Learning from Illness (5) Interruptions

When I said at the start of this series that I didn’t want it to be ‘a sentence without a period, a tale without a conclusion’ I hadn’t bargained, as most of us don’t, on anything happening to me in the future. That was a couple of weeks ago now, and my then future is now my past.

I had wanted to tell this story chronologically, because that’s the way it seemed to make the most sense, but even that wasn’t possible. I had to be ‘rushed’ (as they say) to an A&E Department last Tuesday in extreme pain, and therefore it was not possible for me to continue the story on the blog.

However, I am lucky and gifted in having a wonderful partner who not only brought me to A&E, but continued posting in this blog so you would know I hadn’t just abandoned the story, but had merely been incapacitated. Thanks Laura, my love, for posting this and this while I was in hospital.

The A&E experience was not pleasant. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But it did spark some really interesting thoughts, and for that reason, I need to touch on it before I get back to where we were.

I had intended this blog to tell a story about illness. Since it was my own personal illness, I thought I could tell it better from that perspective.

I have been writing about health and illness for a long time, but it was always something I could leave behind me when my work was done. This is a different thing.

And I suppose we all have a story to tell, and we do it every day. Perhaps we don’t think of it in those terms, but we’re still doing it. We think of ourselves as sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, classmates, parents or friends. We are all these evolving things to a number of people, and yet, through the course of our lives, we change who we are.

We don’t change, of course. The personnel change. When the parent dies, we can no longer go on being the son or daughter. Of course, some of us believe in an afterlife, and in that context, it is possible for us to continue with the thought that there is a parent out there in some undefined space, that still exists and watches over us, but in the practical day-to-day, the parent is gone, and being a ‘child’ to them is no longer really possible.

But our story still makes sense. And that person still makes sense within the context of our lives. It is, as if in the movie of our lives, this major character is dead, but still alive in the mind of the audience of that movie of our lives. Like a character who dies early on in an epic film, but whose influence resonates until the very end.

But when we watch a movie, what we forget is that it isn’t real. It isn’t actually happening. Many people with a lot of money sat down and figured out a beginning, middle and end, and huge financial forces propel the story – first onto film, and then into cinemas, and then via international marketing departments into the public consciousness. There is no chance that the movie will end without its natural conclusion with all the ‘t’s’ crossed and the ‘i’s’ dotted.

I’m not saying I necessarily thought I was going to die when I went into A&E, but it did wreck my head a little to think that I wasn’t going to be able to tell this story in its normal natural order. When we get back to the action of the first Act, as it were, you’re going to have to know that not only did I survive my first encounter with the illness, but that even after that success and happiness, there was more misery and heartbreak to come. (Not a great conclusion, is it?)

And I don’t know if I can deny you that ‘right to know’. It would undoubtedly be a better story if I kept back some of the information and retained some of the suspense but for a story that I am telling in real time, that’s impossible. Instead it’s like I’m forced into skipping back in my own personal movie and changing some of the action because of what’s happening in the present – great for day-to-day information, but lousy in terms of keeping the reader involved in the plot.

So be it. Swings and roundabouts.

I need to do this for the purposes of my followers on this blog. When the entire story is told, and available, I can give people the option of not knowing about this ‘spoiler’, if you like, and I will possibly do that. The movie of my life would obviously be better without a spoiler right there in the middle.

But to tell the story of illness properly, one has to tell it as it is. You can’t cut and paste life, nor turn the banality of illness into a Hollywood drama. The most significant thing about serious illness is that it can bring your movie to an end without any resolution of plot.

And without that knowledge, there is no point in trying to understand. Life is our own movie, and if we are very, very lucky, most things will be resolved in the end. We may deal with the the early childhood trauma, we may recover from the alcoholism, we may deal with the loss of someone special – or the reel may just go blank at some unspecified moment and the film runs off the reel – clack, clack, clack, and there is no resolution, no answers and no meaning.

It’s funny that when I was in hospital, one of the things that bothered me the most was that my movie didn’t have a proper ending. If I had never brought up this subject (of illness) then it might have been fine, but when one starts a story, there is a sort of compulsion to finish.

Let me just thank Laura once again for keeping it going while I was gone, and let you all know, it’s still going on. Yeah, it’s on.

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