A Curate’s Egg ~ 2015 That was the year that was

A Curate’s Egg ~ 2015 That was the year that was

You probably know the term a curate’s egg and if you know its origins in a very old cartoon of a much-downtrodden young curate attempting to eat a boiled egg that is clearly so far past its sell-by (if they had such things when the cartoon was drawn) and saying in response to his employer sternly querying whether the egg was bad, “No, sir, it is excellent in parts!”, then you’ll also know that it’s about making the best of a bad job. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curate%27s_egg 

Personally, 2015 wasn’t a bad year, though. It was excellent in parts. The trouble is that the excellent bits don’t quite make up for the bad bits. The other trouble is that being honest about the bad parts tends to make people switch off. The whole positivity bull has become so engrained that a bit of plain speaking is dismissed as negativity and is demonised. So I’m in a quandary: if I write of the good things without mentioning the bad ones, I’m being dishonest to myself, and if I do mention the less than stellar bits, people dismiss it as moaning. I’m going to try to have a brief run through of some of both.

Good bits:

Books: I managed to get Depression and the Art of Tightrope Walking (first in a series of themed collections from his blog) out. It took far longer because I’ve been in the grip of depression this year. It’s got some wonderful reviews and feedback but so far hasn’t reached as many readers as I believe it needs to. Other books have garnered more reviews, though sales have been fewer than previous years. But I am still selling, if slowly.

Travel. I rarely blog much about my travelling job, for a variety of reasons. While most trips go very smoothly and the people I work with are smashing, sometimes things don’t go as well; personality clashes happen, though it’s extremely rare. Sometimes things don’t go as planned and on extremely rare occasions things can go wrong. It would be unprofessional of me to talk about this type of thing. I often chuckle to myself that no-one would believe some of the things I’ve experienced and seen on trips, anyway. It truly is a job of absurd extremes. Needless to say, I make mental notes of it all and perhaps things might filter through in fictionalised form one day. This year I have done a goodly number of miles for the day job. Admittedly, it’s stressful and exhausting but it can also be fun. I go to interesting places and I meet interesting people. Some are absurdly demanding but charming. Some are kind, lovely people I’ve made friends with, like the lovely lady in the small Austrian town who gave me her finger-less gloves when I admired them. There are some truly fabulous people in this world.

Home. In the wake of losing Tiko the Magnificent, tiny tyrant of the kitchen (our guinea pig who loved watching costume dramas on the TV with us. Poldark will never be the same again) we adopted first Blackberry (a year old female guinea, an unwanted pet) and then babies Rosehip, Cinnamon and Anise. They have become possibly the best of mood enhancers, just as Tiko was.

Writing. I have managed to write at least 70 thousand words of fiction this year. Thirty thousand longhand for a sequel to Square Peg, about another thirty thousand for another work in progress, and perhaps ten thousand in short stories. I’ve done perhaps another five to ten thousand on another piece but since that requires me to be in a state of trance, I haven’t done that much. I’ve also published over 70 blog posts this year, according to the WordPress stats monkeys.

Bad bits

Health: despite my best efforts, I’ve been gripped by low mood virtually all year, sometimes paralysed by depression so entirely that simply staying alive has been a huge struggle. I’ve also been in a lot of pain, and fatigue has been crippling. I’ve done my best to stay fit and active, attending the gym several times each week, and having a weekly class of Tai Chi and doing as much walking as I can manage. There is no sense of improving fitness despite doing all this (as well as daily physio exercises) which is frustrating. I have replaced the core muscles I lost because of the parathyroid tumour (removed in 2014) which has been helpful, but I’ve had four quite bad injuries this year because of my wonky joints. I did my ankle on New Year’s Day, wrist in March, shoulder on April Fool’s Day (of course) and I damaged my hip doing the splits on a slippery floor (by accident I should add). Each injury took a long time to recover and caused a lot of pain. Fibromyalgia pain is debilitating at the best of times, and injury adds to it.

Writing: yes, I know I put this in my good bits. I’ve found it very, very difficult to write. I feel I have lost faith with myself, lost the ability to just trust my own inner processes that had served me so well in the past. I have lost connection with the me that basically says, “let’s see where this goes, shall we?” and charges off on an adventure, and is rewarded by a flood of narrative that sweeps me away. Part of the reason for this is I am no longer naïve about the publishing side of things; I’ve seen what sells and what doesn’t and it has seeped into my consciousness and has nibbled at my confidence in my own talent to the extent that I now doubt it entirely. There is an immense ocean of books out there that grows daily so why, oh why, does the world need more? I should add (to pre-empt comments about writing for myself etc) that I have never regarded writing as a hobby, a pass-time, or even a career, but as a kind of vocation, a raison d’etre, something that comes from beyond me as well as from within me. I harbour the probable delusion that my stories matter, that they are more than simple entertainment or diversion, and in this sea of books, what hope is there that mine might find homes? I might add also that my faith in there being a purpose, a destiny, in all this, has also taken a battering. My faith generally has never been at a lower ebb.

Family: seeing family (and close friends) with health issues that are crippling and horrible to live with.

The World: what can I say? There have been many, many terrible things this year that will never mend, never heal.

That’s enough to be going on with, though.

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15 thoughts on “A Curate’s Egg ~ 2015 That was the year that was

  1. Thank you for all you share in a lovely turn of phrase, a thought-stopping image! I stumbled upon your blog and am delighted with what it adds to my experience of my day(s). I know that feeling of writing because one has to. And I also know (as a writer, author of a number of books and essays) that we have no idea of how far our words reach and how much they influence people–many of whom don’t show up in the sales statistics. So again–thank you. Keep the faith and keep writing. It is a gift you bring to the world.

  2. As you know ,I share the experience of knowing the intersection between writing compulsively, and crafting, only to fail to reach the readers for whom the work was destined. I also know the despair that undermines the work in progress.when the flotsam floating past swamps all belief that the new work will even break the surface.

    Yet, like you, ‘I can do no other’. ( How often I wish I could just happily abandon!) So what is it that prevents a rational acceptance? I must return to the central belief that thought itself ( and thought expressed more so) penetrates, remains and changes the collective at a deeper level than we know, and the driving compulsion makes us servants of that reality? I have, only in the last fortnight, been willing to reapply that belief and write for an imagined readership simply to stay ‘alive’. Could that help you?

  3. Thanks Viv for sharing your post so eloquently. The first thing though that struck me was all the exercise you are doing? Inflicting more pain on an already painful body?? Why was my next thought …MY first thought, please note. I know that when I was suffering from fibromyalgia that I could barely walk let alone bend my knees etc .

    I share some of your thoughts about writing – it’s a lonely road and what is it worth and why I am doing this when the publishing industry etc etc etc and marketing etc etc and who’s gonna read it etc etc etc and so on. And for me writing does not come easy. I am filled with feeling small about my eg lack of discipline – and filled with envy too of your accomplishments re your writing.

    I agree that if all you wrote was lovely and delicious happy and gay carefree and smiley, you would be dishonest with yourself and with your readers …

    And the delightful parts of your year are lovely. May there be more of those, less pain, less despair, increased ‘confidence’ in yourself not only as a writer but in yourself too …

    Happy 2016!!!

  4. I should explain that the joint hypermobility syndrome means if I don’t exercise, everything gets worse because of deconditioning; my physiotherapist and my occupational therapist stressed that I need to keep muscles strong to protect joints from damage and that, unfortunately, means doing exercise (gentle but regular) even when walking is so painful I whimper with each step. I lost a LOT of muscle to the tumour but didn’t know it until the joints started hurting badly.
    Discipline? Yes. I have a social media addiction and it’s a big problem because it’s my social life so withdrawing entirely leaves me isolated. So I need to impose some rules on myself next year or less will be done. I often feel I have a ticking clock in the background somewhere, meaning I feel I am running out of time.
    All the very best to you and yours, Susan, for 2016 xx

    • Hi Viv, thank you for elaborating on the muscle and joint ‘story’ – I see better the necessity for ongoing exercise. This may sound a bit strange – have you ever lain on the grass, arms outstretched, nothing underneath like a towel or blanket and only when it’s dry of course, just straight on the earth, and felt the healing of the ground reaching up into your body? I did that in times past and some relief came my way. Even imaging this …(I’m doing this right now).
      All best wishes for 2016 Viv, better health and vitality, joy and love. I think often of less social media, especially when my hands and wrists get a bit sore – I took a disprin last night and I think it helped. xxx

  5. I prefer the truth to sugar-coated New Age romps. Thanks for that, Viv. Hurting physically or having incurable illness is depressing. How do we get around this and the need to put more and more energy into maintaining a body that doesn’t get better? There doesn’t seem to be a better alternative and moving around (or lying on the earth when there is no snow) have a great influence on my mood.
    It sounds like writing gives you much pleasure along with traveling. I’m glad you don’t get discouraged by the realities of the market place or that the pleasures are always balanced by the struggles of life. And now you’re four days into a new year and still standing–so far.

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