Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Thank you body

 I could have sworn I'd fessed up here to this cringemaking notion I have, that the people who have used their talents and skills and more, something of their deepest, best selves, to make available an experience of real connection in the pandemic's wilderness of solitude, loneliness, and isolation, who did acts of enormous, heart-feeding good because they knew people needed it, those people are in fact its saints. But I did a little search in the archives and no. 

The reason I mention it now is because I'm going to write about the idea in the post's name, and that phrase belongs to one of my pandemic saints, Betty Grumble, who is a genuine goddess and who did nearly a hundred online Grumble Boogie sessions this year (all archived in her Instagram feed's IGTV section) - joyful, energetic, inclusive, funny, accessible, hot, and a she has a rare gift for making dance not a spectacle but an awakening.  

I looked out for saints of the pandemic, and I'm still looking out for them. It's a way of seeking out smoking gun evidence that people are ready to exert themselves to bring a bit of light into the world. Jennifer Ehle sat in her car and read Pride and Prejudice into her phone camera, chapter by chapter. Jarvis Cocker did a disco by live feed from his living room and sometimes his girlfriend, his unimaginably groovy yet ordinary real-person girlfriend (and by being so ordinary in her grooviness, even more groovy, of course) got up and danced - it was just six weeks of Saturday nights but they read the mood of isolation and made it a lo-fi, deadpan funny, transcendent shared experience. (You'll enjoy him talking about this year on a recent episode of Midnight Chats.) I know this is in a different register entirely, but Sally McManus, leading the Australian union movement, took effective action at the beginning of the pandemic and got Jobkeeper. The government didn't do that because they thought it was a good idea, they did it because they were pressured into it. Adriene Mishler, who has been doing what she does for a long time, was ready when millions of people needed her. I needed her twice a day for, goodness, two months? I don't know but it was all of winter, basically.

Today after work I paid a visit to the brow maintenance depot and had my apocalypse brows* seen to. I also expensively solved a problem I had about what to wear to the posh Christmas lunch work function at the Town Hall tomorrow. I've gone up a pants size since the last time I bought pants from Cos but I don't really mind. I like the pants and the nice restrained loose elegant linen and silk knit top, both very dark blue, which I came home with and I will feel ready for pretty much anything tomorrow when I put them on. This is important because I have organised this event and there will be 96 people at it, and there will a lot of concern for me to feel that it goes smoothly and people are looked after, and also a lot of intense greeting people again after this long, difficult separation.

Last night I combed my eyebrow hairs straight up, instead of letting them lie along the brow line, to see just how long the long ones really were and I was really a bit taken aback. The woman this afternoon trimmed those and brought the outlines back into focus and at her suggestion she put a bit of dye on them to cover up the two hairs in each brow that have turned white. My eyebrows are now jarringly dark, to my eyes, and thick and shapely, and they remind me by turns of Gough's eyebrows and Chanticleer's tail. These are of course both very honourable associations, and I will slowly get used to my face having an element of artificiality to it and at the same time the tint will fade away. 

It's so obvious I guess and trite to observe that living through a pandemic is an intensely bodily experience. My pandemic has been. Acute awareness of my own body and its vulnerabilities as it moves around public places, and other people's bodies conceived of as vectors of danger. The solitude amplified the way that bad feelings hung about in limbs, torso and head as tightnesses, crampings, strange tense flutterings of nerves and uncomfortable sensations. I have not had any kind of virus at all for well over a year now, I barely remember what it's like to have a sore throat or a blocked nose, but virus anxiety at its peak made me so attentive to minute fluctuations in how 'well' I felt from moment to moment. And my body has changed, so much, and this has really been a hard experience. Sedentariness and a re-awakened tendency to nervous eating put on kilos of flesh. Muscular parts, like my bike-rider legs, got smaller and softer, I lost much of the core strength and stability that made physical activity always an easy, pleasant, pain-free experience, and all this change happened so quickly that I became disoriented in my own body. My sense of control over my body, and with it, enjoyment of it and appreciation of it, is returning, but not because of a return to physical fitness and to the shape and size of the body which fits into most of the clothes hanging in my wardrobe. It might be quite a while before that body comes back, if it ever does. What is happening is I am coming to terms with the one I have. It's actually good.

It is so easy, especially in a body that has known about trauma, to be distressed by, or angry about, or disappointed by, the kinds of changes my body has made this year., and to fall into punishing it for being weak and imperfect. Much harder to value it, dig it, have fun with it, look after it and thank it for being what it is and doing what it can do. 

The other really important thing that happened today is I used the sub-street women's toilets next to the old GPO and as I descended the stairs, I was gladdened by the clean and shining terrazzo floor tiles and cubicle walls, the row of mushroom-like vinyl padded stools facing a long low mirror, the smell of mild disinfectant regularly mopped around the toilets and sinks and the soft illumination coming through the opaque skylights. I know this tile would have been chosen because it's pink, but I don't care. I think it's lovely.

*credit to Zoe for the photograph which gave me this impeccable, enigmatic, magical phrase


Fyodor said...

I've rather enjoyed Sophie Ellis Bextor's kitchen disco, no doubt for the wrong reasons. She's had five ginger sons but doesn't seem to have aged at all in the past 20 years, which doesn't seem quite right, really.

lucy tartan said...

If loving that is wrong, I don’t want to be right

lucy tartan said...

Five ginger sons is really a lot

Fyodor said...

Yah. Worse than a misfortune, more like a fairy curse. Mayhap that was the fairy geezer's price for the gift of eternal yoof. Bit more demanding than a dodgy portrait in the attic, but.