Life, despite everything

It is a beautiful, clear Easter morning, and I’m back here in the UK sitting on the sofa with the cat, drinking coffee, and taking it easy. If I’ve not been very active here on the blog for a while, it is in part because the last few weeks have been somewhat demanding. Back in January, just before I headed to Australia for the conference on cultivation and wisdom in Greek and Chinese philosophy, my partner Elee went into hospital for a scan. She was there for six days, at the end of which she was given a suspected diagnosis of secondary cancer. I headed back from Australia to the UK via a very short stop-off in Chengdu (less than twenty four hours), where I had a chance to see colleagues at the university and sort out various bits and pieces. Then I arrived home in time to meet with oncologists and so on, and to have the diagnosis confirmed.

This is the next episode in a longer story that has been unfolding over the past few years (see my thoughts on illness on my personal blog, posted back in 2013). And it has meant a fairly rapid readjustment of both of our circumstances to take account of the new conditions.

It was immediately clear that I would need to relocate from Sichuan to base myself back here in the city of Leicester that is our home. So I headed back to Chengdu a few weeks ago to tie up loose ends. I spent some time with my exceptionally kind and supportive colleagues at Sichuan University, who gracefully managed many of the bureaucratic technicalities. But for the rest of the time I was there, I just spent time with friends, indulging in Chengdu’s superb food, and enjoying being in the city that already felt very much like my second home.

Then I headed home with a bulging suitcase of books. Now that I’m back in the UK full time, I’m turning my attention to what happens next. Over the past last year or so, I’ve been reading, thinking and writing—in a kind of philosophical fashion—about the notions of “nourishing life” (yang sheng 養生) and “nourishing vitality” (yangqi 養氣). Now the question of how we can both best nourish our lives and our vitality has taken on an added urgency.

Because for me, writing is always a part of how I yang my qi, I’m working on a couple of more substantial writing projects. I’m also heading to a couple of conferences over the coming months — one in Bath, and one in Wuxi in China in June — and putting together a few book chapters and essays on the side. I hope also to continue blogging as and when I can. And writing on one side, we’re also spending time with friends, finding time to mooch and wander, attending to the business of living, and preparing ourselves for all eventualities.

It’s not necessarily easy. The adjustments of the last couple of months have been wrenching in so many ways for both of us. But so far, we’re managing pretty well. And this morning at least—as the Easter morning sunshine streams through the window—life, despite everything, seems pretty good.

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