Inflexible enough to qualify as stone

Today I went to another session of mother and daughter yoga. I am easily the least flexible person in every class I attend, and I have attended a few. I sort of take pride in my unofficial status of ‘person most likely made of stone’. But this is of little consequence, as I really enjoy going!

I can’t touch my toes in any known yoga position. Except sitting crosslegged, but think that ‘might’ count as cheating. I don’t fold over very well. I can’t twist. I cant put my hands flat down on the mat and hold any pose (I go with either fists or ‘splayed out fingers raised just enough to give the semblance, if not the actuality, of a flexible wrist joint’. It now occurs to me that I must have super strong fingers – fingers of steel! (But I know this something of a misnomer as I still can’t bar a chord on my guitar) But on a positive, I maintained ‘downward dog’ position for longer than I usually can, so for me, that was a big win.

Me and my daughter are monster funny when doing yoga too. Other mother and daughter ensembles are pictures of grace and elegance and we are sitting on the mat, mostly laughing with somewhat incredulous looks on our faces. My daughter is hypermobile, and as such finds some of the poses painful. I was told by my physio that I likely was too, and now my body compares to an elastic band that has been overstretched, which accounts for my lack of bendy. I don’t know what would make a person more bendy, and am not altogether sure that I would want to find out.

I play guitar, I swim, I dance, I game, I read, I paint. My hobby pursuits are varied and I have varying levels of success (much variance, oh so much, never play shooter type games with me, I will definitely not kill anything, unless it is on my side..). But yoga is different. I am genuinely terrible at it, but I still pursue it. Several thoughts occur to me as to why. Being bendier is a long-term aspiration, I want to be a springy elastic band, not a sad saggy one. But other than this class, I have not prioritised my journey into an undulating twisty twirly thing. I love this class for the glorious time I am there with my daughter. Experiencing the funnies, the violent massages (my young one is not always a gentle little flower, I think that she believes my body to be a piece of wood that has been very bad. And must be punished by a brutal chopping motion) and when I attempt to massage her, it tickles so much she crumples into someone six times as flexible as myself and occasionally we experience the success at mastering a pose.

Reflecting on this session it occurs to me that I show my daughter a woman, who despite failing multiple times, is still prepared to turn up, do her best, and feel immensely proud of her achievements. I show her that I am prepared to take risks (some poses really feel that way!) and whatever the outcome, I leave the studio in an upbeat, relaxed and happy mood. And maybe this is more important.

Map Point. How do I define achievement?

 

I am single

I have been on my own, single, without an other half for a fair while now. Years in fact. But the assumption is always that I will meet someone. Eventually. I was out recently with Robert and I bumped into someone that I had not seen for a while and her immediate presumption is that he was my boyfriend (he isn’t) but I get that. I guess if I see someone that I know is on their own and they are out with someone new, then I sometimes make that same presumption too. It is tricky.

I guess for me, the presiding issue is that I seldom, if ever, find anyone else attractive. It isn’t that I don’t admire awesome qualities in others, or appreciate the pretty (I utterly do) but I look on these qualities with the same sort of admiration that I apply to lots of things, a beautiful sunset, a Lichenstein painting, the complete Oxford Dictionaries. I love them all dearly, except I don’t want to take them home and keep them forever. Okay. I lied on the last one. I would absolutely love to own a massive set of a letter a book dictionaries. But essentially, I hope my meaning is clear. I have to have a lot of love for something to want to engage with it further.

Sometimes I do. But there feels to be a social pressure to this, until I am coupled off, I am unresolved, thus other people feel a need to see me ‘complete’. But what if I never have that sort of relationship again? Was chatting with my daughter about how she might feel if I had a relationship with someone and her resounding answer was ‘that it would be weird’. I agreed.

It isn’t that I have resolved to never fall in love and do the things of relationship. In the past, I have completed two seven-year stints at this, but I can’t judge my now against this sort of standard. What I wanted back then is not necessarily what I want now. So perhaps it would be useful to spend some time working out what I do want.

It is still the dictionaries.

Map Point. Am I still judging myself against past wants?

Love what you do

I had the most wonderful privilege of going on a supremely relaxing holiday with my Mum and daughter. There was glorious food, incredible surroundings and impeccable service. But this is not my focus, it was the contrast of coming home and visiting the supermarket that struck a chord.

I had completed my post holiday essentials shop in my local supermarket, cereal, milk, chocolate spread and some apples (these are key items in my existence) and went to the self-scan machine. I always inwardly berate myself whenever I use these machines, as more often than not there is a problem. My items don’t scan, discounts don’t come off, the weight of the items is deeply problematic, and sweet Moses you need to get your produce into the bag fast before the machine questions your commitment to bagging said item. However today I had a new problem, I had remembered to bring my reusable shopping bags and they were too heavy. The machine advised that my heavy bags necessitated the assistance of a member of staff. I called over said man of green, to which he barked at me that I could ‘Just click the ‘add bag’ button’ before he stalked off to contend with a product weight issue (I assume, based on the most likely contender). My lasting feelings about this encounter was this man really did not like his job.

Having just experienced the glorious highs epic customer service compared to this equally epic low several thoughts occurred to me.

  1. If you don’t enjoy something, find something else.
  2. The people in my local farm shop are always chirpy.
  3. The self-scanning machines are taking jobs. And customer sanity.
  4. Maybe supermarkets breed unhappy people.
  5. Maintaining happiness and motivation must be really hard for big organisations.
  6. People who represent a company are in the precarious position of being human.
  7. If people’s only motivation to work is money, can that ever be enough?

When I have been in jobs that I haven’t enjoyed, I have rarely stayed long. A job that doesn’t sustain you in some way is not something that should be a long term commitment. My most favourite jobs (other than what I do now) were highly physical jobs. They came with the perk of diabolical pay, but I came home covered in mud and physically tired and that felt good. And working in an office, looking after a filing system. This was good money for a job where my primary focus was to track down missing files. I have never particularly linked how much I am paid for a job to my happiness. If I enjoy something, then to a large degree, the money feels immaterial. This is likely because for a long time I wasn’t happy, so if something provides happy, it is precisely where I want to be!

And then there’s the subject of worth. Maybe my lack of connection to finances is down to ascribing a monetary value to my time, to me. It feels uncomfortable at some level having to decide my worth. That I have worth. But it is curiously empowering when I do. Recently for a job that I have been doing for around three years, the company suddenly decided that they only wanted to pay half of what I had been charging. I said no. I didn’t get excited or cry (shock or anger generally provokes tears.. then people think I am sad, and feel sorry for me. I am not sad, I am a ball of magmas rage, in liquid format!), I simply explained my worth. If someone wants my time, wants the skills and experience that I have, then that comes at a price. Knowing what I will and won’t accept in employment feels like a huge thing for my self-esteem. I have inherent worth and getting paid well to do something I love is a muchly beautiful thing.

Map Point. What is my inherent worth?

 

Moving pictures

Last night I went to the cinema with Robert. I have been friends with Robert for a goodly while and we socialise often, but until last night, the cinema had not been one of those places that we had been. I noticed this a long time ago, and when we made our new year resolutions I asked Robert to choose a film at some point in the year for us to see. And after eight months he found ‘Valerian’.

It may seem strange to be so insistent to engage in such a particular activity, but I love cinema. This expression is overused, surely most people enjoy films and the cinema experience. Obviously, I can never actually know if I am more passionate about film than the average person, but these are my words of love, they have been a lifelong endeavour.

The first film that I ever saw was ‘The Fox and the Hound’ I was around six years old and I went with my friend Katie and her family. I was spellbound, I cried at the film and we ate Maltesers from a box. One of the Maltesers that I ate was utterly solid. It’s strange the memories that stay with a person. From then on it was always an epic occasion to go to the cinema, mostly with my Uncle Dave and my brother. Uncle Dave also took me to my first ’18’ rated picture – ‘My Own Private Idaho’ it was a gritty art-house styled piece that we had to travel to London’s Trocadero to see. I was astounded by the quirky nature of the piece, my mind was blown. My Uncle’s first words post film were ‘That was bleak’. But for me, it showed me that there was so much more than the traditional commercial films with linear narratives. There was freedom and possibility to be discovered. Very occasionally I went with my Mum over the years, Snow White and Pretty Woman stand out, these times were special as I know how my mum mostly feels about cinema!

Part of my degree was in film. This gave me scope to watch some pieces of elegance, chronic boredom, trippy, sketchy, deeply horrific and unfathomable. Cinema for me can be a group or solo experience, both have advantages. With groups, I can talk about the film and by myself, if I go during the day, I sometimes get the whole cinema to myself. This feels like the most indulgent treat ever. A whole film, just for me.

The experience for me growing up started with checking times on Teletext and long queues on a Saturday afternoon. The tickets were bought at the booth at the front. Popcorn was a new development in my life at this time, as was the accompanying large fizzy drink. There was an apprehension of sitting in the dark waiting for the bright lights and the excitement when the film started to roll. The smell of the theatre is one that is fixed in my mind, a mixture of old and popcorn. Coming out afterwards into the sunshine, feeling that I had been to another world and even now it is an adjustment to make it back to the real one. I always watch all the credits at the end as a mark of respect to the hundreds and thousands of people who work for months, sometimes years to bring me the privilege of ninety minutes of escapism. Me and my daughter also have the associative game of searching for our own names within the multitudes.

In various places in my house are all the cinema stubs for pretty much every film I have ever seen. At some point, I will collect them all together and turn them into a massive picture and I know, without ever having made this, it will be epic and make me feel much smiley.

Valerian was a very pretty film with some dark moments and some beautiful comedic vignettes. Thank you for choosing a film Robert and giving me the time to experience my great love.xx

The amazing Mr Roy

When I think back to how I imagined relationships would be, I based it on a premise that there was a ‘happy ever after’ without ever being totally sure what ‘happy ever after’ actually was. Am still not sure that I have an answer. Then I thought about some of the best and most lasting relationship advice that I ever received. It was from Roy.

Roy is someone who I completely love having in my life. He is patient and kind, insightful and humble, ever observant and has an incredibly wry sense of humour. His facial expressions convey more than whole conversations. Roy has given me much advice, always indirectly and never with judgement. What he said about relationships really stayed with me.

I had gone out for an evening in London with Roy, Brenda and several other of their friends. It was near Christmas and we had gone to a massive Catholic church for their carol service. There were a few bits we all sang together, but mostly we went to listen to the amazing choir and soloists that were performing there. I think that this is something that I would like to experience again. I also had the tail end of bronchitis. We were listening to someone singing in one of the inner chapels, their voice resonating as if in direct communication with God, utterly sublime. And I am desperately trying to not cough. The suppression was not really all that successful, as my throat was as tickly as my daughter is when I just pretend to tickle her without actually touching her (which is massively tickly). Roy had some mints which saved a lot of peoples enjoyment that night. Then at the end of the evening, when we could all talk, and I had indulged myself in a good hearty cough, I asked Roy why he had never married.

I was in quite a dire relationship at the time, I wanted to leave, but had not yet worked out the mechanics of how. Almost everyone around me knew how bad things were. I was nineteen and things were confusing. Roy was possibly in his fifties at the time, and am not entirely sure what motivated my question, but it felt important. He told me that he had never met anyone with whom he could share the love that his parents had for each other. Even now, this holds such resonance for me. He had seen something that he viewed as perfect, and he wasn’t prepared to settle for something that he perceived as less.

This was the first time I had heard someone put such definites on their reality. He had decided something and stuck with it. I was amazed. I felt as if so much of my life was compromise, acquiescent to the demands of others. Being just me seemed to be a problem, as it was much easier to passively change bits of me than to state my needs. This has never served me well, but something that I find familiar.

It is easy to be liked when I am doing what someone else wants me to do. It takes much strength of will to decide that I am going to be entirely me and not worry about the consequences. I know people who live like this and I often wonder how they never seem to experience the uncertainty, the panic that I can feel so readily. One part of me envies that, and the other part pities. If I never experienced such lows, how can I ever truly appreciate the highs?

Map Point. What is the most valuable advice I have received?

 

 

Sensational Shirley of Sittingbourne

Today I had an appointment in a town that I have never been to before. I went with Robert, as my personal inbuilt navigational compass is somewhat precarious at best. If there is an opportunity to get lost somewhere, then there is a strong chance that I will take it! We took the train from my seaside town to a little further inland and stepped out of the station.

To me, stations are always placed in weird places in towns. Usually somewhere slightly on the outskirts that a step in the right direction will land you in the main part of the town, which is good. But a step in the wrong one will render you wandering residential streets with a vague and desperate feeling that you should have packed a tent.

So I braved it and asked a local. Just to get us started in a direction that would not require the use of a primus stove. And we found Shirley.

Shirley was coming past the station with her partner MeMe (pronounced me-me). I don’t know if this is the right spelling and apparently it was not even his actual name, but a pet name that she called him. Shirley then not only pointed us in the right direction but offered to take us to our destination. She pointed out the local Costa which she said was expensive and then some local cafes which she said were much more reasonable and did really good food. On route, she also pointed out some good second-hand shops, the bingo hall and the shopping centre. Shirley was a natural town ambassador.

I asked Shirley about her accent, which she said was American. Shirley was from Michigan and had been in the American Airforce, and after her last station in Germany, she decided to come to the UK, as she loved it very much. This was in 1971. She then became a UK citizen and got married and had children. Her husband had died some years ago, and then she had met MeMe. Her granddaughter was nine and has autism and dyslexia, but had finally managed to make a friend and has just begun learning to read. She was really proud of her.

When we arrived at our destination, me and Robert then thanked her profusely for her assistance and went into one of the cafes that she recommended. The women running the cafe were awesome, they were so incredibly friendly and helpful. We sat in the sun-dappled garden and on the wall was some incredible graffiti. This was throughout the town as well, some truly beautiful graffiti adorning side alleyways. I felt compelled to photograph some of it. It was an amazingly enriched day. On our way home we got the station just as our train was about to pull in. No rushing, just an utterly chilled.

Someone told me a story recently that was along the lines of this. A man left his town in search of a new place to live. Eventually, he came across another town. Before he entered he saw an old man sitting just outside it, so he asked him what this new town was like. The old man countered this question by asking what his old town was like. The man responded by telling him that people there were mean, no one cared about anything, it had not been a good place to live. The old man considered his response and told him that the new town he was about to enter was much the same as his old town was. The man thanked him profusely and went in search of another new place to call home. Shortly after the old man was asked the same question by another man in search of a new place to live ‘What was the new place like?’ Again the old man countered with the same response as before and the man answered that his old town was a happy one, people were generous with their time and he had felt love there. The old man paused and chose his words carefully, and told him that the new town was much the same as his old one had been.

Map Point. How much does my world represent what I feel?

 

I love

I was thinking about how we can only love someone as much as they will let us. Even if you love someone with all of your being, if they are not able or willing to accept that, then that will cause hurt. I think that knowing how much someone is able to be loved at any given time and moderating my love accordingly could be the ideal situation. Only love is not math.

The first time I felt love in a romantic way I was nineteen. Retrospectively, I could call it all sorts of other things. One of those was the need for endorsement. Up until that point, I had never been in a relationship. The feelings were new, I didn’t know if I could be loved by anyone else. So it was exciting, that another individual on this planet, one with whom I had no familial connection, loved me.

I guess at the time I considered the relationship exciting. But as time went on, I considered it much less so. I ascertained fairly quickly that the person I was with was not kind, but nowhere in my skill set had I ever learnt that I was allowed to leave. Part of me had decided that if you loved someone, you stayed with them. Leaving meant confusion and upset, and as I had yet to have any experience of that, I continued with a relationship that was ultimately quite destructive.

At the time my need level was high. It was less to do with anyone else, and more about me. I was feeling sort of broken after a most interesting secondary school adventure and was looking for someone to fix me, without realising that fixing me, was very much my own task. Being with someone else just because I felt low, and they gave me a temporary high, is not a good method for overcoming years of having low self-esteem. In fact, it is a woefully poor choice.

Over the years I have come up with several definitions for what I have considered love to be, and I still don’t feel it is something that I could feel definitive on. Love grows. But this is my current understanding. The love we feel is all the same love. It varies in intensity from person to person, but it is the same feeling. Sometimes that feeling is tempered with familiarity, idolatry, need, and likely a thousand other things too. The way that I used to think about love, was mostly how I felt it for other people. It took me a long time to realise, that this is the expression of love. I needed to start with me.

Map Point. How much will I allow myself to be loved?