‘Please, sir, I want some more.’*

One thing that self-help media for the chronically ill tells us over and over again is to focus on and celebrate what we can do and to accept our limitations. It’s not terrible advice, but there are times when the fact that, with tremendous effort and planning, I can spend twenty minutes on a creative activity once or twice a day just ISN’T ENOUGH. I want MORE. Much MUCH more!

No matter how hard I try I really don’t find that much pleasure in taking tiny steps – I enjoy big strides, fast progress and being able to lose myself for hours in what I’m doing. I want to gobble up experiences, learn masses of things, see everything possible, run rather than walk, practise skills enough to get really good at them…

It’s said that it takes 10,000 hours practise to master a skill. My brain isn’t up to doing the sums today, but at a rate of twenty minutes per day, five days a week it’s going to take a fuck sight longer to get good at something or to produce a work of art than if you can spend seven hours a day on it. Doing things for the sake of doing them has its merits, but doing things well is even more fun.

I hugely admire (and rather envy) people who can stick to a daily practise, however small, and take pride in their achievements. But in truth, after a week or two of yet another attempt to do short daily creative activity it begins to do my head in that I can’t do more. Or, more usually, I get enthused and optimistic, spending longer and longer on my creative endeavour. Then the rest of my life starts to fall apart…

My bad, I suppose, but it’s not easy to fundamentally alter one’s temperament simply because one has no energy to spare. Doing what you love is just as energy-consuming as doing the necessities of life. It’s a fundamental difference between ME/CFS and depression that while doing something active often alleviates the fatigue that depressives feel, it exacerbates the symptoms of people with ME.

I get depressed by the effect ME/CFS has on my life, but the best cure I know for depression (DO something, anything!) makes the ME/CFS even worse. And that is very depressing. A friend said recently that depressives don’t hate life though they may sound as if they do, rather we LOVE life, but don’t have the means to experience it to the full and that makes us sad.

Yes, I’m grateful for what I’ve got, but I do want some more. Please.

*Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens

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6 Responses to ‘Please, sir, I want some more.’*

  1. Michael says:

    Hello Marigold

    I’m very sorry you’re having a difficult time. I’ve been feeling down about my limits recently too. I wonder if it’s anything to do with the approaching spring. I found having a slow start to the year much easier than this month when I’ve been trying to do a little every day. That has somehow made me more aware of my limits—probably because I keep hitting them!

    I’m not a big fan of the 10,000 hour approach. For people in our position it just sounds like an exclusive club that we can’t get into. As you know I much prefer to focus on what I can do and keep going with that. That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated and angry and depressed, but as the years go by I do see myself achieving things (I doubt I’ve hit the magic 10,000 hours!) .

    It VERY often doesn’t feel like enough, but it is better than nothing (though this morning that didn’t feel like the case at all!).

    • Thanks Michael. I’m sorry to hear that you too are struggling with your limits. I guess everybody feels their limitations at times – even the fittest and healthiest people can’t do everything they want to 🙂 Have you considered getting some admin help with your business? I wonder if it has grown to the point where you need to outsource some of the support tasks, so you can focus your energies on the creative side and looking after yourself? Or maybe employ a home help to relieve you of your domestic chores? Employing people can be more trouble than it’s worth, but if you are lucky and find the right person they make life a lot easier.

  2. Amanda says:

    Marigold I’m sorry to hear you’re feeling so frustrated right now. I know exactly what you mean about wanting more. I want to be able to do something enough to be able to do it beautifully. I’m not good on restricting myself to a single medium, where there might be the slightest chance of this happening, and flitting from one thing to another, I know it won’t.
    Nevertheless I know that the stretches of frustratingly tiny steps are still more satisfying than the stretches when I can’t create at all, and most years when I look back, the sum of all I’ve managed surprises me quite pleasantly. Have you tried writing down a list of last year’s achievements recently? I do find it can lift my spirits and help a little with the frustration. 🙂

    • Thanks Amanda – it sounds like we have similar characters in some ways 🙂

      I have got a lot better at restricting the media I use over the last few years. My basics are drawing (mostly monochrome, but occasionally coloured with watercolour or fibre-tipped pens), writing (memoir), paper collage and digital photography. I still find myself looking at lino-print kits from time to time, but have managed to resist temptation so far.

      Coincidentally I recently started writing a list of my life-time creative endeavours in response to the “Your hard work isn’t wasted” section of ” target=”_blank”>this post by Milo McLaughlin. I keep thinking of more things to add to it and it is, as you say, pleasantly surprising 🙂 I jotted down a list of last year’s specific achievements as per your advice and, yes it’s more than I thought!

      Over the last few days I’ve restarted my memoir project and it was good to realise that although I haven’t touched it for many many months I already had 13,000 words in Scrivener. I’m not setting myself any goals or targets, just trying to spend a little time with it most days of the week. The wheels of my creative mind are rusty and creaking, but they are beginning to turn again.

  3. vicky says:

    you expressed exactly what I feel. Tiny steps can be maddening. The more I do the worse I feel physically, but I just get so depressed when I can’t even pick up a pencil and sketch. So in a way every drawing or small sculpture or even a good photo is a victory. If I do one small creative thing a day then it’s a good day, even if it all takes ages to get anywhere.

    • Hi vicky, thanks for reading and commenting. It’s good to think of every achievement as a victory. The tiny steps do add up even though they can be maddening at times.

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