Doorways is new series for the new year - every day for the month of January I will be practicing life writing here on the blog. That means posts will be about life, which may or may not include writing about books. This is a writing project, a challenge to myself to start off 2017 by focusing on my creative life.
Part One: The Tube & Belonging
Are you a real Londoner if you don't complain about the Tube? This is the question I am pondering this morning. Today the reason to complain is the Tube strike. Except I don't have anything to complain about. I'm a bus girl - purely for convenience. There's a bus stop by my flat that is well-connected and the Tube is 15 minutes away. So I take the bus, I sit on the top deck and enjoy cell signal on my commute. But if I'm not complaining about the Tube strike today, am I even a Londoner?
I've really only begun to feel like a Londoner in the past year. I didn't feel like I belonged in London when I first moved here for my MA, so I left. I came back - everyone was moving to London and so I thought it was time to give it another shot. Now, I finally feel like a Londoner, even when I'm not complaining about the Tube. I complain about the bus enough and the rain and life in general. I think I've earned my stripes as a Londoner. But, I'm leaving soon. People are starting to leave London now. This is what it means to be grown up. I've had different lives in the same city. And I'm now old enough to see people leaving the city for new lives, too. We've been here long enough to use up a life - the 20-something grad life in London
Part Two: Invisible Things
I keep a lot of things hidden, but hiding something doesn't make it invisible. And yet there are some things that are actually invisible. In Catholic school we were taught that everyone is carrying their own cross, even if those crosses are invisible to us when we're passing strangers on the street. I've always thought that's a pretty good metaphor for living with an invisible illness - mental illnesses count here and certainly my anxiety and depression makes it feel like I'm lugging around a pretty heavy cross every day. But those things are often visible in some way. Sad eyes with bags under them are a tell-tale sign. I once had a psychologist tell me that the first time she saw me in her waiting room, she could see the depression written on my face. Whenever I'm waiting in the doctor's office to see my specialist for my long-undiagnosed chronic pain disorder, I feel the real invisibility of suffering, though. I'm always the only person in the waiting room under the age of 60 - I look so out of place, everyone looks at me and wonders what I could possibly be in for, maybe waiting for my grandma.
It took 3 years to get a diagnosis for my pain partially because I don't look like the kind of patient doctors expect to have this disorder. Part of the reason it was so hard to diagnose my chronic illness was because there's not very much known about it, not enough research. Pain disorders are hard to study, partially because of their invisibility. It's disheartening to know that even though this illness has had a very real affect on my daily life - not just pain, also embarrassment and inconveniences that can ruin plans as well as self-esteem - still there's not been enough research into the cause or treatments. There aren't many answers. Maybe it's just a really, really tricky illness. Maybe I just got a real good one.
I had a procedure last year to look more closely at what's going on inside my body, invisible to the outside world. The doctors found physical evidence of the illness and that's something at least. The doctors saw it and I know it's there, even though it wears a cloak of invisibility.
This is the time when I cringe and wonder how anyone could ever write a memoir. It takes guts to write about something personal, if only because you're daring to say that your story is worth writing about. Maybe I'll have more guts by the end of this month.