This wasn’t the blog post I was hoping to write, but I am so behind with everything at the minute, this is the blog post – a brief update on things – that will be written. What a weird few weeks it has been. My lovely, healthy, gym going, healthy eating husband had a stroke, four weeks ago on Sunday. It was caused by a Vertebral Artery Dissection which we think had occurred up to a week before hand and which we treated with ibuprofen, thinking it was a trapped nerve. Despite his fitness and his good health, my husband has inherited high blood pressure. He’d treated the high blood pressure with life style changes after being diagnosed two years ago, and had shed four stone, discovered a love of healthy living and was an avid cyclist, runner and general gym fanatic. He’d missed this year’s annual health MOT because of COVID. And then he had a stroke. As you can imagine, it has been something of a challenge. He is making, and will make a good recovery and is getting better, but it’s a long road ahead. He is gradually regaining his balance, and the headaches have stopped, but the tiredness, slight drooping of his eye, and the numbness on one whole side of his body persists. However, he started walking like a felled tree, and now is down to walking like someone who has had three pints and is trying to act completely sober. When he really concentrates you can barely see that he is unsteady. He is amazing, and amazes me every day. It could have been so much worse, and there is nothing to be done except get on with getting on with it, and embrace every minute of life to its fullest.
I’m not going to lie, it was pretty bloody horrible, not least because it challenged all of the anxiety that is left from losing someone you love through clinical negligence and all the psychological fall out that came along with losing Matilda in the way we did. For a short while I thought I was going to have to put my husband in the ground with my daughter. Everything was, of course, complicated by COVID, which meant I couldn’t be with him, but he was extremely well cared for by the stroke team at York and was only in the hospital a short time until his blood pressure came down. He has a consultant appointment in a couple of week’s time, and we’re hoping he’ll be able to sign my husband off to do a few more ‘normal’ things, he might even be back driving the car before long. Chris’s illness has meant I had less time to work, because he needed so much help to start with, but I am slowly falling back into a routine and I am hoping to have a chapter of my book finished this month as I’d taken time off running courses in August with the intention of really getting some work done on it.
In other news, today I made the last minute adjustments to the pamphlet collection When I Think of My Body as a Horse. I saw the proofs of the cover last week and it looks wonderful. I am so excited about this collection. I’m also very anxious about it, I feel quite vulnerable. This is the last step that I am really involved in as far as the ‘production’ part of it goes, and once it’s signed off I’ll be setting it free, letting it sail out and into the heads of the readers who will interpret it for themselves. This is a strange and beautiful but nerve wracking thing. With this collection though, because it is a sort of final segment to the journey of grief directly related to my own experiences of baby loss and body ownership, self forgiveness and recovery from traumatic loss, it doesn’t matter as much to me whether it is successful in the literary world. Of course I want it to do well, who doesn’t want their work to do well? But the act of creating these poems, this body of work, was far more important than career or being taken seriously as a poet or any of the other stuff that comes with trying to get somewhere as a writer. It’s the closing of the box on that part of my life. I read through the final version of the manuscript today and felt unashamedly proud. I had a little cry. Each of the poems in the collection is a memory box, a touchstone to a place that is so embedded in me that reading the poems to myself takes me to that place and time, almost takes me there physically, but now those little boxes can be closed and put in the bigger storage box that is When I Think of My Body as a Horse. This is how poetry works, for me. And now I can get on with the current project. I’m also working on an Arts Council grant to help me to fund writing time and run some workshops around the current project, so wish me luck with that constant hamster wheel of soul destruction. I’ve also, after much deliberation, decided to have another crack at securing funding for the PhD. So many stresses. Strangely though, I have enjoyed Chris being home and the closeness that this latest life challenge has thrown at us. It is a reminder of how good life can be if you let it be.
Look out for news of a new course launching this week, starting in September.