The Moodscope Blog



New Lamps for Old

Wednesday May 13, 2020

I was grumpy this morning. I lay in bed fuming. I was furious with my husband, who I knew would blame me for his bad night’s sleep; I was angry at my daughters, who wouldn’t get up until lunchtime. I was angry with my husband again, when he didn’t come down to breakfast in time and his scrambled eggs and toast had gone cold and his tea was stewed. I was angry that I had forgotten to put the laundry in the wash yesterday evening. I was furious with myself for not noticing the frost last night: the guinea-pigs – out in their garden hutch for the summer – could have frozen to death, poor things.

All that anger – and for nothing.

My husband can catch up on his sleep tonight; my daughters were both up by 10am; the breakfast was still edible, and the tea was only strong, not stewed. The clothes were washed, and the guinea-pigs are fine.

Nothing was worth being angry about.

But then, really, I wasn’t angry about anything I thought I was angry about. My husband, my daughters, me; all just innocent bystanders hit by the shrapnel of the anger explosion.

The last couple of days, I had missed my morning walk and meditation time. It seems to make a great difference. Each day I walk the same woodland path and absorb the peace of nature. Each day it is the same walk and each day it is different as I notice different things and as nature changes day by day.

This morning, in the wood, I realised. I wasn’t angry with my family; I was angry with the whole situation nationwide.

I had become used to the lockdown and comfortable with it. I had worked out ways to cope and to thrive. I felt safe. Now the rules were being relaxed and I felt just as scared as I had been at the beginning when it was new. I no longer felt safe.

We humans just don’t like change, do we!

There is no point in being angry at something you can’t change; even if that something is change itself. The only thing you can change is your own response.

So, I used the walk to centre myself again and find that peace. I phoned a good friend who always has words of sane and sensible advice and who always makes me smile. I thought about the new habits I have developed during this time and which I shall take with me as my country and the world becomes free again.

These new habits are precious. I have spent more time at home and in the garden and have loved it. I have found pleasure in virtual living: zoom parties and coffee chats. I have separated my working office from my family life and have walked away from the screen at the end of the day.

These new habits are worth keeping. I won’t be taking back the old ones.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



The Trolley

Tuesday May 12, 2020

Yes this blog is about a trolley but it's more than that. Literally my would-be fantastic drinks trolley is a representation of spectacular and unremitting artistic failure as I attempted decoupage, then cutting wallpaper and finally sticking glitter tape on it. The decoupage didn't work as I used napkins on an embossed metal diamond patterned surface... really challenging.

The really cool wallpaper was cut wrongly again and again (a rounded oblong) and now the glitter tape has been done in stripes... but it is easily removable. I won't have enough though so although the concept is good, it can't be completed.

So, I have learnt that perhaps the final attempt may just work. Take the badly cut wallpaper and decoupage with that as it's stronger or continue with the tape. When it is completed I shall look back on this lockdown and remember that.

Yesterday I was looking forward to my day off. Took the dog for a walk in the woods and he was a nightmare with other dogs, although alone harmless and charming as normal. Then I attempted work inside with said trolley. Hours of failure with no end in sight. Then I watched a very visceral drama on Netflix and later, Coronation Street with its awful domestic abuse storyline. I should have known better.

My mood spiralled down again after a bad dip on Saturday night and subsequent up. In the background to this, my beloved stepdaughter has not been well and is still in pain, in and out of hospital and so far away with no resolution as yet of her issue, so young to be having this and in the back of our minds, we are terrified in case something bad happens as surgery may be the next step.

She is getting fobbed off though but bravely soldiering on. I turned down a part-time job offered to me as I know I cannot cope with the challenges, ironically applied for when self employment was non-existent and then picked up, before the virus hit and shut things down again. I crashed again spectacularly in my head and thought I was doing well and resilient.

Another potential opportunity is bubbling in the background but I have become obsessive with it and as a control freak, cannot do anything about it yet and it is driving me mad not knowing the outcome. Wanting something so badly to happen and now not happy right where I am yet also because of my self employment (taking funeral services), realising that life is short and thinking again... how much time have I got left?

The next service I do is for someone just 13 years older than me. How much time has anyone got left... and overthinking becomes the enemy. And it all started with a simple trolley... I don't know what I have to learn from this except to be resilient, grateful and patient... and all the rest... but it's so easier said than done.

My head feels like a slow-motion car crash at times and I am the great pretender to all who view my endeavours.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



The Blessed Blackdrop

Monday May 11, 2020

[To listen to an audio version of this blog post, please click here:]
In one of the function rooms at the Solent Hotel in Hampshire, England, there is a backdrop. It is like a black curtain that goes almost the full length of one wall. Blackdrop was a spelling mistake but one I like.
I like the spelling mistake because this black backdrop – this blackdrop – conceals a secret.
At the flick of a switch, this blackdrop becomes lit by 10,000 stars. It is an LED curtain, and it looks like the sky at night when powered up.
Photographing and videoing members of my network against the blackdrop was ideal. The contrast made them seem brighter and bolder. This got me thinking.
The natural state of the universe is not visible light but rather darkness. I am told there is a backdrop of microwave radiation everywhere, but I don’t understand this nor can I see it. What I do see is a blackdrop punctuated by billions of beautiful stars.
My spiritual friends tell me that, “Darkness is just the absence of Light.” If this is so, it is Darkness, not Light, that is the canvas upon which Light paints its patterns. Darkness is the norm. Darkness is the dominant state.
I’ve wasted decades agonising over how Life ‘ought’ to be. Life ought to be fair, just, kind, full of love. Whilst that would be great, it’s not been my experience, nor, when I listen to the lessons of history, has it been the dominant experience for the majority of humans throughout time. Nature, herself, though beautiful, is also violent, dangerous, cruel and capricious.
This is good news… if we use it to revise our expectations.
The truth is that Darkness is the canvas. Struggle, disappointment, setbacks, sickness, strife, dissatisfaction, and suffering aren’t ‘wrong’ because they ‘shouldn’t’ be there. They are the norm. They just ‘are’. Once I let go of a sense of entitlement to a good life – one where everything ‘goes right’ – one devoid of trouble - I discover something even more wonderful than the transformation of the Solent’s Blackdrop into a Starscape. I discover new dimensions of gratitude and joy.
Given that all of us are born into a life that will know suffering, every cup of coffee becomes a joy. Every sunny day. Every rainy day. Every kind word. Every act of kindness. Every experience of the shower. Every flower. Every glass of wine. Every olive. Every slice of toast.
Walk this way for a week and then a new transformation will appear. It's like flicking a switch.
The backdrop to your life and my life will become not Darkness but Gratitude. Gratitude becomes the canvas upon which moments of joy decorate our day.
What are you grateful for today?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



Fear and anxiety

Sunday May 10, 2020

At the moment, my anxiety levels are within normal-for-me parameters. It is Spring, and Spring is a good, positive and energetic time as far as my body and mind are concerned, unlike some other times of year. I have learnt and accepted, (after all I'll be 68 in a month's time!! ) that I must not make important decisions when in a state of anxiety. That might seem like a statement of the ruddy obvious, but believe you me, for me, it isn't! You might agree that when distorted reality becomes your everyday, decisions are harder to make sensibly!

Negative phases and low moods occur and develop insidiously where I am concerned, so that the morphing distorts my reality. I will make comments that contradict what my OH has heard me proclaim. So it's very confusing for him, understandably! (I know it would drive me crackers if HE did that!!) I am fortunate, indeed blessed, that he is long-suffering and grounded in reality, and not given to the impulsive behaviour which is then my everyday!

Fear, abject fear, I have experienced, but luckily, not for years. It is something that springs from a deranged mind... or else from real threat of danger. The danger I felt way back in the bad years was the fear of annihilation, of the "Me" disintegrating, of just not being able to ever cope with life's challenges. Attacked by my own negative thoughts and the harmful critic in my head, I could imagine no escape. Ever. All hope extinguished.
Fortunately, I recovered, brittle, but little by little I rebuilt myself.

What are, or have been your fears and anxieties?

Abject fear: have you known it?

And did you end up recognising it for what it was: False Evidence Appearing Real (=F.E.A.R.) I like to remind myself of that acronym from time to time.

Best to you this morning,

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



Blogger’s block

Saturday May 9, 2020

When lockdown began I had a few ideas about ways to keep occupied. High on the list was more blogs for Moodscope. Many ideas have come and gone over the weeks. I wake in the night, have an idea and vow to get it down in writing first thing, and sent off to Caroline before breakfast. Then I get up, decide I need some tea, and  wait until later. I go out for my daily permitted exercise, a brilliant idea comes to me. All fired up I get home, put the kettle on for a coffee to take up to the office, then I notice the stainless steel microwave is covered in smears. Out comes the white vinegar. Soon the whole kitchen is gleaming, and it will shortly be time to prepare lunch... and so on.
I could say it is down to my need for perfection in all that I do, that my anxiety is holding me back in case I fail. The fact dear reader is that I simply can’t be arsed. I read the other blogs, and mean to comment. I know how much this can mean to a blogger, but again I leave it too late. Sorry, there have been some great blogs.
This lockdown has forced me to admit that I am not built for the long haul. God knows how people in WW2 coped. I would have been moaning and asking “When will this end” by the first Christmas. I can be brave, but in short, instinctive ways. Life in the trenches , waiting, would not have suited me. Even worse would have been stuck at home, desperate for news of loved-ones. Maybe I would have surprised myself, you never can tell. I was amazed to hear my mother came over from Ireland to drive a crane in a munitions factory. For so many reasons that is impossible, scary in fact, to imagine.
I suspect that soon charity shops will be filled with craft materials, exercise equipment, tools, all unused. All those wasted hours. I set myself modest aims, and I have failed to fulfil them. I am at heart a lazy, shallow person. It’s a beautiful day, I should get out to do some gardening, but that would involve getting out of my pyjamas. I am watching the clock, wishing my life away, waiting for 6pm. Today is pizza delivery day, with an extra topping of Prozac.  
Have you filled your days with new hobbies, caught up with your reading, learnt a new language? Bully for you! I would like to think there are some out there who have wrestled with their inner slob, and lost.  
However you are passing time, I send love and hugs to you all dear friends.x
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.




Friday May 8, 2020

75 years ago

I must be truthful and say that I do not remember 8th May 1945. I think there was a bonfire on the village green. I would have been at school, and more worried about the 11+ (‘scholarship’) then, which I took before I was 10, and went to Grammar School that year. The ‘prompt’ to write this came from a French TV programme last night, on Berlin in 1945. We would no longer have been frightened, survived the blitz (I watched London burn from the front step of our bungalow, to my mother’s horror). A bomb in the field behind us blew the windows in. We were well fed (efficient rationing, school meals, free milk), survived doodle-bugs, and the more scary V2 rockets. So 8th May was a signing day, very different to the end of WW1 where fighting continued to the last minute.

The UK never celebrated VE (Victory in Europe Day), except for this year, celebrations ironically scuppered. The French always have, big day, parade to the War Memorial, veterans with the banners of their villages, mass, then, of course, drinkies in the Town Hall. Then all out to lunch.

But just before the end of the war pictures were etched on my memory which have lasted a lifetime. Last night, with due warning, we were shown pictures of the discovery of Belsen Concentration camp which I had never seen before, and even more horrific. My mother tried to hide newspapers from me (my father was in the Marines, but never in danger). She left the one with pictures of Belsen on the table. Even the mention of Fascism or persecution of Jews (also, often forgotten, of homosexuals and gypsies) can bring back that memory.

For the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landings, 1994, I wrote a book in homage to the sufferings in the village where we had our first house. I presented it to the Mayor in front of the War Memorial. Before the ceremony, his brother had asked me ‘Will you wear one of your hats, please?’ I did, of course. I had interviewed many people who had really suffered, lack of food, men forced to work in Germany (I live in the area under German occupation, not ‘Vichy’ France). But under the bitterness (families put up against walls and shot as reprisals for sabotage) there were some lovely stories of bamboozling the Germans. Precious Calvados and Armagnac hidden in wells, photos of 8 year old children working in fields. I had found and listed virtually every man who had lost his life in conflict; revolution, Napoleonic wars and the two World Wars. My husband set them out beautifully on pages of tribute. The Countess of the local castle was furious because German high command took it over and scrubbed her precious Versailles parquet with rough soap. Another noble lady acted as interpreter for the Americans when the Germans were being chased out. A bomb went off, and left her permanently deaf in one ear.

Now, so sad, could there be a greater irony than another ‘enemy’ is preventing us from going out into the streets and cheering? Hope they ring the church bells.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

* The picture is a 14th July party, the lady in the mackintosh was the one deafened by a bomb.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



Choose your own adventure

Thursday May 7, 2020

The first time I had this thought it came in a very basic form. Discussing someone with a colleague I said, “Do you remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books?” These were books where the story could end in different ways depending what actions you took and what pages you turned to. I went on to describe someone who if her life was written as a Choose Your Own Adventure you’d want to know why the book was so short. She lived like she had only a few options to choose from and they each led to the same predictable ending. Whatever life threw at her she did the same things over and over.

If someone walked into the room and fired a gun you would startle and immediately focus on escape. You have a narrow repertoire of responses and only specialist training gives you more options. For me, if a spider scurried into view I had few options. I would startle and immediately focus on escaping the stimulus by safely removing the spider. It is possible to change spider phobia by repeated exposure to the stimulus and learning different responses. You have to be willing to experience unpleasant feelings in order to learn how to gain a larger repertoire of more flexible responses.

It’s sometimes a lot less obvious that being verbal exposes us to different sorts of stimuli which also produce behaviour from limited response options. If you notice a flutter in your chest it’s a physical sensation. But what if your mind links that sensation to a memory of a panic attack? Or perhaps you know someone who recently went into hospital with a heart problem. What if your mind focuses on these verbal stimuli and powerfully connects them to feelings of danger? You’ve had a brief physical sensation but language has a special ability to create terror. Gunshots and spiders are on the outside but language lets us create them on the inside. It’s not just fear either; it’s any yucky feeling like depression, OCD, focus on food, focus on alcohol/ drugs/ gambling. Our mind can do it 24/7 pausing only for sleep, or numbing, or other escape.

This brings me back to where I started this piece with the person living in her half-written Choose Your Own Adventure book. Her real life had few choices because fear limited her options. We don’t get to control our stimuli, and it’s very difficult to control a startle response. But consider that one can learn different responses to other stimuli which exert control over us. Like spiders — and actually all those other sorts of yucky stimuli.

What I’m offering here is a perspective. When we have only a limited repertoire of responses then our Adventure book can seem like it’s not working out for us. One idea, perhaps, is to consider what it might imply if psychological health could be thought of as having a flexible repertoire of responses. This idea of getting unstuck by learning new responses guides me.

A Moodscope member.

PS. I've recorded a short YouTube video to clarify my blog:

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



I write this on the eve of my fifty-seventh birthday.

“Mummy, you’re nearly sixty!” proclaimed my younger daughter, with brutal frankness. You don’t seem to realise how old you are!

But I don’t feel old: I still feel young!

Because none of us actually feel “old”. I am sure Colonel Tom, now 100, does not feel old. I, only just over half his age, certainly do not feel “old;” yet the last few weeks have made me realise that, while my mind may be in denial, my body is becoming older. It is getting tired.

Every Monday, from the beginning of the lockdown, I have gone shopping for my own family, for my mother and for a friend who is self-isolating.

I am used to shopping for the family, but I have found that shopping for three families totally exhausts me. By the time I have got everything home, put my own shopping away, calculated how much everyone owes me and delivered it to them, I have no energy left. The stamina I used to take for granted has left me – and I didn’t notice it go – until I needed it and it wasn’t there.

I am lucky enough to have skin that doesn’t show many lines and have, no grey hairs – but I have noticed, when I am tired, my face looks older too. Vanity, perhaps, but I grieve for that loss.

A friend posted on Facebook, “What things on your bucket list do you now realise will never happen? What dreams have you let go?”

That hit hard.

I had always loved the idea of an African safari on horseback. I have not, however, mounted a horse since falling off and breaking my ankle in February 2016, and the safari organisers state that you should be used to riding for seven or eight hours a day. Realistically, you could only do that if you have your own horse – and, while I might be able to talk my brother into letting me keep a horse on his farm – no, it’s not going to happen. And – the budget isn’t there and is unlikely ever to be there.

Walking around the South West Peninsular coastal path, though? I can still do that. When I first thought of it, some 25 years ago, I planned to camp and carry everything on my back. When I think of it now, I rather fancy walking from B&B to B&B and having someone else transfer my luggage for me.

It would be nice to do it while I still can. I don’t want to wait too long.

I think Colonel Tom has done magnificently, and he certainly proves you are never too old to make a difference. But I should prefer to walk the real coastal path, rather than walking the same distance around my garden with my wheeled walker when I am 99.

I am fifty-seven tomorrow and I will walk at least some of that path before I am sixty.

I’d better start planning now.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



Hearing the infrasounds

Tuesday May 5, 2020

The elephants who hear the thunderstorms 500 kilometres away. Or the sound of approaching tsunami an hour before its arrival. Who rumble and call with infrasounds... As do the mammoths of the ocean deeps, the Whales, call across the miles...

I awoke this morning a little early aching and feeling heavy and a bit reluctant to move, yet unable to get comfortable. At 6s and 7s with the dawning. Yet no particular signals said flu or stomach upset, no arthritis grumbling from knees hips or spine... so why did I feel so "ugh"?

I felt gingerly around in my achy brain... there was tension somewhere. But where and what from? How could I clear it if I couldn't find the source?

I lay quiet, and remembering the Moodscope scale, I started an internal scan to look at those 20 words... Anger pain sorrow loss grief uncomfortable acceptance rejection fear flight fight... Wait a minute, something's becoming apparent... I want to... cry?? I weep tears which relieve these feelings. I am feeling too acutely the infrasounds of a planet in jeopardy... I can't carry all this pain. The release of tears, like pouring off the overfilled kettle.

The planet still cries but now I am more balanced. Now I can listen to the wind and the occasional police or ambulance siren and puss who is vocalising his breakfast needs. Munching muesli I have a "bingo" moment. I am getting too pulled in to the tv and radio and getting overloaded with stress from all the coverage about Covid '19. Hmmmm, yes I really know; I think I should, possibly, explore adjusting my meds a bit!

For the first time ever I voluntarily contact my community psychiatric team and get some sensible advice and oh boy that's a relief. My management plan allows for me to adjust my meds and 4 days on with a withdrawal from the tv and media I am pleasantly surprised that I feel a bit calmer.

I feel in control again and now two and half weeks later I am coping better with lock down.

I have concentrated on more phone calls to friends and giggling when I can't work out how to unmute what's app videos... a friend and I were in tears of laughter and my goodness that chased the blues away.

I'm figuring out which supermarket near me has the safest routines and the quietest times to go, and reminding myself I have a freezer of food to eat. And neighbours who I didn't really know before but who have now offered to fetch groceries.

It is a different world outside... I don't have an elephant to hear the "storms" coming but as I grow calmer and more accepting I can focus more on the joy of my garden and (for goodness sake Ach, you're big enough now to admit you don't bake), I have a cookery project... in my cupboard are 2 packets of brownie mix. There are two little girls next door - I wonder if I can make some brownies for them :-)

May your day go well Moodscopers.

Ach xx
A Moodscope member.

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Chapter 1, In Which I am an Egg
            I Am at Peace
            I Am Oblivious to both The Horrors and Happiness of Living ‘Out There’
Chapter 2, In Which I Become a Caterpillar
            I Live in Fear
But the Leaves Taste Magical
I Forget My Fear in the Joy of the Moments
Chapter 3, In Which I Embrace the Chrysalis Stage
            I Am Hidden, in the Secret Place
            Everything Feels Out of Sorts
            But in Motion
            I Am Transforming from the Inside Out
Chapter 4, In Which (Allegedly) I Will Finally Become the Imago
            I’ll Push, Push Free
            I’ll Fly Free
            I’ll Feed... On Nectar
            I’ll Fly High Above My Former Circumstance
            I’ll Find Love
I know, what’s that all about?


I’m such a fan of metamorphosis.

Just because we humans don’t go through so many very obvious changes as a butterfly or frog or dragonfly doesn’t mean that our own transformations are any less ‘miraculous’.
As a child, I was blissfully ignorant of the harsh realities of this world – at least for a few months.  Then I started to crawl.
Growing up, my Ugly Caterpillar phase, I spent most of the time in fear, hiding from the bullies – the predators, but there were amazing things too.  For me, it was pond life – an adoration of Newts and Great Diving Beetles, of Sticklebacks and Water Boatmen. In those moments of awe of the Natural World, I forgot all troubles and fears.
What captured your imagination growing up?
I’ve been in the Chrysalis phase for years. My tummy is constantly churning. It feels like all my organs are finding new places – because they are currently out of place. My inward being is ‘soup’ – mushy.
As I slowly sort myself out, I discover that The Way of the Caterpillar with its juvenile tastes, worldview, and limiting beliefs, no longer appeal or suits me. They served me for a while, but that time has long gone.
I also uncover a whole ton of non-sense installed in my brain from parents and teachers, media and musings, siblings and peers. None of it invited or asked for or welcome. Turns out none of them was quite the authority on all the subjects they purported to be.
In my soup-state, I am learning to rethink, to challenge, to re-invent.
I am revolting!
Rumour has it there is something beyond this chaos. A time when I can break free and fly.
A time when I can become the best version of ‘me’ I was ‘meant’ to be.
Some say there is love out there too. 
Me, I’m cynical, sceptical, unbelieving.
But maybe, just maybe…

A Moodscope member.

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Coping with now

Sunday May 3, 2020

There's no doubt that a lot of life is suddenly altered. There's so much more that we are not sure about, more we don't know. Far greater opportunity to be anxious, unhappy and fearful for the future.

But, I'm keeping clear sight of my foundation stones. The things I know are sure and true and which will still be my foundation stones when we reach the end of this. 

Three of my foundation people died a long time ago; my grandmother Rose, my mother Joyce and my father Raymond. From each of them I have their watch. Each day since this scary situation started I wind each watch and tell each of them what I'm planning to do. My fourth foundation person is my sister Linda. We are in email contact every day now, just a quick check-in to make sure we're both ok, with proper conversations in between. I can't say that my relationship with any of these foundation people was or is perfect, but they're my cornerstones and I'm comforted and calmed by keeping them close to me every day now. 

All we can do is trust the future and do what we can to make this better for ourselves and others around us.

Best wishes to all

A Moodscope member.

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Not naked

Saturday May 2, 2020

Last year my daughter in law did me the honour of asking me to make the wedding cake: a naked sponge cake (icing only between the layers) for 120 guests.

Though I am a proficient cake maker, ably taught in youth by my mother, whose ultimate fulfilment I think it was, this was a considerable challenge as I had not hitherto made anything much bigger than an average sized hat.

I sourced a recipe and instructions, borrowed tins, bought shed loads of ingredients and calculated: three tiers of three or four cakes would be required. To complicate matters, I decided to make an orange sponge so there was all the zesting and juicing too. There wasn't always quite room in the oven for two tins simultaneously, as I discovered when I tried to put them in, so some of the cakes were a slightly odd shape and some had rather brown sides.

The instructions said to assemble the cake where it would be consumed, so the day before the wedding I took everything to the kitchen beside the marquee and deliberately slowly began the task of slicing, trimming, icing and assembling the layers. As not all the sides were the same colour and I had made a bucketful of icing, I decided to cover the outsides as well. As the happy couple were fond of blue I put the cake on a royal blue cake board.

After four hours I had a pyramid of cake resembling The Leaning Tower of Pisa. I cleaned up the kitchen and was about to start decorating when the groundsman swept in to announce he was locking up in half an hour!

I did my best to decorate that cake in twenty minutes. I had various little leaves, flowers, ribbons and lacy mesh and an orange-blue colour scheme in mind, but no definite plans. At the end I thought it looked as though it had caught the tail end of a tornado AND I forgot the humorous figure of bride and groom I had bought to put on top AND they didn't like the blue bits much AND it wasn't naked!

What lessons of life can be learned from all this?

You are not going to get a perfect result the first time you try to do something. Probably you are never going to get a perfect result, as defined by my mother. But I tried for many years to be perfect with everything; my wellbeing depended on it but I lost out on joy and spontaneity.

That cake was good enough. It was made with love and received with love, which is forgiving. I forgive myself. It was dismembered in the traditional way and many people commented how good it tasted. Some even thought it looked nice.

A Moodscope member.

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Standing tall

Friday May 1, 2020

When news started to break that the thing I find hard to name was reaching around the world and bothering us all, I started to shake. I recognised it. I had the very same response at the moment I gave birth to two babies. Feeling the responsibility and wondering how I would continue to raise a three year old alongside this huge demand left me with an internal shake which sometimes spilled outward. My metabolism cranked up and I lost weight. I was on alert at all times. This is similar for me.

Sometimes when I shake outwardly I can pretend it's the cold as the weather is still chilly at times. I am working hard at keeping this in check. I can't do anything about the worry deep inside but I can keep in check the physical manifestations. I find myself waking at 4am and practising breathing techniques to calm me and return me to a slumber. And every moment of joy is intensified, how lucky is that!

I am sitting again, in my car, watching my son do his training. He is a goalie so it's very solo training. Three boys, very far apart, a fantastic coach who I have written of before. This week Saturday and Sunday training which is just what is needed for my teenager whose world has been turned upside down. (He smiled afterward and I hadn't seen that for a bit.) The sun is pouring out of the sky. The radio is gentle and comforting. The people walking with dogs and the dad playing with his son with a football... all to be soaked in. And the calm returns. If, even only for a short time, I can find this calm, then I know it's there and I can grow it! We can grow it.

If you are unsettled and unsure, please take comfort. We are all unsettled and unsure. But there are people using their skills to care for us. Let them. Our job is to keep us in check and find ways to combat our own little bit. Take control of what is within your hand reach and do that. The vision of watching my son playing is within my hand reach for this hour and I am thankful it is now there, in the memory bank, for later when I need it. We have each other, we have been social distancing from each other for a very long time and we are so practised in that! We are so very lucky to have each other and we will keep stepping onwards together.

Much love

The room above the garage
A Moodscope Member.

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Anxiety is always with me

Thursday April 30, 2020

There are a few people on both sides of my family who will find things to fret about. I am one of them; my mother was another.

Another notable fretter is my paternal aunt so you see, it's not just one side of the family.

I sometimes have glorious days when everything fits into place and I am content. They are few and far between. Mostly, I have niggling anxiety about almost anything - what my husband calls:'too many bricks in your hod'.

I have an adult daughter who has Down's Syndrome living at home. It doesn't make for a spontaneous life and she is often unwell, but it's not that onerous. There is always something to do with her or on her behalf. I suppose the caring role that is often highlighted in the press as hard work and mostly unsung, applies to me and my husband too.

One of the little tricks I try to practice is to say 'switch'. This makes me take on a different attitude - pleased that we have enough of everything, including love. I must practice it more regularly though. It does help to keep the anxiety at arm's length!

Liz N
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.




Wednesday April 29, 2020

Question: what do a birthday card I made for my friend Raz, a sermon I listened to on Sunday and the alternative title to The Hobbit, all have in common?

The answer is maybe only in my mind and is the title of this blog.
The full title of JRR Tolkien’s book is “The Hobbit or There and Back Again.” The sermon preached on Sunday concerned the journey to Emmaus. The set of papers I used for Raz’s card is called Kaleidoscope; it changes colour as you move the papers.

We have probably all had, as children, a kaleidoscope. You look into the tube from one end and see an intricate pattern of colours. You twist the tube and it becomes a chaotic jumble which then settles into another pattern. Each pattern is different from the one before and each pattern requires the process of change.

If you have read The Hobbit, you will remember that the Bilbo Baggins who returns home is not the same hobbit who left. The friends who started their journey to Emmaus, heart-sick and confused, were not the same people who ran joyously back to Jerusalem. When Raz receives his card, he will see blue/green change to pink/purple as it twists in the light.

The last few weeks have seen, for most of us, a fundamental change in our circumstances. If we have not been changed too, then we must already be at that place of total peace in which we become saints. Either that or we take stubborn to Olympic level.

Change is rarely comfortable. Bilbo Baggins encounters trolls, orcs and giant spiders even before he meets Smaug the dragon. None of these adventures were enjoyable at the time, even though they are the stuff of wonderful fireside stories afterwards – providing one has survived, that is!

One of the stories my husband tells is of the time he was stranded in the Canadian Wilderness. He and some friends were on a canoeing trip. I forget the details, but somehow, they became lost and spent some days existing on their rapidly diminishing rations and anything they could catch or gather. Eventually they were spotted by a rescue plane and the story ended happily. When telling the tale, he never dwells on the anxiety they all suffered. He does mention the killer mosquitos, but his story always centres on the delicious fish they caught, the wonderful wildlife they watched and the amazing night sky he saw so far from the light pollution of civilisation.

He returned from that trip with an assurance and confidence he did not take on it. The experience changed him.

None of us are stranded in Northern Canada; we are stranded at home. When we return to “normality”, I wonder what we will bring back with us; I wonder how we will have changed.

I know my priorities have changed. I see a lot of things differently now.

I hope we have all been changed for the better.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



A Journal of Plague Year - 2020

Tuesday April 28, 2020

I had one of my over-ambitious ideas – re-reading Defoe 'Journal of Plague Year' and Camus 'La Peste', I thought 'I'll do that', using friends world-wide and people on here. Then I realised every writer of note will be jumping on that particular band-wagon. Defoe might have been writing about 1665, but there are so many parallels with the current situation. So I wondered if 'Moodscopers' would take up the challenge – with a view to sharing or publishing when things go back to whatever 'normal' becomes at the end of all this.

I've kept a diary for over 30 years, proved treasure trove. What I suggest is:

1. You write a 'word picture' of your life at the moment of 'shut-down'. Reasonably well-off retirees, good health, second home maybe, long-distance holidays planned. Single parent, working, restricted living accommodation. In a highly 'social' medium, hotel, bar, leisure centre, librarian. Teacher, at any level. 'Stuck' at home, caring for handicapped person of any age, or a parent with dementia. Grand-parents bearing the brunt of caring for grand-children while their children work to pay the mortgage. Serious sports 'person', training for marathon, Olympic Games (my nearest is daughter of a friend in US, selected for their fencing team).

2. You 'assess' your 'loss' at any level, great or small. Daily habits forbidden, seem minor and unimportant to some, but were a desperately needed routine to you. For all, personal contact reduced to phones and the Internet (lots of the world do not have, cannot use the latter). Holidays, again 'minor' in such a great calamity, but will they refund money? Honour the holiday at a later date (presuming the airline/holiday company survives)? I feel most for performers – musicians in major orchestras, already threatened by the economic cost of transporting them round the world. Opera singers, their lives mapped out years ahead. Regular performers of gigs in their own countries. For the young, 'open days' at schools, graduation from Universities. Many will feel in total limbo having 'psyched' themselves up for exams.

3. Daily life. Your fears. Getting food. (My supermarket was well stocked this morning, and a charming security guard marshalling us in, no pushing and shoving at shelves, one at a time at check-out). Actually catching the virus, of course. Real agony, not visiting people in care homes. Here, I feel for all the staff, having watched them care for my husband, and how their load was partially lightened by visitors. Trying not to worry about vulnerable relatives and friends (I have three classified 'vulnerable'). For parents, trying to make your children keep to their 'home learning' programme without the discipline of the school-room atmosphere. In France fear is already being voiced about an increase in domestic violence. People who think they are tolerant and get on well may crack when outside activities/influences are removed. And the most important thing here, and I am NOT being a Jeremiah, is to quickly realise that mental health (never too high on the NHS agenda) is going to go to the bottom of the 'priority' list. So if this 'moves' you, get writing, might be a help?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



ASDA Knights

Monday April 27, 2020

[To listen to an audio version of this blog please click here:]

I’ve been working three short night shifts a week… at ASDA.
They rank amongst the longest eighteen hours of my week, perhaps my life.
Not that I am complaining, it’s just that I’m not very efficient!
My name, around the ASDA Round Table of the Knight-Shift is Sir Lagalot. I watch enviously as fellow Knights flow around me with grace and elegance, plucking products perfectly from their preferred positions punctually.
Today, the head of the Legion and I had ‘the chat’.
He looked me straight in the eye and told me the truth. Yes, it’s Official, I am one of the slowest pickers in the pack… the naffest night-picking ninja in the West.
I think there is something fishy about this. In fact, Einstein is reputed to have said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”  Frankly, I feel stupid… even as I sit here gracefully, elegantly, plucking proverbs profoundly from their preferred positions punctually as I touch type.  Yes, our gifts, each one's genius differs.  I’ve never – no never – done a ‘proper job’ – not a proper physical one - unless being a postman counts as physical labour (and I loved that!)
Being Sir Lagalot, what I lack in speed and efficiency, I make up for in observation. Flying around me like bees on a mission to serve their queen, are all the other workers. Most put their heart (if not their soul) into it, and this got me thinking of another proverb: “… where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Could that work in reverse? Where your heart is, there your treasure will be also. Could I find treasure by putting my heart into it?
If I may take poetic licence with this proverb, I would suggest that when we put our heart (and back into something) we find treasure and even create value.  My nights are long because I dislike it so much, but I know for others, the hours fly by because they are so ‘into’ it. I’m going to try harder as an experiment in time-distortion and see if my last nights go faster, but that’s not my focus for this message.
My message is a question: “What do you put your heart into?” It may be something that requires your heart and back, or even your heart and soul!  But it will be something that yields treasure for you, and something you treasure. Please share what you put your heart into to the point that the hours fly by unnoticed.
Is Alchemy possible? Can I take the lead feeling of a job I hate and transmute it into the gold of something I treasure? I hope to discover that, whether a task is suited to one’s persona or not, putting one’s heart into it creates treasure.  I’ll let you know.
In conclusion… Are you a fish or a bird; a reptile or a mammal?! If you are a bird, reptile, or mammal – climb trees!  But if, like me, you’re a fish, stick to swimming deep.
This fish better swim upstream before he gets issued with that uniform!

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



Investing in myself

Sunday April 26, 2020

Have you had that guilty feeling when doing something for yourself? I did, therapy... the money could be better used by charity, my kids, or saving the planet. Then last year something happened, a change in my internal dialogue.

Due to big countrywide change I'd been thrown back on myself and my own resources.If I didn't do it no else was around to do it for me.

'It?' I hear you ask.

'Care for myself', I reply.

I had always been able to care for my friends, my family, others that came my way, but I could not look after myself.

So I started, with the help and support of a good therapist and a good friend, who agreed to be paid. Gradually I am emerging out of the last breakdown, I am feeding and looking after my body for myself. I am keeping on top of finances with my friend's help once a month. I am allowing myself to look at doing something and back away if I am overwhelmed. I am allowing myself to be overwhelmed and complete a task by asking for help, choosing to share my feelings and be vulnerable.

Am I better, healthier? Probably. More honest? Definitely. Happier? I can hear my therapists words.


"Yes Content", I reply.

How do you invest in yourself?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



Closer to Happy

Saturday April 25, 2020

My blog isn't about the grief, sadness, worry and sacrifice that is the reality of this pandemic for many. I send my heartfelt wishes for healing to anyone who is suffering as a result. This is about my mental health and the silver lining of it all for me and possibly many.

So many times in the past, my life has felt too busy. I have been overwhelmed by the demands from outside and chaos in my home. No time to sort through the clutter. It'd take a year!

I've been putting work first to avoid more stress. Neglecting home and our happiness.
Feeling a constant pull and guilt from extended family.

Feeling like life is passing me by, that I could be "out there" enjoying all that life has to offer, yet I'm stuck and locked into a place where my life is not my own.

I dream of where my family are from, a slow pace of life.
Simple. Quiet. Sunny and warm. Fetch supplies.
Doing in the morning, being in the afternoons.
Back to nature. An old fashioned life.

When things get too much I feel like a hamster in a wheel that is out of my control and my mind screams stop! I want to get off!

And then Lockdown.

I've been heard!
I have to get off and I don't want it to end!
Easter break.
No complicated holiday plans.
No work stress.

No extended family pressure, guilt, obligation, but more communication and joint effort with essentials, rather than unnecessary nonsense. No obligation to socialise. No worry that I am missing out on all sorts of things, places, people.

I like this. I like that all I have to do is stay at home. Just me and my kids, old enough to help out and past any education pressures or stress. No toing and frowing. A break from their money and career worries. Young enough to enjoy what young people enjoy, laughs, music, box sets, gadgets, the novelty of baking, sun bathing, chatter. It's beautiful to watch and I am deeply grateful.

I love the simple routine.
Out to fetch essentials.
Exercise in nature everyday, (in theory anyway!)
Home cooked food.
One job in the home a day.
Time to sort through the clutter. Time to rest.
Time for yoga.
Time for reading.
Time for writing, a blog even!
Time for hobbies, games, films.
Time for the pleasure of gardening, rather than just weed and overgrowth control!

Time to feel part of a community, to offer help freely and with pleasure. To give back to those who are out there saving lives. Being touched by how people are pulling together and being kind. The togetherness that comes from major events that enables us to feel connected as citizens. The need for help that brings out the best in us.

No guilt! I haven't selfishly chosen to be in, I have to be! It's the law!
I can take each day.
Enough sleep.
It feels like I was heard!
It stopped and I got off.
Much needed.

I don't want to get back onto the hamster wheel, but when I do, I'll know more about what's important and what I want.

And maybe, when I do get time off, rather than feel guilty that I'm wasting time, I want it to feel like another guilt free "Lockdown"...

My kind of bliss.

Love and light to All.

Lillypet xx

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.



Learning to like yourself more

Friday April 24, 2020

How much do you like yourself? Or perhaps, how much do you NOT like yourself? Are you prone to self criticism, perfectionist and competitive? Are you ashamed to be you? Are you frequently anxious, or an angry person?

What I'm going to write about might just change some of that. It has made a big difference to me and I want to share it. It's the insight that paying more attention to caring for ourselves might counterbalance and cancel out some of our negative, destructive thoughts and behaviours.

This idea, and the therapy which developed from it, comes from Paul Gilbert, a Professor of Psychology. It derives from a number of sources, including cognitive behaviour therapy, neuroscience, Buddhism and psychology, and has been developed into Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT). The relevant part here is the notion that there are three types of emotional regulation system in the brain.

We have systems for protecting us from threats, for getting resources we need (drives) and for self soothing, and we need all three. But if we are unable to manage these systems well, there may be negative consequences, for example, self criticism or difficulty experiencing warmth in relationships.

My understanding is that, whereas many forms of psychotherapy focus on dismantling overactive threat and drive systems, it is much more effective to build up self soothing and compassion so that a better balance results – and life is nicer.

I was – am! – a successful person with a professional career, a long marriage and children. I have also had bipolar disorder since my teens, which has had a huge impact on my life. I used to call it a 'double life'. I was a self critical perfectionist driven to achieve.

Then, a few years ago, my care coordinator suggested I read Professor Gilbert's book, The Compassionate Mind. The second half is a self help guide with lots of practical exercises. According to Gilbert, "One of its key concerns is to use compassionate mind training to help people develop and work with experiences of inner warmth, safeness and soothing, via compassion and self-compassion.

For me, becoming aware of the compassion dimension was a prelude to real change.

Could you help yourself to some of this?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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