Monday, 29 September 2014

All at sea

It has been a strange few weeks.  

This week, I was struck by the contrasts I have experienced of late.

Autumn presents a choice for this swimmer.  To swim outdoors, or to retreat indoors?

I have preferred to swim indoors recently.  And it's not, I think, because of the relatively cooler temperatures.  

It is the sense of safety that the indoor pool offers me.  The known.  The familiar.  The lane ropes are comforting rather than confining.  I can choose my course and stick to it without difficulty.  Right now, great satisfaction is mine in the pool. 

The water warm.  Sometimes a little too warm.  The lengths add up, and I swim for several kilometres.  I explore the line between effort and ease, and quickly find my way into the latter.  

Elsewhere, I have found myself entering alien environments.  I have visited the hospital ward on which my mother has lain with hideous trepidation.  
I have looked around to find her lying amidst a bay of eight elderly women.  She looks older than I remember.  She is frail.  She is confused.

I forget why it is that I came.  It matters not.  I am here.  I sit awhile.  I remain as long as I can bear.  Which isn't long enough.  

I feel hopeless, and helpless.  It feels airless.  I cannot breathe.  I long to be back in the pool.  I feel so much more at home in the water. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Highly Effective People

I am privileged to work with a great many HEIs - Highly Effective Individuals.  I am frequently astounded by just how much we, between us, manage to achieve in any given day or week.  I am concerned by how infrequently we step back and take stock of exactly how much we are doing, or how well we are doing it.  

It is perhaps symptomatic of the fast paced world we occupy.  Life seems to be set on fast forward and we, as a result, are constantly chasing to keep up.  

Too many people undervalue what they are, and overvalue what they are not.
Malcolm Forbes

Think about it, for a minute.  What have you done today?  Break it down - what, exactly have you done?  

It is only when we are prevented from getting on with 'the business', by illness or injury, for example, that we notice how much it is that we ordinarily get done, and how we take it for granted that we can set out to complete a set of tasks and, circumstances permitting, get these done.  

Getting things done requires energy and inclination...  

What is it that you got out of bed for this morning?

What drives you?

Planning and motivation are the tools of effective people.  As is confidence...  

We can boost this by acknowledging 'I did that, and I did it well'.  

As a therapist I find it ever more important to bring into the field of my clients' vision, how much it is that they are already accomplishing, in the hope that this may stoke the all important fires of self-efficacy.  

The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
Stephen Covey

Friday, 12 September 2014

The long and winding road... revisited

I wouldn't wish this particular chapter of the journey to anyone.  Having entered into previously unknown territory, my eyes have adjusted to the dusky conditions, and I am learning more each day.  The landscape of dementia is anything but pleasant.
It is everything I feared it would be, and a whole lot more besides.  I find myself uncomfortably perched in limbo.  I see a corridor of doors ahead, but have come to realise that many of them are illusions.  It is as though I am surrounded by mirrors.  I am horrified by the awful reflection I have beheld a hundred times.  

Chasing the diagnosis which seems ever more elusive, I have had no choice but acknowledge how cunning a villain this illness is.  A cluster of symptoms that leave you guessing whilst facets of the character of the person you love fade to become a little dimmer each week.

It is as though the lights that once shone bright are now an intermittent twinkle.  The illumination is unreliable, and the shadows as dark as they are long.  We grasp clumsily in the dark, trying to hold onto the glimpses of the mother we once took for granted who now makes only a rare, guest, appearance with a schedule so secret we are left standing, waiting, hoping.


Do not ask me to remember.
Don’t try to make me understand.
Let me rest and know you’re with me.
Kiss my cheek and hold my hand.
I’m confused beyond your concept.
I am sad and sick and lost.
All I know is that I need you.
To be with me at all cost.
Do not lose your patience with me.
Do not scold or curse or cry.
I can’t help the way I’m acting.
Can’t be different though I try.
Just remember that I need you.
That the best of me is gone.
Please don’t fail to stand beside me.
Love me ‘til my life is done.

I've learned so much throughout my life
but there’s much I don’t recall.
I know it’s in there somewhere
but it’s hard to find it all.
It’s not that I’ve forgotten you,
or the things I said I’d do;
I remember everything
but it’s hidden somewhere I can’t see
just beyond my view.

You see, there is a shadow where 
there didn’t used to be,
and sometimes when I look right there
it just confuses me.

I remember lovely flowers,
and songs I used to sing.
I remember springtime showers,
and rainbows they would bring.
I remember movies
and who would be the star,
but sometimes it’s so hard for me
to know just who you are.

I love to watch a baseball game
or listen to the birds.
I love to tell you secrets.
I love to hear your words.
I love for you to sit with me;
perhaps you’ll hold my hand
and tell me that you love me: 
that I’ll understand.

My mind has ways of taking me
where I don’t want to go.
I know I know your name, you see;
just right now it’s hard for me
to think of things I really know,
and to know what really is
and what may not be so.

Though I might forget you,
it’s important that you see
just how much it means to me
that you remember me.
Daniel Mark

Monday, 8 September 2014

Getting to know you

I have a new friend.  I adopted her a few weeks' ago.  Her face jumped out when I looked, for the first time, at the charity's 'rehoming' pages over the Bank Holiday weekend.

It was, I think, love at first sight.  For me, at least.

I had travelled the 30 mile journey with more than a little ambivalence.  Was now the right time for me to be assuming another commitment?  

Sometimes, things happen.  Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans.  

Thing is, relationships don't just turn up when you're looking for them.  Sometimes, cats come into your life when you least expect them to. She is not what I had in mind, but then some of the most rewarding connections I've made to date have been with individuals I couldn't have foreseen having much in common with.  
I vacillated over the decision, weighing it up and canvassing opinion from trusted friends (most of whom were, as they would freely confess, unduly biased).  

A week later, I travelled down to the shelter (for the third time), pet carrier at hand.  She was coming home with me to her new 'forever home'.  

I needn't have worried.  Miss Z is more than a little independent.  But this certainly is a significant relationship and, as such, deserving of mention.    

We have been getting to know one another...

We felt our way through the first few days.  We were, I think, both a little tentative as she arrived.  We negotiated the space.  She quickly found her feet, and I soon found mine.

First impressions are important in any relationship, and this was no exception.  I have been on my best behaviour.  We have been learning each other's habits and preferences.  

I so wanted to get it right...  I wanted her to feel 'at home'.  I made a few feline friendly adjustments around the environment, which seem to have gone down well.  Relationships involve compromise, after all.  

Communication remains something of a challenge.  She did not take long to find her voice.  I am still deciphering the particular dialect, whilst seeking improve my pronunciation.  We are developing something of a language and continue to learn from one another's non verbal cues.  I am interpreting the headbutt as friendly.   

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