I am, by nature, a low-energy kinda person. I am happy doing nothing for hours at a time, often forget to leave the house for days, and can easily spend months cloistered within a 15 mile radius without really noticing. My home is my haven: an ode to woollen blankets, beeswax candles, glossy plants, locally-roasted coffee and home-baked cake. But I often forget that drawing my comfort zone too close can be cloyingly claustrophobic.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light and Other Essays (1988)
The origins of “self-care” are far more powerful than the commercially-diluted “me-time” we are marketed to sell products or justify spa-days. When activist and intersectional feminist Audre Lorde wrote this line, she was affirming that preserving herself, as a Black lesbian woman, in a world that was (and still is) hostile to her identities and communities was a political act proclaiming her right to exist and thrive.
I’m thinking about my brain as I play the piano. I’m not having to work hard every minute to ensure that the words make sense, but instead I’m translating the dots on the page (effortlessly now after more than thirty years) and turning them into a place of safety and joy, coupled with tantalising moments of visceral bodily feedback.
Looking back it seems obvious that drumming was going to be such a good fit for me. At school I was that kid who was always playing with his hands, tapping on a desk, or a wall, or a lunchbox, or anything really. I didn’t enjoy school for the most part; I survived it. Each day started and ended with a 45 minute minibus journey. I would spend that time lost inside my headphones. Retransmitting the beat of the music by tapping on my legs. Tensing my muscles or flexing my toes. Except I wasn’t really lost. I needed this time to prepare for the next part of my day, it was essential to my survival.
I am an autistic woman, I have been working in the autism field as a mentor, adviser and advocate for many years but I trained as a Pilates teacher in 2016 with the aim of providing more autism friendly teaching and classes.
It was May 2018, I was stood in a car park surrounded by a ton of other people, questioning what was I doing here. Lets rewind for a moment. My mother had decided to secretly sign me up for a Couch to 5K running class with a local running club. I was furious, but I went along to see what it was all about.