Archive | January, 2013

Resolutions Week 2?

19 Jan

So we are two weeks in and I have already missed the setting of a set of resolutions (last weekend).  I thought about setting several:

  • Book a haircut (and start getting it done regularly!)
  • Buy a ball gown (graduation ball is next thursday!)
  • Go to Karate again on Monday

I wanted a more meaningful resolution,  I considered trying to do a random act of kindness for someone each day but the week has gone so fast I’ve not had the chance to put anything into action or sit and blog about my plan. I didn’t manage to do my cleaning during the week but I did manage to go to Karate, speak to a friend on the phone, have a friend round for dinner and clean the bathroom.  Fortunately Dan took a day off this week and cleaned the rest of the house!

Work has been somewhat turbulent; I have ended up staying late and on thursday I came home completely overwhelmed with thoughts and feelings about my clients.  Again, Dan came to the rescue and helped me re-ground myself and re-package my clients back up into appropriate boxes in my mind!

I have been managing to spend an hour in front of the telly each evening, and frankly, I’ve been so tired, I’ve pretty much fallen asleep there most evening.  While sitting in front of the telly I’ve been engaging in some wool organising in preparation for my next project:


This is the first time I’ve had really posh wool.  It’ was hideously expensive and I started the above project not realising that I really should have wound the Skeins of wool into balls.  As a result the lovely yarn had become tangled and enmeshed in its bag.  It was a right mess!

Winding up the balls has been a bit like organising my clients in my head, it has required de-tangling with care and attention.  The end result feels good.  If only everything in life could be wound up into a neat ball where it would stay  eh?

Speaking on the phone to a friend this week we discussed my issue of feeling as if I have no time for myself.  She is a mother of two small children so she did incredibly well to be sympathetic towards me! We agreed that I did have time but that I am filling it.  This is my choice,  but I’m not sure it’s a functional one!  I explained that I feel as if I need to do a lot in order to feel I have made use of my time.  The weekends feel short and sure, I do have house-holdy tasks to do but I fill the gaps with things I think I need to achieve in order to prepare for the week ahead and in order to feel as if I have had some ‘me’ time.  She suggested that I might feel as if I had more time if I spent time doing nothing.  I had to ask her what doing nothing is.   She defined it as watching something on telly, eating snacks and doing nothing else.  We agreed it would be a useful experiment for me to try.

So, call it a resolution if you like, Dan has gone out for the evening, the puppies have been walked, Its 3:30pm on Saturday.  I am going to sit and do nothing until at least 6pm.


Resolution Review 1

12 Jan

As promised, this post is an update on the goals I set myself for the past week.

1. Attend 1 Karate Lesson



After a little venue confusion I arrived late but was still welcomed by the class and Sensei. I was pleased to see there were other adults in the class and the Sensei was friendly. I realised that I have not attended a class for over a year and am somewhat out of shape! The lesson was 1.5 hours long and we were expected to hold the ‘long forward stance’ for most of it, not moving until told to and sometimes waiting while the sensei adjusted someone’s positioning. As a result of staying in this slightly squat-like position my legs started shaking. For the last half hour of the session I couldn’t stop them going, the sensei was concerned but also found it entertaining! My muscles were so fatigued I could barely stand by the end of the session!

Despite the pain I really enjoyed the session. I have realised how much I need to exercise and will make it my goal to keep going to the same class each week.

2. Stop Moaning

I didn’t feel the urge to moan until Wednesday when I really did!  I quickly realised that ‘not moaning’ only really works if you can manage to not feel like moaning.  I didn’t moan, but I was in a foul mood and I don’t really think this was much better for me or anyone else than actually verbalising.  I was quite angry.  It wasn’t until Thursday when I spoke to a friend and said I had been angry that I felt better.  She asked what had made me feel angry and I said I couldn’t say because that would be moaning.  She said that it only counted as moaning if it was unsolicited and that if I were to tell her after she had asked it would just be ‘providing information’.  Needless to say, I felt a lot better after I had ‘provided information’.  So, while I would like to be less negative, and maybe not just moan for the sake of it, I don’t think a total ban on moaning is the way forwards!  I will ditch that resolution here and now!

3. Be Early for Work

While I didn’t document this as a goal for the week I was cross that I had not managed to make my first few days back at work (the previous week) on time.  I resolved to be early this week.  This means I need to be in bed by 10pm and get up at 5:45am.  I totally managed it!

The week in review..

Going to Karate on monday night really gave me an energy boost for the whole week.  Although my body only really recovered on friday it made me feel much more energised and positive about my ability to be the person I want to be.  I felt much more in control of myself and was able to be more productive at work.  I had been feeling a little like I hadn’t really put my full effort into my new job so far but was able to be enthusiastic and take on additional responsibilities this week.  This made me feel like I might be able to push forward and make a positive difference to my team and our clients.

Also, I finally sent that blanket to its rightful owner!  That’s a project, finished and in its place:


I was lucky enough to receive this photo of its beautiful recipient making good use of it!  This really made my week!

Things that Made Me Smile this Weekend

6 Jan


Amalia, who couldn’t help but do a spot of gardening, in the middle of winter, in her pyjamas.


Taking the lady-dog for a walk without the boys (on account of her poorly leg) and finding a new park!


Odin sleeping with his racoon!

I hope something made you smile this weekend 🙂

Resoloutions: Week 1

6 Jan

As I mentioned in my New Year’s post, I have set myself the task of setting a goal at the beginning of each week to be reviewed at the next weekend.

This week’s goals are:

Attend One Karate Class

I have already put in the preparation for this goal: I have contacted the instructor; I have pulled my Gi out of the attic; I have identified the class I will go to.

So there you go, all I need to do is get myself there, tomorrow at 6pm.

Moan Less

Just as an experiment, Just for one week. I will try to reflect on whether this makes me feel better or worse next weekend!

Learning from Containment

6 Jan

About a year ago I had a valuable life experience. The problem was: I didn’t really want a valuable life experience! I was too busy trying to get through to appreciate new learning possibilities. This post will describe just one of the many lessons I learned from this experience. For obvious reasons It has taken me a long time to get round to writing it but I hope it will make some of the others easier to write.


During my training I had some opportunity to chose my clinical placements. I expressed an interest in working with people with life threatening or terminal illnesses. We had received some excellent teaching on working in the area and I felt that I could make a real difference to people at an incredibly difficult time in their lives.

As my year long placement in Learning Disability Services drew to an end I received notification that I was to be placed in a General Hospital’s Oncology Service.

My previous supervisor expressed concern that, without a spiritual framework for understanding existential issues I would find working in this area incredibly difficult. I was aware of her own spiritual framework and it’s importance to her, but was somewhat dismissive of it’s applicability to myself.

The Experience

Arriving on placement I spent some time sitting in on sessions with my new supervisor. I realised quite soon that, in order to cope with my recent dog-bereavement and the demands of a doctoral course, I had shut off all of my emotional self. This had not been a serious problem when advising care teams on how best to prevent and respond to ‘challenging’ behaviour. I saw, however, that in a 1:1 therapeutic situation, much empathy was required.

In order to provide containment for people in a state of emotional desperation and existential crisis you have to allow yourself to feel, at least a little, of what they are feeling. Or, at the very least, acknowledge that it is possible for you to feel it. If you are terrified of what someone else is feeling, you can not effectively communicate that their emotions are acceptable, manageable and containable.

I spent my first supervision session in tears. I explained that I had realised I would have to allow myself to feel sad in order to connect with the emotional lives of my clients and that I didn’t really want to feel sad. My supervisor was familiar with this experience, from both her clients and (I interpreted) her own experience. She taught me about Mindfulness and about Compassion Focused Therapy, she suggested I use these techniques both on myself and with my clients.

I felt I was managing quite well, until a month into the placement, I had my own Cancer scare. Fortunately, this has been resolved without further issue. Unfortunately, I was unaware of what the outcome would be until sometime later in my placement. While I wouldn’t usually have shared this news with a supervisor I felt I had no choice.

I expected my supervisor to give me a way out of the placement, to agree that it was just too hard and that I probably couldn’t cope. Looking back I believe I also suspected she would find my emotions unbearable.

Funnily enough, my supervisor offered me containment. She was empathic but boundaried. She understood I was having a hard time but didn’t think I should give up. She thought my emotions were difficult but not unmanageable. She offered me tissues and a chocolate, but didn’t send me home.

The Lesson(s)

I learned that

  • Even at their extremes, my emotions are bearable.
  • If I stop pushing my emotions away, they stop being so scary.
  • The human body can only sustain an extreme emotional state for a short period of time. Yes, that emotion will probably come back, but you have already learned about your ability to cope with it and that your world will not end through allowing yourself to feel it.
  • Judging my emotional experience is not particularly helpful.
  • Noticing, acknowledging and accepting my emotional world makes it feel more manageable.

As a result of these lessons I was able to sit with clients who filled the room with their sadness and desperation. Clients who felt unable to show those emotions to their families for fear of hurting and losing them.

I hope that, in doing so, I was able to teach them that their emotions were acceptable, manageable and containable.

Grinning on the Loo

3 Jan

The January blues hit me yesterday.
As my blood levels started to get too high in my alcohol system I dragged myself, unwillingly, out of bed and went to work.

Driving to work and between visits I felt genuinely crappy-grumpy-awful after some confusion I managed to identify that I was feeling low. This worried me a bit and I started unpicking my life to see what I was unhappy about. Fortunately I was wise enough to realise there is nothing wrong with my life. Aside from being a bit short of time it’s really not that bad. After realising I was on a post-holiday-drank-too-much-was-poorly-probably-still-knackered-from-2012-come-downI decided to be mindful about my mood state. This meant I quit judging it and decided it wouldn’t last.
I also figured I would try an experiment:

During my holiday my brother-in-law mentioned that he does facial exercises every morning during which he does the biggest grin he can manage. He suggested that if you do a big grin, your facial muscles relax back down into a slight smile, leaving you feeling slightly happier all day.

I imagine that this works for at least two reasons:

1) Classical Conditioning/ Associative Learning
Most of us associate smiling with being happy therefore smiling will activate neural networks associated with feeling happy.

2) Social Impact
If you are smiling other people are more likely to smile back at you and have positive interactions with you, which in turn, will make you feel happier and smile more.

Not exactly rocket science eh?

So, to test the theory, I decided to do a massive grin every time I went to the loo or was alone in my car. It felt distinctly unnatural and quite silly, but it got me through the day! And I think it may have helped raise my spirits a little.

I felt a bit better today, but I’m going to keep grinning on the loo!

Hello 2013

1 Jan

I really hope 2013 is a quiet one!

I have resolved to take at least the first half of 2013 as a ‘break’ from major life events.  I know this is not entirely within my control, but I won’t be adding any major life events to any that occur of their own or other’s volition.

I know the next major event that I hope to plan will be a baby, and I know that feels like a very attractive proposition.  However,  I am also aware that I have spent the last three years lusting over time to call my own.  Post-doctorate,  I still haven’t found this easily and I suspect, that should we have a baby, this will be a dream lost.

I now know that I have issues with claiming ‘time’ for myself.  It gets lost within the list of ‘should dos’ and ‘I will have a break whens..’ I struggle with the idea that I might be self indulgent and do something ‘just because I want to’.

I believe that I am improving in this struggle and this blog is a testament to that.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to become a hedonist, but maybe just less of a masochist.  I would like to be able to claim 15 minutes for myself without feeling guilty. I would like to chose to make myself happier rather than miserable.

So my resolutions?

1. Find More TIME

Yes, I have a plan for this:

  • House cleaning is to be constrained to weekday evenings and for no more than 1hour on any one evening.
  • Cooking fancy meals (those that take more than 30 minutes) only at weekends and in a big vat on one evening per working week.
  • Supermarket shopping only once per fortnight.

2. Set a New Goal Each Week

This is with a view to continuing personal development; it might be related to finding ‘time’ to do something I really want to do but it might be about another, broader aim.  I will record each goal here at the beginning of each week and will review it at the end of each week.  Repeating goals is acceptable and may well be necessary.

3. Go to Karate Class Once a Week

I used to beat myself up for not managing to attend more than once a week, but realise now that although I was only managing a class a week, I was the fittest I have ever been.  No, it’s not the recommended amount of exercise, but it is exercise! I have inquired and discovered my old club is national and are running classes in this area,  I just need to find my membership card, my Gi, and go!

4. Take the Dogs to Dog-Training Classes

Again, I have made appropriate enquiries and am awaiting feedback.  Either way, I will find a club and take them!

5. Will Obviously lose 71b

Once we have finished the Christmas food.

6. Blogging

I hope this recent splurge in blogging continues, even if it is just to check in with a weekly goal.  It represents a successful 30 minutes of ‘me’ time and makes me think about what and how I am doing.

Happy 2013 Chaps, lets rock this one!




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