Flapping My Wings

body awareness when recovering

“Wing” by Skia

Some mornings when I get up, I walk to the front door to let the dogs out while flapping my wings.  I waft them up and down as if they’re moving me through thermals high in the air, then when I get to the hall I pull them in and flap a bit more fervently as if my bird-self is flying through a narrow pass. By the time I open the door for the dogs I’m just a regular frowsy-haired morning person staring out at the dawn. My wings are arms again.

I act pretty normal most of the time, although I do have moments. I sing made-up songs, balance silly things on my head, quietly misbehave to keep myself amused in restaurants, laugh at the inopportune times, and am chronically too curious for my own good. I’m not sure this qualifies me as officially eccentric but it has been known to tax the patience of people who love me.

My family hasn’t bothered to ask me why, in the privacy of our home, my arms occasionally turn into wings. I haven’t wondered why either until I thought about it this morning while in that Realm of Insight, the shower.

Two thoughts occurred to me. One is a faint memory of an adult telling me to put my arms down and behave myself.  I recall this as happening in a cinder block room that smelled faintly musty, so probably Sunday school. I may have been happily twirling in my Sunday dress with my arms up like a ballerina or been a fairy sprinkling magic dust or been, as now, a bird. I’m guessing I was probably four or five years old since the adult in this memory is visible only as legs and hips. That memory is colored by vast shame. (I must have been a ridiculously sensitive child.) A thousand similar reminders to be a good girl left me with my arms down, flying nowhere. I can assure you, that’s no fun. I’m still in recovery from excessive politeness. I’m progressing well, thank you.

The other thought is how darn good it feels to move this way. My arms and hands move, of course. They reach upper kitchen shelves, lift eggs from nest boxes, greedily stack up library books, hug dear people —- but much of the day my arms and hands are in pretty static positions typing or reading or driving. Basic body boredom. Biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA, says our bodies crave natural movement. Instead of regimented exercise, she advocates moving throughout the day in lively ways that feel nourishing to us. She calls this nutritious movement. Try flapping your arms like wings. Does it feels wonderful to you too?

Our bodies are internal guidance systems with immeasurable storehouses of wisdom to share with us, as long as we actually take the time to pay attention. I understood my baby’s world better when I let his movements choreograph my own. Mirroring my children’s actions took me back to what it was like to be a child.  I even got some surprising insight into my own poor posture when I gave myself a few minutes to go fully into a slumped position, ready to find out what that slump had to tell me.

Maybe bodies are on my mind because I’ve had a bit of a health setback and spent a few days in the hospital recently. I still feel like someone hit me with a shovel, although thankfully now it doesn’t feel like as big a hit with as large a shovel as it did before.

We may think we’ve already learned the lessons difficult times have to teach, but there’s always more to learn. Here are some lessons I’ve revisited lately:

  • The bright light of gratitude has a way of shining fear away (even in the terrifying confines of a closed MRI) and it’s possible to be grateful for the dark stuff too.
  • It always helps to pay attention to where in our bodies we feel good —  right now for me it feels marvelous to breathe deeply, to stretch, to laugh, to sleep.
  • What feels healing is different for different people. For me it’s time in nature, hugs, time to create, stories other people share, good books, new ideas, playfulness, and more hugs. (Pretty much the same joys I’d list any time.)
  • When our arms want to be wings, let them be wings.

16 thoughts on “Flapping My Wings

  1. In April of 1996 the kids and I took a trip to see the Statue of Liberty in New York and the sites around Philadelphia. On the way back we had an extra day and decided to stop in Pittsburgh. We decided we’d use that day to see a Pirates baseball game! On the way to the stadium, there was a fellow driving, apparently with his knee, as he had both arms out and was flapping like a bird.
    It was just right. Right for the day. Right for the time. Traffic began forming behind him, watching. He wasn’t going particularly fast. But everyone driving about me was smiling and pointing. As for the flapper, he was oblivious to the flock that had formed behind him. A flock of cars.
    That forever connected the work “flapping” to “Pittsburgh”. After that I find I too often flap.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you came through that dark bit and are back to feeling your wings! I always like receiving you posts, so full of great suggestions.
    I have not been writing as much on Tinalivingoffthe grid.com, but as things change here, for the better, I will probably be posting more, that is, if I manage to renew the domain subscription, which is not under my control..
    Happy Earth Day!
    Katherine

    p.s. I am no longer using woodswoman13@yahoo.com for personal email. Use katherine.plowman181@gmail.com

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s not just me, then. I sing and flap my solitary way around the house, dance in odd corners and slide on the wooden floors. Physical liberty, just letting your body do stuff it craves… I’m sorry you haven’t been well, and you have my full sympathy – I’m well acquainted with the shovel effect and the long dark night of the MRI. May you soon be fully recovered and blithe once more.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are an A+ Wing flapper and I am inspired by this post. Thank you for sharing your gifts in writing and you’re willing this to be eccentric and inspirational. This more conventional behav-er is starting to see why she has taken up bird watching and what it might want to tell her about how to live. Good job helping me to connect the dots… Something your posts often do for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anything we watch with care — birds or microbes or whale pods — teach us how much more we have to learn. I live with a nascent birdwatcher, whose observations lead him in so many directions: gratitude, depth, awe, and (unavoidably) bad bird puns. Illuminates my life as well, even if I still can’t (and don’t care if I can’t) tell a red-headed woodpecker from a red-bellied woodpecker.

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  5. I love this, Laura. Not at all surprised that you’re a fellow flapper. It’s also landed on my screen at an awesome time when I’m working to prepare a series of workshops on embodied writing. 🙂

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