Breasts, Brains and Cold Sores

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Today is the sixth week since I broke my leg. It is fast becoming my leg again. I can bend it effortlessly though not as far back as I once could. I am not sure I could sit on it yet. I can bend well within a ninety degree angle, though not much further. I have enough movement in my knee to be able to drive my car again. An automatic. My healthy right leg does all the work.

It is still an ordeal of sorts to get into and out of the car but I can now do it unaided. I hobble to the front door, release one crutch and lean it there beside the car, I open the driver’s door, and then toss in my crutches over onto the passenger side. Finally I slide myself into the driver’s seat all the time careful not to twist my bung leg too much at an angle so as to disrupt the bone. Once behind the wheel, I am mobile again, an independent woman in her car.

I have almost stopped worrying that the bone might move. I think it is held in for good now, but still I must take care not to bear weight on my left leg yet, much less to fall or I might not so much displace the bone as fracture it all over again.

Someone told me – in the blogosphere as I recall – that you cannot break a bone in the exact same spot again, that the scar material of bones becomes fixed like the most rigid of concrete, while somewhere else I read that once broken, a bone is more vulnerable, that the fracture points of bones are far more brittle.

I do not know the truth of this. I do not understand the science. I rather enjoyed the idea that once broken, never broken again, like once bitten twice shy, once hurt, never open again, but this is not so perhaps. Points of vulnerability become even more vulnerable.

We have returned for a dose of bitter winter weather again this weekend, with much of the State of Victoria on flood alert. This after over ten years of drought. The dams have moved from being slightly over quarter full a little over a year ago to almost half full today.

Half filled dams are a bonus. I do not remember in my lifetime a moment when the dams were almost full. Half full is about as much as we dare hope for. But then again I rely on memory and my limited knowledge here.

I have only started to attend to the state of the dams in recent years. When I was young and felt more omnipotent than I do now I did not bother with concerns over the state of the land, though I can always remember a terrible fear during the bushfire season even as we did not live close to the bush.

Bush fires are a feature of every Australian’s consciousness. They begin early summer and erupt unpredictably one after another till the end of the hot weather. They are one of the reasons I could not bear to live in bushland.

To worry all summer long about the weather and those hot fire ban days, which arrive with increasing regularity in this country, would throw me out.

There are so many things over which I have no control, weather being one of them, I could not bear to be daily anxious about what the weather might bring during bushfire season.

When I was young, my other uncontrolled worry was the arrival of cold sores on my face. When I was young I might have copped a cold sore almost monthly. Someone explained to me early in the piece that once you have suffered with cold sores you have them for life.

Cold sores are caused by a virus which lives in your lip. Usually it sleeps there and gives you no trouble, but the minute something goes wrong for you, it flares up like a bushfire.

The cold sore virus is linked to my emotions, like the handle of a tap. Become upset by something and the handle turns. It can even be an upset of which my mind might not be aware, though not my body. My body knows more than my conscious mind, but my unconscious mind drives the other parts of my mind and body or so I believed as a ten year old trying to fight off the inevitable but uncertain arrival of cold sores.

They start as a tingle in your lip and turn into a watery blister that swells to what feels from the inside when you scrape it with your tongue to be the size of a cricket ball. In the mirror this blister stage looks nowhere as bad as the next stage after the blister bursts, usually a large blister or a series of little blisters clustered together.

When I was a chid there was an ointment my mother sometimes bought from the chemist called Stoxil. I was not the only one in my family who copped cold sores. The sooner you applied the Stoxil the more likely you were to beat the virus, or so the writing on the side of the Stoxil tube said. I never had the ointment on hand to test this theory out. My mother, if she bought it, bought it after the event.

Once a cold sore took hold on my lip it was there for up to ten days or more. After the blister burst it became a wide spreading and throbbing red welt that over stretched the edge of my lips and to my mind made me look even more ugly than I imagined myself to be when I was a child, uglier even than the ugliest child in my classroom.

In my family the theory followed that the oldest were the ugliest, growing more beautiful down the line. The youngest girl and boy were the most beautiful. To compensate for this, the reverse applied to brains.

The oldest were the smartest and the youngest were the dumbest. This put me, sixth in line, in the invidious position of having neither brains nor beauty, right here near the middle. I figured in my position, one below the middle, my cleverness won over my appearance if only by a muddling amount.

I was not smart at school, as Mother Mary John in grade six testified after I failed mental arithmetic.
‘I thought you were bad,’ she said, when she handed back my exercise book covered in crosses, ‘but not that bad.’

Mental arithmetic troubled me by its name, mental. Mental with its links to mind, and numbers and to cold sores.

There was a direct line from somewhere in my brain to the place in my lip where the cold sore virus lived. When I was thirteen, I worried about the line for weeks before I became bridesmaid at my second oldest brother’s wedding. I was in between dress sizes and the dressmaker my sister-in-law-to-be had appointed complained to her that people like me were the worst to make dresses for. We were neither child nor woman.

If I had copped a cold sore on my brother’s wedding day, then not only would I be this hybrid creature who needed a bra that had so much padding inside the cups that my brothers laughed the first time they saw me lined up on the steps of the church before the wedding, I would also be ugly.

I recognised my brothers’ sneers. They knew my body was fake. I knew my body was fake, but the dressmaker had insisted there would be no point in making a dress that fitted my exact size at the time. Within weeks my breasts might erupt just like a cold sore and, given that she had started to make the dress at least three months before the event, she needed to be sure she could accommodate all eruptions.

Breasts, brains and cold sores, they go together for me in an uneasy sequence. I could not control them. I could not control how much my brain might hold in of the times table I rote learned on weekends in readiness for Monday morning tests when we lined up in the class room and took turns to recite the tables one after the other.

My surname began with the letter ‘S’. I was always to the end of the line and the end of the line was where the hardest sums landed – the seven times eight type questions, which so often evaded me; the nine times six.

Even now I can feel a prickle in my lip as I remember how the impossible sum tripped the point in my brain that pulled the cord that sent the signal down to the virus in my lip and told it to wake up and get back to work.

To fail mental arithmetic not only showed up on my school report at the end of term, it showed up on my face and everyone could see, how dumb and ugly I was, even when my sister-in-law-to-be had dressed me up in a canary yellow silk ball gown that fell all the way to my feet and was topped off by two enormous bosoms that were not my own.

Eruptions came all to easily in those days. Perhaps it accounts today for why I make such terrible mistakes and can never quite manage to conceal them.

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58 Comments on Breasts, Brains and Cold Sores

  1. Nancy Devine
    October 16, 2010 at 12:02 am (7 years ago)

    it's hard to come to terms with not having complete control over your body. it's your, after all, shouldn't you be able to make it do as you wish?

    Reply
  2. steven
    October 16, 2010 at 2:22 am (7 years ago)

    elisabeth it's so hard entering into, maintaining, and then leaving the human condition!! i am relieved to read that you are able to move around once more. steven

    Reply
  3. Hannah Stephenson
    October 16, 2010 at 2:26 am (7 years ago)

    I hear you.

    In grad school (when I was constantly stressed), the end of the quarter meant cold sores. Now (knock on wood), having been finished with school for nearly five years, I've had them less and less.

    For me, they represent weird fragility. I also get awful sunburns very easily…I feel like I should be under veils and parasols outside :).

    Lovely and thought-provoking post!

    Reply
  4. Elizabeth
    October 16, 2010 at 4:23 am (7 years ago)

    Oh, my god. This post is just so evocative and painful on so many levels — physically, emotionally — deeply in the heart. I wish I could wrap that young self of yours in my arms and whisper sweet things to her.

    I am glad to hear that you are mending and hope that mending is of your heart as well.

    Reply
  5. Elisabeth
    October 16, 2010 at 5:06 am (7 years ago)

    It's true, Nancy, in some ways we have so little control over our bodies. We can undermine them easily, but to get our body to behave even when we try hard, is never guaranteed.

    And what of those who are born with disabilities, or who suffer the effects of crippling accidents? How much worse for them?

    Thanks, Nancy.

    Reply
  6. Elisabeth
    October 16, 2010 at 5:12 am (7 years ago)

    I am on the mend, Steven, I can feel it in my bones, though of course I'm still limited by my human condition.

    Funnily enough, I tend to have a pretty good constitution and rarely get sick. My immune system is pretty good, I suspect. It has left me with too much confidence until now with this broken leg.

    Thanks, Steven.

    Reply
  7. Elisabeth
    October 16, 2010 at 5:17 am (7 years ago)

    Skin is such a measure of fragility, Hannah. It is as if we communicate through it . I think of the raging red of my youngest daughter's eczema. It, too, is exacerbated by the heat of the sun, but more so by stress.

    In Australia, most people hide from the sun under trees,' veils and parasols' and with plenty of sunscreen applied to boot.

    Take care of your skin. In more ways than one, it holds your insides in.

    Thanks, Hannah.

    Reply
  8. Elisabeth
    October 16, 2010 at 5:24 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks for your kind words, Elizabeth, directed to my young child self.

    We all have such fragile child selves within and they need as much kindness as we can direct towards them.

    When I was little so much seemed to go on unnoticed. And most adults seemed insensitive to how hard it was to be little.

    I suppose it still happens today all over the place. The best we can do as adults, is try to stay in touch with our little selves, only then might we remember what it was like when it comes to other little people alive today.

    Given your sensitivity to your three children, and especially, Sophie, I think you have no trouble with this.

    Thanks, Elizabeth.

    Reply
  9. Alberto Oliver
    October 16, 2010 at 5:27 am (7 years ago)

    So, the journey is coming to its end, fortunately. Soon you will be able to resume all those activities that seemed to be common before your terrible accident. I am sure nevertheless, that you will never see them as common as you used to do. How ugly it can be when your body begin to suffer all those frenzied changes when getting into the puberty, exactly as you say, neither adult nor children, rather some kind of mixture of hormones, odd physical traits and confussion. The funniest thing is that most of the people don´t use to consider it as something serious, receiving from the aadults some mocking comments and that annoying tip on your back. It seems like we in the adulthood had forgotten how it was to be a teenager, or rather worse, try to do so. Maybe that is what scars are for despite it all, to remind us that things happened for real, and for not to forget the lesson learned. And yes, sometimes the body get fed up with us and give us painfull reminders, of who has really the control.

    My best wishes Elisabeth and may your recovery come soon.

    Reply
  10. Enchanted Oak
    October 16, 2010 at 6:09 am (7 years ago)

    I read this with a familiar tingle in my lower lip, right quadrant. Herpes simplex adds insult to injury during times of stress. Just when you can use any morsel of self-respect at all, here cometh Vesuvius erupting right in the heart, as it were, of your face. That is betrayal.

    I'm surprised so many of us survive adolescence. I was a flat little freckled elfin thing with a mouthful of braces and secrets at home. On the wall of my closet, I drew controls for a spaceship and a blank screen. That was my hiding place.

    Thanks for the smiles and the camaraderie. Look what that torment has made of us!

    Reply
  11. Marja
    October 16, 2010 at 7:49 am (7 years ago)

    "I thought you were bad…. But not that bad" Poor child Damaging words which no child should hear. My son was told something simular and he was so angry. He was so brave to tell her off after clas time and she apologised. This wouldn't happen as easily in the past I guess. Worries can express themselves physically indeed. Your worries scream of the page. Take care and I hope you are running around soon again

    Reply
  12. Zuzana
    October 16, 2010 at 7:56 am (7 years ago)

    It is always highly enticing to follow your train of thoughts. I have grown to look forward to your weekend posts, as I get to read them on Saturday morning, when the world is still quiet, with a cup of coffee.;)
    I have to disappoint you, as I believe a bone can be broken twice in the same place.;)
    And I know all about cold soars. I still suffer from them, but less frequently. As a child-young woman, I had some that made my upper lip look like a botox treatment gone bad.;)
    As I am the oldest one (out of only 2 though), so I hope I have brains and that in its turn I believe makes anyone beuatiful.;)
    Have a lovely Saturday and I am wishing you a continuous recovery by each passing day,
    xoxo

    Reply
  13. Jim Murdoch
    October 16, 2010 at 9:57 am (7 years ago)

    I’ve had cold sores, of course, but with me it was mouth ulcers and heat spots. It wasn’t just me, my brother and sister did too. So I guess there was something genetic going on there. I still get the odd ulcer these days but nothing like the ones I got as a kid. I remember when I read Steinbeck’s The Pearl some flat and misshapen pearls were described as ulcers and I knew exactly what that meant. Since these eruptions, to use your word, were mostly hidden they never worried me too much even if they were uncomfortable at best and even painful at times. It was pimples that embarrassed me as they do with all kids. Thankfully I never suffered from acne but I hated plooks with a vengeance. I still do. And I still get them in fact I can feel pressure building on the side of my nose just now. I actually think they embarrass me more now than they did when I was a kid because when I was a kid I was expected to get spots – it was part of growing up – but I’m supposed to be grown up now and, in my mind at least, the eruption of a pimple is my body reminding me (and the world) that there’s still a little boy on the inside.

    Since my sister is six years younger than me by the time I noticed she even had breasts she had breasts, not lopsided buds. I left home at eighteen (which would make her twelve) and so I missed most of her adolescent angst. By the time I moved back home and began to get to know her she was already married.

    I’ve never been especially good at mental arithmetic. It was never marked separately on our report cards so this failing was never highlighted growing up. What is interesting is that for someone with a facility with words I’ve always been good with numbers. I loved playing with Excel when I first got a copy and I took to programming like a duck to water. I’d always imagined that I’d be a dab hand at accounts but when I got seconded to the accounts department in my last job I found out that wasn’t the case.

    As far as bush fires go I have only one memory. My parents lived in the last housing estate before you hit the countryside. You walked to the end of our street, turned left and you were there. One summer the area across the road caught fire and a stretch of about a half-mile went up in flames. We happened to have to drive along the road that ran alongside it and I can feel the heat now when I think about it; it was scary. I know that’s nothing compared to what you have but that’s the best I can do.

    Reply
  14. Ruth
    October 16, 2010 at 11:23 am (7 years ago)

    Your writing is so marvelous that I could swear I have a tingle in my lip, a cold sore ready to erupt.

    I am amazed, utterly amazed, at what, and how, these experiences of childhood shape who we are. I am so struck by your authority and confidence in writing, and I enjoy anticipating learning more about your story as you share it. For how did you come to be the beautiful person you are. Well, I think hurdles do refine us, don't they.

    Reply
  15. Robert the Skeptic
    October 16, 2010 at 5:22 pm (7 years ago)

    I have seen x-rays of mended bones, there tends to be a thickening at the breaking point, so the assumption that it would never break again at THAT specific spot seem logical.

    What is not logical is why cold sores break out on the lip… where the world can see it. Why not the elbow or the butt or the back of the calf? Why right there on the lip?

    Failure at mathematics has plagued me my entire life. I think of the lost potential, the careers I could have had had I been even mildly proficient at math. It's depressing to think about it.

    Reply
  16. Christine
    October 16, 2010 at 7:48 pm (7 years ago)

    I remember mental arithmetic. We did it in grade 6, day after day after day. It was the morning's activity before 'Composition' after recess. I hated it, could never see the point of it and hated anything mathematical for years afterwards. Composition, on the other hand was much more fun. We were introduced to words. Like 'simile', 'alliteration' and a dictionary of glorious terms like 'halycon' and 'filigree' and others which made their way into sentences and phrases about sunsets, I recall. But the awkwardness of growing up!!! I was the kid in the class who wore glasses – the Dame Edna shape fashionable in the late 60s.

    Reply
  17. Anthony Duce
    October 17, 2010 at 1:17 am (7 years ago)

    I so enjoyed these experiences in the manner expressed. The pains you relate have a poignant feel that even this guy who never had a cold sore, or boobs…. I had them for a moment. I totally related to the mental math. I’d never of made it, if it wasn’t for the coming of calculators when I finally had to make a living.
    Thank you for the wonderful post

    Reply
  18. Kass
    October 17, 2010 at 2:34 am (7 years ago)

    Eruptions and products of the body – endlessly fascinating.

    Reply
  19. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 7:54 am (7 years ago)

    The journey of my broken leg is coming to an end, Alberto. Hopefully in two weeks I will be able to walk on it again, however gingerly.

    Perhaps the vulnerability of this experience meshes with those awful times i remember of feeling out of control as a child and adolescent.

    I often think of life as a time of growing up into more capacity in adulthood and then slowly winding our way back to the dependency and helplessness of infancy in our old age.

    We therefore cannot afford to become too confident about ever really being in control.

    Thanks, Alberto for your kind wishes.

    Reply
  20. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 8:00 am (7 years ago)

    You describe it so well, Enchanted Oak, the cruel way that stress adds insult to injury when our bodies let us down.

    When I went to school as an adolescent, I looked around at the other girls and imagined that none of them suffered like me, and that none of them felt ashamed like me.

    Now I realise that adolescence is such a tormented time for us all. If only I knew that then.

    Thanks for the support here, Chris.

    Reply
  21. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 8:03 am (7 years ago)

    I'll be running around again soon, Marja. I'm determined. But I shall also try to travel a little more thoughtfully and slowly than in the past. I don't want a repeat of my accident.

    Your son sounds like a very brave soul to challenge his teacher as he did. He takes after his mother, I'll bet.

    Thanks, Marja.

    Reply
  22. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 8:10 am (7 years ago)

    A cold sore that makes your lip look like Botox treatment gone wrong, is a great way to describe it, Zuzana.

    I once worked in a community care centre as a social worker during my first pregnancy. At one stage, mid pregnancy, I developed a terrible cold sore. One of the nurses decided to tell me that I could pass it onto my unborn baby and that it was very dangerous.

    I freaked out until one of the doctors who had overheard the nurse's warning told me that it would only be a problem were I delivering the baby with a cold sore and even then we could take protective measures.

    As it is, none of my children suffer from cold sores. Perhaps they are less stressed, but that's not true. They do things like chew their finger nails instead.

    Thanks, Zuzana.

    Reply
  23. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 9:30 am (7 years ago)

    So 'plooks' is the Scottish word for pimples, is it, Jim? I haven't heard the word before. What a fantastic word.

    I sometimes get what I describe as a pimple on the tip of my tongue. I suppose it is an ulcer of sorts and it can be painful but it lasts only a short while, maybe only a day, and disappears as fast as it appears. Strange.

    One of daughters suffers what we call 'geographic tongue'. Her taste bud 'pimples'- for want of a better word- on the surface of her tongue are filled with grooves like dry river beds. She is sensitive to acidic foods like oranges, tomatoes and pineapple, but otherwise her tongue gives her no trouble. It just looks hideous when she sticks it out.

    The odd doctor has suggested it might be fungal, but there's no treatment as far as I know. My daughter likes sometimes to shock by sticking out her tongue to show people. At other times she finds it mortifying.

    Curse the pains of adolescence, bodies and infirmities. They come back in old age in different forms and I'm not sure that we ever quite get over the shame of it all.

    Even my 91 year old mother bemoans the wrinkles on her arms. She refuses to wear sleeveless dresses even when it's boiling hot, so as to conceal them. However do we survive being human, such an imperfect condition.

    Thanks, Jim

    Reply
  24. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 11:13 am (7 years ago)

    The philosopher, Avishae Margalit reckons that art is born of humiliation, Ruth. I'm inclined to agree with him. In that sense we are shaped by those generally difficult childhood experiences that also become fodder for our creativity. Of course the good experiences help too but they less often find themselves into our writing.

    It seems people prefer the drama to the plain out loveliness, or at least a bit of a mix, in preference to pure bliss.

    Thanks for your generous comment, Ruth. You give me heart.

    Reply
  25. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 11:19 am (7 years ago)

    Different opinions about the possibility of a break re-occuring in bone at exactly the same point, Robert.

    Zuzana reckons it's more likely. Who'd know? If I remember I'll ask the surgeon when next I see him.

    As for the whys and wherefores of the cold sore on the lip, a psychoanalytical interpretation would say something about the infant experience.

    Lips are important centres for early sensuality, as you could imagine. Needless to say they continue to be important in adulthood, too.

    Who knows? I'm sure someone has written about it somewhere.

    Thanks, Robert.

    Reply
  26. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 11:26 am (7 years ago)

    One of my brothers who was always good at maths reckons that maths is a language like any other. He says therefore that if you are good at languages and good with words, you ought also be good at maths.

    That's not been my experience.

    Like you, Christine, I love words. I loved them as a kid too, but numbers have always defied me.

    There's also been a gender divide in my family of origin, that old 'furphy' – girls are bad at maths and good at languages and vice versa for boys.

    Again someone, somewhere has probably done research on this.

    I can just imagine those Dame Edna glasses. How awful for you. No rhinestones, though, I'll bet.

    Thanks, Christine

    Reply
  27. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 11:28 am (7 years ago)

    I'm glad my post meant something for you, Anthony despite your limited experience – no breasts, no cold sores. The one has its pleasures, the other I could well do without.

    Thanks, Anthony.

    Reply
  28. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 11:28 am (7 years ago)

    I'm glad my post meant something for you, Anthony despite your limited experience – no breasts, no cold sores. The one has its pleasures, the other I could well do without.

    Thanks, Anthony.

    Reply
  29. Elisabeth
    October 17, 2010 at 11:30 am (7 years ago)

    How lovely to hear from you Kass. I hope all's well.

    I've been drowning under the weight of my thesis these last several days and have not been such a dedicated blogger but I shall get back on track soon.

    Thanks, Kass.

    Reply
  30. TaraDharma
    October 18, 2010 at 6:51 am (7 years ago)

    yay, to be driving again! freedom!

    It was painful to read about your cold sores — I get a version of that virus, call Zoster, or Shingles. In fact, every time I'm really stressed they break out on my hip (rhymes with lip). Same deal: i feel the warm tingle before the blisters appear. Painful and annoying, but at least hidden beneath my clothing.

    My step-daughter recently went through the bridesmaid horrors – hated her dress, she did, but everyone else though she looked gorgeous. I'll bet you looked better than you think you did.

    Reply
  31. Phoenix
    October 18, 2010 at 11:01 pm (7 years ago)

    Not many people blog about their painful adolescence – and yes, everyone's adolescence is painful – but you do so quite poetically, although I do twist in my seat to hear of your unhappiness when you were younger.

    The things we have the littlest amount of control over are the things we try hardest to control. Yes, breasts, cold sores, brush fires and our own sense of worth.

    But also points of vulnerability, broken long ago. When does it stop being broken, I wonder – when we stop being afraid of breaking it again or when we learn we don't have any control over whether or not it breaks?

    Reply
  32. Frances
    October 19, 2010 at 1:47 am (7 years ago)

    Do you make "terrible mistakes", I wonder, Elisabeth? Our minds can take a tiny mistake and inflate it into something terrible, just as our body can react disproportionately to the tiny herpes virus.

    Reply
  33. Elisabeth
    October 19, 2010 at 2:12 am (7 years ago)

    Shingles are awful, I hear tell, TaraDharma and they can be recurrent. Aren't they related to Chicken Pox?

    These childhood ailments that revisit when our immunity is down can be so cruel, even beyond childhood.

    I suppose your step-daughter's reaction to her bridesmaid's dress is testimony to that sensitivity I try to describe. Other's think the dress looks fine, even lovely, but we find it hideous.

    Thanks, TaraDhama.

    Reply
  34. Elisabeth
    October 19, 2010 at 2:15 am (7 years ago)

    Your comment set me thinking, Phoenix. I wonder when my leg will stop feeling broken.

    For now it feels as though even once it has healed and all that remains is a scar, it will still feel broken in some way.

    I suspect I will never trust my legs in quite the same way again.

    Thanks for your generous words, Phoenix.

    Reply
  35. Elisabeth
    October 19, 2010 at 2:18 am (7 years ago)

    I suspect you're right, Frances. I probably exaggerate many of my little mistakes into gigantic ones, though there have been some mistakes in my mind that I still – even after much analysis and soul searching – consider enormous. And I think it goes beyond infantile omnipotence.

    Thanks, Frances

    Reply
  36. River
    October 19, 2010 at 11:33 am (7 years ago)

    Congratulations on being back in the driver's seat!
    I had a cold sore once, I woke up with a huge throbbing red spot on my lower lip and thought a spider had bitten me in the night. Doctor said it was a cold sore and recommended Virasolve, to be put on it every couple of hours until it was gone. Then if I ever felt a tingle, I should use the gel immediately every two hours to prevent it erupting. I still have the tube 20+ years later, but I've never needed it. I should probably throw it out….
    I remember mental arithmetic too. We had it from grade 3 through grade 7, every Friday morning, after the weekly spelling test which I always aced. I found it easy enough, the multiplication tables just made sense to me. After recess we'd have something called "speed and accuracy", similar to the mental math, but a written test, with about 20 questions and a time limit to get them finished. Then we'd have dictation, probably to check spelling and punctuation, and last of all, composition, where we'd write an essay on a subject given by the teacher. Yep, Fridays were all about the testing.

    Reply
  37. Lei
    October 19, 2010 at 12:06 pm (7 years ago)

    Poor Elisabeth! Six weeks seems such a long time. What a trial! I am really sympathetic.

    Reply
  38. Elisabeth
    October 19, 2010 at 9:12 pm (7 years ago)

    It sounds as though you enjoyed the testing, River. It made sense to you. spelling made sense to me. the way letters came together to form words. Even basic grammar made sense, though I had more trouble as it became more complex.

    Numbers never made much sense for me, not beyond the basics again. It's a mind set I'm sure. I became almost phobic

    I wonder whether that thing on your lip really was a cold sore after all. Given that you never had another. Amazing.

    Thanks, River.

    Reply
  39. Elisabeth
    October 19, 2010 at 9:18 pm (7 years ago)

    We're past the six week mark now, Lei, and yesterday the surgeon said I can now put some weight on m bung leg. So now I'm beginning to look back over this time and with far more of a sense that recovery is around the corner.

    Now I'm beginning to wonder how quickly the six weeks have gone. Time plays tricks on us like this. When you look ahead to the unknown it seems interminable. when you look back over a known past period it seems to have passed in the blink of an eye.

    Thanks Lei.

    Reply
  40. Radish King
    October 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm (7 years ago)

    Beautifully written, Elisabeth. I love the connections you made throughout and yes cold sores seem like goblins waiting for that perfect day to appear. I do carry Abreva which does the deed when I feel a tingle. It's expensive ($20 for a tiny tube) but good to have on hand.
    Rebecca

    Reply
  41. Frenchy Pectoralis
    October 20, 2010 at 7:58 pm (7 years ago)

    So you REALLY did not break your bone? It is just a metaphor for losing the person who did your leg-work and now you have him back in the indoor-outdoor book studio?

    I'm just sayin'

    ever id I could only add thing up

    Elisabet5h
    that WOULD be beautiful

    Reply
  42. Jane Kennedy Sutton
    October 20, 2010 at 10:33 pm (7 years ago)

    Glad to hear your leg is improving.

    Your post is proof that childhood certainly isn’t the carefree time adults like to think it is.

    Reply
  43. Maggie May
    October 21, 2010 at 6:57 am (7 years ago)

    i loved reading this. the connections you are making and the practical, unique voice you have in your writing are quite absorbing. i hope your leg stays strong like bull. take your calcium and muscle supports like glucosamine and Vit D 🙂

    Reply
  44. Elisabeth
    October 21, 2010 at 9:16 am (7 years ago)

    I also keep a tube of anti-cold sore cream on hand to ward off those tingles, Rebecca. And it is expensive but worth it.

    Strangely the older I get the less often the cold sores assail me. I didn't get one over my broken leg for instance. As a child I'm sure I would have copped a beauty to accompany such a stress ridden event as a broken leg.

    Thanks, Radish King's Rebecca.

    Reply
  45. Elisabeth
    October 21, 2010 at 9:20 am (7 years ago)

    Thanks Frenchy. My fractured image might well reflect the fractured nature of my writing but dare I say, 'the truth is': I broke my leg.

    Fortunately it's healing well, it seems and the break will soon be a memory and therefore subject to all manner of reconstruction.

    Now try to add that up.

    Thanks Frecnhy Pectoralis

    Reply
  46. Elisabeth
    October 21, 2010 at 9:24 am (7 years ago)

    Childhood is hardly carefree, Jane, for anyone. I wonder why we adults want to perpetuate the myth that it is.

    And yet we often do. Maybe as we age we miss the years that have rolled by and imagine that it's good to be little.

    For all my difficulties, the older I get the less onerous life becomes, even with a broken leg.

    Thanks Jane.

    Reply
  47. Elisabeth
    October 21, 2010 at 9:44 am (7 years ago)

    My leg is beginning to feel as strong as a bull, Maggie.

    I plan a bone density test once it's fully healed. So far I haven't bothered with additives like calcium, but depending on the results I plan to get onto them.

    Thanks for your kind words, Maggie.

    Reply
  48. persiflage
    October 21, 2010 at 11:09 am (7 years ago)

    I am so glad your leg is healing, after such a painful and tedious time.
    I remember Mother Mary John, from many years ago now. Those were the days when teachers did not overly concern themselves with your self esteem – a concept unknown outside the USA. We were so busy examining our consciences that any consideration of our possible virtues did not occur. To this day I remain unconvinced that constant reiteration of how wonderful everything you did was is a useful and helpful way of educating and bringing up children. A dose of realistic criticism and analysis seems vastly preferable. Not that the constant negative criticism is preferable, of course. The constant examination of conscience could be damaging.
    These days, I feel I understand better the quest for sanctity and perfection, which in my youth seemed so incomprehensible when we were read the lives of the saints. They were so good, that any finding of faults seemed like overcritical nit-picking. Not so now.

    Reply
  49. Snowbrush
    October 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm (7 years ago)

    I guess a cold sore is a bit like a delayed blush in that both are physical signs of inner turmoil. Trembling is too, and I've sometimes been so overwrought that i did that.

    I'm glad to hear that your leg is progressing.

    Reply
  50. Ellen
    October 22, 2010 at 3:16 am (7 years ago)

    I found you over at Ms. Moon's blog and thought to read your post. First off I can commiserate with you on broken bones. I broke my wrist back in mid August. Having never broken anything I couldn't decide if a wrist was better than a leg or what. Hoping your life with crutches is getting easier.

    The thought of cold sores is most unpleasant and I am grateful to not have had any since my teen years…along with pimples..yuck!

    The theory of age and brains…never heard that story.

    And the bridesmaid dress…oh you poor thing. I can just imagine your feelings when you put that dress on with 'extra boobs'! Brothers..what can we say about them and the consideration of a young girl.

    Delighted to have found your blog!

    Reply
  51. Elisabeth
    October 22, 2010 at 8:26 am (7 years ago)

    Everything in moderation as you suggest, Persiflage. Not enough sensitivity to our fragile egos, especially when we're tiny, is not helpful, nor is excessive adulation. False flattery and all that.

    Thanks, Persiflage.

    Reply
  52. Elisabeth
    October 22, 2010 at 9:21 am (7 years ago)

    A cold sore, a blush and a tremble, how strangely connected as you say, Snow.

    The body's secrets revealed when we least expect, when we least desire.

    Life can be tough.

    Thanks, Snow.

    Reply
  53. Elisabeth
    October 22, 2010 at 9:25 am (7 years ago)

    It's good to meet you here, Ellen. You've been suffering for longer than me by the sound of things.

    I'm sorry to hear about it, but hopefully you too will recover in good time.

    I checked out your blog, and it seems we have much in common. I look forward to visiting you again.

    Thanks, Ellen.

    Reply
  54. Frances
    October 22, 2010 at 10:37 am (7 years ago)

    "Enormous" mistakes are one thing, Elisabeth: we all look back and cringe, and are ashamed or worse at some of our actions. To label these as "terrible" inflates them into a portentous and monumental category, like serial murder or genocide. Perhaps your actions deserve this. Or perhaps they don't.
    Is it Bernie Siegel who says that "terrible", "awful", "horrible" are the words of neuroses? They were common in some in my home, and they are utterly distorting and destructive of ordinary reality, in my opinion and experience.

    Reply
  55. Silver
    October 23, 2010 at 12:50 am (7 years ago)

    Have a blessed week end!

    I posted something today. Good to be back but not sure i can post as often as i would before due to work.

    But it's good to be blog walking when i can again..

    Hugs,
    Silver

    Reply
  56. Elisabeth
    October 23, 2010 at 1:01 am (7 years ago)

    Words have such power, don't they Frances?

    I try to write as I feel and therefore such words pop out. They are a measure of my internal experience at the time. I don't intend them as facts about that experience.

    It can be misleading, though. That's why I'm so intrigued by the notion of ourselves as multiple beings, rather than uniform and all of a piece.

    At the time I broke my leg it felt to me as an almost unmitigated disaster, but now it feels a little like a gift in disguise.

    I have learned things I would never have learned without the experience, not that I wish it on myself again or on anyone else. It's a tough way to learn.

    I say this therefore to emphasise the degree to which an event or experience can seem 'horrible' one day, and not so the next, and vice versa.
    '

    To me that's the richness of life and living, even if it is neurotic. But then I'm of the view that we're all neurotic. It's part of the human condition.

    To me the issue is not whether one is neurotic or not, it's how neurotic.

    If you ask my daughters they'd say I'm plenty… They would not use the word neurotic, they use that kinder word 'eccentric'. I, too, find it endearing. I don't mind being a little odd, mad, eccentric, neurotic, if you will.

    Thanks, Frances. I hope this goes some way to addressing your comment.

    Reply
  57. Elisabeth
    October 23, 2010 at 10:25 am (7 years ago)

    Silver, thanks for 'blog walking' here. I checked out your amazing food post. No wonder you describe it as a love affair with food. Such colour and diversity. I'm in awe.

    Reply
  58. Dave King
    October 23, 2010 at 10:42 am (7 years ago)

    As they say, life's a bitch – an d then you die. I do hope you are skipping about again soon. With skin troubles, it's not much fun, I know, with winter coming on .

    Reply

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