People tend to think that staying in bed all day is one of life’s luxuries. But it’s rubbish.
Today has been grey and drizzly so there wasn’t really anything to get up for. And what with the sore toes, nosebleeds, a tongue ulcer and general fatigue, nothing seemed like much fun. I decided to indulge myself. “I don’t have to get out of bed,” I told myself. “no-one can make me.” Cousin Ben brought me a cup of tea. I looked at him with a plaintive face, ready to defend my sloth but he didn’t try to cajole me out of my nest.
After Ben leaves I spend a few hours sleeping. This sleep is really additional to requirements. Rather than being soothing and refreshing it is the kind of sleep where one tosses and turns and has dreams about school and piles of unfinished paperwork.
The telephone wakes me up, all bamboozled. It’s Seraphina. She offers to come over and help me to do some paperwork. How generous. I fall asleep again. Next thing I know she’s ringing the doorbell. I pull on a tattered cardigan. Seraphina has brought soup from the Grocer on Elgin, a most stylish food shop where all the food is packed in vacuum-sealed plastic pouches. I imagine that this is what one might eat on a voyage to Mars. She heats up the minestrone. Not only is it space-age, it is yummy too. I slump on the couch in my pyjamas with pillow marks on my face and a blanket wrapped around me, slurping a bowl of soup. I’m kind of glad that Nick isn’t here at this very moment.
Seraphina writes a letter to send to the Department of Work and Pensions, appealing against their assertion that I should get a job. She encloses yet another doctor’s letter, this one from my oncologist, confirming once again that I have been diagnosed with cancer and that I am not well.
I would say that having to have so many fights with so many inhumane and just plain insane institutions is far more dispiriting than the effects of the chemotherapy ever could be.
From day one the DWP have taken the attitude that I may try to fool them into believing that I have cancer but they are not falling for that old trick. I am obviously a fraudulent, work-shy malingerer. Further, they believe that all my doctors are in on the deception too. They feel sure that some sub-contracted work-experience pen-pusher is better qualified to assess my medical condition than a whole fleet of eminent surgeons and oncologists. And that they can do so without ever examining me or even speaking to me. Should I disagree with them they will make sure that I pay for my impudence by forcing me to fill in twenty-six page forms, read meaningless and convoluted letters and wait in for telephone calls every day from now until it’s time to begin filling in the claim forms for my old age pension.
Next, Seraphina has a crack at the leaning tower of filing. She manages to wrestle a few pieces of paper from its clutches and slide them into various folders. In the end the filing mountain wins the battle but I give her points for tenacity and spirit.
As Seraphina puts on her coat I wonder why I’m crying. I finally have to admit that I find it incredibly difficult to ask anyone for help. And even if help is freely offered, I feel guilty. It’s as if I must do everything myself or I won’t be able to justify my existence. I feel that somehow I don’t deserve other people’s generosity. I realise that I’ve always felt like this, deep down.
I’m telling you this because you might be feeling the same way as me. Flossie says that, far from being noble, refusing help amounts to a rejection of those who offer it. No matter what we feel, that is a very ungenerous and mean thing to do.
Tomorrow I’m going to rise and shine and say “yes” to whatever comes my way.