I’ve been feeling out of sorts recently. Nothing too awful but just a bit overwhelmed and exhausted. And one of the most bothersome symptoms has been ferocious belching. I looked this up on the internet and found a list of 198 potential causes. The one that immediately caught my eye was Asiatic porpoise poisoning.
That wasn’t much help, but fortunately I had other resources to draw on. I decided to do a detox. This has worked several times in the past when I’ve felt low and as well as cutting out caffeine, wheat, dairy and sugar I thought I’d try a few supplements. An internet article suggested a cocktail of vitamins and minerals, and also spirulina. I’d never come across this substance before but discovered that it’s dried blue-green algae and is rich in protein. It’s said to be terribly good for you. My fatigue was so bad that I didn’t have the energy to question it – I just went out and bought everything that was recommended.
I started the diet on Friday morning and within a few hours I had a caffeine withdrawal headache which just goes to show how much coffee I usually drink. By Sunday I was starting to feel better and my daughter, Emma, came to visit. After lunch, I disappeared into the kitchen to make some peppermint tea and decided to tackle the algae. I stared at the contents of the packet, which were intensely indigo and as fine as talcum powder. Since I’d mislaid my glasses there was no hope of deciphering the instructions so I plunged in with a teaspoon and took a mouthful. That was a very big mistake. The superfine powder clagged all over the roof of my mouth and trickled down my throat in sticky lumps. I gagged and tried to get my breath whilst producing squeaky choking noises. Then Emma called “are you alright Mum?” Even though I was about to expire, the primitive desire to protect my offspring remained strong. She would be traumatised if she found me gasping with blue teeth, and green foam dribbling from my nostrils. I concentrated on grunting reassuringly and then rushed to the bathroom where I spent the next five minutes spitting. I cleaned my teeth and returned to finish making the tea.
The next day I was making a hot drink when I remembered it was time to take some more of the dreadful stuff. It was so expensive that I didn’t want to waste it, so I stirred two teaspoons into my liquorice tea. It was bearable but very much like drinking a swamp. On Tuesday I tried stirring it into some soya yogurt. It was like eating indigo-coloured poster paint. On Wednesday I tried to cheer it up by adding some banana, but it was still vile. Like indigo-coloured poster paint with lumps in it.
When I stop and think about it, then it’s probably not surprising that I’ve felt drained recently. We each have our own hand of cards that the game of life deals in middle age. Only a lucky few avoid bumps in the road. In the past decade my bumps have included a husband with a life-threatening condition who nearly died three times, redundancy, financial ruin, five house moves, training for a new career, divorce, and the inevitable ups and downs that four children bring. Thankfully my divorce is now a scar rather than the gaping wound it was, and I’m fortunate to be happy with my new partner. But there’s one frustrating problem that remains. I can’t read.
Until my separation I was an avid reader and wouldn’t leave the house without a novel in my bag. I devoured book reviews and adored browsing in bookshops. Now I’ve fallen out of love. I read but I don’t engage. And this is a particular problem as one of my sixty treats is to read all six of Jane Austen’s novels. I liked Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice. But Mansfield Park came after my marital bombshell and unlike the others it left me unamused, unmoved and uninterested. I made three attempts but each time made little headway. It may not be her best but I know the problem lies with me, not the writer, and that previously I’d have enjoyed it. I’ve decided for now to put it on one side and to think instead about how to heal my literary indisposition. These are supposed to be treats after all.
Recently I appreciated The Rosie Project and Kate Atkinson’s Time After Time. But I didn’t truly care whether I finished them or not. This disengagement is a loss. I know what it’s like to love books but for over three years, I’ve felt numb about reading. When friends ask about this, all I can do is shrug my shoulders. A bit of me is broken and I’ve no idea how to fix it. I can’t find any helpful advice though I have discovered that reading for pleasure is called ludic reading. Derived from ludo, the Latin for ‘I play’, this discovery is pleasing if only because I will now feel etymologically smug whenever the game of ludo is mentioned.
I’ve wondered about going to see a bibliotherapist such as the ones at the School of Life. These specialists guide readers towards literature that ‘enchants, enriches and inspires’. I think my situation might present them with a challenge but it could be interesting to explore. In the short-term, though, I’m about to go on holiday and I hope this will give me time to read. Before I leave, I’m going to spend an hour browsing at my local bookshop. Maybe a different genre, author or subject will provide the key to my literary emptiness. One thing’s for sure, though. I’m leaving Mansfield Park at home.