Butterfly in a chocolate pool

Scarface

This week-end I’ve had to recount how I got my bruised face to many strangers and friends alike at the tango festival. People wanted to make sure I wasn’t a victim of domestic violence and needed to check for themselves if my story stacked up I told myself, so I complied. As I did, each time varying the perspective and level of details I was offering, something weird happened. I started to feel overwhelmed by my audience’s reaction. I thought my sharing my story would bring me pride for displaying courage and determination, chasing one of my lifelong dreams. But instead, the commiseration and words of sympathy brought, with their comfort, an inch of pity and shame. Victim of seasickness. Victim of bad luck. At odds with the gods. Nothing to brag about. I was losing points, being demoted in the social hierarchy. There was a serious disconnect between how people perceived my tale and how I saw myself.

The chocolate story

I finally came to the conclusion I wasn’t serving up the right story, and I recalled how I had overcome the dizziness and anxiety of being stitched up at the hospital, alone in the very hospital-like atmosphere (neon-lighted, plain unadorned white walls, rooms and hallway full of monitors and used medical supplies disposal bins), by picturing myself in a warm pool of melted chocolate. Of course the anesthetic injected under my skin helped me escape the reality, but I made the conscious effort of imagining everything I could do in that chocolate spa. I would glide my fingers from side to side, feeling the slight resistance of the velvety liquid, I would approach my head near the surface to take in the rich aroma, I would dip my tongue to get a taste of the sweet elixir, Thomas would appear next to me and I would lick chocolate off his face like an animal. These were pleasant thoughts but not active enough, I needed even more liberating images to forget I had a few-centimeter wide wound and a needle going through my skin to help heal it. I would then turn the spa into the wide ocean where I’d be free to roam, first in a gentle breast stroke which quickly expanded to a butterfly swim, big splashes of chocolate, hundreds of dark droplets spraying all around me each time my arms raised in the air. This provided me the multi-sensory experience of warmth and freedom I needed to handle circumstances where my first instinct was to feel sorry for myself, bound to be disfigured by a scar that would have been so easy to prevent. It worked. I reclaimed control of the situation, self-confidence, and the grit to carry on. I probably should have shared my chocolate story, instead of the bland analytical account of how I fell.

A necessary rite of passage

Another record to set straight: at no moment have I wished for this accident not to have happened. It was a fundamental component of our journey, a rite of passage which has opened my eyes and made me grow in ways that cannot be comprehended during a two-minute chat. It has strengthened our family bonds, renewed my admiration and gratitude for Thomas, who despite feeling queasy himself, took care of us, me and the kids, who were vomiting one after the other, passing us empty buckets and cleaning dirty ones, even when disgust made him throw up too. He kept diligently caring for each one of us, generous, committed, and dependable. It has increased my confidence in my kids too, who were willing to keep on sailing the next morning, and were so proud of having a big boat they’ll soon call home, a home right on the water, with a mast to climb on, and plenty of exotic places to lead us to. And it has challenged me, a week later, to look at my scarred face in the mirror, armed with courage, tweezers, and a nail-clipper, to tackle the daunting task of removing my six stitches without fainting. I had to lie down and rest after each stitch successfully removed (I’m a sissy), nevertheless it is something I thought I was incapable of before.

Don’t bring me down!

Yet, this was a confronting and traumatic experience, leaving me edgy, and which I’m still navigating the aftermath of (I still haven’t recovered my lost sensitivity on part of my scalp, my body awareness seems to have been impacted and I keep bumping my head, I had two melt-downs during tango workshops from exhaustion and brain overload, and when I woke up after a nap on Saturday my right eye couldn’t see clear and I had to resolve to apply nail polish and make-up with a completely blurry vision which lasted for more than an hour). So any comfort is welcome. In fact, just after my fall, pressing on my forehead with one hand, waiting to be bandaged, my other hand was desperately searching for some physical touch, a hand to hold onto (I found Borja’s, which I grabbed as if it was the messiah, he let me, bless him). I craved the deeply reassuring feeling of human connection and skin-to-skin contact. Warmth. Hugs. Jokes. Fun. This is what I need most to lift my spirits up, not commiseration for my black eye, and sore bruises, reminding me how miserable I should be feeling.
So here it is, to reclaiming my status of badass-mother-of-two-pirate-sailor-data-torturer-Excel-hacker-tango-dancer. Aarrr!

Suiting quote seen at Wellington airport on my way back from the festival

3 thoughts on “Butterfly in a chocolate pool

  1. You’re perfectly right. Don’t let anybody stop you… When we left ten years ago (or so), we were not really ready, but almost nobody dared to tell us the truth. And I am very grateful they didn’t: not knowing it was impossible, we made it. We learnt heaps on the way, we also enjoyed heaps. A few times, we met people who were not quite ready to go, and I was tempted to tell them. But I always remembered the Tomtom & Clairette at the start and I thought that I had no right to stop other people’s dreams. A piece of advice or two, mainly about the safety, was all I allowed myself to share.
    Now you guys are a lot more experienced than the Tomtom & Clairette who left France years ago. You are far from being irresponsible, yes you were not very lucky on this trip, and yes a few errors could have been avoided, but trust me, even with more experience, errors are still possible. Tomtom was telling me the other days that he should leave a comment on the previous post, to say that you were harsh with yourself, that without the fall on the winch you would have stopped at Kawau Island, recovered during the night and enjoyed a nice sail the second day. So live your dreams, if it means a swim in an ocean of chocolate every now and then I can’t see the issue. I am tempted to forward your post to my previous colleagues from the ED team, I am sure nobody ever described their working space like that 🙂

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  2. Thanks Claire. Tom did leave a message indeed on the previous post. And as far as the ED goes, I was thinking to myself, i was amazingly well treated and people were nice and full of care, but why does it have to look so much like a hospital! Why couldn’t it look like a beauty salon where everything is designed to make you feel good about yourself?

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