Thursday, 19 August 2010

Dear Body

Dear Body, 
I recently started a list of 99 Dreams and Wishes to do in 999 days - my 40th birthday. 
Number 19 on my list is, mould, nourish, nurture and love my body.

This is my letter to you explaining how I feel about you and what my plans are for our future.
I realise that I haven’t given you a lot of thought lately. I have taken you for granted and abused you, albeit unintentionally. I’d like to say sorry and hope to start our relationship afresh. 
Thank you for holding my life and allowing me to move freely through it with no physical disabilities. As a baby I was born with displaced hips. I have no memory of this, just the stories that have been told to me about the casts on my legs. After treatment I had no further trouble again.
As a child I was never let down by you. You supported me through childhood scrapes and falls, repairing quickly and efficiently when required to. I never experienced any breaks or fractures. Childhood illnesses, bruises, colds and viruses were all very short lived and you took them in your stride, protecting me every step of the way. I thank you for this. 
You were very petite throughout my childhood, into my teens and early twenties. I enjoyed the ‘lightness’ and great flexibility that you had. I liked the way that you moved, the way you never tired, that I could tie your limbs into knots, curl tight into a small ball, and stretch.
I had a good appetite and ate a large range of foods. You were strong and we were healthy. I thought that you were lovely.  
And yet, I found myself feeling emotionally torn. I heard from others that you were too skinny, too bony, too tiny..........
I was confused. I began to try eating more than you required, using drink supplements as extra calories. I would feel sick from my generosity towards you. 
I eventually came to the conclusion that I could allow myself to be happy with you. Others could keep their own opinions, and their own body issues to themselves. I was happy with you and you were mine!
I became pregnant. I was astounded with how clever you were. So strong and supportive.  Taking care not only of me but sheltering and providing for my baby, helping to create her own body from within me. You are amazing!
I had a few scary times during the pregnancy. I felt that I wouldn’t be able to rely on you to support me through another pregnancy ever again.  I also felt physically exhausted and was sick constantly. I was pleased when we safely got to full term and my first daughter was born. 
You fed and nourished her for the first two years of her life and I am eternally grateful for this. She is now a healthy twelve year old and had the best start in life. 
I gave birth to three further children, each time after I had erased from my memory how awful you are at pregnancy. Terrible!! I’m sorry! You nourished them well and did your best. But you were truly amazing at delivering my babies to me. So beautiful and perfect were my labours that all the hardship of carrying the pregnancies paled into insignificance. They were all born healthy and remain so. I breast fed them all and you supported me in doing this so well. Thank you. 
Other pregnancies were not so successful and I cursed you, blamed you. I felt angry and let down. They were my babies too and I felt bitter that you had been unable to help me look after them. It was your fault! There were complications and my family thought that I was leaving them forever. You gave up on me for a while. I have only a hazy memory of those days, feeling helpless within you. My determination and strength pulled me through this period with medical help and family love and support. Not you. I’m not sure that I forgive you for this yet, but I know that I am close to it now. 
I began to have acupuncture for my physical and emotional health and I began to accept you again, to stop feeling so angry. I wanted to nurture you again and nurse you back to full strength. I was strangely even more anti conventional medicine now, even though it had saved my life. I didn’t want to risk harming you.
A few years ago I suddenly began to get pains and swellings in my joints. I was diagnosed with psoriatic/rheumatoid arthritis. I felt frustrated and let down again. My movement and physical mobility were severely impaired. I found it difficult to walk at times. Washing my hair or having a shower left me in tears of helplessness. I had regular acupuncture but it was only helping with the symptoms, not the disease.

I toyed with Chinese herbs but felt that they were only going to be secondary to conventional medicine. So I limped in to the consultants office and tried several cocktails of drugs over several months. You rejected most of them and developed all the text book side effects. It was seemingly useless. I now had the disease and the drug side effects too. 
With tail between my legs I returned to the Chinese herbalist. These were the worst tasting , most disgusting of medicines ever. 
I altered my diet. Followed recommendations of less potatoes and tomatoes, less dairy products, more fish, less alcohol, caffeine etc etc 
I started meditating, stretching, doing reiki, thinking positively, praying
Something worked........
My arthritis is in remission. I have the odd aches and pains, and swellings but you are strong. We’ve pulled through. I’m no longer struggling to live with a chronic disease. 
So how do I reward you for becoming so mobile and strong again? By taking up bad habits. Over indulging in lovely food and wine. Not exercising regularly, not giving you what you deserve. 

I am sorry. 
You are now overweight and sluggish. I have allowed you to become out of breath with exercise, swollen with greed and wobbly where you should be firm. 
I want you to know that I still love you. You have supported me through all of life’s difficulties and I must thank you for that. You deserve my upmost respect and cooperation. Neither of us is getting any younger but we have many years ahead of us yet. I must not take you for granted anymore. 
I will learn to eat in moderation again, a balanced diet rich in nutrients. 
I will allow you to find your natural size again 
I will exercise regularly
I will restrict food and drinks that I know to be harmful to you
I will reunite a balance between yourself and my mind
I will love you and praise you, admire you and thank you
You are my precious body, 
With love always,

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Photographs, images and emotions

We spent a lovely day in Oxfordshire on Monday. 

The children were involved in a photo shoot for Relax Kids

They had a wonderful time playing and posing for photographs. I was amazed at how good they were at expressing and representing different emotions - both negative and positive. 

We all had a giggle at some of the moody and angry faces being shown, and 'ahhhh-ed' at the relaxed and calm poses they came up with. 

They had a busy day, thinking about different emotions and how we show our feelings to others. 

The following day my eldest (12) felt inspired to 'listen to the Relax Kids CD's more often again as I've got out of the good habit' - What better recommendation?

I had a scary moment when it was suggested that we did a couple of family photos - I feel very uncomfortable having my photograph taken and number 70 in my Dreams and Wishes list is to take steps to resolve this. 

So we took the photos and I trembled, and smiled, clutching the children in a cuddle. Then breathed a sigh of relief at the end. 

When the photo was shown to me later that evening I smiled a lot - it's gorgeous! Me and my beautiful children - what a lovely image to have forever.

Memories are so precious, we keep them as safe as we can in our mind but these physical images are a beautiful reminder to us of the people and the places where these memories were made. 

I'm not sure exactly why I have such an uncomfortable feeling when a camera is pointed towards me. It doesn't have a 'starting point' or event which caused it. I clearly remember running and hiding from cameras even as a very young child, feeling upset if there was an insistence that I stood and 'said cheese'. As I grew older and my teeth began to protude my reticence only increased.

My grandmother - Nannie - showered me with positive affirmations that I was beautiful and that I looked wonderful, which I did partly believe, but it didn't make the thought of someone capturing my image forever any easier. 

The funny thing was that I wonder if it was my Nannie who influenced me with my fear of being photographed. She was forever saying 'aach Jack......take that camera away...' , 'take that thing away from me.....'  , 'oh don't!....' My granda loved using his camera and took lots of cine film and photographs. When we were young lots of the films and photographs taken showed my Nannie ducking away, but funnily enough, trying to drag me back in to the scene. I recall several pictures of her just holding me still as I squirm in her arms - I also remember the day they were taken and feeling grateful for her love holding me still in her arms. 

When we visited my grandparents house my sisters and I would spend hours looking at all the old photo albums, loving seeing our grandparents, and great grandparents when they were young and familiar strangers to us. My Nannie as a beautiful young woman smiled and looked directly at us out of the photographs, my Granda was so handsome and looked so strong. They were a young couple so in love. It was lovely to see this. It made me feel safe and secure. 

My grandparents were a huge influence in my life. They were very much a couple in love, very demonstrative and loving towards each other and everyone around them. 

Yesterday my children, mum, step-dad and I visited my Granda before going together to put some flowers on my Nannie's grave for her 7th anniversary. 

My granda has many photographs on his walls of the whole family. The children are naturally drawn to them. They show weddings, graduations, new babies, family celebrations. Smiling faces at happy occasions. I called the children in to my grandas bedroom though to show them a particularly special one that he has on his wall. It shows the beautiful full face of my smiley Nannie as a young woman. The childrens faces lit up. Wow! She's so beautiful! She looks like a film star!

I resolve to get over my fear of being photographed. For myself, my children, my parents, my grandparents, and my own future grandchildren.  I am beautiful and will allow myself to be shown the way I am. 

Many thanks to Marneta and Stuart for the lovely photograph of the children and I.

For the children I will fulfill number 57 and put our family photographs in to memory books.

And for my Nannie, I will take a photograph of myself daily.

I resolve to accept my image, feel comfortable within it, and be proud to share it. 

Friday, 13 August 2010

1000 paper cranes - 36 done!

We've just had the New Moon of August so plans for our next Full Moon celebration are underway.

This month we hope to spend it quietly with friends on the beach in Dorset

The children are excited about getting together with friends again and are talking about what plans they have for the month ahead. We are all recognising the advantages of focussing on the positives of our past, present and future - not always easy!

1000 Paper Cranes

The crane is a majestic bird which mates for life and is extremely loyal to its partner. The bird is strong, graceful and beautiful. Because of the great importance of the crane, the Japanese people feel that a person who folds 1,000 cranes will be granted his or her greatest wish.


We've been busy with origami for the past couple of days - I dreamt I was making paper cranes last night  - must surely be a sign of good fortune? 36 cranes made so far, just 964 to go. Yikes!
It's been lovely making them so far though. It's been very relaxing and the children and I have all sat around the kitchen table folding away. I'm making my 1000 on my own, rather than making a team effort. This has encouraged the children to make their own collection of folded objects. We've made some great little frogs which were good for racing, cups, wallets, boxes, butterflies as well as lots and lots of birds. It's really taken me back to my childhood. I used to spend hours and hours with one of my friends making little envelopes, tortoises, puppets and of course birds to fill our pencil cases with. I wonder if she would remember this? It is a memory I had forgotten about.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Book 1/40 Thank-you Sophie

The Spare Room
By Helen Garner
This wonderful book has taken me on an powerful emotional journey. I read it in one afternoon but have thought about it often since. It follows the story of a complex friendship between two older women, a friendship made all the more complex and heart wrenching because one of them is dying. Nicola is a woman in her early 60s in the late stages of cancer. She comes to stay with her friend Helen for a few weeks while she explores alternative therapies to try and cure her cancer. 
The book is about friendship, anger, relationships, anguish and the real issues surrounding death, illness, and palliative care. Their long friendship (of “just” 15 years) is tested to its limits as Nicola continues to believe that she will find a cure for her disease and refuses morphine or palliative care, instead relying on her hope, and the support and care of her friends.
The author portrays the full range of Helen's emotions - grief, anger, resentment, frustration and, eventually, despair as she begins to feel that she really cannot cope - quite wonderfully.
Is three weeks really such a long time? In the circumstances she finds herself floundering in, Helen really is finding it a life sentence.
She is regularly kept awake beyond 2am, "the hour at which the drought, the refugee camps, the dying planet, and all the faults and meannesses of my character would arrive to haunt me".
She notices that the treatment clinic that Nicola attends for vitamin C injections is "painted a strange yellow, the colour of controlled panic"
She wryly observes the half a banana "abandoned in its loose, spotty skin", the blood-red nasturtium that blooms; broad beans standing outside the limits of the threatened house, "in hopeful rows"
She appears to become enraged with her own rage and confusion of complex emotions. 
'The one thing I was sure of, as I lay pole-axed on my bed that afternoon ... was that if I did not get Nicola out of my house tomorrow I would slide into a lime-pit of rage that would scorch the flesh off me, leaving nothing but a strew of pale bones on a landscape of sand.'
The Spare Room has as its initial central character, Nicola, a woman who a has profound denial of her condition. She wants to be strong, prove how unchanged she is, spend time with her friends, yet fight every step of the way to do it. When Nicola comes to recognise for herself that "Death's at the end of this", peace and friendship can link arms once more.
It was a difficult and sometimes painful book to read yet remained sensitive and true, making me smile and even laugh out loud a couple of times. The tears flowed towards the end as I read as slowly as I could manage in order to both prolong my reading, and avoid the inevitable fate of the characters I had come to know so well. The last few pages were so beautifully written without undue sentimentalisation. Honest and true words were used in a remarkable way.
A book about dying? I believe that it is truly about relationships and issues that may face each of us every day in our lives. In the context of this powerful story if we can begin to relate to Nicola and to Helen, empathise with young Bessie, feel like Iris, find ourselves humming or praying while the buddhist friends chant, we may become closer to understanding how we can improve our own friendships. Isn’t this what we all need to do? We don’t know how much time we have left to love...

Thanks Sophie, this was a remarkable book which took my breath away at the end - and then made me feel  uplifted and alive as I breathed a large sigh of relief and happiness