Gratitude in the darkness

When I fall in to the darkness of bad thoughts and feelings.. and when I have a blank sheet of paper in front of me on which I have nothing nice to say or good to share, I have trained myself to think of the things I am grateful for in that day, that moment.


If I think initially – like right now, there are none – I always tell myself there are at least three… my breath in, my breath out and my mind that remembered those 2!


And then I look around… there must be something else?


I am grateful for the glass of red wine, medicinal, to ease the tension in my shoulders, help me sleep, obliterate the sad images, sounds and feelings of today.


I am grateful for the photos and video messages that the boys sent me to cheer me up tonight.


I am grateful for the Big Man holding the fort in Yorkshire, even if it is all ipads and pasta pesto… I don’t know that for sure.. but even if it is, I am still grateful.


I am truly grateful for the incredible, kind, gentle and caring staff keeping vigil over Mum tonight and for everything they do to keep her comfortable around the clock…


I am grateful for every last twitch of a smile, hint of a kiss, hold of her hand, for each rattily breath Mumbo takes and for each choke she manages to live through..


I am grateful for all the lovely people and friends who have taken the time to reach out and send messages of love and thoughts to me, my Dad and my sister…


I particularly liked this poem, sent to me by the boys nursery Nanny and babysitter when they were tiny babies:



I had two mothers – two mothers I claim;

two different people, yet with the same name.

Two separate women, diverse by design,

but I loved them both for they were both mine.


The first was the mother who carried me here;

she gave birth and nurtured and launched my career.

She was the woman whose features I bear,

complete with the facial expressions I wear.


She gave me memories which follow me yet,

along with examples in life which she set.

As I became older, she some younger grew,

and we’d laugh just as mothers and daughters can do.


But then came the year that her mind clouded so

and it seemed that the mother I’d known soon would go.

So quickly she changed and turned into the other –

a stranger who dressed in the clothes of my mother.


Oh, she looked the same then, at least at arm’s length,

but she was a child now and I was her strength.

So we’d come full circle, we women three –

my mother the first, the second, and me.


Now if my own children should reach such a day

when a new mother comes and the old goes away,

I’d ask of them nothing that I wouldn’t do –

love both of your mothers as both have loved you.


Joann Snow Duncanson




A bar of Menier… and the heart

A bar of Menier … and the heart

I love dark chocolate. Cold. Hard. From the fridge. I have a secret stash… I have to train my mind to forget where I hide it… I love the bitter sweet taste of it as it melts ..

It is a strange love… because it is one that was born out of secrecy and stealth. Mum always had hidden chocolate. Loads of it. Piles of posh chocs in the dining room… that were hers… and hers alone.

So my sister and I wouldn’t dare go near that pile… but I wonder if she ever knew that the Menier Chocolat Patissier, in its bright green paper wrapping, in the top compartment of the fridge used to deplete little by little, tiny square by tiny square over time… Her prize cooking chocolate, our consolation prize for not being allowed the treats gathering dust in the dining room, their boxes less shiny from the dust… but would show our finger prints!

So as I sit here and munch on my modern day G&B 85% (Morrisons had run out of Menier), I look at the picture I drew earlier today… part of my homework!

When I worked with my coach about how I wanted to shape my future, she asked me to bring in something that was special to me. I took my favourite piece of jewellery, the delicate Tiffany necklace that James gave me for our first Christmas in 1998. I have never seen anyone else wear one the same… it has 5 miniature Tiffany Hearts along a delicate chain. I love it. Other than my children and the cat, it would be the one thing I would run to save from a fire…

I started thinking about hearts.. and I realize I have them all over our house! Most of the door knobs and cupboard doors have a little heart on them; our Christmas decorations are hearts…   I doodle hearts when I am bored in meetings!

So I decided to draw a heart… a real one… to see if I could see how and why the modern day heart is drawn as it is.. A quick sketch… while Tom drew Owen Farrell (the England Rugby Kicker) ..

And while we were drawing, both curled up on the sofa with our pencils, Olly Murs came on the radio… ‘I drew a broken heart… right on your window pane’…

So I hacked my heart… What would a real broken heart look like?


And as I drew a jagged, ugly, stapled scar right across it… it got me thinking that we all have had our hearts broken… or at least all of us non-psychopathic people… for broken hearts can be from anything from your first break up to your last, from lost babies, lost parents, lost friends… to when your child looks out of the class room window with tears and snot streaming down their faces as Willy did today, to the haunting memory of your Mum through locked doors and secure glass…

But each of those breaks, those dagger wounds… heal. They start open, bleeding, raw… but the human body, the human pschye is incredible…. Because we are self healing. We patch ourselves up with bandages, staples, stitches… until the muscles weave back together and mesh, bond, mend. They leave a scar, but along with the painful memory, it is a mark of success. A mark that we overcame something that hurt, but that we are stronger for it.

And they soon fade… the ones of my childhood as the goldfish died, the ones of my teenage years as we lost our first lacrosse match, the ones of my young adulthood as my first love said he no longer loved me in the car on the M40 just by the Watlington turn off…. The ones of my parenthood from losing multiple babies…. The scars are there… but softer, pinkish, faint.

Sometimes during the healing process… if you rush it, if your stitches and staples are sloppy, not given enough focus… another hurt, another bash or bruise, can make the scar open up again… just like a zipper! With the staples pinging off all over the place… blood gushing out, squirting like one of those funny scenes in ER or Greys Anatomy which always have me squirming and laughing as they all shout ‘Gauze! Get me gauze!’…

Those moments can leave us shouting ‘get me the wine! Lots of it!’… but it’s a bit like the gauze, it can only soak up a little bit of the pain… before you need to get back to work and heal properly… and only time can do that and hard work, reflection… and patience…. And compassion… for yourself.

For the only person that can heal your heart, is you.

And maybe a bar of Menier….