In 2004 and 2005 I spent some time playing rugby on the Gold Coast in Australia. I had left SA with the intention of qualifying to play for Oz at the 2007 Rugby World Cup (with just a little provincial “b” experience). In hindsight I’m not sure why I chose to do so but I do remember cheering for Australia at the 1991 World Cup when all my friends were shouting for the All Blacks.
I also still have a commemorative rugby programme that my dad had signed for me by some of the greatest Australian players of all time. Jason Little. Tim Horgan. Phil Kearns. Nick Farr-Jones. The list is endless and I still treasure it to this day. Fate (or the Australian government) it seemed had other plans for me as I was duly notified that my visa would not be renewed and I would have to return home to South Africa. My story this week isn’t about rugby but it explains a lot of how I’ve come to do what I do today. For although my rugby developed exponentially on the field, it was off the field where I did most of my growing. It was where I first heard the 2 words, Bowen Therapy, that would change the course of my life.
Not for the first time my back started bugging me (euphemism for hurt a lot) a few weeks after arriving on the Gold Coast. After trying some different treatments it wouldnt settle and so a friend recommended I see an Osteopath that had helped them. I had no idea what an osteopath was back then (this has subsequently changed) but I was desperate so I gathered up my xrays and reports and went for an appointment.
After having a look at me and casually looking through my medical reports and scans that I had amassed in just a few weeks with all their medical jargon and degrees of dysfunction he uttered words that I still use in clinic today. He pointed to a tree in the front of his clinic and asked me “Is that tree perfectly straight?” I had a look and could see a tree with a bent trunk and uneven branches. I answered obviously with a no. He then asked “Does that misalignment or imperfection stop the tree from being a tree?” I again answered no. To which he said “Great let’s not worry about how many degrees your hips are out or anything else. Nothing in Nature is perfectly straight so let’s not force an outside model of perfect alignment onto your unique body. As long as we get you back on the field who cares what scans say?” I was sold and today the 4 tenets of osteopathy guide my treatments.
I mention this story because it became a big part of clinic narrative with clients. But it can be applied to just about all things. If I take a R100 note and crumple it, stand on it, dirty it and I can even put slight tears in it, has it lost its value? The answer is no (well until one of our esteemed politicians opens their mouths anyway and sends out currency into a tailspin). The note has a value irrespective of what it looks like. The note is still valuable even though it’s not perfect.
When my kids (in trying to express a big emotion with just a limited vocabulary) tell us they hate us, we are ruining their lives or we don’t do anything for them (I wish I was paraphrasing but these are direct quotes) I don’t love them less. They don’t lose their value as my children. Their frustration doesn't make them less human it makes them more human. I don’t need to shame them for their inability (for now) to express emotion properly. I don’t need to fit an antiquated societal construct onto them, to judge their behavior. Their behavior might not be “straight”but they’re still my kids. They might not be straight trees but they’re still trees.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as perfect posture. To me posture is formed through experience and attitude and so each person has a unique posture that no angles or degrees can measure accurately. Our humanness is the same. Most of us won’t fit the mold of societal perfection but this doesn’t make us less of who we are. It makes us more of who we are. All trees are skew. Stop trying to be a straight tree. Accept the “bentness” of who you are. It doesn’t make you less valuable. It makes you more human.