This bureau was given to my grandmother, Cicely Greenbank in 1930. It was a present bought by colleagues when she left work – as convention required – before getting married. She was a capable woman who quietly bore the frustration of loss of camaraderie and mental exercise, though not without a few sharp quips or advice to ‘make the most of my opportunities’ when out of my grandfather’s earshot!
It’s only looking back I can appreciate how she had to make the most of the community available to her to find the support and companionship we all need. She would get on her bike to do her shopping, visit friends with names like Marjorie and Dorothy, enter jars of raspberry jam (the best in the world) in Women’s Institute competitions and help with playgroups or cricket teas. Writing letters was her way of keeping in touch with the world beyond her village and I was regularly treated to a few words of support (and £1 ‘to buy myself a bun’) whilst at University.
Writing and indeed ‘living in the sticks’ are occupations that also require me to make the most of the community I have available, but unlike my Grandmother, the internet opens up the whole World as a community and I can ‘go anywhere I want’ without peddling too hard.
I started this blog a little over two months ago, knowing I somehow needed to share a difficult writing process and also wondering if there was some way of giving a little bit of hope and inspiration to others before I’ve finished the book. I didn’t have a clear intention or understanding of what blogs or Twitter might achieve but was pleased to have the excuse have a go and see what all the fuss was about. I set about copying what others were doing as a way of learning.
And I’ve learned a lot – some of which I already knew without knowing it: Just as in any community – you get out of it what you put in. If you barely grunt or smile at anyone when you walk down your street, you’re unlikely to end up having a friendly coffee or chat with them, let alone sharing anything useful or difficult. The same goes online – giving of yourself, displaying common courtesies, listening, interacting with others’ thoughts, being interested and remembering your manners, often results in discovering others’ more human side. The main benefit is, of course, that I don’t have to ‘make do’ with only those in cycling distance. I can look everywhere for like-minded people and keep in contact with precious friends wherever they are on the planet.
I’ve had some lovely exchanges on-line; some with other writers who are keen to give friendly advice and support or kindly retweet my blog for their followers to see.
One of these cascades led to someone else making introductions through Twitter, resulting in me being asked to write a piece for a women’s learning and development website. Later this week, I’m meeting the person who made the introduction for coffee!
Finally I have met Fiona. I have been chatting to Fiona who spotted my answer to a question on the Endometrial Stromal Sarcoma support group. She probably couldn’t give two hoots about the quality of my writing or frequency of posts except that my blathering on, on a regular basis, is evidence that I’m still here. Right now she just needs to know beating the stats is possible.
And coincidentally, (though perhaps not!) I’ve also been writing for my book about the value in copying successful behaviours – of having a go at something you don’t understand, just in case there’s some value in it. Babies and young children do this without wasting time wondering why or rationalising the pros and cons before starting! This is how we learn to walk and talk and get that first biscuit to our mouths.
I did it with ‘fighting’ behaviours when I was first diagnosed – because I didn’t have them – and the science shows that having ‘fighting spirit’ means you live longer than those displaying other behaviours such as ‘stoic acceptance’, ‘denial’ or being ‘helpless’. Sometimes you do have to ‘fake it til you make it’.
So faking it or at least copying community behaviours also seems to be working with Twitter and my blog. Because this blog is working. I don’t feel lonely sitting here, writing on my own.
To all of you, whether you text, email or comment because you know me of old, whether you just need me around because I proved some statistics wrong or whether you have just given of yourselves because you have already learned lessons I have yet to learn – thank you. You all contribute to an increasing sense of purpose and motivation. Between you, you make up the fantastic community to which I belong.