Excuse me while I read

Buttery toast ... mmm

Things have been busy at work of late, which means that spare time normally dedicated to writing has been spent in mindless exhaustion. But I haven’t been completely unproductive. I finally watched 30 Rock (after abandoning it years before), the last season of Weeds, and Jane Campion’s fantastic mini-series Top of the Lake. Oh, and let’s not forget the books … these days there is more reading than ever. Recent readings I’d personally recommend include Burial Rites (Hannah Kent), Ghost Moth (Michele Forbes), The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Richard Flanagan) and The Signature of All Things (Elizabeth Gilbert).

The past few days I’ve been suffering through a dreaded bout of flu which left me feeling as weak as a kitten’s forearms and having to take some time off work. While being sick is never fun, the break from my usual weekday activities gave me some bonus time to think … about my life, my writing and the significance of all this reading. I’ve always surrounded myself with books, but I can’t recall ever reading at such frenetic pace. I wondered about the reason for this fictional frenzy.

From somewhere within the murky fogginess of my sickness-addled mind, a strange sort of clarity emerged. I finally understood that amongst all those pages and between all those lines, the elusive something I’ve been searching for is hope.

Buttery toast ... mmm

Finding the answer also helpfully exposed the cause. I realised that I’d lost all hope. Like the miserably persistent drizzle of cold winter rain endured without the protection of umbrella or raincoat, I’d allowed hopelessness to settle on my shoulders and soak right through to my bones. Suddenly I saw just how low I’d become.

But then everything changed. In much the same manner that a wet dog will enthusiastically shake itself side-to-side from nose to tail, until every last drop of water is scattered far and wide; just like that I felt better. The way forward now seems a little clearer and a lot more hopeful.

So all of this thinking has found me here – sitting outside, pondering these thoughts, stretching my toes in the sun and enjoying a slice of buttered fruit toast. As I open the cover of my next book – The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton – I’m starting to feel more focussed and like the worst of this flu is behind me. I shall try to hold onto this moment and remember not to give up on myself (or my writing) so easily, especially when another band of dark rain clouds threatens to obscure my open horizon.

16 Comments

  1. bobbi

    I know how you feel, I guess. I’ve had hundreds of those long moments where i just survived like a zombie. The good news is: a crisis is always creative. It makes you think and take decisions. My best ideas all came after huge depressions. The big changes, new hopes and energies have always come after dark periods. Like they say, it’s always darker before dawn, right? Hugs Tracey xxx

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Bobbi – That’s a very good way of putting things … like just pulling yourself through those down moments and feeling like a zombie. But you’re so right – the value of surviving those times is that they make us pause and re-focus our energies. Thanks so much for your hugs and for your kind words (both mean a great deal). xx

  2. Gabrielle Bryden

    hope is an amazing thing – I know how you feel – the last week I too have been feeling unusually hopeful – I tend to hope for change but not change my behaviour, but this is going to change – hahahaha – if nothing changes you can be sure that you will stay on the same path – why not hop off the path and just do something completely different and not worry to much about the consequences (there are always solutions even to what seem the most intractable of issues – like surviving without the tedious job etc.,)

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Gabrielle – Hope is indeed a funny thing … like you I tend to expend much of my energy hoping for change rather than actually proactively making a change. So my new plan is exactly as you recommend … making a change by stepping off the path and trying something new. As you say, solutions always have a way of presenting themselves (and I know I’ve found that every time I’ve taken a leap of faith). xx

  3. Linda at Heartfire At Home

    I’m so sorry you’ve been so sick Tracey – sounds awful. All the titles of those books sound so interesting, and they’ve been your friends and given you what you need right now. I always think of books as my friends…. they give me support when I need it, allow me to dip in and out without complaining about my neglect of them if I don’t get around to reading them enough, and drop little pearls of wisdom amongst my foggy thoughts when I most need them. I’ve had some brilliant epiphanies whilst reading books…. they seem to help the things I need to ponder slowly bubble up from the depths where they’ve been lurking and trying to make themselves heard. I remember after my divorce reading a book that made me so upset I threw it across the room in shock at the ending and had a massive (and very cathartic) sobbing fit. I think that helped something ‘shift’ within me, and I started to recover better from then on. I know I’m really struggling when I can’t face reading or concentrate on the words in front of me. I think Bobbi’s right too…. out of crisis can come great creativity.
    Hope you feel heaps better.
    Linda. xox

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Linda – Thanks for your lovely words and your very kind support – and yes … thank goodness for the kindness and comfort of good books (especially when we’re feeling poorly). It’s funny isn’t it? How concentrating on a book sort of gives us the mental space to accidentally also consider other things that have been occupying our thoughts.

      The power of reading and the impact of words is evident in your experience of reading a book after your divorce … sometimes reading something can shake a certain feeling loose within us and cause such a shift as you found.

      I am feeling much better (almost 100% now!), and you and Bobbi are both completely right about the creativity that can come out of a crisis or low period. I certainly am feeling that energy now.

      Thanks again for your lovely sweet words Linda … I’m feeling them right in the heart. xx

  4. Linda at Heartfire At Home

    Oh, and I also meant to say I think that’s one of the best post titles I’ve ever read!

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi again Linda – Haha … thank you (it just seemed like the most appropriate title). xx

  5. Teresa

    I’m sorry to hear you haven’t been feeling well Tracey and I can 100% relate to that feeling of losing hope. So glad to hear the way forward is looking clearer for you. 🙂

    xo

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Teresa – Thank you lovely! It’s taken a while, but I’m now feeling almost completely back to normal (or at least as normal as I get). 😉

      Hopefulness is a tricky thing to hang on to, but after this latest bout of lowness I’m hoping I can stick with it a bit better from here on out.
      xx

  6. Camila Faria

    I’m so glad you’re feeling better and that hope is slowly coming back to your life. I’ll take all the book recomendations you gave on this post, they all sound very interesting. And I think I should be reading more… instead of working until I’m too tired to even think about books. Tough days…

    1. tracey (Post author)

      Hi Camila – Thank you. When I get sick I certainly do it in style! 😉
      Gosh I’ve read some wonderful books lately … I’m hoping everyone else loves them as much as I have.

      I hope you find some breathing space from all those long work hours very soon … I completely understand how difficult it can be to find a balance with all the things we want to do. xx

  7. ejorpin

    Beautifully written Tracey! Boo to the flu, hope you are well and truly on the mend. Love you list of productive things – I always forget about 30 Rock too and then catch an episode on the plane and remember it is hilarious. Top of the Lake is on my ‘to watch’ pile too, I keep hearing rave reviews. And I adore Richard Flanagan’s writing so I’m keen to check out his latest. I always feel so much better when I read, but I never make it a priority. Silly.

    I find my most creative and inspired bursts come after a funk. I think maybe a funk is our mind trying to create some stillness, some quiet time… But losing hope is no fun, I go through phases like that, where I can’t get excited about the future. It brings down those around me too. Glad you are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel (I think raisin toast helps too!). x

    ps. Like Linda I love this post title!

  8. Caz

    Hope you’re feeling better Tracey. Thanks for the recommendations too. I haven’t read any of those books although I have deliberated over each of them on weekly bookshop jaunts. I’ve had a great year of reading this year – not so much of writing:( I sometimes find it had to strike a balance between the two and when I’m reading a particularly wonderful book my inner writing critic is at it’s best! I’ve just updated the sidebar on my blog to show the books I’ve read this if you need any more recommendations.

  9. Debby

    Sorry to hear you’ve been under the weather Tracey. I’m sure that may have been more than a little connected to your loss of hope…

    Glad you’re feeling much better now.

    Take care
    debx

  10. tinyWOOLF

    no. never give up.
    and hope will flourish, which enables a new beginning, or a happy progression.
    it’s funny i’ve come to literally that passage in the novel i’m reading,
    and it reads : “hope. i felt hope.”

    i haven’t read on.
    i wanna hang out with hope a bit myself.
    n♥

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