Another snapshot from my MA dissertation on the topic of ‘not-doing as a way of being’, shared with trust that you, the reader, can piece this bricolage together, can make connections and touch the wholeness of the essence of this story in order to form meaning…


My heuristic inquiry is a web of interconnected threads – to pull one will pull all the others. Even as I look at one thread, I become aware of the others. My enquiry is about rest, it is about identity, it is about worth, it is about becoming. At the moment, all I have is a tangle of thoughts and feelings and senses. I will attempt to write about them, to find some words and to order my thoughts…

Firstly, let me think about rest. This word feels the most physical of the emerging words. Having M.E. means that my body needs more rest than other people’s. My day to day existence is dominated and determined by my body. It feels like a constant negotiation – what I want to do and what my body will agree to. Times of borrowing energy, and the cost of paying it back. The days when I ask my body to do more than it wants to and it agreeing, but only at a cost. Periods of denial and lack of dialogue with my body – when it tries to get my attention with increasing urgency. When, eventually, exhausted with my studious ignoring of it, it shuts down and forces me to do what it was asking. Even writing this I can see what a powerful relationship this is in my life –and like any relationship, it takes energy to sustain.

I think identity is at the heart of it all. Who I am has been wrapped up in what I do for so long that the idea of not-doing is terrifying. I’m scared that I don’t know who I am if I’m not doing, striving, achieving. I have been brought up with a strong work ethic and paid work is an important aspect of my adult identity. I notice that one of the key questions I’m asked – and ask of others when we first meet is: ‘What do you do?’ and I feel and see people judge me based on my answer. I also saw a shift in people’s perception of me when I became ill with M.E., when my identity as a hardworking, reliable, achieving person was threatened. “We notice you have had a lot of time off” became a questioning (to me at least) of my worth and value as an employee. I said identity and worth as two separate points, but in actual fact, I can’t separate them. As Callard et al. say, “If you say you are busy, then it implies you are wanted. You are in demand” (2016: p.64). Being busy, achieving and overworking have given me worth – they have been a badge of honour, even if I wouldn’t say that out loud. My attempts to find validation, to overcome my low self-esteem and low self-worth have been to work hard, to achieve in the workplace, to achieve academically. All this striving is ultimately me trying to prove that I have worth –to myself and others.

As I have travelled on this journey, I have started to explore who I am and to nurture and cherish myself. When I am able to do this, I can feel a shift, a loosening of something which is so tightly held. When I glimpse myself as having intrinsic value and worth, as being loved and loveable, I can expand. And as I expand I can breathe, and be. I can find stillness and peace, albeit fleetingly. And those fleeting moments have been wonderful enough for me to think that the risk involved in attempting change is worth it. I know from experience that true change, real change, transformative change, is not easy. It is likely to take me to unexpected and possibly painful places. The repercussions of changing my way of being, of interacting with the world, can blindside me. Any sense of surety that I am on the right course can be lost in a moment, and leave me bobbing, floating, lost and frightened. And yet, the call becomes stronger each day. There is also a cost attached to staying where I am, with my increasing understanding of the hopelessness and ridiculousness of striving. I know that this journey, if I follow the call, can be perilous, and yet, I dare to dream. I dream, not of big dramatic changes. I do not want to become something that is more than me. I simply want to let ‘me’ unfold and expand. I dream of learning to cherish my body and respectfully love it. I dream of feeling more grounded, more rooted, having a more secure sense of who I am. I dream of believing in myself and what I can be, of being compassionate when I don’t get it right, when the rhythm of doing and being, of rest and action, is disrupted. I dream of finding peace.

Journal entry, 2016