Written on the Body — Goldilocks: August 1, 2019

Here it is, August 1 already. Sun is shining (here in Toronto), leaves are green and flowers thriving as we’ve had a lot of rain. I am on the next round of chemo, after a two-week break for R&R (from the side-effects!), and seem to be tolerating this well. Afternoon naps really help (naps are something I haven’t done since childhood — when I rebelled against nap-time in nursery school age 3.)

I have started the next cycle of chemotherapy, after a short break for R&R. The doctors have lowered the medication doses slightly. They are trying to find the “Goldilocks” dosage — the “just-right” balance between medical effectiveness and managing side-effects. Probably, as in most cases, this balance will shift, and I am glad they are looking at my personal situation.

It occurs to me, as I write this, that the Goldilocks concept of “just-right” — or, in many cases, “good-enough” (in the words of British psychotherapist and pediatrician D.W. Winnicott) — is helpful to think about, during this time of changes. I want to be aware of my body and symptoms, but not obsess about them. I notice that I am more concerned than usual about dishes being clean, food being fresh, etc. — things I can control, or believe I can. But I don’t want to get too anxious, too fussy. I am trying to find a balance between doing my “normal activities” and getting enough rest — and this is hard to predict, as my energy levels fluctuate from day to day. Sometimes, after a burst of energy, getting tasks done and enjoying visits with friends, I do have to listen to my body and get some rest. That is why my plans may change at the last minute: I do not want to avoid friends and activities, but sometimes postponing a visit is necessary to maintain the balance.

I think the reason the “Goldilocks” story endures is that we are all trying to find these balances in our lives. Scientists even talk about “Goldilocks planets,” with just the right conditions to support life. And we have memories from childhood, the “just-right” bed, the favourite meal, the perfect toy. We can feel this place of harmony when we are in it. Part of growing up is knowing that sometimes we have to make do with less than just-right, but as Winnicott wrote about parenting, it is important to health — physical, emotional, spiritual — to find what is “good enough” and nurturing enough most of the time. And to know we have the power to make the balancing-act work in our favour.

So I wish you an August of ice-cream, sunshine, relaxation– finding the Goldilocks sweet spot that is right for you, right now.

About Ellen

I am a member of The Writers Union of Canada, the League of Canadian Poets, and CANSCAIP. I have received grants from the Ontario Arts Council for both writing and teaching. I currently work with Learning Through the Arts and Living through the Arts, programmes run by the Royal Conservatory of Music that enable artists to work in schools and community organizations. I have also taught in many other school and community programs, and have been a judge for various writing contests for both young people and adults.
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2 Responses to Written on the Body — Goldilocks: August 1, 2019

  1. carol schneider-yates says:

    Hi, I’m wondering if you might have ever taught at PS 122 in the Bronx. I’m reaching out to several Ellen Jaffes. If I’ve reached you in error, forgive me. And if it’s you, I’ll be tickled! The name I remember Ellen by is Sharkoff and I saw your middle initial S, and thought…maybe!
    Thanks for your time,

    • Ellen says:

      Hi Carol, thanks for your comment, though I am not the Ellen Jaffe you are looking for. I am from New York and did some teaching there before moving to Canada, but not in the Bronx — and the initial S. stands for Sue. There are several Ellen Jaffe’s, as I have discovered — which I partly why I use my middle initial. Anyway, glad you found this website — and good luck finding the right Ellen. ESJ

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