FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 91

Developmental Milestone: Walking

Learning to Walk. Again.

I’m learning to walk. I’ve been learning for about a year but haven’t perfected it yet. I mean the actual walking I’ve done since forever, but, I’ve never done it properly properly.

Stomping around the corridors of a large secondary school counter-balanced years of marking cross-legged on the floor/ bed/ couch. I never worked at a desk, other than in school – and when I did, I was often sat cross legged on a chair. All my marking, planning etc. etc. was done leaning over books, essays, exam papers. I practised this somewhat unconventional method throughout my own school years, college, university, teacher training. So actually, forever.  This was fine.  Until, it all stopped.

And everything went still.

We’re re-building our home (renovating really, but feels like a re-build), and after months of being inactive, I decided to shift a bag of plaster (an everyday occurrence when working on a house), when my back decided to betray me. An electric current shot through my body and demanded I become a statue. I was in absolute agony and realised my back was my Achilles’ Heel; it had become my weakest point.

Did you know the health of your back is often closely connected to your emotional well-being? During dark moments, it is often your back (and/or stomach) that become a physical manifestation of your inner darkness. It makes sense really; when your core is strong,  you’re strong. A building with a strong foundation will last longer than one built on sand. Fact.A half-hearted idea or belief is easier to dilute and break down, than one that is secure and unwavering.

You’ll be familiar with the phrases ‘chin up,’ ‘hold your head up,’ ‘stand tall,’ etc. etc. often uttered when times are tough. They’re encouraged to create the impression that you’re well; strong, doing OK. Slumped shoulders are low mood indicators – your core is not supporting you and that leaves you vulnerable to all the elements. That means your head isn’t supported physically or indeed, emotionally.

The process of re-building my strength was long and still on-going. Your trust in a reliable car that breaks down, becomes damaged, encouraging a loss of faith and starts to feel like a betrayal. That’s how I viewed my back for a long time anticipating that it could go again, unannounced. There were a number of avenues I went down in order to heal (I’ll cover some of these another day), but the podiatrist was my saviour.  He was my partner’s friend who managed to get to the root of the problem. Feet, really? Yes – foundations.

Monster Munch feet

I have rather un-glamorous Monster Munch feet and have been blessed with being flat-footed too (I know, some of us have it all). It transpired that as I walked, I didn’t engage my core and walked on the outer arches of my feet. Years of walking incorrectly, and then months of subsequent back pain, meant that I had altered the way I balanced, my hips, back and the way I held myself. I compensated by adjusting my walk and posture making for a rather tangled internal knot.

I do yoga now, as one of my healing strategies.  We’re encouraged to spread the weight across the feet; to have firm foundations. Tadasana, or mountain pose, improves posture and strengthens these foundations: i.e. the power and mobility in your feet; toes. Like Jenga, if the foundations are wobbly, there’s little choice the top has other than to topple over. So I’m spreading my weight and engaging my core and achieving that early childhood milestone!


FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 87

The Course of Recovery Never Did Run Smooth

IMG_4438 (2)
Seed One – Tian

A few seeds were sown for me in the Autumn of 2015. MyBoy was born on the 1st of September, in a field. Mum, CC (Company Cat), was a feral and we brought him home on the 3rd of November {Seed One}. I could never have predicted the impact he would have on my life.  In fact, my younger self would never recognise ‘me’ with a cat, let alone, the owner of a cat-shop!


I was initially off work at the beginning of October and had decided, prematurely, that I was ready to go back on the 2nd November following the half term holiday.  On the Saturday just before, my neighbour Ian and his dog Tia, were tragically killed on Princess Parkway by a Selwyns Coach {Seed Two}.

Despite previously thinking I was getting stronger, this was a massive blow to our world.  My partner and I were broken and each time we thought about it, were reduced to tears; inconsolable. Depression has a ripple effect; it affects you of course, but inevitably also those around you. You can’t see it at the time, but on reflection, it strips layers off your nearest and dearest – it weakens them.  With their untimely deaths, came the cruel reminder that life was short, unpredictable, unforgiving {Seed Three}. As the arrival of our kitten seemed to almost overlap this, after seeking permission, we named him Tian officially, marrying the two names together, in their honour. (Of course, like most cats, he goes by whatever name he decides (which evolve regularly)).

A few weeks into my return in November, I was offered several OH appointments through work. These spanned over the last few weeks of my time at school as well as some of my time off in February. The woman I saw was brilliant. She’d stipulated that as long as I did three things in my day, I had achieved (and I so wanted to achieve). I was required to do one thing that was essential, one thing that was pleasure and one thing that was routine. Of course, I bought a lot of stuff back then (for me, my home and Tian), and figured as it was part of my (retail) therapy (and pleasure), then I was moving in the right direction(!) The sessions quickly formed part of my routine (and salvation) every Thursday.

Whilst I was off work, I initially struggled with my dramatically shrinking world. There was quite literally a deafening silence following me around. In a large comprehensive, I easily spoke to hundreds of people in a day. Being at home, I was speaking to a handful of people a week. And not just that, as time passed, a greater wedge was forming between me and work. Time and distance had pallied up against me; I was pretty helpless.

In My Head, I Always Title This Poem ‘Loss’

Being a teacher had been my identity for such a long time, I was conscious it was fading in front of me. I didn’t know if I could be anything else; a bit like your parents are just your parents – that’s their identity and we struggle (when we’re younger especially) to see them as anything else. My staff lanyard was metaphorically slipping and as much as I wanted to hold on to it, it didn’t seem as though I could. I felt too weak and I knew I was losing. This quickly formed part of my grief and I was mourning yet another death.

I wanted to reclaim some power and in my ‘up’ moments, felt as though I needed to do everything immediately! I was going to learn to speak Spanish whilst brushing up on my French GCSE (I’d downloaded Duolingo and read rave reviews about it)! I’d impulsively bought a keyboard, but a bit like the character who nicks a guitar and claims he thought he “might learn to play” in Duffy’s ‘Stealing’ poem, it went up on eBay, a year later. I’d also decided I was going to get involved with a small non-profit organisation called Feed Manchester, (feeding Rough Sleepers in the City Centre) and was looking into yoga as well as signing up to do some meditation at Inner Space, Manchester. I was feeling excited about taking charge, but as these things happen, it wasn’t as smooth as I was hoping it would be.

Many moons ago, I walked through Manchester City Centre and overheard one woman saying to another, “it never rains Pat, it always fucking pours…”  I don’t know what was happening in her life, but remember thinking how succinctly she’d captured the difficult time she was evidently going through.

The downpour was just beginning.