Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Dancing with Wolf

illustration by Miranda Vincent

There is a new man in my life. He is a Wolf, he is mean, hurtful and dominant. He has been here for over a year, his name is Lupus. At first no-one recognised him, so it was worth getting that second opinion at the hospital, the one where the consultant said the 'L' word and told me his name. I think i already knew, i'd felt his claws gripping my limbs and felt his breath on the back of my neck whenever i tried to do something and found myself too tired or in too much pain. But now i know. Sort of... it may take a couple of years to get a firm clinical diagnosis, but it's highly likely Lupus is the name of my new companion.
The thing is i am very lucky. Some people with this disease are so ill, i have only a mild form. Yet still the Wolf tries to make me change my life. I have to miss parties and events i am too ill for, at times it takes all my effort just to get up. My trainers gather dust as i cannot run. Sometimes it hurts to hold my camera. I'm a photographer but i can no longer do weddings as i can't work more than half a day. At my lowest point it took all my concentration to remember how to swallow. What should have become an automatic response became an effort of will. It was terrifying and I lost my appetite for a while. It's fine, i can still manage about 60% of my life ok. Some days i feel ok. So i am grateful for that. I am not dying, i am not disabled.
It's the little things that get me sometimes. Who would have thought you'd miss painting ceilings, nit-combing your daughter's hair (a vile job but i get tearful when my fingers ache too much to hold the comb) emptying the bin and lifting heavy things like the recycling? Yet i do... the frustration at not being able to do those things is huge. I feel so pathetic. In those moments the Wolf has won and i loathe him.
So i am refusing to dance to his tune. His teeth may be sinking into my joints 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and he may make me poorly at times, but i shall not let him force me to give up. There is a whole new me he doesn't know about. I am finding new ways to live that he cannot prevent me from enjoying. Sometimes i find myself filled with a new intense joy springing from a heightened appreciation of all that i can still do. Now i am living a different life but i take delight in planning it. Do we not all moan we are too busy with no time for quiet reflection, for rest, never enough time? Not my problem any more. I have time enough now that the Wolf drags me to my bed in the afternoons. I am redesigning my life and it will be better than before. I have time to write, think, read, draw, rest, i can even watch a film in the middle of that day if i want to! Such decadence!
I wrote to a friend of mine that i was thinking of buying a chaise longue and some seriously glamourous lounge wear so i can recline decoratively and receive visitors, or maybe dictate a novel to a handsome young literature student (if you know one please send him to me). Perhaps i can even start other decadent horizontal pursuits like smoking opium or embroidery, really the world is my oyster. Wolfie cannot stop any of that. I shall take rest to new and glamourous heights.
When i wake up in the morning, often tired from a painful night, i stretch and feel the Wolf's teeth sink into my elbows, wrists, knees and ankles. Every little joint in my hands complains as i walk slowly and painfully to the bathroom flexing them. But i am smiling. He thinks he will make me dance a sad little dance of defeat but i am not this body. My breath, mind, heart, joy, love, family, friends, photographs, words and memories are all beyond his reach. The birdsong in the garden calls me to the day, my day. Behind me lurks the Wolf, but i shall surprise him by turning to him and reaching out to welcome him. Then he will have very little power at all.


Cat said...

I love you, it's the perfect way to look at this!
Hey the WORD VERIFICATION is Kesses, not quite kisses, but almost there!

Michael Scott said...

Great words. To someone who cannot appreciate what life with such a wolf is like, your outlook is upbeat, optimistic and inspiring. Thanks for directing me to your blog. I shall add it to my Google Reader list and keep up with your blogging boot camp writing!

Graham Phoenix said...

Sarah, that is an extraodrinary story told in a very moving way. I love the way you personalise the wolf, it sets him outside you and doesn't make him part of you, brilliant. Keep talking about him and, can I suggest, ask him why he is here, what meaasge does n he have for you? Thank you for this, Sarah.

Rock Kyndl said...

Beautifully written: poignant and full of courage. I can picture rivers like this coming from your spot on the chaise.
Flannery O'Connor fought such a creature.
I will continue to check in.

Sarah Ketelaars said...

Thanks all, for dropping by and for reading.

Marian Mantovani said...

This is a wonderful piece on Lupus. I can understand everything you have been through and are still going through. I would like to use this in my book, if you wish to contribute. Very well said. :)