Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pain may be inevitable. Suffering is an added extra.

Sitting beside her in the waiting room I think I was more nervous than she.  I felt honoured to be there but under no illusions as to the extent of my responsibility.  That morning, we needed to remind ourselves and each other that it would be all-right.  She repeated it like a mantra 'It will be fine'.  And it was.  Better than fine, in fact.  But even if it wasn't all-good, it would be fine.

We are not, I think, ever sent more than we can manage.  Somehow, the cliche is a truthful one - what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, and we are growing each and every day.  In order to grow, we need to be fed, and that was what dawned on me sitting there, in the room with pink decor.

"You get sick of them after awhile" she said, referring to the lipstick hue walls.  I was feeling nauseous, but it had nothing to do with my surroundings and everything to do with anxiety.  I really wanted to hear good news, but was confronted with the reality that I had no control whatsoever over what the consultation might comprise.

I quickly became aware of what was going on.  Human beings are inclined to share with each other.  We do this instinctively.  Good stuff, or bad, we open our mouths and seek comfort from those around us, familiar or complete stranger.  We find ourselves disclosing information to those we encounter in stressful situations.  Movies have been made on this basis.  This wasn't a motion picture, but what I observed will stay with me for some time to come. 

The set was unassuming.  Chairs arranged in a square around a low level coffee table covered in magazines.  Noticeably, they were the most recent issue.  People waiting to hear unwanted diagnoses need reading material they might actually want to read.  There was a wall covered in literature about treatment options and support services.  It was tidy, well maintained and looked inviting.  Serious illnesses merit seriously good information.  The staff were bright eyed and bushy tailed, even at 9 o'clock.

The NHS are to be commended for the thoughtfulness of the environment which was as comfortable as one imagines such a place could be.  What struck me above everything was the importance, or priority of thoughtfulness, or mindfulness of speech.  Hearing one woman's struggle to come to terms with her diagnosis, and the concerns (or rather complaints) she had about each and every aspect of her treatment, I felt two things - enormous compassion and frustration in equal measure.  Sharing one's woes is beneficial, but probably only for the person cathartic-ing.  For someone attending their first appointment at the clinic, learning of someone else's terror might not offer much to alleviate the oncology department virgin's anguish.  If you haven't got anything nice to say...

I am interested in the power of our self-talk.  The degree to which what we tell ourselves affects our sense of the world, and how we feel about it.  I am not suggesting the power to determine anything, but we surely have choices as to how we experience what may or may not be inevitable. 

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The long and winding road. Blessings along the way.

I learnt a lot on my first ever visit to the Breast Care Unit at King's College Hospital.  We started in Bloods.  They didn't have the piece of paper.  It mattered not.  Ultimately.  But there were moments of panic, as it looked like this might throw things.  Someone's oversight, probably indicative more of overload than any lack of care, had the potential to push back Charlotte's fifth round of chemo.  We prioritised breakfast and waited for the Chemo Day Unit to open its doors, and for the mishap to be rectified.  The paper drawer in the printer was empty.  It was replenished, and Charlotte given the form she needed before she could get bloods.  The queue in Bloods was now too long, and she had a date far too important to be even fashionably late for. 

We waited to be seen by the oncologist who, running only a little behind schedule, was able to share with us the good news.  Charlotte is responding to treatment.  The alien has been disarmed and is standing still.  Chemo will continue as planned and the rest of the game plan will be reviewed in due course.  I was over the moon.  Barely able to contain myself.  Our relief was palpable.  His tone was unchanging.  Reading from the screen, it wasn't a lack of knowledge.  He knew what it was that he was reading.  It all made sense.  He's read similar countless times.  But there was a lack of emphasis where emphasis was most required.  And his intonation didn't fluctuate where even the slightest differentiation would have been most welcome.  The news is good.  The delivery wasn't perfect but what the hell...  In the grand scheme of things I was again awestruck by the NHS.  God bless each and every person that works within this unwieldy machine of gargantuan proportions that is much maligned and, I believe, given unduly bad press.  In spite of minor admin errors, systemic hiccups and distinctly uncharismatic presentation of immeasurably significant information today I couldn't feel anything but reassured.  She is in good hands.  The best hands.  And for that I am hugely grateful. 

The road ahead is doubtless a long one.  The destination unspecified just yet.  But recovery is possible.  Watch out alien!  The chemo cocktail will now undergo some modification.  The weapons are changing but the fighting spirit is stronger than ever. 

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Bringing my own sunshine as I approach dim corridors

It's a big week.  Not only does Charlotte face round five of chemo, toxic nastiness to battle the alien but she will learn how effective the efforts so far have proved.  Medical science has come a long way and oncology is evolving weekly, but the opponent is a stern one.  Halfway through the planned eight cycles, and it's time to take stock and measure progress.  Prayers have been said, and every digit crossed and the truth is shortly to be revealed.  She has done her bit.  She's had needles inserted and veins exhausted in the process.  Bloods have been taken.  CT scans performed.  Toxic chemicals have been issued.  Hair has fallen from her scalp in clumps.  She's been sicker than any dog we know.  Surely, this hasn't all been for nought. 

"Cancer is a word, not a sentence."
John Diamond

There is no bargaining power to be had.  This is non negotiable.  All that can be done has been and now we need to let go and hand over the outcome to whatever it is that each of us believe in.  For me, this and everything else, good and bad, beautiful or ugly, is part of a bigger plan.  I am a character in a play that continues to unfold a day at a time the plot and storyline I may never know and am unlikely to ever fully comprehend.  We are all given demons we must face, and thrown hurdles we must learn to leap.  Obstacles aplenty, challenges in abundance.  We learn and we grow.  We grit our teeth and we find ways to survive.  We accept our lot whilst putting the action in to change those things we can and we thrive.  This has been my experience, both personally and inferred from that which I have observed.

"People are made of flesh and blood and a miracle fibre called courage."
Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

They say courage is fear that has said its prayers.  I have no clue what it is that I pray to.  I couldn't draw a picture of it, and I wouldn't recognise it if we came face to face.  But I have faith in the unimaginable which gives me hope that the seemingly unjust will come right, and that the apparently impossible may one day be within reach.  Just as I can't explain how electricity works yet I wouldn't be without it, I don't think to question that there is a power greater than myself directing this lifetime and all that I encounter along the way.  Right now, I have more pressing issues to concern myself starting with  a significant oncology appointment to which I'll shortly be accompanying my dear brave friend.


"The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it."
C.C. Scott

Monday, 23 April 2012

Monday brilliant Monday

The blackbird who sings to announce the dawn helps me start my day with gratitude and serenity.  More reliable than any alarm clock, the her toneful tune encourages me to wake from my slumbers and urges me to embrace the day, as she seems to. 

Recovery has instilled a sense of routine which when I sustain it, ensures a degree of maintenance and consistency, which I find valuable. These days, my day tends to start and end in much the same way each day.  There are certain things I do before I get out of bed, and several steps that I take on getting up before flicking the kettle on to make my first cup of tea.  Two slogans have been instrumental in setting the tone of my morning, 'First things First' and 'Easy Does It'.  Each day is a new day, with infinite potential.  Yesterday has gone, tomorrow's yet to come, all I have is this day.

Experience has shown me that taking life twenty four hours at a time is enormously helpful in combating the fears and anxieties that might otherwise rule my existence.  Today I can make a commitment to do something just for today that just the thought of doing for a lifetime might appal me.  None of this is original.  It is all recycled wisdom taken from things I have heard, and tried for myself, and found to work. 

Just for today I will try to live through this day only, and not tackle all my problems at once.
Just for today I will be happy. 
This assumes to be true what Abraham Lincoln said, that
"Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be."
Just for today I will adjust myself to what is,
and not try to adjust everything to my own desires.
Just for today I will try and strengthen my mind. 
Just for today I will exercise my soul:
I will do somebody a good turn, and not get found out. 
I will do at least two things I don't want to do.
Just for today I will be agreeable.
Just for today I will be unafraid. 
Especially I will not be afraid to enjoy what is beautiful,
and to believe that as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Round and Round

Today wasn't about beating anyone or anything.  Not even the clock.  Having established something of a Sunday routine, I now have something to measure myself against, and that's plenty good enough.  As it happened today we clocked up 54k in two and a half hours.  After a busy week and a good night's sleep, I was ready to give it my best shot and meeting Sam and Charlotte at Pembroke Lodge for a cup of tea provided inspiration and motivation in abundance.  They are both heroes.   

We completed a little over three and three quarter circuits of the Park today - doing nearly two complete turns in the clockwise direction we have become familiar with, and then going back on ourselves to do a little less than 2 full circuits in the anticlockwise direction.  It was different.  From my perspective, switching directions and trying something new kept my interest and re-established the focus I had begun this morning with.  Neither direction is better or worse, they are incomparable for the most part, and reversing our traverse felt to be an unrecognisable ride.  Mixing it up is definitely the way forward.   

I've heard it said that in recovery things get real, things get different, things get really different.  2012 so far has followed that recipe.  I've learnt that when the going gets heavy it's time to drop a gear or two and sit firmly in the saddle. 

To date, I've raised over £1300 (including GiftAid) in sponsorship. I'm thrilled.  With a little over a month left before I take the plunge (literally, in the Thames for the Great London Swim) there really is no time like the present. Please support my continued efforts to raise as much money as possible for Breast Cancer Care and Marie Curie.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

The little things

A new storage solution feels to have changed a great deal more than I had envisaged it might.  Embodying the slogan 'keep it simple' the process involved a little de-cluttering and a lot more re-organising, and then deciding where to re-place things.  Having dismantled one piece of IKEA furniture and assembled another, there was an opportunity to clear the wreckage of the past and re-evaluate what I have been holding onto, in terms of my material possessions, and explore my relationships with various bits and bobs looking ahead.  Suddenly, my new shelves have enabled me to see more clearly as not only are things better organised, they are in clear view.  Things have made it out of the drawers, and are now boldly and proudly on display.  Why would I want to hide my treasures that give me so much pleasure?  Photos have been put in frames, books have been arranged more accessibly and things come to hand more easily.  I have brought order into a small corner of a room, and instantly feel better for it. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Taste the Difference: Mindful Cooking

Staying with some friends for whom food is important recently gave me an opportunity to connect with the food we prepared to together to a greater degree than I might otherwise.  We planned what we were going to eat, and how we were going to cook it, before shopping to source our ingredients - not in a supermarket, but visiting different stores for the components of our creation.  As I washed, peeled, and chopped it struck me that the hands-on approach provided a wonderful opportunity to engage more mindfully with the food, which we prepared and later ate.  I was altogether more present than I might otherwise have been - as we chose the vegetables, and then weighed them, I noticed the colours which seemed more vivid, and came into contact with their textures, the variety of which I hadn't anticipated.  As I went about cutting and slicing, I noticed how the knife punctured the skin, before gliding through the fruity flesh.  I heard it, I smelt it.  I was there.  I was fully there.  Timing the cooking, and coordinating the different elements of the dish, I felt present, and engaged.  It caused me to commence a new experiment starting with the commitment that when cooking, I will try cooking rather than checking emails, catching up on the news, half watching television or chatting on the phone.  Food seems to tastes better. 

“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” 

Monday, 16 April 2012

Ups and Downs from the Saddle

My training continues, and the pace has increased.  This weekend's highlight comprised three circuits of a rather windy Richmond Park and my legs are tired, but the rest of my body enthused having achieved a respectable average in the slightly inclement conditions and a grand top speed of 48kph which made me smile!  Inevitably, I was overtaken at several points during our thirty mile ride but this was more inspiring than disheartening - one highlight was on the third take of a short sharp hill when I was greeted by a friendly (and evidently uber proficient) cyclist who was not only firmly in his saddle, but was pushing his partner up the hill, simultaneously offering me some welcome encouragement!

At its maximum the gradient of Broomfield Hill is 12%.  It starts from The Robin Hood Roundabout easily enough and it would be tempting to carry on without concern as the smooth road winds its way through the attractive forest environment in which deer are common onlookers.  The wildlife will not give anything away about the hill that awaits cyclists who should not ignore the velocity of their fellows whizzing in the opposite direction - a clear warning sign as to what lies ahead when cycling in a clockwise direction... 

The trees suddenly begin to thin out and the route to the summit becomes visible.  A wide arc that heads to the right and then veers sharply upwards and to the left.  One sharp and harsh switchback is enough for the road to make the summit.  And sufficient for most cyclists to enter the red training zone.  The road begins with a steady 4%. However, upon reaching a road sign (appropriately a warning sign) it is time to shift down the gears and prepare for the steeper, punishing gradients ahead. 

Although the climb is not long it is hard.  30 metres is gained during its short distance and the view over London, if you have the energy to look over your left shoulder, is impressive from the top.  The reward for making it to the summit is a steady, flat section on the plateau, before a nice descent down towards the Kingston Roundabout.

I've decided I quite like climbing.  Heart beating, pulse racing and breathless at the top, surveying the achievement makes it all worth while.  Challenges no longer scare me, I embrace them knowing that in attempting that which feels difficult, and pushing myself beyond that which is simple or straightforward, feels great whether I get there first time, or not.  Progress rather than perfection is my primary aim and conquering my fears a close second.  Attitude adjustment comes faster when I give it a go. 

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Rising to the challenge

So, it's unlikely I'll ever compete in a triathlon but I've decided to compose my own duathalon.  I have extended my challenge and will be donning a wetsuit to join hundreds of other open water mad swimmers in the Great London Swim.  On 26 May I will take the plunge into the Royal Victoria Dock and participate (substitute the word compete) in the biggest open water swim in the south of England which is predicted to attract 5,000 swimmers who will be organised into waves of approximately 300 starting the mile long course every half an hour.

A fortnight later and once my lungs have expelled any Thames water I may ingest in the effort, I will jump (well, perhaps not exactly jump, but my enthusiasm knows no bounds) on my bike and pedal the 100k Nightrider 2012 course around London. 

I'm excited.  Why wouldn't I be?  Blue green algae worries me not in the least.  I am accompanying my dearest friend as her body is pushed to the limits as she courageously battles the alien inside her.  My body is to face it's own challenge.  I am on a mission and will push myself to the max: to raise a serious amount of money in aid of two very worthy causes - Breast Cancer Care and Marie Curie.  Please don't think twice to support this seemingly mad venture.

Please support my fundraising efforts:


Friday, 13 April 2012

Staying on the straight and narrow

An interesting conversation arose inspired by recent reflections on the various facets of progress.  There is an expression I regularly remind myself of, "progress not perfection" which would not, I suspect, cut it where certain personality types are concerned.  

For some, progress is a single linear transition from A to B, never involving diversions via C.  Others of us progress in a rather less straightforward fashion, diverging off towards, C, D and occasionally even E, if it appeals sufficiently.  It is not the speed, but the scenery that we appreciate, and we are open to learning along the way: the reward is, after all, the journey.  The destination is something we may hold in clear focus, but it is not the be-all and end-all.  We are confident in our ultimate arrival, but are open to growing along the way.  We are not averse to conceding that a wrong turn may have led us towards a T-junction but we view this is something other than a dead-end, for there is often much to be gleaned even in the decision as to when to turn around, and in what direction to make the revolution.  

We do not, I think, ever encounter the same place twice and this is borne of the fact that we ourselves do not tread two steps as the same person.  We are informed by each breath we inhale, each thought we have, and each feeling that arises.  

Starting therapy, either for the first time or the umpteenth time, one embarks upon a journey.  One of the most difficult questions I am forever confounded by is, "how many sessions do you think I'll need?"  I do not wish to avoid the issue, or withhold a professional opinion, I'm simply not qualified to estimate.  There are too many variables, and there is only room for one in the driving seat: my client.  The journey is entirely in your hands.  I may have a road atlas, but within its pages are countless possibilities.  I hope never to assume the position of a SatNav, perched on the dashboard and simply along for the ride, directing individuals towards their stated destination.  Apart from anything, experience has told me that we tend to benefit most when our intended end point changes along the way.

"It may be when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our real journey."
Wendell Berry

"A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it."
Jean de la Fontaine

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Eye opening

Approaching the EYE film institute from the ferry that took 4 minutes to cross the harbour fellow visitors resembled ants, neatly marching towards its red carpeted entrance.  Amsterdam boasts a new landmark sitting upon the north bank of the River IJ.

The architecture is at the same time futuristic and retro.  Designed by Viennese architects, its opening has been long awaited by the public, eager to inhabit their new eye catching gem.  Sitting low beside River, the geometry is as curious as the scale.  Covered by a mosaic of white aluminium tiles, its sharp edges are strangely inviting. 

The combination of sloping walls and glass makes it possible to see right through the building from various angles.  The architect was clearly inspired by light, space and movement, although the latter was certainly an issue during this, the first weekend the showcase was open to the public who descended in their masses, and with their small children.

Kids were everywhere.  Sliding down the newly installed interiors, with onlooking parents enabling the enacted claiming of the public space.  The commanding space occupies some 1200m sq and occupies a prime location on the former site of the Royal Dutch Shell headquarters, there was nothing terribly regal about this particular scene which resembled human territory marking.

The town had come to claim its space and was out in force.  Exploring the new museum, it occurred to me how unlike any other museum I've visited this was.  Home to four state of the art cinemas, this palace is likely to assume national treasure status whilst seeking to promote Dutch films internationally.  At a time when many cultural organisations in the Netherlands are facing huge cuts this building bucks the trend in more than one way. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

She died in an accident.  He told us about it over dinner.  The easy conviviality was abruptly interrupted.  Pleasantries were pushed aside.  I shivered.  Tomorrow the family would assemble to celebrate what would have been her ninth birthday.  A three year old missing for 24 hours and found dead following gas explosion at her family home.  The tragedy was as surreal as it was horrific.  

Her 11 year old cousin had apparently commented upon the anticipated ritual, remarking to his sister, "she's in a better place" before reconsidering his statement, and finding it to be inaccurate.  How could she be in a better place, without her mother, father and brother?  Where was she?  Explanation was not forthcoming.  

Grief is very personal.  Outliving one's child defies reason.  So, her mother will prepare a birthday party for her absent child.  Balloons will be inflated, banners hung and cakes baked.  Guests will arrive, but will not bear gifts.  They will come together knowing they will not see the birthday girl.  They celebrate a life cut so brutally short.  A life that could have been.  

There will be acknowledgment of this child's untimely death.  The family will visit her grave.  Her cousin could not conceive of her being there, and yet something is there.  Something tangible.  They will perhaps sit there awhile.  

But, for the most part, the gathering will be of an altogether different nature.  There will be sugar, and spice and all things nice.  There will be bright colours, and music.  There will be laughter, and there will be comfort for a mother grieving the loss of what never will be.  The unbearable will be made just a little gentler.

Death and ritual are comfortable bedfellows.  Human frailty means we are inclined to cling to anything that gives substance to that which challenges rationality. 

I have come to see this in my work with those who are left behind when someone disappears.  Unlike this family, who know exactly what happened to their baby girl, those who contact the charity Missing People have only maybes, possiblys and probablys.  On some days these suffice, but mostly they do not.  There can be no closure.  There are no stages.  Different theories abound, even within the closest of families.  When someone goes missing, those who loved them are left suspended in limbo.     

Monday, 9 April 2012

Best Foot Forward

"I didn't know what I didn't know..."  He told me his story and how he had come into recovery more out of necessity than by conscious choice.  "Surrender and win" he heard said at an AA meeting.  Drink had taken him to depths from which he could only ascend.  Put simply, he had nothing to lose.  The gift of despair. 

So, surrender he did.  He described the welcome he received on entering the rooms.  How he felt like a warrior returning to his village.  In AA he found his tribe.  Like coming home.  Explaining to me how the 12 Steps have indeed been a bridge to normal living, and how he got far more than he bargained for having stumbled across that first meeting.  He kept his ears open and more importantly, his mind open and receptive to the help that was immediately forthcoming.  He followed the suggestions that were made.  And he discovered a great deal more than how to get sober, and stay sober.  He discovered a life beyond his wildest dreams.

So, what, you may ask, is he doing in my consulting room on a sunny afternoon?  Well that's neither here nor there, really.  Life on life's terms ain't always straightforward.  Recovery is a lifelong journey with twists and turns, some more foreseeable and easily navigable than others.  In coming to understand some things, light is shone on others that still befuddle us.  It is a humbling privilege to work for someone whose recovery boasts the longevity of his and yet, we remain equals.  We are both just putting one foot in front of the other, dealing with our lives, a day at a time. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Le Gamin au vélo (2011)

I rather enjoyed it.  Bleak though it may have been, I felt 'The Kid with a Bike' was poignant; it tugged on the heartstrings more than once.   

Cyril is 12, and life hasn't dealt him a brilliant hand.  He's in care, as his father has abandoned him.  We never get to know anything about his mother.  His primary relationship is with his beloved bicycle.  Which, at the beginning of the film, has also disappeared. 

We follow Cyril who runs away from the foster home in search of his father at his old apartment.  He is brought face to face with the undeniable reality of the empty apartment and it's unbearable.  The next morning, a stranger he encountered whilst trying to flee the children's home, turns up with his much missed bike.  She agrees to foster him at weekends, and a bond develops between these two formerly lost souls in this mutually satisfactory arrangement. 

Samantha helps Cyril to locate his father, whom he goes to meet only to be harshly rejected again.  Mercifully, Samantha is there for the heartbroken child who seems to do very little except ride his bike and pine for his Dad.  We watch Cyril get drawn towards unsavoury individuals, seeking to belong to any sort of family, and finding a place for himself within the Dealer's gang.  When it all goes wrong, Cyril is able to return to Samantha, who accepts and supports him to learn some important life lessons.  

It is an accessible and heartwarming story that touches on attachment, and parenthood.  It's certainly a brave film that doesn't seek to hide the themes of desperation and vulnerability. 

We are invited to accompany the title character whom we see to be constantly on the move: Cyril is forever running, either away from his reality as a would-be orphan lacking in direction and longing for love, or towards anything or anyone he believes will provide hope. 

The film is superbly unafraid of emotion, unafraid of plunging into two basic human ideas: the need for trust, and the search for love.    

Samantha:  "Don't be upset if it's not the way you dream it'll be..."

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Riding against Cancer - NightRider 2012

So, my training program has commenced in earnest. I am seeking to raise over £1000 by riding 100k in the moonlight later this year.

Yes, that's right. I've signed up and undertaken to participate in Nightrider 2012. I will be departing from Alexandra Palace shortly after midnight, on Saturday 9 June and cycling 100k for Breast Cancer Care and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

In January, my best friend Charlotte was diagnosed with a stage three, invasive, oestrogen positive, breast cancer. She has started chemo, and will also receive hormone and surgical therapies... Never has the work of Breast Cancer Care been so immediately meaningful.

As she bravely continues in her battle against cancer, I'm determined to do my bit. As Charlotte approaches the midway point in her chemotherapy, I am pumping up my tyres and reacquainting myself with the saddle over long distances training for my nocturnal ride in June.

Please help me raise as much money as possible for these two wonderful charities whose work changes people's lives every day. Those people aren't just strangers you've never met. They're people like Charlotte.
Sponsoring me and donating to the two charities is quick and straightforward...

Follow the link below to my Virgin Money Giving Fundraising Page and click on Donate Now.
Don't forget to GiftAid your donation to enable the charities to claim the tax back on your gift. This means that they receive £1.25 for every £1 donated.

Anything and everything is very welcome and most gratefully received.

Thank you!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Clever as Clever: Four Days of Grace

Mr. Billington was spot on:  it was fascinating.  And intriguing.  And Rachel Marwood's performance certainly was impressive.  Drew's play was brilliant.  A masterpiece.  I enjoyed every moment of it.  There's something magical about theatre.  It makes no difference to me whether it's West End or a small fringe venue.  In fact, I rather like venturing off the beaten track, discovering little secrets you might not come across were you not looking out for them.  The New Diorama was not new to me, having seen Drew's debut 'Public Interest' there last year.  I was thrilled to be accompanied by several friends each of whom responded as enthusiastically.    

'Four Days of Grace' takes the audience into Grace's kitchen, with lino floor, kitchen table, kettle and countless bottles.  Here we meet Grace.  She tells us her story in her own words.  The captivating monologue allows us to get to know her.  And then we get to know all of her.  As the scene unfolds, assumptions are shattered, prejudices challenged and stereotypes exploded.  With each line, we are offered an opportunity to come closer, to sit at the table, and to hear what it is that this woman has been through to be in the place she now finds herself.  Without a fridge.  But without so much more besides.


Reviews for Four Days of Grace

Monday, 2 April 2012

Adapting to the Terrain

Spring made an appearance.  Albeit perhaps only briefly.  Colder weather is set to return.  Which makes me all the more pleased to have got out into the sunshine on my bicycle.  I've done two rides this week, totalling a little over 75k which has pleased me no end.  Riding in Richmond and Bushy Parks for the first time provided some food for thought, some of which was bike related, with the leftovers comprising yet more grist for the proverbial mill.

Living in South West London provides an abundance of fabulous cycling.  The two Royal parks doubtless contain some of the finest.  Completing a couple of circuits around Bushy Park at dusk was the perfect way to change gears after work whilst taking advantage of the recently longer evenings.  In fact, very few gear changes were required as Bushy provides quite a contrast to the rather more demanding circuit at Richmond where we found ourselves in good company amongst hundreds of fellow velo enthusiasts enjoying a Sunday morning outing.

I walked in Bushy Park on Christmas morning, so returning there twice this week and retracing part of my path, provided a tangible reminder that nothing stands still.  A lot can happen in 3 months.  And a lot has.  My life looks vastly different to what it did at the end of last year.  And radically different to how I might have envisaged it.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  It has highlighted something I experienced first hand at several points during my ride - the importance of adaptability. 

Change is inevitable.  So too, therefore, is something else.  A choice - to stand one's ground, and attempt to defy this truth, or to make do, and conquer.  It is the making do that I have become interested in.  They (whoever 'they' are) say oaks grow strong in contrary winds, and diamonds are made under pressure.  The tulips in my consulting room lean towards the window - they adapt, and flourish.  On Sunday, I encountered several choice points.  They usually involved an incline.  I could fight the hill, and attempt the hill with grit and determination alone.  Or, I could use my resources (well, those of my bike, to be more precise), and change gear.  Being used to my beloved single speed, it felt a little unfamiliar to embrace a groupset.  But it made a lot of sense.  It strikes me that when life throws us the curveballs we never know are coming, but cannot avoid, to remain open to change, and ready to adapt to the circumstances is only ever an asset. 

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Possibly Maybe

Are you a commitment freak or a commitment phobic?  Do you like to plan, and know ahead of time?  Do you organise, coordinate, and schedule?  Do you know what you'll be doing after the Summer, where you're spending Christmas, and with whom you'll be celebrating New Year 2013?  Or, are things at best pencilled in, as you see what happens?  Can you accept an invitation?  Can you say yes and mean it, or is everything up in the air, waiting to land?  Do you have standing orders and direct debits?  Memberships?  Mortgage?  Married? 

We all have different relationships with the concept of commitment.  For some of us the word alone sends a shiver down the spine, uncomfortable and to be avoided at all costs.  Others amongst us give commitment willingly and easily, and expect it from others.  There is a balance to be struck, at the point that it feels comfortable.  Commitment is currency.  It carries meaning, and says something about us, and something about our relationships.  Coming from different places we may have developed associations that make committing to anything challenging.  Or, we may aspire to have everything pinned down, and certain.  Commitment is something we learn about from a young age.  It may have been modelled to us by caregivers who made promises, and kept them.  Or perhaps the opposite was true: promises were broken, hopes were shattered and dreams apt to become illusions.  As adults we have choices as to the commitments we make.  Becoming conscious of our intentions is a useful step in checking out whether the commitments we assume are right for us, and appropriate in the circumstances. 

As a relationship, therapy entails a two way commitment, between therapist and client.  Research has pointed to the fact that therapeutic outcome is determined largely by the quality of the relationship formed between therapised and therapist.  Indeed, it has been shown time and time again that it is this, above all else, that stands as the best predictor of a 'successful' therapeutic encounter, regardless of modality, orientation or approach.  It makes sense: therapy is a coming together of fellow beings, one who invites another to join him, who in turn commits to walk alongside. 

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. 
All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issue from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can begin it.
Boldness has genius, magic and power in it.  Begin it now."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe