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Sunday, 5 June 2011


When I was a tiny little girl I learnt that sounds combined into song, were for dance.  I learnt to feel the beat and move to it in simple sequences of motion.  Now that I am older and am too weak to dance I realise something else.  When I was a little girl I learnt what sounds meant.  I became so attune to foot falls as they neared and passed my room that I could tell you simply by the way someone threw their weight, whom it was.  The high pitched tinny false laugh, the forced insincere merriment before a blink changed it into something more sinister. The vibration of a door in its frame as it was forcefully closed the thump of a glass or plate on a bench.    I saw each sound as though it were a colour working its way progressively through warning signals towards a screaming alarm.

When I was a little girl I used to watch my ballet teacher and her words would float past me uselessly, but her movements spoke to me.  I understood each graceful move and how to move my body in mimicry.  There was a freedom in motion, a beauty in how the collection of moves created a moment.  Now that I am older and am too weak to dance I realise something else.  When I was a little girl I learnt what movement meant.  So attune was I to the facial expressions and body language of those around me that I could easily take the temperature of the room simply by observing for one moment.  I could no more ignore pain in someone than I could ignore it in myself. 

When I was a little girl and I heard the uneven heavy footfalls approach and retreat past my door, the slam of a cabinet door, the bang of a plate on the bench, the tight angry voice, I knew what that composition of noises meant.  My heart rate would escalate and all of my senses would heighten, my muscles would tighten, coiled and ready.  I would step quietly into the kitchen and listen for a moment.  Once I understood what the newest accusation or complaint, I would wade in.  I would cause a distraction and pull focus.  It was a different sort of dance.  One I’d unconsciously learnt the steps to.  Every night needed a different combination of steps and flourishes.  I ducked and weaved, spun left then right.  It was exhausting trying to remember the correct order and sometimes I had to repeat part of the routine just to get it right.

When I was a little girl, my heart got broken every day.  The soundtrack of my life was a cacophony of violent noises coupled with jerky stumbling movements.  At night when I retreated to my bed, tears would stream down my face and I would hug my pillow hoping tomorrow would be different.  That the harsh words that rained upon me, untrue and unkind, would stop their battering of my self esteem.  That someone would change the record, put on a different song. 

When I was a little girl, I lost something.  I lost the chance to be a little girl.  Now I look back and realise I was never really a little girl.  I was always a warrior in training.  And in some ways I am thankful, because had I not learnt how to steel myself against the unfairness of life, I might not be able to keep fighting.

When I was a little girl, the universe gave me what I needed.  I learnt the steps to every dance I might ever need to know.  I know the choreography of life.


  1. This is beautifully written and so moving, I hope you're looking after that little girl now (*)

  2. I spoil her with chocolate, that helps. 8)

    Thanks for your lovely comment Cusp.

  3. This resonates so much for me Amara.

    I was also deprived of the opportunity to be a carefree child due to the alcoholism and severe domestic violence that was a seemingly daily occurrence in my home.

    You are right about sounds and how they trigger immediate reactions. I still live in a state of hyper-vigilance, heart jumping at any raised voices in the street or sudden bangs and crashes inside or outside.

    I have a theory about such abnormal breaks in childhood development. I think it damages us in two developmental ways. The most obvious being that it stops us from learning how to 'play' - how to do what a child should do - pay no need to the cares of the world and just be free. Such freedom still eludes me.

    Also though, I think it hinders us in another way that is largely unknown. Although I am strong on the outside and people see me as someone who 'takes no shit' etc, I still feel controlled by that frightened child. I have tried many therapeutic methods of reassuring and 'hearing' that child but still it won't rest. I have compassion for that child that I never used to have but still it dominates me. The truth is, I still feel like a child. Craving the nurturing I never got when I needed it and wanting to just have someone 'look after me'. I haven't yet found a way to squash that element.

    Sorry for this turning into an essay but the subject you have raised in your beautiful post evokes so much I have spent years trying to comprehend and manage. If you ever want to discuss such things 'offline' you know where to find me :)

    Well done on remaining so honest in your blogging. I truly believe such an approach gives so much to others but also to ourselves xx


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