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!
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…