During my early summer break, I read this book, in part as it was recommended to my book-addict wife, but also as an opportunity to engage with one person’s story of her own journey into understanding why she was as she was. The multi-layered approach explored a personal journey through a real series of journeys and challenges. Self-awareness can be a stage on the road to making practical changes to your life.
When something takes on a practical form, it can be attempted. All the while it remains nebulous and indescribable, it can form a cloud within which it is possible to attribute all kinds of other elements, which then darken the cloud.
The Amazon blurb reads as follows:-
A life-affirming and perspective-shifting memoir of one woman's walk in the wilds as she comes to terms with an Asperger's diagnosis.
In August 2015, Katherine May set out to walk the 630-mile South West Coast Path. She wanted to understand why she had stopped coping with everyday life; why motherhood had been so overwhelming and isolating, and why the world felt full of inundation and expectations she can't meet. Setting her feet down on the rugged and difficult path by the sea, the answer begins to unfold. It's a chance encounter with a voice on the radio that sparks a realisation that she has Asperger's Syndrome.
The Electricity of Every Living Thing tells the story of the year in which Katherine comes to terms with her diagnosis. It leads to a re-evaluation of her life so far - a kinder one, which finally allows her to be different rather than simply awkward, arrogant or unfeeling. The physical and psychological journeys become inextricably entwined, and as Katherine finds her way across the untameable coast, she also finds the way to herself.
This book is a life-affirming exploration of wild landscapes, what it means to be different and, above all, how we can all learn to make peace within our own unquiet minds.
Coming to terms with what life throws at us is what makes each of us human and unique, in that we have our understandings and knowledge built up over a lifetime, each experience and encounter adding to the sum of the parts, particularly if you are able to reflect, either during or after the experience and to place the whole within the rest of your experience. Otherwise the experience can become simply a part of your life’s wallpaper; we pass in front of the images without registering them.
For those who might like to know, I wrote about my own life experiences up until around 2014, when I started this blog. Suffice to say that there have a been a few ups and downs along the way.
Today, I am the person I am now. I’m in a different place from 10 or 50 years ago. Life has left it’s imprint and it’s scars, usually in the way of memories, but one or two physical reminders; the playground bully and a scar on my forehead, or the occasional knee tweek from a rugby injury.
One of the features is a very small house in France, bought for the price of a modest caravan, a legacy of my first wife discovering breast cancer, as a “life project”, which meant holidays of physical labour and learning plumbing and electrics, house and garden maintenance, while my wife was able to have periods of peace, children permitting. It was a place where I was able to come to terms with my grief afterwards.
It allows periods of sheer quiet; as long as it isn’t harvest time and tractors moving en masse.
The air is probably as clean as it can be, apart from the Atlantic coast.
There is such a wealth of wildlife that it is often impossible to avoid.
Nights are dark and the sky is filled with an array of stars and planets that allow you to really marvel at our insignificance in the scheme of things.
It is also solid, next year will celebrate it’s 90th birthday and my 25th as it’s owner, only the second in it’s history.
My very special M, who’s taken me on, also loves it and what it can offer; time to stop, to look, to listen, to think. Time for hobbies; for M it’s books and needlework, while I enjoy the busyness as my time out.
I have always loved the French language, caught from an incredibly enthusiastic, WW2 experienced, Francophile teacher. We have a neighbour in the nearest house, for the first time in 24 years. She apologised for not speaking English! So we have passed several hours in speaking our French; it’s also real “time-out”, as your mind is otherwise occupied.
I would wish this for everyone. It can be as easy as finding your own special paths and places, as Katherine May did on her quest. It could be learning to sit still, even over a cuppa, and look at the scenery. Extended into taking photos and drawing, even badly, memories are formed more fully.
Life is over-busy and we can each get caught on a treadmill, as I think I often was as a headteacher. Having to maintain that level of role, while dealing with a very sick wife, often bordered on the impossible. Without the chance of a break and respite from “normal” life, it may well have become so.
I was lucky, or maybe just able to make the right decisions at the right time. That’s life too…
What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance and watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this is if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
William Henry Davies