Simple things like boiled eggs and soldiers

From guest blogger Jane Bissell 

When I was having chemotherapy for breast cancer, the simplest things took on greater meanings, and the routine often became a challenge.

Eating could be problematic. The first week or so after a chemo treatment, it was hard to know what to eat because nothing tasted the same, and some foods were just too difficult to contemplate, impossible to get down.

I learned some clever techniques though, like eating whilst watching something engrossing on TV so my brain wasn't aware of the food going in.

I was particularly fond of some delicious tangelo jellies a friend made for me, and one day my Mum and I hit upon an idea we hadn't thought of before - boiled eggs and soldiers.

Every morning we'd go through The List of Things for Breakfast. Mum would rattle off stuff that I'd eaten OK before, to see if anything appealed. Scrambled eggs, toast, porridge, fruit, cereal.  When she suggested boiled egg and soldiers, I thought I'd won money. The feeling was akin to that out-of-the-blue surprise you get when something truly astounding and life-changing happens. It was so memorable, such a supreme accomplishment, that I wrote about in my book Welcome to the Amazon Club. It took us a few goes to get the eggs just right for dipping the soldiers, but once we'd perfected it, I had found something delicious that I could eat and enjoy.

That simple thing was of such profound importance to me that nowadays I try to take a minute or two each day to really look around and enjoy something that I might be overlooking: the birds flapping about in the birdbath, the small lily that has sprouted a gorgeous wee red flower after months of doing nothing much, the pattern of the wind out on the water, or the cat with her legs in the air, deep in sleep.

I've often heard people say that a life-threatening experience teaches them to appreciate the simple things and I suspect this would be true for me. I can't say that boiled eggs and soldiers appeal to me quite so much these days - I'd rather have a shot of good single malt whiskey perhaps - but applying that learning to daily life can be a good habit to have.

Jane Bissell is a writer and life writing workshop facilitator living in Auckland.
Visit her website to find out more.


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