Thursday, 2 September 2010

There's no such word as Can't

What’s your mantra?

There’s no such word as can’t

This is mine because I believe that when you really, really want something you must never say the ‘C’ word. You can do anything if you set your mind to it.

My Nan drummed it into me at an early age. Whether it was schoolwork or music, dance or athletics, whenever I said ‘I Can’t,’ Nan would look me straight in the face, her expression serious and retort with gusto, ‘Of course you can. There’s no such word as can’t. Keep trying.’

Sometimes, I puzzled and fretted over her words. There were lots of things I couldn’t do. I couldn’t get A+ in Maths, however hard I tried. I couldn’t get my soufflés to rise like Margaret Owen in Domestic Science classes. I couldn’t run the 100 metre hurdles in under fourteen seconds.

Years, and countless times later of Nan batting those words at me, I found I’d developed huge resilience, a staying power, a dogged determination that nearly matched her strong will. My never say never attitude served me well in my career, personal life, health – especially those times when ill-health threatened to ruin everything. And with the successes came confidence, and a belief that if I tried my very best and kept going, then maybe I could. Nan was right. There really was no such word as Can't.

Now on the second anniversary of her death, whilst I recognise it’s a mantra I’ve maintained most of my life, I have to confess; over the last year or so there have been times when I’ve been lost as I floated in limbo, endlessly waiting for the surgery that’s going to miraculously improve my physical and mental well-being.

Last week, I had to give myself a swift talking to. I’d done so well over recent weeks and had come out from under the duvet where I’d been hiding.I’d stopped swimming because it hurt my jaws to push my chin forward. Or that was my excuse. I couldn’t be bothered. I preferred to sit home and wallow in pain and gloom at my predicament. But a few weeks ago I realised I missed it. Swimming helps the rest of my bones not seize up. It stops me feeling like a lump of lard. And whether it hurts or not, swimming isn’t going to make my jaw problems any worse.

I’m now back swimming four or five times a week. Already, my body tone has improved which makes me feel better about myself and I know I’m preparing myself, physically and mentally, for what’s to come. Exercise has helped the endorphin levels - perhaps it’s psychosomatic, but I feel as if I’m coping with the pain better - I’ve certainly stopped going to bed in the afternoons to shut down from it.

But swimming alone isn't going to help me. I need something to stop me going backwards, sliding towards the open jaws of the black dog of depression.

Come on, Deb. There’s no such word as Can’t. I have to fight back.

It’s easy to say. But the most difficult thing with my periods of ill-health (and other adversities,) is finding the strength to believe in myself again.

As I sat there, feeling sorry for myself, frustrated at the lack of control, I summoned all the positive thinking and strength I could muster for the a final assault. Knowing myself as well as I do, I need a plan or plans. I need goals; something to work to, something to look forward to, something to help distract me and not dwell. Most of all, I need to believe.

Fed up of waiting, we booked a holiday for the 15th September. I may as well be in pain in Antigua as sitting home, looking at the four walls and waiting. We all need the holiday and it will be good for the boys for us to have some proper time together, and if we don’t get away now, it might be months. We’ve had to cancel two holidays because of my health this year.

Next, I chased the hospital and the manufacturers of my replacement joints in the USA tmjconcepts - I sent a nice, but strongly worded e-mail. I can't go on like this. I need an idea of when the surgery is. I have to make certain domestic arrangements. With a husband who works in London most of the week and two boys to organise, it’s not unreasonable to at least have an idea of when the surgery might be, is it - especially if, as I’m told, I might be out of action for several weeks.

On the writing front I would like to announce that I am OFFICIALLY a writer, not because I’ve been accepted for publication, but because I’ve had my first rejection for Living in the Past from a publisher. Well, that makes me a proper writer, doesn’t it? So I've also made a few writing goals which I need these to keep focussed because there were times this year when I gave up - it didn't last, of course - after a few days, I felt anxious, restless and unfulfilled. Writing is the milk in my tea; the fondant on my cup cake, the ice- cream on my jelly.

I intend to finish Country Strife, my second novel and get it on the RNA New Writer’s Scheme for 2011. I’m going to finish the two stories I have in mind for women’s magazines (and submit them.) Finally, I’m going to push on with my idea for non-fiction book about living with pain/long term illness – nothing gloomy or self indulgent - something light with some positive messages. I think it might also be cathartic.

There we are. I have a plan. I feel strong. I have my mojo back. It's just as well.

Last night I had an e-mail from my Consultant.
"How does the 13th October sound for your surgery date?"

Nothing comes to he who waits.

“You can do it. Believe. There’s no such word as Can’t.”

I miss you Nan. But you’d be proud of me.

Until another day


bayou said...

Wonderful! Wonderful to have a date! Wonderful to have a goal! Wonderful to be back to swim! A wonderful lady writer you are!

DJ Kirkby said...

Grans are wonderful. Mine always said 'many hands make light work' and she was right! By the way, writing makes you a proper writer! :)

Posie Rosie said...

You are such a brave and driven person Angel....great that you are now swimming again, and so many exciting plans in your career as a writer. I can so relate to the black dog and all of the hopeless feelings that go with it, be kind to your self, fantastic goals and onwards and upwards Anglel x

Colette McCormick said...

Your Nan is still incredibly proud of you - wherever she is and I'm thinking that she is pretty close to you most of the time.
What's my manta? Good Lord - who knows? There are so many of them.
Enjoy your break and good luck with the op.
I never knew either of my grandmothers but I wish I had.

Fennie said...

Your Nan certainly has given you courage and the power to go forward. She must look down on you and feel very proud and happy. I do wish you all success with your novels and stories and of course with the operation. I would think that many papers and magazines would be glad to feature a column with such a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
Good luck and lots of love, Fenniexx

Chris Stovell said...

You've got exactly the right attitude for a writer (published writers are just unpublished writers who didn't give up), but, my goodness, aren't you showing the way in life lessons. Have a wonderful holiday, I hope that the sunshine eases some of the pain whilst your away, and then it's another new start for you. Your gran would be very proud.

Frances said...

You've written a fine tribute to your Nan. I'll bet that you've already passed along much of that inner strength on to your boys.

It's grand that you have returned to swimming, got that vacation booked, and know that October will be here soon.

Best wishes to you wonderful writer, you! xo

mountainear said...

Well done Debbie! I'm sure positive thinking and being active will give you such a boost. Having a date to work towards will spur you on - and a holiday to look forward will as well.

Enjoy the sunshine. f

Withy Brook said...

I was brought up on 'there is no such word as can't' too but it was not bashed into me as thoroughly as your nan did to you!
I have already wished you luck with the surgery - but repeat it here.

muddyboots said...

I was brought up being told 'there is no such word as can't' l failed my latin exam at school with a score of 15%! Go for it girl nothing is worse than people who mop & flop, dead jealous of your plans to return to antigua, good old grans, luv 'em.

mollygolver said...

Purple vibes and hugs for October. In the mean time Angel, have a wonderful holiday in Antigua

CAMILLA said...

Well done Angel, keep it up with the positive thinking, I so admire you Angel, there have been many times when I have said that word Can't, when friends have encouraged me to go just that step futher. This maybe will be my new goal.!

Your lovely Nan would be very proud of you, enjoy the holiday in September, best of luck with the surgery in October.

My best wishes to you Angel.


Kate Hardy said...

How brilliant that you had such a supportive and wonderful nan - she really gave you something important, there (and something that'll help you deal with the black dog).

Hugs on the R, but it's just another step forward on the road to publication. (Chris has it so right about published writers being unpublished ones who didn't give up.) Good for you on setting goals, going back to swimming and booking a holiday (bet Antigua is going to be inspiring!). And good luck with the op.

Sending you a hug. xxx

Pipany said...

Good for you Deb! You are so right about needing goals - I am the same - but it is very hard to constantly keep pushing and I guess the down times give you space to realise the push is worth it. Best of luck with the surgery xx

Flowerpot said...

That's great news and I do think you are so brave and a real example to us all. Go for it and your Nan would be so proud of you.

Talli Roland said...

That's fantastic! And you're so right. If we believe we can do something, that's half the battle!

Suzanne Jones said...

Your nan was a very wise lady.

sheepish said...

Enjoy the sun it will make you feel good to feel the warmth on your limbs. You seem like a very strong person who can overcome any obstacles. I hope that you will get your surgery and that it works for you. Your Nan sounds like she was a wonderful lady.

Tattie Weasle said...

Sounds bonkers me saying well done for being rejected but you're a proper writer now! FANTASTIC!!!! If it's the ionly thing I do to keep the black dog in check is to exercise it's not psychosomatic but a truth, exercise makes you feel good as it boosts the old serotonin levels. What a wonderful inspriing post - your Nan would be chuffed to bits!
PS word verification is "minging" made me laugh!!!

Exmoorjane said...

Ah honeypie - sounds like you're being incredibly strong. I am in awe...
Have to agree with DJ too - writing makes you a writer - no question. Antigua sounds like SUCH a good idea...
Funny thing, I just blogged about having to pull myself up by my bootstraps and something made me click on your blog - and here you are - a living inspiration!
BIG (but careful) hugs. jxxxx

Milla said...

God, you're impressive! And, hopefully, on the way to some sun. Just to make it all the more pleasurable, it's pretty bloody cold and very very grey here!