I’ve taken to walking around this new neighbourhood. There’s nothing like moving down those streets yourself to memorise and integrate yourself into a place; there are things that maps and travelling in cars can’t teach you.
I haven’t walked intentionally – walked to exercise, rather than to get somewhere – for a long time. Standing up for too long has been too painful, and it still is, just less so. Recovery, or change, or whatever this is, comes in increments so small that’s it’s only in looking back in six month parcels that I can notice change at all. Walking is something solid to build on.
I’ve been realising lately that I’ve been holding my body in ways that are ultimately unsustainable. Walking intentionally, walking for a time, requires sustainable ways of holding one’s body. I am finding it difficult to move my body back into old ways of moving. Back straight, steps firm. It’s better in the long run, I know, but it takes effort.
As I walk, I move back into appointments with Helen as she holds down my hips and knees as I try not to strain against her with habit. I remember relearning how to hold my head, and not feeling comfortable or familiar, but right.
And now, walking, my clothes are too loose and my hands inside my pockets are cold with bad circulation and I’m unfit and it feels bad, but I’m remembering how it could be good. I’m remembering when running and swimming were sources of joy rather than a near impossibility that resulted in a three day crash.
I’m remembering being sixteen and at the top of my theatrical game, years of disciplining my body propelling me into perfect technique. (Technique isn’t the crux of good theatre, but it was one thing at which I was good.) I’m remembering how to get that gesture so right that audience members burst into tears. I’m remembering getting frustrated and stopping, and now I’m not sure I could handle lines and schedules and punishingly physical performances again.
I’ve taken to making my life a performance, because theatre doesn’t get out of your blood. I perform my life in writing, I like to dress with the deliberateness of designing a costume, I switch codes and modes with a consciousness I disowned before. But walking is just walking, and that is where I let go of performing, and it’s just me and the footpath.
I am mapping the neighbourhood in my head even as I inscribe myself on it. I am remapping myself.