Touch

“Well I guess it would be nice if I could touch your body” ~ George Michael

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Touch (n): the act or state of touching; state or fact of being touched

 

Recently my mum was in hospital. She’s in her late 70s, has severe MS, and was suffering due to other illness. And there’s only so much you can do in that position, as a visitor, as a daughter, as there are only so many crossword clues or conversations you can have about the outcome of the General Election.

But on being tasked with removing her nail polish, I decided to focus on the physical. I cleansed and moisturised her face as best I knew how, using massage techniques gleaned from Caroline Hirons YouTube videos, I brushed and detangled her hair, and I spent time rubbing in hand cream, each finger, each fingernail, along her forearms. Anything that could help form a different connection, anything that might detract from the grim awfulness of being ill and debilitated in a hospital ward.

Because touch is such a very special thing. The physical closeness of one body next to another. I live on my own and I cherish the hugs I get from my friends, as the warmth of another person in your presence is so hard to go without.

And so, with all these thoughts of caring for my mother, of physical closeness, of human compassion, swirling in my head, I went to my first yoga class in about 15 years.

It was a tiny class, just the 4 of us including the instructor. It felt a safe space, a warm and caring space. And as I tried to work through my Downward Dogs and my Warrior poses there was a moment when the instructor, in her soft and direct voice, asked if she could touch me. I have been touched plenty of times in my life where my consent was not considered relevant and this gentle respectful approach moved me. And of course I said yes, I was in her yoga class after all.

What followed was the softest yet insistent touch that moved my body into a much better position, aligning my head, my spine, my hips, my feet. Unlike a privileged man passing me on the pavement, this touch demanded nothing of my body. Rather, it was supporting me, supporting my body, helping me move and be the best me I could be. I don’t think I have been touched liked that since perhaps when I was learning to walk or learning to swim.

Plato said that at the touch of a love everyone becomes a poet. I think at the touch of a yoga teacher I have realised I am more loved, more supported, than ever I knew.

Such a simple thing, to touch another person, yet I doubt many of us ever realise the impact we have on one another.

If you want to talk I’m curious about what touch moves you? Contactable, as always, on a comment box-shaped postcard.

 

Princess

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Who’s Sorry Now

Who’s sorry now? ~ Connie Francis

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Sorry (adj): feeling or expressing regret, compunction, sympathy, for an action

 

When I was was 13 my brother had a terrible cycling accident and was taken to hospital. I remember the police arriving at home, I remember going to the hospital with my mum, and afterwards I remember her saying the first thing he said to her when she want in to see him was “Sorry, mum”

Fast forward. I’m 41  I’m going to the same hospital to see my mum and the first thing she says to me when I get to her bed and she knows I am there is “I’m sorry”

My brother had been sorry for damaging his bike, for upsetting mum, for causing worry. Now my mum is concerned about causing upset, fearing worry, taking up our time.

Yet, as I sit there, sometimes with friends or with siblings, sometimes alone, mum talks. She talks about her funeral, she talks about what hymns she might like and what she wants us to do, and she talks her own mother and when she died. And she says the most extraordinary thing, “It’s life, we just don’t have time, we’re all so busy…. I came home, I cooked you all tea. And I got a call from the care home to say that she’d died”

My mum was apologising to me, to all of us, for taking up our time, causing worry, yet also thinking to a time when she was sorry, when she gave all the time she could, to her elderly mother but also to her family.

No, mum, I’m sorry. We’re sorry. You no more chose to have an incurable degenerative disease than my brother chose to have a bicycle accident, or grandmother chose to get old.

I’m lucky, I know. My mum be in an awful place with her MS and that is never getting better. It’s not news. She was diagnosed 32 years and it’s been a slow insidious creep that has ended up here. But she is still here. I’m poignantly heartbeakingly aware of those who don’t have that, those whose parents have died, those whose children have died, friends gone too soon. And the awful inevitability of time.

So I’m sorry. For all those times I wasn’t around, for when I didn’t think, for when I could’ve been better. Yet at the same time I’m not sorry because like mum said it’s life. There is never enough time. All we can do is choose how we spend it and who we spend it with.

 

Princess

 

 

 

 

 

Love, actively

“It must be love, love, love” ~ Madness

Or, as defined by my dictionary

Love (vb): To have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for

 

Consider love as a verb not a noun. It’s a doing word. An action. That means our love is expressed not simply in words but what words we use, how we use them, and, most importantly, how we act.

If you claim to love someone madly yet you never ask how they are, never throw them a tender smile or proffer a gentle hug; can that then truly be said to be love?

And, conversely, even if you would never dream to say “I love you” to someone yet you send them messages of encouragement, take photos to make them smile, pause in your busy schedule to check in with them; is that love?

It can be all too easy to say we care, to say someone matters, but unthinkingly neglect them. To get caught up in our lives, our own cares, and not pause to say “how are you?” to someone and really listen to their answer. Listening, letting someone speak the truths of their heart, that is a form of love. Making time in your life for someone else and their life might only take a few minutes of your time but for that person it could make their day. 

So love actively. Choose words that express how you care and make your actions fit those words. There can never been enough love in this world; it’s what makes it go round, after all.

 

Princess

No More I Love You’s?

“No more “I love you’s”, the language is leaving me” ~ Annie Lennox

Or, as defined by my dictionary

“I love you” (phrase): An affirmation of affection or deep caring, especially to a family member. An affirmation of romantic feeling to a lover or spouse. A platonic expression of strong inclination or liking to a friend

 

It’s nearly Valentine’s Day. That day where for years cards have been exchanged, flowers sent, gifts bought, all in the name of love. And, in more recent years, the increased complaints about the commercialism and the statements to not buy into it.

I hear you, I really do. I don’t get those heart shaped balloons either.

But.

But.

I don’t get not celebrating the concept of love either. Tell someone you love them every day? Good for you. So why, for the love of Cupid and Eros, would you not do it on a day that is now set aside in the calendar for such a purpose?

You don’t have to go out, you don’t have to send flowers, to buy presents. My parents bought each other such perfect cards nearly 20 years ago that they have just exchanged them every year since. And as for going out for a meal… Well, the restaurants may inflate their prices, but a bowl of pasta and pesto with some fine green beans, cooked at home and served with a decent bottle of red, that will cost the same as it always does. If you feel like it go crazy and light a candle and share a box of chocolates for dessert.

Just don’t sneer at it. You can dislike crass commercialisation whilst still liking the sentiment. A day about love? Literally what’s not to like? A day for hopeful tentative expressions of appreciation, a day maybe enabling you to contact someone to tell them you like them. Do not dismiss the enabling power of that. Especially not if you already are in a relationship, share that love with someone. Don’t keep it all to yourself.

Because that’s the point of love, isn’t it? To share it, not to keep it wrapped up privately in your heart.

If you would say I love you or do something nice for a loved on on any other day of the year then don’t refuse to do it on this one out of principle; the world needs more love right now not less.

I love you

Princess

Lifted

“Lifted, we could be lifted” ~ The Lighthouse Family

Or, according to my dictionary

Lifted (vb): raised upwards ot a higher place

 

A few years ago I was in a rugby pub in Twickenham. It’s one of the ones where there is a badge of honour in getting your match ticket stuck to the ceiling and the only allowable way of getting it up there has to be by being lifted, no climbing on furniture or breaking out a step-ladder, it’s lift or nothing.

It’s quite entertaining to watch pissed people, predominantly men, with a great deal of strength between them, try and fail to lift anybody. Because to lift another person takes skill, strength, and more important than anything, it takes trust. Trust on behalf of the lifters that the person they are lifting won’t kick them in the face or fall on them, trust on behalf of that person to surrender their own gravity to others. Drunk people are terrible with gravity, it seems.

At this point in the pub, I was on my own. I was only mildly drunk, I didn’t know the guys next to me who were trying, failing, and laughing about it, and I have always been a show off.

So I finished my pint and approached them, “Alright, guys, I’ll do it.”

They sized me up, looked at each other, and nodded. Approximately 5 seconds later, I was hoisted into the air by 4 men I have never met before. They got hands on me in places that normally at least require a couple of dates and dinner. But we had a collective point to prove. So, straight-backed, core tight, head held high, a ticket was firmly fixed to the ceiling, and I was then engulfed in the kind of sweaty beery jubilant embrace you only ever get from rugby players. It felt good.

Great anecdote, you might be thinking, but is there any point to this.

Yes. Yes, there is. They could only lift me because I let them and it only worked because I was willing to be lifted. Have you ever tried to lift someone resistant, someone who doesn’t want to move? It’s possible, there’s a raft of techniques to help you, but it’s damn hard work. Equally, how have you responded when someone has tried to lift you against your will? Flailing limbs don’t even come close, I suspect.

But, at the right time, with the right people, with the right mindset, you can be lifted head and shoulders above the rest. You’ve just got to trust it when it happens.

 

Princess