’Twas The Season When Ho, Ho Became Oh, Oh!

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I haven’t blogged for a few weeks because of an unexpected health hiccup requiring a coronary angiogram and a host of other tests. I’m on the medical roundabout with some questions still to be answered and other specialist visits lined up, but at least feel more energetic.

I’m lucky to have a GP who is caring and thorough even although answers are elusive. However, broken bodies and minds can be healed and ageing bodies may need some help but they keep functioning! The philosophy of kintsukuroi good to remember. 

Several of my students have also struggled with health issues this year, most are dear friends as well as students – maybe our bodies are in sync as well as our writing minds!

Here’s to a healthier 2018.

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Stress versus Sense

In Australia, the end of semester two coincides with the festive season and the long summer break. As usual, I was busy organising class anthologies, submitting A-frames to secure funding for next year, and at Longbeach Place, in Chelsea, we held our first Open Day.

I prepared some of the work of current students to display and also offered a couple of workshops to encourage people to enrol in 2018. This year has been a wonderful class with some of the students from Mordialloc joining us for the second semester.

Writing Creatively Towards The Future
a featured class at Longbeach Place
learning all-important techniques of writing
to stay ahead in today’s digital race.
Words matter – they entertain, educate, even heal –
we write each week to practice skills with zeal!

There has been the inevitable Christmas get-togethers and catch-ups, shopping for presents and food, preparations for overseas guests, and the annual clearing of clutter for the new year…

I’m too busy to be sick was my first thought, but as my normally low blood pressure wanted to hover around 150-60 after soaring to over 200, and a Stress Echocardiogram indicated my heart ‘never slows down’, the cold whisper of Fate reminded me that heart attacks and strokes can be fatal!

I did some serious thinking.

Reflection – Rejuvenate or Retire?

In Life Story Class we discussed how genetics, personality traits and talents present themselves in families. I look back at what I wrote last year and wonder if, at 64 years of age, this latest health crisis is part of my inheritance!

A photograph of my paternal grandmother sat on the mantlepiece throughout my childhood. Granny died at 63 years of age during WW2. Her demise sudden, and in some people’s opinion, a happy death – if there is such a thing.

My grandmother was attending a ceilidh and sat beside her brother, John, who was stationed in Greenock because he captained a minesweeper. Granny’s daughters, Chrissie and Mary, were dancing a reel while Granny clapped and sang in Gaelic. Mouth music a common accompaniment at Scottish dances organised by Greenock’s Highland Society.

Granny turned to her brother and whispered, ‘I’m going, John,’ and slid to the floor. This massive, fatal heart attack a tragic shock to everyone even although Granny suffered ‘with her heart’ most of her adult life.

No wonder her heart was strained. Birthing thirteen children (Dad was the last) in twenty years, coping with the grief of losing many of them as infants, she also carried too much weight because treatment in those days involved ‘lots of bed rest and taking it easy’ – not the best advice for a heart condition that probably needed regular exercise and fresh air.

Chrissie, Dad’s older sister suffered angina and was 59 years old when she died of a heart attack. She was in her tenth year of living with a mastectomy.

Dad was in his 60s when he had his first heart attack, later followed by a stroke and then dementia.

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I love writing, I love teaching writing and I love all the volunteer activities I do in the community but as I head towards retirement and a choice of whether to stay working or not, I realise life must change if I want to reduce stress and be healthy. 

My daughters, wonderful as ever, demand I stop thinking negatively. In the words of Simon & Garfunkel, I’m told I just need to “slow down, you’re moving too fast”…

Some choices were made for me – my job teaching at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House cancelled via email in July after almost 18 years teaching. The brave new impersonal world in action…

I withdrew from coordinating the Mordialloc Writers’ Group last year – I needed a break. However, the numbers attending dwindled and in December the group decided to stop meeting. I won’t be reviving it – my energy will be focused on finishing numerous writing projects, including writing about the wonderful three months I spent travelling through Mongolia, Russia and the UK.

Perhaps that mystery novel will be finished and not end up a cold case, or my Mother’s life story woven into an entertaining memoir to do justice to her amazing fortitude and extensive legacy. Boxes of scribbled notes, short story outlines, ideas for children’s books and poetry — all need to be revisited, rewritten, expanded, edited and perhaps published!

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 I also decided to stop facilitating Chat ’N Chuckle a social group for people with ABI I’ve been privileged to work with since 2016.

I admire all the ‘chatty chucklers’ and their carers, their courage, resilience, and sense of humour. How would I cope if faced with many of their daily challenges? They kept me grounded and humbled; a reminder to count my blessings and not complain about minor physical ailments, breathe deeply of fresh air and give thanks for health. Make a choice to be happy.

The opportunity to meet this group of people and reflect on how quickly life can change an unpredictable but amazing gift, reaffirming I must indeed live and cherish the moment!

The group is now ready for those who attend to take turns facilitating and although I will miss those Fridays I’m glad for the small part I played in helping establish the group, encouraging friendships to flourish, and most of all, empowering participants to take charge!

Each time I look at the beautiful orchid the group gave me my spirits lift.

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The support of family and friends made my breast cancer journey bearable and I am truly lucky having many people care about me. I know whatever problem scheduled tests reveal I’ll rejuvenate!

 

 

8 thoughts on “’Twas The Season When Ho, Ho Became Oh, Oh!

  1. It’s hard when your whole life has been full of activity, in your case always giving to others, to do that slowing down, but, well, now you’ve had your heart scare and now you don’t have the choice any more. I’ve had a forced slowdown, and though I don’t like the health issues, I am enjoying life so much more:) You will find it’s the same.

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    1. You are always so generous yourself Lisa, and finding time for others! You blog so constantly and successfully – among other things like appearing at festivals! – I can’t see where you have slowed down! But I agree health issues won’t rob me of the important enjoyments like family and friends – as long as I can hold a pen or tap a key:)

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  2. Oh my God Mairi!   Of course you must AND WILL rejuvenate. I read your blog with bated breath and actual fingers crossed, now MY dicky heart is pounding!!!!I have had two cardiac arrests, and had an echo stress angiagram after we finished last year, I am not happy to be reminded that I must see my cardiologist on the 17th January to “get the results”.    I know Annie Crane had the same test the same Monday in December, but have buried my head in the sand over Christmas and New Year – which were pretty good actually, despite my health gripes etc.I know you feel that your life must be less stressful, and so it should be, but even keeping up your good food and exercise routines, and not mixing with people as much might help – but it doesn’t in many cases.   My Dad (who I take after mostly) managed reasonably well though he had a huge beer gut, until he retired, and took things a bit easier – he dropped dead after a massive cardiac arrest at 68!   As I turn 60 next year, I am rather scared about that, especially as he is not the only family member to fall off the twig at 68. Dearest Mairi hang on in there and don’t give all your activities away – especially not OUR CLASS!!!!!Much love, will be in touch soon, keep on keeping on,Donna. xxxxx

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    1. Oh, Donna – you are amazing! Hope your results are positive and good and not negative:) No way will I give LIfe Story class away – I’ll volunteer to keep teaching that and encouraging people to reflect, write and share their valuable experiences.I messaged Annie when the fire was close to Cheltenham recently – she’s keeping on like the trouper she is – between us we’ll be able to write a medical manual!:) xx

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  3. Mairi, I am sorry you have yet another challenge to face, it doesn’t seem fair. Your blog is very honest and shows what a trooper you are. We of course never know what is ’round the corner’ for any of us and as we grow older the reality of our vulnerability to all sorts of health issues is ever present it would appear. I struggle with this reality. Thinking of you. xx

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  4. I’ve outlived my dad by nearly 30 years Mairi – he had heart failure and died at home at 43; plus mum died of heart disease (but I still have to wait another 12 years to surpass her life span!) so I don’t feel that we inherit everything that runs in our families. Take heart and keep battling on. Our fate is our fate…worrying may hasten it but the opposite is not necessarily the case (think I’ve confused myself with words there and not sure just what the latter half of that sentence means!)
    Yes, take it a little easier but certainly never give up!! Thinking of you..

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    1. Thank you Kaye! I’m stubborn Kaye, so certainly won’t give up:) However, sometimes genetics kicks in and I know there are a lot of interventions now regarding medicine than in Granny’s day. As I mentioned in the post so much of the advice back then probably exacerbated her condition. At the moment it’s just frustrating until I know more.

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