Saturday, 30 October 2010

An ode to chav pants

Today, I haven't left the house. Hell, I didn't leave my room till after 12.30. And after I showered, I put on the ultimate symbol of that decadent lounging: chav pants. And as I stared at that bling and felt the velour under my fingers, I felt my creative expression begin to flow, so I grabbed the nearest piece of kitchen roll and began composing. With apologies to Keats:

Chav pants, O chav pants,
Blue velour and diamante,
that lead me into sloth
and possibly
the Inferno of Dante.

O Chav pants,
your various styles
the subject of much discussion:
more bling?
velour? cashmere?
My head feels like I've had a concussion.

But even though my head hurts,
I must thank you, o chav pants:
the comfort of your elasticated waist and soft touch
spare my friends many Facebook rants.

*to non-British readers, definition of chav here.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Dare. Change.

My friend Kenetha posted this on her fb wall. I had noted it, but it wasn't till she nudged me that I watched it. This was last night, and I've probably watched it at least 20 times since, I'm so drawn to it. It's as beautifully put together as the Embrace Life advert from earlier this year, and just as emotive:

One thing that struck me as I watched it - and I don't think it's just that I have an affinity for wolves - is that I can't, no matter how I try, see the wolf as her enemy or obstacle. I see him as her helper: there to force her choice, to make her fight rather than draw back, to make her challenge him: because she has no choice but to move forward. If she draws back, he will follow and give chase and make her face him anyway.

In essence, both are trapped if she avoids him.

Once she makes the choice to accept his challenge and chooses to run towards him, to move forward and fight him if need be, his mission is accomplished - and they are both set free.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Poem for thought...

I've been pulling in a bit recently for various reasons, but mostly for a bit of a life review. In that vein, this poem by Paulo Coelho popped up when I was looking at an FB picture a friend was tagged in, clicked on it to make it bigger, but ended up moving on to the next picture instead, which had this poem...perfectly grabbing at what was at the centre of my musings. I love synchronicity - have I said that a gazillion times yet?

Every Warrior of the Light
has felt afraid of going into battle.

Every Warrior of the Light
has, at some time in the past, lied or betrayed someone.

Every Warrior of the Light
has trodden a path that was not his.

Every Warrior of the Light
has suffered for the most trivial of reasons.

Every Warrior of the Light
has, at least once, believed he was not a Warrior of the Light.

Every Warrior of the Light
has failed in his spiritual duties.

Every Warrior of the Light
has said 'yes' when he wanted to say 'no.'

Every Warrior of the Light
has hurt someone he loved.

That is why he is a Warrior of the Light,
because he has been through all this and yet has never lost hope of being better than he is.

--Paulo Coelho

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

I bet we never thought a cylinder coming out of the ground would hold us entranced, united in our willing it to safety as it descends empty, and our relief/joy when it emerges again with its precious cargo. Campamento Esperanza goes worldwide.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Come as you are...

Whatever your sexuality, imperfections, shadow - come out of the dark closet into the light. Come as you are - it's National Coming Out Day in the US and tomorrow in the UK. As a straight woman, I've never had to fight this battle, but I've had to fight plenty of others - and I've seen friends in the closet suffer what no one should ever have to. So, whilst this isn't my struggle, the battle for LGBT rights IS my battle. Come out, come out wherever you are - and to my fellow heterosexuals: whilst you may not understand being attracted to someone of the same sex and the struggle that ensues, you DO understand what it's like to want to be free to be - and love for - who you REALLY are. So it is incumbent upon ALL of us to create a world where it is safe for everyone to be real, whatever that means.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Waltz therapy

"Let him HOLD you! Trust him," I finally shouted at the screen in utter frustration as Patsy Kensit yet AGAIN refused to let go and let her professional partner, Robin Windsor, lead. Her refusal to do just that meant she'd lost her frame any number of times and in this particular moment, as he dipped her, it looked horribly awkward and jerky, as she refused to give him her weight. What made it worse is that it was clear that Patsy had a great deal of talent.

But as frustrated as I was, my heart went out to her. Her fear would have been palpable even if it hadn't shown so clearly on her face. I also knew that her marriage has just broken up and that faith in men must be in extremely short supply - and that in a dance as intimate as the waltz, a dance in which the man has almost total control as the lead, that faith is absolutely essential.

I learned to waltz informally, in the house of folks who were so into ballroom dancing they built a ballroom onto their house instead of a garage. Every Sunday night, 7-10pm, was ballroom dancing night. I was never as consistent a participant as my housemates were, but I had loads of fun and learned a great deal.

One of the things I learned was that my favourite dance was the waltz. There is nothing, nothing, like letting go and just BEING in the arms of a man who can dance the's dancing on air, flying, a taste of utter freedom.

But to get there, you have to trust; you have to let him lead. And I owe my ability to do that to one of the expert dancers who insisted on holding me by the small of the back (I far prefer the waist hold for the waltz to the 'oh my hand is just on your shoulder/side' standard closed hold. I want to be held, damn it) as the ONLY hold - no hands extended, nothing. If anything happened, I had to trust him to catch me.

I cannot even begin to tell you how terrified I was. I kept waiting for the back of my head to meet the parquet dance floor, even though I knew just how good he was. It didn't.

My waltzing improved astronomically as of that episode.

Watching Patsy and being simultaneously sympathetic and frustrated, wondering why the feeling was so familiar, I suddenly realised that this was how I often feel when my counselling hat is on: I understand, but I want them to realise that at this point, nothing but themselves is preventing them from moving forward. But 'moving forward' in those terms is so abstract, so vague. By contrast, moving forward in waltzing or dancing is so much more concrete, so much more rewarding, because you can see the improvement, see that you're ready.

Would it then, be possible to make 'moving forward' in therapy more concrete, clearer? If so, how? Listening to the judges say to Patsy almost exactly what I'd yelled at the screen, pairing the awareness of just how intimate the waltz is and the sense that Patsy Kensit's problems on the dance floor arose from her head space made me wonder...

...could something like the waltz be used to help *clear* one's head space, to move therapy forward?

We do a lot of talking in therapy. We talk through ideas, feelings, experiences. We make verbal realisations, huge leaps forward in emotional and cognitive understanding. We start to heal.

But far too often, our ability to make changes in the physical world lag far behind our cognitive understanding. That might be natural. But watching the waltz, I wondered: is it?

Is it that we're missing something; we're cutting something off? That we don't involve the body? I can emotionally understand that when a man touches my hair or tells me that it's beautiful, as my uncle used to, he intends no harm, but may well be trying to compliment me or show affection. But when a man touches my hair, the reaction is *visceral*, not cognitive. It's like a spinal reflex: it doesn't go to the brain; I don't consciously process before I react.

I needed to learn to be still with men touching my hair, stroking it. To let it happen. To PRACTISE it. Over years, I did - and found the joy in it, even if I tensed first. And so, when the day came that a good male friend cheekily tugged my hair as he came up behind me, I felt nothing but surprise and 'Who?' till I turned round and relaxed into it as he teased me in greeting.

It wasn't till later that day that I realised how far I'd come - and how much of that reaction had depended on practising the physical enactment of the cognitive understanding that a man touching my hair could be a wonderful thing that represented genuine affection, not something creepy.

And so I wonder if it is the same with trusting and intimacy: even as we talk about it, understand the reasons why we do what we do, do we need to find safe ways in which to practise it so that we can learn - or re-learn - it? So that we develop what is essentially a 'muscular memory' for it?

If that is the case, then could something like the waltz - a dance that is the epitome of partnership and trust - be used to help build/rebuild those qualities in a non-threatening, almost sideways manner? Could something that is essentially play (and non-threatening, unlike 'your homework is to place your profile on an internet dating site') with someone who doesn't trip our defences against intimacy (the way a love interest might) help develop a muscular memory of being held, of not being dropped - abstractly, trust - that could then be carried into a relationship?

If we married cognitive and physical in therapy somehow - whether we send clients off for massage, dance, practising certain skills in the physical world in ways that feel like play, rather than work - would they move faster? Be less stuck? Could learning go both ways?

My inclination is to say 'yes', because cognitively processing your feelings and physically processing them are two very different things: there's a reason we use 'visceral' to describe incredibly strong emotion. One of the things Donald Kalsched, a Jungian psychologist, says about trauma is that it splits an archetype along the intellectual/affective axis - I can't help but wonder if the physical might not be a quicker, more powerful way into affect - and if, alongside talking, it might not reunite the two more quickly.

Another side benefit of this might be teaching clients to listen to bodies they may have dissociated from for various reasons. This may allow them to pick up emotions earlier than they might have done before, and allow them to know when they are going against their integrity rather than with it.

I'm not sure about this; it's only a fledgling thought. But something resonates - something feels right.


For Patsy Kensit, I hope that her time with Robin Windsor helps her heal from a difficult year, and though she's done the waltz, here's hoping that the rhumba, tango and salsa bring a spring to her step and a smile to her face again.

As for you, wherever you are - physically or emotionally, remember:

Life's a dance you learn as you go
Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow
Don't worry about what you don't know
Life's a dance you learn as you go keep dancing.