Recommended reading, with bears
Tunes for a Monday Morning

Books, the Beast, and me

Beauty and the Beast by Eleanor Vere Boyle

It's a nuisance having a chronic health condition. In my youth, I mostly tried to ignore it -- as if by pretending that the Beast lumbering behind me wasn't there, then no one else would notice his presence. And yet there he'd be...disconcerting, disagreeable, and endlessly disruptive. Lurking over my shoulder in New York editorial meetings, pacing the floor at the Endicott Studio in Boston, riding shotgun in the truck in which I moved to Arizona, making himself entirely at home across the ocean in Devon. If this were a fairy tale, I would have learned to love him, and then discovered he was really a handsome prince in disguise....

But no, he's just Beast, and as Beastly as ever. During good stretches of time he sits muttering in the corner and I can get on with my life without paying much mind...until all of a sudden he jumps up and bellows, demanding attention, demanding my time. He is sometimes alarming, sometimes merely annoying, but always a downright nuisance -- not only to me but to family, friends, and work partners who gently, patiently take my abrupt disappearance from daily in stride (bless them all).

There is one good turn the Beast has done me, however; one good thing that his shuffling, snuffling, discomforting presence has brought to my life: the time to read.

Reading in bed

He gives me long, still hours in quiet bedrooms, doctors' waiting rooms, hospital corridors (awaiting various regular tests). In those places, reading is sometimes all that I can do, and that's a genuine, if back-handed, gift. Thus to the bane of my life, it seems to me now, I also owe one of my life's greatest blessings: the wide range of books that live inside me, that have shaped my mind and formed the writer I've become. Perhaps it's a fairy tale after all: not the kind that ends "happily ever after," but the kind where straw turns into gold, milk maids into heroes, Beasts into grey-muzzled old companions.

So come sit beside me, old Beast, old friend. Let me read you a story. This one's for you.

Books, bunny, and sheep Art above: "Beauty and the Beast" by Victorian painter Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825-1916); and reading in bed with sweet Tilly, my other daily companion (since the Beast is too shy to be photographed himself). This post is dedicated not only to the Beast, but also to the patient friends, family members, and work partners mentioned above. You are saints and I love you.

Comments

Insomnia gifts me in just the same way. I hope you are drifting towards health in your sea of books.

What a beautiful way of looking at things. I hope the beast stays just long enough for it to satisfy itself that you haven't forgotten it. And then once you're feeling restless and done with reading, I hope it slips away again.

Finding the joy in the moment. Enforced quiet can be a gift. I'm with Jennifer, I hope the beast considers a few days of reading in bed a bow of respect on your part, and then, satisfied, withdraws once more so that you can move back into your beloved work, and all the activities that nurture you. In the meantime, enjoy your reading, and cuddling with Tilly!

I'm sorry you aren't feeling well, but I must say I enjoyed the metaphor you have framed your illness in. I would think it can only help to establish a wee bit of control in how you think about and cope with any chronic problem. I would appreciate it if I could use your metaphor with my OT patients I see with chronic illnesses.

I love this post (although of course I am very sorry for your illness). One of my favourite quotes is “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” (Rilke) Even though I adore that quote, in reality I struggle with the idea of loving a mindless fanged thing. But I do think we can make a beautiful and loving response to it. Like you have done here. I hope so much you feel better soon.

Be here, now, can be a challenge for many of us. But if you're curled up with a stack of books, reading to your compatriots, you may as well put Alex Flinn's book 'Beastly' on the list. Appropriate somehow... :-)

Sending hugs your way!! (http://bit.ly/FreeHugsVic)

Mike.

All the love and hugs for dealing with your Beast, Terri. Sometimes curled up in bed and lost between the covers of a good book is the best place to be, or so I find.

A dog and books. Who can want more?

I was just pondering before why with CFS I struggle to work transcribing, but once I've finished working I can come away from the computer and though exhausted, my tired but wired brain will instantly desire to read. I think the lying down or leaning back may have something to do with it.

If I'm in a particularly guilty mood (and how to completely avoid that, in a world that tells you that you must be an exceptionally grinding cog at all times - *poo* to that grey stupidity!!) I will feel awfully bad at my good fortune at finding myself with more long, quiet hours in still, quiet bedrooms.

As if there aren't allowed to be any side benefits to living with my own Beast. What would they look like if photographable, do you reckon? Inspired by what I'm currently seeing hanging from the ensuite door, I'm tipping mine is made from mid grey spiderwebs:-)

I hope the Beast leaves you soon, but in relation to your reading choice, I just asked the library to reserve a copy of Reading in the Dark for me. It sounds wonderful, and it's the second time it entered my world today, so it must be meant for me to read. Let us know what you think!

Oh Terri, thanks for this. Have been sitting in bed grumpily coming to the realisation that today, yet again, I'll be cancelling plans due to my health. Am now consoling myself with thoughts of immersing myself in my book backlog in the company of a warm mog.

Spinning gold - you are always spinning gold here. So here's A beautiful way to say "I Love You" by Arto Tuncboyaciyan dear beloved Terri and Tilly and, yes - 'the beast' too:
http://youtu.be/eYjZ2Yj7SxQ

You've done well in describing chronic illness as the Beast "we" must learn to love in order to function, but personally, I know you have days of frustration over his companionship. The gift is the reading of books and the worlds and lives we can share while trying to recover enough to live in the outside world. I call these times my "inner life" as it is a life I share with no one and have done so since I was four years old, which ironically, is the age when I learned to read. So yes, even chronic illness can frame our lives and proved a rich inner life, which is certainly a gift, a blessing, and at times, a curse.

Hope you feel better soon. Sending fairy wishes your way.

That should be provide, not proved. Laughing. It's early here for me.

I was telling Pickle yesterday that reading is the most consistent fun I have had over my whole life. Mind you, this morning I was explaining iambic pentameter to her and it occurred to me she may not always be paying closest attention to my lectures.

Thank you for this. Again, your post comes when I needed it. I'm sorry to hear your Beast has gotten ferocious this week, but I really loved this look at him. Reading is a gift, and so is precious snuggle time with your canine Beast-Lady.

Right now I have a tiny Beastlet called Migraine that is keeping me in bed with books as well as my orange-spotted long-haired cat. Oliver gives a hearty, stretchy snore hello Tilly's way!


Loving the Beast


There is this to be said
of loving the Beast,
that shaggy companion,
flea-ridden, musky,
carpet-drooling creature
who haunts your favorite chair.
He is happiest when you
cannot leave the bed,
content in your company.
Your soft pat on his boney head
comforts his dark musings.
He may sometimes be rough
with your body, your heart,
thinking himself playful.
He may be full of difficult moods.
But he has given you the gift
of renewal, renovation, revision.
He has taught you reinvention.
He has given you the gift
of his time.

And yours.

©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

wise and beautiful, Jane <3

Wonderful to find some gold, Terri. I'm currently in a health crash myself, but am not being at all so graceful or grateful today as you. Thanks for the reminder not to feel sorry for myself. I've been feeling the desire to push through, but KNOW that will only make it worse. Surrender and rest, really, the only think. Hope you feel better really soon.

Thank you for this gentle reimagining, Jane.

Thank you Jane, this will help me re-envision my own beast, the migraine monster... alas, I cannot read when he is with me...but he does force me to close my eyes and meditate.

I'm deeply relieved to say that I've very little personal experience of long-term illnesses, but I have watched helplessly from the sidelines while my sister and then my parents fought long campaigns against 'Beasts' of various kinds. I can only wish that you all get well soon and that your personal beasts either decide to leave for good, or at least go into deep long-term hibernation.

i knew there was a beast, somehow. i am glad, gald you are able to read. there is that.

A wonderful link, Michelle, thank you.

Thanks, Mike! I'll check out Alex Flinn's work.

I always picture my Beast as big,furry, and shaggy...capable of looking truly scary at times, and pathetic at others....

I agree with you that having any kind of physical impairment puts one at odds with our hyper-active society ...and the more our world speeds up, the more out of pace with it I feel. And yet, I'm not sure the speed of modern life is really entirely healthy for *anybody*.

I wish you improved health, Sue, and a kinder Beast.

I'm on a re-read of the book now (I read it years ago, when it first came out), and I'm pleased to report that it's just as good the second time around. Enjoy!

So many people with Beasts! Considering how many of us there all, it would be very good if the world could be persuaded to accommodate us a little better....

I'd be honored if you did, Cathi.

That's a favorite quote of mine, too. Thank you for reminding me of it.

And love and hugs to you, Shveta, as your deal with yours. Somehow we manage to keep on writing....

Heavens yes, there are certainly days of frustration, and of downright despair. And then you take a deep breath and keep on going, since really, what else can you do? Giving up entirely is unthinkable.

Longreads just posted an excellent (but heart-breaking) essay on migraines, Raquel, called "A Meditation on Pain." Have you seen it?

http://blog.longreads.com/2015/01/13/a-meditation-on-pain/

Oliver's greeting has been duly passed on to Tilly. (I had a beloved cat named Oliver for 20 years -- a big tabby fellow.)

This is exquisite, Jane, and captures what I was trying to get at perfectly. This is going on The Door right away!!!

Sending love and wishes for improved health to you too, Valerianna. Yes, surrendering to rest is the very best thing you can do for your art sometimes, dear lady.

I honesty think it's easier to cope with my own health issues than to look on helplessly while loved ones are coping with any health crisis of their own. At least my Beast is familiar to me, and I more-or-less know how to handle him. But oh, yes, long-term hibernation would be lovely.

Thank you, dear.

My husband also copes with insomnia, and he *hates* it...but he also has some of his best creative ideas in the middle of the night...

Thank you, sweetie.

Tilly rather likes the days in bed, I think. She divides her time between snuggling, snoozing, and starting at the window to guard the garden from cats.

I best she listens more closely than you know! She's growing up to be an amazing little being.

A timely article in The Guardian, 'Why the modern world is bad for your brain' ...

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/18/modern-world-bad-for-brain-daniel-j-levitin-organized-mind-information-overload

Thank you so much, Terri! I wish you many creative ideas to work on taming the beast, your visitor who likes to overstay his welcome.

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