After the storm

A month has gone by since my mum passed away.

I returned home two weeks ago and, since then, the intensity of the whirlwind which was her final few days has loosened into an ever-present anxiety about completing the clearance of her flat at a distance.

To do so has relied on the kindness of strangers (lovely removal men, who brought a number of her possessions to me last week), and the kindness of an old friend who – as I sit here, and only just realise – I have known for 30 years this September.

It has been painful, unsettling, and revelatory to discover that I can rely on others to do the things that they promised to do, without resentment or passive-aggression on their part. To be in exhaustion and overwhelm over how much was yet to be done at my mum’s flat, and to have my dear friend Bronwen reply to each new realisation with “Not a problem x”.

It is a form of love which perhaps others take for granted. To me it feels so contradictory to the stories I tell myself about the world, that my nervous system struggles to process it.

As it does with my mum’s death. What a strange sentence to write; undeniably true, and yet seemingly impossible.

Continue reading “After the storm”

Slowly, and then all at once

It’s 6pm on a Sunday in the middle of September, 2020. 30 hours earlier, and despite his wife being about to give birth to their third child, my friend Richard has driven from the Cotswolds to collect me in Hertfordshire and roared up the motorways to North East Wales, so I can see my 86-year-old mum safely. Only a few days earlier she was discharged after 8 weeks in hospital, returning home with a diagnosis of multiple myeloma. And here she was, being stretchered into an ambulance to return again, the four-hourly liquid morphine failing to offset the pain or mitigate the weakness resulting from losing 1/7th of her body weight.

The paramedics explain that they’re going to drive nice and slowly, as my mum’s stomach feels unsettled. She asks why, though.

“They’re going to take it nice and gently, as they have precious cargo on board, mum. That’s what you do when you have something special and fragile to transport”

There’s a beat. And then she lifts her head to address us, her audience; “I told her to say that.”

One of them instinctively lunges towards me to catch me, as I almost fall over laughing.

Last Thursday, the 10th March 2022, marked my bright, funny, beautiful, and cheeky mother’s 88th birthday. But I am sad to say that she didn’t live quite long enough to see it.

Continue reading “Slowly, and then all at once”

Be more Dwayne Johnson

Just a quick one today inspired, I kid you not, by a recent interview with Dwayne Johnson (AKA The Rock).

It’s a great read. Johnson is a larger than life figure in more than just the films he’s starred in after his eyebrow-dancing success in WWE, but what you find here is the personal history of the man behind the tattoos and muscles; a history full of trauma, petty crime, and family dysfunction.

But what really caught my eye was this;

Johnson’s friend Oprah Winfrey detects something distinctive at work here. “Most people have the ‘Do you see me?’ gene,” she says, “but he truly has the ‘I see you’ gene.”

Dwayne Johnson Lets Down His Guard
Vanity Fair October 2021
Continue reading “Be more Dwayne Johnson”

Keep CALM and carry on

One of the great skills in life – perhaps even more important than learning new ways to respond to difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations – is being able to apply such learnings in the heat of having those difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

I think it’s why I love mnemonics, such as Tara Brach’s RAIN;

Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.

Continue reading “Keep CALM and carry on”

How to provide hope

Here in the northern hemisphere it’s almost the summer solstice; the day of the year when the hours of daylight are longest, and the hours of darkness at their most brief.

And yet, world events make each passing day feel ever darker. Continue reading “How to provide hope”

The Fear Dance

As March rolls straight into May (I know April was in there somewhere, but I’m damned if I can recall WHERE in the blur), I’ve been thinking about fear.

(I suspect it’s the water we’re all living in.)

As luck would have it I recently found an old handout from Gary Smalley, an author and relationship counsellor, which describes something he’d see in relationships called ‘the Fear Dance’.

Each party would have unspoken expectations. When these were unmet, their fears would be triggered – which in turn triggered the other person. A chain reaction would ensue, and a dance of dissatisfaction and anger would launch unhindered.

Gary lists a host of different fears, and a host of behaviours and responses.

But they come down to 2 core relationship anxieties; fearing a loss of power/feeling controlled, and the fear of disconnection; Continue reading “The Fear Dance”

The kindness of the design

I’ve been walking through treacle recently.

Not literally, of course; that would be insane. But metaphorically speaking, it’s felt much the same; like walking, moving, thinking, through treacle.

It’s one of the joys of chronic illness – and the impact it can have on my emotional and mental well-being. Continue reading “The kindness of the design”

HALT! Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?

I came across something by accident recently, and its succinctness has absolutely blown my mind.

It’s the acronym HALT – which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired.

Hungry: Do I need something physically or emotionally?

Angry: What’s causing me to feel this way?

Lonely: Am I having difficulty connecting with others?

Tired: When was the last time I took a break? Continue reading “HALT! Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired?”