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The Gift of Lichen...

The gift of lichen...

‘ Our deadliest susceptibility is conformity and our deadliest virtue is putting up with things as they are.’

Trouble with Lichen: John Wyndham, 1960

Bought as a mistake around 4 years ago, Trouble with Lichen, written by John Wyndham, is a 1960s sci-fi book. I had been gathering books that were forming part of my research into my most recent obsession – Lichen. My fascination derided from the fact that is made up of not one organism but 2, fungus and algae. I had the observer book of lichen. I had photographic books, I had cataloguing books from research papers. I stumbled upon this book through an internet trawl, and couldn’t believe it when it arrived, in that it was not a non-fiction but a sci-fi book – dismayed by this as I had never been a lover of sci-fi. As I began to read and absorb myself in this new fictional world of lichen – I became hooked.

The book in my opinion is a strong feminist novel, with the main protagonist Diana Brackley, a biochemist, on a mission to use lichen so women can have it all. Written in a time when the expectations of women were to be in the home, and existing in the same era as Betty Friedan’s Feminine Mystique. The expectations of women were that they were to be married, bear children and to consider these things as their greatest achievements. This book sees Diana challenging this societal and historical expectation, by using the biological makeup of lichen to extend the lives of women, so quite simply, they can have it all – a family and a career. Through this work Diana, was enabling women to have the opportunity to achieve greatness in their own right.

The quote from the book – ‘ Our deadliest susceptibility is conformity and our deadliest virtue is putting up with things as they are. ’ – fired something inside me. It gave me access to a new vocabulary for a feeling or a sense that I had for a lot of my life.

Caught in the ritual conformity had hold on me. Validating every part of me – the praise from others for doing what was wanted from me. Taking what was not theirs- I let them – nothing left of me for me. Insecure – unsure of what my purpose was. An identity so rooted in the needs of others. Conformity did that to me. Identity tarnished by them – I let them. Lying to myself that I was ok – I wasn’t – I hid from me. I projected to others a face of joy – happy to help – happy to serve – happy to mend. Broken but not knowing it – I kept going – the hamster wheel turning- churning – I felt sick – I couldn’t get off. I didn’t know I needed to get off.

A gradual awakening – started with an obsession that made me odd – weird – someone that people were unable to fathom – alarmed – I kept going.

I devoured what I read – I grieved – I felt the loss of the life I lived for others. A life defined by it use to others. Caught – trapped – waking. My world collapsed and I fell into an abyss – no longer able to describe myself – causing rifts while I adjusted to me.

The seismic shifts and reassembling – continuing and the repercussions still felt – the constant. The constant adjustments settling into the ever changing me.

My obsession found me for a reason – so I could find me.


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