Photo Challenge for CRPS Awareness, Day 01

A Day In My Life Photo Challenge for 30 Days Of RSD/CRPS Awareness, June 2013

Day 01 – A picture of YOU today, introduce yourself

I’m a post-graduate researcher with multiple chronic conditions. Silliness is a tool in my pain management tool kit. 😉

Pretend Superhero

x

If CRPS was an animal….. (tee hee)

If CRPS and it’s comorbidities were an animal, it would be big. It would have claws. And it would be dissociated from reality.

The animal doesn’t get a name. That would make it more solid, more ‘real’. It’s an ‘it’, a ‘thingamajig’, a ‘wossname’, a ‘doobree’. Besides, it has a tendency to change and morph over time.

The critter means well, but gets it wrong. A lot! It galumphs around trying to be useful but doesn’t listen properly and never double checks what it’s being told. It just grins in it’s despairingly cross-eyed, boggled brained manner and clatters it’s uncut claws across the shiny floors, totally unaware that it’s leaving huge great marks that we then have to try and smooth out.

Training it is a slow process. It’s not all here and easily distracted. It has a tendency to just keep ‘being’ in a little world of it’s own. Scattering sticky slobber as it skitters about the place.

Living with a huge critter that is dangerously built, but well-meaning in a miss-the-point, thick-as-two-short-planks kinda way is, well, it’s tiring. It’s wearing. Truly exhausting. And with it’s tendency to hiccup and burp it’s flaming breath at the most inopportune moments, no kennel will take it in, not even for a weekend break.

Keeping it’s attention on what you’re trying to say to it is tricky.. one shiny thing in the distance and it’s off again! So it takes constant work to keep grabbing it’s attention, distracting it from the shiny things, endlessly saying “Ooh look what’s that just here? Isn’t it interesting? Isn’t it pretty? Lets keep very still and quiet so we don’t disturb it…”        *sigh*

I’ve had my critter for many years and it’s improved a bit on the stuff I’ve been trying to teach it over a long period. Endless repetition and routine seems to help it develop a different habit, rather than listen to any reasoning I tried. But it develops new bad behaviours if something catches it’s interest, and then I have a new challenge once more. So I’m constantly having to do my research and learn about the incorrect behaviours to figure out ways to put them right, or at least improve them enough to reduce the hiccup and skittering damage!

Becoming a critter handler is… a surprise! It’s not a choice. It’s just something that happens in life to some of us, and they’re so big and unruly that we have to learn fast or flounder in the enthusiastic slobber. Ick! Most of us flounder for a while – going from a life with no critter… to a life with a huge galumphing critter is, er, well, it’s a bit of a shock to say the least. But like any other animal, it’s less about shouting at it, and more about working out how to make it listen and learn. Which is relentlessly hard work in extreme cases like this one, but worth it for the small successes as the gains are actually pretty large.

CRPS critter

My CRPS journey to happiness

Hello! Yes, it’s me, please don’t fall over in shock! I know I’ve been awol for a while whilst getting to grips with the final dissertation for my studies. Today is allocated to studying, well, in my functional moments anyway! However, I’m in a lot of pain from how I’ve been sitting so I’ve moved to the sofa (complete with duvet and hot water bottle, of course) and rather than faff about online doing unproductive things whilst I wait for the pain levels to calm down a bit, I decided to pop in here and wish you all…. (wait foooor iiiiiit…)….. a very happy first ever “International Happiness Day”!

Guffaw!

Seeing as my brain is full of study and it’s a more painy day than usual I don’t relish the thought of going out for a physio walk today and getting told to be happy, when I’m concentrating on moving through the pain! But I do like the idea of formulating some replies that would subtly inform whilst making me laugh hilariously at their surprise at my daring to be so jokey about such a serious subject as my health! (Twisted sense of humour, much?) 😉

I remember a horrific physio walk, back in my early physio days. The physio experience got soooo much better because I persevered with it, but this was back when I was desperately trying to slowly make it around the (very small) block without bursting into tears. Then the ruddy postman cheerfully suggested to me that I should “cheer up love, it may never happen!” as he passed me by. Okay, so the thought of punching him in the face did occur to me in my imagination, but in reality I just feigned a smile and promptly burst into tears the moment he’d turned away.

We all know those days. But I’ve found that happiness creeps into my life in new ways. Admittedly I look for it because I want to be happy. I’ve spent time thinking about what truly makes me happy, and it really is the simple things that make me both happy and kinda peaceful on the inside, too.

I smile when the sun shines. I really enjoy a nice cup of tea (oh okay, many many cups of tea!). I adore my friends near and far, (some of my closest friends are beautiful souls I met through online CRPS groups, and even lovelier is that they are beginning to meet those of my closest friends who know me from the 3D world and they are becoming friends with each other, too. *glee*).

I loved hearing the first Spring birdsong a while ago (Spriiiing is on the way… waaarmth is on the way! Okay, so we’ve had more snow since then but I didn’t foresee that at the time so I still smiled at the Spring songstrel)!

I set myself little goals because that way I am not endlessly fighting to get to a far-off distant goal. Instead I achieve little goals along the way to the big goal, each of  which gives me a sense of achievement and makes me smile. It brings a feeling of capability and self-worth with it, too. Often my big goals are questionable as to whether I can actually achieve them, but my view is that I don’t know if I don’t try, and if I achieve lots of little goals along the way then every bit is an achievement to be proud of, however far I do or don’t get in the broader picture.

For example… I’d love to do a PhD, so I’m battling my health to get my masters degree. I don’t really expect to get a PhD, but I expect to keep looking into the possibilities and seeing if there’s a format that could work for me. Never say never, right?!

Another example… I’d love to represent my country doing Tai Chi at the Paralympics, but Tai Chi isn’t a part of the Paralympics and won’t be any time in the foreseeable future. (Yep, I even emailed the International Paralympic Committee to ask! Well, if you don’t ask, you don’t get, right?! tee hee). I’m not saying I’m that good, but I do tend to aim high these days just to see what is possible. I’m still working on improving my Tai Chi as much as I can for as long as I can. I see it as something which can help me through my life into my grey-haired years (which, between you and me, I appear to be embarking upon already but they’re not too noticeable, yet, shhhhh 😉 ). One of the keys with CRPS is the balance between activity and rest, for me Tai Chi is a perfect activity challenge. (Here’s another secret… I’m even entering a big Tai Chi tournament! I figured, “why not?” It’s ‘only’ a beginners classification. I’d love to whoop some able-bodied asses with my slow-mo’ disabled styleeee, hehehe)!

I also wanted to do something to help my fellow CRPS patients, hence this blog came into existence. But with my professional(ish – my health stopped me from working after the psych’ degree) background training I wanted to do some research that would help in a more professional capacity. It’s all very well being an ‘expert patient’, but I figured a paper from a ‘researcher’ has more weight with the multi-disciplinary professionals involved, (not much more weight, but a bit, hey?). So I’ve spent my final masters module doing just that. Goodness knows if I’ll get these pain levels down enough to hit the dissertation deadline and pass, but after that I’ll have no deadline, and I will have the time to spend on writing a paper to share.

All this stuff, broken down into little chunks, little achievements, little moments of joy, (yes I’m still adding to my Jar of Joy!), moments of happiness both the big (a bronze medal at a little local interclub tournament last November. I know I didn’t write a post about it, I should have but I was feeling shy about it at the time. I think the reality has sunk in a bit more, now!) and the small (the sun shining in through the window whilst I sip a lovely cup of tea). I have soooo much happiness these days, I know it sounds weird but I can’t really explain it other than to say that my wants and appreciations in life have changed. Not that they’ve been downgraded, although it used to feel that way during the earlier stages of transformation, it’s actually more that I’ve recaptured my childlike appreciation of the things that we so easily grow to miss as busy responsible adults. Perhaps that’s why I like hanging out with the nieces so much! They’re about the same age as I am in my heart these days 😉

Fun. Silliness. Joy. Happiness. These are the ways I live these days. Despite (and quite possibly because) of the massive relationship losses that so many of us experience. Achieving small goals is valuable for the associated personal progression (I love learning 😀 ). I know I have pain and additional neurological, autonomic- and central nervous system issues with resulting physical and neurological difficulties, but I prefer to see them as a challenge! I relish a challenge these days! I never thought of myself as competitive, I want everyone to do well and I like to encourage others to progress, to become, to *be*, if that is what they want to do. But it turns out that there is a type of competitiveness I hadn’t taken into account before, and that is my competitiveness with myself! That is, that I always want to push harder, to be the best that I can be at something, but still within realistic boundaries applied by my health. After all, pushing too hard only results in going backwards healthwise and having to cover the same ground again to get back to the standard I was at before. That’s fine, I’m in no hurry. I am not competing with anyone else. I am on my own path and I’ll take it at a pace that is most productive for me. I’m fine with that, it’s worked for me so far.

It’s always exciting looking at how far I’ve come and gleefully dream up new ludicrous ‘big’ goals to make me grin! Half the fun is inventing a new goal and fully expecting that I can only get so far but that I’ll be so proud of myself for what I manage,… and then surpassing my own expectations. That’s fantastic! I do not expect to achieve my goals, but I expect to work towards them and achieve stuff along the way! Gosh I’m a paradoxical chick, huh?! 😀

Elle and the Auto Gnome, Tree of my CRPS experience

Above is a tree of my journey that I created a while ago. I began it with my health changes as the roots and trunk – the beginning of this particular tack of my journey. Then the experience got less concentrated, more diverse. It branched out into many things. All inter-related, many overlapping in timescale, so there’s no pattern to the branches, just a lot of words, feelings, experiences and more that led me to starting this blog. Then I found a whole new chapter of my journey lay before me. I look forward to living it, I’m intrigued to see what happens next in the story!

Lotsa love and happiness from me,

x

Crazy Sock Day!

Yes, you read that correctly… today is Crazy Sock Day, 2013! 😀

Crazy Sock Day 2013

And, yes… I am wearing my mismatched, loud stripey socks as I write this…

Crazy Sock Day 1

This is an event created by young Melanie Dickens to raise awareness about her conditions CRPS and Gastroparesis.

The premise is beautifully simple – wear crazy socks and when someone asks you why you’re wearing them you can tell them. Simple see? Go ooooon, you knooow you want to 😀

Melanie Dickens, Crazy Sock Girl, to post on blog with permission from her Dad Shawn, x

Super Melanie herself: Superhero and Gatherer of Excellent Socks
(picture posted with kind permission from Crazy Sock Girl’s Dad aka Super Shawn)

Here’s Melanie’s Facebook page created for this year’s piccies to be posted upon… https://www.facebook.com/CrazySockDay, and there’s plenty of piccies turning up on there already 🙂

There’s still time people, get your socks and cameras out and join in 😀

You can even post your own crazy sock piccies on your social network pages, that way your friends can see them and gain helpful awareness even if they aren’t online today.

It’s fun and it’s easy to do. I suggested this event to my friends and readers on Facebook. It’s something anyone can join in with, it takes very little effort and you don’t necessarily need to know loads about the conditions, it’s an awareness thing. It’s the amount of heart that you put into it that counts. If someone asked me why I’m wearing crazy socks then I’d most likely science them into a brain-overloaded stupor with my first coupla sentences! So trust me – you wouldn’t be bad at this at aaall.

So my suggestion to my friends (who I can’t expect to know aaaall about my health the way I do, of course!) was that it would be a great way to let people know that they can actively try to avoid getting CRPS themselves (hurrah! fantastic knowledge for friends and loved ones) by taking vitamin C after any injury or operation (see the top of this page for more info) and also by not putting ice straight onto their skin (always wrap it in something like a tea-towel) and vary it… on for 10 minutes, off for 10 minutes, and so on (as ice switches off part of the autonomic nervous system if the skin temperature drops below a certain point and when it’s switches back on again that’s when the troubles become apparent. See? Science-induced stupor alert. Somebody stop me! 😉 ). (For people who already have CRPS, well, we steer clear of ice altogether as it’s really baaaaad news for the majority of us).

Crazy socks *and* tea, could this day get any better?

Crazy socks *and* tea, could this day get any better?

My lovely Magic Dude good naturedly takes his role as Back-up Blog Photographer all in his stride. Although I do get a few funny looks when I ask him to take a piccy of me looking slightly, erm, unusual! And that little amused look cropped up when I calmly and seriously donned my kinda-sock-hat-thingy! 😀

Crazy sock hat thingy and tea

Erm… yes, well, it was a thought. Don’t think it’ll catch on, though.

I don’t usually get to go out on a Thursday. Wednesday I’m at home recovering from my Tai Chi clas on Tuesday, and then Thursday I’m at home preparing to be able to get to Tai Chi on Friday. So there’s no-one to ask me about my socks today, even the postie had no reason to knock on the door and get sock-blinded! Good thing I can wear them on here as well, then, eh?!

Today was a little different though. I got a letter through the post advising me that disability benefits peeps are taking a little longer to process my Disability Living Allowance form as they’ve asked for a letter from my consultant…… who I haven’t actually seen yet! *sigh* I have, however, had two days of preliminary tests in his department so I wrote a responding letter basically saying… ‘hey, he hasn’t even seen me yet, but if you get any info’ on the tests send me a copy coz I know nuffink as yet. Oh and P.S. you do know he’s only looking into the Dys’ stuff right? I don’t have a CRPS consultant as I’ve been living with it for over 13 years.’ Hopefully that’ll clarify things for them (I’ve told them all this already, but hey, reiteration often helps the penny drop, eh?)! Blah blah blah, enough of the serious, get back to the Crazy Socks, woman!

Having to put my reply in the post meant that I had to allocate part of my morning physio’ to getting to the post box and back…. whilst wearing my mismatched socks! Yay!

Totally normal!

Totally normal!

I didn’t meet anyone to talk to, but I did get beeped at by a passing car. Not sure if they were trying to let me know that I’d put odd socks on or whether they were beeping a beware to other drivers about the imminent brightness they were about to encounter, but hey, the socks got noticed!

Well done Melanie for creating a day that many people join in with and which is so effective owing to it’s simple and cheerful foundation. Wonderful stuff honey, and congratulations on your third Crazy Sock Day. I look forward to many more, x

A jar of joy!

I’ve seen a suggestion flitting about on the social networks about noting down the good things in a slightly different way than we might usually think of, and I think it’s a great idea so I decided that I would follow the suggestion myself.

The suggestion begins with you re-using an old jar by giving it a new purpose for 2013….

I have a jam jar that I attempted my first ever glass painting on years ago, so it’s really messily done, but it’s still with me so rather than it being a jar-of-random-stuff-coz-I-don’t-know-where-else-to-put-them it has been reassigned to the job of my 2013 Jar of Joys! Of course, we could use any container we like, I think it adds a little something more if the container is pretty or meaningful in some way although, on the other hand, a fresh start with something new is also very meaningful and adds to the cause, too.

My Jar of Joy at the beginning of 2013

My Jar of Joy at the beginning of 2013

Then….

The idea is that whenever a good thing happens in 2013 we write a note of it (little bits of different coloured or patterned paper would be really pretty) and pop the notes into the jar. At the end of 2013 we have a jar of reminders of all the good things that it’s so easy to forget or not give it the importance it deserves in our memory. For those of us living with health conditions, or any other challenging life anomaly, this could be really beneficial to our satisfaction at the end of 2013 and looking ahead to 2014. Many of us have experienced the mixed emotions at the end of one dastardly tough year and trying to feel like it was worth it and that the new year will somehow be better. It is easy to remember the hardships, especially when they’re reinforced in our memories by occurring daily, so it’s even more important to remind ourselves of the little joys that so easily get lost along the way, x

From an ill health perspective ‘good things’ would mean slightly different things than perhaps a rock band roadie or NASA scientist might imagine 😉 If we manage a physio’ session with less pain, clean the bathroom and still have enough juice left to make ourselves a congratulatory cup of tea, if a good friend comes to visit and lighten our day, if we have a meal with family, or get to visit a library or museum  or see a film or play, If we dress ourselves without as much pain as usual, or put on an item of clothing that we couldn’t put on ourselves for a long time, any of these things and more are experiences and achievements to allow ourselves a moment smiling and a warmth in our hearts, and if they make you grin then they deserve to get jotted down and added to the jar. Think about what will make you smile when you look at them again at the end of the year, and those are the ones to note down.

I’ve started mine.So far there is note in there about one of my best buds coming round on New Year’s Eve to natter, make christmas Lego and pull crackers 🙂 And a note about Magic Dude taking me to the cinema on a date. (Yes, we live in the same house, but dates are great ways to treat yourselves to some couple time instead of worrying about bills or who’s going to do the dishes)! Oh yes, and one about sculpting in the snow with the nieces, too 🙂

I kept a couple of party hats that came out of christmas crackers which I’m currently using as my note paper for the jar!

christmas hats for the jar of joy

I have a tendency to keep things, I’m a sentimental 😉 So last year I kept scraps of memories in the form of things like cinema tickets and birthday cards, but this Jar of Joys allows me to note down moments that warmed my heart and made me smile as well. These are the moments that lift us, and make us feel all warm on the inside. So I reckon collecting them is no bad thing, and getting to read them during the next tricky transition from 2013 to 2014 seems ideal to me. I shall keep jotting down joys and see what I end up with at the end of the year 😀

x

An insomniac moment of poetry

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Sat downstairs awake once more,
Listening to the upstairs snore,
Restful in my sleeplessness,
Knowing he, at least, will wake refreshed, xx

Tomorrow is another day,
And through it I will make my way,
With outings of unusual type,
Then home to see my friend on Skype, xx

All is good despite the stealth,
Of worsening and scary health,
I live my life with joys I find,
You’re in my heart and in my mind, xx
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Those I love keep me going,
So you see, through this poem,..
My heart leads me through each day,
In the joy of love that lights my way, xx
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Good ole sofa and laptop combination!

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After writing this I wandered upstairs to bed to give the ‘sleep’ thing a go. Whilst I was lying there trying to convince my body to go into uber-relax mode I remembered that the lovely Carly had done the same thing, as she posted her own poem on here one night when she also could not sleep. (Carly’s poem is in the comments section on this link for you to read and it is beautifully positive).
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I write the occasional poem, but I don’t do it seriously, just for a bit of fun, or as an outlet. It’s a great way to get our emotions out. Sometimes we manage to say in a poem what we’d struggle to say otherwise. And the way a poem has an ending gives us a current summation point that we just don’t often get to experience in the middle of our ongoing lives. It breaks up the relentlessness into more manageable and simplified chunks. Sometimes it may even be easier to give our loved ones an insight into the personal experience of our conditions through poetry, it tends to cut to the chase and trim away all the extras.
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Why not try it yourself? Whether you are living with a condition or not, whether you’ve met me in the 3D world or online, whether you want to write a poem about deep and meaningful stuff or about the simple joys of tea and sunshine. The style, length etc can be whatever feels right, why not give it a whirl?
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And if you post your poems in the comments sections below I’ll collect them together and publish them in a post on this blog, accredited to the names you choose to give. I love the idea of a readers’ poetry post 😀
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Love to you all from me, x
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My Dream Day…

I started writing this a while ago, before the study deadline crept closer and took up most of my upright-time! So the first part is from before I started my helpful meds, (I’ll write a post on them once they’ve reached their optimum effect, x).

When I awoke this morning it was a good day. Magic Dude kindly brought me a cup of tea and I propped myself up just enough so that I could drink the tea without spluttering. For the first time in a long time, moving from the horizontal to the propped-up did not result in a crazily fast heart-rate. I could sit and enjoy my tea and begin the day with less symptoms.

The day continued to be good when we went to the supermarket, and after 10 minutes I did not experience unbelievably bad nausea. In fact, I succeeded in completing the full food-shopping trip. By the time we were queuing up I felt lightheaded, but waaay less than usual, and I felt nauseous but it was bearable. I could not believe that I was walking to the car aware of my surroundings and of what was going on. I did not need to be guided safely to the car for once.

When we got home I helped to unpack the shopping, I got the laptop out, and then the bad stuff began. I had to crouch down to get the printer, and with near-fainty symptoms that’s really bad idea. Despite moving slowly and carefully, the mere act of crouching and standing a few times resulted in my collapsing into the nearest armchair while some tweeting birdies flapped around my head.

That was it for my good day.

Now, a couple of hours later, I am propped up in bed with my laptop for company.

Now I might be thinking along a wonk here, but this doesn’t sound much like a dream day even for me! Perhaps I need to set my sights higher and get imagining. Oooh, now we’ve opened the field right up! But then again, stuff that seems normal to other people now seems to be amazing to me, so I don’t think I’m the best person to assess what is amazing anymore! Most people’s normal nice days seem just as impossible to me as if I was wishing to become an intergalactic art teacher or something. For me, ridiculous imaginings include going out, going on holiday, seeing the people that I love the most who I have been missing.

So… (writing this a few weeks later after my study deadline has passed 😉 )… first of all my dream day would last at least a week! Yep, it’s one of those wishing for more wishes things, but with an poor attempt at capping it. As if that’s gonna make it any less daft!

I would go to a concert with Magic Dude and I would dance around gleefully without hurting. In fact this concert would be abroad in some gorgeous old town set within some beautiful sweeping landscape which we could explore and hang out together in. There would be an abundance of veggie restaurants in the town that served low-key flavours. (Or maybe my tastebuds would be ‘normal’? Yeah, I like that idea)! And we’d stay in a spacious hotel with a memory foam mattress and a huge bathtub that I could relax in.

I would spend a day doing nothing but art. I think I’d save the drawing and painting and get stuck in to some claywork instead, because that’s harder for me to do these days. Some really big pieces. And maybe create some big gorgeous art critters to lurk joyfully in my hypothetical garden. But wait, I’ve capped it at a week and I’d love to do something crazily physical too, like swinging through trees on ropes (!), or doing some fast martial arts, or trying my legs at long- and high-jump again. Oooooh, so much I’d like to do!

I would have a gathering with my friends. In fact I’d have multiple gatherings. I’d have a schoolfriends gathering, and a uni’ gathering in our old uni’ town where we would wander, natter and revisit our old ‘haunts’. I’d get to meet in person the most amazing international friends who I’ve met online as a result of having my health conditions. And I’d have a big fancy dress party for eeeevryone in some big old country house where everyone could stay for the weekend.

The sun would shine, but it wouldn’t be too hot. The wind would be gentle, just enough to stir our fancy dress costumes and thus any capes. 😉 Any rain would be light, fine, refreshing and brief. I would take an inordinate amount of photo’s which I could frame and display so that I smile every time I see them. Of course I’d have won the lottery, too, so that I could buy a house with walls that I could actually fit some picture frames on without it looking really cluttered! Which would mean that I could also have a garden to put the artwork in, and rooms for friends to stay in when they visit again in the future. As well as really good healthcare, of course. 😉

Ahhhhhhhh. Dream….dream….dream…!

x

My theme tune

Despite spending the majority of time on my own it’s not actually a quiet life. If you were in the house with me you’d probably not know I was there, except for the occasional conversation with myself and the sound of the kettle going on! But in my head there is music playing a lot of the time. And when there isn’t music there is incessant jibberjabber, thoughts parading round my head, problems to be solved, ideas of things to do and to write about. It’s very busy in my head, and definitely not quiet!

With all this hubbub and music I should probably stretch to having my own theme tune. I wonder what that would be?

If it was a theme tune for the CRPS I reckon it’d be a proper old-style blues track….

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.                   …DAAH…

.                                                                                ..DA…

Da…                                       …DAH…                                                ..da….

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I woke up this morning….

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.                   …DAAH…

.                                                                                ..DA…

Da…                                       …DAH…                                                ..da….

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Still got CRPS….

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.                   …DAAH…

.                                                                                ..DA…

Da…                                       …DAH…                                                ..da….

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I’ve run out of teabags,

And the RAAAIIIN is coming down…..WOOAAAH yeeaaahhh…!

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It’s not unusual for me to start singing the blues riff because I quite often hear the words ‘I woke up this morning…’ come out of my mouth, and the blues riff is the natural follow on! Which then results in barely awake Magic Dude listening amusedly to an impromptu made-up song about whatever it was I was going to tell him!

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If I was going to pick a theme tune for the Dysautonomia it’d have to be something that fits in with my brain fog. Something where everything is weird, wobbly and incomprehensible, but at the same time any negative aspects pass me by so that I just drift along thinking everything’s bound to be A-OK if only I could find my brain. And with that in mind, this eclectic ditty leaps to the forefront of my thoughts….!

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Hehe, that’s a tune from my childhood and I suspect that I shall continue to find myself periodically singing it for the rest of my days! 😉

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But essentially, and overall, the most important thing is to find yourself, find your drive, and keep your own life moving forward in any way that you can. Advice from others to those who have chronic health conditions is often along the lines of ‘just think positive’ without bearing in mind just exactly the array of counterbalancing issues that there are to contend with. Yes, we can be positive, but everyone has down moments, everyone is only human. And it’s that beautiful, rough raw spirit that deserves to get acknowledged. No-one should be viewed as any less a person for not being positive aaall the time. Better still to acknowledge the true strength and beauty of the characters in this world who keep going despite the negatives. Who find the will to take hold of that steering wheel and allow themselves the space to just be.

And with that in mind, I shall leave you with this…

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x

Audience participation: a shared experience

Once in a ‘blue moon’ I do actually get out of the house for something other than  hospital appointments and physio’! Last week I went to the cinema with Magic Dude and our lovely local friend. And yes, we did go to see ‘Avengers Assemble’. And it was a fab’ outing. 🙂

The film was good fun with plenty of action, one liners and comedy moments. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that don’t like that sort of thing, but I love a bit of action/sci-fi and all the more so if it is done with a bit of intelligent awareness sneaked in. (I loved the effect of Kenneth Branagh’s Shakespearean background on the ‘Thor’ film)! There were some great quotable lines in the Avengers, in particular I chuckle when remembering Bruce Banner(aka Hulk)’s understated but perfectly timed response as a result of Tony Stark(aka Iron Man)’s childlike verbal pushing and physical prodding… “I wouldn’t have come on board if I couldn’t handle… pointy things”. Oh, it’s funny when you hear it, honest guv’! 😉

But I’m not writing a review. I’m just saying that I actually got out of the house, and that I really enjoyed it! I haven’t been clear-headed enough to even be able to drive for long, and a week ago I was missing hospital appointments and physio’s because I just wasn’t safe enough to drive at all. So getting out was fantastic and in doing so I also saw a film which I enjoyed immensely.

Okay, so yes I couldn’t follow all of the plot because my brain couldn’t always keep up. But it’s the kind of film where you can enjoy the moments that you do catch and the plot takes care of itself! And I suspect that in the not-too-distant future I will have to wear noise-reduction ear-plugs to the cinema to reduce the ear pains. It’s a shame that I can’t get sucked in to the experience any more because my heart-rate goes up and down a lot, and in doing so it very quickly brings on symptomatic issues throughout the film. So I had times where I thought I might throw up, and times where the chest pains and/or pounding heart were really distracting. I had a packet of mints in my bag to calm down the nausea and I’m good at working through pain. The legs pain didn’t actually play up too much, but then again we’d booked ‘premier’ seats to assure the extra leg room. Or perhaps it’s just that it doesn’t seem so bad when all the other symptoms are taking centre stage!

So, yep, not even something as simple as going to the cinema is without it’s complex array of problems any more. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed the outing.

“Marvel Avengers Ass”? The mind boggles!

But what made the evening stand out to the point that I wanted to share it with you was this: the audience participation. I’ve not been part of an audience like that for a long while. Magic Dude doesn’t do theatre, and films have a harder job provoking the kind of response that theatre creates. We get the shared geek feeling when we’re part of the nerdy group who hang back at the end of the hero films to see if they’ve included a teaser at the end of the titles! But this was soooo much more. The whole audience regularly burst out laughing. There was one moment in the film where, (and I shan’t tell you when, in case you’ve not seen it), the whole audience burst into spontaneous applause. The vibe was so warm and inclusive. We were all sharing the joke, enjoying the experience together. I spend so much of my life alone and isolated that it just enhanced my feeling of being part of something enjoyable. Of belonging. A shared experience. At the end of the film when the titles started going up everyone burst into applause again because they’d enjoyed it so much.

We get used to watching the same old plots and character types. We enjoy the films we see, but we are not surprised by them. There’s never anything new. It’s like watching a really big telly, with extra popcorn and lattes on tap. So to watch a movie that injects so much fun into well-known characters was refreshing and, frankly, a right larf. Life is too blinkin’ serious most of the time, it’s sooo good to set that aside when we can. 🙂

So there you go, my night out with shared laughter was really good for the soul. I was not very physically functional afterwards, and my brain was sputtering a bit, but it was a great feeling to share. It took a few days to fully recover, but it was worth it. I was really surprised that a film provoked that response, but it was definitely a pleasant surprise!

What a difference a shared laugh makes.

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World Tai Chi and QiGong Day

Every year the last Saturday in April is World Tai Chi and QiGong Day. I’ve been a Tai Chi student for just over a year, now, and I have every intention of continuing to learn for as long as I can. I’m not a stereotypical creaky grey-haired person, or a stereotypical young and fit martial-arty type. I’m blending the stereotypes as a young(ish) creaky person and cheering on any person of any age and any ability to give Tai Chi a whirl if they feel the urge!

Like so many people, I have turned to Tai Chi because my health won’t permit other types of exercise. And, like so many other Tai Chi-ers….. I wish I’d started learning it when I was younger!

Yes, Tai Chi is undeniably good for the older body. As we get older our bodies get a bit cranky and need our exercise to be in more appropriate forms and intensity. Tai Chi fits the bill, and research backs it up inexorably.

However, it is also a martial art, (have you seen Jet Li’s Tai Chi Master? 🙂 ), and can be taken to levels beyond what you are aware of from general urban myth. My tutor combines it with Wushu, (that beautiful but exhausting form of martial arts you see spinning through the Eastern martial arts movies), to create beautiful and yet physically demanding forms. If she wore aaaaall her medals at once she’d probably be hidden from view, she’s that good! Tai Chi can be taken as far as you want to take it and, in my opinion, the further you take it the more interesting it gets!

But for us beginners, there is the standard form of 24 moves which we can learn. It is the form practiced throughout the world, but even as a beginner you don’t have to just stop there. You can if you want, of course. The point is that you learn as much as you want to and practice Tai Chi in the way that it makes you most happy. (And it does make us Tai Chi-ers happy)! But the 24 is not the be all and end all. I’m learning the Yang style 88 form at the moment, and loving it, (despite the crazily fast heart-rate and having to sit down half the time coz my blood pressure keeps trying to go for the fainty option). After the 88… I look forward to learning the 42 which includes moves from the various styles of Tai Chi, so I’ll be learning different ways of moving and varying the speed from a Tai-Chi-slow to a fighting-fast and back again. (There’s videos of the 24 form and 42 form on one of my earlier posts here). But I don’t expect to leave the previous forms behind. They all have their place and take different lengths of time to perform, and they all create greater understanding of the art whilst offering new directions to potter off in and learn more.

I love it…..can you tell?  😉

A rare non-wobbling moment caught on camera! (The kicks don’t have to be high ones, by the way, x)

As some of you will already know, I have been trawling the research journals for papers investigating the effects of Tai Chi on health. I wrote about it in my Tai Chi Glee post way back in February. I haven’t forgotten it, but my health, the writing challenge, my health, the lack of adequate tech’ and, er, the main problematic theme: my health, made it really slow going. So I’ve written a bit when I can, researched a bit when I can, and slowly got there over time. And as today is World Tai Chi and QiGong Day, it seemed the most appropriate day to upload it to the blog.

So here it is….the link to my info’ page about the Health Benefits of Tai Chi….just click here.

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