The Cure for Sleep: Taking Stock
Season 2, 010: In this last edition of Season Two, let's share our stories of account-keeping - those times when we need to take a frank look at who we are, what we've lost, what we've got...
…this title is as far as I’d got with this month’s post to you all. And then a video call came up on my phone from my mum’s number. I answered without taking my eyes away from this screen because while she’d been in hospital for a few days having tests, nothing had been found. And I was planning already to go visit her, but only as company to help her convalesce from this latest still-unexplained health emergency. To settle her back in the little seaside flat she has been so happy in since the awful divorce during pandemic (that shocking situation which begins suddenly at the very end of The Cure for Sleep).
My mum’s number but not my mum speaking. I sat back in my chair. Focussed. It was her liver consultant of the last seven years: a woman I know by name but have never met.
And then it came: that conversation nothing had prepared me for - not my own sudden near-death at thirty-three. Not the hospice lifestory scribing I did afterwards, as I worked to find my rest-of-life response to that shocking experience. Not the meeting with Wild Woman Swimming in her hospice the month before she died.
What I was told is what my mother had only learned minutes earlier. She has now just a few months, perhaps less, to live. End stage liver disease. Untreatable.
I’m not able now to set a prompt for this last post of Season Two. But I still want to offer you something this month, ahead of Season Three beginning at the end of March.
And so in keeping with my planned prompt around review and taking stock, I offer the follow invitations:
If you’re new to this project and my work, I’d love you to take a little time this month to explore my own creative archive of the last seven years: the unusual journey by which I went - after forty - from being a shy office administrator, to a lifestory scribe, accidental performance artist, and now a publisher and mentor committed to helping others grow their creative confidence. You can learn more about my main projects - the Mile of Writing, Birds of Firle and Concentrates of Place - and listen to podcasts I’ve shared with amazing fellow authors like Sharon Blackie, Katherine May and Lorraine Candy. I hope you’ll find things of use and beauty there.
If you haven’t yet dared to share a story with me and fellow readers of The Cure for Sleep, please do! All themes from the last two years stay open without deadline for your contributions - and I’ll continue to curate them and offer editorial feedback, even if I’m otherwise offline while caring for my mother. Explore all the prompts and add your words using the comments field of the one you’re responding by going to the archive tab.
[Please read the guidelines for contributors if this is your first submission to the project.]
If you’ve already contributed several stories to the project, take some time to read through your pieces. Choose the one you’re most proud of and let me know using the comments field. I’ll soon be in touch with some questions I’d love you to answer so I can feature you in a Season 3 post.
Please share word of this project with friends or family you feel would enjoy this safe space for sharing their memories and developing their creative confidence…
Please tell others in your life about the book itself, if you feel it might offer them a ration of courage or consolation (the reason I risked these tender stories from my life and my mother’s). Not to boost its sales figures - I was paid well to write it, and never hoped for any money other than that generous advance. But I did - from the moment I met the editor who would go on to offer me the book deal - hope to write a big old-fashioned story about life and death that could keep others the kind of company I wished for as I worked to expand my life. The paperback won’t be out til the very end of April, but the hardback is part of most online retailers half price sales this month, including Waterstones and Amazon.
Finally, if you’ve already read The Cure for Sleep and would like to send word to my mother, I’d love you to use the comments field on this post for that. She has said today that being in the book is a large part of how she thinks she will find meaning in her last months.
explore the story archive
Desire, time, longing, friendship, regret, faith, promises . . .
There are now hundreds of thought-provoking true tales on these themes and more in The Cure for Sleep story archive.
I’ve spent the last few weeks redesigning how these words from our community members are showcased and celebrated on the book’s website.
Please do spend some time reading their memories and reflections - and then, as I say, please do contribute yourself if you haven’t already! Many of those who have taken part have now gone on to wider publication, prizes, mentoring placements and even (in the case of Caro Giles) a memoir of their own. You can find out how to get involved here.
As a community fast approaching two thousand members, it’s my hope to receive stories from as many of you as possible over time.
Thanks for reading The Cure for Sleep with Tanya Shadrick! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
ask me a question…
If you have a question about The Cure for Sleep or writing more generally, do remember that I have an always-open thread for this on my Substack. I always try to give answers with links to further resources that might keep you good company in your own creative journey.
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Dear Tanya - I send gentle thoughts to you and your mother as you share hours of closeness and face private challenges. You are both in my thoughts often - because your writing gave me the chance to know your lives. To have that chance is a privilege. To learn how you came through pressures, crises, woes became inspirational. You are the bravest of the brave for doing that, for hurling away the mask, for not giving in, for fighting for your very identity. You will be drawing on that same shared strength now, I know.
I looked back at the three pieces I've contributed for The Cure for Sleep prompts and 'The most powerful gesture' for Gestures stands out as my 'favourite'. It takes me right back to a range of emotions over a lifetime, but has greater significance for honouring my dear dad. It speaks of his final day, and reminds me of the grief that is the inevitable price for love. In reading so many of the pieces posted by other writers, and certainly in your writing, this pairing are powerful players.
I hope you and your mother find comfort in the love that shines through in all the comments here. That love is the reflection of what you've shown to us, your community.
With love to both of you. Paul 🌿
This is the one that I would like to submit.
Sending love to you and your mom.
(This was the third part of something I wrote a while back, the first part was about the women in my family, the second me as a mother. This is where play re-enters my life.)
Isostatic rebound – the rise of land masses that were depressed by the huge weight of ice sheets during the last ice age
I will go feral, slog off the domestication and responsibility that I willingly surrendered to when I entered motherhood, spend days in the woods, less constricted from others as well as my own tightly cocooned constraints. I re-wild my mind, learn to lean into the sun and let go in the wind, to bite when necessary, to sink into creek beds and to wallow in dirt like a buffalo, assured that where I wallow the deepest will become a vernal pool. No technology beyond a wooden clothespin, I will read stones and practice erosion, I will huff and stomp like a deer and run when life closes in. I will map wildflowers and sing to stars, read spots on fawns like the gypsy reads tarot cards, and be tossed like a willow in wind. I will uncurl, loosen like a fern, arch my back, further, further, opening up to the sky, I will receive. I will wrap myself in moss. I will be the pig digging and rooting through layers of soil to find what I want and devour it whole. I will be the cow that refuses to be prodded back into the barn, the cow who will face the elements and eat all the grass, trusting that it will regenerate. I will relax in the pasture, conversing with birds as they pick bugs out of my hair and absorb the day and the sunshine and the shade and the gray storm clouds and the rain, all of it.
I won’t be the squirrel who buries the nut and hopes something will be there when she returns.
I will rebound.