Wednesday, 25 June 2008


This is a quote from the catholic writer Leon Bloy: 'Man has places in his heart which do not yet exist, and into them enters suffering in order that they may have existence.' That thought is interesting, I find. On a good day I think that it is true. On a bad day I'm not so sure. After all, many people are not improved by suffering. Some people suffer and as a result they finish up mean, small, frightened, bitter. I am perhaps more interested in what R S Thomas (my favourite poet) has to say in his poem The Unvanquished: 'But you / who are not free to choose / what you suffer can choose / your response.' To me, that is a key statement. There is always that choice. And actually that choice is the one thing which we all possess and which no-one can ever take from us. It is the final freedom. I also like what the Quakers say about suffering. They do not think there is any point in discussing why there is so much suffering. Instead the important question is - What are we going to do with suffering? Again it is a choice, isn't it? Either we allow suffering to make us into small, mean people (as I'm doing at the moment) or we allow it to open new places in our hearts. Finally we have to chose the latter. Give me a few weeks and perhaps I'll get there.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Comfort and comforting

In my head I rant continually about the fact that nobody in the real world cares less about what has happened to me. They ignore me, they shut me out, they change the subject, they look embarrassed, they just don't understand. But is it as simple as that? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm not very good at asking for help, maybe I'm unable to receive the help that is offered. Perhaps I'm not open enough. It's certainly true that, when people ask how I am, I usually say that I'm fine. Despite the fact that I want to say that I'm desperate, devastated, struggling to get through the day. So recently I decided to adopt a new strategy. No more saying - I'm fine. Instead I'm going to try and tell people the truth about what has happened and how I feel. But so far I have to say that the new strategy has not been a rip roaring success. I've tried it twice and both times the people I've talked to have finished up in tears. Not tears for me, you understand. Tears about their own situation. And yes, both of them are people who are in quite difficult situations. But situations which are, actually, largely of their own making. And nothing like as bad as my situation ..... (Sorry I hate competitions in pain but what I'm saying is true). And yet I'm the one mopping up the tears and offering the comfort. Why does this happen? Is it something to do with me? Am I someone who is incapable of ever making myself centre stage? Or do I just happen to know a lot of people who don't really recognise that the business of comfort is a two way street? I really don't understand and I find all this very upsetting. Any advice appreciated!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


A lovely-sounding person left a comment on my blog which said, 'I'm finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that there's so much unhappiness in the world.' I understand that completely. Over the last three years my main emotion has been outrage. Again and again I find myself unable to come to terms with the amount of suffering there is all around me. But the question is - why am I surprised? And why is the lovely-sounding person on my blog so surprised? After all, the levels of suffering have not got worse. In fact, if anything, suffering has vastly reduced over the last fifty years (at least in the Western world). So then why are any of us surpised? To me this is a key question. I think it has to do with the fact that we are living in a society which is in massive denial about sadness, adversity, grief, pain. We live surrounded by images of happiness and talk of positive thinking. Conversations about death are considered morbid. Feeling sad is equated with failure or weakness. Avoiding pain has become the main national occupation. And so we are conned into thinking that the world is essentially a happy place. But it isn't. Suffering is right at the heart of human existence - and it doesn't matter how rich you are, how educated you are, how good you are - that's always going to be the same. If that were accepted and discussed then there wouldn't be people like me (aged 41) saying, 'Oh but I didn't know it would be this hard.'

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


Yesterday I was meant to go to the hospital. My husband and I decided not to go. We just couldn't face it. We've been trailing back and forwards to one hospital or another for three years and in all that time we've never had any good news. If we'd gone to the hospital yesterday we would have been kept waiting for an hour and a half. Then we'd have seen a doctor for ten minutes. The doctor would have spent at least eight of those ten minutes looking at a computer screen. Then he'd have told us some bad news. After that I would have been upset and the medical staff would have looked at me as though to say, 'Please can you not cause embarrassment by looking sad in the hospital. In fact, please can you take your dead babies somewhere else because we really don't need your bad news story here.' My husband and I would then have come home and had a row. After that I would have cried for three days. So what did I do instead of going to the hospital? I met up with my wonderful friend and we had breakfast in a cafe. I had a cafe latte and a croissant - two thing I never normally have. And it was a lovely morning. My friend's life is actually even sadder than mine at the moment - but still I really enjoyed our time together. Definitely better than a visit to the hospital. Oh I can't describe to you the relief I feel at not going there.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Amsterdam house boat

So this is a photograph of Amsterdam. It shows my husband and my son (making a cheeky face). In the background is the house boat which we stayed on. I've always dreamt of living on a house boat. Years ago I nearly bought one but lost my nerve. I felt sure that if we went to stay on a house boat then it would turn out to be damp / cramped / smelly / uncomfortable - and that would put an end to my fantasy. But no. It was wonderful and I'm now more determined than ever that I'll live on a house boat permanently some time. Of course, all this dashing around the place doing odd things is simply a distraction - and sometimes it doesn't work that well. But it's certainly better than sitting around at home refusing to answer the phone, or reply to any e-mails, which is what I'd be doing otherwise. I need another trip - now. But there's nothing planned. I feel ill all the time at the moment. My heart has been beating wildly ever since we had our bad news. By four o'clock in the afternoon I'm too tired to do anything. My eyes feel heavy all the time. How much longer is this going to last? I wish we could go back to Amsterdam and stay on the boat again.
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