By Maureen Tallis
My tale is set in a distant land and I know that as you listen you will think about how it is true for you in your own world.
So I will begin.
Our heroine is an ordinary woman and you may not notice her if she walked down a street that was crowded with people. We are going to meet her first in the hallway of her comfortable home.
Our heroine looked in the mirror and sighed. She knew she needed to get fit or her health would suffer. “That’s it!” she exclaimed to herself. “I must go to an exercise class because everyone knows that if you don’t exercise you will be less healthy. Exercise is a good thing to do and I must make time for it.”
But then she slumped. She was so very tired after working all day and keeping up with her chores because her house was her pride and joy. It was simply perfect and she was determined to keep it that way. Spick and span with everything in its place so that when visitors called they were pleased to enjoy every comfort.
And people admired her and told her that they were astonished at how she fitted everything in and achieved so very much.
She started to smile because it was really very simple. Everyone knows that if we stay strong and work hard we can do whatever we want. So she reflected and measured all of the tasks that she had to complete each day and it became clear that if she just hurried up a bit she could find a slot for the Zumba class on a Tuesday night at the newly opened leisure centre. A perfect solution!
So let us now follow our heroine to the following week and I know that you are wondering what will happen next.
It is now Tuesday and wearing her newly purchased matching leisure trousers and top and pristine trainers, (all charcoal grey so that she did not appear showy or conspicuous), she squeaked her way into the exercise hall. A scene of sparkling light greeted her and energy radiated from everywhere in the room. Rainbows of people were illuminated before her, multitudinous and oozing from every available space. They glistened and glinted as they darted about laughing and chattering and you will be wondering how she felt. I will tell you.
For a minute she froze, a deep grey icicle in this colourful carnival of vitality and vibrancy.
Then she spotted a single space towards the back of the hall and clutching her towel she darted to her refuge. Relief enveloped her and as she bravely lifted her eyes and became accustomed to the brightness, she realised that there was an enormous mirror at the front of the hall, reflecting and magnifying, and exaggerating everything. She laughed inside and told herself to be strong and calm breathing deeply in and out because she knew that she could do this.
But then again panic enveloped her. As the instructor marched through the door and set up position, she realised that she could not see him. “Oh no” she thought to herself. “How will I know what to do? How can I keep up with the others? Perspiration started to form and trickle down her neck and spine. “Everyone will laugh at me because if I cannot see I will do everything wrong. They have all been coming here for ever and so they will do everything right”. Misery encased our heroine and you know how that feels don’t you.
The music started. She did not recognise the tune. Then the instructor started to shout out his commands in a cacophony of words. They tumbled into the hall.
“Feet together then sway to the right. Bend your knees and step to the left. Sway your body then return to the middle. Bend your knees and return to the right. Face your left.”
Oh no! Words screamed in her brain, filling it so there was no space to think. Where is left? Where is right? I am facing the wrong direction! The man next to me is laughing and pointing at me. My feet are not obeying me and my trainers are astronaut boots, unwieldy and weighty in their enormousness. I cannot lift them.
“Let’s go a bit faster this time” shouted the instructor.
Hurry, hurry filled her mind fighting and jostling with get it right, get it right! Left and right, left and right.
As her head whirled and her body awkwardly jolted, a vivid swirl of acid green and a blonde ponytail bolted into view. Between the patchwork of bodies she saw the back of a princess, proud and confident, moving and swaying in time to the music and the commands.
And then she knew it was easy! She just had to copy the princess! Then slowly but surely the weights lifted from her feet, the left became left, and the right became right, and although she had to concentrate deeply, she started to move towards the united and churning throng.
And as you are listening to my tale you may be wondering if this is the end but there is more. Because the music then changed and it was one of her favourite tracks. Her energy quadrupled, and as she found herself coupling the instructors commands with the rhythm, her eyes moved from the princess and she glimpsed her own reflection in the mirror as the ocean of bodies parted. She looked amazing, and reassured she started to really enjoy herself. Her body moved and matched the sea waving and lapping in the room.
And then, too soon, it was all over. She smiled to herself and started to think about how she could be better next time.
I know that you are pleased for her because you wanted her to do well. And as my tale continues you want to know what happens in the end so that you can learn more from our heroine and use it for yourselves.
And so our final scene is just this.
The torrent of ideas about how she could be better next time poured into her storming from every direction. Then a bright flash caught her eye and she looked into the mirror and was surprised by what she saw.
The princess was no longer quite so proud and confident. Her ponytail was slightly askew and her face was pink with exertion. The princess noticed her looking and smiled then slowly mouthed the words “thank you”.