Moving – Lessons Learnt from Injury

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I move.

I’m not naturally sporty, fitness doesn’t come easily. I sat in the ‘arty’ corner of the common room at school, not the ‘sporty’ one. As an adult however, no longer bound by once comforting school-time cliques, fitness is important. I run – I’m no ironman but I regularly run 12k  and sometimes the occasional half marathon. I surf – I’m not very good at it but I have a lot of fun being tumbled in the waves whatever the weather. I walk – I love a good stomp over the cliffs when my legs ask me not to run.

The best advice I was given about parenting was ‘keep them moving’. Don’t tell them to exercise, just keep them moving: rolling, splashing, stomping, tumbling. Chase them, fly them, spin them and whatever you do, never, EVER tell them you’re going for a walk. An adventure, a hunt, an explore… but never a walk!

This has all become a given to me, balancing moving with working, parenting and drinking coffee with friends is life. And it’s a good life…. when the balance is right. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago why I exercise, I would have told you that it buys me the right to eat biscuits, to drink guilt free wine, it keeps me fit enough, and is a good example to the children. Truth. But not the whole truth. It’s taken me until now… 40 years into life’s crazy journey to really understand WHY I move, and what happens when I don’t. Three weeks ago I broke my ankle, not just broke but shattered it. An unfortunate accident with a skateboard and with the help of a hefty amount of metal, it will be fine.  I try to keep perspective and remember how lucky I am – I don’t have to live with this forever.

I fight the guilt of feeling sorry for myself, guilt for my permanently disabled dad who lived and died with a body that didn’t work properly, guilt for the millions of people living with disability without hope of healing, guilt for people who suffer these injuries in parts of the world where they don’t have the medical care we have, who can’t get prescription painkillers to get through the day. But even with the voice in my ear telling me to be grateful JEEZ it’s hard! The reason it’s hard is not the pain, it’s not the inconvenience, it’s the NOT BEING ABLE TO MOVE! Of course I can hobble about and go out in the back of the car when somebody is kind enough to take me, but I can’t push my body until I feel it working hard. I can’t pull on a wetsuit and feel the freeze of the winter sea biting my face. I can’t get out of breath and feel my lungs burn. More than these physical sensations though are the emotional ones. I can’t escape when life/work/kids drives me crazy, I can’t step outside when I’m facing a problem and walk until I’ve confronted it, I can’t let the sea wash away my worries, I can’t run until that decision I have to make has been made and it’s hard. Suddenly the scales that keep me…well… me are wonky, the balance is wrong. My head is foggy, I’m more short tempered than normal, I can focus on nothing, working (I, conveniently, work from home) is like wading through PVA glue with skis on, I cry at the drop of a hat, laughing feels like quite hard work and things which normally don’t really matter to me suddenly matter too much.

My mental health has been affected by my accident as much, if not more than my body, and that has been a real shock and an amazing revelation in equal measure. Now I understand why I have to keep moving! Why I have to keep the small people moving! I am giving them (and myself) much more than a healthy body, I am giving them a healthy mind and the ability to cope. I suppose I’ve always known that, but now I REALLY know that, and I know too that I AM lucky. I have the luxury, even through my less-than-sharp brain, of perspective and of a future full of movement. Call me optimistic, but I’m expecting to swing back the other way in a few months and experience the mental agility of Einstein, and bounce and happiness the like of which is only experienced by Tigger.

Here’s hoping!

Guest Post by my lovely friend Abbie – wise words and I hope very much she is mended soon.

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Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives

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Compton Bay Isle of Wight

“Despite the well-documented effects of anger, fear, and anxiety on the ability to reason, many programs continue to ignore the need to engage the safety system of the brain before trying to promote new ways of thinking. The last things that should be cut from school schedules are chorus, physical education, recess, and anything else involving movement, play, and joyful engagement. Continue reading

Luna Reflection – A Letter To My Children On Acceptance

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The scent of Ambre Solaire sun oil mingling with ripe fruit  is one of my earliest memories of a childhood spent on a farm overlooking fields of black currants at the foot of the Sussex Downs. Resurrected by a week of hazy dusky warmth, a heady breath of amber, cream, warm skin and summer heat, Continue reading

If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things: This Body

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In times past she was beautiful. A serious, naive, other worldly child, elfin bodied with eyes of a she wolf.

“She looks right into me” the adults would say.

Perhaps they were right.

Time passed and at a certain moment, when childhood was not quite past but adulthood not fully begun, soft curves  started gently draping the body’s slight angular frame. Just as subtly, insidiously, the battle commenced. There was not one single moment in time where the general shouted:

“Let there be war!”

But instead a slowly seeping script of propaganda was wrought, a personal mantra running in the background of life, which proclaimed or whispered, in a language of “should””must””unworthy””shameful”. This tyrannical voice demanded change – the physical form that was evolving required controlling. Thus begun the long and bloody battle.

Inside my head there developed, running as a mental  screensaver, a pervasive critique of the way I looked. “The Voice” that demanded I take charge of my body. I spent a large part of my life chiselling my strong athletic body into something leaner, more angular, shaping something that was less woman, harder, less real.

This body became and was – for the greater part of my life, the enemy. An inanimate object viewed through bank camera eyes, to be constantly monitored, weighed and measured. With hindsight it’s astonishing, as someone who tries to treat others with kindness and respect, just how excrutatingly cruel I was to myself in this quest for physical “perfection” – as if torturing myself enough would lead to a differnt form and thus a different life. I exercised obsessively but worse I tormented my body with “diets”  – based on the unspoken fear that I was a madwoman, a lunatic that needed controlling, unable to make the correct choices about how, what and when to eat. More shocking still, I was not alone in this preocupation – the way that I ate and experienced food, the never ending neuroses surrounding body image, seemed to be pretty much the norm amongst my peer group.

eating disorder
noun
any of a range of psychological disorders characterized by abnormal or disturbed eating habits (such as anorexia nervosa).

Were we, in our distorted relationship with food, in our obsession with “paleo””gluten” free””I quit sugar” sufferring from an eating disorder as such? I am not sure – but disordered eating certainly.

Strangely, change has come in the past few years, largely through loss – through the awareness that life is transient, the mourning of friends and family who have died and others whose lives have been limited by physical or emotional illness. Perhaps the loss of my own youth has been a catalyst too. At some point along the road the struggling, suffering, pushing and pulling seemed pointless and exhausting and treating myself with kindness became more important than anything else.

These days I feel immense grattitude to this human machine that carries with it  the battle scars of six new lives sheltered within. Inumerable falls from horses and bicycles indelibly inprinted are no longer a source of shame but instead of pride. This body is truly – as all bodies are – a miracle. It has carried me unfailing through countless city’s dusty streets, up mountains, pounded inumerable miles of rough terrain. It has survived my neglect and torment – fuelled irregularly and harshly – fed coffee and sugar to keep my mind high and semi starved when self loathing required that I disappear into a gaunt bony frame. It spoke – a quiet voice barely a whisper above the minds raucous wailings and in those days I failed to listen.

It spoke – I now know, of kindness, of a wish to be treated gently and to be heard.

Now I listen to its whisperings and I marvel at its wisdom, its ability to keep the untamed and wild mind at bay and form firmly rooted into the stable earth. With age has come  tolerance and compassion.This body is a gift I now see and one which in the meaness of my youth I failed to recognise and thus set about changing, forever discontent, controlling and regulating in a way that I would never dream of imposing on another human.

Kindness has brought eating without rules, taking time to recognise and experience physical pleasures:  the joys of movement; sensation; feeling the strength and the elements against skin. It means resting when tiredness sets in and silencing the ever chattering mind when it “The Voice” begins it’s mutterings.

The last words from poet Galway Kinnell “Sometimes it is neccessary to reteach a thing its loveliness”. Absolutely.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171395