Black and White

If only a certain book and movie hadn’t ruined the expression ‘shades of grey’… that might have been my title. But ‘Black and White’ is just as useful. It’s top of my mind because it was a photo prompt for today. I took this picture of the hands of John and Mary.

#photoaday #fatmumslimphotoaday …these two have been married for 61 years 🙂

A photo posted by Rachel Cox (@rachelfaithcox) on

I know people who are very black and white. They think in polarities, have pretty fixed views and don’t mind sharing them. I’m more of a shades of grey girl. I see things in their complexity. I feel differently about them the more I think about them. My opinion is often strong, but it changes the more I know about something. I don’t mind admitting to being wrong (eventually!) which somewhat diminishes the victory for the hubster when we fight and I concede! Of course, it’s VERY rare (!) but you know, it happens.

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Most of the time I think in shades of grey. But I felt very black and white about a few things in 2015. I held them tightly, more tightly than most things because they offended my sense of justice greatly. I kept them in my fists until the pressure turned them into dark stones, those offences I felt. I don’t always deal well with conflict, especially when I am conflicting with men I find arrogant. My usually broad mind strobes itself into sharp contrasts. Painful flashes of black and white. But time is useful to the wounded sensibility. Time brings perspective and a different way of looking at things. Time ameliorates the damage until the harsh difference between black and white softens into grey. Another way of seeing things. A whiter shade of pale.

And there I am at last, in the rain and wind. Fighting the elements on the edge of Mercury Bay. Shouting into the gale because it whips my words away and I can let the last vestiges of anger out. Let it out in the freedom of knowing that the expression of it is all I really need. All I ever needed. The tide is pulling the beach from under my feet, dragging the last year under. And I am ready to see it go. I let the hot stones of anger tumble out of my fists and away with the tide. I fill my lungs with cold, salty air. Spinning round and round in the blustery chaos, arms wide. Hands open to the air.

Then, the wind quiets enough so I can hear my own voice again. My feet slap out a regular rhythm on the hard sand. Lace scallops of foam edge the tide’s retreat. I notice that I am humming. The remnants of a Christmas carol, a song for Mary… breath of heaven… hold me together… light up my darkness… it has a pretty melody. I hum the words I don’t know. I think about the rhythm of the waves being the breath of life itself. Inhaling, exhaling. I think about the water, crashing onto the shore, or falling in raindrops from the clouds, rendering the sand into a carpet. I notice that the lace edge of sea is beaded with shells and seaweed. It is beautiful.

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I turn away from the breaking surf, away from the grievances. I turn my face upward to the rain, to the skies clouded with grey.

Catharsis.

Calm.

Hello 2016. I think I like you already.

Bravo, Body!

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My fingers sink into the springy grass.
The broad flat blades are baked from the equatorial sunshine.
There are people everywhere, milling around the edges of the sports field;
the air between me and them shimmers in the fierce midday heat.
White painted parallel lines disappear ahead to a point in the distance.
I can feel the nervous tension of the other kids beside me; calves bracing,
ready for the sound of the starters gun cracking the air.
I lift my head and fix my eyes on the end of my lane.  And we’re off!
My strong, long legs pump up and down and I realise I am gaining.
I take a gulp of air, reaching my arms and legs longer and further,
pulling the track in toward me as I run.
The wind pushes my hair back from my face and smarts my eyes.
I am in the lead!
I turn to see who is hot on my heels just in time to catch them overtaking me.
Go faster!  ‘Run, Rach… just gun it!’
I come in second.
Elated with my efforts.
Harried hot breaths heaved into my lungs.
I slap my legs in appreciative awe. I had no idea they could do that!
I am grinning; I race back to the marquee, punching the air in exaggerated victory.
I am Wonder Woman, with wings on her heels.  I can fly!

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When I hear the term ‘body confidence’ I usually conjure an image of a woman in a bikini, walking that terrible distance from towel to the water’s edge at a relaxed saunter.  She isn’t tearing into the break, desperate for the water to hide her sunless legs.  She has all the time in the world to endure the unflinching gaze of other beach goers.  Maybe she pauses at the water’s edge to lift her toddler from her hip, to laugh with them as their toes touch the glittery cold foam of the ocean.  She has body confidence.

Or that voluptuous wonder of a woman on the pages of the catalogue.  She’s all curve and sass and I want to be her.  Her head has that little tilt that says she knows people recognise her beauty.  She’s comfortable with her shape and her style.  She isn’t plucking at her clothes or shrinking herself into a dark corner. The easy smile says it all, she’s full of body confidence.

Or, I remember what it felt like to be that kid, flying down the sprint lane with the wonder of legs that take you where you want to go, at speed, barefoot.  Confident in the knowledge that all you have to do is look at that spot on the horizon and go for it.  Your body will run you there, your feet will fly you where you want to go. Or maybe swimming through the water and arcing up to break the surface with your face. Climbing a tree and letting the wind blow your branch like the mast of a tall ship, holding on one handed, far above the ground.  Body Confidence.  A complete unswerving belief that what you expect your body to do, it will do.

Since my first Tilt Table Test, I have had confirmation that true body confidence might be a tad displaced.  I learned then, that my autonomic nervous system was struggling to regulate my heart normally.  After nine minutes upright, my heart stopped beating.   It’s the reason why I have a pacemaker now.  It wasn’t the first time it had ever happened, by any means.  But it was the first time I understood what was happening with my body.  It made me ‘body nervous’.  As my situation has progressed, the nervousness has grown.   I am a planner, I like to do as much as I can, whenever I can.  I love heading out with my family, if just to enjoy that undistracted time in their company.  But I have to plan, make contingencies.  Always wondering “Will my body manage that?”  “Can I cope with that today?”  “Have I got enough energy in the tank to keep myself running for that long?”.  I miss body confidence.   I miss the feeling that I can enter a store to buy Christmas gifts and walk until the list is complete.  I miss the feeling of swooping down the slope on my bike. Of being able to stand by the sidelines to watch my own daughter run her race.

Today, I’m off for another Tilt Table Test.  For a Dysautonomiac, this test is a gruelling event.  You can find out more information about how it is run, here.  But in spite of the challenge of having one, it is one of our most effective diagnostic tools. This time, we’ll be using the data as a baseline for before and after my first lot of steroid treatment. My pacemaker will probably get a chance to show off it’s skills, and I am so glad to know it is there, ready to kick in if needed.  But nonetheless, I can’t shake this Body Nervousness this morning.  If I could just run away I think I’d be sorely tempted!

Do you feel body confident?  Or are you nervous about what your body throws your way?
This morning, I am wrapping my arms around my bod. I am going to thank it for all the things it does well.  To remember again, all the complexities it is busy with while I am getting on with life. I’m going to celebrate what it can do and forgive it for what it can’t.  Bravo, body!  You really are remarkable, all the things you do; all the things I get to do because you carry me around.
Thanks bod. I know I complain about you a lot, but I am glad I’ve got you.  Let’s get through this thing…