Posts Tagged ‘ageing’

Pen Pal Project

When Moms Get Sick

April 21, 2016

Dear Reva,

Things at my end have been quite dramatic lately.

We’ve said many times that moms can’t get sick.  But I did.  I’ve been ill with an infection – so ill that I ended up in hospital. And while in hospital, I caught another infection (the kind that kills the old and frail, and knocks the rest of us off our feet). And three weeks later, I’m still shuffling around like a very old person (which, happily, I’m not, or I wouldn’t be shuffling anywhere), and relying on other people for things like groceries and childcare, and not able to work.

My hospital cocktail hour
My hospital cocktail hour

I should note that I will be absolutely fine, and I’m extremely grateful for this. Grateful too, beyond words, for the family and friends (my mother, in particular) who looked after me when I couldn’t look after myself.

Becoming very ill has been enlightening, as it often is when your deepest fears are realized. Since becoming a single person, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night countless times wondering what would happen if I got sick and couldn’t look after my kids. And now I know the answer: I’d move into my parents’ house, for as long as I needed to be there, and my sisters and my friends and the nice man in my life would come and visit and help my parents out, and my dear agent would tell me not to worry about my deadline, and we’d all be okay.

And even though I still feel lousy, this knowledge comes as a massive relief to me.

And now I have to practice being a good patient, and not coming back to work too quickly, and pacing myself, and cutting myself some slack, and taking it easy, and … well, you get the idea. Suffice it to say that these are all things that I am really, really unqualified to do.

Pushing myself as hard as I can is what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. It’s yielded terrific professional and other accomplishments along the way. But I’m discovering, as my body ages (speaking of turning 40), that it isn’t a sustainable life strategy. And so I need to recalibrate (slightly?). I need to figure out how to be ambitious without running myself down. I need to stop equating rest with weakness. I need to stop gutting it out. I need to stop proving myself, over and over again.

So that’s this year’s goal. Chances are, I’ll be back on my feet in a week or so, and racing around as fast as ever. But I’m going to try to remember that this body of mine puts up with a lot from me. And that I’m going to need it for a long time. And that it deserves a rest every now and again. And that it’s better for everyone if the rest is voluntary.



Read Reva’s last letter here.

Follow the Pen Pal Project here.

Pen Pal Project

Time flies

August 24, 2015

My office

time flies

Dear Reva,

Time is indeed flying by. The evenings are getting cooler, I’m ordering school uniforms and lunches and registering for fall programs, and my book deadline is getting closer week by week. What a summer, though! Such long stretches of glorious weather. We’ve been lucky.

You asked if I was motivated to write The Hole in the Middle by an anxiety about the passage of time. In short, yes, I was. I had a disconcerting sense, as my 40th birthday approached, that I was spending my precious time on the wrong things, professionally speaking. I was in a job that was very senior and challenging, but my work was largely invisible. My role was to contribute to the individual legacy of my boss, and to the overall reputation of my institutional employer.

I began to feel that I was hiding in some way, and was in danger of never realizing my full potential. And I remembered that I had always wanted to write a book. And I asked myself if I still intended to keep that promise to myself, and if so, when.

Five years later, my life is transformed. I’m a professional writer with a bestselling book that will come out in the US in January. I’m halfway through the writing of my second novel. I’m not married anymore. I’ve moved. I’ve lost friends. I’ve gained friends. I have a pen pal. My boys are old enough to be proud that their mother wrote a book.

As for my favourite quote about the passage of time, I give you Robert Frost:

 Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.


Much has been written about this deceptively simple poem, but my own interpretation is that a life fully realized – fully lived – includes loss, change, and grief. And perhaps, understanding that reality, we can embrace change with less fear and less regret?




Read Reva’s last letter here.

Follow the Pen Pal Project here.

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