Ouch – a Painful Start to 2019
I rushed to South Africa mid-December, when I got that call. You know the one. Your father is critically ill. During the 14-hour flight, I prayed. Please let him live. I cried when the lights went down. I didn’t know what I was flying back for. A protracted, drawn-out recovery? A father incapacitated? A funeral?
I went straight from the airport to the hospital to see my great big lion of a father lying unrecognizably helpless and attached to a squadron of machines that go ping.
It will be a good story someday. But it wasn’t when, later that night, I prolapsed a disc in my back, and ended up in the same hospital as my father for treatment. Two days after that, my older sister nearly fainted and was admitted to hospital for a week with labyrinthitis. We were dropping like soldiers on the frontlines of a poorly planned military expedition. I spent Christmas, New Year and all up four weeks in physical pain that brought me to tears; dosed to the max on painkillers, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants, unable to visit my father again while he recovered slowly in hospital.
Pain is a strict teacher. She demands attention and doesn’t let it stray from the present moment. While everyone was making bold New Year resolutions, I just wanted my body back. Facebook was torture – it was excruciating to see everyone’s celebrations, overseas holidays, or simple joys when I could barely make it to the loo. I learned just how sorry I can feel for myself when I am not upright, strong, capable, dependable, a fixer, a do-er, a person others can rely on.
With each passing day, I was shown a different side to myself, and I struggled to like her.
I’ve known for some time that I’ve been shuttling at a warping pace. I have needed to slow down. Well, here it was. Enforced rest. Enforced nobody-ness. I became someone who could barely stand on her own two feet. So I did the only thing I could – I lay on a bed and worked on my new book.
Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.
Sometime during this season of horizontality, I wrote this poem:
the bruised animal of the body
become the kind of hero
you never really want to be
because who would ask
for this pain
even in the name of
transformation and self-development?
Then to find
the spare change of compassion
a true charity
for everything in you that is broken
and may never be fixed
to seek metaphors
for the injury
try to see it through God’s eyes
not take it personally,
this affront to the ego;
trust the story
that is telling itself
through your wretched hours
and call in the happiness
of small mercies
like the water
on your skin;
the sun shaft through the window
that lands on your face.
Harder to bear than the pain itself, was the treacheries of my own consciousness. I wanted more than anything to trust these words of Mary Oliver:
My family and I have had a rascal of a time. But perhaps I am exactly where I am meant to be as I learn to love the parts of me that are no ‘use’ in the world; the person I am when I can offer nothing to anyone; when I feel small; unaccomplished; terrified.
I wish you all a sense of belonging – to your body and soul – no matter what 2019 brings your way.
Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough
A Five-Day (18-22 March) Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler
In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.