Lost in the corridors of time

December 22, 2013 at 2:03 am | Posted in arthritis, Books, health | Comments Off on Lost in the corridors of time
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I’m back. Because finally I sent in my draft of Chapter 2 of the Churchill Trust book. I’d been working on it for ages, getting up at 5.00 am and writing before work and it was a hard one plus had been very busy at my other job, my real job, and the day I finished the chapter I was so tired that I came home from work and slept 14 hours in a row.

Now I am half-way through This Is Not the End of the Book (London, Vintage, 2012) which is a conversation between Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carrière. I’m not a big fan of Eco but I love Carrière, who is a really good screenwriter and writer. He writes about our loss of being in the present moment, a theme I often raise in these blogs – he travels a lot (and gets in different time zones) and gets ‘lost in the corridors of time’ – just in conversation poetic phrases run off his tongue. I love it so much I will borrow it for my title.

Titles are hard. That’s why so many people borrow them from other works, like the film Days of Wine and Roses – what a great title! Great film too, about alcoholism, with Lee Remmick and Jack Lemmon. The title comes from a not very good poem by Ernest Dowson that includes the very good line:

‘They are not long, the days of wine and roses’

Poignant. The feeling I get is of deep nostalgia. So sad. Nostalgia is not something I’ve had much experience with, luckily. I’ve known some people to be virtually crippled by it. I can barely imagine. (Just Googled Dowson and learnt that he died of alcoholism at 32!)

Carrière quotes a Bavarian comedian Karl Valentin: ‘In the past, even the future was better.’

Ha! He also says that the worst criticism of Jesus that Mani, a Christian heretic who founded Manichaeism, made was that Jesus didn’t write anything down.
And Eco says, ‘He did once, in the sand.’

And I thought: How does anyone know that? Maybe that scene is in the Bible, written by an eye-witness, an Apostle who saw Him writing some profundity in the sand. I also thought: Maybe writing was really hard for Jesus; maybe He was dyslexic.

Possibly a blasphemous thought. Ha.

Before I talk myself into more hot water, let me tell you what else made me so tired I slept for 14 hours straight: osteoarthritis. It’s exhausting. The Chinese say that the legs are the second heart. I interpret that to mean: pretty damn essential. Now I know the truth of this more than I ever wanted to know. To continue a conversation about that, to which previous blogs have been devoted, I’ve come to the end of my year of the A to Z of alternative therapies for it. Of all these, I wouldn’t say that any did no good. They all worked to some extent and all were good for other things and health in general. But I have three favourites: Acupuncture, the Infrared sauna, and Hanna Somatics (similar to the Feldenkrais method, which is also very, very good).

Acupuncture takes away the pain. But not immediately. After several weeks of weekly sessions it does, and does so for several months. Then you have to go back and do more weeks of weekly sessions. And it does nothing for flexibility.

The Sunlighten Infrared sauna is very effective too. Someone told me that Sunlighten is the best brand. I bought a solo one and this is also the cheapest. Sunlighten salesperson Peter Reynolds was knowledgeable about infrared saunas and very helpful over the phone and by email. When it was delivered, I used it for a fortnight or so once a day and felt improved. Then I went away for a fortnight and towards the end of the first week I was really in pain. When I got back I leapt into it immediately and did two 30 minute sessions a day and after a few days it got a lot better. From my experience it’s worth the investment. It’s good for pain relief and promotes healing and flexibility was a bit better too. Go to http://www.sunlighten.com.au or you can ring for free: 1800 786 544.

There is a great book by Martha Peterson called Move without Pain, about Hanna Somatics. It’s about muscle memory and full of easy exercises that straighten out our bodies. It’s wonderful, (and so is yoga of course). Move without Pain can be ordered from America, it’s not available in Australia. (New York, Sterling, 2011) The exercises in it are quick and easy and painless and will make very fast improvement in your life – since most of us sit too much, which is the cause of a lot of problems – I think I can make that generalisation safely. Peterson’s writing is a pleasure to read too, she has an appealing casual and clear style, which makes you feel she is with you, taking you through the exercises and that you are in good hands.

Now, have a great break, a peaceful Christmas and happy New Year. Have some days of wine and roses and enjoy them while they last.

It will be like doing a PhD in one year…

October 27, 2013 at 9:29 am | Posted in arthritis, creativity, health, Leslie Kenton | Leave a comment
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It is very hard for me to narrow myself down to focus on only one thing. I have two jobs, I do Argentine tango dancing, I’m a film fanatic and I love theatre. I swim and do tai chi and yoga. And I always want to read as widely as I want.

This week in my spare time after work and after my second job (the commissioned book, of which more anon) I read Leslie Kenton’s Skin Revolution (London, Vermilion, 2003). Leslie Kenton is a gorgeous guru for health and beauty. She is a wonderful writer and I love her books.

She’s got a five day skin diet in this book – a lot like a paleo diet and not a lot unlike my normal diet – except no dairy and no coffee. Oh, and no alcohol. Yes, my skin does look better plus I lost a few pounds. Hardest thing of course was giving up my morning cafe au laits for green tea. But I did it! Yay!

She has these inspiring quotations in her books. One in this I liked was Á beautiful young person is an accident of nature. A beautiful old person is a work of art.’ I liked Louise Nevelson’s one too: Í never feel age … if you have creative work, you don’t have age or time.’ Wonderful words of wisdom; they make me feel so much better!

Leslie Kenton’s books are always inspiring plus she does extensive research. I was researching Infra Red saunas – meant to be good for arthritis – and she has a whole chapter on them in this book! She reckons they’re great too, and you really can trust her research. Sunlighten ones have had various recommendations. I bought one of those – will keep you posted.

So that book should really be the last one for quite some time not related to my commissioned book. The thing is, I must focus on one thing (besides my main job) or I won’t get this book written in time. And I do love it – it’s fascinating and worthwhile. But we’re rushing towards the end of the year and I’ll only have a bit of 2015. I won a Fellowship to write fiction at the Eleanor Dark Foundation, then there’s an interstate Conference on Arts and Health – my favourite part of my main job. Then we have a big work conference thing and then it’s virtually Christmas.

That means that 2014 for me will be like doing a PhD in one year. I will have to focus on only that one thing, and I’m happy to do it – it’s so interesting. But no more reading books on beauty on the side. I must read only on Churchill Fellows – well, that’s lucky because you could not get a wider variety of fields. Churchill Fellowships cover everything from health to glass blowing, zoology to hat-making, agriculture to baking. So it really suits me. Now I must stop this and do some more on it.

My father gave me the gift of sleep

June 29, 2013 at 10:54 pm | Posted in arthritis, nutrition | 4 Comments
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‘At our most moving moments are we not all without words?’
Marcel Marceau, the famous French mime artist said that. Or wrote it, I suppose. It’s enigmatic and powerful, I reckon, because it says so much. Doris Lessing had a phrase about the thinning of language against the density of our experience. But you wouldn’t be reading this unless you were interested in language and words, and people like us will try to find the words, no matter what.
A friend of mine died. He had a rare cancer. He was 52 but he still looked like a schoolboy. That was what was holding my words back. And part of why I didn’t write a blog for the past fortnight.
Homer wrote, ‘There is a time for many words, and there is a time for sleep.’ It seems so apt for Paul Mees http://theconversation.com/vale-paul-mees-australias-leading-transport-and-land-use-researcher-15385 whose words flew so fast and furiously and funnily about public transport and politics and people and everything under the sun. And he is out of his pain now, having his time for sleep.
Psychoanalysts believe that insomnia can sometimes be a fear of death – that long sleep. I would never suffer from that, even if I were afraid of death. I’m a champion sleeper. Is this hereditary? Some of my siblings seem to have inherited our mother’s chronic insomnia. Not me, and not my brother who died recently. We inherited our sleeping patterns from our father, who died young too of the same heart-related thing. We neither of us got along with him. But he gave us the gift of sleep. Priceless. No matter how bad things get, I almost always can sleep – and when things get bad one really needs that sleep! So I’m lucky that way.
If on a rare night I can’t sleep I get up and have a chamomile tea and scribble in a notebook to tease out what is bothering me, and resolve it, and then go back to bed and sleep like a dead person. Chamomile tea is a soporific substance; have two teabags in a mug – double strength – and fall asleep at the kitchen table! I don’t take drugs or medicines so herbs affect me a lot, I guess. They seem really strong to my system.
I’ve inherited something else: osteoarthritis. It was getting so I’d wake up in the morning feeling as if I was suffering the early stages of rigor mortis. Whoahh! You’re really not supposed to be that way in your fifties.
This stopped it: acupuncture took the pain away (that’s a scientifically verified effect of acupuncture, the only thing the scientists could verify about it with their western methods) plus a horrible rigmarole involving cod liver oil, more on this later, plus tai chi.
The cod liver oil thing, got from a very old and tattered book found in my mother’s house when we were cleaning it out after she died: for six months, every day you first of all, drink a big glass of hot water. (That’s the worst part.) You can’t have eaten or drunk for three hours before. So that makes first thing in the morning a suitable time, but of course you’re going to miss that tea or coffee first thing, it really mucks up your morning. You can time it for between meals, just before dinner, say. Second thing is you wait ten minutes after the water. Thenm, third, you drink a tablespoon of cod liver oil or flax seed oil mixed with two tablespoons of strained fresh orange juice or of milk. Not nearly as bad as it sounds. Then after, (fourth thing) don’t eat or drink for at least 30 minutes. Every day for six months (during which your skin will look amazing – a nice side effect), then just a few times a week. For the rest of your life. (Ugh.)
The tai chi? It’s pretty easy to learn the basics but like the English language not easy to get really good at it. My teacher, Fontane, is like a little tiny peach blossom, so petite and graceful and pretty. She’s good on the philosophy of it too, a very good teacher.
It has been a time consuming journey over the past year which I’ll write about at another time but those three things have made me much, much better. And the more I practise tai chi the better I will get, the more flexible, the stronger. I will never be a little peach blossom like my teacher; I’m a giant in comparison, two inches taller than the average western woman and with my father’s big swimmer’s shoulders – but in my own way, I will become more graceful and refined. (Ha! Refined – me?!) Plus tai chi is a sort of meditation. It is calming and you focus just on it so, practised regularly, it helps you come to terms with people you love dying young, for example.

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