A little nugget in the mud

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

I’ve had not one but two new year’s walks so far, both of which came with a useful message for the year ahead.

First, on New Year’s Day proper I insisted to mum that some fresh air and exercise would do us good. Sadly, she continues to slow down as the fallout from her stroke robs her of both the ability and the desire to do very much more than sit in a chair and watch TV. I know from our weekly trips to town to pay her bills that I need to adjust my pace to hers, but on this, a day I have always loved to stretch out and pace the canal towpath like a woman with a mission (the same every year - to exercise more), it was agony.

What’s worse, I let my frustration and impatience with her show. Why couldn’t she make an effort to walk faster? Why did she have to keep stopping (it was spitting with rain by now) to rest on her walker? Why did she have no conversation?

It’s more than two years since the stroke robbed my sister and I of the mum we knew. And I would say, all things considered, that we have made a pretty good fist of coping, caring for mum, managing the massive tasks of moving her to a new home, nagging the authorities for support for her, and biting our tongues in the sure knowledge that whatever we are feeling it is far, far worse for her.

So why, on January 1, after a lovely Christmas break, was I in such an unforgiving mood?

I didn’t get it at the time, but looking back I think it was a classic case of inflexibility. I had made up my mind we would do something and I wanted us to do it in the same way we always do. And when it became clear we couldn’t, instead of giving us permission to change an old pattern and do something that served our circumstances better, I got cross.

It was walking the same route alone the next day that brought that home. As Have the Best Year of Your Life readers know I suggest bringing home a souvenir to remind them of this fresh start, whenever they begin the book’s exercises. I was wondering just what that souvenir might be when I remembered I’d be walking past the old quarry in Linford Manor Park - a site of regional geological importance for the fossils that stud its layers, relics from a time when a shallow tropical sea covered the whole area.

Sure enough, I hardly had to look before I spotted a shell, caked in the mud and grit of millennia, but with its scalloped edges and shallow dish-like shape still distinct. A fossil to remind me of all the ways in which I have a tendency to remain stuck in the mud, a creature of habit, even when life has moved on and habits become handicaps.

It seemed an appropriate totem for a year in which I intend to make a friend of change. Happy new year, and may you too find a spring in your step and treasure beneath the surface.

Posted by Jane Matthews on 01/03 at 11:01 AM
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