Go Slow

I had no idea you were so melodramatic,” J. said to me on the phone last night. “You are so measured when we talk through things, but when it comes to you feeling poorly, suddenly it’s the end of the world!” My mum laughed, “she’s got the measure of you alright,” as she reminded me about the time I stubbed my toe when I was cycling in flip-flops (don’t do it), staggered into the house, threw myself onto the kitchen floor and called for a blanket and the last rites. “I thought you had broken your leg! There you were, coming over all Lady of Shalott,” she said, “and it turned out you had a bit of a bruised toe.” I don’t quite remember it like that, but it is possible. And if it is in my nature to feel deeply and be a little melodramatic, well, what else is there to do? I am what I am. ‘Drop the drama and accept it’ whispers a little voice in my head.

A number have people have said the same thing. They have said to roll with it and take this bout of flu as a simple message to slow down and do nothing for a few days. H., going through the same thing, said, “Sometimes, perhaps it’s good for us to have to stop for a bit.” And S. offered similar advice, “Best just to relax into it. Nothing to be done.” They’re right, and I know it, but I really don’t want to accept it! Even though I know that struggling against ‘what is’ will only exacerbate the aches, throbbing head, grating throat. So today – and it is easier to follow the path of least resistance on a day when I’m beginning to feel a bit better – I’m going to cuddle up to my struggle, go with it, let it be. Ah! The wisdom of The Beatles, “When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary said to me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be.” Lyrics by Paul McCartney, the band released the song at the time of their break-up, a tumultuous period for them. McCartney later said that the song’s reference to ‘Mother Mary’ wasn’t biblical, rather, he imagined in a dream that this is what his long-since-dead mother (named Mary) was advising him.

And so I have a day of going slow and letting be ahead of me. E. gave me a slim pen case at Christmas; handbag size, just big enough for one or two pens, with the words, ‘busy doing nothing’ printed on it. I’m going to live up to that today. I’m going to drift in and out of sleep, read a few pages of Bernard MacLaverty every couple of hours, stare at the ceiling, wonder if I’m up for a shower, change into fresh pyjamas, eat toast, breathe. I’m going to have a slow, jumbled, thinking day; let the last few weeks – things I’ve read, seen, tasted, heard – settle and fall into some sort of order and place in my mind. All of that is more likely to happen if I go slow. Over in Edinburgh, D. introduced me to the work of Orkney poet, George Mackay Brown. I gather he was a good one for going slow and letting be; a man of nature, of the coast, the fields, animals. He wrote: “The imagination is not an escape, but a return to the richness of our true selves; a return to reality.” Isn’t it funny how we often have to wait until we’re floored with some virus before we can take time out to daydream and take flight from the ski-jump of our imagination? To escape back to ourselves.

As for the melodrama, I’ve dropped it for today, but not forever, of that I’m sure!

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