July 30, 2012
An entry today from 'One-Minute Mindfulness'in gratitude for my birthday gathering yesterday:
'It is important to maintain our community.
We all live in a community. Whoever we meet or have dealings with, they are our community. If you meet a street cleaner every morning on your run, he is part of your community.
People come and go in our lives, whether they're family, work colleagues, friends or our newsagent.
But we always nurture the present community with kindness. We help them when, unknowingly, they don't help us; as they help us when, unknowingly, we don't help them.
Whatever its shape or form - and no two are the same - there is safety in your community and blessing.
You are their home and they are yours.'
July 28, 2012
Jimmy and his bike
I walked past a small boy in the park yesterday.
He was standing with his bike waiting for his dad to catch up.
I smiled at him as I approached. He smiled back and then I walked on.
I then heard him calling out to his dad:
'Why do people always smile at me when I'm with my bike, dad? Why do they always smile at me when I'm with my bike?'
I didn't hear his dad's reply; he was walking away from me and facing the opposite direction.
But I hope he said something like:
'They're smiling at you, Jimmy. The bike's got nothing to do with it.'
July 26, 2012
Why you're more remakable than my local park
I was walking through my local park an hour ago.
We've got lottery funding and there's a huge make-over going on.
In the early days, one corner of the park was a muddy and desolate bull dozer yard, housing large machinery, high fences and guard dogs.
'What a shit hole,' as someone said to me last winter.
Today, with some resolute landscaping over an intense two weeks of activity, it's a garden - gentle lawn, winding paths and flower beds.
Landscaping ourselves will take longer in a way.
Our human scenery will not be changed in a day or indeed in a couple of weeks.
But we keep patient, receptive and tender towards ourselves, like a flower opening in the sun.
As the ex-slave trader John Newton once said, 'I'm not what I might be but I'm not what I was.'
So we're encouraged on the long haul.
And although change takes weeks and months and years, it also takes a moment.
This also is true. What a difference a moment can make to our inscape.
The divine now.
To this extent, you are a great deal more remarkable than my local park.
July 23, 2012
Watching the Diving
Small boy watches diving on TV.
Tom Daley in final preparations before Olympics.
Dad's making tea in the kitchen.
Tom launches himself from the board executing a faultless double backward turn and flip, before straightening for a ripple=free entry into the water.
Boy starts crying.
'What's wrong, Michael?' calls out dad from kitchen.
'That man, he's fallen in!'
We don't always see things as they are and our upset is not always necessary.
A national blind spot
There are different ways to be healthy. We're told to look after our hearts, keep an eye on our blood pressure, maintain a balanced diet, visit the gym and to see a doctor 'if worrying symptoms persist'. It's considered entirely normal to look after our bodies and rightly so.
Yet our mind, the one part of our body we can't replace, we make no provision for. Our mind determines everything we do yet most of us have no care plan for it; and as a recent report reveals, neither does the NHS. But shouldn't mind care be normal? Is this a national blind spot, a socially acceptable insanity?
According to a new report by the London School of Economics,('How mental health loses out in the NHS') those seeking mental help are often ignored by the Health Service with underinvestment in their care 'the most glaring case of health inequality in our country.' They say mental health problems are far more common than generally appreciated, pervasive in their effects and often untreated, forced to play 2nd fiddle to physical ailments.
Yet the remarkable facts are these: among people under 65, nearly half of all ill health is mental illness. In other words, nearly as much ill health is mental illness as all physical illnesses put together. It's generally more debilitating as well. On average, a person with depression is at least 50% more disabled than someone with angina, arthritis, asthma or diabetes.
Mental pain is as real as physical pain and often more severe. Yet only a quarter of all those with mental illness are in treatment, compared with the vast majority of those with physical conditions. 'It is a real scandal,' says the report, 'that we have 6,000,000 people with depression or crippling anxiety conditions and 700,000 children with problem behaviours, anxiety or depression. Yet three quarters of each group get no treatment.'
They'll also have to wait longer for help. The NHS Constitution gives patients the right to be seen within 18 weeks yet the majority of people with depression or anxiety still wait for more than six months (often much longer) for psychological therapy. It's not deemed a priority. Yet mental health issues account for a quarter of the overall burden of disease in the UK - more than any other disease category - and 'have a similar effect on life expectancy to smoking.'
Neither is it the physical against the mental; the two are intimately related. An unwell mind can make existing physical illness worse. Interestingly, half of all NHS patients referred for first consultant appointments in the acute sector have 'medically unexplained symptoms'. Altogether the extra physical healthcare caused by mental illness now costs the NHS at least £10 billion.
This socially acceptable insanity in the NHS budget must be acceptable no more. It makes sense to be kind to the mind.
July 21, 2012
You've probably got your own favourite opening lines to books. There area few famous ones around.
'It was a light cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.'
'Happy families are all alike, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.'
Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.
'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.'
Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'
And of course,
'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...'
Dicken's 'Tale of Two Cities'
But today I'm thinking about the opening three words of Scott Peck's bestseller, 'The Road Less Travelled.'
How does he start?
'Life is difficult.'
Life doesn't always feel difficult, of course. Sometimes we're on a role and everything is going our way and there's no imaginable cloud on the horizon.
But for most of us, for most of the time, life is difficult. We're gaining something, but losing something else. We want everything to be gain, want everything to be good but there's always something being lost - whether its a friend, relationship, physical health, a job, a hope or whatever.
Life is difficult because its never quite our imagined and hoped for picture post card life.
(If we haven't done so, its probably best to discard that picture post card. Its not helping.)
And in the meantime, a good opening line for the day is always to acknowledge this constant and unsettling exchange, this 'things gained, things lost'.
We're OK. And we're strong.
But we notice what's passing through, because loss needs noticing.
We're fine but life is difficult so we take care of ourselves. These are the worst of times, but yes, they are the best of times also.
July 18, 2012
The mountain holds everything
Final thoughts as I leave Rhodes.
The mountain holds everything. It's called the Marmara or 'Marble' mountain.
In its arms lies the ever-changing village, new buildings going up, people coming and going, staying and leaving, laughing and crying, living and dying.
And in its arms lies the bay and the variable water, choppy and calm, turbulent and clear.
The village and the water are constant change, the change of life.
But the mountain holds everything, unchangeable, strong, like our true self holds our changeable self.
Much disturbs the village and the water. They're never quite the same.
Nothing disturbs the mountain.
The mountain holds everything. So today, lift your eyes to the mountain.
July 17, 2012
50 Shades of Grey
In 50 shades of sun here in Rhodes, where the temperature is up to 50 degrees, all women by the pool are reading '50 Shades of Grey'.
Partners look on, feeling inadequate, dull.
'Can I make you some tea, love?'
She doesn't hear.
July 14, 2012
Towel Wars, Poolside
For fifty weeks of the year, your towel is an innocent puppy in your bathroom. But for two weeks of the year, its a growling attack dog, sitting there in snarling defence of your poolside sunbed.
Towels on sunbeds are about territory. 'This is mine, this isn't yours.'
And of course we all need safe places, places we can call home, places we can retreat to. Everyone's got a place they call home, though for some it isn't so much geographical as spiritual, found within themselves.
But 'home thoughts' can get very nasty round the pool. Not content with your room or appartment or tent or wherever, you want more, you want to mark out your territory in the public space. 'Sure, it's public - but not my bit of it!'
And so to towel warfare by the pool.
Of course, freedom of movement is not helped by The Rules of Towel. That is, once your towel is on the sunbed, it's yours for the rest of the day. How does that work?? But somehow it does. Suddenly the sunbed is yours for the whole day, whether you're there or not, and some areen't there very much at all after sneaking down at 6.00am to grab their place. They're not there but its still theirs.
And the growling, snarling towel ensures it stays that way.
As the week goes by, people get there earlier and earlier with their guard dogs. And resentments build around the pool as the sun beats down and people sip their strangely bitter iced coffee.
Presumably the saint by the pool enjoys what they have but knows its a passing thing so when they go for lunch, they take their towel with them, because they don't need a guard dog - it really is, just a towel.
And I think its happier as a towel than a dog because you are happier when it is so. The towel sort of follows your lead. As opposed to growling on the end of it.
Happy days, eh?
July 11, 2012
The Entertainments Team and the Hitler Youth
It must be something like the Hitler Youth appearing in your happy German village in the 1930's.
Suddenly you're not allowed to be happy anymore. You have to believe new things, do new things, approve of new things, march to a loud and very different drum.
This is what I feel as the 'Entertainments Team' arrives poolside in their 'amusing and whacky!!' yellow costumes.
The thing is, no one needed them. None of us. But here's the thing - it seemed they needed us. They needed us to help them feel worthwhile, like they're doing a good job, being entertaining. They see themselves as 'completely mad!' Bringers of Fun - and we are the fodder for these needs.
First there's the man with the over-loud microphone, telling us we should all be in the water for aerobics. Should? 'No excuses accepted!' he declares. 'It's Zumba time'
Formerly happy people now looking uncomfortable. Pressure is being exerted.
As life goes on, I feel it less and less a good idea that peole are given microphones. It gives them brief but inappropriate power. No one should have allowed Hitler a microphone to stir those people and no one should have given one to the screechy 'zumba' girl exhorting madly from the side of the pool.
She needs to bring fun, needs us to make her the fun-bringer. And of course when we impose our needs on others, we become abusers.
The evil and amusingly dressed yellow shirted people moved on to another village after a while and how happy we were when they left.
I suppose we all set out in life doing apparently virtuous things but which are more profoundly about our own needs.
But I think as we become more aware of this, and discover a self that no longer has these needs, we become less dangerous, more fun, less like the Entertainments team, less like the Hitler Youth.
July 09, 2012
letting the bruising out
It has been interesting to note my body at work since my accident.
Hit by a car from behind, thrown in the air unknowing, turned round mid flight, smacking down onto pavement, back, elbow and arm taking the blame.
x ray reveals fractured left elbow, but my body was busy long before that discovery, despite my well-laid plans.
It went into shock mode, ignoring me completely. It determinedly got on with protecting the damaged areas, cloing down on all functions that did not immediately serve this purpose. So muscle spasms, for instance, blocked use of traumatised areas.
Gradually, as the days go by, the body gives back to me the functions it withdrew. Little by little, with survival not so pressing, privileges are reinstated.
And 4 days after the event, the inner bruising becomes apparent on the outside, a dark mix of coloured damage revealed. The silent suffering of the body at the time is now made public. And of course once you can see it all the danger, if not the injury, is nearly over.
And I can't help but draw comparisons with the psychological trauma of youth, when our personality is formed by cloing down on everything except that which helps us survive.
I suspect the rest of our life is the gradual reclamation of things lost.
Psychological bruising stays hidden for much longer than a few days though and long after we've been declared 'adult' and 'well'.
Here's to our bruising coming out; to our shared healing bit by bit and along the way.
July 07, 2012
It's murder out here in Rhodes
Well, here I am in Rhodes - the island not the town - trying to get glimpses of England - particularly Wimbledon - as I walk down the high street of this wonderful one-horse town of Pefkos.
The bars bend over backwards either to be more Greek than Greek or more English than English. You take your pick. Those trying to be all things English have very large screens of sport available.
My arm is in plaster of course which removes my main two delights on holiday. Running in the mountains and swimming in the sea.
So instead, it's largely a writing holiday, working on my first murder mystery novel. I've always wanted to work in this genre and now the publishers DLT have given me the chance. Wonderful.
I'm well aware I'm learning a new craft but I confess to being something of a murder mystery junkie so I'm familiar with the genre in all its beautiful breadth. What a great way to explore human and society - but I'm nervous of course, an apprentice among crafts men and women.
A particular delight is to hear from people who also love the genre and offer me their insights. What they like, why they like it. I didn't realise so many of my friends were murder mystery junkies too.
I'd love to hear of your insights, loves and hates.
As I say, I'm an absolute beginner...but hopefully learning fast.
It's out next spring, I think.
PS Favourite TV murder mystery at present is probably 'Lewis' I love that releationship...old time fan of Columbo too...
July 04, 2012
Plastered on holiday
Forget my career as an occupational therapist.
I leave that to the experts because a painful night took me to A and E early this morning - as some of you wisely advised - and I've fractured my left elbow which is now in a big fat plaster cast.
Unfortunately, this is the day I'm due to fly off on holiday and the thought of no running and swimming on Rhodes is hard.
But it will bring other things as shattered dreams do. I'm presently working on my first murder mystery novel, so I expect I'll be giving that more time than anticipated, which could serve to make it a great deal better. Its out next year.
I'm fortunate in many ways. Tossed in the air by a car, the injuries could have been much worse and I now have some relaxants to stop the muscle spasms in the arms.
Thankyou for all the kindness and concern shown by you.Much appreciated. And all being well - I write with my plaster cast sitting happily on the table - I'll stay in contact over the next couple of weeks, hopefully writing about more intersting things than plaster casts and muscle relaxants.(Though I have to say they're pretty intersting to me at the moment.)
And great treatment at the hospital. Kind and prompt.
I hope to be in contact soon, beneath bluer skies. We'll see. Peace to you today, whatever it brings.
Your story is a long way from done...
July 03, 2012
By 11.30, I was able to take my running shirt off - a few 'agghhs!' but we got there - and put on something minty fresh. A little deoderant even, so things looking up on the sensory front.
I've also just managed to get a cup of coffee to my mouth, bending forward only slightly.
I'm wondering if I've missed my vocation. I should definitely be in Occupational Therapy.
But I meay need to see a psychologist about my new fear of cars...
Simon Vs Car. Car wins.
For the first time in my life, I've just been hit by a car when out running.
I've had other accidents and scrapes doen my 35 running years, tripping over, sliding over, slipping over, attacks from dogs various.
But never a car. Running one moment, flat on my back in the rain the next.
Lying there, wondering which bits of my body are in working order.
My sense is there are no bones broken so after a minute or so, I'm trying to get to my feet. Takes a while.
Various people a round me ringing police and ambulance.
My elbows took the smash on the ground and are bleeding and swollen but apart from that, I appear lucky.
I thank this newly formed community around me but say I don't have time for an ambulance. I have a client coming early today, and its their first time. They're unsure where exactly i am and I have no means of contacting them.
I need to get back.
I say goodbye to the offending driver who's Polish. He doesn't speak much English but is very apologetic, giving me his name and number. He'd been trying to overtake on the inside and misjudged things and took me out from behind with his front right.
It's so sudden of course, running, smack, down. But alive.
The other driver - who he was trying to sneak past - is furious with him. He's of Indian origin, so we're very much a world community.
I hobbled home, with my elbows increasingly painful.
One is bleeding and has a huge lump forming. I put some ice on it but find I can't take my shirt off, elbows won't allow the angles.
Washing and dressing the rest of me takes some time but now done. Just the running shirt remains and I'd like to change it before my client comes!
But I can type which is a bit of a relief. I was going to write about what I'm writing but life intervenes.
Fall well today and get up only when you're ready.