I would never ever have predicted that I would ever suffer from a case of woodpile envy, and it is only a recent phenomenon but I have woodpile envy. I blame it entirely on Steve and Bianca who own the Old Council Chambers where Bec and I hold our FEAST Courses. The woodpile in the Old Shed, our venue, is like a work of art and it almost puts Bec and me into a state of anxiety to use a few pieces. I think every time, how much attention to detail goes into that wood pile and lately, I have come home to my wood corner and I think lordy lordy. I have a kindling box which was out of control. We have wood that we collect on our morning walk and tiny fire starters that we collect in our yard and from our rose tree in the front yard that I am pruning by hand. By that I mean, when I carry a bucket of water out to keep it alive, I also snap a few old branches off. I am the gardening queen.
Then last week, the kids and I ran out of wood as we waited for our wood to be delivered, I went next door to my neighbour John’s house and I realised he had a beautiful woodpile. As I was standing there staring at it, Rissie came up to me and said, “Mumma, you can’t get wood envy. Are you obsessing?” I replied to her quite honestly, “I am obsessing. I am obsessing. I want a beautiful wood pile Rissie. ” The problem was that our kindling box and space next to it was full of wood too big to use and too big to snap over my knee and it was messy. It was not beautiful. So I took matters into my own hands.
I borrowed an axe, (thank you Julieanne Hurz) and I spent the afternoon using the axe. When I was done, my kindling box was filled with beautifully chopped wood, the corner was filled with sorted fire-starters and I had my stacked wood which I can claim no credit for. I ended up with a beautiful woodpile. I hollered for Archie to bring my camera as I felt the moment was important. I was sore and tired, but I had done it. When he came out, he stopped and looked at me, standing there by my chopping block with my borrowed axe, and said, “you look like a warrior Mumma.”
That simple statement almost broke me. Because you know what? I feel like a fucking warrior. Not because I am strong. Not because I have fought an awesome battle. But because I have been broken. I have lost hope. I have been heartbroken. I have been defeated. I have literally crawled at the most god awful times when I have not been able to walk. I have been told to expect the worst. I have god forbid, been told to give up hope. But despite it all, I keep on getting back up again. I am a warrior.
I also realised that my kids were now living in the same dimension as me where we could refer to people as warriors and no-one would bat an eye in case a dragon bit us or we had to negotiate a bridge-crossing with a troll.
This week marks World MS Day. I don’t normally acknowledge these days as I think they are backed by big pharma more than anything, but apparently, MS Day is about awareness. This year the theme was about the invisible symptoms of MS so it was something that resonated with me as I have always had invisible MS. I wanted to use this very important day to give a middle finger salute to a few people and to get down on my knees and say a prayer of thanks to others.
The World MS Day middle finger salute:
To my first neurologist who wrote back to my doctor and told him it was all in my head, I middle finger salute you. I grew up in psychiatric hospitals for god’s sake. I know when something is in your head.
To my second neurologist who told me there was every evidence that I had MS but he did not feel comfortable diagnosing me due to the McDonald Scale of testing that told him that I needed a second relapse, I middle finger salute you. I told you I was having a second relapse in that I could not feel my left leg and you told me to wait until conditions worsened. I double salute you.
To my third neurologist who told me there were no such things as side effects on the drugs he prescribed me, I middle finger salute you. To the man who told me when I told him that I could not cope with the side effects (that did not exist) as a single working mother of two because they made life intolerable, I middle finger salute you. To the same man who told me that I needed to learn to deal with things as when I was stuck in a wheel-chair, life would get a hell of a lot harder, I middle finger salute you and also slap you in the face with a large dead fish.
To my fourth neurologist who told me that my diet was stupid and told me in the second breath that she had never studied nutrition at medical school, because why should she, I middle finger salute you and slap you over the head with two large dead fish.
To my fifth and final neurologist who told me that I had progressed from relapsing-remitting MS to primary progressive MS and to prepare for imminent disability I middle finger salute you.
To a society that sends out magazines filled with bedpans and wheelchairs and who do not include any recipes or lifestyle advice, I middle finger salute you.
To the MS health nurse who came and visited me as I had been earmarked for disability I middle finger salute you. To that same woman who invaded my home and told me how wonderful it was that it could be adapted to disability without once asking me about my lifestyle, I middle finger salute you.
To the people who ripped away my hope and prepared me to die, rather than to live, I middle finger salute you.
The World MS Day prayer of thanks:
To the old-time country GP who pursued my diagnosis and predicted it from the first symptoms, I say thank you. To a man who allows me to rant, rave and sob that I am in control of my own medical destiny while drawing diagrams on a notepad that never make any bloody sense to me, I say thank you.
To a man called Dr George Jelinek, himself an MS warrior, and his programme that has linked MS recovery with Diet, Vitamin D, exercise, meditation and hope I say thank you.
To the people who make up my tribe and who allow me to be me, I say thank you.
To food, wonderful food and to my glorious plant-based life, I say thank you.
To every morning, when my legs are strong enough to walk and they walk for miles, I say thank you.
To hope, the hope that is tattooed on my hip and worn around my neck, I say thank you.
To my children Archie and Rissie, who love me despite my foibles and my obsessions. Who have seen me at my worst and still love me, I say thank you.
To my animals, who make me believe in magic and kindness with the touch of a wet nose on a knee, I say thank you.
Archie said I looked like a warrior. I chopped wood for two hours and I have a beautiful woodpile.
Milestones make me sad, but grateful as well. I miss Tiney so much today, but I know she would be proud of the wood-chopping warrior. I can remember one time early on, I had shut out everyone and was soldiering on, on my own, as I could not communicate what I was going through. For a moment I could not deal with people who would get annoyed at me for not asking for help, or who would tell me they were tired too, or that I looked really well. It was a bad day and my body had locked over the kitchen sink and I could not move as I was in too much pain and I was sobbing over dirty dishes.
At that time, Tiney rang and when I picked up the phone she must have heard my ragged breathing and she simply asked, “bad day?” All I said was “yep.” Then she listened to me cry and I listened to her smoke. Then after about five minutes all she said was, “It fucking sucks Lou.” And I agreed with her. Then she told me a filthy joke and made me smile. She told me to call her back when I had a joke more obscene and she hung up on me.
I was so lucky. I am lucky still. My woodpile envy has been satiated. I chopped wood. It was World MS Day. I am so very, very lucky.