Thursday, 29 September 2011

All That Jazz

Last weekend we went to the Festival of Jazz in Scarborough and what a fantastic experience it was. We have been jazz fans for longer than we care to remember and Jim has more Cd's than he can play - in fact, he collects albums like I collect books. I attended the festival with Jean (my friend) last year so I guess I knew we were in for a treat. Jim's attitude, as is his wont, was 'let's just wait and see' but he was more than delighted with the standard of  musicianship.

We stayed in one the Sands Luxury Apartments which  it would be fair to say are well appointed but not particularly well sound proofed or, at least ours wasn't. We had a fantastic view - see above but it's the part of the beach which is accessible to dogs during the day. This inevitably meant we had early morning dog barking wake ups! We are canine lovers so it wasn't a big deal but it could be for some.

We left Sheffield around noon on Friday and arrived in Scarborough around 3.30pm. We had stopped off for lunch on the way - we all like to eat and it shows! The evening session began around 7pm with the Hadouk Trio and we weren't disappointed. The sound they make as you can hear is breathtaking and it would be fair to say we were all blown away metaphorically speaking. Even our friend Tony, who really had come along as chauffeur and who, isn't into jazz at all enjoyed them. To put this into perspective one his running jokes is that the best act at a jazz concert is the interval! The other two acts were good but these guys were fantastic!

The following day we arose bright and early and went for a walk and coffee and then went back to The Spa for the afternoon sessions. Again some brilliant artists but the standout was Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Express.  Gilad is a Hebrew speaking Palestinian and he has lots to say on the current political situation in Israel. Some of what he had to say was uncomfortable to hear and I wasn't sure about using the occasion as a platform but...? I found out that he used to play with The Blockheads and that he'd not only recorded with Ian Drury but also with Paul McCartney, Sinead O'Connor and Robbie Williams. I do hope he doesn't leave jazz for politics because that would be a real loss to music lovers.

Inspired by what we'd heard we sped off to sample some of the best ever fish and chips which we washed down with a nice little Sauvignon. Then we returned for the evening session. Now I can understand that if you don't like jazz this could all seem a little monotonous but when you're listening to acts of the calibre of the Mina Agossi Trio then I can assure you that time stands still. Mina is a very unusual songstress who in my opinion makes some fabulous sounds.


For me though the stand out act of the night was The David Rees-Williams Trio. They originally hadn't been on the programme but had replaced Jacques Loussier who had been taken ill, however, they didn't feel like a substitute at all. Listen to their sound and you'll get what I mean. If you like classical music as I do then listen to the clip the classical/jazz combination is a rare treat.

We felt so hyped up after such a wonderful night we couldn't sleep so we stayed up talking about the various acts but also acknowledging how lucky we were to be able to be there and have such wonderful experiences. When we woke up the following day there had been a change in the weather and the view looked rather dismal if somewhat atmospheric

but I had arranged to meet twitter mate @philcovers so after a good breakfast and with a spring in my step and carrying my umbrella off  I went with my friend Jean to The Glass House. When Chris turned up on his bike I knew him instantly and he me - in fact his opening gambit was 'you look like your photo'. He'd very kindly brought me a gift of some apples he'd just picked - as he put it 'nature's fast food' and I bought him a peppermint tea.  We chatted away on various subjects but mainly about Chris, his exploits and his view of life. In fact he helped me to think that retirement is no bad thing. All too soon we had to say au revoir so we could meet with our spouses for another feast of Jazz - and this dear friends is where we saw a performance to end all performances. It was by a 14 year old boy genius playing in the eponymously named Andreas Varady Quartet.

I cannot begin to tell you how I felt watching this wonderful musician. I was amazed at his ability and his panache. His father plays rhythm guitar with the quartet and I can only imagine the pride he feels playing with this golden boy. When the gig was over we were just gobsmacked and of course he was mainly the subject of our dinner conversation.

We did return that night for the final session but after Andreas is was rather an anticlimax which was a shame. If they had used him to close the festival  it would have been really something. Instead they played it safe with the saxophonist compere Alan Barnes.

Now Barnes is a fab player so I'm not disrespecting him but that boy was something else. However, when we walked out of The Spa we were all of the same opinion which was we would return next year for another Scarborough feast of all that jazz!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Optimism vs Pessimism

One of the all time cliched questions is are you an optimist or a pessimist - a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person? Whereupon we think and then readily declare ourselves on one side or the other. Furthermore, we also know when asked this question that really there is only one currently acceptable response. All together - TA DA!  POSITIVE! Well today I would like to introduce the idea that to declare yourself one thing or the other is unrealistic. Surely to experience moments of both optimism and pessimism is the norm? To sometimes feel euphoric and sometimes feel sad and perhaps some of the time to feel nothing in particular?

One of the worst things that pervades western society currently in my opinion is the idea that we should be happy every single minute of our waking lives. My question is what for? It's as if we all want to be in some sort of Brave New World where no one ages or feels pain. Of course disease and the effect of age were eliminated in Huxley's novel by a contracted death but I don't think that would catch on do you?  Instead it feels as if we all want to live to the age of Methuselah whilst looking about twenty five. This reminds me of someone I worked with who wanted counselling because she couldn't stand the idea of developing facial lines and she was all of 28!  but I digress. Of course without the pain where is the pleasure. This is not an advertisement for S & M but a reasoned response suggesting that part of life is about experiencing pain, pleasure, deep emotions. How can you do all of that and remain in a permanent state of optimism?

It is possible I think to view life in an optimistic way. By that I mean being aware that things happen outside our control but that we have the wherewithal to cope and that eventually we can overcome. To put it another way shit happens but what matters is how we deal with it. In fact in my opinion that is about all we can be sure of?


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

At Last My Love Has Come Along

I love the Etta James classic At Last My Love Has Come Along.  A love I'm sure I share with many others and certainly with @MartinBown who had the song played at his wedding. We tweeted about the track this morning and so I decided to give him a mention. He's a good bloke and is Ambassador for @CerebraUK and so if you tweet you could give him a follow I'm sure he'd like that.

As I say I love the song but would like to take issue with the lyrics and the trillions of love songs that reinforce the idea that until 'the one' appears you are not really living and life is lacking as a consequence. The narrator says 'my lonely days are over' thereby implying without said significant other, life is a lonely and possibly bleak existence.  In the context of a good song (story) that's fine but to feel that life without a partner isn't worth living is a different thing all together. Now before I proceed I would just like to point out that I'm not some embittered old harridan. I am a 60 something with a long standing partner, two children who I count as friends, grandchildren, pets, friends in fact the whole caboodle. I'm in favour of love as an enriching experience, I just worry that there are innumerable people who feel the lack of a partner or the right partner and can't really see themselves as OK unless they acquire one. Furthermore, said partner has to be the stuff of dreams anything less just isn't acceptable.

I guess you could think I'm exaggerating but it's quite a regular occurrence for clients to tell me they love their partner but they are not in love with them - they don't feel the buzz - the x-factor. When I ask them to say more they invariably founder. What they mean is that they are no longer in that idealised state of limerence. That state of infatuation in which the majority of relationships begin and incidentally what most of the songs are about. Perhaps what they fail to acknowledge is that if they stayed in that intoxicated state they'd probably expire. It's our version of the animal mating ritual? Anyway here we are we sad deluded individuals yearning for a state that you wouldn't expect to last for more than say three years and wanting it to last for a lifetime and if it doesn't feeling cheated in some way?

I guess I'm not the only person on the planet who thinks we are influenced by art, literature, music and media and it would be fair to say that we've come a long way since the fifties when I was a pre-teen. However, what hasn't changed is the idea that a partner completes and when that doesn't happen boy aren't we disappointed. This isn't about women finding partners or,  men finding partners, irrespective of sexual orientation it's about thinking or feeling we 'should' have a partner and to not have one means we are lacking in some way or more precisely not complete.

I want to share with you the story of a woman of my acquaintance. She's a health professional and she gives me a treatment every six weeks. We'd been talking about her single status and I asked her if I could include her in my blog and she gave her permission. Anyway, she's a 41 year old divorcee with two young children and has had several abortive relationships since she and her ex husband separated. She has met men through Facebook and dating websites. She told me about one very popular dating site that asks for exact physical criteria  and as a consequence she feels excluded. Not only that she looks at other dating websites and when she sees the same men listed thinks because they are still there 'they can't be up to much'? This woman is not unintelligent but it does feel as if she has skewed views on love and relationships and in my opinion unrealistic expectations of them - she 'wants everything'. Furthermore, because she wants everything she feels frustrated and not good enough in some way because she's not achieving it. The problem is that were she to find everything it probably wouldn't remain everything beyond the two to three years limerence mark so she'd find herself once again at the beginning.  

So whilst the Etta James song is beautiful it would be more realistic if it went on to say for my love to stay I need to acknowledge I won't be in a state of heavenly rapture for much of the time. By the way if you're in a relationship and want to spice up your love life you could do worse than read The 52 Seductions if nothing else it'll bring a smile to your face. If you're not in a relationship make sure you are putting lots of pleasure into your life and then your lack won't be your focus and when you're not looking perhaps 'your love will come along'.

If you're interested in a more detailed explanation of limerence then click on this link.

Sorry Seems to Be The Hardest Word

What makes sorry so difficult for some people to say? Does sorry stick in your craw each time you try to say it or is it perhaps that you do the apologising even when you feel blameless? What does sorry mean to you? Is it a genuine evocation of regret, an admission of defeat or a signal of truce? How often do you say you're sorry  and what do you say sorry for? If it's an admission of a mistake or for saying something hurtful then it seems to me to be OK but if you feel you are apologising almost for your existence, which some people do, then it is most definitely not OK.

My stance is that we are all flawed to some extent because we are human and being human sometimes we err. I personally have never had a problem with saying I'm sorry it's not a big deal but if I do apologise it's usually because I've decided it's appropriate. I dislike it intensely if someone is overly critical about me or tells me I should apologise but then I don't like the should word either? Of course some would say that saying your sorry and apologising isn't the same thing. We say I'm sorry when some one has passed away - we regret their passing but we're not apologising? However, I think it would be fair to say that what most people call apologising is saying they are sorry for some kind of omission or transgression? 

How do you say your sorry? I'm sure there's a whole slew of advice out there for appropriate ways to apologise but what works for me is simply saying 'I'm sorry or I'm so sorry for etc' I don't do the gift thing it seems to make it into a production. If I say it I mean it and would expect the same if someone apologised to me. One of the most famous apologies I can think of is when Richard Nixon said he was sorry for his part in The Watergate Conspiracy

I never had any time for him as a politician but his regret in the clip is palpable? One of my twitter friends @exmoorjane said the other day that to genuinely say your sorry is a beautiful thing. I don't know whether I'd go as far as that but I do feel being able to say your sorry is useful and healing and the ability to forgive is even more so. In my estimation a lot of what ails us is hanging onto to old hurts, either ones we feel have been inflicted on us or, those we've inflicted. If we practiced apologising when it's needed perhaps sorry would no longer be the hardest word?

As a humorous postcript I asked my husband why he rarely says he's sorry - his reponse 'I do say I'm sorry when I am - it's just that I'm rarely wrong'? Ha!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Do What You've Alway Done Get What You've Always Got

Have you ever thought that the same thing happens to you over and over again in relationships? I don't necessarily mean with your significant others though this could be the case. I mean generally speaking. Are you the one who feels misunderstood? Do people take you for granted? Do people reject you or exclude you? Do you feel picked on? Any or all of these feelings may apply and if they do have you ever asked yourself what part do I play in this? If not then perhaps you could think about it now?

I know from personal experience how the beliefs we hold about ourselves can get in the way of being happy. I know because I used to feel generally misunderstood. I was continually perplexed as to why people didn't see the vulnerable side of me. The answer I discovered through time and therapy was I didn't show the vulnerable side of me. I showed the competent and confident or the truculent and angry side of me so that's what they saw?

I also felt taken for granted. What made me feel that you may ask? The answer was that I was continually offering my services, my advice etc and then I was surprised that people accepted what ever I was offering. I set up friendships in which I was the supportive one, the one who coped, the one who knew. Why was I surprised that most came to expect it. Not only did they expect it they were upset if  I wasn't available in that way. I wasn't supposed to have problems it wasn't in the 'friendship contract'. What made me do that? I guess because I had been coping from a very early age and I was praised for coping with tasks that were far beyond my emotional development. I was my mother's emotional confidant and I got to feel close to her in a supportive role. Thus I learned the lesson that to be valued and loved I needed to help and be supportive.

I've always been good at one to one relationships but I often felt disadvantaged in groups. I usually felt like the outsider. I didn't realise that I took up that position based on my childhood experience. My mother was in her forties when I was born with a family of three boys. She wasn't looking to increase her family in fact she felt it was complete. Then I made an unexpected entrance as, yes you've guessed it, the univited guest at the party. Although my mother was loving she was often absent in an emotional sense and I was regularly reminded through numerous family stories that I was a mistake. When we were together it was if the sun shone on me but in the group I often went unnoticed or felt in the way. I was a nuisance. Is it any wonder I came to believe I was the outsider.

Did I feel picked on? I guess I often did. This started in secondary school when I was bullied by a headmistress who had preconceived ideas about me - though with your permission I'll save that story for another time? It's sufficient to say I carried those feelings into adulthood. The difference was that by that time whoever was picking on me nearly always backed off because I could fire back off signals like there was no tomorrow! I'd had to fight for my place at the table and nobody was going to ride rough shod over me.

OK so what has my story to do with all of this? The answer is I'm showing through personal experience that we bring something to the party of relationship and if we're going to have different experience and relationships we have to change something. So what did I change and how and can you change? The answer to my dilemma I'm going to share with you but whether you change is up to you.

First I did some serious thinking about those feelings of mine and what made me feel them. I asked myself were my feelings about the current situation or did they belong in the past? Then I asked myself if I was going to change those feelings what did I need to do? What I came up with were small changes which had a big impact. One I decided to give up rescuing to make me feel better. Instead I decided to train as a counsellor and put those supportive skills to work in a positive and appropriate way. I stopped bailing out friends and family. This didn't mean I stopped helping I just stopped thinking that had to be a help for them to love me. I also began sharing when I had doubts or felt overwhelmed or had my back to the wall. Then when I was in a group situation I started to consider that maybe other people may not feel confident it wasn't just me. I voiced my concern in the group which helped other people to share theirs. I stopped going on the attack and learned to be assertive not aggressive. I stopped saying the first thing that came into my mind and gave myself time to think about what I wanted to say. Most importantly I stopped blaming other people for how I felt and took responsibility for me.

So after all that how do I feel? To be honest most of the time I feel ok I enjoy life, my family and the company of good friends. However, on the odd occasion those old feelings can come flooding in. If they do I take stock of what's happening and reassure myself. Change can be difficult but if you do what you've always done you get what you've always got. By way of postcript you may find this poem interesting?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Need or Want

Need or Want

I hear people all the time talking about need. In our society everything becomes a need. My client's tell me all the time that 'they need' something. It could be a person, to be listened to, to do something, to have something. It doesn't matter because what matters is they feel powerless. I usually challenge the statement  because to me a need is a necessity and, therefore, means something we can't live without? So in fact if we are talking basic needs then we're talking survival and what we need for that is food, water, clothing, and shelter. What I'm getting at is a need is something you have to have and a want is something you'd like to have.

So what makes us use the word need instead of want bearing in mind that using the word need renders us powerless whilst the word want instills desire and motivation. In my opinion it's part of the western culture's pursuit of happiness and the idea that happiness is produced by consumerism or is somehow in the gift of other people. We believe we need a particular thing - it could be the latest gizmo or a new car, a new house, a relationship, a baby, a particular qualification or accolade - it doesn't matter - what matters is the belief that with the acquisition our cup will runneth over. I'm here to tell you it doesn't. My main client group are people who are successful, who have big houses, expensive cars, go on exotic holidays and often have relationships with  significant others who they like and or love and they are not happy? 

Now I don't have a problem with material success per se in fact I like things or gizmos myself but I do realise that I can be happy without them. I don't need things. I am aware I can live a happy life without them it's just at the moment I want to use my iPad or iPhone. If someone waved a magic wand and they disappeared I may miss them but I'd adjust. I have been in a committed relationship for 40 years and whilst I would be wretched should it end I would endure. Now I can hear you saying that I don't know and to be fair having not experienced it I don't. I do know though that I have been happy in the past without things. Ironically I sometimes think I was happier without things but that of course could just be that I was younger and the world seemed a hopeful place? As to being on my own I wouldn't want to be on my own but I do know I don't need my OH to make me feel good about me neither do I need him to make me feel complete. My relationship with him enriches my life and without him the world would seem a blacker place for a time but nothing can take away the love I've shared with him and for that I'm thankful. In other words I want him in my life I don't need him in my life and to think I do doesn't really help either of us.

So back to need and want. Ask yourself do I really need this or do I want it. If it is a want what am I going to do to achieve it? Things may help you to survive in comfort but of themselves don't make you happy and neither for that matter does being in a relationship. If it did more of us would have a smiling instead of whingeing and there would be less divorce or separation? You may find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with my point of view but what would be good is if you told me!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Men and Women - Same but Different

Much has been written on communication and the difference in the way that men and women relate and how they are in the world. If you'd caught me a few years ago I would have been talking about socialisation and how women had been disadvantaged in a patriarchal society - but that was then and this is now. John Gray made his name with his much quoted book Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus in the '90's. Then he went on to write a series of books using the same premise including Mars & Venus in Love in which he banged on about how women want to to be listened to and are emotional and how men are logical and want to go away and think about 'the problem'. My response at the time was that's ok BUT it's more complex than that and my opinion hasn't really changed since then. My belief is that in western society whilst  there is a cultural norm as to how men and women should be - that is only part of it. What happens to us and what we see in the home when we are growing up  has much to do with the person we eventually become. If we are brought up in a family where communication is good we are more likely to share who we are. If we grow up in a home where to talk about how we feel creates conflict then we're likely to learn that it's not a good thing to say what we think.                                         

I do not want to be disingenuous or invite rancour but I come across men who can talk about their emotions & women who cannot and women who are very logical and men who are not. What I'm suggesting is that we are all individuals. That's not to say that I don't come across people who fit the stereotypes because I do and frankly they are quite easy to work with because it becomes just about understanding the communication style. I think both men and women have the ability to think and feel and that thinking promotes feelings and feelings promote thought. I get quite hot under the collar when someone suggests I behave or respond in a particular way because I'm a woman. It feels reductive in some way? Also to suggest that because I don't like shopping or don't have a fetish for shoes I'm not a proper woman is insulting. I want to be me - a thinking, feeling person. I want to have choices and I want the people who come into contact with me to have choices. I don't want people to assume things about me from the get go based on whether I'm female? I don't want to be a finished product and I don't want you to be either. I want hope and possibility. I want to use my logic and feel good about being able to do so. I want you to have the same.

It feels as if psychologists have done lots of work on what separates men and women and less on their similarities. Both sexes appear to want to have good relationships. Both want to love and be loved. Both want to be good parents. Both are equally assertive and as adults have equal verbal skills despite the myths to the contrary. Finally it seems to me that men do want to have conversations on a emotional and philosophical level and don't just want to talk about football and to suggest otherwise seems to do them a disservice.

I think men and women are different but that we have more in common than separates us. I think we could free ourselves by stopping thinking in gender stereotypes and instead we could treat people as individuals and with respect. If we can do that then it seems to me that we really have equality.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Just Another Day

I was cogitating on what I'd write about today. The day hasn't been unusual in any way I had supervision this morning - we counsellors need to keep ourselves and our client's safe. I'd then been waiting for a phone call that didn't come for an important appointment - cue frustration - though I did receive two unsolicited sales calls which hiked said frustration. I don't see client's on a Monday and we had already decided we would go to the cinema.  We've been wanting to see Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2 for ages but we  had decided to wait until the kiddie winkies went back to school. So after lunch I managed to tear myself away from twitter & off we went. No popcorn etc for us it's far too expensive in fact I usually take a can of something non alcoholic with me. It's Yorkshire thrift you know! Anway after 25 minutes of adverts & trailers the film started. I really enjoyed it but this is not a review - there are others for example @filmvsbook who can do that much better that me. What I wanted to share with you were my thoughts on the emotion we experience when watching a film or reading a book. This idea came from a tweet I'd had with @madkentdragon

Now I don't know about you but I've been releasing emotion in this way since childhood. I was young in the fifties so my main entertainment was film, radio & reading and not necessarily in that order. As in many other working class families money was in short supply so I spent lots of time reading. If you have seen the film Distant Voices Still Lives then you will have a fair idea of my growing up. Though in fairness my father was neither a wife or child beater. 

There was an article in The Guardian recently about  reading fiction promoting empathy and I entirely agreed with it because what we do when engaged in this activity and or watching film is put ourselves in someone else's shoes. I think though it also generates echoes of our own experience of love or lack of love, loss, happiness. Each of us watches a different film reads a different book brought to life by our own experience. I was profoundly moved by The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist and The Reader. I laughed out loud at Down All The Days. I can't enumerate all of the films that have made me cry like Bambi, Lassie or ET  or laugh like Way Out West or I Love You Philip Morris, though there's more to that particular film than comedy. Then they're the musicals that have moved and kept me in a suspended state of happiness for days like Calamity Jane and Annie Get Your Gun.

I think it would be fair to say that for me not only does watching film or reading a book entertain it helps to release emotion & promotes emotional well being. Of course you could include any form of entertainment & music which enrich our lives & feed the soul. I've simply been considering the emotional impact film & book have had in the context of my day.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Easy to Spell Difficult to Say

I've just had a very pleasant couple of hours visiting with my daughter. She is the Deputy Head of a local comprehensive school with a head count of approximately 1500 pupils. She's a confident, capable woman who is very popular with staff & students. I guess I'd put this down to her being able to empathise, to be honest in what I'd call an appropriate way (see previous blog on communication) & knowing her stuff. I think it's fair to say she has had to learn to say NO on occasion & get rid of the guilt around doing just that. I was showing her my new blog. I guess looking for a little praise & approval. I don't contact her much during the working week - we're both busy & we know we can if it's important. On a personal note I have a horror of becoming a Mum who is visited out of duty but, I do want to be important in her relationship hierachy. Anway we were catching up on the weeks events when the subject of her being stretched came up & we started chatting about how we both have a tendency to make arrangements & then when the time comes we wish we hadn't and how if we'd thought about it in the first place we may have said NO. Remember this is a conversation between two professional women who have the hang of what we need to do at work but in our personal lives well? This started me thinking about what makes NO so problematic.

Ironically NO is one of the easiest words to spell & one of the most difficult words to say? Saying yes seems to slip easily off the tongue even when we want to say NO. If we think about it, it's one of the first words children say when they are learning to speak - it's a hard sound & it's easy to enunciate & initially we are really amused at our little mites using what eventually becomes the forbidden word. It doesn't take long, however, before we become frustrated at what we see as defiance & we start to show our children we don't like it when they say NO. Of course commensensically we want to keep our children safe & in attempt to do that we seek their compliance with our view of the world & what safe means. My intention in introducing NO in this way is not to promote a socialogical debate but to highlight one way that we (as children) soon learn that to be loved we need to say yes & not NO! If we then carry that learning into adulthood then my friends we are in trouble!

Being able to say NO is invaluable it keeps us safe & it keeps us sane. It's one of the basic tenets of being assertive & having good self esteem. If you are in relationship with people who don't want you to say NO then there's a problem? As a rider I would like to mention that you need to be able to allow others to say NO to you without them feeling unloved and disrespected in some way. The reasons why we find it difficult to say NO and how to say NO  has been the subject of inumerable books over the years. I read a really good one about 10 years ago by @corinnesweet aptly named How To Say No. As I say there's lots out there if you want to read more on the subject and there's an Amazon search button at the bottom of my blog page to make it easy. For the cynics reading this there's nothing in it for me?

As an exercise you could write down when you find it difficult to say NO and perhaps what makes it difficult. Does your perceived inability to say NO permeate all areas of your life or just some? My own difficulty is around friends asking me to share jollies with them. I do feel lucky that they want me to be with or involved with them but I only have so much energy & funds available. I regularly find myself on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand I want to say yes and on the other I need to say NO. As I intimated I do find myself saying yes in my eagerness to be loved, involved & wanted when NO would have been more useful or sensible. However, I have learned that it's ok to reappraise & recant. If you don't make it a habit. If you say it in a way that it can be heard. If you end on a compliment and perhaps make another arrangement your friend realises it's about you and not them.

As a society we have this belief that we should be accessible and we should say yes but it's a belief that sometimes isn't useful. I think this poem Angela's Word sum's it up for me.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Thursday Jaunt

A few weeks ago we had decided that it was time to start fell walking again. We have as a couple & with friends walked for nigh on 40 years and it's always been a pleasure shared. Then I started to have various niggling health problems & the habit slipped away and was eventually relegated to one of those things we used to enjoy & we must do that again sometime. Anyway after my operation in May I started to take stock & decided it was time to resurrect the weekly jaunt & so for the last couple of weeks we've been doing various short walks.

There was a time when come rain or shine we would have been out there 'running up those hills' but age has seasoned me & now I'm definitely a fine weather walker. I don't mind the occasional shower or drizzle but no more walking in the teaming rain for me. Even as a young woman I would have labelled that just exercise & now as a 60 something - no offence to the shall we say the dedicated?  I have more sense.

Last night we listened to the weather forecast - It didn't sound good & so we considered contingency plans. We could, we said, perhaps go to The Yorkshire Sculpture Park. There's a fantastic Jaume Plensa exhibition on there at the moment. . Then we thought that perhaps that was no better as a bad weather option. So we made the decision to sleep on it. When we woke up this morning it was fine the forecast wasn't good but let's be fair they are not always reliable. We drove down the M1 to pick our friend up, had a coffee at her place & after some jaw jaw we agreed to walk round Underbank Reservoir. We could do this from my friends flat & if the weather did deteriorate it wasn't too far to walk.

Off we set the three of us & Billy & what a lovely time we had. As usual we (the women) chatted not stop. My friend is a recently retired tutor & of course I'm working towards retirement so lots to share & plans to make. OH & the dog were off in front. Jim enjoying the peace Billy the sniffs. It wasn't a long walk (4 miles) as walks go but it blew off the cobwebs & we arrived back at her flat feeling invigorated.

We had lunch together - just scrambled eggs on toast but the eggs were from her own hens & by you can taste the difference! Then we were back down the motorway heading home & feeling blessed.

Reflections on Communication

I don't know whether it's the same for you but when I reach the end of the day & reflect there is usually a overriding theme. Today's theme has been communication - what does it mean - how do we use it? Often when I introduce the subject of communication to clients they are puzzled. After all there's nothing unusual about speaking is there? When we proceed, however, they soon catch on to the idea that sharing what they think & feel isn't quite the same as chit chat. I'm not implying there's anything intrinsically wrong with chit chat but if that's all you do you're probably not connecting as effectively as you could do.

In my opinion good communication is one of the cornerstones of good relationships. I'm not speaking about coupledom I mean any relationship - parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, bosses etc. Working out what you think & feel & whether it's appropriate to say is an invaluable skill.

I grew up calling a spade a shovel. I thought it was simple you said what you thought & as they say in Yorkshire 'job's a good un'. I didn't realise that other people found it intimidating. I was useful as a spokesperson, I was fun but I was probably considered to be mouthy & not particularly friendly. It didn't stop me progressing in my then career but it didn't make me popular with my staff. They worked & they worked hard but they didn't like me. It upset me but I thought it was a case of you 'can't run with the hare & the hounds'.

When I went to University as a mature student I learned to share ideas & debate but I was still fairly oblivious to the impact I had. It wasn't until I began training as a counsellor that I began to consider who I was, what I thought & how other people really perceived me. I was intelligent & I could talk for England but I wasn't a really effective communicator.

I won't bore you with my training but I will tell you that my first tutor when she found out I was training for couple counselling said 'oh I think you'd be good at that because you won't mind whether other people like you or not'. I was flabbergasted what did she mean? She meant she found me challenging but she was also indicating that to challenge meant you wouldn't be liked. Her comment actually said more about her than it did about me but in fact she was wrong. It's ok to challenge - the difficult bit is to learn to challenge in a way that can be heard & worked with? 

I think it's possible to share negative feelings without accusation & be heard. We are pretty much like children insofar as we want to be liked & loved & if we're receiving regular praise we'll pretty much accept the odd negative remark. The older I get the more my Mum's sayings run through my mind. Her advice on communication was  you have two ears & one mouth use them in proportion & you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar but it took me a long time to assimilate that advice.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Another Working Day

Today has been a full day - mostly client work which I really enjoy but I was also required to take up the slack of the daily chores because OH was feeling off colour. This meant catering & walking the pooch I had already decided anything more was unrealistic. Billy our Westie was virtually route marched around his usual walk. This meant in essence he had approximately 50% of his usual number of pees! Furthermore there was no time for his usual play session. I felt really stressed! Please don't get me wrong the poor man is allowed to feel below par but must he really do it when I'm chock a block? 

I've just finished for the day - it's 9.15pm and I started thinking as is my wont about whether it had been successful & what I could have done differently. How much of the pressure I felt was created by me? I came to the not entirely new conclusion that yes I was the one who chose to make it difficult. I'm used to OH being on hand when I'm working - he's retired & happily nursemaids me because he knows come Thursday he's free to do what he wants. He wasn't up to giving his usual support  so I became the long suffering wife who has to do everything. I became a victim. In other words I made his feeling off colour about me. There I was the hardworking woman having to do everything by myself when in effect all I had to do was a couple of meals & walk the dog. I could have been pragmatic but instead chose to be emotional. I realise I run the risk of painting myself in an unsympathetic light but trust you to see that I'm sharing  how easy it is to respond negatively to life's ups & downs.

I love my spouse dearly & I've nursed him through two heart attacks & prostate cancer yet here I was thinking because he had a tummy upset my world was teetering on a precipice! As I'm writing this I'm smiling & thinking take yourself outside & give yourself a talking to Barbara & then perhaps accepting that I do my best & like most people I'm a continual work in progress!

Monday, 5 September 2011

The Frustration of the Novice Blogger

I have been thinking about blogging since last year. It seemed a good idea to have an interest in my run up to retirement. I've always been interested in communicating & believe I have had a modicum of success in doing just that. I've followed a few blogs & it seemed fairly straightforward - what did I have to lose? The answer after struggling with the merits of blogger & wordpress is simple - my sanity. I don't know whether I'm complicating the issue or whether they are just not user friendly or whether I'm just plain stupid? I have spent hours trying to sort out various design problems. In fact I've pored over posts & videos until my eyes hurt & the blog still isn't as I would like it. I have now decided to 'chill out' as they say & do it bit by bit.

If any of my tweeting friends would like to offer advice & support I'd be delighted but if not I'm sure if I persevere I'll eventually succeed or expire in the attempt!   

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Relationship Choices

As a relationship counsellor people often expect me to advise them on what to do. They want to know whether their relationship is doomed or whether they can make a success of it. I always respond in the same way i.e. we can explore their options together.

Much is made of choice and it's often suggested, that these days, we have too much choice. I feel this is erroneous. In my opinion there are only three choices when reviewing your relationship -  lump it, leave it or change it.

Currently you may find youself lumping it. Perhaps you've not been happy for a long time but feel unable to to do anything to improve it. You may feel the relationship is over but lack the wherewithal to leave or to end it. Perhaps the children are young & you feel it's better for them if you stay in the relationship. Perhaps you fear being on your own. After all our society is based on couples & though theoretically  it's ok to be single often it seems a lonely option. The reasons are as varied as the descriptions of a good relationship. Often one of you will feel victimised or martyred sacrificed on the altar of the ungrateful partner.

Leaving is also a choice which can made out of helplessness. You may feel you have done everything you can to make it a good relationship but to no avail and you've decided enough is enough. This could  indicate that you feel you have the responsibility for the relationship and/or you are sticking to your view of a good relationship & see compromise/collaboration as a non option? Of course after mutual consideration you may have come to the conclusion that you want different things & it's ok to call it a day.

Change isn't an easy option. It means two people really communicating how they feel & why they feel something. Inspite of the popular opinion that couples don't put enough effort  into making relationships work nobody (to my knowledge) has separated on the basis of a raised loo seat or the top being left off the toothpaste - it's what these actions represent. When we negotiate we look at the bottom line & then choose to modify or not. In my opinion it's ok to ask someone to change behaviour on the basis of give & take. It is not ok if you're asking them to be someone else entirely.

These are my personal opinions based on the work I do & do not represent any organisation I have connections with - neither am I reflecting on abusive relationships which is something else entire.