Face towards the sun

A car-park poem. (Got your attention!)

I sketched this after three minutes just standing in the car park outside my work building last Thursday. Such was my need for sun on my face and soul.

A deep, visceral need.

By myself, eyes closed, just standing.

Image: Pinterest


face towards the sun,

feet planted firmly.

Wind blowing,

whole body shaking,

feet planted firmly;

shaking not falling.

Face towards the sun,

eclipsed by the passing cloud,

Sun re-revealed,

smile spreading,

sun blessing.

Feet planted firmly,

face towards the sun,

as clouds and wind blow.

A (chronically) fabulous weekend

I had *such* a good weekend-hosting another ace LB party, followed by a 36hr mates movie weekend of late nights & being up early enough for McDonalds breakfast (with 2hrs to spare-such is our dedication to fitting in an extra movie!).

The cost of this fabulous exertion for me, however, is increased aches, pain & more tiredness than my non chronic-pain-enduring friends. So instead of doing the few things on the To Do list I diligently wrote up before bed yesterday, to do when my mates had left, I crashed on the sofa & napped instead of going to church this eve (very disappointing as it’s a great talk topic at the mo!); dinner was brought to me on the sofa by my kind husband who knew enough to rouse me to eat tonight when I’d have rather slept but actually needed the energy & enjoyment of the eating more (he’s a keeper!). The weekend’s activities were absoluteeely worth it (!!!) but in hindsight, having the movie weekend off the back of the party was over zealous social planning (I can hear other chronic-pain endurers going ‘duh!’).

OK, I know that describing two days of mooching on the sofa watching (brilliant) films & eating guest-made treats as ‘exerting’ sounds ironic but it’s not. I also know I am FORTUNATE! Yes I wake in pain every day & sometimes cry in pain or, moreso, from the physical & emotional tiredness from it but, hello, I danced, chatted, served, laughed & ate & drank from Friday to Sunday, & had more fabulous fun & conversation than many healthier peeps this weekend! Amidst the hosting, I let my friends/guests wash up each morning while I got my pilates groove-on cos hey, I’ve learned how to receive love & help (well, am learning), & also because I believe that it’s kind to let others show love & appreciation through service if they want to.

The time with mates has been so wonderfully nourishing for me mentally & emotionally as we watched great stories, had fun & scintillating conversation, deepened new friendships & ate & drank heartily. But it’s also been two eves in a row of 5-6hrs sleep for a body that needs-& rarely gets-9+hrs to be rested, but which will still wake in aches & pain every single morning regardless of how many hours sleep it gets, cos, y’know, chronic pain life. Nonetheless, now I’m more & more aware, & ACCEPTING, of the need for chronic pain *self-care* planning, I’m learning to plan better in future. So I’ve written off the To Do list: I’ll just have to suck in choir practice tomorrow as I haven’t the energy to rehearse tonight, & I am cashing in on the on the best perk of my job (well second best after the free coffee!) & am going to work from home tomorrow-a luxury for which I am immeasurably grateful!! So this is me being open. As I write that my face is saying ‘ugh’ as I hate vulnerability & showing any weakness! But, I’ve realised that is colluding with internalised ignorant societal norms which dictate that physical & mental health = strength when, in fact, it takes *real strength* to recognise, accept & acknowledge one’s needs & limitations. So here are some of mine laid bare. And they don’t make me any less (chronically) fabulous!

What’s In a Name?

I love my new colleagues; they’re bad-ass (sorry for the Americanism, bad-arse just looks wrong!). We have fab convo, lots of laughs and some good bants.  One such recent convo turned to weddings, marriage and the hot topic of women changing their names.

You see, people have an opinion about women’s names.  Or specifically, if they are ‘allowed’ to keep their own name and not change it to their husband’s name when they marry. Yep. In 2017.

Let’s just step back a moment. Now people are, I believe, free to call themselves whatever they choose. (Shout out to Friends’ Phoebe aka Princess Consuela Banana Hammock & her beloved husband  Mr Crap Bag!!!). But what is going on when a husband thinks he has the right to expect, much less insist (?!) a woman – an actual human person with her own identity, character, challenges & accomplishments – takes his name when they marry.

rose by any other name 3
Shakespeare / Photo: quotespictures.com

                                                                                                                                    I know married women who’ve changed their name to share their husband’s (crack on); I know married women who’ve kept their name (crack on again); I know women who’ve hyphenated their names -or like me, both spouses have cos, hey, there’s two of us getting married (again, crack on); & I know couples who’ve merged their name with their spouse’s (keep cracking on).  So you get the gist: I know lots of combinations and personally, I love the freedom to be creative and not be bound by one specific tradition or societal expectation (I’m not good with either tbh).

But why, oh WHY, is it that the man – or even his parents or yours – feel they have the right & power to dictate the name by which a woman calls herself based on a patriarchal tradition of a wife’s identity being absorbed into her husband’s upon marriage? Wives are, thankfully, no longer a husband’s property so while the choice to share a family name, whether it’s his, hers, a combo, a new name, is understandable and lovely, it should be just that- a choice. And a choice is only really a choice if it is open & equal.

Non Super Dads Aren’t so Bad

So yesterday was Fathers’ Day- a day when, it seems, every other dad on Facebook is declared to the ‘The Best’ ‘Number 1’ Dad Ever (I don’t know what the criteria is but someone may want to tell some of them that someone else has claimed the No 1 spot already; maybe the Dad of the first person to post on Facebook has the Title for that year and then the race begins again next year? Hmm, but what about cheeky Aussies who have a day’s headstart?!)

It has got me thinking about people like me-no, not other humorously-bitchy, sarcastic, can’t stand unoriginality and detest ‘cute’ crap on Facebook whatever day it is people-but rather people who have no yearning to wax lyrical about our fathers.  Now my dad was a good dad in some great areas, the best area being FUN: kite-flying on Parliament Hill Fields followed by ice-cream on a Sunday morning, and cricket games in the back garden made more exciting with the addition of a water balloon-my dad’s genius idea! And, as with every other human being living or deceased, he was a twot in others. And that’s not a terrible thing.

I haven’t had to wrestle over which ‘Greatest Dad’ card to choose from the multitude because that’s not a card I’ll ever buy (nor should anyone over the age of 10years for that matter!). Neither is my dad my best friend or the person on whom I lean in life’s storms, or from whom I gain a sense of solidity and self.  *But I am actually immeasurably grateful for that!*

Due in part to realising early on that my dad is a really flawed, unfinished person (i.e. a human being. And a bloody fun, generous, intelligent and sociable one at that.) I am a wonderfully well-rounded human being:

I am wonderfully independent;

I am wonderfully strong;

I have my dad’s wonderfully sarcastic, witty, scathingly piss-taking sense of humour;

I have a wonderfully honed bullshit detector;

I have a wonderful capacity to lavish love and support, and to receive it from others;

I have a wonderful capacity to forgive;

I have a wonderful sense of self-worth which isn’t based on how much my parents or friends love, accept or like me. (While every experience of rejection or being disliked [that scathing sense of humour isn’t for everyone!] scuffs my self-esteem, and wobbles my sense of self-worth, it bounces back into place like a roly-poly toy.)

roly poly toy

So I didn’t buy a ‘Best Dad Ever’ card this year (which is fitting because my own, funny, dad would probably roll his eyes and make a sarcastic quip at it anyway!). And I am happy to say that having a dad who couldn’t compete in that competition is not a bad thing. I had an incredible Grandfather (even allowing for the ‘he’s dead so suddenly everything he did was perfect’ rose-tinted glasses effect he was pretty fecking fantastic!).  And my Heavenly Father is beyond superb: He is perfect. But I am *immensely* grateful for my flawed human dad. He has helped me practise kindness and grace and self-love. He has taught me how to strive to love my neighbour while also loving myself.  And he has helped me to be strong. Which is great because, as we all know, parents won’t always be here.  But when he’s gone I won’t be bereft. My sense of self is exactly where it belongs: securely held inside me.

Cripplehood & Socks

Regular people just bend and put their socks on; they don’t even think about it while doing so.  None of that ‘mindfulness shizzle’ with socks, nope, they could be thinking about the bus they’re gonna catch; breakfast; their favourite shade of Jennifer Aniston’s tan; calling the dentist: literally *anything*.  Not me. You wanna know an insight into one of the things which most pees me off about being an intermittent cripple? The unpredictability.

See, I didn’t know this would be a ‘Socks are Something to Think About & Focus on’ morning until it was.  Until I actually had them in my hand and went to put them on.  That’s when socks went from being something that just sort of ‘happened to something I needed to do-purposefully and, to make a certain mindful loving friend happy by using her new favourite word, ‘mindfully’ 😉 This required concentration, bodily awareness and clear recollection of Alexander Technique instructions on how to lift a leg and bend to meet it all while maintaining correct postural alignment. Sigh.  ‘All my stupidly healthy friends haven’t had to pay hundreds of quid to learn how to put their sodding socks on!’ I thought ungraciously.  ‘And of course it would be when David’s away’: cue internal ‘oh poor me’ moment (yes Natalia, because *of course* if he wasn’t on holiday he’d have been at home on Sock Duty at 3pm on a Thursday!).

Kid socks
What focus, what determination, what mindfulness!

But then my socks were on and I was ready to face my bagel, tea and procrastination, I mean essay.  Now, I do not wanna seem smug or inconsiderate to people who are more than intermittently crippled, or whose pain keeps them up all night, crowding out any concept of possibly maintaining any other thoughts, not just once in a while like moi but as a regular shitty occurrence.  But I don’t wanna seem jealous of healthy people either. To be honest, I’m not smug, unkind or jealous about anything really.  Instead I have ‘perspective’.  Today was a Sock Issue day. And probably evening.  And to quote Stereophonics, ‘maybe tomorrow’.  That’s the pissy part: I genuinely don’t know what tomorrow, or even this evening has in store for me. BUT I’m cool.  Because (and here’s why the ‘I’m not being smug or inconsiderate warning was made!), I know that I WILL be ok.

‘Can’t Roll Over in Bed or Put Socks or Joggers on Easily’ days are, thankfully, followed by ‘I’m a Regular (well actually very hot, intelligent & fun!) Able-Bodied Person Walking Around London Living my Life’ kind of days (with drugs and a cache of elasticated support straps-medicinal not kinky, honest!).  So that’s why no jealousy.  Cos, without wanting to get too saccharine on you, having to think about the least painful way to put socks on some days means I absolutely bloody enjoy other daily things more.  And it means when horrid health diagnoses or traffic accidents or general shit happens, I’m an actual ‘Good Man in the Storm’ kind of girl (not the fake Arizona kind Grey’s fans!).  Cos you know what? After sockgate was solved, I sat down in my warm house, where I live with my devoted, kind-hearted, sexy husband who absolutely bloody adores me.   I read a book, drank tea, listened to Bieber’s new song (you know you did too: Love Yourseeeelfff), and worked on my Masters essay.  BECAUSE, I can read and think and make tea and put the heating on *whenever I bloody want*!  What absolute jammy-git luxury is my life 🙂