When I was seven years old we went on a 100 mile walk around the foothills of Mont Blanc, doing ten miles a day. It was one of the last big holidays that the five of us took together. I loved walking on the snow and the crunch it made. I loved seeing women in scanty bikini tops and shorts, contrasting with the big rucksack on their back and shoes on their feet. I remember not feeling at all worried about walking until we were crossing a slippery slope with a sharp slide down the valley and my father told me how to dig my fingers in to the ice if I started falling. Then I got nervous.
But we had to prepare for this walk. We went walking at the weekends often and I couldn’t plead exams or homework to get out of it. I don’t hugely remember my sisters being there but they were. After a walk my parents would often have a pint or possibly two, whilst we three girls would sit outside, with maybe a lemonade and a packet of crisps to share. For the most part children weren’t allowed in pubs then, although I’m not sure how much my parents tried.
Our holidays comprised walks. Wales, the Lake District, Scotland. That was it, other than the visits to my grandmother in France. I remember nothing else of Britain from back then. Just hillsides, hills, paths, and putting one foot in front of the other. I remember going to the specialist shop to get my climbing boots, one of the few, if not the only time my father took an interest in buying me anything. They had to fit properly and they had to be worn in, until I became one with the shoe.
We walked in the dry; we walked in the wet; we walked in the hot and the cold. We would stop every couple of hours and my father would dish out a chocolate square each, maybe two, if the bar was big enough and the journey short enough. We didn’t carry water bottles. We could wait until we got there. There would be one to share so a swig each. We didn’t stop for toilet breaks either.
My father wouldn’t make any unplanned stop or diversion. If you wanted to look at the view, and there were plenty of beautiful views, you looked as you walked, in between watching where you put your feet down. There was no stopping to look at the view and the only time I got a chance, was if the map came out.
My father was also 6″2′, as it said on his passport. The reality was half an inch shorter and I suppose it’s even less now. But a man of 6″2′ has legs that are twice as long as those of a six year old. I had to put effort in to keep up and it was up to me to learn to walk fast rather than for anyone else to slow down. If I didn’t try to keep up then I would simply miss out on any rest and the chocolate. I’d have to wait until next time. So, like my mother before me, I learned to walk quickly. Something I kept up until I had babies and slowed down to walk at their pace. I never forced them to keep up with my and now it’s my father who asks us to slow down to let him move at his pace.
Did I protest at these walks? I think so but do not remember doing so. Not that it would have done much good. I am told that I alternated between wearing only skirts or wearing only trousers, for months on end. Again I don’t remember this, not then. I had skirts for school. I do remember that no other form of exercise was ever on offer, other than playing cricket in the garden. My mother took me to the swimming pool and started to teach me to swim although I wouldn’t learn properly until secondary school and even then it was mostly self taught. Once I learned to swim I went to the pool on my bike in Brussels, spending as much of the day there as I could. I never learned to swim fast but I did enjoy the peace and quiet.
As an adult I sort of enjoy walking for pleasure but I don’t do it much, which sorts of suggests that I don’t, or at least not as much as I might. Over the past few years I have really tried to get into some form of physical activity, from going to classes to activities on the wii and they’ve all fallen by the wayside. I’ve tried going for short walks locally that I don’t have to prepare for as I think the whole planning the walk contributes to my lack of interest. I’m currently on my second round of 30 days Pilates challenge (ten minutes a day) which I’m doing before my meditation and that is working. So fingers crossed.
Reading about complex trauma, one of the responses of the body is to freeze and to learn to stop moving, as moving probably will cause issues. Staying hidden and motionless is the best defence against whatever might happen. I wonder if this has stayed with me and made me as physically lazy as I possibly could be, although of course I was very active with children. Now, though, it’s my choice and I’m choosing not to. I recognise that I need to move more and am trying, with a bit of gardening, a bit of Pilates, the occasional walk. The experts say that yoga is best for trauma and I have to think about whether I’m going to give that a go rather than my lovely Pilates Robin (find her at The Balanced Life) who is engaging and non-judgmental.
Putting the link together of healing mind and body explains partly why I’ve been feeling that this has been a journey parallel to therapy and will hopefully motivate me to keep being a little bit more active. There is a greater clarity to what is going on inside me but I’m still rather fed up of it all.