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An Astronaut Said

an astronaut once said

that if politicians could see

the earth from outer space

they would gasp in wonder

and see themselves futile

dumping of nuclear waste

wars, interventions, non-intervention

the earth was made for people

and filled with good things;

oceans, mountains, trees, flowers

forests, animals large and small

rare and common, fishes

birds and butterflies and bees

lakes and rivers and seas

why do we hate, make war

divide, sanction, abuse, kill

steal, rape, imprison

when we were made to love

and live in peace together

where did all that go

when did it disappear?

Published in The Lark

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How Can I Resent That Which Matured Me?

When I look at a road map of my life, I see a pattern. It is not a pattern like on a rug, which is repeated. It is a pattern of seemingly random decisions. But the thread between is learning.

I was born into a bilingual family, of two countries. My Dad was in the SAS, an elite group of soldiers. I am the second child, and was fortunate that we moved in with my grandparents in Germany soon after my birth.

I was unaware for a long time that my sister had already been destroyed by my narcissistic mother. My Oma and Opa were my primary carers so I thrived, emotionally and physically.

When I was five we went to England with Dad’s posting. I pined for my Oma and Opa and struggled to adjust to my mother.

I did well at school. I was bright. I was athletic. I was pretty. Boys were sweet on me.

I realised after some time that an injury was not recovering. That I was limping. Nothing was found to be wrong. My limp persisted and I began to write with my right hand. I was referred to a psychiatrist.

Two years later I underwent four experimental brain surgeries.. Conscious. I was left with akinetic mutism.

Six years it took me to learn to speak clearly. My vocal chords have never recovered.

My mother refused to support me through college. She did for my sister, who became a nurse.

I took a well paid job and went to college one day a week. That is to say I completed a full college course by attending once a week.

Two years later, I attended a uni which had a very positive ethos. I gained confidence, a sense of identity, some goal in life that was not yet defined. On hearing a certain lecture, I knew my path lay there.

I knew my path lay there

So I moved to Southern California to do my Ph.D. What I learned there is priceless.

Do I resent my mother? Oh yes, I did. But no longer, because I had to detach from her at age 15.

I cannot allow resentment to steal my power. To poison my love. To contaminate my relationships.

I cannot be a good mother if I have resentment.

As for my illness, I resent that people have no idea of the trauma I have gone through. resent that no one knows that I cannot control the volume of my speech; an irritation can at times make my voice rise, depending on other factors. No doctor I meet has ever heard of the disease. I am, as far as I can tell, the only person in the world with this disease and the intervention of brain surgery.

I resent it because I am now suffocating to death. Slowly. But surely. My lungs are impaired. I resent leaving my daughter. I resent not having ensured I have someone to love me until I die.

Unless people read this, they won’t know this. I live outwardly, even though I prefer to introvert. I introvert while planting in and tending my garden. Or while preparing a meal. I read, I watch rugby passionately, I photograph birds, flowers, animals.

My home and garden are my sanctuary, tastefully decorated. I have my loved friends. My Dad died in my arms, my sister too, of sepsis.

Anger, resentments that reside within? No room here.

Published in Know Thyself, Heal Thyself

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Finding Myself

I live my life outward, a choice, as I prefer introversion. I enjoy being responsive to others and being a supportive friend. I am generous by nature, but cannot meet all I would like.

I give small gifts to children I know, and drop a card in to new neighbours to welcome them.

I work from home, for myself, and for the NHS. I love both, and feel appreciated by my colleagues at the ambulance service.

My way to myself, to self-care, to feed myself, is my early rise each morning to water my window box and my hanging baskets which get the most dry. My garden is my me time. I plant, weed, prune deadhead, and water. In dry days, I spend as much time here as I can, whether tending it or being in my swing bench. I designed my garden to be a haven for wildlife.The smell of earth, the fragrance of flowers. Bees drifting…

My garden brings me back to myself: I can forget how gravely sick I am and just be myself. It is free healing and therapy. It is my place for me, and my daughter, and my friends.

Published in Know Thyself, Heal Thyself

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Accepting the Faults of Others

In life we are surrounded by people who have faults. Heck, we are one of them.

I tend not to be affected by people’s faults as I realise they are just humans. A friend is persistently late, so I don’t hurry. Another scoffs at the foibles of low esteem, so I don’t share those things. I know my friends. I know what their weak spots are and recognize they are different to me in various ways.

Of course, I want to be accepted too, and I have many faults. So, we all need forbearance. Only good friends can do this. A flake will push you away, forgetting they are imperfect too.

Really close friends are able to say what bugs them. This is healthy, and we may well be working on that fault anyway.

With colleagues it is harder. I have one that cannot apologize. It is not in her vocabulary. The closest she gets is ‘’I’m sorry if you…’’ which is no apology at all. I don’t mind unless she has greatly inconvenienced me, or insulted me. This occurs a lot so I do feel frustrated — take myself out in the garden, pull a few weeds, water something, and then return to my laptop.

I can accept any fault in anyone except; dishonesty, not keeping their word, and personal attacks. Those are my boundaries.

So when that happens, I must address it. I do this by talking about my feelings. So, I say ‘’I feel …. when you do…’’

I use Do because it separates the deed from the person. ‘’Do’’ may not always be the right verb, so I find another way to separate the action from the person.

Always, I try not to do this in anger. I wait until I’m relaxed and calm. Otherwise, it is simply destructive.

It is best, too, to correct a child without anger. How do we get angry at a child for being a child?

Whilst we must accept the faults of others, we must have boundaries in place.

Published inKnow Thyself, Heal Thyself

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How To Cope With Difficulties

We all lead different lives. We are all unique in our view of life. One thing we do have in common is that we face difficulties of various magnitude. For some it may be life changing or it might be a family issue.

Whatever it is, we need tools to get us through it successfully, otherwise we can develop unattractive traits.

How important is it? This is what we need to ask first. Some difficulties or problems can wait until we have more time in which to deal with it. If it is an argument, wait until your feelings are settled before resolving it.

Are you the right person to deal with it? Sometimes we need legal advice. Or advice from trusted people who may have experienced a similar problem. If you have no experience of whatever you are facing, if people have no knowledge, try the internet.

Stay calm This is important as we can’t be of much use to ourselves or others if we are angry, tearful, frightened etc. If you are with children, you have a responsibility to remain composed. Otherwise, self-care until you are ready to carry on.

Find support If you have been bereaved, witnessed a terrible accident, or anything else that causes traumatic response, get with people who love you. Allow yourself to be loved and hugged. If this is not possible, get wrapped up in bed or the sofa and soothe yourself with beautiful images in your mind and tell yourself positive things.

Let it go Some things just aren’t worth your time or energy. If someone is rude to you, decide if they matter enough to warrant a request for an apology. Some people don’t apologise. Others will make a quarrel. The kind of person who apologises won’t be rude in the first place.

Forgive We sometimes hurt people that we love. We never hurt people that don’t care about us. Forgiving is to let the hurt go, for our own sake, If we hold onto a hurt, only we are suffering.

Don’t let people live rent free in your head Try not to revisit a quarrel, break up, or any other incident. You have better things to do.

Break things down Imagine an elephant. Now see it made of chocolate. If you ate it in one go, you would be sick. Such it is with some problems or difficult tasks. Make it into bite size pieces. If you have a sprained wrist, vacuum one room only at time. If you have a long road trip, plan where you can stop for a rest.

All these are tools to overcome almost anything. They have gotten me through many adverse times. Keep breathing, stay calm and spend time outside.

Published in Grab A Slice

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Take Nothing For Granted

All my friendships are unique. Some I see a lot and it may be fairly superficial, but trusted. Some I may see less frequently but it is deep. I have several friendships that are decades old, and have survived several continents, life changes, children growing up and other things that come our way.

This morning, my heart grew heavier when I read the WhatsApp from a friend I had heard from the previous evening, replied to at length, and then decided to wait until morning before opening her reply.

Sometimes, it seems life just puts a brick wall in front of you as you are running along.

My friend’s husband, who is also my friend, has been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. You just don’t see it coming. His prognosis is about two and a half years, and at some point he will become completely helpless.

I once knew a teacher in the last stages of MND. He travelled in a camper van on a type of gurney. I was too young to realise the indignities he suffered as a man. I do now.

I was once driven to Gatwick airport by a close friend who had been lent a vehicle. It was a van all kitted out with bed, TV, fridge, and a few other comforts. It belonged to a godson of Prince Philip, who had advanced MS. All he could move was a thumb. My friend was one of his private nurses. She had also nursed Jacqueline Dupres, the famous cellist who died of MS.

I know the heartbreak of losing a much loved family member slowly as disease progresses. It is a relentless grieving, the death of expectations. The deterioration is torture to observe.

We must live life on life’s terms.

That is to say that we learn to accept what we cannot change, and have gratitude for the joys that come our way. A daffodil opening gives me joy,watching a ladybug make it’s way along a stem. The sun catching on water, the bright spinnakers of yachts, birdsong. There are so many things to be grateful for.Today, another friend helped me sort through the family collection of coats that are no longer needed. We talk a lot, she more than me, and she replies to to every single text. This at times drives me nuts but my affection for her is enough to not want to be around her.

Live each day in the moment. Be present. Even when you need a nap, enjoy that nap. Time is not wasted if it is blessing you, helping another, making memories. Laugh when it’s good to laugh. Weep with others who are weeping.

There is a season for everything.

Don’t let yourself down. Stay true to your personal convictions. Tell the truth to your own hurt- that you were wrong, that you did a thing. I don’t mean confessing everything like some blurb, but owning up and taking responsibility when it matters.

Get out there and protest about racism, make changes in your lifestyle to preserve the planet. Ask your friends to do that too, and your family. Plant plants, plant trees, don’t use plastic.

Be ready to leave this earth knowing you are at peace. That although there’s stuff you haven’t done yet, you’ve done good.

We can take nothing for granted. Money can be defrauded from us, homes can be destroyed by fire or storm or earthquake. Health is a precious gift and must be maintained and nurtured.

Our health is mostly determined by our genes. We have a huge gene pool of ancestors. Some genes are faulty and it’s pure chance which ones you inherit. But having a faulty gene doesn’t mean you are bound to get a certain disease, it just means you are predisposed to developing it. There are diseases which are determined by genes and the children of two certain people will have a one in four chance of having it.

Don’t corrupt your body with drugs and smoking. Drink in moderation. Don’t overdo coffee, skip the soda. Drink lots of water.

Love and be kind at all times. You don’t know the struggles others are going through. Smile at strangers, it may be the only smile they get that day. Give a dime to the person ahead of you who is short of change. A young woman was raped and beaten because she didn’t have the right amount of change to buy a bus ticket. People heard her saying she had no other way to get home.

Be soft, not terse. When people tread on your grief and pain, mark it up to experience and be less vulnerable with them. Trust is hard to earn but easy to lose.

Live well. Have character. Principles. Morals. Don’t take what isn’t yours. Speak up for others. Be merciful, because you may need it one day. Treat everyone with respect. Keep short accounts on quarrels, forgive easily even when it costs a lot.

Keep sex special. Don’t treat it like a shoe. Never use anyone sexually. That’s so hurtful for the other one. Sex is not a transaction.

Take nothing for granted. One day it may have all changed.

Published in Grab A Slice

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Accept life on life’s terms

Or you will break

Once we leave secondary education and move on to university, a job, and have to pay bills etc, life becomes messy. We no longer have the security of home, the cushion that parents provide, or someone else you grew up with.

We become adults but are still not fully formed as our lives in society are very new. We may have survived debilitating illness, lost a parent, been in a car wreck, all these things cause us to have insight and compassion, but it has not prepared us for life in the big wide world.

If we have been brought up well enough, we understand that life is unfair, full of injustice, broken promises, and flaky people. We will also know that there are trustworthy people, kindness, family and friends to cheer you on and celebrate the success you achieve.

If we are unable to accept what life brings to our path, we will break, and find it very tough to be mended.

I knew a life-changing illness at an early age. It’s progression rendered me, a quiet, reserved girl, to be passive and not care about what doctors did to me. This wasn’t acceptance, but utter defeat. I realized some years later that I had unexpressed anger, and PTSD.

I know of people who had seemingly undisturbed lives who are angry anyway.

Life is difficult. We fall in love and our hearts get broken. We study hard but can’t convert that into a good degree. Our friends can be unreliable. Our dog dies. All these leave us with a choice.

  • We can become bitter and unpleasant to be around.
  • We can accept what life hands us, accept it and do our our best.

When we accept the difficulties, we have succeeded with half of those difficulties.

We grow as humans with every experience we have, if we choose to accept it. We gain knowledge and wisdom. We become better friends to others, wiser parents, more understanding lovers. We are kinder, empathetic, compassionate, good listeners, and gentle.

We allow people to have space, know when to touch them, when to intervene, how to encourage, not to be shocked. We turn up with food, without food, we send sympathy cards because we know how much it means.

These qualities come more easily to some than others. But it is not a competition. We be who we are are. None of us is perfect.

We accept imperfect people.

We are able to comfort those who are suffering, and allow kindness to be more important than our fear. Thus, we can help someone who has fallen on the sidewalk, give directions to strangers who are lost, stay with a child who is crying or not crying until their parent finds them again.

I have told complete strangers that they must hold their three year old child’’s hand in a busy main street. I have repeated it when I ran into them again outside another store. My fear of saying it is less important than a child’s safety.

I don’t care what others think of me if I am doing the right thing.

Recently, someone posted publicly that there were ambulances, fire trucks, and a doctor’s car at a certain place. I politely asked her to remove it as whoever needed them deserved some privacy and the vehicles already announced their distress. Later, I saw she had added a link to the fire service’s report. Again, I asked her to remove it. If people want to look up what the fire service was doing that day, they can go to the website. We don’t publicize the trauma of others just because we can.

I held my family members as they died within eighteen months of each other. We have become unafraid to do this. It is compassionate, and dreadful, but we do it because we love.

We face our own trauma with grace as we have realized there is no alternative. We thank those who care for us with kindness and cheerfulness. We laugh when we are able to, as it is medicine to the soul, and a moment shared.

Connection is valued because we are all human and need each other. We have learned to disconnect from those who do not respect or honor us. It is better to have an enemy than friends who cannot realize our worth.

We contribute to our community because we know it important to give back. We do this according to our personality, some volunteer, some take on responsibilities, some leave small handmade treasures to delight others, and many unseen, unrecognized, gestures of charity and hope.

If you have read this, I hope you are comforted, inspired, reassured, and know that you are not alone.

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I had food poisoning…

My queasiness turned into violent vomiting which unnerved me. Once that was over I seemed to feel myself again. I drank lots, with a rehydration tablet dissolved in it and went to bed.

But I awoke in a discombobulated state. I drank loads more water and ate some protein.

I checked in with my GP, not just about the food poisoning but another issue too. He told me I would need several days to recover fully.

I brought up the issue of linking with the hospice and became very weepy. It’s so emotive.

He suggested I might see a neurologist locally. I’ve already seen him. An excellent doctor, but an appalling bedside manner, and lack of awareness.

I don’t want to be poked and prodded again. I’ve been an experiment too much already. I want peace.

I love my life. I love my home. I love where I live. I’m just tired of forgetting where I put things and the energy it takes to do everything.

If only I could breathe without effort.

Mark, my GP, our children went to school together, so we address each other by first names, says we need to talk face to face so it has to wait until lockdown is over.

This is when I want a hand to hold in the night. My ex-husband would hold my hand in night if I slipped mine into his. No words. The same with Michael. I had a long relationship after I divorced my husband, and we touched as we slept too.

I have two heroes today. Mainly my daughter.

The vitriol on medium goes on. Callum Brown also made a complaint but about far more than I did.

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Sleeping a lot and the panic buying…

Thankfully, I slept well last night so the appliance on my finger didn’t bother me.

Today I have slept a lot. I woke feeling refreshed but soon realised I was exhausted. So I have slept a lot and rested.

Friends of mine are expecting a baby and she is in very early labour. I had hoped to see them, but she is exhausted and so am I.

I am not feeling so vulnerable now. I guess the physical exhaustion and the verbal stimuli I went through stripped back some of my resilience.

Life is hard sometimes, and we must accept it. We just need to sustain ourselves during the difficult times. It’s part of being alive.

No one ever said life would be easy.

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Who I am

Christine, in years to come you will hear words spoken about you,be asked questions you know not the meaning of, you will be as an exhibit, a fascination, reduced to symptoms of medical interest
Resist the urge to live,let yourself go into the gloomy stupor of death which leads to the light beyond. Ignore the instinct to survive, to grab hold of life, your suffering will be ignored, your pain unknown, you will never find love on this earth
Let all the confusion you will know wash over and away, the years beyond will be too many, with not enough of anything to sustain, not love, not friends, not family, your own daughter will desert you, your sister die in your arms
Dad will love you, mother will poison your life more than disease, let go, when death comes, say yes, and let it be short, don’t live long while you are dying, acquiesce, embrace the light, go to the everlasting arms, don’t exhaust yourself with living
People live in their cocoons, what destroys your life is of no concern, no one will care about you, empty words will fill your ears, enjoy the sunlight and say goodbye while you can speak, everyone you love will disappear, fade away, words have no meaning, life is dust, let go

Published by Hedgehog Press

This is the most autobiographical piece I’ve ever written. My editor invited poems on the theme of who we are. I chose to write to my seven year old self. I was broken up over recent events, I thought about the man I married, my love for him that had water poured over it and yet the support I gave him when a mother’s nightmare happened to us. He took, he took and took. Another relationship, fairly uneventful but he was jealous. He slipped a disc and I nursed him, he took and took. And all the time I was a mother putting my daughter first. Then a boring little man, who asked permission to go to the shop for his lunch stuff, got into my bedroom at three in the morning and molested me while we were talking. While making amends for that he seduced me and began a relationship with me. I started to fall in love but he obeyed his owner. I was fine but he came to visit me, and that was the undoing. I have a folder of emails I thought were from his owner, but apparently are from him. A lot of emails over the last nine months. And then he crushed me. Told me I only wanted a carer. He smashed me and the pieces are many

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Pablo Neruda…

Emerging

A man says yes without knowing
how to decide even what the question is,
and is caught up, and then is carried along
and never again escapes from his own cocoon;
and that’s how we are, forever falling
into the deep well of other beings;
and one thread wraps itself around our necks,
another entwines a foot, and then it is impossible,
impossible to move except in the well —
nobody can rescue us from other people.

It seems as if we don’t know how to speak;
it seems as if there are words which escape,
which are missing, when have gone away and left us
to ourselves, tangled up in snares and threads.

And all at once, that’s it; we no longer know
what it’s all about, but we are deep inside it,
and now we will never see with the same eyes
as once we did when we were children playing.
Now these eyes are closed to us,
now our hands emerge from different arms.

And therefore when you sleep, you are alone in your dreaming,
and running freely through the corridors
of one dream only, which belongs to you.
Oh never let them come to steal our dreams,
never let them entwine us in our bed.
Let us hold on to the shadows
to see if, from our own obscurity,
we emerge and grope along the walls,
lie in wait for the light, to capture it,
till, once and for all time,
it becomes our own, the sun of every day.

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More from Issue 57, Spring 1974

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SHARED FROM A FRIEND IT WAS TOO MEANINGFUL NOT TO PASS ALONG: When I was a kid, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now & then. I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage, & extremely burned biscuits in front of my dad. I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his Biscuit, smile at my mom & ask me how my day was at school. I don’t remember what I told him that night, but I do remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. I’ll never forget what he said: “Honey, I love burned biscuits.” Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night & I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms & said, “Your momma put in a long hard day at work today & she’s real tired. Besides… a burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!” You know, life is full of imperfect things… & imperfect people. I’m not the best at hardly anything, & I forget birthdays & anniversaries just like everyone else. What I’ve learned over the years is that learning to accept each others faults & choosing to celebrate each others differences, is one of the most important keys to creating a healthy, growing, & lasting relationship. So…please pass me a biscuit. And yes, the burned one will do just fine! And please pass this along to someone who has enriched your life… I just did! Life is too short to wake up with regrets… Love the people who treat you right & forget about the ones who don’t. ENJOY LIFE NOW – IT HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE!!!…

This post doesn’t have a title as I copied and pasted this from elsewhere in my docx, and it won’t co-operate with my wish for a title. I’m a hopeless blogger. My cleaner just left and told me I keep my home much tidier than a lot of places she cleans. She didn’t need to say this. She said it because she is kind and full of love for people. Life is too short to criticise and find fault with others all the time.