Wednesday, 26 August 2009


Tonight I'm feeling incredibly frustrated, that wanting to hit out, lash out, stamp, throw myself on the ground and kick and scream and beat my fists against the earth in an attempt to express some of the tsunami of feeling rushing over and through and out of me. None of it is helped by the feeling that it's all such stupid small stuff that is causing this huge volume of feeling. The new "pain killer" (lyrica/pregabalin for those interested in technicalities) is a) not doing anything for the pain and b) causing massive brain fog which means I'm struggling to understand anything, especially my knitting. As I am on a very low dose this may explain part a, I am prepared to increase the dose if that is what my GP considers wise, if it means that it deals with the pain levels. However, side effects without any intended effect is truly frustrating. Admittedly as one of the listed side effects is heart failure I could be said to be getting off lightly.

According to the friendly leaflet that accompanies the pills the side effects I am experiencing are "uncommon", in the "more than 1 person in 1000" category. Aren't I the lucky one? I do have to confess to being sceptical when my GP assured me that most people don't experience any side effects; my body is rarely this co-operative, if there are side effects it generally does its best to experience at least some of them.

I am feeling particularly frustrated because this is affecting my ability to knit and as knitting is one of my main coping mechanisms this is not good, not good at all. Today I spent most of the day recovering from how awful I felt when I woke up, a fun occupation. Yet again that burning pain in my neck and all around my head and the same pain in my legs and at times arms and across my shoulders. Distraction is the best ploy for when feeling like this, because the more I think about how much it hurts the more it seems to hurt. Oh and before any of the Christian mafia leap out and ask, I did pray, I cried out to God and all the cliches. Maybe the Sims, comedy on BBC radio 7 and my cuddly hot water bottle cover Frank (and more specifically the hot water bottle inside his tummy) were God's answer? Well let's just say I'm thankful for them.

As a Christian and knowing other Christians who don't own TVs and go on about how computer games are a waste of time and knowing that we're meant to use our time wisely (the parable of the talents in Matthew 25 and Jesus talking about the harvest is plentiful but the workers few Matthew 9 are the only references that come to mind right now) I struggle with the Sims2. I enjoy playing it, no question of that, but is it the wisest use of my time? In trying to answer this I come back to the general questions of what I am supposed to be doing now, to me it feels like I'm going nowhere, though I know God has His plans and knows what He is doing. But then if playing the Sims 2 (or watching tv or knitting or any other similar past-time) helps me to cope, mentally and with managing pain, is it so bad?

Sometimes I feel like I should be spending all my time growing in knowledge of God and pursuing Him. Certainly spending more time with Him would be no bad thing, but although I try to live in His presence (work in progress - believe me!) sometimes I just need some time off from life. It comes down to trying to survive in the time between now and Jesus' return/being healed/getting better/dying. But we all need recreation and rest, that's something it took me a while to re-learn after becoming a Christian and being incredibly intense about it all. Giving myself permission to relax, to stop, has taken a long time and in the meantime I did myself a lot of damage in terms of the ME and pushing myself.

Anyhow, yet again I feel better for 'talking' this all out; I haven't got many people around to talk to right now, hence a lovely long post. Time to fill another hot water bottle (yes in August), until next time.

Monday, 24 August 2009


Spontaneity is not a luxury I am able to afford; everyday life needs such careful planning and allocation of energy. It is something I am generally used to and generally manage fairly well, with of course the periodic "blow out" for special occasions. Today was one such occasion, as friends I had not seen in a year suddenly asked if they could come for a visit in the evening. It was truly lovely to see them and didn't throw me out too far - I haven't any plans for what is now today (it is currently early on Monday morning) and my only plans for Sunday evening had involved tv and knitting - much like any other evening.

We had a meal out, a good laugh, a good chat, a chance to feel 'normal' for a change. But when they left things did feel very flat. It was like when you shake a snow globe and all the little pieces of snow swirl up and around in the water and gradually settle again in different places to where they had started: I feel similarly shaken up. Things and people I hadn't thought about in a while re-remembered, realising how much I miss having close friends to talk to - especially without Amy around - a window on a different world, a different way of life, a world of doing, rather than of being. A time to count your blessings and try not to be too envious of other people's.

Mercifully we spoke little about how I am and what is going on in my life, I'm bored enough of living it, let alone talking about it to everyone I meet. There's little point unless the person concerned is able to help or be constructive in some way - in sympathy, encouragement, advice or prayer. The jollity and companionship has also made me realise how much time I spend alone and how narrow and dull my life is. They commented on how lovely our house is, which is true, I do recognise that, but often it escapes my notice through repetition - I spend so long here it starts to feel like a prison. Although they did offer to have me to stay, though given the distance they live at and that their flat is up 4 flights of stairs this may be rather less than practical, though very kind nonetheless. I didn't like to expand on this, trying to get people to understand why travel exhausts and stairs hurt is hardly the most jovial of pasttimes.

Now I can't sleep, so I'm writing this. Sleep attempt no.2 coming up, here goes.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

I'm feeling real low and hopeless and angry and wanting to cry and cry and cry and cry. Why can't depression ever just leave me alone? Why can't I just have a day of feeling ok? Of not sleeping weirdly and waking up hungover and staggering through the day and only waking up properly at bedtime? I had lunch with friends today and kept zoning out of the conversation, because my stupid knees hurt. Stupid knees, so much seems to be their fault. They stink (not literally, I do wash).

As you may have gathered I'm not feeling the greatest. I know I have a reason to hope. I know I have the greatest and most solid reason to hope there's ever been and deep down, somewhere in some little part of my brain that's still sane and not consumed by this choking blackness, I know this. I'm just not feeling it right now. And yes I'm praying. And I read the Bible. And I'm reaching out to Jesus.

Crying out to God the great Father and throwing myself on Him and crying on His shoulder and trying to let the anger and the storm inside to abate for long enough to let His love through. And I'm asking Him why? and when? and how long? and all those questions that plague us, plague me. Yeah I'm questioning God, but because I know He's the only one worth asking.

And so it goes on.

Friday, 7 August 2009

no answers?

I saw another doctor today, not my usual one as he, poor chap, has swine flu. There doesn't seem to be anything conclusive from the latest lot of blood tests, no rheumatoid things or autoimmune things. So why do I feel so awful? Why is my inflammation still up high? Why do my knees hurt and feel so weird?

Not knowing has been getting to me so much. Part of me is terrified, part of me desperately wants something that vindicates how awful I feel day in day out; all of me wants answers.

I know God knows what He's doing, I know all things work to good etc. (Romans 8.28) and believe me I'm trying to trust Him, so hard. I'm trying to find some peace, somewhere in the midst of all this.

It's so hard not to despair and give up. But then is fighting a good option anyway? And what am I fighting for? All of life seems like a fight to survive, like grimly hanging on by the tips of your fingers to some sort of normality. Maybe I should let go? But it's easy to do as an analogy, less easy to work out how to do that. I wish I had some wise person to talk things through with, or some guidance or someone to care, to be in the same room to talk to, who cares.

Suppose I'd better try to sleep now.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Nanny's shortbread

When I was little whenever we visited my grandmother (who we called Nanny) upon arriving we were allowed a piece of shortbread before lunch. A tremendous treat, it was an important part of each visit. Nanny's shortbread came in golden rectangles, with 3 lines along the top and lightly dusted with sugar, it was light and ever so slightly crumbly. Nanny was a superb cook and had been a professional cook, before her marriage for a family in London and later on as a much loved school cook in the days before 'Scholarest' and 'turkey twizzlers'.

One day when I was perhaps 11 or 12, I'm not entirely sure, I asked Nanny for the recipe and she dictated it to me from memory - a feat that much impressed me at the time. She called it Scotch Shortbread. Although noted in an exercise book I never got around to trying the recipe and it disappeared. From time to time I felt sad that Nanny's recipe seemed to have died with her - until - one day fairly recently I was sorting some things in the cupboard in my room and found the exercise book with the recipe still there. In order not to lose it again I typed it up and today I tried the recipe. Nanny's secret ingredient is ground rice, which gives it its crunch. Anyhow, here is the recipe for all to try.

Nanny Josie's Shortbread

-->Shortbread – Scotch (Nanny's recipe I think)

10 oz plain flour
2 oz ground rice
8 oz butter/margarine
4 oz castor sugar

1.Cream butter and sugar
2.Add ground rice and flour gradually to form a stiff dough
3.Knead and roll out
4.Shape into two round cakes or cut into shapes
5.Pinch the edges and prick the top
6.Bake in a moderate oven (325F or Gas 4 or c.160-80C)
7.Dust with sugar and mark into sections when cooled and still hot, remove from tin when cool


Monday, 3 August 2009

Brain fog and Velvet Elvis

We are back to brain fog, yet again. Today I excelled myself - yet again - by turning up to the doctor's in central London a day early. I am so annoyed with myself, all that happened was that I'd written it in the wrong day in my diary. But it's such a waste of energy. On the positive side I was at the right place, at the right time, just on the wrong day. Unfortunately the doctor wasn't in until 4pm that day either, so I couldn't be fitted in somewhere.

I'm so angry with myself about it, energy is in such short supply and to manage to waste so much achieving nothing and only having to go in again next week, it's infuriating. I used to be so sharp and bright, now look at me. I suppose it's good for humility...?

In any other business I have started reading Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis. A thought provoking and honest look at and grapple with what it means to follow Jesus. I especially liked his footnote to read everything John Piper has ever written, when he was discussing joy in God. I can see how if you took bits of what he is saying, alone and outside the context of his overall argument, it would seem that he is "unsound" (as many Christians I know would put it). However, he emphasises throughout that it is a book of ideas that are to be wrestled with, not a solid, finished, polished argument or doctrine, to be put into a glass case and considered finished. At first I was distinctly unsure about the book, particularly as I can find his "Nooma" dvds irritating, at times they seem very rooted in modern psychological ideas and I find the presentation style hard to concentrate on. Some of this is me, a large part of it is me, but sometimes they do seem to be in place of engaging with the Bible as a group, in fact in the way that he advocates in Velvet Elvis.

So far in my reading - I think I am in the second chapter - I have particularly liked the way he has explained some of the Jewish background to the Gospels and indeed to our faith. Despite the new Pauline theology we are rather inclined to view the New Testament through somewhat Lutheran eyes - by this I mean through the eyes of the sixteenth century Reformation and all that came after it. Some of the more bewildering bits, especially of Matthew, now make a little more sense, given their context.

Rob Bell's metaphor of choice for how he wants his faith to be is a trampoline, which I like. While of course the usual caveats surrounding analogies need to be borne in mind (i.e. they are only of limited utility to help understand an idea, they are not perfect images or explanations of the idea itself), a trampoline is still a trampoline in its essence and being, whether it is flat or flexing as people come into contact with it as they bounce. A similar way of putting this (or a slightly related idea) is as Adrian Plass describes towards the end of the second volume of his Sacred Diaries, to walk the narrowest possible path ourselves while trying to reach out as wide as we can to others. In the same way our faith is still in Jesus, even if the church, the way we do things, our interpretation of some aspects of the Bible, the tools we use (e.g. new technologies) and the way in which we relate to the society in which we live change and flex with the times and the circumstances. The Bible is a living book (see Hebrews 4.12) and as such we must relate to it and struggle and wrestle with what it says (much as Jacob did with the 'angel' in Genesis 32). Though as Rob Bell qualifies we need to do so with humility and the Holy Spirit. God is (Exodus 3) and we need to explore who He is, what He has said and what this means for us and how we live our lives, (not create our own impression of god).

While I was in the bath just now I was chewing over all these ideas, feeling quite excited at the intellectual stimulus, being able to think, having something to think about. Then I remembered (or was reminded?) that actually it is the faith I have in the living God, in Jesus on the cross dying for me, in the Holy Spirit living in me, that matters, more than anything intellectual. It's that still small voice (1 Samuel 19) that helps me through each day and helps me keep some sort of grip on life, that makes sense and says that one day it's going to be more than OK, to hold on, that's what matters. Humbling too, because enjoyable and absorbing as intellectual activity is, what Jesus has done is what is truly vital, in every sense of that word.