The Moodscope Blog



SSDD. Monday November 20, 2017

Yes, it's a rude acronym.

It means:

Same Sh*t, Different Day

...and it was used to great effect in Stephen King's movie, "Dreamcatcher."

Frankly, if this is your truth - that your life seems stuck in a loop of 'same sh*t, different day' (and let's face it, it's the truth for most of us), you and I need to do something about it. I'm up for a change, are you?

Fortunately, there are tons of actions we can take once we know what to act on.

You see, the life you and I are experiencing is not an Island Life.

We are the fruit of our external environment AND our internal state.

Both can be changed.

Your environment matters - so make adjustments.

Your psychological state matters - so make adjustments.

The Power of Three

If there were three things you could change in your external environment, to improve your quality of life, what would they be?

Here are some ideas:

A change in your diet
A change of location
A shift in your rhythm each week
A change of decor and fixtures to celebrate the fact that you are a biological entity. E.g. natural light or daylight balanced lighting, ergonomic furniture, better ventilation.
A change of habit - such as walking in Nature more often
A change in the company you keep
Walk down a different street
Pick More Daisies.

What would your three be?

If there were three things you could change in your internal environment - your character, thought-life, values, and emotions - to improve your quality of life, what would they be?

Here are some ideas:

Have less rules (parents of large families learn this one quickly!)
Be less judgmental
Be more forgiving
Take yourself less seriously
Slow down and become more mindful.

The most exciting truth is that...

If you change anything, you change everything! [Which is WAY more encouraging than the standard, "if you keep on doing what you've always been doing, you'll keep on getting the SSDD.]

A Moodscope member.

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

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How not to write a blog. Sunday November 19, 2017

Do not and I repeat not do any of the following if you want to write a blog.

Firstly, have over 50 different ideas.

Secondly do not think that any of the ideas you have are worthy of the blog.

Go and search for the scraps of paper you have scribbled on all your ideas and thoughts.

Start getting annoyed because you can't find those precious pieces of papers.

As you are about to ask (maybe shout at) you partner because you can't find it, you remember you put it in a plastic bag in your t-shirt drawer.

After finding out you can't read any of your ideas and the ones you can are silly, you decide to have a large slice of chocolate cake but then you remember you don't bake or buy cake.

You think cooking will give you inspiration

You start to make a cake but give up as you don't have all ingredients.

You eat packets of salted cashews hoping this would be inspiring.

It has been an hour and you have not written one word.

You notice your clothes hanging up on a rack as you have no wardrobe, look messy so you pull all the clothes onto your bed. You start sorting into 2 piles, keep or throw out. Soon you get tired so you go back to writing.

You decide you have no more blogs in you and maybe you should try to learn to draw.

You decided you need space so you put it aside for a week or two.

You hope your mind will think of a theme in that time.

In fact, hope is what stops you giving away your shelves of how to write books that mock you every day.

Every idea is dismissed as it is silly, been done before or you have written about it before.

You used to boast about never running out of ideas and that you can write about anything.

So, you decide to go to bed but the kitchen is a mess with ingredients all on the bench, all your clothes are on your bed.

So, you throw all your clothes on the floor and lie awake all night worrying you will never have a good idea again!

That is how not to write a blog!

Do you have instructions of how not to do something from personal experience? Or what strategies do you use when you find you can't do something you normally do?

It can be writing, cooking, exercise, sewing, woodwork, remembering things, planning, really anything you once did well but now struggle with.

A Moodscope member.

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

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Collateral benefit. Saturday November 18, 2017

In the early 2000s, or perhaps it was earlier, we started to hear the phrase 'collateral damage'. It referred, as you know, to the effects of military action on people or buildings that were not the intended target. A euphemism, covering up the reluctance of military spokespeople to admit that they were causing unacceptable damage. But I prefer to borrow, and hopefully subvert, that deceitful phrase for a better thought: there can be collateral benefits too (I don't mean from military action).

I get a collateral benefit when I set off to do something, and something else good happens as a by-product. For example, at midsummer I went to a short Solstice camp. I didn't really expect a great deal, but I wanted to mark the season and spend some time in nature. I had not camped at all this year, and hardly last year, so it was a bit of an effort to hunt out the tent, my cooking gear, sleeping bag and so forth. Added to which, the directions were rather vague, I had not been to the site before, and had no-one to go with, so I needed to pluck up my courage a bit.

The collateral benefit was that – apart from being warmly welcomed and having a good time round the camp fire – I met up with someone lovely who I'd known on a counselling course more than 20 years ago. I hadn't seen her since, yet now we are doing some work together. Perhaps 'collateral benefit' is just another phrase for 'serendipity'! But if I had let my negative thoughts or low energy tell me that it was too much trouble to go to the camp, I would never have had the pleasure and luck of re-connecting. Perhaps this is also another way of reminding myself sometimes to 'Just do it'!

Have you noticed any collateral benefits from things you've done recently?

A Moodscope member.

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

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Murders, muffins and music. Friday November 17, 2017

Like many people with mental health issues I have some things I do daily so I feel okay, along with a little box of tricks I delve into when I know things aren't going so well.

It's the usual stuff we're advised will help: exercise, eating well, getting enough sleep, surrounding myself with positive people, doing my daily meditation and of course Moodscope. Proven techniques to get me back on track.

However, also in the depths of my tool box are some more obscure methods. During counselling they were things I did that really made a difference. 'Do these thing more,' said the counsellor. So now I do.

Agatha Christie's Poirot. I've no idea why this helps so much but it does. Maybe it's partly because it demands my full attention, it takes me temporarily to another world and it's just so far removed from normal daily life so my brain is able to rest.

Baking – I'm a terrible cook and burn everything but I love to bake. It fills the house with an amazing comforting smell, again it takes my full attention, it also transports me back to my childhood and at the end you have something to enjoy and something to give to other people. What a great feeling.

And lastly, and probably the most obscure... 80's piano star Richard Clayderman (younger people google). My late Mother was a big fan and when I put this on it's such gentle, comforting music it seems to fill the whole house with her.

So there you have it, my full confession of the more unusual techniques that help me when things get tough. Obscure possibly – effective yes.

So come on why don't you share yours if you have them, it might help someone else.

A Moodscope member.

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

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How to fool the world. Thursday November 16, 2017

Yes I know it's an odd thing to say but I do it every day.

I might have mentioned once before that I work in a Hospital, I might have said how I see all manner of things in my day some good some sad, some uplifting some devastating.

I have realised that I fool the world I live in every day while dealing with everything that walks through the Hospital doors.

I am at once able to attend to people's needs, directing them to the care that they need, sometimes just a friendly chat seems to be all they require. I can chat and chat!

I answer the phone and I often hear myself laughing with some colleague or sharing a moan, it always amazes me how normal and happy I sound.

In fact I wish I could meet that me and share a coffee or something as we would get on so well!

Underneath all this is the constant churning in my stomach, butterflies fluttering and crashing into each other as I gulp down some air to steady my racing brain, desperately trying to keep the dreaded darkness at bay.

Depressed? Neurotic? Naturally down? I can't seem to label myself, I just know that the dark despair is a world away from the paradise I see in other people's lives sometimes.

A stranger can impact an impression on me in seconds, I can look and admire their dress sense their posture and happy vibes as they stride through my day, I cannot imagine these people having the black moments I struggle with.

I never show it.

I am just me, smiley welcoming helpful me.

And yet, and yet!

There it is plainly standing there before me this wall that separates me from the rest, a tall black ugly wall blocking out the light and the rainbows that I know are there somewhere.

I sometimes stop to stare out of my office window and admire the sunshine filtering through the trees and the tiny birds shrilly enjoying their little birdy lives.

Flowers hanging onto their beautiful colourful coats before the colder wetter winter days arrive to wash them away.

I can feel the glow of autumn surrounding me and forget for a moment about the darkness standing there in the corner slowly moving across the room towards me. It stops in its tracks as I lift up my phone and console the caller who is distressed about their relative. I can hear my voice talking to them calmly, comforting them and finally wishing them well and yes please do call me anytime.

I am very kind I think.

It's just this wall of sorrow that has attached itself to me it will not leave me alone, I can see how it might end, it's a bit odd but the sleep it could give me is so welcome sometimes, I could just let it fold over me and close my eyes and just sleep in its thick black arms.

It's the phone ringing that I automatically reach out for that drags me just for a little while back into the sunbeams sitting on my desk and the sound of the small birds singing that allows me to be the kind woman on the end of the phone again.

Just for now.

Just for now.

A Moodscope member.

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

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Mens Sana in Corpore Sano – Pars Una. Wednesday November 15, 2017

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

I always associate that phrase with slightly sweaty, red-faced, public-school type chaps who have just come off the rugby field and wouldn't recognise a complex if it hissed at them and battered them over the head with a two-by-four. Even then, they might frown slightly and wonder if this was some kind of new-fangled mathematical theorem.

But it popped into my mind yesterday and so I thought I'd play with it for a while.

These words are widely used in sporting and educational contexts to express the theory that physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being.

But it's not just exercise, is it?

What is it to have a healthy mind in a healthy body?

For many of us reading this, it is just a dream. Our minds have been so battered by depression for so long we wonder if they will ever heal. Many of us have chronic physical health conditions which contribute to the mental anguish.

But maybe we could do something to help a bit. After all, every little helps, doesn't it?

Exercise is part of it of course, but we probably all know someone who is fit but not healthy. The brain needs to be exercised as well as the body and nutrition plays a big part in maintaining the health of both mind and body.

So – for my next three blogs I will be thinking about nutrition, exercise and meditation. I will be your guinea-pig (with apologies to my own lovely guinea-pigs, Nugget and Patchy). And I will let you know how I get on.

• Healthy Eating: what diet helps best with depression and how can we stick to it?
• Exercise: how much and of what type is good for us?
• Meditation: What form, if any, is right?

I'll be honest and say that I have been playing with the healthy eating thing for a long time, but have only recently taken it on seriously (the tummy was getting to the stage where it needed its own postcode). You know that I swim, but I don't do anything else in the least bit strenuous, and – meditation always seemed to demand time I would rather spend doing other things. So, this will honestly be a new experiment for me too.

I'm sure many of you have your own views. Many of you will have found strategies which work for you. Maybe I have missed something vital in my elements above. So – please do click through to the comments to make your point; you can do it anonymously if you like – I won't tell!

After all, we all know that body and mind are not separate – every one of us is a holistic unit.

I'll see you next week when I report in on nutrition.

A Moodscope member.

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

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Sharing my journey. Tuesday November 14, 2017

I wrote this email below to my son, who is having trouble with his ability to cope with any additional stress in his life as he starts his second year at university and after several years of significant destabilising life events; but more than that he is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that he needs a plan for recovery. I shared with him part of my journey:


"I'm not sure if I've mentioned this site but I first started using Moodscope after I had counselling to help me overcome the grief after my best friends death. I watched the video on the website and used the score system several times a week for several years. More recently, I've only used the scoring system a couple of times a year.

What is interesting though is the emails that come through every day once enrolled. I mostly glance at them, but every now and then something catches my eye. I would not say that I have been feeling down for any length of time for ages, but we all get our blue days. However, what I realise though is that good mental health is like any health; you have to do exercise to maintain it.

Understanding that I'm not the only one who has struggled with their demons makes things easier and to read the blogs of others keeps the 'exercise' routine required for good mental health.

It takes some time to settle into other people's language of expression, explanation and recuperation, but almost all the blogs are helpful and positive in some way.

As I mentioned the other day, the first step on the road to recovery is to admit that you are unable to cope with your situation and that you need help. Don't be afraid of saying these things to yourself and to your loved ones. They will be ready support, with no judgment and with love.

As a start, go to Moodscope and see what you think."


A Moodscope member.

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

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Forgive them - they haven't got a clue! Monday November 13, 2017

I was awake in the night, thinking about forgiveness. I don't know if you have the same issues I have, but my mind can really lock on to stuff I don't want to think about - especially when I want to go to sleep! I seem to have very little 'thought control'!

There were my thoughts skipping around the field of my mind, dwelling on negative people and experiences, and there was I desperately seeking snoozland.

Forgiveness is a challenge for all of us, because most of the time it is focused on a real offence or injury against us. It is emotionally charged, too, which makes the event powerfully significant as far as the brain is concerned. Anything with emotions attached is hard to forget.

My own breakthrough in the night was to think about this blog and how it might help.

So, here is an example to make my point. I'm going to ask you 4 questions - simple questions, which I'd like you to answer for me.

What number am I thinking of between 1 and 100?
What colour am I thinking of?
What girl's name?
What boy's name?

Before I reveal the answers, my point is that you are most unlikely to be a mind-reader. If you cannot see through my eyes, you cannot see the world as I see it. Not exactly.

And if you cannot perceive the world in the way I see it, it's not fair for me to expect you to understand me. Not fully. This means that you could easily offend me without even knowing it because you don't relate to me in the way I relate to you! I've got different standards, different interpretations, different rules. No wonder relationships are complex!

I don't see through your eyes, you don't see through mine, so how can I accurately judge you based on my own perception? I can't. In fact...

You don't know what you're doing when it comes to understanding the world as I see it. You haven't got a clue!

Of course, I'm exaggerating to make my point. You have a got a clue. You and I have enough overlapping understanding to get along. It's just that the incompleteness of our perception leaves space for grace, a gap for forgiveness to slip on through. Because you don't know what you're doing when it comes to understanding me or even behaving towards me, I can forgive you... and you can forgive me.

I asked my partner Penelope those four questions this morning and even though she knows me better than anyone, she only got 1 out of the 4 correct.

[My choices were 37, Purple, Samantha, Samuel. How well did you read my mind?]

'Stuff' is going to happen over the coming week, stuff that could keep you awake at night until you master the art of forgiveness. I hope that you'll realise that nobody knows what they're really doing, they haven't got a clue... so let's forgive them, me and you, eh?

A Moodscope member.

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

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The next big thing. Sunday November 12, 2017

I recently heard a man talk of happiness versus fun.

He described happiness as being an inside feeling of ok. Things are ok. The rain is ok! My cooking was ok. My children are ok. My writing is ok. My jumper is ok. (And of course, sometimes these things are fabulous.)

He described fun as often what we do when we crave happiness. We try to block out any other feelings around by having fun. In response to not feeling ok, some people will party hard, having lots of 'fun'. Eat many doughnuts having lots of 'fun'. Have another drink because they're having 'fun'. But can we feel the difference?

Are you filling up on fun and forgetting that the quest may be impeding your happiness? Happiness lies beneath. It's a small feeling that needs very little to power it. It's not a trail blazer, more a trail that has been there from the start. It is persistent and it doesn't give up on you.

Perhaps today you might think of what is 'fun' in your life and what brings you a smaller, more contented feeling requiring very little to power it.

Go small. It's the next big thing.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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

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Lest We Forget. Saturday November 11, 2017

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

"There's no right or wrong way to wear your poppy," said the immaculately uniformed young woman, as she helped me pin on my brave red paper flower, "Just so long as you wear it with pride."

So, I'm happy to wear my poppy with pride. Not to support in any way the brutality and inhumanity of war, but in gratitude to those who served their country; who lost their lives or their health in our defence.

Larry, a member of my Bipolar Group, has two sons at home. Both have served in the Army. Both have been deployed in Afghanistan. Both have come home with their bodies intact, but their minds shattered. Larry says he feels they have been forgotten by the Army: there is no help there.

I have written before on the specific mental health problems experienced by our Armed Forces. My hope is that, in future, as much attention and funds will be given to the minds of our servicemen and women as to their bodies; that we will not forget those who sacrificed their mental health for their country.

"But – why are we all here?" asked Ash, in that meeting. "Are we here to gain support from each other; to know that we are not alone?"

There were various answers around the room. Some of us feel we are gradually making friends around the table. Those of us who are well enough attend social gatherings every other month enjoy those evenings. One of my fellow members is the husband of a business friend. She and I get along very well and the bi-polar connection is another point of contact. Her Barry, recently diagnosed, is responding well to medication and has even been able to return to paid employment, although not at anywhere near the salary or position he held before.

"I don't want to forget," I said, in my turn. "I have been so well since I started this new medication in February. I am more stable than I have ever been before. But I don't want to forget what it was like."

And I don't.

I know that, for many sufferers with Bi-polar, they get to a stage where they feel so well, they think they can do without the medication. So, they stop taking it – with disastrous results. This is not helped by all the well-meaning folk out there who shake their heads and point out that it can't be healthy to put all these chemicals into your body. Huh! Do they say that to diabetics, I wonder?

So, I don't want to forget the jealous rages, and unreasonable passions; the time I pushed away my dearest friend and nearly lost him. I don't want to forget the months spent shaking on the sofa, unable to leave the house. I don't want to forget the seductive and dangerous call of the river.

I am well now but I don't want to forget.

Any more than I want to forget those my poppy calls me to remember.

A Moodscope member.

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

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If. Friday November 10, 2017

When I was younger my dad asked me, what is the longest word in the English language, I was so excited and said the answer was smiles as there is a mile between first s and last s. He was not convinced and told me "If" was the longest word. My seven-year-old mind thought that must have been a joke as how could a 2-letter word be longest word and be longer than my mile word.

As I grew older I kept thinking about what he had said and saw how powerful the word is as it had so many possibilities. If I had done this, If this happens, if this had not happened.

I notice two phrases using if, 'What if' and 'If only' are creeping into my own vocabulary as well as into other's everyday language.

I use 'What if' when I am imagining what might happen or what could have happened. I use 'If only' when I am annoyed I could have done something better or tried harder.

I asked some friends about how they use what if and if only.

One friend told me "I can waste an awful lot of life catastrophizing when I say 'What if', so I avoid using it."

A customer told me "What if - could mean anything. I think I naturally tend to say 'What if' to everything and used to hate it as I believed it made me susceptible to anxiety and depression.

A neighbour explained that "What if is more like being able to imagine all sorts of different scenarios, and feeling which one I want best. It helps to visualise my goals and options in my life and then try to strive towards them.

Like - what if things turn out ok? What would I want to do?

What if my fears are true? What would I do? But what if they aren't?"

A neighbour said "It is the imagining I think that can lead to the best experiences ( well as the most paralysing fears.)"

Some people felt that 'If only' is wishing the past or present were different, and doesn't encourage action as much. It mostly leaves you focused on what you lack, rather than what you have.

My cousin explained to me that 'What if' maybe a natural defence mechanism to stop us repeating our mistakes.

What do the expressions 'What if' and 'If only' mean to you?

Do you use them often, or not much?

Do you use one expression more than the other?

A Moodscope member

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

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Active and Afraid. Thursday November 9, 2017

I have plagiarised the series of excellent blogs by Lex, offered to our Moodscope community quite a while ago (September to November 2013) looking at the Moodscope cards and their meaning. Today I'd like to take another look at the Active and Ashamed cards.


A Moodscope red card meaning a good thing. Lex put himself into the 'Activist' preference (the four preferences being Activist, Pragmatist, Theorist and Reflector). He pointed us towards his favoured variant - proactivity - as being a deliberate application of action and energy towards a desired goal.

I think of Active in a slightly different way. We are all guilty of doing what that Simon and Garfunkel song said, "hearing without listening". It's important for ourselves and our loved ones that we use Active listening: really paying attention.

Very often today we are told that Mindfulness is what we need – well that's really a state of paying Active attention on the present. For me Active is often concerned with being physical. Physical activity is what often helps me personally to pull through periods of despair.

Bear in mind that you may be a morning person or a night person – we all pretty well know which type we are. So how we score ourselves on the Active card may well be different depending upon our body clock and when we do our Moodscope test.

Being Active becomes really positive when we do something because we WANT to do it rather than because of fear or to prove our capability to ourselves or others. You can do things that can help you towards a better Active score: for me that's mostly exercise or doing something that helps others.


Feeling frightened, having fear... Lex told us that fear needs to be faced, never ignored. By facing fear we test its validity. If, having been faced, the fear reveals a true danger then the danger can be tackled.

Being afraid – having fear – is a powerful and primitive human emotion. It has two stages, biochemical and emotional. The biochemical stage is universal whilst the emotional response depends very much on the individual. Some of us are of course very afraid, it may be an exaggerated feeling of fear but that doesn't make the fear less real. Lex suggested that if we drag our fear into the light of full inspection we can have confidence that it will pass.

Personally I always seem to use "a little" as my score on this card. I always am a little afraid, often totally unable to rationalise why that is the case which in turn makes it hard for me to do the Lex thing of dragging it into the light of full inspection. Maybe your Afraid is greater than mine, maybe if you really closely examine your fear you will find that you are even a little addicted to fear, in the way that the "adrenaline junkies" often are.

There's nothing wrong with being afraid, it's what sometimes helps to keep us alive. Choose your score with thought: face your fear.

Do you have any tips, insights ideas or advice to share on these two first cards?

A Moodscope member

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

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Dealing with Frustration. Wednesday November 8, 2017

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

"We regret that the pool is closed," said the sign and I hit the roof!

It was day 8 of the pool being unavailable and I like to swim at least three times a week – more if I can fit it in. I understand that there are sometimes circumstances beyond control which can mean that the pool is unavailable for my use, but – honestly – day 8 of the chlorine levels being too high?

All the poor receptionist could do was stand there, apologising and clinging to the desk for support, while the waves of my anger washed over her.

And – yes – I did make sure she knew it wasn't personal and that my attack was not aimed at her. She quite understood and mine was not the first enraged reaction she had dealt with this morning. I would imagine it was not the last.

Having got it out of my system I went to use the shower facilities and reflected that at least I had gained an extra hour of morning and extra time is always a gift.

But this lead me to examine how we deal with frustration and upset.

We all get frustrated at times. It has been suggested there are only three causes of upset: disappointed expectations, frustrated intentions and undelivered communication. You can see that this morning contained all three – as the person I really wanted to yell at was not the receptionist.

The start of dealing with any upset is to realise what's going on; to analyse it. I expected the pool to be open (especially after eight days) and it wasn't, so I was disappointed; I intended to swim and was frustrated in that ambition. I wanted to yell at the manager or the pool engineer and had to settle for the receptionist – poor girl – so I have an undelivered communication.

Of course, that analysis does involve taking a step back and drawing in a deep breath, but that's always beneficial. Apart from anything else, it allows you to choose your words for maximum annihilating effect!

Analysing the upset also helps us see it in proportion. Was my day really ruined by my being unable to swim? What were the consequences? Well, my fitness levels and blood pressure will not improve today, but they won't noticeably be affected by a week or so of not swimming. I won't be able to meditate and write while I swim up and down (you didn't know that most writing occurs "off the page", did you?), but I can meditate at home and I can write at home too. The only thing which cannot be completely replaced is that wonderful sensation of having stretched one's body and relaxed one's mind. Maybe if I did yoga or running I could duplicate it – but I don't do either of those: I swim.

So, yes – I'm still a little annoyed, but I've put it perspective. And – I had that extra hour of time.

I spent it writing this blog.

A Moodscope member.

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

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What do I want? Tuesday November 7, 2017

It is Halloween.

It is Midterm break.

My son and his two pals are running through the leaves, dragging the dogs with them. Races are set up and end in squeals and yelps. The boys are happy out. Their laughter is a delight to hear.

My friend and I sit watching them, hugging our take-out coffees. I am eating chocolate (someone has to!) and she is being abstemious.

Animatedly, I relate funny stories from my week. My work. My kids. My crazy life. I am never boring.

But my friend, training to be a psychotherapist, puts her hand on mine and asks '...but are you okay?'

I can't catch my breath for a moment. I don't feel okay. I am acting. I am covering. I will myself not to cry.

'I feel anxious,' I admit.

There, I said it. And it all comes tumbling out. I feel anxious. I feel sad. I feel alone. I live in a busy house with children and animals and I have wonderful friends but... every day is my responsibility. Every decision is mine. Every mistake is mine. Every joy is mine. Parenting alone is just that - Parenting on your own. It's hard. But the alternative was much harder. I feel lost.

My friend suggests I ask myself one question: 'What do I want?'

I stare blankly. I start to babble, talking about my children, about the special people in my life. She interrupts me: 'I know this is hard but you must put everyone, even your children, aside for this exercise. Call it Stage 1. For this stage, only ask: What do I want?'

I stare blankly. I make the usual jokes about winning the Lotto. About a job in Hollywood. About a filthy-rich lover. My friend waits patiently. I stare blankly again.

She suggests I take a big blank white page. And write or draw or paste or scribble or do something to describe what I want. 'How can you ask the universe/ god(s)/ goddesses/ higher power for what you want when you do not know yourself?'

The red-faced boys spy our coffees and run over.

'Where's our hot chocolate?'

I smile at the happy boys and exhausted dogs. I smile at my psychotherapist-in training friend.

'When you've graduated, you won't charge me for our chats, will you?'

She laughs. We hug each other. The boys playfully punch each other.

So, today I am sitting in front of a big blank white page.

'What do I want?'

Salt Water Mum
A Moodscope member.

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

42 comments - Permalink



On Second Thought. Monday November 6, 2017

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

If you and I can control three things, we can succeed where others have fallen:

1. Control of our time

2. Control of our emotions

3. Control of our thoughts

A wonderful cliché may offer us a way.

"On second thought..."

We cannot control the first thought that comes to mind, but we most certainly can control the second thought!

I have a cassette tape series somewhere in my collection that has the catchphrase, "Time, don't wonder where it went; tell it where to go!" Time, emotions, and thoughts need to be told where to go!

This brings us to the first control point, how to control our time. With an utterly fair, 168 hours per week at everyone's disposal, time management is choice management. It's how you and I choose to spend our time that counts. The second thought we need when we are about to commit our time to someone else's agenda is simply, "Is this the best use of my time?" Stephen R Covey talks about exercising integrity in the moment of choice – in other words, to make your choices based upon your values. You know what a good use of your time is... according to your values. Just as 'beauty' is in the eye of the beholder, so also a 'good use of time' is a matter of your own perception.

The second control point, how to control our emotions, is offered us by some physiology. We have a physiological control mechanism between the pre-frontal cortex and the emotional centre – the limbic system – in the brain, that allows us the power of self-control. Granny's wisdom of, "Count to ten and win," is a great example of leaving enough of a gap between stimulus and response for us to have a second thought.

Second thoughts, when it comes to emotional self-control, include, "Is this the way of love?" and, "Is this the kind thing to do?" and, "I can choose peace rather than this."

The third control point, how to control our thoughts, is really just to remember we have the power of what to choose as the second thought. For all of us, we can always ask ourselves, "What is the most resourceful way to respond?" and, "What response would get the best result?" and, "How can this thought serve me?"

This is particularly powerful when the first thought is forced into your mind by what someone else says or does - and external source of thought.

I feel wondrously freed today by the idea that it is the second thought that counts – not the first!

A Moodscope member.

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

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Feng Shui and Autumn. Sunday November 5, 2017

Hi fellow Moodscopers, I have been a feng shui practitioner for about 25 years. Recently I wrote a post for my website about Autumn, which I find both beautiful and melancholy.

As many of you know, feng shui is about respecting a naturally occurring order to life: fire burns wood and turns it to ash, ash becomes earth, the soil of the earth produces metal, metal collects water in the form of condensation, water brings life to wood, and wood feeds fire.

This cycle can also be represented by the changing seasons: summer into fall, fall to winter, winter into spring, and back to summer again.

In the northern hemisphere we are experiencing autumn and it is a passing, like all seasons, from one creative phase to another. Because this beautiful season never seems to last very long it should be appreciated for all its remarkable change.

I always feel a charge when autumn approaches, as do most people. There is a coolness to the air, the leaves are falling, the days shorter, and the sights and smells of an imagined harvest seem to propagate from every house I walk past: orange and white pumpkins commingling with multicolored potted chrysanthemums on front steps, wreaths of berries and gherkins adorn front doors, piles of red and brown leaves smelling like wet earth sit in great piles along curbs waiting for removal.

We invariably prepare for winter like all animals, and within that comes another important aspect of autumn: accepting change and letting go of things no longer needed. With each leaf raking, each removal of dead flowers we are preparing to enter a quiet time for appreciation and anticipation. Fall is an excellent time to declutter and let go of things that we no longer need so that we have room to accept new opportunities, new people, new jobs, wealth, etc into our lives. I have always loved the Native American saying "Be thankful for unknown blessings already on their way," because to me it encapsulates the essence of fall and letting go.

Regardless if your summer was one filled with joy or with sadness, fall is an opportunity to reflect, appreciate, release and prepare for blessings already on their way.

A Moodscope user.

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

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Dealing with intertia. Saturday November 4, 2017

(A contradiction in terms)

When my husband went into a permanent home there was relief all round. Immediate reaction was like a stable-kept horse who has a two-week 'holiday' in a field. I felt I would say 'whey hey' and rush round doing all the stuff I could not do for two years. Then I found I was in a state of limbo, inertia, almost like a cocooned insect.

Jul, in a post to the blog on 26th October gave me a fairly stiff lecture. So, I've invented a dopple-ganger, alter ego, what you will. She is called 'Sensible Person' (there was a reasonably sensible one in this body once) and she has to cope with 'Miss Inertia'.

They are S.P and M.I.

M.I. It's 9 a.m., I've overslept. I shall be late.

S.P. What for, and does it matter anyway?

M.I. The kitchen's a mess, none of the washing's dry, look at the office desk, and what about the two gardens?

S.P. You used to be a good organiser – you can't do it all at once – drink your coffee in peace then start logically.

M.I. (Old style). I've got the lyric of 'There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza'. My husband and his brother were always asking my advice, then finding any excuse not to do it. I was always muttering 'Well DO it dear Henry, DO it.

S.P. Now don't leave the kitchen half way and go up to the bedroom, panicking about the office on the way. No opening the kitchen door till it is to your liking.

M.I. I must check the e-mails first.

S.P. You checked them before breakfast, and if you go near that computer you will play Solitaire for half an hour and the kitchen will look even worse, then you'll start panicking about being late. You can go now, kitchen perfect – nice to have a coffee where nothing offends.

M.I. Now half-heartedly attacking bedroom. Wail. This washing will never dry.

S.P. Well, stop this silly economy, turn the radiators on – stuff will be dry in less than half an hour. Now, no computer – it's dry, gardening, and you are NOT tired.

M.I. Half an hour later, having attacked bits of the garden leaving several piles of rubbish. 'I can't cart all this round to the compost heap. Anyway, can't get at it'.

S.P. Well, clear that, then you can come back later.

M.I. Oh, I'd forgotten what a nice bit of brick work is in front of the compost heap, must sweep it up. (Does far too much gardening, near collapse.) Oh dear, I haven't been shopping, nothing in house, will have to go to supermarket.

S.P. (Refraining from making obvious remark). The Leclerc bakery does excellent sandwiches – go and get one, and one of those nice 'Bucheron' loaves, and sit down with a Kir and a Sudoku.

But M.I is incorrigible – brain does not have inertia – blog forms itself – better than Solitaire.

The photo is of my 'occupational therapy'. As things get tougher, the creations get more flamboyant, never sell them, and probably end up at Oxfam.

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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The Times they are a Changing. Friday November 3, 2017

I have been feeling quite fed up recently, reading badly researched articles in the press about how lack of sleep can ruin your health and limit life expectancy. (I'm surprised I'm still alive then)

Also what to eat to ward off Alzheimers and what not to eat (and yes another early death).

So I decided I would concentrate more on the Arts and Culture sections of the newspapers and to my delight, I have read some interesting insights into the human condition (which don't cause early death)

One such article was about a film director and he said things like:

1. Family informs so much of who we are. It's about identity. But it's not always easy to go out into the world and know who we are. The more you learn, the more you realise you have to learn. To quote him he said "You never fix yourself."

2. Apparently this director is done with introspection as he says it's a dangerous place to be. I had to think about that. I'm still not sure if I agree or not.

And lastly the article suggested that definitions of success and failure are fluid.

I like to think that's true.

I suppose my blog today is about two things, one that it can be positive to change one's habitual reading matter. I have decided to tear out and screw into a ball potentially depressing articles about health (my newspaper will be very thin).

And also I wonder what Moodscopers think about the insights this film director has.

A Moodscope member

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

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Hello you. Thursday November 2, 2017

Sometimes we are told to take the advice we would give to another. In my experience this involves a conversation inside my head along the lines of:

Me: You're not taking any time for yourself
Other me: I know, but there's no time
Me: Try
Other me: Yep

It ends there. And I repeat that conversation weekly. Sometimes daily.

Today I fell over. I'd been coasting along and today I felt someone had sneaked into my wardrobe and sewn weights into all my clothing. I took the very, VERY unusual decision (and I rarely write in capitals) to have half a sick day and go to bed. I crawled under the top quilt and instantly fell asleep for two and a half hours.

Upon waking, my stomach growled, my mouth felt like it had been in a desert, my head was hot and thumping. I'm good at knowing how to fix this part well and I sorted it. After I was nourished I began working out ways to catch up. If I worked super-fast, If I cut a corner here and there, if I thumped the living daylights out of my keyboard in a paperwork catch up... then I decided enough was enough. And I talked to myself out loud. Yes, OUT LOUD.

Told myself what I was hating about the situation and then told myself some truths, out loud. The answers that I would give to my children or anyone else who was berating themselves. And do you know, it worked. I needed to be told and there was nobody else to do the telling. Maybe if you are having a day you might try it. Out loud. Properly. Tell yourself the problem and then answer yourself as if you were someone else.

It's worth a try!

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Stepping Out of Time. Wednesday November 1, 2017

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

"For five days, you step out of time."

Fans of classic detective fiction may find that phrase familiar. It is from Ngaio Marsh's "Clutch of Constables"; the sign in the window which leads Agatha Troy, painter and wife of Superintendent Roderick Alleyn, of Scotland Yard, to book a river cruise. It was possibly with this in mind that I booked five days for my family on a narrow boat on the Oxford Canal.

Agatha Troy, naturally, finds herself embroiled in an art forgery ring and murder: this is Ngaio Marsh, after all. We experienced no such excitement. But, for five days, we did indeed step out of time.

It was my fifteen-year-old daughter who suggested, with startling maturity, that we leave all technology at home. So, we did. We took my husband's mobile phone for emergencies and the camera; but as he does not do social media in any form and does not get his emails sent to his phone, we were internet free.

There was a radio on the boat but we did not turn it on. Nor the TV. For five days, we lived outside the world.

There is magic about a narrow boat. The chug of the diesel engine is quietly industrious and, from the prow, inaudible. Speed is a gentle walking pace. The canal winds easily through the most beautiful English countryside. Our everyday cares sloughed from us as we glided through the water, exchanging greetings with our fellow travellers and experiencing nothing more exciting than the occasional lock and the challenge of meeting another boat going under a narrow bridge.

For a nature lover like me, it was heaven. The hedges on either side of the water were generously splattered with Midas' gold; scattered with topaz hips, ruby haws, the glowing peridot of crab-apples and the jet and moonstone glimmer of sloes. Birds sang as if it were April. We set off each day at sunrise and moored at sunset. Our heads nodded over our dinner and we were tucked up in our (narrow) beds by 8.30 each night. It was bliss.

Of course, after that five days, we had to come back to the world; to the posturing politicians and salacious celebrity gossip. But we had those five days; a gift to ourselves.

You don't need a narrow boat, but I'd recommend stepping out of time.

For a time, anyway.

A Moodscope member.

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

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