Monday, 2 February 2015

Dizzying depths

Whoa! The world won't keep still.  I managed to avoid falling on my dog and clutched at the bedroom doorframe, turning then throwing myself back on to the bed.  Pulling myself over I tried calling for help.  Even as I did so I realised how pointless this was, with my hearing-impaired husband at the opposite end of the house. In the end, I phoned my daughter to ask her to ring back so that my husband would pick up the phone downstairs and know that I needed help.

So no playing my cello in church today. I phoned Nigel, music leader and elder.  "Oh that sounds like labyrinthitis," he told me cheerfully, reciting names and symptoms of sufferers he knew.  The world was still swimming about so I was half-listening with my mind twirling around the word 'labyrinths'.  I knew that parts of the inner ear were called 'labyrinths' but I was thinking of depths and dungeons.

When I work with people with depression, I often describe how negative thoughts have us swirling into more negative thoughts in a downward spiral.  Climbing out is difficult, but involves countering those thoughts with positive ones.  Some people are stuck in the depth of their depression for some time.  The dizziness I experienced, where the world was distorted and unreal, mirrored their experience.  People trying to help them find that their suggestions become condemnations when received by the depressed person; the chaos of their minds causing confusion.

So what is the answer?  Can we talk about the love of friends and relatives, or of God?  The depressed person may feel as if he or she is not adequate to receive that love.  But we can be consistent, we can be there, showing the love of friends, of God.  The person may need the help of a doctor as well, but most of all he or she will need to know they are not alone.

Isn't that what we all need to keep us steady when the world is spinning around us?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Worth waiting for?

How long since I last blogged?  How long?  I could write a whole page about the way those slippery slithers of minutes and moments have disappeared, but  I will just apologise to anyone who has expected more frequent thoughts and scribbles.

It's not as if nothing has happened - life seems to have been jam-packed with events.  Some brilliant, others not so good.  But isn't it the way that sometimes those difficult moments turn out to be just rough boulders blocking our way to keep us going in the right direction?

I went to university late - with a husband and family of four lively children it was hard work.  I lived at home, travelling to Bristol University from Axbridge daily, usually arriving back in time to collect the children from school.  Although I had no idea where it was leading, I began a Psychology and Sociology degree.  Just before the last term of the first year I became very ill with - of all things - whooping cough!  I know this is a disease usually contracted by children, but I never do things in the right order.

I had around three months bedrest.  As my health improved, I began to think about my life.  Taking joint honours was busy but I loved it.  But something (or Someone?) was telling me that I should drop Sociology.  This was strange as I had demonstrated quite a flair in it.  I had been reading Social Administration as well and found it really easy, in fact I could go straight into the second year on the strength of the coursework marks.  Psychology was the challenging subject.  But in the Autumn I gently coughed my way through the Psychology exams, along with those students who were resitting.  I passed, so was allowed to transfer to the single honours course.

If I hadn't had whooping cough I would have continued with two subjects.  As time went on I learnt about clinical psychology; it was a revelation; I had found the career I really wanted.  I looked up the requirements for training.  I was amazed to discover that a joint honours degree in Psychology and Sociology would not have given me eligibility to apply for an M.Sc in Clinical Psychology but I had what I needed; a single honours degree in Psychology.

It has been tremendous to work with people to help them change and become psychologically well.  I love my work even though it is often challenging and sometimes can be exhausting.  It has developed my love of writing, too, as I worked on therapy books with other colleagues.  Nowadays I am working far fewer hours to leave time to write fiction, too.

I thank God that I learnt more than academic subjects in that time at university - I discovered that if I go forward but get it wrong, he is jolly good at making sure I stop in my tracks and listen for directions!

That's it for now, I'll try not to leave it so long next time.



Saturday, 23 March 2013

Miracle? You judge.

Isn't it wonderful when something happens in your life that defies human explanation?  What happened to my nephew could be called God's perfect timing, an incredible co-incidence or a miracle.  You judge.

My nephew is a single parent in his mid-thirties.  He went for a scan because he has had digestion problems.  The scan didn't show the cause, but did go high enough to pick up an incredibly enlarged aorta.  Diameter 8 cm when it should have been 2.5 cm.  The alert doctors wouldn't let him home but sent him up in an ambulance to St George's where he became a peep show for students and other medical staff, because they had never seen anyone still alive with such a severe heart problem.  Within a few days he underwent major heart surgery.  It took 14 hours to make a repair, but the surgeons succeeded.  Basically, that scan and the operation saved his life.

Before the op the surgeon came round and said he was there to allay his fears.  My nephew said 'I'm not frightened, I'm into this God thing.  I am in His hands.'  The surgeon told him he was into God as well.  One other little attached miracle.  Prior to this he wanted some weights to save him the cost of the gym.  There was a little delay with this purchase, otherwise those weights would have been with him the morning of the scan.  Lifting those weights would have been the final straw for a heart about to rupture.

Now he is well on his way back to health.  He is looking forward to playing with his son and no longer feeling so tired.  His sense of humour has resurfaced as his pain has begun to reduce and he is looking forward to taking up sporting activities again.

I'm going to leave it there because anything else I say would look like insignificant rubbish against this powerful manifestation of God's love and grace.

Miracle?  Incredible co-incidence? Or God's perfect timing?  You judge.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Trampled stars

It's nearly over, the wonderful Christmas season.  I am having trouble concentrating as I start back to work with signs of Christmas all around me.  I work from home so there are the obvious distractions like the Christmas tree, left-over crackers, a too-beautiful-to-start gluten free Christmas cake and stars everywhere.  Let me explain, it's simple really.  I washed my Christmas tablecloths on 40 degrees instead of 30 which caused the thousands of gold stars to peel off, going everywhere when I shook out the tablecloths ready to hang them to dry.  The stars are rather resistant to being hoovered up so we have them trampled throughout the house, like little reminders of dreams and hopes that have littered our lives - still  beautiful to remember but no longer bright and shining.  Washed out pale reminders of our past.

Back in my teens I wanted to be a missionary, but this star became a trampled thought as I was distracted by boyfriends and my desperate need to fit in with everyone else.  I was a shy child, awkward with others.  This was probably not my calling.  I longed to write.  But I didn't practise, keep it going.  The star withered away.  But other desires and thoughts arose - I loved being a mother and was busy and fulfilled.  I looked after other people's children and hated them going back.  When the children were small, my husband encouraged me to take an evening off from babies and try evening classes.  I found I had a brain.  This was a star I needed badly, having been convinced I was the worse dunce in the whole of my school.  So then came university and training as a psychologist.  And gradually, very gradually, back to writing again.

I'm waiting for my writing star to shoot upwards, but maybe it will never happen.  Maybe it will glint brightly for a while, or become stronger and be joined by the resurrected missionary star as I reach others through written words.

But the best star of my youth, and of today, is the one that shone over the Christ-child and represents to me the reflection of my faith.

May your hopes, dreams and faith shine brightly at the beginning of this New Year.


Monday, 17 September 2012

Exciting times, inspiration and a new venture

What a stimulating summer!

I have had a lovely jaunt round Northumberland and the Lake District, with a little peek at Hadrian's Wall in between.  I'm no travel blogger, so I won't go into great detail, but I will say that one of the highlights for me was visiting John Ruskin's home by Coniston Water.  It is intriguing to walk around the home of a writer and discover that he has his chair placed exactly where I would choose to write in that house, furniture I would have chosen, rooms decorated in a style that resonates with me.  Even his collections of 'treasures' were rather like mine - interesting stones, sea shells, quirky bits and pieces from visitors and friends, plus the odd item of monetary value.  Then the garden was fascinating, too.  Built climbing up a hill, its nooks and crannies opening into glades with interesting natural sculptures - my favourite being a series of beautifully-carved wooden hands rising from the earth expressing praising, or stretching, or praying. A perfect place to write.

The Northumberland coast was inspiring, too.  A great sense of peace and the beautiful rolling sound of the sea.  Long stretches of sand - all very restful, helping tension and urgency to wash softly away.

But, I had set out with eight copies of 'Losing Face' in the motorhome, fully intending to march into one or two bookshops with review copes, thus conquering the north of England with brilliant marketing strategies that would ensure a steady stream of visitors southwards in 100 years' time to visit the home of brilliant writer Annie Try and discover her special places to write.  Alas, it was not to be.  We did not come across one large bookshop and those we saw seemed 'too specific' or 'too upmarket' or 'not really fitting in with my marketing plan' or, in fact, anything else that covered my loss of nerve to go in!

Meanwhile, coming ever nearer was an opportunity to be more involved in the Association of Christian Writers.  I went to the longest committee meeting I've ever been to on Saturday and was offered a place on the committee to become the Local Writers' Groups/Regional Events Co-ordinator.  Strange really, as I was very honest and told the committee I was extremely time-pressured.  But hey, it's not my time, it's God's and this is an exciting opportunity to help others with their writing.  So, look out - here comes the brand new LWGREC! (Must do something about that cumbersome job title . . .)

But, wait.  First things first.  I shall review everything in my life to carve out the time the job needs.  Some things must stay - my psychology clients and the training that goes with being a good clin psych, my large family, my church work, my writing, my friends, my novel.  

But most importantly, I must always keep those times of quiet, reflection and inspiration that provide the sweet oils for my life to run smoothly. 

Annie Try

Thursday, 9 August 2012

I have a plan . . .

. . . and it goes like this:

Several reviewers have said that Losing Face should be on the National Curriculum.  I can't seem to find out how a book is considered for the NC, so I am going to start at the bottom and work up!
  • Yes, I have already started with pupils, who say they like the book and have talked to their teachers
  • I am sending out a review copy to each of those teachers who express any interest (within reason!)
  • I propose to go into schools to do readings - overcoming my fear of being too old to read the part of a 15-year old
  • I shall send a book to my old school.  They won't remember me, a few decades after I failed to achieve a great deal there, but it might encourage someone else who wants to write.
  • I am following up the suggestion from the lovely Kate of Children@Heffers and going into some Cambridge Schools - she said she will recommend me
  • I think I can track down at least one English Adviser who will be thoroughly lobbied
  • And I will certainly find a signed copy for Michael Gove!!
Giving away review copies may be a trifle expensive but those of you who have read my previous blogs may notice that there is not a single instance of walking into a bookshop in this plan.  So I shall save on stress as well as fuel as it's miles to anywhere from my home.  Bookshops aren't all bad; I have had a really positive response from Waterstones in King's Lynn, Heffers in Cambridge and Soham Books in - guess where? - Soham, but otherwise there has been nothing much to encourage me.

So, on with the new plan, and if that doesn't spread the message to those who need to hear, well, I have a plan B . . .

But that's a long enough blog for today.  Enjoy your reading and may all your writings land neatly in front of eager consumers.


Friday, 20 July 2012

'Losing Face' and gaining respect

It feels soul-destroying - walking into bookshops, book in hand, trying to persuade the manager to stock it.  I am assured this is the best thing to do and it has worked in three places, to be fair, but sometimes years of work is treated very dismissively.  Why is this?  Booksellers are the same people who benefit from a writer's hard work and may make a very tidy sum from the novel, for all I know.  I don't understand their attitude.

Now that I am trying to encourage bookshops to stock Losing Face, I am sorry I waited for a publisher and did not self-publish years ago.  For one thing, there is a little flurry of books about facial disfigurement around at the moment, whereas there was very nothing recent around when Losing Face was just finished.  So I am competing with established novelists.  Secondly, several places have asked me whether I will leave them some books on sale or return.  I can't do that, because my contract forbids me to sell them to the book trade, which in effect I would be doing.

Ah well, at least I saved money by finding a publisher which has made it easier to leave review copies.  And I am discovering which bookshops need persistent targetting because they are so good that they sell me a book or two while I am doing my pitch for my own!  And when managers or staff have read it and given me positive feedback, or even thanked me for coming in to show them my novel, it has helped to restore my self-respect.  Meanwhile I have messages coming in from people sharing my book with others because they liked it so much they want them to read it. 

Also, I can know without a doubt that my soul is certainly not destroyed - whatever it feels like!   So I shall lift my head high, follow what is the right path next and carry on pushing this strange, unsentimental, psychological, challenging and sometimes funny little offering until it is where my Soul-keeper would like it to be.