Like Air, I’ll rise 

Isn’t it nice, when something you do for one reason pays a dividend in a totally unexpected way?

I had a shocking night’s sleep – or rather a good night if the plan was to get up regularly and wade through the humid air to try and find somewhere where I could be comfortable. I was watching something the other day about sleep and the theory was that if you wake up with an idea, put the light on and write it down, rather than trying to sleep and remember it later. If you wake up and fifteen minutes later you are still awake, then get up – the idea being that you do not make the association with lying in bed unable to sleep. If you can not be asleep, don’t do it in your bed.

I got a up a lot last night. Nothing was able to help me get back to sleep for longer than about an hour at time. The combination of filthy humid weather and alcohol having newly entered and left my system was causing havoc. Around 3.30am and thankful it was a long weekend so at least I would not have to sleepwalk through work, I got up and lay on the couch with the patio door open. My husband got up less than an hour later to get ready for work. Foolishly, I offered to take him in as I had little chance of improving on my sleep quota – Sod’s Law having been properly established, I instantly fell into a deep sleep until he woke me at 5.30 am to drive him in.

Pitch black, and with the rain just starting and hopefully beginning to offset the insane 95% humidity we set off with the dogs in the car, who love going for a walk in the dark. Idiots.

Of course I did not get back to sleep. I listened to a couple of podcasts and then got up and had a boiled egg. I can remember reading a PD James novel once which featured a scene with a character sitting down to a supper for one of a boiled egg and toast. At the time it struck me as an exceptionally lonely image – a solitary woman with a dull life, sitting alone at her kitchen table to a frugal meal. Genius.

I had not had the time to check out the 99c movie of the week on iTunes so did so then, only to find that this week, there was a slew of documentaries all for 99c and I spent some time having a look. One was about a dance competition in the States that followed three young hopefuls as they progressed from the regional to the national rounds.

Sometime in the 1970s,  I won my 75p entrance fee back at a local disco after I won the ‘best dancer’ competition. I remember that night, as I was wearing a purple ‘boob tube’ which if I tried to wear now would probably look like a wrist sweat band around my somewhat expanded frame. It was the only time I succeeded at dancing – something I love to do but have little talent for. I love watching dancing though – I am always in awe at the athleticism of those who get really good at it.

So I downloaded the movie, which was called, ‘Like Air’. This was a quote from a poem by Maya Angelou, a woman whose books I read and who I had been luckily enough to see giving a lecture in Bristol at a time when I was going through a particularly hard time. I had absolutely lost my way and although everyone raved about how a great city Bristol was, I was having a very tough time getting on. Almost by accident, I heard that Maya Angelou was giving a talk and having read her books, managed to get a ticket to go.

She was amazing. I can barely remember a thing she said, other than joking repeatedly than none of us was taking enough notes and also to leaving us with the advice that a diamond is the result of a dirt under pressure for a long time. That was another image that has stayed with me for a long time.

The poem from which the documentary took its title was an interesting choice – the world of dance is highly competitive and wrapped up in self-image issues, but the title encouraged me to go and look at the poem again. The image at its centre, is so powerful, that no matter what tools of oppression are deployed the speaker, ‘like air, will rise’ is extraordinary. You can try and fight fire with fire, but air is light, intangible  and its strength is that it will float above the grim physical meanness that some people think gives them strength. Air, for all its apparent fragility is stronger.

What a lovely image to give those who feel powerless – and a much more positive one than hatred.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Thanks Maya, gone but not forgotten.


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