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 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.

Creativity and Time Management

April 28, 2013 at 5:32 am | Posted in Books, Quotations | Leave a comment
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I’m working on a commissioned book (more on that another time), I have a four day a week writing job already plus I go routinely to the library and borrow the books I’ve reserved and try to find the time to read them before their due date. Some of the books relate to the commissioned book, but many don’t. Hmmm … most don’t. Is my ambition to read the following list of books within three weeks an unrealistic commitment of my time?

A Spirit of Play by David Malouf
Hamlet’s Blackberry by William Powers
Car Sick: Solutions for our car-addicted culture by Lynn Sloman
In Praise of Slowness by Carl Honorée
The Engagement by Chloe Hooper
and also a captivating book I bought at the Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, Paul Klee for Children by the beautifully named Silke Vry.

I didn’t buy Paul Klee for Children for a child. I bought it for me. It is a fabulous book about creativity. I’ve always thought that it’s the child in me that creates. One needs that spirit of play, to let go and take risks, to have a holiday from that habitual state that our society forces us into most of the time, the right-brained, logical, linear approach to life.

To answer the question above about unrealistic assessments of what I can do in a given time, I probably can read that number of books in three weeks because of the spectacular inefficiency of the Canberra public transport system or at least the bus routes by which I have to travel to work. I could look at the scenic tour of the eight suburbs the No 2 bus meanders through while en route to Deakin West, or I can use that time to read. (Car Sick by Lynn Sloman is about English transport conditions; if you want to read about Australian conditions and solutions, read anything by Paul Mees. Fantastic writer and creative thinker.)

Knowing that most people drive, however, I realise that it’s a problem finding time to read, let alone time to be a child and to paint or write or do other creative things. I find it difficult myself to be as creative as I’d like to be, so this following little parable is a case of ‘Do what I say, not Do what I do’. The story of Big Rocks makes it clear what we have to do if we are serious about squeezing our creative pursuits into our too-busy, too-full, frenetic lives.

Big Rocks

A man teaching a class had a wide-mouthed jar, which represented the amount of time per week – or day. He filled the jar with big rocks.
‘Is it full?’ he asked his class.
‘Yes,’ they answered.
‘No.’ He filled it with gravel. ‘Is it full now?’
‘Maybe,’ the class answered.
‘No.’ He filled it with sand.
‘Is it full now?’
‘Probably not,’ the class answered.
‘Correct.’ And he filled it with water.

If you don’t put the big rocks in first, they will never fit into the jar because it will be full of small things. What you must decide is: What are your big rocks?”

L. K. Ludwig. Creative Wildfire. Mass., Quarry, 2010.

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