At the moment, I am lighting a candle every evening. This means striking a match. But the box of matches I dug out is old and worn. The striking surface has lost most of its friction. I need to press the match very firmly as I strike, and often make several attempts. Press too hard and the match itself breaks.
I mentioned to Andy that we needed a new box of matches. He dug one out from somewhere and I picked it up yesterday, pulling out a match. I struck it hard against the side of the box and the flame flared so suddenly it made me jump. I had not realised how ineffectual the other one was; I was so used to having to make several attempts.
After lighting the candle, I stared into the flame, suddenly thinking. I had been caught by a moment of recognition, of description.
I realised – this is a bit like how it feels to struggle with CFS/ME – at least, it is for me. So often I am filled with ideas and passion and inspiration – ‘matches’ full of potential. Then I go to light them up and end up desperately striking against an old, worn box, unable to find the energy needed to ignite the passion, to implement the idea. It’s a repeated frustration, and often I feel like I am left with a pile of ideas I cannot use – a pile of wasted, broken matches.
On thinking about this I am not intending to sound self-pitying or miserable. Rather it feels like a moment of helpful reflection. Some things are hard to describe; finding a picture for them is something of a release. And of course this image could cover a multitude of limitations, struggles and illnesses.
Sometimes, for all of us, life just feels like striking ineffectually against a matchbox that won’t do what it’s supposed to.
So – do I give up trying to light a candle? No. Rather than spending all my time waiting for a fresh matchbox, I don’t intend to neglect what I’ve got. It may take a few more strikes, but the flame is worth it, in spite of – and because of – the effort needed to catch a spark.
Image from stock.xchng