Gertrude’s Guide to Gripe and Grumble

I’m determined – so far – to write a blog post this weekend. It’s a challenge, and a bewildering one. Two weeks ago I wrote an ode to the demise of typing, a farewell to my dear keyboard. I’ve considered several topics, most of which I’ll write about one day, but the burning issue, the unavoidable concern, is another farewell.

The Trackball Mouse I bought twelve days short of twelve months ago scarcely works at all. Come to think of it, that means there are still eleven days of warranty to go! I could send the useless thing back! But conscience prevents me; and a refund won’t solve the problem with the trackball anyway. Because the problem is me, not it. I can’t do it!

From this point onwards in my essay I have written, deleted, tried again, given up, walked away (that’s “rolled away”, of course; more than two years on and these major changes still haven’t  taken root in my vocabulary!), given up, rolled back (got it!) and so on. None of that is unusual in the least, that’s how I often write; but today there is a bleakness over it all that I can’t shake off. It’s a new and recurring Sunday Bleakness that I should soon explore in print. And so, right now, with everyone else safely tucked in bed (until our Little One’s nightly 2am expedition down to our room; which she still manages even with a broken leg, and even though we hide her wheelchair!)  I’m going to finish this off, partly because many people have written saying, “Glad you’ve started writing again”, but mostly to fend off the despair of another defeat.

(I discovered this afternoon that a piece of wood and some double sided tape doubles my control over a mouse. So that’s a start; I might develop this two-handed concept further tomorrow. I’m energized by that already!).


Almost as long as I can remember I have experienced the odd black day; rare but awful hours where nothing makes sense, where energy and ambition jump ship, leaving only that cold, lonely despair that many folk know too well. But for me this is invariably a passing cloud, whose shadow casts only over hours, never over days. I’ve learned that I only have to wait – but wait passively, not digging deeper into the hole – and the sun will shine again. I feel its end as abruptly as that, and I often think I am most fortunate in this way. And because I know that fact, I feel sure that my current mood of trackball-induced despair will soon give way to something better.

I know the age of my trackball with such accuracy only because I bought it on eBay, and a very quick email search brought up the receipt. But its age is a good symbol of my mood. I’m despaired at the speed of yet another change and at the senseless, pointless, impotence of my life these days. I’m frightened too, but after so long there is no one left to tell. The eleven-and-a-bit-month lifespan of a trackball raises poignant questions about the longevity of any number of other aids and technologies on which I depend; these inanimate things become best friends!  And beyond that lies the distant but very obvious question of mortality itself; an unvoiced question that an undiagnosed patient is not allowed to entertain, much less actually pose. These thoughts are among my private obsessions; they are chilling and they are real enough.

Which brings me to Gertrude the Great. (Does her name immediately cause you to wonder about ‘Gertrude the Lesser’?). Gertrude’s view of life, which I recently came across, is not the current fare. In her eyes body and soul are closely tied in an inverse relationship: for one to flourish the other must travail. Saint Gertrude was a Christian mystic of the 13th century, and her thinking belongs to an age of mortification and magic, penance and purgatory. Nonetheless, her distant perspective is a valuable counterpoint to the cures and comforts of the modern world:

“When your body is touched and troubled by pain your soul is bathed in air and sunlight, coming to it through the painful body, and this gives the soul a wonderful clarity. The greater the pain, the more general the suffering, the more clarification goes on in the soul.” (Paraphrase).

These days I think our view is the opposite: psychological health springs from general well-being, and vice versa; so we prescribe exercise to treat depression, and we might even say – some do – that laughter will cure cancer.  Gert, on the other hand, receives physical suffering as a gift; opening her to great vistas of inner clarity, the like of which no hale and hearty mortal could ever comprehend.

I’m unconvinced, but something in her belief rings true. Suffering can ruin more easily than it perfects; the results of pain and strife are all too often bitterness or reproach.  It’s not inevitable, many escape this trap, but intense challenges such as prolonged grief, cruel isolation, or chronic disease may bind a person in a thickening cocoon of isolation; distorting their view and corrupting their voice.

Gert has another thought that brings this all together,

“But remember that kind actions – more than anything else – cause the soul to shine with brilliance.”

I do like her grounded, simple thought. I like the plainly stated prompt: live a kindly life, regardless of the circumstance. It addresses many of my taunting doubts, and as it’s now tomorrow it’s a fitting place to end.



6 thoughts on “Gertrude’s Guide to Gripe and Grumble

  1. Stephen paterson

    Glad to see you writing again love the gert references ,just a thought in regard to the mouse ,can you get some one to create a box over the mouse to help steady your hand -just a thought
    Many blessings my friend

  2. Kathleen Powell

    I loved your quotes from Gertrude, Roderick and I can relate to them too.Keep on keeping on as you are doing and don’t forget when you write you give insight,courage and inspiration to those who read your clever words.Thanks again,Kathleen

  3. Robin Nance

    My first response was “Bugger!!” I haven’t learnt to suffer – a dose of flu leaves me a self-centred bundle of misery.No rejoicing.
    But yes, I think Gertrude is on track. Jesus, the author of our salvation, was made perfect throgh suffering.(Hebrews 2:10).Easily said -wasn’t it CSLewis who said “Suffering makes a few people noble!” At least suffering strips our control away, and we cry out “Help!”.Faith. Sometimes there are no answers, no miracles – just sheer endurance.Jesus lost control of his arms and legs, and ultimately his life. But “for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross”(Hebrews12:2).He saw over the horizon,endured, and rejoiced.
    Grieve my brother, weep – but not as those who have no hope.Run wih perseverance the race marked out for us. One day you will hear Him say “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter the joy of the Lord!”
    And thank you for your kind action of the exhausting effort of writing once again. Thankyou.
    The Lord loves you, and is with you, and with those you love.
    Rob and Carol Nance

  4. Rosario

    Job 14:7-9
    7For there is hope of a tree (we – believers are likened to a tree), if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease.
    8Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground;
    9Yet through the scent of water(word of God) it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant.

    Psalms 1:1-3
    1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
    2but his delight is in the law(word) of the LORD,
    and on His law(word) he meditates day and night.
    3He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water
    That brings forth its fruit in its season;
    Whose leaf(health) also shall not wither(evergreen, full of life),
    and whatsoever(whatever, anything and everything) he does shall prosper

    God promised that if we meditate(mutter/say/confess) on His word(His promises) day and night we will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.
    A river is good enough but it says rivers. The water brings forth nourishment, cleansing and even healing.

    Matthew 8:17b
    “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”
    If Jesus took it, it sure was taken.

    God wants you not just healed but fully restored. When God restores something/someone it’s always much better than before it was broken. The cross happened and all His blessings (including healing) have been released through the cross.

    Be greatly blessed and know (without a doubt) that God loves you. Not because of what you do or don’t do but because of what Jesus has done. Rest in His loving arms, be still and know that He is God.

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