Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The Sound of Silence can be very loud!

Silence solves the problem of being perceived as less-than-masculine for a man. Silence can serve as a last-ditch effort to protect ourselves and our relationships from a sense of defeat and resignation. Silence helps us keep our manners. It prevents us from saying something regrettable. Silence can be a way to avoid experiencing the pain that your unhappiness or disappointment can bring. Silence can be used to punish or manipulate. Silence can just be the absence sound. Silence can be the disappearance of a loved one. Silence can be lonely. Silence can be reflective, healing and inspirational 

11 September 2013

“And remember, it's also very funny, because side by side with grief lies joy.”  Fran Drescher

To say I am sad as I write this on the 11th September is probably an understatement and what is making me sad it is the silence from a person I had dreams and hopes for and who are unable, unwilling or just don’t share the same feeling and the loss of a missed opportunity on a person who once thought and then found they couldn't take a chance on me.  It almost feels like an end of an love affair which is so pathetic because I had never actually met this man! It’s the silence without explanation or closure, or honesty that hurts the most.

“In a world of self-indulgence your attitude is going to be your biggest obstacle because you're only concerned with yourself!”

Ironic in a way I writing this on 9/11 because there are a whole lot of people grieving right now on this particular date and for the silence that happened suddenly for them– and it puts everything in perspective and I know that I am being very self-indulgent because not all is a tragedy and there are good experiences that happen every day that you need to hang on to and be grateful for.  Think I need to find some laughter!

Our greatest enemy is the enemy within, for hidden there are dark and destructive emotions. But also hidden there is the light of reason that can lead us to the dawn. “ Edwin Mamerto

But I have also realised that even this sadness is not so straight forward or simple and much more complex.  I may be grieving for my past and those hidden emotions that are being stirred with my quest to find fulfillment from sensual and perceived love.  Grieving for the lost years of living in an abusive marriage, of depression and through fighting cancer and pretending to be strong when I wasn't  grieving for my vulnerability and how I wear my heart on my sleeve; grieving for the daily struggle of being a single mother on a low wage and feeling guilty that I cannot provide sometimes for even the basic needs of my child; and grieving this feeling of loneliness.  Is it unusual to have these feelings?  No, when you have been through cancer,  it is not unusual and you could say that it is  bound to happen.  Do I need to see my doctor about this with my propensity towards depression – probably?

“Life is painful. It has thorns, like the stem of a rose. Culture and art are the roses that bloom on the stem. The flower is yourself, your humanity. Art is the liberation of the humanity inside yourself.” ― Daisaku Ikeda

What has caused this grief, well a mixture of worries but more because of my search for love and the twist and turns and I haven’t even met this person, just a photo, some FB messages and a very occasional voice – and it was me who did the chasing.  This has led to a feeling of rejection, shame and stupidity and mistrust which has brought back a whole raft of feelings and emotions that I thought I had dealt with but no they have just been hidden in the depths of my soul.  From such a high over the summer to such a low as September and autumn starts to sets in.  There is so much love in me to give to the right person – and that is the crux of it – but it has to be the right person.  I have now un-friended this person from my Facebook as the temptation for me to contact him is too much and with such a loud sound of silence coming from that direction I will could make even more of a fool of myself than I have already have done.  Yes the sound of silence can be very loud!

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ― Albert Camus

I have to remember how much I love the autumn months, the beautiful colours as the leaves turn russets greens, pinks and browns and of misty mornings and crisp sunshine days;  the mystery of Halloween, the whiz bright twirls and frizzle of fireworks, and the anticipation of the build up to Christmas. I have to recite each day the things I should be thankful for - how busy I am going to be with my poetry and other community and missionary activities over the coming months.  See the good that happens in each day and focus on those happy and positive thoughts and believe in myself more. 

“From a universal perspective, what you do matters less than how you feel about what you do.”

Sometimes I regret having starting to look for love again – and they do say it is when you are not looking for it that it comes along.  For a poet I suppose these feelings and emotions are brilliant for angst poetry and indeed I have written a whole series of poems called “Seduction of the mind”.  Here is one of them with regard to an on-line dating site:

Welcome, come in and have a peek why don’t you? Just a moment of my time of insight and fantasy imagined unreality.  And where will it lead to I wonder?  Are you bruised, lonely, and bored or are there other desires you want to explore – can’t promise to live up to your expectation.  This is a kind of weird place somewhat twisted in some areas leading to dead ends and others of speculation, and if you are lucky will click with a personality who excites your dreams, your whims of uncertainty or just make you smile once in a while and a wink or two.  So gently knock at a door or be bold and state your intention from the start but be careful with those with a broken-heart and those that burn with a passion drawing you into a web of deceit. You can be anyone here, honest or lie; finding love if you try or maybe that is not what you want but companionship or a virtual sexual liaison to ease your frustration.  Do you know what you want? Do you take that that leap of faith to actually meet, to date and not wait or stay anonymous not wanting to be found out? A chance to believe that out there in this ether is a person meant just for you, building up a picture in your mind but is it true?  So welcome to this seduction of the mind and what you may find.    Its romance, its hope, its laughter and just depends on what you are after.  So take a peek or pass me by but really I’m just looking for a nice guy!

Hope for love, pray for love, wish for love, dream for love…but don’t put your life on hold waiting for love.”

However, I am not giving up!  There is a guy who is declaring his love for me, and writes with a poetic heart but there again I am distrustful of this as we have never met and not quite believing its true either.  There are some dates coming up and interesting chats online which are making me laugh and keeping my interest – and the sheer audacity of some approaches and requests – I have you know I am a good down-to-earth Christian gal!!

"To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down." - Woody Allen, Love and Death

So I am giving myself a good kick, get myself sorted and move on and trust that God will bring someone into my life - probably when I am not looking - lol!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Swimming with Sharks - on-line dating

Each time I blog I say the same thing, sorry for not blogging for a while!  It must get boring …. This time it’s because I have been steering through different kinds of waters - ones that are full of sharks!  It is called the world of on-line dating, although it seems more at the moment the world of on-line texting instead!  I have no spare cash to spend on good on-line dating sites (and who say they work anyway) so I  joined, don’t laugh, Plenty of Fish and a site called Flirtbox.  And gosh it is so easy to get carried away and so addictive to message and get messages back.  I feel sometimes that it is a dangerous game to play this on-line dating as it takes my focus away from the day to day things going on, and because I am of a poetic turn of mind can be seduced, and seduce, by words.  It is a little frightening, if not empowering, and it has prompted me to write a series of work-in-progress poems called “The seduction of the mind”. 

“The next time you try to seduce anyone, don't do it with talk, with words. Women know more about words than men ever will. And they know how little they can ever possibly mean.”  ― William Faulkner

It has taken me over three long years to actually think that I could embark on a relationship again; perhaps it is because it’s been a long hot summer; perhaps because I have a last managed to put the past behind me, or is that I am just feeling a lot more happier, more confident and healthier now over a year and half out of cancer treatment (still taking the tablets though).  Mainly though I am fed up going it alone and want a relationship, a friendship and perhaps eventually a partner.  I am even now considering having a reconstruction, which a few months ago I would have been adamant I wouldn't do.

“Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert

I met a very kind lady in my local pub who had gone through something like me (but strangely without the chemo), and she gave me a gift her mastectomy bras!  Lots of different shades, shapes and styles – and they fitted!  She has good taste as well – so having a good set of lingerie again has immensely cheered me up – mastectomy bras can be so expensive so having ten of them is a godsend!  She even gave me some of her swimwear as well (not been worn) – so when off on hols soon I can swim again with more confidence as well ….. More importantly she talked through the reconstruction operation with me and I can’t lie thinking of having a twelve hour operation and three months of work is a little daunting although on the upside I will probably have a tummy tuck too!  In the Area I live it can take up to two years to have the op so will also be a nice 50th birthday present.  I am seeing my Consultant next in October, so this will be a major topic of conversation.  It could be at considering the reconstruction has been part of my desire for a relationship, but have been told that having one boob is not an issue, but the issue may be my own confidence in my own self-image and it remains to be seen.

“The reflection that we see every day has nothing to do with how others see us.” ― Rasmenia Massoud

Anyway since being on these two sites I have been approached by two married men who have wanted to meet me (the ones I have known about) which is not what I am after all and frankly is not worth the bother or the hurt it can cause; a cross-dresser; a man with a foot fetish who wanted to know what colour I painted my toe nails (!) and several young men as well – which is very disconcerting!  There have been others who I just generally chit chat about daily things who are just too far away for a relationship and then there is this other man – ah yes this other man.

“Was that semi-colon some kind of flirty wink or just bad punctuation?” ― Azadeh Aalai

We all have our criteria for people we want to meet and although looks are fairly important, although would want someone a bit taller than me, and no facial hair, really I look for someone full of personality and character, intelligence and of course the ability to make me laugh and I them (someone one on their own spiritual journey) – a lethal cocktail.  However, you can’t tell anything until you meet someone whether there is that final ingredient – chemistry. Without meeting and just texting or emailing it’s easy to weave a fantasy around a person that might not be healthy and even then you also have no idea about honesty, integrity and trust and have to trust gut instinct – shark infested waters indeed!   I have been offered a couple of dates, but I like this guy I am chatting to but I know he is keeping me at arm’s length and sense his unwillingness to actually meet me at all – perhaps he has weaved a fantasy around me to too?  What I do know is when I am chatting with him on my laptop – my son says “shut up mum, stop looking so happy”! This is the boy who encouraged me to do this in the first place! The scary thing is that this person already has the power to lift me with a smile and bring me low – and that is not a good thing as in truthfulness there is no relationship just a connection made.   If I am never going to meet this person I have to ask is it holding me back from actually meeting someone I could have a relationship with?

“You know when you send a text message to someone and you don't get a response right away, you feel depressed? You send a text message to someone you really like and you get a response right away you feel happy? You feel happy, the body, it creates the chemical dopamine, the dopamine, it goes through your blood and you become addicted to that dopamine rush, and you associate that dopamine rush with the happy feeling of receiving the text, and that's why you got people sending 3,000 text messages a day, right, we're not even paying attention to what we're saying anymore it's just like a, like a morphine drip, right, it's like a dopamine drip! HAPPY BUTTONS! HAPPY BUTTONS! HAPPY BUTTONS! TIME TO PLAY WITH THE HAPPY BUTTONS!”  -  Tom Green

Like my autumn poem I am not desperate and will hold out for the right relationship – I owe this to myself, my son, and frankly deserve it! Talking about things is one thing, action is another and it’s this fantasy I am wary of as reality always intrudes (rightly so) – in the end I am basically lonely and ultimately want to share the ups and downs, challenges and opportunities, laughter and tears with a partner.  Right now that is out of reach for me and I know I will meet many “frogs” on the way – but could make some interesting new friendships too.  It’s a risk either way – but I need to be a little more detached, less open than the person that I am but willing to compromise on the qualities I want such as care, passion and empathy – none of us are perfect and I don’t rate myself too much in the beauty stakes either – although I do know that I am not as unattractive as my profile picture!   Must get a new one – and all you guys out there please smile in yours! 
“Because that's what Life is: Fire. It's the fiery fun of love, adventure, inspiration, and passion. It is the fiery pit of pain, anger and disappointment. The right partner is someone who is brave to risk all just to taste the experience of loving you.”

The one thing is however I don’t think I have wasted my time – I have gradually learned what I do not want, learnt to flirt a bit and have giggled a lot – now just need to go out and meet someone - now who are they who have offered me a date? – perhaps I should accept and not put my eggs in one basket or as my dad would say "play the field"!  I almost feel like a teenager once again I am that nervous, but with a little bit of confidence, a bit of belief, and trusting that the right people will appear - I do think I am ready to swim with some sharks!

“There isn't any symbolism. The sea is the sea. The old man is an old man. The boy is a boy and the fish is a fish. The shark are all sharks no better and no worse. What goes beyond is what you see beyond when you know.”  Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Are You Listening?

The beginning of this year started so slowly but now wow it has accelerated at full speed and I have had to sometimes force myself to slow down – now I am sitting here with a lurgy – tissues in one hand and sipping warm lemonade, lemon and honey with the other while typing this blog – oh to multi-task!

“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert McCloskey

Over the last five months I have done a lot of listening – not to say that I have been keeping quiet (!). From attending meetings, forums and social functions I wonder sometimes how much we do really listen to each other.  I'm not talking just about the verbal but also the non-verbal like body language and reading between the lines – when we read articles, Twitter and Facebook comments, and poetry, watch TV and many other media forms. I mean how many of you can tell your friends are not that happy by the pictures, quotes and comments made on this kind of media?  How many of us take messages very personally thinking it’s somehow meant for us only? And how many of us interpret an innocent comment into something much bigger – it can be a mind-field out there!

“It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen.”Oliver Wendell Holmes

The last three months has been one of making new contacts, friends, and colleagues – brainstorming meetings, forums, continuing the creative side of me through writing and performing, and the privilege and trust of being taken into confidences. It’s a strange thing when people want to take you into their confidence and you are considered trustful – a privilege in fact. Then there is the judging of what to do with the  information and knowledge you have been given - can it be freely passed on to others, kept to yourself, or discussed with other trusted colleagues and friends and the impact that could have. 

"Just being available and attentive is a great way to use listening as a management tool. Some employees will come in, talk for twenty minutes, and leave having solved their problems entirely by themselves."  Nicholas V. Luppa

Long ago back in my corporate life I used to be a counsellor for performance management and I was very much of the view that any problems and issues that were discussed should be kept within that meeting unless it would become such an issue it would have an business impact on the organisation I worked for or the person I was counselling – this is where I would seek consultation from others. However other meetings would find me making suggestions on how performance could be achieved whether through the right training, practical experience or talking to the right people, getting them noticed (in a good way) and how to change perceptions (which is not an easy thing to do for anyone).  Other meetings would involve talking about their personal lives.  I think I was good at it, I very much enjoyed this aspect of my job and I was able to find creative ways to encourage others without taking the credit for performance improvement when it came (and it always did) because they did it themselves - just needed a little encouragement and believe. I was the voice for my counselees who were being graded on performance needing to liaise with those who the person I counselled worked for, recognising strengths and weaknesses, and managing expectations and being realistic about that person’s gifts and abilities. However, it was one also where the counselee was given the tools, but needed to have the wings to fly themselves. It was their choice. 

 “Every person in this life has something to teach me--and as soon as I accept that, I open myself to truly listening.” Catherine Doucette

However, it should be noted that I was not so wise to my own blind spots! They were after all blind to me and having your weaknesses pointed out is not always a nice thing (although the way it is communicated to you really matters).  It’s easier to look at another person, their problems, issues and relationships and see what is happening than actually being immersed in those problems yourself with all the emotions involved – sometimes we cannot see the wood for the trees! Of course I still have blind spots so if someone wants to point them out to me in an encouraging way ........ Perhaps we should take our own advice given to others more often .... just a thought. 

“The intimacy that arises in listening and speaking truth is only possible if we can open to the vulnerability of our own hearts. Breathing in, contacting the life that is right here, is our first step. Once we have held ourselves with kindness, we can touch others in a vital and healing way.”  Tara Brach

Having recently been trained to be a Lay Chaplain I have seen another side to how important it is just to listen to people – this is a skill that seems to have been lost somewhat in our culture where the loudest voices are heard first and acted on, opinions are thrust upon you and choices are made without detailed discussion, proper debate or consideration.  Being a Lay Chaplain is really just about listening and keeping a conversation moving where relevant and talking about spirituality when led by the person you are talking to. I have only being doing this for a very short time but I have already heard some stories good and sad, those of the everyday and others heartbreaking and poignant full of memories.  Being a Lay Chaplain is my way of giving back to people after my brush with cancer who are very often not been given a choice of where they find themselves, vulnerable and having very different needs.  Some of the people I have met have such positivity and the gift of laughter in adversity that they have inspired me. 

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.” David Augsburger

When I was ill with cancer (and before that depression) looking back it was extremely important to me that I had those who could just listen and empathise – not telling me what to do, or judging, because I could figure out what was best for me for myself and the feeling that you are being judged and found wanting rather than being encouraged is not helpful at all. I was lucky I found those people (some I knew and some who were strangers) and it aided those spirits within me to stay positive which is so important when fighting a serious illness. There are people who are ill, those who are caring for people who are ill, people who have a range of issues and problems who just want to be listened too. Particularly in these times of austerity  people do not feel that they are being listened on so many levels – particularly by Governments.

“Listening is a gift of spiritual significance that you can learn to give to others. When you listen, you give one a sense of importance, hope and love that he or she may not receive any other way. Through listening, we nurture and validate the feelings one has, especially when he or she experiences difficulties in life.”  H. Norman Wright

Recently I also did some “Jesus decking” – this is a pack of cards which reflect pictures of the Gospel and cards are chosen to which people are most drawn to. A question is asked of why a particular card(s) has been selected and the listening process starts with interjections where necessary – it’s not about you; it’s about the other person their thoughts, their spirituality and sometimes revealing secrets or a side of person they are only just exploring. The open dialogue and reflection you are given back can have consequences that you may never know about. A seed planted, an issue shared and may be a solution found.

“When someone tells you something big, it's like you're taking money from them, and there's no way it will ever go back to being the way it was. You have to take responsibility for listening.”  Banana Yoshimoto, The Lake

Other confidences that I have had recently have been deeply personal and something I would never divulge to another person or gossip about - and other times have been a kind of mutual supportive counselling giving and taking on each side from friends and colleagues. The one thing I have particularly learned this year is to hold my tongue, think about what I am saying before blurting it out and not fill up the silences. Silences are important but can be uncomfortable.  And then there are the other confidences which have been news I have been given ahead of time (some confidential) and perhaps being used as a sounding board, but is not for me to talk about (although could be hinted about if necessary for  encouragement) - this includes my work but on so many other levels as well.

“You're short on ears and long on mouth.” John Wayne

Research shows that we speak at a rate of about 125 words per minute, yet have the capacity to listen to about 400 words per minute. So what are we doing with that extra space in our minds when someone else is talking? Are we really listening?

“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.”  Bryant McGill

There is nothing worse than knowing that someone is doing something else while we are communicating with them – looking at their iPods, mobiles, not maintaining eye contact and looking over our heads as if they are somewhere else.  Often I find myself listening but also planning the rest of my day, or muddling through something that has happened or even deciding what you will say next before the conversation has finished!  Sometimes I want to fill a silence and will try to finish the sentence with what I think they are saying (a real fault of mine), worse interjecting half-way through and cutting them off.  Other times I know I would benefit from a “South Islands Concho shell” so not to hog a conversation! A real no, no is to put a meaning to a part of a conversation without considering all that has been said – especially when something said may have hit a personal spot and you mull on that aspect only.  We need to let go of our need to be right or place our ideas about what the other person should be saying or doing, and hear them as if for the first time. This is a pretty hard thing to do.

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey

When speaking to people also focus on the body language, tone of voice, and rate of speaking – not just in them but in you too. Look beneath the words to see what feelings and needs are being communicated. You never know what you might find.  Show interest by maintaining eye contact, uncross arms, and ask open questions that take the conversation deeper to find out what really matters to the person you are speaking to – without of course being seen as an inquisitor!  Repeating what you have just heard is also a good idea without asking for clarification you could say, “So what you are saying is....” Show interest.  Effective listening shows you care develop empathy and understanding of another's experience and aids your own relationships with people to thrive.

“ listen first with the ears - then, you wait and listen for what your heart feels - then you consider what they've said - then, you reply ...”  John Geddes

Acting on conversations will involve judgement calls being made and this is where things can become murky –  if a conversation has been one of anger it is better not to react immediately if you can and take some time to consider what has been said – and then a response made, if necessary, when emotions have calmed down.  Sometimes it is what is not said that matters rather than what is.  As I said a mind-field rather than a mine-field!

“The word 'listen' contains the same letters as the word 'silent'.” Alfred Brendel

Others may be part of a group and do not say much at all, it may be they are just taking in what others are saying, do not feel comfortable in group situations and are much better on a one-to-one basis, have a lack of confidence to contribute or find it difficult to get their voice heard from other personalities.  Sometimes it is these people who are listening the most and have valuable insights if only if we give ourselves a chance to listen to them!

“Each of us has one. Each voice is distinct and has something to say. Each voice deserves to be heard. But it requires the act of listening.”  Terry Tempest Williams

Listening to others problems, encouraging and supporting them can be draining on your own emotional intelligence and you need to offload let alone dealing with your own problems and issues which you may want heard as well – that is where my blog and poetry comes in – my therapy, my release – some people run, some people dance, some people play games on Facebook – I like to write.

 “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can't survive.”  BrenĂ© Brown,

There are so many ways that we counsel each other through life, albeit if you are chatting with your hairdresser, taxi driver, friends and colleagues, and also through media – it could just be a stranger at the bus top. There are those who are trained to listen and those who do it informally and those who don’t know they are doing it.  I have been in counselling both through my marriage breakup and through my depression a few years ago – it may have brought up some painful moments but it did make me face aspects of my life and put them into focus.   Generally it is not a counsellor’s job to tell you what they think you should be doing or to make judgements on you as a person but to equip you with tools to deal with issues that are overwhelming you which may be causing problems with your mental health. It was those during my day to day life who were around me I would sometimes offload to or on my blog – and this all fine and dandy along as you give those people a chance to offload too!  Some people just keep things very closely within themselves but there do come times, given the opportunity and in the right circumstances, where they do open up – and this could be to anyone – talking to a stranger can be a good thing rather than to those who know you with preconceived judgements and perceptions.

One friend, one person who is truly understanding, who takes the trouble to listen to us as we consider a problem, can change our whole outlook on the world."  Dr. E. H. Mayo

We all have an influence on each other and we all deserve the privilege of listening and being listened to. It maybe that you say “no I'm not influential” but how do you know this? Sometimes it is something we just don't recognise in ourselves (or even in others), just having a discussion, an offload, sharing of sadness or happiness, a laugh, a smile - the impact of which can have repercussions and reverberations on that other person which no-one will ever know about.   

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

So have we lost the art of listening to each other?  Is it something we can improve on? Could it help all our relationships?  I think so and I’m practicing!

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Recently I was featured in the local paper with the title “Poetry gave me a reason for living” – not something I said or would have chosen and in a way of a headline and think it should be the other way round “Living gave me the reason for poetry”!  By writing this blog as my kind of therapy of the past, present and future and expression of a place where I find hope as well.  I was asked how I could sum up in one sentence of where I thought I was today - and I couldn’t. How can you define past experiences in one sentence?
“A poet's autobiography is his poetry. Anything else is just a footnote.” Yevgeny Yevtushenk
How do you explain how frustrating it is just living day by day without being able to make plans, not even for the next day let alone months or years ahead and how frustrating it is watching those around you forge ahead to the future, while the future seems blocked off to you.  How do you put in words the fatigue, the emotional rollercoaster of a serious illness?  How do you explain how you feel having your child watch you go through depression, and cancer treatment having already suffered from rejection and leaving behind all that he knew to no security of his own home, his own space and then made to feel of no value and treated with a lack of understanding and empathy from others?  I could have wept with despair, or become very angry, became isolated and sunk further into depression – and I am not saying that some days I didn’t or still feel burdened down (and even still do now in recovery) – but I wrote a blog and poetry instead and expressed my feelings there, found quotes that kept me positive, grateful for what I did have, and sought out supportive people who made me laugh, lifted my spirits and who were there when I needed them – and still are around but I can now be around for them too.  And there were certain people around who I could depend on and kept me going with such concern, kindness and practical support. I learned that you cannot go it alone when the going gets tough and also found out those who really cared me and valued me for the person I was rather than whom they wanted me to be.
“Lets face it, everyone tries o be strong and act like nothing ever goes bad in their life, but in reality we all struggle and need help once in a while...Its okay to cry, laugh and ask for help because no one is perfect!”
It is gratifying now that I feel more in a position to return some of that support that was given to me to others now I have finished my lay chaplaincy (hospital visitor) training – been DBS checked and picked up my badge - I am now going into the local hospital on Fridays.  Looking back I am a different person now than before being diagnosed with cancer and I have grown as a person.  
 "I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.’ Hungry not only for bread — but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing — but naked for human dignity and respect.” ~ Mother Teresa
I was also asked looking back, who are you now?  Such a good question and I ask the same of myself “who am I”?  I don't regret my life not really, I wouldn't have my son but I can feel the guilt of not walking away from situations sooner.  Suffering from depression, and having breast cancer and all the tribulations associated with that have been valuable life lessons and which have taught me true compassion and empathy with others.  It has taught me that that you must make the best of life and the curveballs that it throws at you, not stressing too much about the little constant worries and that solution can be found for the larger ones.  Problems do eventually go away but then are replaced by different problems and over a stretch of time you forget why you worried in the first place. I have also learned that it’s ok to desire the material and luxurious things in life but it is the absolute necessities that matter more and there are much more important things then possessions. 

I look at the quote the past does not define youbut in a way it does – it clouds your vision - and you really do need to face the past to move on pass it so the quote can become fact.

“Moving on doesn't mean forgetting things, but accepting what has happened to continue living”.

I do not know the person I was five years ago, and in some ways I am not quite sure of the person I am now either!  I do know however that I am a stronger person than I ever thought I could be, I know what I want to commit to and what my priorities are currently.  Everything else is wishful thinking.  I can only say that what has happened in what I call my “soap opera” life over the last five years is that I have survived and with the grace of God and Jerry springer it has led to where I am now and I have a certain measure of happiness, a sense of purpose, faith and confidence in myself which was not there before. 
“And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won't be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ― Haruki Murakami
Not that the article reflected all this! Why am I writing this now, well I had my consultants visit a couple of weeks ago  – the first year is up.  I can't say that I have been feeling great since Christmas and have been a little worried that my recovery was not going as well as it should.  But was told “what do you expect”!  Recovery can take years to get the energy you once had back and then there are the side effects of the pills I am taking and throw in the long winter and lack of vitamin D, I can join everyone else who seems to be tired, down and yucky at the moment.   There are no bumps or lumps so it’s see you in six months ……  At least it allayed some fears. 
“Where ever fear shadows…. that always means there is a light shining somewhere.” ~Jonathan Santos
You may think that everything should be hunky dory now, but as I said as one problem go away others replace them and at the moment this is financial difficulty.  I have been struggling quite a while with my finances, an accumulation of lots things and years but now including reduced hours at work, an ex-husband who can't pay child maintenance (sure he is working cash-in-hand though) and the increasing costs in everything else from council tax, utility bills to food.  I have tried borrowing myself out of it but that hasn't worked and at long last I am now tackling it very seriously.  I wouldn't mind if I had accumulated debt because I had carpeted my flat, brought a new flat screen TV, a tumble dryer, a shower unit, a new oven, a new laptop and went on holiday (all on my wish list) but it is just surviving day to day and I do realise that I am not the only one in this position.  I am not the best person at managing my money having always relied on an overdraft but this is no longer an option and in reality is a false status of affairs when it is a lot worse. I must admit I am sometimes sceptical of people who say they have no money when you are weighing up what food to buy to buying a new coat for your son rather than saying you can’t afford to go on holiday – but then I suppose that having no money means different things to other people to different degrees and to different worries and anxieties so I should not judge.  Well I have started tackling it already (and not without support I must add) having met with my bank branch manager, a friend who took me through debt management strategies and setting a new budget with goals - I can now sleep a little better knowing I am doing something about it rather than hiding my head in the sand.
“Debts are like children: the smaller they are the more noise they make.” -Spanish Proverb
What have I done/going to do?  Here are my top ten:
  • Broke down all my current spending (including how much I spend on the cats) for the month and then looked at those figures and then the areas where I can spend less coming up with a budget that meets my incoming money. (There are obviously things like rent which you cannot reduce. Also try to identify amounts you spend on birthdays, Easter, Christmas –things that could be an outlay if needed, i.e glasses, holidays, and anything you may want to save up for, for me my carpets(!) and put this away in a savings account. I am saving a small amount currently through pay as you earn and it is paid out of my salary straight into a savings account so I don’t miss that money.  It may not be much but I broke down, for example, 50p per month for Easter which £6 per year which is about what I do spend on Easter eggs anyway. 
  • Changes my bank account to non-fee paying, took of the reserve and lowered my overdraf
  • Moved my direct debits to come out of my account as near to my payday as possible. (This one and the above will ensure unnecessary banking charges do not come out of my account and by moving my direct debits within the first week of salary means a) they payments won't deferred incurring exorbitant  charges and I know exactly what I have to spend.)
  • Spoke to your bank’s financial assistance line for advice. (This  is not the National Debt line but each bank have financial assistance advisor who can help you – for example in the next four months I will be able to consolidate my loan and by paying it over a longer term with a reduced interest rate I will have a little more monthly income. If you go to the retail personal banking they will probably offer you a loan at an inflated interest rate and even if you do say you are consolidating will not probably not be directed to financial assistance.  I wish I had known this before borrowing to get out debt last year!) do not speak to the retail side of the bank for personal loans go through to the financial assistance line first. )
  • Having a payment diary – basically recording amounts to make sure I am keeping to the budget
  • Online banking so you are reconciling your budget diary to your bank account (It’s really important to keep an eye on your accounts regularly and not waiting for monthly statements tending to hide from what money you have in your – which I have tended to do.)
  • Setting up menu’s of meals and stock-taking exactly what I do have in my cupboards, freezer etc 
  • On-line shopping for big shop and list on fridge of what needed in between and only getting those things when popping to the local supermarket. (Ok this might seem a bit onerous but the important thing is to stock up at the beginning of the month/or every two weeks taking a big chunk of the food and running of the household budget leaving some left for perishable items.  I do seem throw away food more than I should do and have been guilty of buying things I already have! – the important thing here is reduce my food budget by quite a lot so not to be tempted by other things in store just getting what is needed which is going to be quite hard for me because I like to shop and not online!)
  • Cash not card – take out the cash for budget and do not use card  (Elementary take out the cash and keep within that cash amount you have taken out – don't take your card out with you on days out etc. so you only use the cash you have allocated yourself – again keeps you focussed!)
  • Looking for better utility/broadband etc. deals (Ok I’m not having much luck at this one – but you may do so!)
“Some people use one half their ingenuity to get into debt, and the other half to avoid paying it.” -George Prentice
Of course there are other things like ensuring that you are getting the benefits you are entitled i.e. housing benefit, working tax credit and child tax credit to ensuring your tax code is correct and finding lost bank accounts.  There are also things like extreme couponing, saving “shrapnel” change and putting this into a savings accounting or taking it to the bank and exchanging for notes etc, making money on-line. You could sell gold, put items on Ebay and also sell branded/vintage clothes you will never wear again to local shops specialise in this.  I am watching Superscrimpers for ideas and I am sure that you all may have tip for me too which I would be very grateful to get!  Please do send.  One given recently never turn down a free meal or drink!

Anyway getting into debt has just been another worry and also to some extent came about due to having cancer – to be ill and face financial difficulties is a double whammy and would also advise you speak to McMillan as they are brilliant in this area. 
“Like any problem it’s just admitting there is one in the first place, getting help and taking action” 
Did I hear anyone say giving up smoking – well obviously that is on the list and pretty high up there too!  My son has also now getting a Saturday job, is making some money on Fivver on-line (Fivver is where people do things for $5 or what they call $5 per gig – paid into paypal – doing such things as infographics, editing videos or basically anything you can do for $5 and from his YouTube channel – so is making his own pocket money to buy those things he wants – he is even going to move his direct debits (only two of minimal amount) to his own paypal.  Later when his contract runs out on his mobile he is going to get his own and pay for his own contract too!  He’s learning budgeting too .......
“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.” ― Joe Biden
Otherwise – I think I can say everything is hunky dory right now – although my son has signed me up to an online dating site so that might be another blog if I decide to be a little adventurous! Not really me though but it’s difficult to try to start dating again.  I do want someone in my life but I am very wary and well aware of the barriers I do put up. I also need to learn flirt again!  Any tips?
I have been out and about performing poetry again - and have done a lot of walking as will be doing Race for Life in June – although note - walking not running (the wimp I am!).
“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.” – Isak Dinesen
The past does not define you?

They say the past does not you define
Clouded vision, emotion confined
Repeating the same scene,
Over, and over, and over again
Poisoned forked-tongued serpent
Of heart in weeds entwined
Could it really have been different?

The past is gone
That cannot change
The future not designed

The justifying games we devise
The little ways we improvise
A consciousness self-awoken
Of the hidden and unspoken
A heart with burden aches
In vulnerability
Not to make the same mistake

Be aware, see the truth
Light up the darkness
To blinded invisibility

Don’t make a noise, keep the peace
Crows starving at the devious feast
Ripping and tearing at the despair
Of castles drawn in the air
Experience your defence
The heart that’s been deceived
Why do you keep up this pretence?

Give it a voice
Let out the rage
In yourself believe

Face the demons that contaminate your space
Put happiness and laughter in their place
Memories unhidden not forgotten but happened
Regrets unbidden, put away not saddened
There’s really is no mystery
To loving the person you’ve become
Just need to face all with honesty

You are who you are
I am who I am
And just keep on moving on

Thursday, 4 April 2013

So what’s up Doc?

So many people I speak to at the moment seem to be depressed, tired and experiencing different minor ailments (including myself) and personally I think with the prolonged wintery conditions the lack of sunlight are making us all SAD! It’s amazing how just one sunny day lifts all our spirits and the feeling of wellbeing.

“Such a feel good factor looking up at the sky with that lovely fiery ball of warmth amongst the clouds that makes any day feel so much better.”

Our human body was designed to be exposed to sunlight on a frequent basis. We evolved, after all, under the natural sun so being deprived of it can be problem.   

“I’m coming out of the shadows; I'm coming into the light. I'm stepping out in the sunshine, cos it’s the end of the night.” Calvin Harris quotes 

Now I know that SAD is a serious condition for those who suffer from it, and I don’t want to belittle it here and Seasonal Affective Disorder can be applied inaccurately to the normal shift to lower energy levels in winter- but with the late spring this year and lack of sunlight it can make us all sleep too much, have little energy and feelings of being just down and unwell - and the answer to this is may well be that we are becoming vitamin D deficient.

“A cloudy day or a little sunshine has as great an influence on many constitutions as the most recent blessings or misfortunes.” Joseph Addison

Did you know that studies have shown that between 60% and 90% of people with SAD are women? It’s true. If you are a female between 15 and 55, you are more likely to develop SAD – as if we don't have enough to contend with!

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.” Luther Burbank

People who are at a higher risk of  being vitamin D deficient include pregnant and breastfeeding women, young children, older people, darker-skinned people, those who wear whole-body coverings, those living in institutions, skin cancer patients and those of us who avoid the sun – so that includes my teenager then!

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.”  ~John Denver

The jury however is out on precisely how vitamin D deficiency can affect us but it has been attributed to:  

  • Lowered immunity and being more susceptible to colds, skin infection, staph infections and respiratory tract infection
  •  Tooth loss, oral infections and gum disease
  •  Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and increase of appetite
  •   Joint pain, low back pain, knee pain
  •  Sleep problems depression, low energy and forgetfulness
  •   Insulin resistance

It has also been suggested that low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of certain cancers and (according to reports on the NHS website) although this has been proven true with regard to bowel cancer, the evidence is limited for breast cancer, non-existent for prostate cancer and too sparse for other cancer types to draw firm conclusions. But sunshine does raise our spirits of well being and I don't know about you but I notice people smile more, it encourages us to be out of doors breathing in the fresh air, exercising and may make us think of eating a better diet – and all  this is healthy in itself.  It a gloomy day today, cold and a fluttering of snow and all I want to do is stay indoors and hibernate!

“Anyone's life truly lived consists of work, sunshine, exercise, soap, plenty of fresh air, and a happy contented spirit.” Lillie Langtry

Five forms of vitamin D has been discovered, vitamin D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5. The two forms that seem to matter most to humans are D2 and D3.  If you do have the symptoms above, or even a mix of them, it may be worth asking your doctor for a blood test to check your Vitamin D levels and rather than being prescribed high-profit prescription drugs that merely mask symptoms and do not address the underlying causes of being deficient in Vitamin D. Note: I am not medically trained but the research that is being done on vitamin D and the implications of being deficient is growing every day and of course there are also free and alternative treatments available that can raise your Vitamin D intake.

“Where there is sunshine the doctor starves.”  ~Flemish Proverb

Firstly Vitamin D is not absorbed – our bodies make it. From springtime onwards it is recommended that about 15 to 30 minutes on your arms and legs two to three times a week is enough to raise your vitamin D and wellbeing levels (noting that complete cloud cover halves the energy of ultraviolet rays and in the shade reducing it by 60 percent).  Of course exposing yourself to sunshine has its own risk and it is impractical to offer a one-size-fits-all recommendation for the amount of sun exposure that we all need to make sufficient vitamin D, but regularly going outside for a matter of minutes around the middle of the day without sunscreen should be enough with sun exposure being little and often. The more the skin is exposed the greater the chance of us making sufficient vitamin D before burning.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, and drink the wild air.”

Amazingly, if we achieve a sufficient supply of vitamin D in the summer, for most of us that is enough to last until the spring.  But looking out of my window despite being spring it’s very cold and snowing and it doesn't look as if the sun is coming out any day soon either! During winter months (particularly in the UK) there is not enough UVB for vitamin D synthesis and we rely on the Vitamin D that is stored in our tissue from the spring and summer months.  The only thing I can say right now is if the sun does come out it would be good if you had the opportunity to go out and soak up some of those rays whenever you can!

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.” Anne Bronte

Vitamin D also is found in oily fish (including salmon, trout and sardines) and eggs being the main natural sources, but also liver, meat, fortified milk and cod liver oil, fortified foods such as orange juice with calcium and vitamin D, margarine and other fat spreads, breakfast cereals and curiously mushrooms.   

“A morning without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.”

Vitamin D supplements can also be taken, although it is advised not to take more than 25 micrograms a day, as intakes from supplements above this amount could be harmful.  The Government recommended dose is that people at risk of low sun exposure should take a 10 microgram supplement of vitamin D a day (7 micrograms a day for children aged 6 months to 5 years)

“When my heart is heavy, the sun helps make it light.” ~Terri Guillemets

The next best thing to natural sunlight is high-intensity, full-spectrum lighting, which is available from various light boxes and seasonal affective disorder treatment devices. These are essentially very bright lights that radiate some of the same frequencies as the natural sun directly onto your skin (and into your eyes) which has a similar effect for storing Vitamin D.  Using light therapy has shown to be effective but must be used for a certain amount of time daily, continuing throughout the dark winter months.  You may experience some mild side effects, such as headaches, eyestrain, or nausea but light therapy users say that the side effects are temporary and subside with time. The best time for light therapy is in the early morning. (If used late at night, it could cause insomnia) and you should have your eyes open and face the light during therapy (not staring at the light directly but simply face the light, eyes open.)

“Some days you just have to create your own sunshine.”

Some of you may think that sunbeds are a good source of a Vitamin D top up and although any exposure to UVB radiation can increase vitamin D levels as sunbed use is accompanied by a high frequency of sunburns linked to a higher risk of melanoma - using sunbeds is probably not such a good idea.

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather. John Ruskin”

Finally, whatever your thoughts right now – I just wish that Sun would just make an appearance and shine on us all, particularly in the UK - I am sure we would all be much happier, lighter in spirit and begin to feel much healthier (although being the fickle people we are am sure then we will have different problems to contend with– sunburn, moans that it’s too hot, water hose ban and the longing of rain!) but remember instead of staying stuck in doors on your computers or for other reasons if you are able try to just get a few minutes of the rays of sunshine each day. I have to be careful in the sun for two reasons; one because I have a slight allergy to the sun ever since I became diabetic so on extra sunny days I take an allergy tablet before going on a day out and secondly because of the radiation treatment undertaken last year and do not want to get sunburn. Also for me it may mean that I will have to chuck my teenager out of the house on the sunny days to ensure that he gets his quota of sunshine and Vitamin D as well for the year – don't expect that to be easy!

“When the sun begins to shine
at the blessed springtime
From the winter days of gloom
Its healthy growing rays
As each flower begins to bloom
Happiness levels raised
Well-being refreshed anew
Welcoming smiles of how do you do?
And please stay a little while
At least to the afternoon
Letting us reconcile
Whistle to another tune”
                                               (Belinda Federl)