Grief is hard.

The pain of loss is hard.

I wrote most of this a few months ago, but finished it while walking across a grassy field on a sunny day. Hope it helps you if you need it.

There are some instances of grief that are crippling at first but fade over time. Other losses stay equally and painfully strong over a long period of time and actually just create a space to exist; almost a hollow where you can carry that grief and the pain may change over time but it’s still there.

The process of grief is often a concealed, inner ache that is rarely discussed. The theory of the seven stages of grief can be helpful but the reality is often not so simple… These stages are:

  1. Shock and Denial
  2. Pain and Guilt
  3. Anger and Bargaining
  4. Depression, Reflection and Loneliness
  5. The Upward Turn
  6. Reconstruction and Working Through
  7. Acceptance and Hope

https://www.recover-from-grief.com/7-stages-of-grief.html

The second stage, Pain and Guilt, proves the most difficult in my experience, particularly when someone close dies unexpectedly. Sometimes grief comes without warning, leaving you reeling just when you think your having a really nice day! In my mind, I still see a close friend walking into my office in only full leathers unzipped to the waist. Apparently it was too hot to wear anything else; the receptionist did not know where to look! He died in a motorbike accident in 2004 and is not forgotten, even though he was never on Facebook…

Then after my grandmother died, I kept going to the phone to call her, realising too late that she was no longer there… and a new wave of grief would hit me every time. This still happens five years later.

I wonder whether the Victorian approach to grieving was more honest. They wore black and went into mourning for a year. We seem to expect that grieving people only need support up to the funeral, but that’s not where grief ends, it’s actually where it often begins. Before that you’re just too busy with the arrangements.

Thankfully, there is now a social place to talk about the practical aspects and the recovery from losing someone. At the Death Cafe, the unsaid parts of dying are said. The practical, including how to make a will through to the grieving process are openly discussed. I’ve not been yet, but weirdly, think it’s important to.

Photo by Mike Labrum on Unsplash

There are other kinds of grief but these are not spoken of or understood so easily…

The grief of a broken relationship. The grief of a dream or hope that does not reach fruition. The grief of redundancy or even simply the loss of something precious to you, can all be painful to handle. There are some losses you may not ever recover fully from but can still move on from, even if you’re inherently different inside as a result. Just remember that there is help out there if you need it.

The Counselling Directory can help you find someone qualified to talk to. I suggest being selective and choosing someone who suits your needs at the time, as well as your personality.

I also came across some books recently that might help:

  • I am about to read ‘Michael Rosen’s Sad Book‘ (ISBN 9781406317848) written after the loss of his 19 year old son.
  • There is also ‘Badger’s Parting Gifts‘ (ISBN 9781849395144) written to help children who are bereaved, but also helped me to remember the experiences I shared with the person I lost. I’ve read it to my daughter many times.

For people who have just emerged from a broken relationship, Life After the Break training is available from Relate in Oxfordshire. I’m not sure if this is available across the country as yet, apologies.

As yet, I haven’t come across anything that helps specifically with losing a job, but maybe someone else has. Please let me know if you do!

I hope this blog has been helpful whatever your loss. If you are in mourning, please be kind to yourself. It’s not easy.

Love Ruth x

P.S. A friend, I haven’t see her in a long time since time passes so fast, is dying of breast cancer. She currently has a Crowdfunding campaign to help raise money for her imminent wedding… Please donate if you feel you are able to support her and her future husband: https://www.gofundme.com/shaun-and-sharon039s-wedding. I just want her to have the best time she can possibly have! She’s lovely. A great mother and friend ❤️ making a valiant, beautiful choice to seize the day. Carpe diem xxx

Header photo: Photo by Tess Nebula on Unsplash

Procrastination 😉

Ah yes, procrastination. The the art of putting stuff off until it really desperately needs doing…

There is a theory that: “Desperation concentrates the mind!”

However despite this being pretty much a family motto, it’s probably not the healthiest way! Having made a fair few revision plans, I know that time passes quickly. When you’re a kid a little extra time, a little more T.V., a little bit of messing about, seems like nothing… until the deadline is upon you and the panic is on!

Hitting 45 as you know, has focussed my mind on getting things done that I want to do – even my quilting project which so far has been delayed by ‘the creation planning process’ for around six months 😂. Now joined a group to get it started!

Life goes quick. Use it well.

Have a fun rest of weekend!

Love Ruth x

45 😳 Really?!

My grandmother always said she was 90 years old, but felt 25… (she died at 92 still with her youthful spirit and giggly attitude to life). I guess I’m starting feel that way, but honestly will probably pick 37 as my chosen age 🤗. Measured by wrinkles and personal experience, it kind of seems more believable! Anyone out there feel similar?

I was pretty depressed when a search on Unsplash for photos tagged ‘middle age’, generated a bunch of images of old people, businessmen or mums looking surprisingly unhaggard (not sure this is an accurate representation, but a bit of airbrushing never hurt anyone).

Then, I found this photo:

Photo by Sime Jadresin on Unsplash

She’s what I look like in my head. A few laughter lines, a sexy smile and a body, somewhat weathered, but still utterly gorgeous 🐣.

Many of you will know that I go on holiday for my and Nadia’s birthday, both at the end of August (one Leo, one Virgo, what a combination!). This year, I’m cancelling New Year’s resolutions and swapping to a sort of birthday ‘school report-esque’ check in on my life i.e. I write down stuff I did well last year, a few suggested changes and more stuff I want to do this year.

I may not get round to all of it, but the one plan I’m holding onto is writing a book. I’ll let you know if my seeds of ideas germinate into any half decent chapters. My aim is to finish it faster than my average project, usually a 10 year minimum term, and hopefully before my next birthday. At least, I hope to finish it before my hand looks like the old lady’s hand below:

Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

Any and all ideas on what the book should be about will be gratefully received.

The basic aim of my ‘stuff to do’ list is to make sure I do the things I actually want to do each year, not just the things I need or have to do. It’s true that time moves faster as you get older, not sure why, but I suspect it’s related to a limit on the amount you can reasonably remember…

Wishing you all the best for your next school year, whatever it brings… mine is the last of being a primary school pupil’s mum. Based on this year’s leavers assembly, there will be tears 😢 at the end.

Love Ruth x

P.S. Sadly, I have now moved onto a new age category in the questionnaires. Fortunately, I’ve already switched from reading Red and Marie Claire to Good-Housekeeping and Woman & Home, so I still fall into the lower age of their readership at least.

P.P.S. Have we really gone from Summer straight into Christmas?! Brain explodes 🤯

P.P.P.S. Through my daughter, I have recently discovered the Norris Nuts on YouTube. Those kids are pretty funny 😄. Gotta love the Ozzies!

La dolce far niente…

It’s Italian for ‘The sweetness of doing nothing.’

It’s what I plan to do for the next two weeks, probably involving a considerable amount of ice cream. Often it’s my favourite choice of weekend activity too… only I never knew what it was called until I finally watched the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ featuring Julia Roberts. She plays a woman healing from a broken relationship in Italy = Eat, India = Pray and Bali = Love.

‘La dolce far niente’ is a seriously underrated pastime. It restores you and enables you to live in the moment, whatever that moment brings. Not worrying about anything or anyone for a sweet period of time.

Photo by Derek Liang on Unsplash

Weirdly if you search for it on the internet, a bunch of gurus from various backgrounds talk about how you do it and/or how you achieve it.  This seems counterintuitive to me.

It’s the art of doing nothing. Simple.

See you in two weeks!

Love Ruth x

Header Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Ruth Goes to Ghana: Expedition 04G

I was prompted to write this by a Raleigh International update, which made me think about my expedition to Ghana and the affect it has had on my life…

It started with the weekend interview and a river crossing, in slippers by one candidate. I got in, personally I think due to my Mum’s training when camping as a child – I actually wiped down the groundsheet to sleep on and had a wooden spoon tucked away in my rucksack!

I raised money through a cash lottery with a weekly email update entitled ‘Ruth Goes to Ghana’ (one friend commented that I wrote like I think, very revealing for her!). The rest I basically just paid for out of my wages, resigned in September 2003, went ski-repping in Switzerland for the Winter and to Ghana in May 2004. They still did paper tickets for the plane back then…

Arriving in Ghana, I was overwhelmed by the constant drumming… It was green, a shock. Hot, not a shock. And everyone there was fascinated by my hair, long and blonde, and my skin, still very white.

Screenshot-20180804_025623

We trained as expedition leaders in Accra. Maybe 30 of us, mostly around 30-ish. That was the easy bit… The Venturers arrived about 5 weeks later. They were 17-25 years old, many from Glasgow, some gap year students, others Ghanaians. I did not understand much of what was said at first – accents (mostly Glaswegian), noise and chaos all contributing to this. Just outside Accra, we did our first trek with the group we would take onto the first Phase of the expedition. There were cobras, dehydrated young people, unbelievable tiredness and relentless heat.

Then I heard by letter that a good friend had been killed on a motorbike. He was 31, he never saw his child. He had emailed me just before I left and I had not replied before heading off to Ghana. As you can imagine, the expedition leader reading this Baz Luhrmann track went straight to my heart:

Sleeping in a tent became normal after 3 months. We cooked on BBQ-like stoves – including making bread from scratch. We sat over a very long pit, the long drop, some with chronic diahorrea… We built a primary school and nursery (making mud bricks from scratch), refurbished a hospital, constructed a toilet block and used machetes to carve a trail for the tourists visiting Bui National Park.

One of my overriding memories is of a young venturer who didn’t thrive in his first placement but subsequently found himself, weirdly through hefting a pickaxe. He changed from being a frustrated individual to being well-rounded, friendly, supportive and a pleasure to be with. As I understand it, he carried this attitude on into his future and I hope I was a little bit to do with that.

Screenshot-20180804_025816

Thinking about the experience of Ghana itself. Of course, there were mosquitos and very itchy, very large nits. There was also malaria and fairly frightening medical facilities… There was poverty but there was sharing the last of your food with someone who had none. There was illness but also people willing to take care of you. There was nothing in terms of material things compared to the UK but there was gratitude for something as simple as a pencil. Deeply inspirational.

I saw hippos in their natural habitat and a massive elephant called Action looked straight into my eyes from 20 yards away… I saw slave trading castles, where the floor in the room where the slaves were ‘stored’ before being transferred to the ship, was a metre higher than the rest of the building floor. Accumulated and compacted human waste.

All things considered my experience in Ghana had a profound impact on my view of life. Some lessons have taken me a while to absorb, others were immediate leaving me with a conviction that Adventures that Matter really matter. Exposure to other cultures and environments really matters. These experineces impact on the traveller, the local inhabitants and positively colour the world for both. They change perceptions, build confidence and create lifelong friendships.

In Ghana, I saw my favourite birthday sunrise. A memory I will hold forever.

Screenshot-20180804_025858

Book your own adventure soon.

Love Ruth x

P.S. Beware the reverse culture shock…

Visual Thinkers

Visual thinkers think in pictures instead of in words. This means we think fast!

It also means we sometimes take in more detail than we realise at first. We jump to the end of a train of thought and forget to explain the steps in the middle. Plus occasionally get overloaded with information and can’t communicate what’s going on, at least temporarily.

The landscape of factual, sensory and intuitive information we use in decisions is not always obvious as a result to those around us. The reflection process can be all encompassing as there is so much data to process and this can mean there’s a delay when answering a question or explaining the reason for a decision. In fact, sometimes it is very hard to voice in words the process going on in our heads. Think TV without the sound!

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

Cheri Florance of eBrain Engineering Labs has spent a substantial part of her life studying visual thinkers, as a result of her son being non-verbal as a child. She now helps adult and child visual thinkers to understand their brain and adapt to expected social behaviour. A visual thinker’s behaviour can seem odd to verbal thinkers, as they can experience anxiety in situations where there is effectively just too much information. Verbal thinkers may not see the thought patterns seen by the visual thinker so may just see someone withdraw. In many ways, to the outside world this behaviour may seem similar to autism.  Visual thinkers though are well adapted socially, most of the time.

I found this list of things we may do differently to a verbal thinker, which may help verbal thinkers understand the process we follow better: https://www.lifehack.org/275993/7-things-only-visual-thinkers-will-understand

If you’re scratching your head wondering who among your family and friends are visual thinkers. Here are a few indicators:

“1. Many visual thinkers are naturally original.  Since visual thinkers often think in pictures without realizing it, they may often create mental movies and are day dreamers. This triggers more innovative and imaginative thinking. In turn, they are rewarded with the ability to visualize things from multiple perspectives, making them creative and fascinated with large ideas that may not seem realistic to others.

2. They may not excel when trying to understand topics piece by piece.  Don’t get me wrong, they are talented in witnessing connections between things. Although, they may get frustrated if they cannot see the bigger picture or the “why” in the “what” to begin with. Piece by piece thinkers can see ideas in a linear way. In contrast, a visual thinker will try to see all of the parts at once and how they interact with each other. A good way to take this into account is to imagine a 3D map of thoughts.

3. They are constantly taking in new things.  Due to this 3D way of thinking, they have the tendency to notice and experience more of their surroundings. This can express itself from being aware of the wind blowing outside to the kid tapping his pencil in the back of the room and back to the teacher’s explanation of logarithmic differentiation. Many visual thinkers are easily distracted, but can also feel more immersed in their atmosphere, making them great explorers.

4. They have the potential to remember more or have a photographic memory.  Feeling more connected with their surroundings may cause an emotional attachment to what has happened in their presence. This makes them more susceptible to remembering the details of each moment in their life that would usually be overlooked by most people. Similar to the idea of mental movies that was mentioned earlier, they will visualize memories in a picture or scene exactly how they saw it at the time.

5. They may have trouble putting thoughts into words.  Lots of people have trouble explaining how they feel or even putting their ideas into words. If this is you, consider the possibility that it’s because you think partly, or mainly, in pictures. Often, a person will simply label themselves as a poor communicator. In reality, it’s not the fault of the person, but the way that their brain makes sense of information. I mean, how does one put a visual scenario into words without working harder than most to say it out loud?”

by Alexis Thomas, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-signs-visual-thinker

Photo by Rob Schreckhise on Unsplash

“The best indicator is your job, as visual brains lead to visual professions – engineer, doctor, pilot, computer expert, graphic designer, artist, dentist.”

Cheri Florance

Often surgeons are also visual thinkers and respond better to a video of a procedure to learn than a verbal explanation. This may help explain the difficulties visual thinkers have in comprehension. My daughter certainly finds this tricky and in all honesty, it only just occurred to me that this may be the cause… her obsession with YouTube and emojis finally explained!

Hope this was interesting!

Love Ruth x

Aloneness 😞

What is more important? Personal privacy or feeling alone in your community? The advantage of a small place is that you are usually supported and known pretty well. The disadvantage is that many people know the details of your life! Good or bad.

I met someone last month, on the bus as it happens, and we started talking about the weather, travelling, living in cities versus villages and ultimately the sense of community you do or don’t have. The sense of connectedness or not. And the feeling of being supported by that community or literally being an invisible resident.

Photo by Thomas Charters on Unsplash

I feel sad at the level of aloneness in our communities. This is not the same as loneliness. It’s more about not seeing people at all. It’s a kind of social isolation. It seems to happen to the older generation, especially when their partners die (Age UK run a befriending service if of interest), to those confined to their home for multiple reasons and in my experience when you move to a new place and have a new baby!

I was particularly touched by the story of a blind woman, I suspect it was linked to a charity campaign but honestly can’t remember which one, who literally spent every day on her own, all week, with only the radio and story tapes for company. Horrendous. She then received a guide dog to help her get around, and suddenly her life was transformed. She could go out, meet people, talk. Guide dogs are precious in this situation, it’s hard to train them and not every dog has the inherent skills to succeed, but you can support them in trying to through sponsoring a puppy with Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash

As some of you know I’m an intermittent church goer and happened to go last Sunday to the local family service. The vicar spoke of the importance of not labelling people and asked us to make a badge. On the front we wrote ‘Loved by God’, our name, then VIP. For the back we were asked to think of someone we disliked, had labelled negatively or simply didn’t notice at all in our life. Then on the back we wrote ‘Loved by God’, their name (or a symbol to represent them) and VIP, and then we were asked to pin the badge on our left side, over our heart. I won’t tell you who I put on the back of my badge, just that it was a pretty difficult process to see that person as ‘Loved by God’! However, it did make me think.

Last week I also (in the spirit of talking to whoever is I front of you) found two great prospects for potential sales, without ever expecting those conversations to offer that possibility. I think watching the film ‘Legally Blonde 2‘ helped! Weirdly, it reminded me that opportunity, help and support come from the most unlikely places.

Have a great weekend!

Love Ruth x