Rewilding the woman within

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This week I’ll be 56. FIFTY SIX. Four years away from 60. I don’t feel old enough.

I’m told I don’t look it – which is both kind and pleasing to hear. I’m not entirely sure where the last 46 years have gone: I sometimes still feel like a 10-year old girl looking out at the adult world around me, curious, confused and concerned.

Yet, the strangest thing is happening: as I emerge from the (fe)maelstrom of menopause and beginning to feel more in control of my emotions, there’s a bubbling reemergence of the girl I once was – before puberty brought a storm surge of hormones and life threw banana skins and olive branches.

I’m a bit of an ‘Archers’ fan – my grandmother who lived with us growing up listened every day – and there’s been a recent story about a ‘rewilding’ project. For ‘Ambridge’ this means allowing countryside return to an uncultivated state, to bring back birdsong, butterflies, bees and wildflowers, a hopeful return to more uncomplicated times where nature can flourish. It seems there is also a rewilding in progress for me, Bridget.

As a child I climbed trees, ran through cornfields, made camps, danced when the mood or music took me, drew pictures and painted, dressed up, talked non-stop, cried, laughed and loved, with abandon and without judgement. Yes, there were times I felt excluded, fell out with friends, suffered little injustices, felt hurt at imagined slights and withdrew into my own world but I was able to bounce back, to forget and forgive and view a new day as a new adventure.

Although I’ve always had a ‘sensitive’ side – my mother with her endearing lack of tact once described me as ‘chicken-hearted’ – there was and still is a core of steel and spirit. After all, my name means ‘strength. I find comfort and inspiration in that plus, at least one of the ‘St Bridgets’ I discovered on the web is associated with healing. I’m rather pleased at that, as I’m now a psychotherapist supporting others with healing psychological hurt, integrating and accepting the whole self.

Which brings me back to myself, and reintegrating my 10-year old self with the middle-aged woman I now am, by way of the work and relationship years.

For those with children, reconnection to their younger selves is perhaps a continual process as offspring progress through babyhood, to child, and youth reminding them daily of their own growing up years. I don’t have that living memory store, not having a family of my own, so maybe this link to my former self feels more vital and pressing to explore and honour.

I want to give myself permission to have fun, to be frivolous, to say ‘yes’ to possibilities, to just be and do, to seek joy, embrace sorrow, to hug and yield to hugs, to feel excitement at simple things, to have little adventures, to feel fear but have belief that I can do and all will be well, to feel proud and happy, to dance barefoot on grass and sand, to glory in nature, to find comfort in small things, to trust, to believe in good, to feel and give love, to have compassion, hope and resilience, and to keep an eye on the light and fun side, to see things through a filter of humour and wisdom.

I don’t have the energy of earlier years, and I’m finding my joints and muscles don’t feel quite as they did, even five years ago, but I am feeling a welcome lightness inside, a tingle of positivity, and an urge to seek new experiences, to not settle into what’s expected at my age, to listen to the 10-year old Bridget within but, with the git of hindsight and the freedom and capacity of a mature woman.

Bring on more camping trips – solo if necessary – being a bit silly, laughing until I cry, weeping at sad films and finding bittersweet joy in nature’s transient beauty, swimming in the sea, spending time with loved ones, eating jam from the jar, stroking neighbourhood cats, running outside to spot rainbows, talking to sheep, talking to myself, chatting to strangers, dancing in supermarket aisles, shouting at the TV, taking off my shoes to walk on sand even in winter, not wearing tights.

This may not be ‘wild’ as in being out of control but it IS rewilding: freeing the spirit, listening to the body, responding to sensations, intuition and feelings, trusting my instincts, my gut, doing what feels right for me, for now, for the future.

As Isadora Duncan said, “Once you were wild, don’t let them tame you”.

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A time to dance – and rest

I have a cold. A common or garden head cold complete with red nose, dry lips and super velocity sneezes that elicit the response from my husband, “Do you really NEED to do that?” Yes I do.

I’m always amazed at how down such a simple illness can make me feel from the scratchy throat and lead weight around my head to the heaviness in limbs and spirit. I know this will pass: it’s transient, insignificant, a nuisance at most but, maybe the most important aspect is giving me a ‘breathing space’. An oxymoron – and an interesting choice of word given I’m very aware of breathing with blocked airways and consequent dry mouth.

All this – and a cancelled session this morning – has given me that breathing space: and I hadn’t realised how much I was in need of that. I’ve been pinging from job to job to thought to thought and chasing opportunities – much like a bagatelle ball. I’m tired, and relishing a little enforced downtime without the guilt factor creeping in.

This little guiltless idleness has helped me understand and illuminate some tensions within which I’ve been avoiding or suppressing. My energy levels are not what they were – and I’ve never been a dynamo if I’m honest. More a short burst and retreat to recoup kind of existence. I’m realising how best to manage this to sustain me and, enable me to offer what I can in terms of DMP work and other activities. Also, what may need to be let go or change their emphasis. These things have been important, vital in many ways and led me to where I am now but, the passion is now waning and I can no longer include these in the same way I have done for 20 years.

I’m allowing these reflections to incubate and crystalise much as the cold virus invaded and multiplied in my body before exploding into consciousness. Thank you little germs – you have given me a germ of my own to grow and inspect and assess its possibilities to cure,  heal or destroy, albeit constructively. This feels painful but necessary and I’m beginning to feel the beginnings of relief and a lighter mind.

The moon and water

I’ve just had a bath: a long, deep, soothing bubbly one with my favourite Seaweed & Sage body wash that smells of the sea. Yes: I do like a bath, far more than a shower. Baths are luxurious, indulgent, immersive by nature whereas showers are short, sharp, functional cascades. Both cleanse your skin but, what other thoughts surface during this submersion without suffocation?

pexels-photo-326282.jpegLying in fragrant warm water in the afternoon light felt incredibly decadent.

Bathtime at 3.00pm: a luxury, a stolen delight, a not-quite-guilty pleasure.

Luxuriating in the balminess, hair flowing like kelp, I came to think about my – our – response to water, to being in water, to being by water. Is it a remaining link to our time in the womb, surrounded by our mother’s nurturing and protective amniotic fluid allowing us space to find our limbs and the boundary of our yet unborn universe? Is my bath a vestige of that first container and safe place?

My mind, lulled by the warmth, floated off, travelling further back in time, to those strange creatures that slithered out of the soupy swampy water and sought to live on land, slowly losing tails and gills, growing legs and lungs and learning to live in air. Is our love – and fear – of water something primal, pre-primal even: how can we reconnect with this element that gives life on this blue planet, two-thirds of which is ocean. We are two-thirds water too. I grew up near the sea and yearn for that moving, ever changing, unpredicatable but never boring body of water that connects us and shapes our world and history.

The recent super blue blood moon flows into the mix: the beautiful luminous, numinous night-time light that brought wonder to the January cold. The moon, the benign yet powerful force that controls oceans, wombs, and rhythms throughout the natural wild world. The moon is linked to the feminine, the mystical, the shadow, the glorious curious presence that grows and subsides reflecting our own life phases.

I now remember my friend Chin Yueh – whose name meant Glorious Moon –  and introduced herself here as Ophelie… a moon by another name.  Sadly, our little lady moon died almost three years ago, much too soon. Knowing her felt like the super blue blood moon – a rare and precious treasure. She was well named with a gentleness that was at once supremely feminine and serene but tempered with the inner strength and determination of a Taiwanese black bear. I loved her. I miss her humour and wisdom. Her directness and sensitivity. I knew her all too briefly like a shaft of moonlight on a dark clear night that, once felt, seen, experienced, illuminated is never forgotten. I also remember her husband who unable to live without her, died a year later, almost to the day. Yin and Yang, moon and sun reunited.

Storm

wind-trees-wallpaperThe last time I wrote it was autumn and I was basking in the remembered warmth of a late holiday. Now we’re approaching the end of February with the promise of spring in greening hedgerows, the softer air, and in lengthening days.

Yesterday though, with Doris making her presence felt and starting play therapy with a new young client, I came to thinking about how both suddenly, and slowly, our lives can change and outside our control. Whether from a shocking event that upturns settled family life – like wind bringing down trees and buildings – or the transitions occurring with age from puberty to adulthood, menopause and ‘third age’.

Much of what happens to us in life can feel like that storm – chaotic, wild, dangerous, destructive and frightening. Yet, after that chaos and mess, some good can be found. The storms of winter remove dead wood from trees allowing new growth, the winds drive out dark clouds to reveal sunshine and blue skies. The storm seems to release energy and tension giving an opportunity for calm and reflection.

Looking around me today, our garden city strewn with the aftermath of the strong winds that made feel like Dorothy before Oz, I am reminded of the value and parallels of these tempestuous times. Not just to nature but to my self also.

Without these, there can reside a tendency to cleave to the status quo, to be on an even keel, to know where we are – for safety and certainty. Yet, therein lies stagnation, fear, inactivity and inwardness, inhibiting creativity and the potential for experience, wisdom and insight, enriching and fulfilling our soul.

We need those storms, painful, bewildering and disturbing though they be, as they stimulate us to grow, to look anew at ourselves, to release that we no longer need or benefits us.

‘Let it go’ says the song so, as the trees let go, I’m learning to let go of who I used to be and finding a new way of being as no longer young. This transition, unlike the sudden storm, has been slow and difficult, and inevitable. A workshop I attended recently prompted me to reflect deeply, unwillingly, on who and where I am now, holding up uncomfortable recognitions – repressed feelings of envy, self-hatred and frustration with my inability for action due to base beliefs of inferiority and incompetence.

These dark clouds have now lifted a little, the storm an apt metaphor for this recent psychic struggle. I have passed through more than just the eye of the storm. I will find serenity and the calm today so embodies.

I am alive. I am here. I am me.

 

 

Welcome to Hotel Transactional Analysis

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I’ve recently spent a week’s relaxation in Majorca celebrating 20 years of marriage. We stayed in a beautiful, tranquil spot in a small natural park a few minutes saunter from two perfect pink-white sand bays with crystalline water: a beach lover’s heaven.

What I hadn’t expected from this late summer treat – we’d already been away in July – was the realisation that hotels turn us into dependent babies. This disturbed and challenged my sense of self, creating psychic tensions never before considered.

For some years we have embraced life under canvas for summer escapes, travelling to various locations in France as well as in the UK. I’d camped with my family but the experience as an adult, although rekindling the fun I’d had as a child, also brought essential elements to my adult life: freedom, re-connection with the earth, and even Maslow-style primary needs like building a shelter. OK, so I didn’t catch my food but, cooking outside, watching the stars emerge and being IN nature met some unacknowledged need for simplicity, self-reliance and connection with the universe.

I enjoyed being a bit ‘feral’ – living in shorts and flip-flops or bare feet – and not worrying what I looked like, luxuriating in the sensory and sensuality of warm sun, cool earth and moving water (we stay near rivers or the sea).

There was also the sense of empowerment: going where and when we pleased, and doing what we wanted without watching the clock, living with nature’s rhythms.

Going ‘properly’ abroad for the first time in years (as in taking a plane and staying in an hotel) gave me sleepless nights. I’d forgotten how to plan a trip of this kind, feeling all kinds of tension surrounding booking a flight, seats, baggage allowance and finding the perfect accommodation. In my case, perfect meant inexpensive, small and personal, away from crowds and any packaged ‘entertainment’. After a couple of false starts and cancellations, I booked our home from home. Cue the beginning of a creeping, increasing anxiety and weight of responsibility. What if it was awful? Would my husband enjoy it (a very real fear after the summer trip went a little awry due to his work induced stress and inability to relax and be in the moment). I also have a mild fear of flying – a lovely euphemism that isn’t it?

We arrived at 1.00a.m. after a delay and a magical mystery tour, first to find the transport I’d booked and then along little dark roads leading to seemingly nowhere. Yet the hotel was welcoming, simply furnished but adequate, and extremely clean. Relief flooded me as I finally slept, dreaming of the sea.

So, what felt so wrong?

It took me several days to understand the source of my discomfort: I wasn’t in control.

I couldn’t just go to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee or a sandwich. I had to wait to be fed.

I couldn’t stay in my room all day if that’s what I wanted as the maid came to clean.

I couldn’t speak the language, having only basic phrases.

I felt bad and feared judgment if the room were left messy.

Then I had my epiphany: the hotel was our playpen and nursery. We were omnipotent infants with all our needs being met on demand by benevolent adults.

And I wasn’t sure I liked it. I felt really discomfited. Out of control. A guest checks out their personal power when they check in.

Perhaps world-weary executives in spa hotels are only indulging in infantile fantasy – in a more socially acceptable way than dressing up as babies and being bottle fed.

This sense of dependence was enhanced by being remote from all but a tiny shop and a couple of beach restaurants (in addition to the breast in our hotel).

I adored the serenity- watching bats fly around at dusk and snorkelling in warm clear water with fish dancing around, beneath and above me. Yet I felt impotent and irritated at a subliminal level, resenting reliance on what the hotel gave us to eat, feeling displaced when unable to enter our room, fearful of being stranded and abandoned.

Yet I also became territorial, wishing the day visitors would go away and leave ‘our’ coves in peace. I also didn’t want to go back to reality. The holiday ‘bubble’ had provided a secure base from which to explore being together again, without concerning ourselves with anything more onerous than whether to have another beer or go for a swim.

I suspect it’s no coincidence that I work with children with attachment disorders arising from neglectful parenting, mothers with mental health disorders, and dysfunctional families. Was all I felt really just a projection of their discomfort and need to control and impose order on their chaotic early life experiences.

I’m curious how these reflections will impact our holiday plans next year: will it be a self-catering apartment or back to the Wendy House tent?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On looking forward

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I’ve been feeling rather guilty lately, as I’ve not posted on here for… a year. Just where have those 12 months gone to – a common call when we look back and feel we have not achieved or done what we had hoped now that time is lost. Yet, as we cannot regain that time passed nor make more of any opportunities or put right wrongs we cannot live our lives based on having ‘something to look forward to’.

My blog is a window on my state of mind and energy thus, feelintg guilty about writing is yet another example of me being passive-aggressive to myself.  There is no purpose to this self punishment (I was trying to find a play on ‘selfie’ here to please my little ego that’s saying “show your critics you are clever oh yes, that’s myself mainly”) other than reaffirming core beliefs that I’m not good enough and other uncomfortable feelings I thought I’d unpicked during therapy. It seems not. Maybe I have just unearthed another strata of discomfort and shame that needs sifting through to filter out the issues upsetting the smooth running of my path. Oh Mrs Superego is having fun today.

I’ve not felt able to write here –  some resistance to ‘putting myself out there’ – even if my writing is not read or seen by anyone: it is in the public domain. I believe I have been partly inuring myself against the testing reality of life after uni and finding work in a complex and competitive marketplace. I am learning new things about myself that I’m not entirely sure I relish but, which I am going to work on as without uprooting these weeds I cannot flourish. I have been hiding behind being busy but, in reality I have been busy avoiding. Avoiding making contact directly, avoiding peers, avoiding real engagement: because it feels so hard and unfair and I don’t believe I can succeed or have what it takes to ‘win’. I have a sneaky suspicion that I roll over and give up, as it’s less painful (at the time), than engage direct, strong, sustained effort to achieve what I would like to do. I sound like a child who hasn’t been given the toy they want and can’t understand why. I don’t want to be that child, I want to the one who picks themselves up when they fall and find themselves stronger, more determined, and with resilient self-belief.

I realise with a pang, that it is this quality that I have envied in others, and consequently been on the defensive in their presence and feeling suspicious, and protective and dislike. What I am actually doing, is defending my inner self from the threat of destruction whilst also attacking myself for lacking the quality I admire and wish for myself. My supervisor recently commented “does it have to be and/or, could it not be and/and?”. I realise I have spent most of my life comparing and finding myself wanting.

So, what of this and looking forward?

I felt inspired to write today when listening to The Archers whilst re-varnishing our dining room floor. You get to thinking, sitting and painting. I can’t recall the story line but when a character said, “Lovely, something to look forward to” it caught me; I mused on how often this is said without considering what that might mean at an unconscious level. Someone I know always has to have something to look forward to, booking holidays way in advance and spending hours and £££ deliberating what clothes to buy to make the trip perfect. I often wonder if the goods deliver – physically and emotionally. A young client over anticipated forthcoming events, embuing them with all kinds of significance. Yet, after they had happened, he didn’t talk about his experience at all – although his body gave away his disappointment.

What is the obsession with looking forward to…. is it a positive life-affirming outlook, a defence against facing up to what is happening in the now, other fears, or an attempt to control our existence in an unpredictable world?

What drives us to think like this: boredom, dissatisfaction with our lot, avoidance of problems with our relationships or with ourselves:sublimating narcissistic pain onto making plans that validate existence as worthwhile, vital, interesting people?

Having goals and dreams is different, but both this active engaged planning and wishful forward thinking can negatively affect how we life now, if they topple over into obsession and avoidance. The only elements over which we have control is how we feel, act and think in the now.

This is why DMP can be so powerful: it persuades us to be in the moment, our bodies integrating our internal world with external reality with physical sensation, sensory perception, and the rhythm of our hearts.

I am looking forward to being, to living, to taking control and making each precious moment count. For that’s all we truly have.

 

 

On being a yellow coat

Hi di hi Yellowcoat

Oh it felt so good to move and be with a group again: to experience those moments of blissful, spontaneous, synchrony, and attunement.

This was my first paid ‘gig’ as a DMP, although I wasn’t offering therapy at all: the workshop was called ‘Expressive Dance’ and held at a centre for various complementary therapies and movement classes. The web ad and poster specifically invited ‘over 50s’ and those who had yearned to dance but never felt able to try.

The workshop mainly delivered what it promised: 3 of the 4 attendees were indeed over 50, although one of these included me!

All three members – not clients – were also united in their desire to move.

I had spent some time planning before the event but, equally, had felt comfortable about being able to change the plan depending on what the group brought along. With the support of my supervisor, I also realised that simply people in the room moving together was what I should aim for, rather than trying to run before I could walk…

But, I had two hours to fill.

I made a playlist, edited it, edited it again.

I decided what not to wear and painted my toenails.

Finally, I put my mind to the actual content.

I elected to have a ‘coathanger’ on which to base the workshop, an image that led strangely on from the yellow coat fitting of the previous post. Yellow coat – whah – I’ve just noticed that sounds like Hi Di Hi…. one of my most hated programmes ever yet loved by many. “I want to be a yellow coat” was the plaintive cry of Peggy, Su Pollard’s character: was that what I felt about being a DMP?

And there I was thinking it had been about fitting into a new identity, trying it on, and making alterations to suit. None of it: this was pure yearning to do what I had trained for, yet felt so tauntingly out of reach.

As I had been reading ‘Beyond Dance’ by Eden Davies on Laban and Lamb’s work within business, I was inspired to use LMA shaping and efforts to underpin the workshop content. This worked well. I didn’t immediately introduce the concepts: we first warmed up and moved as a group, each being given the opportunity to lead by changing the movement in gradual ways, encouraging involvement and confidence. After we had moved in this format for some time, with swaying arms, swinging arms, flicking hands and twisting torsos, we had a moment’s break, I then brought in shaping in planes, then efforts, drawing attention to how we had moved earlier and described these movement components. As a group we also embodied these, adding images to help somatic comprehension.

Later in the workshop, I used the ‘name game’ to generate individual movements which we could share, put into sequence, and expand upon. The elder of the two women seemed undecided about her movement but, encouraged by the imagery of the door plane we’d explored, she stepped forward boldly and opened her arms into a wide vase-shape as she said her name: accompanying this with a confession that “I never do this” (making her presence known). I felt moved and itched to do more work with this woman.

Next, came a short exploration of the props, mostly the mesmerising ribbon wands which weaved magic in the room, conjuring metaphor and play.

The elder woman went to find an instrument “a drum” as she wanted to make a noise. She settled for maracas and we moved a stretch cloth wiggling and rippling to her rhythm. As this section came to a close, we regrouped into the corner where the props were laid out. Without words, we each chose an instrument and began a multi-layered percussive rhythm, adding our own personal signatures, ending with a bang on the tambourine, followed by full silence.

After a cool down and relaxation, I asked the group about how it had been for them: relaxing, losing tension, feeling freer. Feelings and sensations I could identify with closely.

We finished by leaving something in the room, in the middle of our circle. I gave gratitude for how the group had embraced the workshop and their courage in trying something new. The elder  woman blew a kiss to the circle centre, the younger, a ribbon swirl. The other member, a man, gave a simple formal bow.

I came home hot, elated, exhausted but happy. Despite only a small group it had happened, and I had held it together, psychologically and physically.

Now I’m hungry for more.

Yes, I am a yellow coat – albeit one with ‘P’ plates.