Photo credit @bn1mum Jess Barnes
My nicknames over the years have included Cloud (instead of Claud), Cloudy Rainy (Claudine Rane) and Fluff (fluffy like a cloud). The latter was pretty embarrassing when shouted across the office when I had a *very sensible* job. I have been thinking about clouds a lot lately. I feel like they represent me and my varying moods. Sometimes substantial, strong and stoic, apparently immovable and seemingly omnipresent. Sometimes lighter, flimsy, fragile, and easily displaced by the slightest breeze. We can all feel like that, some days stronger and more invincible than others. The key is to accept these changes, not fight them, and work with the forces of energy and pressure that impact upon us.
I remember the first time I heard the concept of “the blue sky is always there” on the Headspace mediation app. Andy’s pleasurable (in my opinion, some beg to differ) tones, talking about how the blue sky is always there, although we forget about it when the cloud is thick and heavy. A perfect metaphor for our mind and the state of our mental health. It is a blank canvas until the clouds of feelings, thoughts, challenges and distractions cause us stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. But the blue sky of a clear and calm mind is always there, beyond the clouds, and we will see it again even when the sky is so grey we think it will be overcast forever. The storm will always pass. No matter what the weather, when we are on an aeroplane we always get through the bumpy turbulence and find the blue. Without fail. Andy says “It’s easy to forget that what we’re looking for is already here and that’s why we need reminding”. Sometimes my clouds are so grey and thick that I don’t even stop to consider if the sky is still blue. But the clouds always dissipate, sooner or later.
We often look at a sunset and declare how beautiful the sky is. But what would it be without the clouds allowing the sun to reflect on them in myriad colours, becoming the canvas where Mother Nature paints her colours? We often enjoy a clear blue sky on a hot sunny day, but how blissful is the respite when the cloud covers the sun for a few moments? Who doesn’t enjoy petrichor; that summery smell of rain on the dry earth? Without clouds we wouldn’t have rain to nourish the ground and the plants. Without clouds we wouldn’t get rainbows. Those cotton wool balls in the sky bring drama to what would otherwise be, let’s face it, a fairly boring expanse of blue. We often don’t notice them, like in a picture a friend posted today saying the sun rose into a cloudless sky, but there were a few little fluffy ones inconspicuously reflecting the glow of the sun. We need them. They are water, as are we. They come from the ocean and return to the ocean via the earth.
Clouds don’t always get the credit they deserve, in the same way our bodies often don’t. We take them for granted, expect them to do what they do, carry us around, work hard for us without much thanks. They do a million things for us every day, and we are oblivious to the vast majority of them. Often we only notice when something doesn’t feel right, and even then we can often just carry on because we’ve got other things, seemingly more urgent, to worry about. And even when our body is doing all it needs to do for us, we give it a hard time for how it looks. From ignoring the aches and niggles, to outright body loathing. Sticking it on a restrictive diet or punishing it through excessive exercise. But what does the aesthetic stop us doing? Does the cellulite on my thighs stop my legs working? No. My legs carry me wherever I need to go. Does the fat around my tummy stop me swimming in the sea? No, it gives me insulation so I can do the thing I love for longer with a lower risk of hypothermia. Does the wobbly skin on my upper arms stop me hugging my loved ones? No, my 9 year old son told me last night he loves my hugs and never wants me to let go (a rare compliment indeed!). So what if we gave our bodies a little more gratitude? What if we were kinder to ourselves for what we can do and what we look like?
I love my feet that pound the pavements and pathways enabling me to explore.
I love my hands that enable me to cook delicious meals and write down my thoughts.
I love my bottom that enables me to sit so my puppy can climb on my lap and snuggle up.
I love my brain that is working hard to recover from the setback it had in the summer.
I love my eyes that enable me to see the beauty in the world, the sky, the clouds!
So let’s have some body appreciation, body gratitude, even body love. Improving our body image can free us up to feel more confident in so many areas of our lives.
***** What 5 things can you name right now that you love about your body? If “love” is too much of a stretch, what are you grateful to your body for? *****
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