Sunday, 28 October 2012

Day 176 - babysitters... ;)

On Friday night, Bee, Lynda and I wanted to watch a film, but we realised we had no DVDs with us except Ice Age 3...which we had watched on Wednesday. Thank heavens such a thing as BBC iplayer exists - for there we found a gem we would otherwise easily have dismissed. It is a 1999 release called At First Sight and, whilst I could simply direct you to IMDB for a synopsis, I'm not going to because the one they offer is far too reductive: 'A blind man has an operation to regain his sight at the urging of his girlfriend and must deal with the changes to his life.'

That's not what happens. The above sentence deals solely with the middle of the plot - and misrepresents it to boot. It's true that Virgil Adamson (Val Kilmer), a severely visually-impaired masseur, meets Amy Benic (Mira Sorvino), an architect, and that together they eventually decide to go ahead with the surgery. Without spoiling things, though, that's not the end of the film - and I would suggest that its main theme is the couple's journey (both together and as individuals) towards a fuller understanding of themselves and their relationship, as well as the impact and implications that disability might have on them and the people around them. Actually, it is those 'people around them' that are perhaps the most important factor in this development and, as such, the film could be posed as a treatise on the attitudes of society towards disability. For fear of straying too much into the territory of my dissertation and boring you, however, I'll try and keep it...relevant to life [read here, this blog].

What I took from the film, I suppose, is that even though there are implicit difficulties in having a disability, however it might manifest itself, these are undeniably instrumental in shaping our 'view of the world' (and, in Virgil's case, they do so quite literally). Sure, there are jerks - like Amy's ex-husband Duncan, who dismisses her love and ridicules her as 'a babysitter' (hence the title of this post). Sure, I've heard similar things plenty of times myself, and I'm not afraid to tell you I expressed my rage by shouting obscenities at the screen [side note: Gramma, this is completely untrue!] - but I guess my point is that, without them, I wouldn't be the person I am today. It's true that I want nothing more than to walk to collect my degree, but that is not without an acknowledgement of all the lessons my disability has taught me that I wouldn't otherwise have learnt.

I'm discovering that it's not something to shy away from or to feel guilty about, that I can be grateful for the part it has played in how far I've come in life and how far I've still to go. Basically, it's only through learning to accept myself as I am that I've been able to move forward towards what I want to be and, however much of a cliché it may seem, the film has reminded me of that, just as every one of even the tiniest spasms reminds me I need to take a moment to pause and breathe before I take the next plunge.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Day 175 - in the cold, cold night

This blog seems to have a thing for the number sixteen. I started posting on day sixteen, I recently left it sixteen days without posting, and if I'd waited 'til tomorrow, it would've happened again. Sorry. As I said then, I can only plead an influx of reading and my arrival at what I like to call Dissertation Station on this, my train journey to graduation, which is steadily coming to resemble a rollercoaster ride.

Anyway, I'm back, and capitalising on the fact that I've done most of my reading for the next week already. (When I finish this, I shall return to the last fifteen pages of The Merry Wives of Windsor, and then 'most' will become 'all'.) So I thought I'd use this new ability to speed through work as a jumping-off point to illustrate in this post just how far I appear to have come in my time at university.

Most of you, given that you live in this country, will have noticed how cold the weather has been recently. You'll probably also be aware that, for me, cold, and especially wind, is pretty much equal to spasms - spasms which, more often than not, have been known to lead to no work whatsoever being done and extension after extension on essay deadlines.

Not so any more. Last night I met Becca and Wei, two of my fellow exec members and dear friends from Warwick Writing Society, at Curiositea (the uni vintage tea shop) for hot melted chocolate (yes, really!) and a chat. 'Twas lovely - because, aside from the fun and laughter and home-made birthday cake, I was filled with a warm and fuzzy sense of gratitude that I can call these two delightful humans my friends. It's still something of a novelty to me that people enjoy my company; though, perhaps because I am learning to like myself, it's not half as much of a surprise as it used to be. Softly, softly, catchy monkey, as I have been wont to say...

Then there was the wind on the way home, and I thought it would cut my jubilation down to size in its effort to transform me to an icicle, but it failed. Instead, though I could feel the tension teasing its way up my thigh and the sciatica snatching at the nerve-endings in my ankle, I won. I made it to our front door without a murmur, let alone tears - and truly realised quite how far I've come.

As of 25th October 2012, cold does not necessarily equate to spasms. Whilst this might seem a tiny, insignificant  detail to the greater part of the human race, indeed of the readers of this blog, to me it was a huge revelation. Now, you must understand, my response to cold weather will be more along the lines of this:

 ...with the wonderful Bee riding on the back of my chair for good measure, until we can walk side-by-side.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Day 160 - looking at life and laughing at life

The title of today's post is a complete (mis)appropriation and paraphrasing of a quotation from Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. In chapter four, discussing various authors' treatment of what she terms the 'male sentence', she writes: 'Jane Austen looked at it and laughed at it and devised a perfectly natural, shapely sentence proper for her own use and never departed from it'. Now, today's topic is not literature, nor am I aiming to align myself with the majesty of Austen...or indeed Woolf.

Nevertheless, re-reading this book for my module Feminist Perspectives on Literature, I was reminded of my most fundamental coping mechanism for life - to look at it and laugh at it. If I couldn't do that, as those of you who are well-acquainted with me will be aware, I would be in the Slough of Despond. So, somehow, I take a leaf from Jo March's book (though not literally - I'd never deface the pages of Little Women) and fight my inner demons with a laugh, however choked a chuckle it might be.

I've needed to do this quite a lot in the last eleven days, which is why I haven't blogged. There are times when the situations I find myself in seem more appropriate for the script of a sitcom than for 'real life' - and such was the case in these first two weeks of term. One of my relief helpers broke her ankle getting off a bus and my dad had to come up to Warwick for six days. My mum was in France. Then I heard that one of my friends from my boarding school, Ollie, had passed away. He was two years above me but it still hit me hard because the school was small and everyone, quite literally, knew everyone. My heart went out to his twin brother Tom and the rest of his family, as well as to our Treloar community. Whatever misgivings I may have about certain aspects of my time there, I am extremely grateful for the friends I made, among students and staff alike. I love you all.

The news had a twofold effect. Nobody at uni knew Ollie, and Hampshire isn't near Warwick (obviously!), so I was largely silent in my contemplation and thoughts for him. It also put the difficulties of a broken ankle in perspective - there was nothing I could do but laugh about the ridiculousness and be grateful for the impromptu time with Papa.

Ollie laughed a lot, as I remember. I'd like to thank him for setting that example to all of us. Much love, QPR has lost its number one fan.      

Monday, 1 October 2012

Day 149 - final year and unknown answers...bring it on!

Those of you who read this blog regularly (and even those who don't, just by looking at the date) will notice that I've not posted for a while - over two weeks, in fact. Suffice to say that the latter part of September each year is a difficult time for me. It comprises the anniversary of a very close friend, Vicky's, death and the birthday of another, Gemma. Gemma was eleven when her appendix burst in 2001, and she would've been twenty-two this year, so her whole life again has passed since then. It's five years since Vicky.

I wanted to blog about them both on their days (17th and 26th September respectively), as I had done for Tina, Erica and Lauren in June, because their presences in my life have had a profound impact on me, my personality and they, too, are driving forces of my determination to succeed in this goal. I will be Walking by 2013 to thank them - Gemma, for her belief in me from the moment we met, Vicky, for her example of quiet courage in her own life, and for making mine wonderful through her laugh, smile and spirit.

I say I 'wanted' to blog because I found I could not. I was too overwhelmed to be able to do justice to my Gem and my Vicky Angel; and, whilst it is true that one often writes most eloquently amidst emotion, I couldn't have done it without my keyboard getting soaked in the process. So, instead, I went up to my favourite tree on Hampstead Heath and meditated on the joy they have brought to me. I hope that was okay, dear girls - you were (and are) forever in my thoughts.

Then there were plans to make for, and things to be done before, third year. A paediatrician's appointment in which he asked me how I was doing and Madeleine said, gleefully, 'She's back to walking!' I nearly fell over, not just because of the look on his face, but because she was acknowledging that it's possible. She's always positive, of course, but 'realistic' - so that was amazing to hear! The end of a truly sublime summer.

Now I find myself back at uni, in October, not having blogged for sixteen days. Back at uni to start the final year of my degree. I'm not quite sure what that means yet, and where I'll end up, but I'm going to try and take it as though it'll be the best year of my life. I'm surrounded by amazing people: friends, helpers, friends who help and helpers who've become firm friends. There are lots of unknown answers, but I'm okay with that. Life is just the greatest show on Earth and since when did theatre go to plan!?

I've got a soundtrack for this new term, too, provided in part by Natasha North:

So bring on final year, bring on dissertations, and bring on walking to collect my degree. It's going to be a cracker!