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.

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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.

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A surprising key to intimacy

Whenever February appears, my thoughts turn to love.

(To be fair they often turn to love, regardless of the month, BUT HEY.)

I’ve recently picked up again my copy of psychologist George Pransky’s The Relationship Handbook: A Simple Guide to Satisfying Relationships.

As I dip into it I’m once again challenged and soothed by the ideas it shares, which include that our struggles come from our insecure thinking rather than what’s happening in our lives, that our moods are simply a reflection of the quality of that thinking, and to not take low moods – ours, and those of other people – too seriously (or to take action during them).

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Purpose, peace, and pleasure

Hey there. Happy New Year 🙂

After my last post, which spoke about exhaustion and the need to rest, I took my own advice and have taken the last two weeks off from, well .. everything. No work, no studying, no meetings. It’s been wonderful as I’ve given myself the space to decompress from, well .. everything. We’re almost two years into a pandemic, and I remember thinking (and hearing from Brene Brown) that this will be a marathon, not a sprint. I don’t know about you, but it’s felt a lot like sprinting too much of the time.

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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
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Top dos and don’ts of tender conversations

Enjoying meaningful conversation with those we love and care about is one of the great pleasures of being human, and two great – and perfectly dove-tailing – articles giving ten top tips apiece have crossed my radar recently.

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Words to silence

Loving someone can be, by its very nature, a vulnerable act; at any moment, the object of our affection can change their mind, reject us, disappoint or leave us.

For many of us, silence has become our way of knowing that something’s ended; from dating’s ever-present ghosting to the dearth of conversation between long-term partners.

The cruellest silence of all is the one that follows a beloved’s death. But what if you could still talk to them – and have them answer back?

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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.

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Attention is love

One of my favourite quotes comes from the Zen Buddhist John Tarrant Roshi; “Attention is the most basic form of love. Through it to we blessed and are blessed.”

I’ve been thinking about attention over the last month – or more, how I planned to be really focused, to catch up on a ton of projects, and how all my plans went out of the window.

My mother was admitted to hospital out of the blue, so in many ways my attention has been scattered, lurching between concerns about the present and some pretty scary thinking about the future.

But in other ways, I’ve seen even more clearly how attention can be the most basic form of love. Continue reading “Attention is love”

Hello, thought storms

Confession: I put myself through the wringer a couple of times last month. I reacted to some stuff with a whole BUNCH of insecure thinking about them, to the point where I didn’t know which way was up any more.

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