choosing to float

i don’t swim (it’s a stereotype. i know).

i mean, i can. if you throw me in the water i can paddle and i can do a sort of an approximation of different swimming-strokes, but i can’t swim laps. after a lap i feel like i’m dying, gasping for air, my lungs burning. i never learnt to breathe… well, i never learnt the breathing technique for swimming laps, that is. the irony is that most of the people i love, are fish when it comes to water. not me. i am a land creature. much as i love liquid, when i’m in it, i’m not in my element.

ironically, when i was in my 20’s, i’d regularly go for flotation sessions. you climb into a tank filled with salt-water, close the trap-door behind you, partially immerse yourself in the water and just float in absolute, blind-as-a-bat darkness. it’s a strange sensation, with the water in your ears, listening to your own breathing. it’s also a bit of a sensory-deprivation chamber, so you release your weight to the water and it’s you and your mind. nowhere to go, nothing to do, but just let go; a kind of meditation. and it’s perfectly safe (unless you’re a claustrophobe) because the water is barely deep enough to cover you. it’s just the salt content that keeps you afloat, like your own microcosmic red sea. so it’s okay – really just like lying in a big bath.

it’s rare, though, that i find myself in a pool in which one can actually swim, one that’s long enough and deep enough for any real kind of exertion. and no, you won’t find me going near the pool at the gym – me, in a swimsuit infront of a gym full of body-conscious people? hell, no! this weekend, however, there was the most beautiful pool at melody hills, with a natural filtration system and it was bliss to jump in the water after a sweaty dance session.

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however, after i dove in and tried to touch the bottom, i realized that i was in way too deep for that. and i almost panicked, gasping for air, furiously doggy-paddling till i found my breast-stroke and made my way to the other end of the pool. once i’d managed to calm myself down, i did a few laps, resting at each end in-between and then i floated on my back looking at the trees and the sky overhead. but i realized i still hadn’t let go, there was still the fear of getting water in my lungs, in my nose – “she wasn’t waving, but drowning…” . and i had to allow myself to relax into the sensation and know that i was safe.

it made me think of something i saw on social media just recently – if you find yourself in quicksand, it said to slowly draw your legs up, till you could float on your back. good to know. if i ever find myself in quick-sand. 🙂 but it made me realize that no matter how deep the water or how rough, i could always float, yes, i might swallow some, but if i allow myself, i can simply let go, i can breathe, and i can choose to float.

i think there’s a lesson there. it’s something worth keeping in mind.

even on land.

peek-a-boo!

yes, can you believe it, it’s me! or according to the grammar nazi version of me, it is i!

i’ve written exactly 7 posts on this blog since the beginning of january 2013. yes, i counted. it’s like the words dried up, or at least they stayed mostly quarantined in my head. and despite my best intentions to return to what has always been my core identity – someone who writes. a writer. a poet. a smithy of words – something has blocked me. till now.

this past weekend i had the priviledge of attending The Artery – a creative immersion led by my friend verity maud at melody hills retreat in the magaliesberg.

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it was one of the best things i didn’t know i needed. we wrote, danced like mad dervishes, photographed, meditated, swam, walked, had intense conversations and i got to dust off some cobwebs which have been accumulating in so many areas of my life.

i know i’m creative. after all, i’m known as a maker of things! but i’ve been in a very long limbo, in something of a creative slump and this week-end helped to blow me wide open, both physically and emotionally. and i want to stay that way. the past 3 days helped me determine to get proactive and start my creative juices flowing again.

so this my friends, is me. i mean, i. 😉

i’m back.

word…

Saturday 22 March, 3:35am

Words.

Words have always been my friends. Under the anonymous, invisible cloak of night, when the monsters crawl from the corners, from under the bed, from the scary depths of my being, I have found my safety in words. Words have been my steadfast companions. Sometimes truncated and parsed. Sometimes poetic. But always steadfast. Always at my side – always at hand. Not always rolling from my tongue, but scrolling from my pen to the page, always.
Words: My reliable, sometimes relentless, companions.
And yet. For the last year or so, they seem to have deserted me. Seem to have slunk away to skulk in some corner, sulking. Like a self-imposed time-out. I guess a part of me has felt abandoned, whereas another part has let it be. “If you love something, set it free”. But I’ve realized that I miss my erstwhile companions. After a lifetime of seemingly inextricable entanglement, I feel quite lost without. I’m hoping that they’ve chosen to go walkabout, but only on a long leash, or are boats, bobbing merely beyond the harbour, ready on the right tide, to come floating back to my bay. But if they’re birds, flown up into the blue, I’m hoping, I really am, that they’ll be back to nestle in the tangled trees of my brain, and that they’ll once more sing their songs to me.
Please. Please come back my sirens (I am waiting here in this dark night with the black dog at my side).
Again seduce me. 

the bad samaritan

as i was driving away from the gym this evening, a waif of a woman – older, well-dressed, bejewelled (she said her name is jan, she’s from a dance-background, will be 60 in december, lives on a plot the other side of edenvale) frantically tapped on my window and stopped me in traffic, asking for a ride. she spun me a story about her car being towed and costing R2000 and how her card was maxed out and she now needed R150 for cab-fare back to edenvale or could i drop her at the gautrain.
as south africans we are so used to people trying to do us in/rob us, that i immediately was wary. it smelled like just another con. especially when she started talking about how she still needs to get pre-paid electricity and cat-food. long story short – i was holding up traffic and my front-seat was full, so i told her to hop in the back and that i would drive out of my way to drop her off on empire road where she said she could catch a mini-bus taxi if i would give her the money for it. which is what i did. she asked if i could draw R150 for her and she’d leave her ID with me so she could come back and repay me, but leary of the con, i told i couldn’t do that and instead gave her R20.
with the sky grey above us, and another jozi storm imminent, i dropped her off just shy of empire road and she gave me a hug before getting out and we went our different ways.
and as i drove away i felt so guilty. i felt like the antithesis of the good samaritan and part of me wanted to turn around and find her and at least give her R100 so she could find her way home. but i didn’t. and now i can’t stop thinking about that waif of a woman who told me that she was “gedaan”, somewhere on the side of the road. and i hope she’s ok and finds her way. and i feel like, even if it was a con, i should have given her the money. and i feel that somehow, as a human being, today, i failed.

update: i also posted this on fb and a friend commented – She sounds suspiciously like a woman that was hanging around the petrol station on Oxford with the same story… so maybe my instincts were right. but still…

atrophy…

take it from me: growing old isn’t child’s-play… not by a long shot.

i was about to start training with a new trainer – you know, trying to jumpstart a new body after binneland. however, once he took my blood pressure (repeatedly), he declined to train me without a letter from my doctor.

i was thoroughly annoyed.

throughout my life, my BP has been either normal, or low. in fact, when i saw my doc for the flu about a month ago, it was perfectly normal. obviously these readings were an abberration…

so, i reluctantly made an appointment with my gp who’s been my dr for years now, and had a ripley’s moment… my BP was still through the roof and way above the norm for me.

fast-forward: instead of being at the gym working on chiselling out a new body, i was being fitted with a 24-hr blood pressure monitor. let me tell you, i don’t wish that thing on anybody. it measures your BP every 30 minutes with an uncomfortable, vice-like grip. i felt like my arm would explode like those over-ripe zombie-heads on “the walking dead”. today my arm is numb and sore and i’ve officially been relegated to the over-the-hill crowd with once-a-day BP meds. my BP is fracking me!!!

and now i’ve spent the equivalent of the trainer’s fee on medical stuff in any case. damn, as i said on fb earlier tonight,

“wouldn’t it be fabulous if age came only with wisdom, experience and knowledge and none of the atrophy that is so determined to turn us into dust?”

because i’m starting to feel decidedly like i’m crumbling… and this atrophy is certainly not “a trophy” i want on my shelf.

back alleys

image by altair4444 on deviantart

the dreaded lurgie leapt from whence it was lurking and felled me. splat! unseemly. not pretty. not like a wwf choreographed for maximum impact pas de deux,  just splat!

i’ve gotten to know my body and the propensity my lungs have for succumbing like the  low-self-esteemed girl at the bar to the commonest advance, so i got my ass to the doc post haste. antibiotics, cortisone, nebulizing, steaming – that’s pretty much been the routine for the past week. like a full-time, full-blown (pun intended) job.
not. so. much. fun.
but here’s the irony: today, finally i’m better. yes, i didn’t have a choice – i had to drive probably 100km and had about 5 or 6 errands which necessitated a not-so-scenic trip around greater jozi that i haven’t taken in probably 20 years. i found myself down a back road which prompted flashbacks of getting lost pre-gps/iphone days in my very first car, a tomato-red baja-bug with white roll-bars  which was my baby, till my brother decided to find out just why they were called roll-bars…
but i digress…
i’m better. stuffy-headed, but better. and yet…
i feel dis-eased. as in…
the state of not being easy…
a limbo between what was, what is, what will be…
i find myself musing, unamused.
i’m not someone who tends to get lonely – i’m usually hankering for more time alone, not because i don’t appreciate or value my loved ones, it’s just that i’m so used to getting lost in the back-alleys of my brain. not necessarily the safest of neighbourhoods, but the vagaries of which i find familiar. even the booby-traps, ambushes and stickups are vaguely known.
but maybe weeks with mainly my own company and only the occasional respite of social interaction, iteration, are taking their toll…
so i sit like some depressed demigod, watching the marionette strings, knotted, gnarled from my fingers – i watch the puppet dance or slump inert, or follow the cajoling of canines who want food, affection or to be let out or in and i’m not entirely surprised to find myself at the end of those strings.
the puppet-master.
the puppet.

squeaky wheels…

i posted this on fb earlier, but thought maybe i should repost it here and maybe, just maybe, i’ll be inspired to start blogging again…

snapshot: profoundly annoying, bad face-lifted, barbara walters look-alike at the US embassy going on and on about the appointment she insists her very efficient secretary made for her, but which is not reflecting on the embassy list. “i’m not computer-literate,” she says, “but my secretary is!”

at the door (where she snaps at the guard touching her to encourage her to move out of the way), she asks where i’ve parked – and says that even without a parking pass she “insisted” on parking in the embassy lot (i, btw, sweet-talked the guy into letting me park). she asks if i’m american, then nods approvingly. “yeah, we’re bolshy that way!” she proclaims smugly (though, like me, her slipping accent reveals that she was born in south africa). she’s small, but with a leonine sense of entitlement to match the color and the size of her hair – except of course, where her roots have grown out. 

she’s creating so much noise pollution, taking over the smallstrip of waiting room, that everyone else starts to side-eye one another. one man, visibly annoyed, grabs his wife’s reader’s digest and shuffles off, in vain trying to escape the range of her all-encompassing self-importance. another woman who has finished her embassy business, breathes a huge sigh of relief and tosses me a look of pity as she exits hurriedly. it takes everything i have to not yell at Madam-I’m-More-Important-Than-You to JUST SHUT UP! 

but i’m well-bred. i contain myself. i have an appointment, but she manages to get her paperwork taken care of before mine. even at the american embassy. guess the squeaky wheel does get the grease… or if your sense of entitlement is large enough, you can steamroller others into getting everything your way.