It makes me cold to look at you

I have a small nick on the tip of
my finger which hurts whenever I press it down on the keys.  I helped one of my daughters to pack up
the contents of her house the other night and made the wound worse.  The dry blackness of newspaper ink
seeped into the cut as I wrapped up her drink glasses one after another and laid them
out in a box.
I hope the glasses make the journey
safely today.  I will help to unwrap
them at the other end this afternoon, once the removalists have carried all the
boxes from one suburb to the next. 
My daughter is not moving far, at least not geographically but
emotionally it’s a huge move, as moves tend to be. 
Another of my daughters took a look
at my desk the other day, strewn as it is with papers and books.
‘It makes me giddy just to look at
it.’
Her words resonate with my mother’s
words.  When I was a child and refused
to wear a jumper even on the coldest of days she said to me repeatedly as I
remember ‘It makes me cold to look at you.’  I wondered then how my lack of clothing could so affect my
mother as she pulled her thick cardigan around her shoulders and shivered.
 How easy it is for us to affect one another.  Even a glance, a scrunching of eyebrows
a wrinkling of the forehead can say a thousand words and leave the person on the
receiving end in paroxysms of despair. 
That is when we know one another well. 
But even when we don’t know one
another well, looks can still kill. 
A car pulled in front of me the
other day.  I had not noticed the
car there on my left in two thick lanes of traffic until it had pulled in front of
me.  I held back to let the driver
in.  I saw his window go down and
his arm shoot out.  I had expected
a wave of acknowledgement. 
‘Thanks,’ he might have gestured,
but no.  He gave me the bird.  That’s the expression people use when
someone points up their rude finger. 
Their rude finger, their index. 
It did not shock me so much as
puzzle me.  What had I done
wrong?  Why had I offended
him?  I assumed it was a him.  The arm looked like a his but it may
have been a hers, her index finger, her offence. 
It matters little in the scheme of
things.  It matters to me a little
less than the way I felt on another day when I had pulled out in front of another car ahead and momentarily blocked the path of an on coming car – nothing
dangerous, everything in slow motion – 
at the junction in Camberwell, and the person driving the car coming
towards me, which did not in fact need to slow down much before approaching my
car, wound down his window – again it was a he   – and spat a great gob of whatever
onto my wind screen. 
There’s something shocking about being
spat at, however much I might have deserved a reprimand.  This one got under my skin such that I
cannot forget. 
On another note, I’m getting cold
feet on the Keiser training.  To
think I’d need to do this exercise twice weekly for the next however many years
puts me off. 
On the other hand, is it so
bad? 
And on the other hand, it’s
expensive.
On the other hand, how might I feel
in the long run when I no longer need to carry around my burden of guilt for
neglecting my crumbling bones?
At least I have managed to get a
bandage onto my wounded index finger. 
It no longer hurts to type. 
If only other wounds were always so easily
healed.

Your bones will start to crumble

In my sixteenth year of life, for reasons too long and
detailed to list here, I spent the best part of that year in boarding school. 
During that time I lost track of my body.  The only time I saw it was
at night in the dim light of the Immaculate Conception dormitory when I slipped
out of my blouse and tunic into my pyjamas.  It was too cold to linger long.  We did not have mirrors except in the downstairs bathroom
and once or twice a week I might catch sight of my face when I washed my hair
in the sink, but otherwise I forgot the rest of my body from the neck down.  
It was easy to hide within the uniform over which I wore a
baggy gingham pinafore.  In such capacious clothes it was easy to grow, and grow I did
into a much bigger person than I had been when I first started at boarding
school.  
Before then my brothers
had called me skinny Lissie, but in my adolescence, reinforced by my year at
boarding school, all this changed. 
During one of the holiday breaks my older sister took me to
shop for new clothes.
‘You’re bigger than me,’ she said when I tried on trousers
behind a curtained cubicle in Myers. 
‘You’ll have to watch out.’ 
Back at school I could not watch out.  The lure of the comfort food, hot
buttered bread rolls for breakfast drizzled with honey, and buns at after noon
tea united with vast mugs of hot chocolate.
A tiny photo of the boarders.  I’m the long haired one, standing at the extreme right in the middle row.  Our bodies are all well hidden behind our dressing gowns.  
When I left school I took to trying to shift my boarding
school bulk with diets and exercise.  I devised my own exercise regime and tried hard to stick to
it but it seemed a cruel way to start each day and worse still if I left it till
the end of the day. The thought of the exercise ahead of me took away any
pleasure a day might once have held.
In time I gave up all stereotyped exercise preferring to use
my body for purposeful actions, the sort that make up a life, walking,
housework, sex. 
I have since enjoyed a life that is exercise free until
recently when a friend sent me notice of a new form of exercise called Keiser
training. Two half hour sessions a week are all a person needs to begin to
develop stronger muscles.
‘If you don’t get some exercise,’ my daughters warn me,
‘your bones will start to crumble.’
And so for the past two weeks I have visited a
physiotherapist at the Keiser training centre closest to my home and begun to
acquaint myself with a series of machines designed to give me back my strength.
The Keiser training place looks like a space laboratory,
white walls, clean wooden floors and a series of machines each erected
differently to take a person through a series of manoeuvres designed to offer
resistance in the form of increasing weights pitched against particular muscles
and movement.
My neck is weak, the physiotherapist tells me, perhaps from
sitting for hours hunched over a desk; but over all my agility is fine.  So far the exercise seems painless but
she reminds me, we are still on relatively light weights.
I do this exercise now because it is allegedly good for me.  I do it to get my daughters off my
back.  I do it because I am
fearful that my bones might crumble if I do not offer some resistance to the
process of aging, but it will take some perseverance and my track record is not
good.  
I wonder whether I am alone in this.  All my life I’ve been dogged by a sense
of never being able to catch up with myself. 
It once took the form of a thought, a thought I had when I
was in grade six: if only I was now back in grade two I would be able to do
grade two again and so much better.
When I was in my final year at school the same thought: if
only I were just now beginning high school, with all the knowledge I have gained since, I’d be able to do it so much better. 
And now more than half way through my life the same thought
again: if only I were back at university now I would be able to do it all so
much better, and maybe in another twenty years time I will wish I could go back
in time and have my last go again. 
Will I think the same about Keiser training in twenty years
time?  If only I could do it again,
I’d do it so much better, but in twenty years time it might be too late.