Friday, 24 May 2013

Straw into Gold

The non-Spring continues. The days are endlessly damp and grey. This is weather to be sad in. Skies to buckle under. Instead, I brim with joy, with light.

In the mornings, I brew tea and gaze out of the window, stunned by my luck. I watch the squirrels skitter up and down the pines, the delicate bluebells shivering in the wind. I look at the tree trunks, soft and wet, barks peeling to reveal the gleam of newer, whiter wood beneath. And I feel such simple happiness. Such gratitude. Such calm.

My life is far from perfect. In the last few months, my social circle has shrunk from a wide open hoop to a small, tight band. I hold it close to my heart, shielded, close, like a widow who hangs her wedding ring at her breast. My responsibilities at work have increased, which brings both pride and uncertainty: until I am totally competent at a task, I tend to feel incapable and small, and because there is a lot of technical learning involved at the moment, a lot of questioning and learning from mistakes, I feel clumsy, incompetent, cotton-headed.

In the past, I’ve seen these kinds of quiverings as a failing. In my head, they were giant, rocky obstacles to surmount: sheer-faced, not a foot-hold or hand-hold in sight. Now, I can see that they’re exactly the opposite. That they are, in fact, stepping stones to knowledge. Ladders to growth, and grace.

I don’t know what, precisely, has changed. I wish I did. I’d paint the formula in neon pink on every blank stretch of brick, scribble it on scraps of paper and scatter them to the wind.

I’ve been reading a lot about radical acceptance recently. I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable. I’ve stopped trying to heave myself over obstructions, puffing and panting, and tried meeting them head on instead, with recognition and a cool head. I have watered new friendships, even as old ones have wasted and browned in the known confines of their pots. I have cooked good food. I have written every day. And each of these things has contributed to this new sense of well-being, this quiet, consistent pleasure. Like the individual components in a charm or a spell: plain and simple in their separate parts, but combined, they’re pure wonder, pure magic.

Monday, 13 May 2013

There's a certain slant of light...

I am happy today. I feel like the world is open, and my heart. Slowly, slowly, I am coming into my own. All that potential that was suffocated under fathoms of anxiety, buried without breath under my obsession with food, and weight, all that possibility, all that hope – at last, there is a real, irreparable crack in the armour, and the light is spilling from it, reaching out with long golden fingers. 

I realised yesterday with a sweet surprise that I can’t remember the last time I wanted to purge. This normality around eating, and my body…it has become so commonplace and so familiar that it seems it must always have been this way, even though it’s only been since Christmas. How could I have lived as I did before? And for so long? Like asking a butterfly how it lived as a grub, I suppose, small and silent in its nub of silk. Or a rose in the closed head of its bud. 

I went on holiday to Egypt at the end of April. A week of desert heat, and cocktails in the pool, and tasselled camels, and hibiscus tea. But the biggest thing that happened was that I met someone. And I came back feeling…changed. In the best of ways. 

I’m not being a moony-eyed schoolgirl about it: the relationship was bracketed between landings and take-offs, and we live miles away from each other, so in all likelihood, nothing further will happen. And I’m okay with that, if that’s the case. Because it was the experience that was momentous. The letting go.  The taking a chance.

All those years I spent hating my body, covering my scars. All that stress about not being normal or having the right kinds of feelings. All of it has evaporated like saltwater in the sun, leaving only a beautiful glittering dust behind.

This is the first holiday ever where I’ve worn a bikini and felt, if not exactly confident, then at least acceptable. At least enough. Previously, I’ve been like a dog with a rag, worrying about my broadening hips, the perceived excess of flesh at my belly, the ladder of scars on my thighs that rise and whiten in the heat like the cross-hatchings on a loaf of bread. In Egypt, I felt none of that. I was present in my body, but I was not defined by it. I wore a bikini, and I talked to a boy, and...I was ok. I really was. I didn't liquefy in a puddle of shame and awkwardness. I didn't shut down into cold politeness. I just....was.

There have been men before, good men, sweet men, who have wanted to take things further than friendship. And I wouldn’t entertain it. Not only because of the emotional intimacy – I could not let my guard down, I could not risk being hurt – but also because of the shame of my physical self.  In Egypt, it was different. It was like all of that had been stripped away, removed from the equation: I was in swimwear from the outset, which was pretty much the same as being in underwear, my body, scars and all, was on display...and this boy, this clever, funny, attractive boy still wanted to speak to me, still wanted to spend time with me.

I keep telling myself that I am not my body, that I am not how I look or how much effort I make appearance-wise...but I've never really believed it at a core level until now. It's never been intrinsic. And even if nothing further happens with the boy, I can take away this: I am capable of giving. I am capable of being open, and vulnerable.

I can't over-estimate how huge of a realisation this is.