91. A Fine Line.

Cancer isn’t selective. It is, however, divisive.

It can be the fine line between life and death.

It is definitely the line between a good night’s sleep and hours of wakeful terror.

It draws the line between those who have received a cancer diagnosis, however given (in my own case a gentle, “I’m 90% sure we’re dealing with lymphoma”), and those who haven’t. It draws a line between your ‘old’ life and a life that rapidly becomes filled with hospital appointments and the whole new language that comes with treatment. It forces you to make decisions about that treatment, and therefore implicitly your future. My immediate worry was about the mortgage, and what would happen to those I loved if I didn’t make it. At that point, after a difficult few years, I wasn’t in a position to secure their future. But something else happens too. In Blog #4, way back in the early days as I was starting treatment, I wrote,

There is something amazing about the human spirit and its capacity for survival; whatever the situation, there is a primal instinct that draws us together in times of danger. We become a clique, a special club. Was it Groucho Marx who said that he didn’t want to be a member of any club that would have him as a member? He hadn’t been on a cancer ward. I was welcomed with smiles and kindness by everyone, and I feel very safe.”

And it’s true. Being part of that special club opens doors, gets us a special discount (sorry, but it’s always a pleasant surprise), it breaks the ice at parties, helps to start difficult conversations and it brings people together from the four corners of the world like possibly nothing else can. The staff on the wards were the cheeriest I’d ever met, and they considered themselves to be doing true nursing. I heard that there was a waiting list to join the cancer unit because it was here they could make a difference, whether that involved sitting with someone while they bawled their eyes out (me) or laughing their socks off at a silly YouTube video sent by their son (also me) or administering toxic drugs (all of us). Cancer may be divisive, but it is also inclusive, and in Breast Cancer Awareness Month I would like to extend our thoughts to every single person facing any kind of cancer – no matter how rare, how common, or how fancy its name. Spread the love, people. Let’s do it.

Sending much love

Margaret

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90. All At Sea

One of the best things about the beautiful weather we’ve had in the UK is that we’ve been able to Plan Things. I mean, we do plan things in general, but there’s usually the need for contingency plans in case of bad weather. So, for instance, clothing for a sunny day out over here might initially involve t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, sunglasses and water, but there’s a sub-text of thick jumper, waterproof, hat and possibly gloves because it might well change. It’s one of the joys of living between several weather patterns that can change at the drop of a hat, so you can imagine that when we get a period of settled weather it’s a bit of a shock; in fact, staying cool suddenly became a daily challenge rather than a rare novelty, and it was in the spirit of all this consistency that I finally went sea kayaking.

I’ve wanted to do this for ages, but I’m a cautious soul at heart and there’s always been a “yes, but…” holding me back, the chief excuse of course being the weather. Well that one was neatly dispatched by the apparently never-ending blue skies, so with no excuses left I actually booked a session with Steven Malone of H2oadventures and finally became one of those people that I’d envied for so long, floating way out in the bay in the blazing sunshine.

Here’s the evidence:

DSCF4481

It was stunning.

The only noise came from the paddle cutting through the waves, and when we got further out into the bay and I stopped paddling for a while there was silence. Just me and the sea and a very deep sense of peace. It was the perfect place to just sit and be with myself, and allow the thoughts that usually clamour for my attention to take a back seat for a change. It occurs to me now, that riding the waves out there (thankfully very small that day) is the same as riding the waves of our daily lives. Sometimes they’re big crashing ones that we fear will destroy us, but periodically we have a more settled time, even if it’s just for a few moments, when we can take stock and say, “This is just beautiful, and I’m so lucky to be here.” And I truly believe that it’s in those moments we get the chance to refuel and recharge so that we can carry on and face the scarier waves.

I’m now at the fifth anniversary of my own big scary waves, and I’m still working hard at seeing the beauty in every moment, because at one point there was a distinct possibility I wouldn’t have any more. So although it’s taken a while to get here, we’re now in a part of the world that is literally begging us to venture out and appreciate it, and we’re surrounded by fit folks who can help us do so. Not kidding you, the people here are seriously fit and healthy. The guy who lives up behind us is in his seventies and he walks down (and back up) several very steep hills to swim in the sea every day, and a high percentage of the runners we see around are older than you’d expect. There’s a “do it NOW” feeling here. Don’t let life pass you by. Grab it with both hands and get out there and allow nature to give you the deepest healing possible, because that’s what nature can do, if we would only allow it to.

So that’s what we’re doing. Thank you, Steven Malone, for a truly amazing introduction to the wonders of sea kayaking. I am totally hooked and I will be back.

Wishing you all good health,

Margaret

 

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89. It’s Life – But Not As We Know It

And so it came to pass that after what seemed like months of legal delays, missing paperwork, breakdowns in communication and all the general teeth-grinding frustrations that crop up at these times, we finally moved to our own particular version of paradise. Although we previously lived on a very gorgeous part of the South Coast, the (relative) wilderness called loud and long, as did the need for our own space and especially a garden, so we’re now enjoying life in a little town that has no superstores or retail parks, and no major chain coffee shops or ‘lounges’ or restaurants. Oh and the quickest way to reach it is by chain ferry. Yes indeedy. Swanage is a little town with a massive heart that it opened up to us the very first day we arrived.

The experience of moving was itself traumatic of course, but it gained a certain edge due to me slicing my heel open on the tape gun two days before The Big Day – pretty messy, as you can no doubt imagine (never realised so much blood got pumped through your heel) – then the actual Day Before The Big Day Stephen sliced open his finger from top to bottom on a glass that decided to break in the washing up water. Oh yay. A LOT more blood. Of course I’d already packed the First Aid kit (oh come on, you have to pack it at some point – not everything can be left out until the last minute) as I thought two mature adults should be pretty safe just chucking stuff in boxes. Apparently not. Fortunately for us our lovely neighbour Rose came calmly to the rescue not once, but twice, and along with a lightning visit to the nurse at our local surgery and a whole lot of Steristrip, we made it to our new home exhausted, but reasonably intact.

By the time the removal van had driven away and we’d made some headway into locating exactly where we’d lobbed stuff, Stephen’s pristine and ‘make sure you keep it clean’ dressing was absolutely black and the steristrips were falling out the bottom; not a good thing with an open wound, so after a brief consultation at the local pharmacy we made our inaugural trip to the cottage hospital. Who has a cottage hospital anymore? It’s a totally gorgeous place with lovely staff who sorted Stephen out with a cheery ‘Welcome to Swanage’ and some clean dressings, and so towards the end of a very long day, we finally made our way to the local pub for some much needed refreshment. All hail to The Black Swan for a fabulous meal. We will be back. A lot.

For the first week or so we really were in heaven. The summer has arrived in glorious Technicolor, and we at last have the sea views we’ve longed for. The sun rises over the sea, which is visible from our lounge window, and it sets over the gorgeous and historic Purbeck Hills, sending a deep pink glow into our kitchen and the other end of the lounge. We have foxes, badgers and a deer that pops in regularly, the birdsong is astounding, and the garden is full of butterflies, bees and every insect imaginable. We felt truly blessed. And we do still feel blessed but there is now an aching, fluffy, black and white shaped hole in our hearts, because our beautiful Rowan has gone missing. I’m no stranger to the poignancy of grief, but it is odd to be in the presence of such natural beauty and perfection and to feel sad inside.

We did all the right things with the cats, kept them in until they were clearly ready to go out, stayed close with them outside while they explored, then on the 3rd June, after several days of appearing relaxed and totally chilled, Rowan just didn’t come back after her evening wander. With the amount of wildlife here we’re thinking that maybe she ran away from something and can’t find her way home as she doesn’t know the area well enough yet. If she’s trying to get back to our old place that presents a lot of difficulties as there’s a big chunk of water between here and there.

It’s hard to find a silver lining in something like this – and you know I’m not a ‘sky is blue, the birds are singing, it’s all perfect’ kind of person – but if there is a silver lining, it is that in losing Rowan we have got to know literally LOADS of people who have really, really taken us to their hearts. When I originally moved down to the South Coast my sons were still small, so there were plenty of toddler and pre-school groups to join and meeting people was easy. Somewhere very quietly inside, and I definitely didn’t say this out loud, I was wondering how easy it would be to know people over here. With my history of thinking such things I should have known better. I needn’t have worried. We have been busily putting leaflets through doors, leaving them in shops, attaching them to lamp posts and giving them to anyone who even makes eye contact with us. I’ve posted on every possible Facebook page and joined closed local groups so that I can spread the word, and even the lovely people from the dance class I’ve just joined have happily taken a leaflet and promised to help in the search. The goodwill and support we’re receiving from people we’ve only just met is astounding.

After a week of frenzied activity we asked Susannah Rafelle, the animal communicator I wrote about in Blog #80, to try and contact her. At that point it seemed Rowan was alive and well but couldn’t get home and described an area that could have been allotments, with a lot of low buildings. Sheds maybe? There are literally loads of those around here. I read about someone who dowsed for lost cats, and unable to contact them directly set about doing it myself, dividing a map into quadrants until the crystal quite definitely indicated a row of mobile homes in the holiday park next door to us. We set off a-hunting for her and discovered that it’s a beautiful site with stunning sea views, and an absolute idyll for wildlife as it’s at the bottom of a nature reserve. There were plenty of places for her to hide, and as the crystal led us to a very quiet and secluded part of it I could imagine she felt reasonably safe, if indeed she was there. This is where the whole cats-being-the-opposite-of-dogs bit really kicks in, because if a dog is lost and its owner appears there would usually be a massive and very sloppy reunion. But with a cat it’s whole different game, and if she was/is there, she wasn’t coming out, despite us calling for her, sitting quietly, rattling crunchies, not rattling crunchies, and – oh yes – talking to more people.

So the searching and talking and lighting a candle and visualising her coming home and posting continues and we very definitely haven’t given up hope, but you know what, Rowan? Stephen and I feel we’ve had a fabulous, nay, overwhelming introduction to the good people of Swanage, thank you very much, and your Big Adventure has very much served its purpose. If you would come home now, or present yourself to someone who can read your microchip and bring you back to us, that would be totally cool and we would all appreciate it very much. Please. Even Titan misses you, and I really didn’t ever think I’d write those words. Here’s the good lady herself. Any help you could give in guiding her back to us would be very welcome.

Rowan big

Wishing you good health and happiness,

Margaret xx

 

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88. A Tale of Two Tails     

Some of you might have followed the escapades of our youngest cat, Titan, in previous blogs. Here he is. All sweetness and light, isn’t he?

Titan rat

Except he isn’t. Don’t be fooled by that cute, butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth look. Make no mistake, this weeny little cat is a lean, mean, killing machine who has excelled himself recently. No doubt the neighbours are delighted that the mice/rat/vole population has been decimated since he joined our happy tribe, but we’re not. Well I’m not. I’m a bit squeamish about catching and rounding up his unwilling houseguests (despite having kept pet rats in the past), so we have an agreement that Stephen catches the wildlife, while I sort out the sick. Let’s just say it works for us.

The hunting seems to go in phases, where we have a few weeks of no bodies or little brown animals scampering around, then suddenly we’re inundated. This week has been particularly challenging as on Wednesday we noticed a particular smell in the kitchen. There’s a really good reason for the expression, “I smell a rat”, as anyone who’s kept rats will agree. Apparently they don’t have bladders, consequently leaving a trail of urine wherever they go. As pets they are funny, yes, clever, yes, entertaining, yes, and very smelly, also a yes, no matter how much you clean them out. Trust me, we’ve had six.

A few years ago we had a similar situation when a rat managed to get behind the washing machine/dishwasher/sink unit and after several days of rat hunting and half-destroying the kitchen, we managed to rescue it. To counter any such repetition of events we stuffed towels into likely gaps, which seemed to work really well, if looking a bit weird. Then recently we had a bit of a redecorate and very stupidly decided we might be safe enough now to take the towels away as they didn’t look that great, TBH. Anyway, back to Wednesday evening, when we realised we’d made a very silly decision as there was clearly a rat camping out behind the units again. Aaargh. It really wasn’t the time to start heaving everything around, so we went to bed hoping Mr/Ms Rat would make an escape bid during the night.

Clearly by the next morning it hadn’t, as judged by the increasing ratty aroma. Sigh. We were off to London for a book launch later that day, but felt the need to try to rescue the poor thing before we left. Plus we didn’t want it starving to death behind the units as that would have smelt even worse. That’s happened behind a bookcase in the not too distant past. Yuk. Moving on.

We set about heaving the dishwasher and washing machine out. And then taking the kickboards off.

Here’s the evidence

Kitchen 1

Kitchen 2

We’re not normally this messy, promise. This is what happens when you have to take all the contents out of the cupboards to check it hasn’t climbed in there through the holes where the pipes go. Then just as we were completely unprepared, a baby rat belted out from behind the washing machine, round the front of it and back under the sink unit. Nooo! We spent a good while trying to get behind there without completely destroying the kitchen in the process, and eventually had to give up as we had to leave for our train. At least leaving all the units out gave us a bit of hope it would escape on its own. Our lovely neighbour Rose comes to feed the cats if we’re away, so I had to leave a note explaining why the kitchen looked a lot worse than usual. I’m hoping she believed me…

Friday whizzed by in a tired blur as we got back really really late from the book launch and we couldn’t bring ourselves to start banging around again at the end of another long day, so with heavy hearts and a bombsite of a kitchen we headed for bed.

Guess how this morning turned out? Yes! More head scratching and prodding of units to rescue the rat, which was starting to feel like part of the family by now. Hopefully a live one. You might wonder why we assumed it was still there. The big clue was in the ginger ninja waiting patiently by the washing machine (no, not to do his washing – it wasn’t his day). It’s usually pretty obvious where Titan has left his guest as he hangs around whichever piece of furniture it’s hiding behind until he can’t literally can’t keep his eyes open. You know cats sleep 80% of the day? Not when they’re staking out their prey. We had one baggy-eyed cat this morning. Ha!

So there was a lot more banging around and sliding of things down tiny spaces to try and scare/coerce/prise our little rodent out, but eventually through extreme boredom combined with no outcome we decided to abandon our search and go shopping, just for a change of scenery. And then when we got back and saw just how the kitchen looked, we decided we were fed up of living in such a tip and that by now the rat would surely have either died or escaped. At which point Stephen noticed that Titan was staking out a new area. Hurrah!! It was alive! This should be a doddle after the shenanigans in the kitchen. So hoping it’s the same rat and not a new one. Hmm. Gentle investigation revealed a little furry face poking out from underneath the book case in the hall, so we lined up the rat-catching pint glass at one end, blocked the other end with a cushion and gently tried to encourage him out.

Here’s the pic (you can’t see the cushion)

Bookcase1

At which point he scarpered through the TINY gap between cushion and wall, then legged it across the hall to hide behind our very heavy sheesham sideboard (which we’re trying to sell BTW just in case anyone out there is interested). So we gently heaved that out to discover – no rat. And that door is CLOSED.

Sideboard

So where the hell was he now? With three cats prowling around you’d think one of them would have noticed Rattius legging it across the lounge, although TBH Titan by this stage was looking like he’d had a night on the razz. The lounge is pretty naked at the moment (post decorating) and the only POSSIBLE place if he managed to squeeze through that tiny gap in the door, was the one remaining bookcase in there. So out that came. Sorry, no pic. And there he was! Hiding in the hollow corner underneath it. Yay! Stephen rushed off to get The Glass while I kept watch. At which point Rattius belted out towards the back wall and along behind the sofa. No! It wasn’t me! Not my fault! Stephen reappeared with The Glass and, not best pleased,  cautiously investigated the back corner of the lounge which includes a desk and a whole load of stuff, whereupon Rattius decided to make a break for freedom and headed out to the conservatory, hotly pursued by Titan who’d sleepily clocked that something was going down.

You’re probably bore shitless by now, but it has taken up a LOT of my time this week so I just had to inflict it on you. With Titan bundled safely behind the conservatory door and the two Oldies on the decking – they don’t move for anything except food these days – we opened the door to the outside and The Prisoner leapt to freedom, trampling right over Rowan’s tail in the process. She was like, ‘Oh there’s something walking over my tail. Oh. It’s a rat. Can I be bothered anymore? Nah.’ Well praise be for that. Rio made a very half-hearted attempt to follow behind, but fortunately I managed to distract him. And so Rattius is gone. And we’re exhausted. And the place is a tip. But he’s free, and I really hope he survives and stays that way.

And one final thing. Did I tell you I have a new book out? Yep. Follow the link at the top of the bar on the right and you can read aaaaallll about it. Ideal summer reading and a lot of fun with a bit of darkness thrown in. Enjoy.

Wishing you all good health and happiness

Margaret xx

 

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87. I Can’t Do This Alone

I’m relieved that I’ve managed to come screaming in with a blog just before the end of April, as it was getting a bit embarrassing. There’s not much point keeping a blog if I don’t, er, write in it, is there? A bit like having an empty journal by the side of your bed that you’re absolutely, definitely going to write in tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.

As per the excuses in Blog #86, it’s not that there hasn’t been anything to report, it’s more that there’s been so much happening that I haven’t had the time to think about writing here. And one of those things is that I have finally finished and published my second book. Well praise be for that, as it was taking up every waking moment and even my totally wonderful support team were probably getting a bit jaded. In the Acknowledgements I say that writing a book is never a solo journey, and I don’t think it can be. Artists of all kinds need muses and sounding boards, and in my own case that means friends who thought they were just friends, and family who were quite happily chuntering around being just family, may quite possibly have found themselves as characters in It Could Only Happen At Sea. Sorry peeps, occupational hazard apparently if there’s a writer in your midst.

I guess seasoned writers out there are having a ‘der, obviously?’ moment, in contrast to me. I’m having a massive light-bulb moment, which has got me thinking about the way we’re all interconnected, a theme found in Buddhism in general and Thich Nhat Hanh’s writing in particular. Because if I’m not completely me without them being in my life, then presumably it works the other way too and they aren’t 100% them without me being in their lives (even if they might like to be), so on some energetic level we are all connected however difficult we might find it sometimes. More of this in a moment. Clearly this isn’t spiritual rocket science, but the whole process of writing my book and getting myself into the heads of the characters has brought me to thinking about it on a deeply personal level. Because it’s not just friends that we’re part of, is it? We’re also part of the driver that cuts us up in traffic, or any other person who causes us to have an extremely uncharitable thought. Or somebody out in the wider world who is doing really bad things. Those people who quite possibly represent the shadow side of ourselves we’re ashamed of and don’t want to acknowledge. How does that work then? That troubled me a lot.

And in the way that the Universe provides what’s needed just when it’s needed, the daily newsletter from the wonderful Pam Grout popped into my inbox. She was writing about the Hawaiian forgiveness practice of Ho’oponopono, something I’d heard about vaguely and added to the ‘must look into this’ category, so this was clearly the moment to be looking into it. Rather than make a total fist of summarising it and probably writing a massively long blog as a result (which I’m trying not to do), I suggest you follow this link by Dr Joe Vitale and read about the inspiring Dr Ihaleakala. What I will say though, is that as a result of reading it and buying the book and the t-shirt, I’m trying very hard to practice taking responsibility for myself in the context of being connected to, and part of, everyone else. Oooh. Tough call. I love to have food for thought and this is a whacking great feast.

The funny thing is that now I’m at the end of the book, I see the real journey is only just beginning. Because in the process of writing it, rather than playfully introducing characters and trying to spin a good yarn, it turned out that I was unwittingly delving into some very dark and difficult ‘stuff’ from my own life. Writing about it was incredibly cathartic (where have I heard that before? – oh yeah, the blog!) and I came to see that in the spirit of Ho’oponopono I owe myself and the other person involved a big chunk of love and forgiveness, where previously all I found was sadness, blame, anger and a certain amount of embarrassment for getting into such a situation. It is an interesting journey to be sure and not at all what I expected when I set out to write contemporary fiction. I hope you enjoy reading it, should you feel so inclined.

Wishing you good health

Margaret xx

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86. Still working on it

So, it’s the usual excuses, blah,blah,blah been meaning to write a blog for ages but life got in the way and all that stuff. In fact there have been many thoughts jostling for attention and wanting to get themselves into a blog, but getting around to organising them at a sensible time (as in, not in the ridiculously early hours) has been a touch difficult. However, in the spirit of Paul Loomans (see Blog #85) and his intuitive to-do lists, and also best-selling author Hugh Howey (write when the passion strikes you) I did actually get up at silly o’clock to write this. I read the last blog just to catch up on anything relevant and realised with great delight that I’ve totally embraced Paul’s wise words and they are effecting tiny but very important changes. I also chuckled greatly at the resolution to write shorter blogs more frequently. Er-hem. Moving on….

Something that has arisen pretty frequently throughout the blogs is the issue of being a control freak. Going through the whole cancer experience brought home pretty forcibly that the only thing I really have any control over is my own attitude. Fast forward five years (yes, I can’t believe it either) and I think I’m finally starting to get it. I’ve realised that in my case it’s like a defense mechanism – a worry that if things don’t go according to plan I need to have a back-up plan B – and through the years it’s got completely out of control. In the last few days we’ve been juggling various diverse arrangements involving several different parties, often with only a short space of time between each of them and there was a very real risk of them clashing at certain points. Like the guy who’s coming to look at the piano we’re selling would be falling over the friend fitting the hall carpet. The kind of thing you quite possibly wouldn’t even worry about but which could potentially keep me awake at night. Obviously we didn’t plan it that way, but that was the way it was turning out. I was talking it through with Stephen when I realised that for about the umpteenth time this week I was working through a whole load of potential scenarios in my mind, which was a) pointless and b) exhausting. So I stopped. I stopped creating a whole drama out of something that might never happen. And you know what? It worked, and the drama didn’t materialise. The universe had it sorted and all I had to do was get out of the way. That’s definitely progress.

And I also realised that control-freakiness and lack of patience are sort of the same thing. I’m incredibly impatient and excited about getting my next book out (thankfully nothing to do with cancer), but there are several factors beyond my control which are causing some delay, so I just have to accept that it will be ready when it’s ready and not before. I’ve discovered that knowing that but still being impatient and truly living it with genuine acceptance are completely different things, and I’m cautiously optimistic that I’m slowing growing towards the latter, which is a lot less vexatious to the spirit. My lovely mum would be so proud because she always said I was at the back of the queue when patience was handed out.

I’m also peaceful about the fact that although I got up early to write in the tranquility of pre-dawn, it has taken me over an hour to write just about 600 words (most of which aren’t the ones that were rocketing around in my head) due to three cats alternating fighting or pestering for food as they’re not used to me being up so early. But then that’s achieved one of the objectives set out in Blog #85 which was to write shorter blogs. So in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Wishing you a peaceful and stress-free weekend

Margaret xx

 

 

 

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85 New Year, New Pic, New Blog    

It was nice to have a different kind of day from the one we expected – courtesy of the weather gods.

The UK has been lashed by rain and storms since before Christmas, but there came a point about 10.30 this morning, New Year’s Day, when the cabin fever was stronger than (my) dislike of getting wet. Sure I must have been a cat in a former life. Garbed in waterproofs, gloves and scarves, we set out for the stunningly beautiful tree-fringed beach at Highcliffe (as above) with the general expectation that we’d get a good soaking, but what the hell – we were desperate to get out. The air smelt beautifully fresh, and as we got closer to the beach the rain turned into a gentle drizzle which then disappeared completely. By the time we got there the sun was out and we felt completely overdressed and very hot. Ha! When will I learn? Well, I think I am, funnily enough.

I’m working my way through a fabulous book called Time Surfing: The Zen Approach to Keeping Time on Your Side by a Zen monk called Paul Loomans – he’s pure genius and the cartoon pictures are gorgeous. (You can find it on the book blog here) I started absorbing books on Buddhism in general and mindfulness in particular to help me stay sane during chemo and the ensuing stem cell transplant in 2013, and I’m still going strong, mainly because I’m so not nearly there yet. It is still such a challenge to stay in the moment and not allow my thoughts to go wandering off every which way so I’m always up for new ideas to help me.

Then I came across Paul’s book, and he’s genuinely helped me make a breakthrough. He makes it SO simple (the sign of a good teacher methinks) and suddenly I can see really clearly exactly what is happening when I’m off extrapolating out into the future, worrying about what might/might not happen and what I should/shouldn’t do about it. It’s exhausting and it’s also a complete waste of time as me worrying or not worrying doesn’t change the outcome. In fact in the course of worrying or being all control-freaky I’m also probably missing the good things that are happening. And funnily enough this relates completely to something as simple as our walk to the beach. After the usual agonising decisions about how many layers of what kind of clothing to take/wear (me, not Stephen, obvs) I suddenly realised what I was doing and shouted STOP very loudly to myself inside my head. And having stopped the internal commotion, I pulled on my boots, grabbed a warm, waterproof coat, stuffed gloves into my pocket and I was ready. Just like that. And then we were out, and the rain stopped and we saw a rainbow and the sea smelt amazing and the sun came out to welcome us into the first day of 2018. And I absolutely know I enjoyed it more, because in line with his teaching, I was just enjoying this moment and this moment and this moment as they followed on one from another, and in each moment there was something precious. I came back from the walk some time later tired, but more refreshed by the experience than ever before.

There’s such richness in his simplicity, and the proof of the (Christmas) pudding came when I realised I’m taking his advice to heart without really trying. His teaching extends very helpfully to areas such as procrastination, which I am definitely guilty of. His approach is novel. Instead of telling you to set a time and GET ON WITH IT he suggests you have a good look at what’s stopping you and possibly even befriend it. Yes. Because apart from the usual ‘because I don’t want to’ there’s always something else. In the UK we have until the 31st January to get our tax returns in. Along with many, many other people, despite having had a whole year to get it done, I too will be scrabbling to get it submitted before the deadline. But now, having investigated my reluctance – I mean who likes doing tax returns (apart from accountants obvs)? – I realise it’s because I need to get some facts together first. Once I’ve got the info I can do the form. And yes, I hate doing forms, but there’s a tax advice line I can call if I need to, so I’m really not on my own.

And the other truly magnificent part of the teaching is to ditch the To-Do list. YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! He is totally in my camp when he says that a list just increases the pressure and emphasizes all the things you have yet to do. Countless supportive and well-meaning folk have tried to get me to keep To-Do lists and I just end up not looking at them or losing them, such is my level of disinterest. Yes, of course you need to write down something that’s important and Must Not Be Forgotten, holiday packing lists are an obvious one, but he suggests ways of developing your intuition so that you naturally work your way through what needs to be done at the time it needs doing. Ah-hem, obviously didn’t quite manage that with the tax return.

So this particular blog is the result of me practising what Paul Loomans teaches. I realised a long while back that there were bigger gaps between blogs than I would have liked. Although I’m thankfully no longer in treatment, there are people who follow the blog that are, and it’s nice to keep in touch. Historically I’ve always written long blogs which take a lot more time and much more thought to string together, so I quite often missed the boat and didn’t end up writing about something that’s important to me because I was waiting for enough time to write a few thousand words.

Solution: write shorter blogs. Yay! This is the first of many :-)

I’ve wanted to replace the picture on the header for a long time, but wanted it to coincide with something special. I’d say that our lovely and unexpectedly sunny walk to the beach counts as something special, coming as it did on New Year’s Day. I took the pic towards the end of our walk when it was getting seriously warm inside my snuggly waterproof coat. Job done on that one then.

And finally, having missed out on posting at Christmas (onslaught of Norovirus, sorry), New Year’s Eve (erm, procrastination?), what could be better than posting a new blog on New Year’s Day? Sorry for the long delay folks, but I really think I’m getting it cracked, thanks to Paul Loomans. Go and look at his book, you won’t regret it.

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2018.

Margaret

P.S. Many thanks to Herman Oldenburger for bringing this TED talk by Tim Urban to my attention. If you don’t know what procrastination is, watch this :-)

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