Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Trick is to Consent

Like the dog chained
to the chariot wheel
I have no choice.
It makes no difference
whether I am dragged
claws screaming and scraping,
or whether I trot docilely;
I travel the same distance.
The trick is to consent…

I’m not quoting my own poem because I think it is particularly good although I do think it is one of the best I have written; I’m quoting it because even an image I came up with many years ago can help to lessen a mood of desolation.

The last two months have been emotionally draining: what should have been my sister’s birthday followed two days later by the anniversary of my brother’s death; the anniversary of Paul’s death which now makes him dead longer than he was ever alive; setting up this blog which revealed to me how little of my thoughts and feelings I have been able to communicate since I stoped typing with one finger, the death of my last canary – the canaries in their confined space had always been a spiritual symbol of my own confinement and constraints; a laryngitic infection which started to go down into my chest and set alarm bells ringing which made me realise that the health experts around me – doctor, district nurse, occupational therapist - all share the notion that I am much more frail than I have ever been willing to admit; an occasion which I would have dearly liked to have attended but the multiple sclerosis firmly vetoed.

This brought me to a state where I had even started to admit to others that I was rotten with grief, pain and fear and could see no way out. As well, I was blaming my friends for not realising the desperateness of my condition. I muddled on for several weeks avoiding turning inwards by uncharacteristically watching over and over DVDs of Brother Cadfael and Lord Peter Wimsey. It was only when I allowed myself to half listen to Radio New Zealand Concerts of an evening that I could climb out of my spiritual inertia.

I didn’t come up with a new image to describe my mental state. Instead, an image I had realised some twenty years ago surfaced in my mind. At the time that I wrote the poem I had thought I had consented once and for all but over the years, as the MS had deteriorated, I had discovered I needed to renew the consent at the very least, once a day. Over these last two months I had neglected to do this. As soon as I started to blame my friends for their lack of perception I should had realised what I was doing. Self pity, a devious way of feeling rejected, is always a warning sign. But this time, the accumulation of harrowing feelings closed off my self awareness. It is not possible for my friends to realise how bad it is for when they never see me being got out of or put to bed. Consent does not require witnesses, it is something between me and my Maker. It is something I do when I am listening to music or in my garden surrounded by trees and birdsong.

Once I had quoted the poem to myself I felt a lot freer and the weight of self pity had lifted. The dog chained to the chariot wheel image is the Stoic description of free will. I still will travel the same distance, and it may well be long and arduous, but it is up to me whether I chose to be dragged or to run freely with the chariot of my fate.

The trick is to consent,
to act as if I have chosen
this particular journey.
Therein lies the transformation
of my inner landscape.
Falling precipitous cliffs
Become smiling meadows;
claustrophobic sycamores
no longer invade my space
but shelter, gently,
a skirmish of sparrows.


  1. Diana,

    I'm so glad to see your blog. Already there is so much here to read and to digest - it will take some time, but I have a strong sense it will be time well spent.

    Dick W

  2. Diana, thank you so much for having Lynnette call-I was so concerned when I had no responses to my emails. I think that my new security software must be blocking yours-until I sort it out please respond to Dick's email. I have no explanation for mine not getting through to you though! We are both so pleased to know about your blog and web site! I am so sorry that the past few months have been so terribly hard! You are so remarkable--in such extremity to find yet another avenue of expression and use it so wonderfully! Love,D.

  3. Dear Diana
    I remember the chariot wheel poem from Eremos. I told members about your website in the last issue, which you should have received. Even though you might not be able to read Eremos, I feel happy that you have it. I'm really sorry it's so hard. It's always been hard for you, even when I first knew you, but it just seems to get harder and harder. I've told Rachel I've had a bit of trouble responding in the last few weeks as have been with my elderly parents in Perth. Also I have been having some trouble posting comments but am determined to get on top of that. For one thing, I always appear as 'anonymous'!!I could email you but it's good to be part of your community of responding friends too. Also I don't want you to feel you have to respond as it's such a challenge for you. The poems are great and offer a window into your thoughts and feelings. Love, Jacquie