Friday, 26 November 2010

Teach us to sit still (Parks)

I apologise for the lack of book-related posts recently; I feel a lot more motivated in the craft-cooking direction at the moment, particularly as Christmas approaches and I am keen to share the things that I am making (or perhaps that should be show off!!, although I do get ideas from seeing other people's blogs and hope that I also provide some inspiration). I've also taken up serious Swim Training, going along to two fitness swims with the Oxford Triathlon Club a week at the moment, which does eat into my free time and makes me extra tired (and extra extra hungry) - I'm hoping to do a couple of Big Swims next year (even bigger than last year's swim) to raise money for Macmillan and Mind in memory of two people important to K and myself who won't be around to celebrate our wedding with us next year (and also because K has got a place to do L'etape (a stage of the Tour De France open to amateurs) in July and I'll feel a bit left out if I don't have my own event to train for! I'm also trying to complete an assignment for the management course that I've been doing this term (performance objectives anyone?!). Amid all this excitement, not to mention the excitement of the occupation of one of the reading rooms that I supervise at work by fee-protesting students, my stomach flared up badly this week (I think partly due to the large amount of food that I had to consume post-swimming on Monday) and I spent an evening confined to the sofa watching TV.

One book I have read in the last few days that has really resonated with me is Teach us to sit still by Tim Parks. Unlike the rest of his books which are novels, this is an account of his attempt to come to terms with chronic illness. He suffered from a complex set of pains in the groin/prostate area which the doctors were unable to attribute to any cause and thus give him any meaningful diagnosis and treatment. The tests show that there is nothing wrong with him, which is good, but it means that he has to go home and live with the condition. I empathised so much - I have had so many tests done on my stomach, and I am apparently healthy, yet I still have to live with episodes of excruciating pain that don't seem connected to anything at all. So much of it sounded familiar - the exasperation of family members, the days when he could barely walk, the trying to get on with work and life... The last third of the book provides some optimism as Parks takes up meditation and finds some relief from his pain - it isn't something he finds natural but it does help. Something perhaps that I need to learn to do. I realise, writing this, after the first paragraph, that I do have a tendency to fill my days, to try to achieve - even when I am trying to take it easy, I am found on the sofa reading books and wondering whether to blog about them, texting/emailing my friends, or doing cross stitches.

Food for thought definitely, and a book to be recommended to anyone who has chronic pain which cannot be relieved, if just for the hopeful thought that even when things seem hopeless, there may be a possibility out there which is beyond the scope of the medical establishment. Perhaps I need someone to teach me to be still.


  1. So that is what your facebook updates were refering to! I am so out of any news happening at the moment, even Dutch news..

    As for taking on swimming, wow! I really like how you approach it. And swimming to raise money like that must make you extra motivated as well as give it something special.

    I for one do not mind reading about cakes and christmas cards :) I rather enjoy it.

  2. A colleague of mine just told me yesterday that her doctor has recommended a colonoscopy as a last resort to find a cause of her stomach pain. She is so frustrated!

    I think you are doing an incredible job of remaining active and productive despite your health issue.

  3. Good luck with the swimming! I envy you, when I do my 40 lengths twice a week in a pool.

    I am another advocate of keeping occupied and productive whilst dealing with health issues. Pain has been one in the past. Thanks goes to my mum who introduced me to crafts and reading at a very very early age. Idle hands make work for the devil.

    I enjoy reading about your cakes, especially being on a diet at the moment, I do not have the willpower to make cakes and biscuits and then not eat them! It would just seem rude.


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