“I’m working on it!” How often do we use that phrase? It could be code for any of the following:
Yes I am genuinely working on it but it takes time.
No I’m not working on it but it’s still at the forefront of my mind.
Don’t be so impatient.
I have lots of other things to do.
Leave me alone and go and pester someone else with your trivial affairs.
There are plenty of things I promise myself to work on but some tend to get shoved to the end of the queue.
Anything involving phone calls for instance; I’m not very good at that.
Tidying up cupboards; why bother if the bedlam is hidden behind a nice pretty Danish polished door? It’s the same with under the bed but I have a genuine excuse there! Oh, and anything involving paperwork. What gets me however, some people’s total acceptance of a fault or weakness.
Take dietary weakness. “But it’s chocolate.” How many people do we know who possess a self-proclaimed deference to the delicious comforting experience of chocolate? Oh just to luxuriate in the sensual sweet velvet of an artisan hand made lump of dark delight. Curse Hotel Chocolat.
They have set my goals higher. No more do I crave the cheap sugary taste of youth. I want high end chocolate. I demand the bitter sweet essence of a glistening salted caramel. I want the purity of the dark side; rich in bitter cocoa solids. Surely it cannot be bad for me? Surely a small taste won’t destroy my diet? How can that multi-textured delight we call rocky road affect my waistline? Yes, we can get very reverential about chocolate.
But if you look at yourself in the mirror and witness its cruelty, what may you think? A baggy top to hide away my sins? Or will losing some weight help you in so many ways? Are you going to work on it?
When I was a little boy, I had difficulty saying words. I stammered. It wasn’t horrendous but it was enough to make me feel different.
All through my junior school years and beyond it was a nagging impediment just waiting to trip me up when it mattered. It seemed impossible to avoid. I had to work on it.
Moving area helped. What’s the last thing some people may advise you should do if you have any type of stammer? Become a teacher? I became a teacher.
“Just purirrinthecorner willyer.” It received a blank look. I’d been teaching down south for twenty years and I was under a bit of pressure. There was a lot to do and a group of children were wondering what to do with the maypole. They didn’t understand me. For all those years, I had to watch how I said things. My scouse was not too bad but I still needed to speak clearly. The stammer went. I’d worked on it. Even now when I feel about to be tripped up, I can adjust my speech to avoid the hesitation.
So when someone moans to me that they can’t do anything about one of their perceived faults, I feel a little bit of contempt rising.
“Why don’t you work on it?” Can you imagine the level of venom in the reply?
There have been other things I’ve needed to work on. When I was fourteen I was mocked for wanting a career in music. I didn’t talk posh and my jeans had holes in them.
“How can you expect to succeed?” was the question. Erm, I worked at it. I’ve done very well out of music thank you very much. LTCL on the piano and grade eight cello indicates a bit of success I think.
Oh and there’s my music degree, running a junior choir and writing songs and musicals.
When I was 29, I sat on the edge of a swimming pool in Spain wishing I could swim. The next year I was doing sixty lengths a day. Someone once said I was too fat to be a cyclist. At one stage I was doing over a hundred miles a week.
I was sent down from college without a degree. The argument was twofold. I wasn’t up to it and I wasn’t teacher material.
Well I got my degree and when I wanted a PGCE, it took me another five years to get on a course; but I did it. (Yes, I worked on it!)
Teaching became my chosen career. Despite the onset of MS, I did it for twenty two years. There is no way I would accept this life changing condition. Barricades are challenges. I look at a wall and wonder how I can get over it. There is no point just counting the bricks.
More recently, the barriers have become more immediate and personal. After thirteen years of marriage I’m back on my own again. What do I do? I’ve worked on being useful. Independence is precious and I’m going to hang on to it. I’m no longer the useless lump on the sofa. And what is the latest thing to work on?
Well there are a few but the most important is the brain fog. Brain fog and fatigue has the potential to constantly trip me up. Fatigue involves knowing. There is no point in fighting it. I sit down unmoved by the piles of crap in the kitchen I relax and recharge my batteries. A good crossword helps. And there is another point. My father always did cryptic crosswords. I found them impossible. When I started teaching I decided to try one a day. It was tantalisingly difficult. Now I do The Times.
It’s also interesting that my oldest friends are people who “work on it”. All of us may have been written off in one way or another. How did we rise Phoenix-like through the ashes?
Oh yes, the brain fog. Sequencing is my real bugbear. Hello notebook. Do I avoid sequencing? Not on your life, I cook and clear up. I’ll think of an ingredient and turn to the fridge. Then, staring at the great white tower, I go blank. There’s no point in raging. A little bit of methodology comes into play.
I try to be creative every day. Today’s prawn fishcakes were delicious. It involved a few stages but I’ve promised myself to cook more fishy stuff. Okay, I knocked over a bowl of sweet potato curry as the fatigue kicked in. Don’t fight the fatigue.
It was time to sit down and write this.
Thank-you for reading.