PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER! – is a phrase I heard throughout my childhood.
I think I was an over-sensitive child and found so many problems overwhelming. At the time I remember resenting this rather harsh treatment of ‘pulling myself together’- but when I reached adulthood I came to using it on myself whenever something threatened to drag me down.
I take it basically to mean that if you find yourself in a situation that is becoming overwhelming, the only way to deal with it is to make the decided effort to pull yourself out of it and rise above whatever is wrong. My mother was a great believer in this attitude, whether the situation was an emotional or physical collapse. I wasn’t allowed to wallow in feelings of self pity which tended to come so naturally and were by far the easiest to collapse into. At the time her words sounded rather brutal and unsympathetic and often I was left resentful – but now I realize that it was both a sensible and useful discipline. I know I passed this attitude on to my children as well, although I hope I did try for a bit of understanding as well!

Just recently I made a trip to the States, first to Boston, then to Vermont, Philadelphia and a charming place in Pennsylvania called Boiling Springs. Three weeks before I was due to leave England I was attacked by a vicious type of arthritis in both ankles, making walking both difficult and painful. With my mother’s words ringing in my ear I made a mental note to ‘pull myself together’ and carry on. Given the complexity of the trip it might have made more sense to cancel or postpone it- but I didn’t – and I am really glad I made it. There were moments – particularly on the first day when I walked the two miles round Boston Common ending up in great pain with ankles like footballs – when I doubted I had made the right decision. It was obvious this was a problem that wasn’t going away and that I was going to have to live with it. I reluctantly took taxis and had to rely on the great kindness of friends to get me around. And how kind, understanding and generous they all were. Thanks to them I was taken on tours around Vermont in the Fall, I now know the history and landmarks of Philadelphia, and the beauties of the countryside in historic Pennsylvania.
A particular highlight was being being taken in wheelchair round the quite amazing Barnes Foundation – a collection of artwork like no other I have seen and I would urge anyone in the vicinity of Philadelphia to make a visit.

So ‘pulling yourself together’ can have its advantages.
Now I am making the rounds of doctors, specialists and physios, to try and find the source of the problem and a remedy – if that is possible. If no solution can be found I will have to find ways of living with it – which I am sure I can do.

Another highlight of my American trip was a visit to the Boston Library Archives – to do research on my new book. More about that in my next blog.