On an early summer’s day, I took a walk. Not a new walk or a particularly exciting walk – though I never take for granted the ever-changing constant view as I cross the river – but one which affords me time to catch up with podcasts and exercise my often too-sedentary limbs.
Should I add the bolt-on bit? I wondered as I wandered. Do I need an extra few minutes? Is it worth the effort?
Yes, I urged myself. Why not? You’re doing okay; it’s fine.
And so on I went. I rounded the corner into the street and suddenly
My senses kept getting overridden by one another, couldn’t get enough, couldn’t stop looking, smelling, feeling, as if a multitude of blessings were crowded down one inconsequential little road and looked to me in return for escape.
Well done, I congratulated myself. What a happy decision to continue, to follow my feet, to lift my head and heart and smell the roses as I walked on.
Much credit and admiration is given to multitasking but there comes a time when cleaning the house while sending emails and engaging with social media and baking doesn’t feel like achievement to me; it feels like diluted effort. And I don’t like to give half-measures. I’m more likely to make mistakes and it makes me feel scatty, not a sensation I’ve ever enjoyed.
So here be my resolutions:
- I will stow my phone under my desk, in my bag and on silent to promote my concentration at work.
- I will watch that documentary I’ve been looking forward to without simultaneously scrolling through Instagram.
- I will complete one task before unnecessarily jumping on the next one.
Of course there will be moments when I shall feel superhuman as I keep seemingly dozens of plates spinning in the air, but it’s time for me to give my concentration the concentration it requires. I have new adventures planned and I want to be strong in this facet before I set another plate in motion.
Let the spinning desist!
I love the feeling of late spring Sundays. It’s sunny(ish) and invigorating and light. Oh, the light…
As the smell of homemade bread (I’m a happy and enthusiastic novice) permeates my home and my pores, I feel settled. The joy of stretching and settling into my own skin envelopes me as much as the aroma of what I am baking. The simplicity of the ingredients – flour, yeast, salt and water; light, warmth, courage and delight – almost bewilder me with how easy the alchemy is.
Yes, I’ve been sidelined from my previous, more hectic existence by injury, surgery and recovery, but I am not settling for anything less than finding happy truths in everyday living. I am settling into a deep smile of contentedness as I pick another adventure.
I hear yo-yos are back in fashion. Apparently every twenty years they come around again, uniting a new generation with their parents and beyond. I quite enjoy the idea of computer-centric kids giving grudging props to parents whose rusty but no doubt relatively impressive prowess temporarily exceeds their own. My fleeting childhood memory of yo-yos is combined with bruises as the toy inevitably whacked me in flight. Hurrumph.
Yo-yo-ing isn’t just the physical, as most of us are aware: the vacillation that the toy produces – hopefully due to the volition of the person pulling the string – is also likened to emotional and physical control. Much of the time, though we continue to be the puppetmasters, it doesn’t feel like that.
I am expected to be like this, think like that, but I’m not, so I’ve failed, but it’s okay because it’s valid to think that, because I’m allowed to own my feelings, but they are not feminist or personist or realistic, so I’ve failed.
Or: I’m okay with myself and I look quite good when I smile, but those bags under my eyes, oh it’s all too much, but actually I look strong though is that the aesthetic I really want or should want or does that even matter because it’s simply who I am and that’s okay?
Or: I shouldn’t eat that now or later or at all because I don’t need it and I haven’t earned it but what does that actually mean when I’m human and I want to indulge myself because don’t I deserve a treat sometimes and surely I can get away with it but then what if I lose control and it all comes crumbling down and then I have even more work to do?
Who has the control?
There’s enough erratic noise externally for me to give too much credence to the irrational noise internally. It’s there – that I don’t dispute. But I can turn the volume down. I can choose to ignore it. I can face it calmly and argue it back into its box and ultimately and hopefully chuck the box away.
I pull the string on the yo-yo. I have the bruises to prove it.
I love to move. Dancing, lifting, cycling, walking, stretching and more: there is a vital delight in feeling myself move in space, in tandem with music, nature, friends, strangers, heartbeats… Now, post-op, I find the joy in increasing the strength in my legs, the length of my stride and the depth of my determination.
Like waiting out the emotional pain of heartbreak, there’s no quick fix to bypass a physical recovery. Oh no. Incrementally, with meticulous care and the occasional oops, there is progress.
Most of the time, I am more amazed than ever by this body – with its innate intricacies – of which I’m in charge. It responds to the daily drills. It is informed by what I feed it. It is carrying me through the treacle-sea of rehabilitation and renewal.
I’m not sure anyone actually throws this question around consciously any more. It’s implicit, no? We meet, we partake in food/conversation/activity/laughter/advice/any mixture of the previous, we part ways and schedule another session. Beautiful and simple.
Recently, I was dramatically and catastrophically sidelined by back pain which ultimately required surgery. None of it was glamorous or fun, but it was unequivocally necessary. Goodbye, ten-out-ten pain.
And hello, active friends.
It’s humbling. The cards, the flowers, the texts, chocolates, cakes, fruit baskets, fudge and general wholesome love – so much poured into my life, each eagerly attached to the notion that ‘I’m your friend; I’m thinking of you; I’m sorry you’re going through this; I’m here for you’ is valuable currency. And it is. The most valuable.
It’s gratifying. Efforts which might have gone into fretting about FOMO and being absent can be healthily and happily diverted to the vital recovery process. And efforts on my friends’ parts – to schlep, visit and call – add fuel to my drive to bounce back stronger than before.
It’s surprising. How being away from the social scene means that you’re perhaps more present. You’re missed. The gap you’ve left isn’t simply closed up and disappeared. It’s present, even without a physical presence.
So yes, we are friends, and the meaning of that is clearer than it ever was. Thank you, my friends – you are giving me so much more than you realise. I hope I do the same for you.
Yes and no. Yes, I am constantly waiting, watching and wondering what the next excitement will be in my life, what is around the corner, who I might meet, how experience might shape me. But no, I don’t dance to fate’s tune.
I realised long ago that the unknown was necessary because of its associated fear – for what life is truly lived without that? How can we forge forwards, break boundaries, challenge naysayers? And when the true revelation that the obstacle to progress is our own reticence to grit our teeth and take a step, a stand, a leap, then the possibilities are endless.
Because being perpetually sixteen going on seventeen is a charm. At the cusp, always learning, embracing naïveté and smiling at the future.
Older and wiser is a journey. Let’s go.