“Call-me-Autumn”, Mrs Kingsley that is, lived two doors down from us in the village. Number 17A was the wrong kind of house for her to be living in. It was entirely too modern, and she was entirely too antique. It was nothing about her age, you understand? She was perhaps a year or two older than my mother. Where my mother crammed her all too generous curves into clothes that were too young for her, Autumn wore clothes that floated, with shades of a muted rainbow that whispered as she walked. Her hair was scooped onto her head and was held in place by a large butterfly clip.
17A might have looked like any other house in the cul-de-sac, but walking through the door was like stepping into another world. Dotted around the living room were a number of chairs and sofas, each unique in colour and shape, yet comfortable with each other. They filled the room like long time friends, not minding a little sagging here and there, quite happy to expose a little stuffing in a non threatening environment. There was a low coffee table with a bowl of potpourri in the centre. A tranquil fragrance filled the room.
“Sit yourself down, Emily.”
Autumn drifted out of the door and into the kitchen.
I sat down on the edge of a chair, hesitating to surrender to the comfort of the cushions, ready to bolt home at the first sign of danger. My mother had tried, most inadequately, to explain why I was here.
“Anne,” Autumn had said to my mother some days earlier, “you should not be filling your dear child with all those chemicals. There’s no telling what harm they will be doing.” I was that dear child and the condemned chemicals she spoke of were my asthma inhalers. She insisted that there were alternatives, natural remedies that we might like to try.
A glass of orange juice was placed on the table in front of me.
“Sit up, Emily!”
Autumn launched into what could only be called a lecture, in the softest of voices, on the way in which my body had possibly adapted to become quite comfortable in a slouching position.
“Poor posture can block off energy flowing up and down your body. It reduces the depth of your breathing, you know. Poor posture is also quite an accurate indication of negative attitudes.”
My mind ran swiftly through the day’s events trying to connect the dots between my posture and my mood. Did my mood dictate my posture, or was it the other way around? I explored the notion that I might have a negative attitude. It was something I had never really considered.
I spent the afternoon with Autumn. She pulled me to my feet, made me stand with my legs slightly apart, and pulled back my shoulders. She lifted my hands in a graceful arc above my head, and encouraged me how to take deeper, more gentle breaths and breathe out through the nose rather than the mouth.
“Drop your shoulders, relax your tummy and breathe calmly.”
Later on, as I demonstrated my newly acquired skills to my mother, I thought what Autumn had said about posture. I watched my mother hunched over the dining room table after supper, bills spilled across the brightly patterned table cloth. Her shoulders were stooped as if bearing a heavy burden.
“Mum,” I tugged her to her feet, “Come over here…”
Autumn’s lecture tripped off my lips, and I tried as best as I could to replicate the soft tone of voice she had used.
“Drop your shoulders, relax your tummy and breathe deeply.”
It only seemed natural for me to add my own instructions on to the end.
“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”
I watched, slightly in awe, as my mother unlocked her shoulders, lifted her head, and breathed in deeply. In an instant, she looked less defeated and more confident. She relaxed and a smile toyed with her lips as she lifted a palm upwards handing over to God all of her anxieties about the future.
I have to admit that my asthma has been easier to manage. Those times when I am feeling stressed, I choose not to raise my hands, ballerina like above my head. I drop my shoulders, relax my tummy and breathe calmly.
And I pray.
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