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Friday, 1 July 2016

The Messy Moment in the Midst of Change...



I am finding a couple of analogies to be helpful to describe how things feel for me at the moment. Within the mayhem of current changes, deceits, broken promises, and the huge uncertainty of the last two weeks especially, we are left wondering what on earth is going on on our small blue dot in space.

Change. Big change. That's what's going on. And although change is the only thing of which we will ever be sure, we seem never to get to find change comfortable.

But I have two images running in my mind - one is automotive, and the other nautical. The first comes from my (somewhat vague, it has to be said) understanding of what goes on in a gear-box when we change gear in a car. (If you're in the US, we're talking 'stick-shift' here!) As we depress the clutch, the cogs in the gear-box begin to spin pretty uncontrollably. They are not now driving the car forwards; we are in free-wheel mode. Then we engage another gear, release the clutch, magic happens, and we are able to drive forwards again. If we think back to when we learned to drive, sometimes we would be in that 'neutral' space for a l-o-n-g time whilst we tried to engage a new gear without putting little bits of metal all over the road. We had no drive, weren't able to concentrate quite so clearly on the steering, and it was all a bit of a relief when both hands could be back on the wheel, feet settled on the 'familiar' pedals, and we were off again to where we wanted to go. Neutral - no drive - everything spinning out of control - only one hand on the wheel - feet doing a complicated dance.... Hmm, yes, change....

The other image I have is nautical. When one is sailing along merrily, sails full, hand on the tiller or wheel, boat leaning a little/lot, but balanced and happy, all is well. Then someone suggests 'tacking', or 'going about'.... This means quite a lot of noise, motion, angle-changes (with spilt tea!),  bouncing about, clambering around, and probably a considerable amount of shouting (!)..... There is a moment when the helmsman calls 'Ready about'....and people get to their stations to hold the appropriate sheets (ropes) to either let go of, or pull in on, depending, things are placed where they can't fall over (which rarely works, but there you go...), and the call is given, 'helm to lee', or 'lee-oh' as the tiller or wheel is turned into the wind and the boat's bow (nose) turns to another direction. The thing is, depending on the amount of wind and the size of the sea-state, there can be an incredible amount of noise and racket, bluster and ungainly movement - not to mention the possible explosion of enough swear words to turn Ann Widecombe's swear-loathing face a very disapproving shape - until the sails fill again from the other side and 'way' (forward movement) is found again in the new direction. The space between sailing balanced and happy in one direction and sailing balanced and happy in another is full of, shall we say, moments which are often difficult to understand, cope with, or enjoy!

Recognise this at the moment? Spinning cogs, held breath, one-handing steering, the dicey uncertainty of gear-changing on the road...? And the bumpy, rolly, noisy, shouty, uncomfortable, can't see straight, often downright terrifying 'tacking' at sea....?

Hang in there everyone - it's just change....! The wind will fill the sails soon, the new direction will pick up, and we'll feel more settled again. The important thing? Yes, keep your eye on the road signs, and on the wind, sails, and compass, and let's choose our direction wisely. I reckon we've got a right old 'headwind' just now - meaning the wind is coming right out of the direction we want to go, so, as one can't sail directly into the wind, we are going to have to 'tack' (zigzag') our way to the new, but that's just sailing for you!

"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore." (Andre Gide)

Painful or stiff legs? Donkey-Leg Syndrome....



I've been finding a lot of 'leg-work' going on in my students these last couple of weeks. And in several people I know. Stiff legs, sore legs, cramps, legs which don't seem to want to work. For many this is a new and unexplained 'symptom'. Well, this is how it seems to be to me...

Imagine you're walking down the path, and suddenly there's a whoosh and a bang... The path before you disappears.... First thing you will likely do is take a sharp intake of breath, pull your head down into your shoulders, and at least release all that in-breath on a yelp, if not a shout... Then, you would experience what I call 'donkey-legs'....

Years ago, when Donkey Derbys (races) were a regular part of the annual village fetes around England, I would pay my money, take to a donkey, kick it on at the start line, and we would all set off for about 5 metres and then the donkeys would, one by one, stop dead in their tracks; forelegs braced out before them, refusing to move forward an inch. If I was lucky I stayed on board, but considering a donkey's shoulders are about as wide as a knife-edge, that was rare. I think this was the donkey's idea of fun! But I digress....

The point is that with their forelegs braced firmly out in front of them, all movement was halted. And bracing the legs requires much tension within them. So, when the path ahead of you, like in the last two weeks, has disappeared, you find your legs are stopping you falling over the edge/into the abyss/ going where you haven't decided to go... Whichever...

Two weeks ago the UK experienced a referendum about their remaining in or leaving the EU. Many thought it a given that we would remain, - so much so that a 'Brexiter' even set up a government petition in readiness to swing the result back to leaving when they lost the vote. Yet we're leaving....

But now we have a conundrum for both leavers and remainers... Where is the path? Is there a road ahead? Is it smooth or bumpy? Flooded? Or maybe crumbling on the edge of a ravine...? It's dark. No one seems to have a map. No one is going ahead to lead us forwards. There's a lot of noise and bluster, but no information. And yet we're, in reality, having to walk forwards because life doesn't wait.... So we're walking forwards on 'donkey-legs'.... Trying to go in two directions at the same time.

No wonder a lot of legs are stiff and/or hurt just now!!

My advice has been - and is (no matter your particular 'disappeared path' within your life at any time) is to be willing to stop, just for a moment, even just mentally, in order to acknowledge the shocking change in your life. It doesn't matter if it's shocking to everyone; if it's shocking to you, it's shocking. Come to a pause, letting your legs know that you won't rush them, forcing them to move as if the road ahead is still there, smooth and level. Ask them to soften a little - remind your knees and all your toe joints that they are designed to be bendy - and then walk forward with them gently, kindly, baby-steps if needed, so you are on them. Let them balance you as you step into the dust and mire, able to halt at any time you need to in order to think more clearly as to what to do next. It's the charging forwards in grand bravado on legs which want to hold you back in safety which creates the stiffness and pain.

For us in the UK, whether one is a Brexiter or a Remainer, (how quickly new words are born!) slow and steady gains the end right now. Feel gently for the new path within the air thick with everything it is thick with just now. Which is a lot.

Thank you legs. Thank you for caring about me.