maybe if I hadn’t grown quite so high,
Or foolishly trailed my branches down to the ground,
Maybe if I had stayed exactly at eye-level
In easy reach…

Maybe if I had smoothed away my sharpness,
Pared back my leaves,
Plumped my juicy fruit,
Or curled appealingly into little bunches,
Maybe if I had been all sweetness,
Or had calibrated my tartness
To individual taste…

Maybe then my blackberries
Would not have been left
To wither on the vine.
Shrinking into tight little corpses,
Like insect shells,
Clinging to the stem,
And each day losing more life.

I produced
A plentitude of perfect berries,
Tumbling forth,
Heavy on the branches,
Filling the air with their luxuriant scent.
But your hands stayed unstained.
You left me there to dry,
Letting my prime and promise
Slip away
Day by day.

Does no human want berries
Free for the taking?
No friendly squirrel?
Or hungry bird?

Why have I been left with these gifts
I grew for others,
Which alone, I cannot use?

Maybe if I had been sweeter,
Or easier,
Or milder,
And let you strip my bushes bare,
I would not be faced
With a bitter cornucopia
Of untasted berries.
But maybe something would have been lost
In that unlived future, too.

And there is something to be said
For knowing that I grew
Not to please anyone,
Or satiate another’s palate.
My fruits were grown,
In the end,
For no one else,
Except me.

I proudly hold up my blackberries –
To the gaze of all who pass by.
They shine like jewels in the sun.

Photo by A.C. Smith

Feeling lost after treatment

Right now, it seems like so many people in my online cancer groups are struggling. Some of them are in the midst of treatment, some of them are years out, but there seems to be a general trend towards people feeling low, fatigued, depressed, or lost.

I think there are bigger trends contributing to what seems like a mini collection of crises. I don’t know if this is due to the days getting shorter. I don’t know how much of this connects to the broader struggles affecting so many people during this pandemic.

For me, it’s a bit up and down. Most days, I am generally happy, even though my energy levels have been flagging a bit lately. It’s taken nearly a year since chemo to find this kind of equilibrium. I don’t feel like I am struggling in the way some of these folks are experiencing, though I recognise the feelings they describe. And I know I will probably find myself circling back to that place again at some point in the future.

When I’m able to let go of the idea that I should somehow be doing better/more, it really helps.

There is a brilliant article called After the Treatment Finishes by Dr Peter Harvey, which was also shared with me again by a counsellor who specialises in supporting people living with cancer.

He outlines that this is a three stage process: recuperation, convalescence, and rehabilitation. We expect to be able to jump ahead, but we have to be patient about moving at the speed of our bodies’ healing.

I struggled to pull out a few favourite takeaways, because the whole article is so valuable. But I particularly liked this bit:

“In our enthusiasm we often forget just how complex and difficult this life business is, and it’s only when you have to get back on the roundabout that you realise this. Sometimes I think that living is like competing in an Olympic event – but because we take it so much for granted we forget how demanding and tiring it can be, even at an ordinary, everyday level. Let’s take this analogy further and pretend that we are all Olympic sprinters – a rather farfetched concept in my case, I should add – who have had a serious injury. We would not consider getting back to running the 100 metres until we had fully recovered. We would put ourselves on a gentle retraining programme, beginning with gentle walks rather than sprints. Getting back to living life should be done in the same way. A gentle build-up to the main event.”

It is only bit by bit that seeds can take root and grow, and that as living beings we can find these changes within ourselves.

But actually, I think the best sum up came from a woman named Amy in one of my cancer groups. She gave me her permission to quote her comment in this post – I can’t really think of any better way to sum it up myself. This a response to a post from someone who is really struggling:

“I think a lot of us seem to be feeling like this recently. I also feel as if I had more mental energy and a better outlook last year, closer to finishing treatment than now.

I think when I am struggling mentally I have less physical energy too.

I also feel that family and friends expect me to be better and ‘back to normal’ now.I explained this to my consultant and she said that young women in particular, expect themselves to be back to how they used to be very quickly, I suppose just because we are expected to get back to normal life.

She reminded me the extent of the treatments I – and we – have had and that the body has taken such a knock it will take a while.

She also stressed to be kind to myself and listen to my body. Take some time out and do something relaxing and for you. Don’t feel as though you are failing at recovery, because we are at just the right stage in recovery as our bodies are ready for (if that makes sense). Everyone’s recovery is different and is done at our own pace.”

May we be gentle and kind with ourselves. And may we also remember – even though it doesn’t always feel this way – that there are more people out there than we can even imagine who care and understand these issues, and are there to help us pick ourselves up when we stumble on the road to recovery.

Photo byΒ Aron VisualsΒ onΒ Unsplash

Odds and ends 5

America’s Most Widely Misread Literary Work by The Atlantic

‘Robert Frost’s poem β€œThe Road Not Taken” is often interpreted as an anthem of individualism and nonconformity, seemingly encouraging readers to take the road less traveled… But as Frost liked to warn his listeners, β€œYou have to be careful of that one; it’s a tricky poemβ€”very tricky.” In actuality, the two roads diverging in a yellow wood are β€œreally about the same,” according to Frost, and are equally traveled and quite interchangeable.’

Photo by John Barkiple on Unsplash

What Happened to American Childhood by Kate Julian in The Atlantic

‘As I contemplate the likelihood that my kids’ lives will be more stressful than mine, my mind keeps wandering to two children’s drawings reproduced in the pediatrician W. Thomas Boyce’s book The Orchid and the Dandelion: Why Some Children Struggle and How All Can Thrive. Both depict California’s 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed dozens of peopleβ€”and also, as chance would have it, occurred midway through a study Boyce was conducting of whether stress increased local children’s susceptibility to illness. Naturally, he and his team expanded the study to incorporate their reactions to the disaster, and they asked each child to β€œdraw the earthquake.” The kids’ responses varied dramatically. Some produced cheerful picturesβ€”β€œhomes with minor damage, happy families, and smiling yellow suns”—while others generated scenes of destruction and injury, fear and sadness. To Boyce’s fascination, children who drew darker scenes tended to stay healthy in the weeks that followed, while those who drew sunny pictures were more likely to come down with infections and illnesses.

Boyce now believes it was protective for children to create β€œhonest, even brutal depictions of a no-doubt-about-it disaster.” We talk about things that scare us, he ventures, β€œbecause it makes them gradually less scary; about sadness, because it makes the sadness diminish a little each time we do.” ‘

Researchers Doubt That Certain Mental Disorders Are Disorders At All by Alison Escalante (from Forbes)

‘Mental health recovery in part, depends on whether patients believe they can get better. Telling our patients that their symptoms may be tied to a healthy response to adversity could be very encouraging.’

Welcome to the New Midlife Crisis by Corinne Purtill (from Medium)

‘In a completely hunch-based and unscientific analysis, I think there is a high correlation between people who find the protagonists of midlife chronicles like Fleishman to be insufferable, self-indulgent narcissists, and people who don’t feel they have permission to allow much room for their own emotions. Listening to middle-aged people bitch about the stress of fundamentally comfortable lives can be an exercise in patience under any circumstance. If no one has extended that courtesy to you, it can be intolerable.

But to brush off introspection at this stage can be as shallow and short-sighted as upending one’s life to indulge it entirely. β€œWhen we trivialize the rough patch as a β€˜middle-aged clichΓ©,’ we are actually trying to find a way to disarm the intensity of the forces we are grappling with,” Daphne de Marneffe writes in The Rough Patch: Midlife and the Art of Living Together.’…

In Midlife: A Philosophical Guide, the MIT philosophy professor Kieran Setiya offers some deceptively simple advice for navigating the doubts and questions of this phase: Invest energy in causes greater than oneself and find joy in the process of doing things, rather than striving for glorious ends.’ (underline mine)

David Bowie quoted in To Reach an Audience of Millions, Create for an Audience of One by Srinivas Rao (from Medium)

“Never play to the gallery. Never work for other people in what you do. Always remember that the reason you initially started working was there was something inside yourself that, if you could manifest it, you felt you would understand more about yourself. I think it’s terribly dangerous for an artist to fulfill other people’s expectations.”

Oliver Burkeman’s last column: the eight secrets to a (fairly) fulfilled life by Oliver Burkeman (from The Guardian)

The capacity to tolerate minor discomfort is a superpower.Β It’s shocking to realise how readily we set aside even our greatest ambitions in life, merely to avoid easily tolerable levels of unpleasantness.” (bold his)

Lest we forget that we are animals

Lest we forget that we are animals
I run my fingers through your silky fur
I feel the heat from where our bodies touch
And nestle close to hear your rumbling purr

Our lives are bound by rules and promises
By forms and customs, cunningly designed
We follow patterns hidden to our eyes
And seek our own path, carefully divined

But muscles ripple underneath our skin
And blood still pumps to power every move
We’re ruled by instincts rooted in the flesh:
The truth our bodies’ architecture proves

The things that we call human are the least
Important part of love between two beasts

Photo byΒ mana5280Β onΒ Unsplash

Losing an icon: Chadwick Boseman

I’m still getting to grips with my shock and my news over his death.

When I first saw the news, I thought it was a hoax.

How can it be that an artist who burns so brightly and with such energy can be taken by by this devastating, wasting disease? And how on earth did he create that body of work while undergoing what was no doubt a gruelling treatment regime for colon cancer?

It feels scary and sad to see a young person struck down by cancer. But part of why it feels so upsetting is the sheer shock of the news. He was an actor seemingly at the top of his game – and now he’s gone. It’s incredible that he was able to kept his illness secret during his lifetime. I can’t imagine how heavy that burden must have felt at times.

I came across a quote recently that fame requires an ability to carry other people’s projections. I feel that Chadwick Boseman had that quality – but with something more. There was a reason he played so many icons – and iconoclasts. He had the strength and charisma to carry the dreams and desires of so many, but without ever letting anyone else tell him who he was. His integrity was always visible, and something I deeply admired.

What always struck me most when looking at his work and the way that he talked about it was his seriousness of purpose as a person and as an artist – and the impact he made is stunning, particularly in comparison to his years on this earth.

Rest In Power. Those words have never felt more appropriate.

Photo by David Hogg on Flickr Commons