Posted by: Louise | August 5, 2010


I was at the doctor yesterday. As far as she was concerned it was to remove a few stitches, nothing serious. That was my under cover excuse. As far as I was concerned it was to check if I had cancer – throat cancer, thyroid cancer, something like that. She told me the lump in my throat was nothing serious (the stitches were on my back), a very common muscular something-or-other. I told her I had already been wondering how I would tell the kids that not only had they lost their sister, but now they were going to lose their mother. What colour flowers had you chosen for yourself?! she asked. I told her I had only got as far as choosing the songs. I like my doctor. She is human. She gets human.

She is referring me to a throat doctor for him to confirm her diagnosis with a camera, just to be sure. I’ll have to find a different cancer then. I had thought if it was thyroid cancer that would be good. It is (a) very rare, but then so is having a still born daughter so rare doesn’t mean a lot, but (b) very treatable, so if I got it then that would be my cancer and I wouldn’t have to worry about cancer again. I could strike it off the “Life” list. Cancer – tick.

I have been reading “Eat – Pray – Love” recently. Graduated from chick lit. I think. I’ve wanted to talk to someone about it, to dissect it, to tease out what I think about it. The other night I met one of my yoga teachers, a friend. Perfect. She hadn’t read it, but I talked about it anyway. I think what was bothering me was the author set out with her year of ambitions and, low and behold, they were all realised. She learned italian, met with God and then after a year of abstinence, doesn’t just find a man, but finds a brazilian love god. Neat. All very neat. I don’t begrudge her any of it. Maybe I’m jealous. But a part of me is thinking, from where I am, life is not neat. Life is a journey – a pretty tragic daunting one at the moment – and for a book about life it felt too neat, too rounded up, not enough open-ended and unresolved threads to the story.

I mentioned the whole spiritual enlightenment aspect of the book to my yogic friend. My yoga practice is limited strictly to the once weekly sessions I sometimes attend. I am the person who will always fall asleep during Yoga Nidra – middle finger of your right hand -zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I am intimidated in the presence of those who find time to practice at home, never mind those who have spent time in ashrams. Her response couldn’t have been more surprising. I’m allergic to all that enlightenment stuff. Being spiritual is easy. We are all spiritual. We can be spiritual when we are dead. It is living that is hard. Being human is the challenge.

Being human is the challenge. One of my lecturers on my MA talked about the experience of joy and sorrow and the belief that they are like a balancing scales. We cannot deny our feelings of sorrow and expect our experience of joy not to be affected.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Kahlil Gibran

He read these words and I listened with interest. That was before, before I knew the intensity with which sorrow could consume you. I liked the idea of feeling more intensely. I didn’t know how much this intensity of feeling would cost. Sometimes, during a good moment, I wonder how the corresponding joy might feel or what might cause the corresponding joy to bubble up in me – and then the moment passes……..

I don’t live as though there is no death anymore. There is death. I have carried it inside me. I have held it in my arms. I have buried my child, consumed by death, in the ground. Death is not a myth. It is real and that changes everything. It changes how I view life. This is it. This is life, in all its ever passing moments. This is my life. I want to live it in the knowledge that there is an end. I want to live it with the intensity that knowledge brings.


….the fact I know death means I know sorrow and that sucks the life out of me, the fight out of me. I’m tired and cranky. The fact my baby died inside me means my confidence in me, in my body, has gone. I worry about my health. I am a bundle of tangled muscles with a wonky knee. I never even knew I could get pregnant without medication. That was a body shock – a good one. But my baby died. Body shock. Body shock. Body shock. How can I trust it again? How can I know anything about my body? Of course I live in the land of worst case scenarios. Death is real and that changes everything.

Or it would if life wasn’t so distracting. What with groceries and cleaning and work and laundry and tidying and watching telly and shopping. My current (non essential) funeral planning began last Easter. It took me months to get to the doctor. And if I hadn’t just had a mole removed – my previous (non essential) excuse for funeral planning – and needed the stitches taken out I would probably still be hanging around with my domestic excuses.

So where am I? Feeling very human…… reading chick lit in a deck chair, planning my funeral, crying myself to sleep, combing out head lice, shopping in the sales, shouting at the kids and their chaos of toys, loving the kids and their chaos of toys, simultaneously lost and looking better every day.

Human is the challenge.



  1. Human isn’t a bad place to start perhaps! it means you are alive, you care, you love and you breath. And you have the potential to grow and some of the things you speak of seem to hint of that growth to come? sunshine amid the rain so to speak.

    be gentle on yourself

    • I guess it is accepting I am human, with all that human is, is the challenge.

      being gentle is a good place to start.

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