Tonight is the 3rd birthday for The Book Club on Facebook – a fantastic group that I belong to full of authors, reviewers and readers. Basically book people. Yours truly has been making the birthday cake over the last few days and with a shoulder slipping in and out of socket it has been no easy task!
Of course I have been too ambitious and I always start with an image of the finished cake, and then am disappointed in my results. This has taken me longer not just due to my lack of a right arm – yes, I am right handed – but also down to the design and needing to let it harden in phases. More of that later. It has made me draw parallels with expectations of everyday life – don’t worry I’m not going to get too deep here.
But how often do we set out with expectations of how an area of life will turn out only to be disappointed. So many people talk about their life plans from university to careers to marriage to children etc, etc. But life has this habit of throwing in a few surprises and curve balls along the way doesn’t it? Isn’t this true for everyone?
Life with illness – be it chronic, acute, mental or physical – is something few of us can anticipate and much less embrace. When I set off to nursing college as an eager 18 year old, I never dreamed that life would turn out like it has. But then I guess it is a good thing because with each setback it is so important to be able to get back up, brush yourself off and continue. If I had known when I had major back surgery at 21 that by 38 I would be heading for medical retirement, I might not have tried so hard to get myself back on my feet and back to work. I loved those years nursing and I think that I was a pretty good nurse. If I had known my genetic diagnosis – Ehlers Danlos Syndrome – and all that it covers aged in my teens, I might not taken up rowing and then gone on to nursing – probably the worst things I could have done but great experiences.
But then some of the curve balls can be pleasant surprises. For me probably the biggest surprise was falling pregnant when I had been told I would never conceive naturally. The tiredness, anaemia and nausea/sickness turned into a pregnancy when my GP carried out a PAP smear and informed my cervix was blue – a classic sign of a 13 week pregnancy apparently! I was taking HRT and had gone for a check up ahead of a new job – but came out as a mummy. A huge curve ball, not in the game plan but fantastic (although I wasn’t saying that half an hour ago when said babe, 21 years on, created havoc in the kitchen with a pot of pasta on the stove!).
I suppose what I am getting at is the importance to strive hard but also to accept that not everything will go exactly to plan…..and this is ok. For me I’ve been thinking about the periods of needing to let my cake set before I can continue with it – living with chronic illness has these periods when fatigue hits and symptoms flare equalling a need to rest and pace. Wait for the cake to set! Don’t rush it, don’t take short cuts because there will be some sort of pay back. In my experience this is life – illness or not.
So back to the cake….it is for a book club, so clever clogs here decided to make a stack of books. The individual books were made – one chocolate, one Victoria sponge and one lemon – and then the icing covers started. This is where the patience and waiting was required and I’m not good at this part! Then last night came the final assembly of the three tier cake to form a stack of books……it wasn’t completely straight forward, there have been a couple of corners broken, some scaffolding was required and this morning some patch were required to plaster a few stress fractures. The result is a stack of books that are not altogether straight and definitely look like they have been well loved if a little dog eared. Not so different to life, I’d say – starting with high expectations (nothing wrong with that and I am not saying they should be lowered), hitting a few bumps along the way, the odd curve ball and maybe the finished product not quite as expected, but nevertheless created and to be made the best of. Not always easy to do or accept, but as the infamous anonymous quote says “Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it..”
Will let you know if this holds for the cake when it is tasted, as for comparisons with life….what do you think?