For the past six months my mind has been lost in a kaleidoscope, one full of flashing lights and shiny objects, all of them a breath away from tangible. Of course, most of the past six months has been spent recuperating from an operation. That recovery left me sitting, helpless, confined by my physical surroundings and, even worse, a prisoner in my own mind.
Restless and immobile, my mind was a fidgeting insect trapped in a glass, buzzing, searching, never settling. Drugs and alcohol became useful distractions as much as acquiring them was a daily sport. But soon even they lost their lure and lustre. Friends grew wary as their eyes became glassy, dulled by my increasingly awkward importuning.
Confined to one room, as though in a self imposed solitary term. I learned to lever myself from my couch onto a desk chair with wheels and levers to adjust posture and elevation. Soon I contrived to get around the apartment by pushing the chair with my crutches. A trip to the toilet was planned and executed like a trek, alone, in the Himalayas.
Every day, awake and dressed by 8am, I rose to cook my breakfast and drink my first coffee of the day, a strong Sumatran brew, toasted wheaten bread and an omelette of two organic eggs with a slice of parma ham. Some days I decided to have two cups of coffee.
Yet I was locked in a groundhog morning and though each day began with such determined industry, it ended with nothing done and nothing achieved, no dreams conceived and no goals reached. Instead, my life became a nightmare of daytime television, depressing news broadcasts and the frightening repetition of a parade of ragged and tired old movies, tv crime series and lurid game shows.
Endless hours of navel gazing is not good for the soul no matter what people tell you. It is an orgy of self destructive introspection. Of course you fight and resist with every fibre of your existence. This is not me, I told myself. There are things to be done and great things to achieve, poems to compose, books to write. If I let a minor and temporary physical disability control me, how could I face those people I know who’ve struggled with far worse all their lives and never let it hinder their progress and determination?
Solitary introspection does prompt unscrupulous personal auditing and the mind provides warning mechanisms to avoid self pity although even that’s never fool proof. 2016 was my annus horribilis. It began in January when I broke my left wrist and since I’m left handed, it was the beginning of my solitary year because a writer who cannot write is like a one legged footballer, not much use.
This injury coupled with the arthritis gnawing my ankle to a ragged mess meant for a time I was walking with a stick I couldn’t lean on since it was too painful for my injured wrist. Undaunted and writing again, my increasingly restricted mobility made my horizons contract – a walk to the shops became a campaign, carefully planned from clothing, footwear, bags and shopping lists to the chosen route, meticulously prepared to minimise distance and discomfort while maximising my goals and achievements.
Nevertheless, all things considered, the first half of 2016 wasn’t so bad, in retrospect and particularly considering the year’s latter half. In those first six months five poems were written and substantial progress was made on two novels. There was time, too, for blogging, an exercise, I began to believe, helped save my sanity in the darkest hours.
It wasn’t all gloom. The plaster on my wrist came off in April even if alternative treatments to alleviate the pain in my foot became decreasingly effective. By June I was using a walking stick all the time and though my horizons were contracting, I took a train to the west of Ireland for the wedding of a friend where, drunk, I danced, hopping on one foot and balancing with a cane and spent the next week in the company of another great friend, sightseeing, talking and dining out.
All of this was a prelude to the inevitable, surgery I knew would leave me housebound for at least three months and a recovery period of six months or more. That happened in December and I remained, incarcerated, for three months after before the surgeon sawed off the cumbersome plaster cast and my leg emerged again, thin, smelly and strangely distorted. But it wasn’t over and I was far from dancing. They gave me a rubber boot but now I could get out again and travel.
Over all this is the tantalising expectancy, an intangible anticipation of what? That I might begin to write again? Wake up in a verbose fervour, thinking in verse and plot structures but none of these things happened. Like all things, it is patience that’s required. My own company never bores me and I’ve become used to my idiosyncrasies. Even the demons of solitary navel gazing couldn’t scare me. Slowly but surely, I’ve begun to walk again. Now I can take a bicycle, occasionally, as pedalling a bike is a beneficial exercise.
But after this protracted journey into the unknown and unfamiliar corners of my psyche it was time to address the real issue and that was grief. Grief for the death of my father who died in his 94th year, December 2015. But that hasn’t caused your writer’s block, surely, I asked myself because, after all, you spent the first half of 2016 writing?
Now I’m no longer sure. Loss and grief must be addressed and dealt with or they’ll linger forever, like a shadow in your life. So that’s where I’m at. Trying to come to terms with that loss so I can begin again. Six weeks ago I began writing this blog again after a three month absence while I lacked motivation like a beat up old junk in the doldrums.
There’s a faint breeze in the air, not enough yet to fill a sail but it carries a promise of more to come. Physical injury has stopped me long enough to realise I must go on even when it’s slowly and with patience.