Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Does an angel contemplate my fate?

Yesterday my Mum and I went to Sunderland to see Take That in concert. Clive had booked the tickets the day came on sale purely because he kept seeing the scramble on Facebook about those who were struggling to get them! He tried and, bingo, got two! He was like a big kid with a new toy!

He had thought about using them as a 'golden ticket' idea with his new book 'It's not your time, it's the time you have'. Order form here . But then he got worried if it was a valid website as the stories of 'fakes' hit the news. The last conversation we had about them was that he wanted me to go and take a friend.

In the end my Mum was the other person! I know I have said before about my Mum and me going to concerts together. Over the years we have shared many magic moments. My parents may be in their mid 70's but are superb examples of how to spend your retirement and Clive said he aspired to be like them. Their unconditional love for my brother, sister and I plus our children knows no bounds. Here's Mum jet skiing a couple of years ago!


Mum got the train to me over to York and I collected her from the station. Her companions had consisted of two families - one who allowed their toddler to pick his nose and wipe the contents on a table, followed by another family who then allowed their child to eat crisps off the same table! Yuk!

We drove to Sunderland and having read the blurb that came with the tickets 'Sunderland was full of bars and restaurants'. It was if you counted Greggs and wanted a pie in the street! After ages of fruitless searching we did find Nandos where the queue was out of the door. It was a long wait but they gave us free nibbles in the queue and we were both extremely impressed by the staff in there. Considering they were literally run off their feet, each customer was dealt with politely, with warm smiles and a commendable calmness. We told the manager what a wonderful team he had to which he replied 'I know'.

At the stadium we joined a huge queue, which was dealt with very efficiently only to be told we were in the wrong one when we got to the barrier! We had joined the 'standing' crowd and not seated ones. We sat on the second to back row of the second tier, half way down the pitch. It was a great view and we happily people watched. The crowd spanned the generations and there were plenty of men there too.

The special guests were The Pet Shop boys. Their set was amazing with very unusual dancers, costumes and brilliant use of video and camera shots of the audience. I don't think I have ever seen a supporting act so well received.

Take That came on (minus Robbie) to huge roars. What a stunning atmosphere! The staging was spectacular throughout, as were the costumes, dancers, everything. There was so much going on that you didn't know where to look!

Robbie came on. Sorry, but he spoiled it.  He came over as arrogant but mainly his foul mouth was totally unnecessary. Why spoil so much talent with it? Every other word was an expletive more suited to a rough, back street brawl rather than a mixed audience of almost 55,000.
However, this reduced me to tears. Big sobs. Huge tears.



Mum grabbed my hand, hugged me, pulled me to my feet and holding me tightly we sung and swayed with everyone else. The pain was stabbing me like a 1,000 blades. Why has my Clive gone? Why is he not here enjoying this spectacle with me? Why has he been taken?

A few years ago I was in a shop in a Cheshire craft village. As I purchased a card the assistant looked up, gasped and said 'Wow! Do you know you are surrounded by so many angels watching over you? You have a special role to fill'.
I was taken aback at the time. Maybe that role is now unfolding? 

As we swayed new thoughts warmed and comforted me. I could sense him hugging me too. I felt his approval at us being there. His words of 'take someone who would really appreciate it' rang in my head. I had. My Mum and I were part of a massive crowd and enjoying a special moment. One that I will always treasure. New memories are being made now all the time. In future I shall think of my Mum when I hear that song (as well as Libby in a school play many years ago). I shall think of her love protecting me. I might be 47 but I know I am still the same little girl she would do anything to protect from hurt and pain. She and Dad feel useless in my current situation. They can't bring Clive back and they know how besotted I was. I often say it's enough to 'be there'. That was a wonderful example. I appreciated Clive so much at that moment for making it possible. I appreciated Mum more than words can say. As a little girl I remember once crying to her about what would I do if she died. Her reply was 'don't grieve for the living'. I have never forgotten that. Yet is is only now I understand fully what grief is and it's not a nice experience. However, it has made me appreciate the living more and being 'in the moment' with them. As I have just logged on to post this a comment on my last post tells me how my blog and openness is making them do this too.



It took us over an hour to get out of Sunderland and was after 2 when we got back home. We were frozen! Somehow the word' stadium' on the tickets had not translated in my brain as 'open-air, potential to be cold'! I was thinking of 'arena - light clothes and not much space for things! Brrr! Mum and I decided to sleep together complete with furry blanket!! A  perfect end to a special day with her. I remembered the last time I had slept with her days after Clive died when grief literally tore threw my body. Take That's tour is called 'Progress'.

I acknowledge I am making it too.

Elaine x

www.hanzak.com
www.clivegott.com

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Weeding out the pain

I have been reminded that I have not blogged for a few days! Seems I have been missed – that’s nice, so thank you.

Basically I have been on my travels to Cardiff. I had a long but productive train journey from York down to Cardiff on Wednesday. I decided to have a coffee in Costa at York station, a regular venue for Clive and me. Although I was excited for my trip I also felt very sad that it was only me. Clive had booked us into the gorgeous St. David’s Bay hotel for this adventure and wanted me to have a pamper. I could not face going there alone so changed to the Holiday Inn. I had arranged to see Dr Ian Jones at Cardiff University who has a special department on Maternal Mental Health. Meanwhile Clive was to speak for one of our friends, Don Hales, at the Customer Service Training Network.

I could have got very morose and initially I did. I had hardly slept on Tuesday night through being upset. I felt washed out, weary and fragile. Some supportive texts on my way down really helped, as did this comment from Saturday’s presentation:-

Elaine thank you for sharing your story with us. Do continue to inspire and encourage others and remember that joy and laughter are also part of Clive's legacy to you.

I changed my thinking and decided that Clive would have agreed with this message. It also helped to write my previous blog on ways to ease the pain of loss. My own words began to heal me – I have to remind myself that one of the worse things ever has happened to me in losing Clive. In comparison nothing else is significant.

Once in Cardiff I walked to the hotel. I have spoken here before for Nursing in Practice  and the Royal College of Midwives  so it felt familiar. The excitement began to build.

I met up with lovely Don and his colleague Anne-Marie. We had a tasty meal together and a warm and friendly chat about many things, including Clive. I know Clive had a great deal of respect and affection for Don, as do I, and the feeling was mutual. We both agreed how pleased Clive had been to present for them. Don heard me speak before I had met Clive so he was delighted for me to be a replacement. I was eager for his evaluation on my new keynote.

I slept well and next morning got a taxi to British Gas who was hosting the event.

The Customer Service Training Network  is a mutual self-help membership body formed by Don Hales in 2007 to enable those involved in customer service training and associated activities to meet on a regular basis to share ideas: listen to great presentations: keep up to date with latest developments and develop a network of colleagues in various organisations to call upon when necessary. The Association is open to everyone who has an interest in customer service training provided they respect the aims of the membership.

It was fascinating to listen to how customer service training and changes have been made at British Gas and I was happy to give my talk just before lunch. Although I am waiting for the full feedback, it would appear I was ‘brilliant’! I am thrilled. It would appear that my audience now has widened to anyone who needs some inspiration to ‘get through’ when life hits you hard.

Over lunch I was stunned to hear how my story and suggestions had impacted on some of those present. Following me was Lynne Cobb from the Work Life Company I thought her facts, figures and ways to reduce sickness levels in the workplace was a perfect ‘follow-on’ from my personal story.

I felt very emotional as Ieft the building. I had huge excitement in that my belief that my new keynote is applicable for audiences who are not just health professionals, but business too. This had been confirmed. I felt humbled and privileged by those delegates who shared personal stories with me. I had a wave of such sadness too as I know how well Clive would have received by them. He would have been snapped up by some of the companies to present for them. The pleasure. The pain.

I got myself together and was delighted to be met by fellow trustee Martin Johnson from Joe (Joanne) Bingley Memorial Fund.

We went for a very productive meeting with Ian. We told him about the Foundation and he told us of the different groups he is involved in regarding maternal mental health. Watch this space!

Martin and I went for a delicious meal at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant. Will was our waiter – what an excellent example of customer service from a young man who obviously loves his work. The food was excellent, as was the company and Will was a pleasure to be served by. By the time I was having a cool Guinness back in the hotel I felt mellow, pleased with myself and warm in the knowledge that Clive would be proud of me.

Friday was spent on UK motorways! It should have taken 4 hours but due to Bank Holiday weekend traffic and a few bumps it was almost twice as long! Poor Martin!

My day was made by the first comments from Don which made the trip worthwhile.

It was a very quick change at home as next stop was Leeds Rhinos www.leedsrugby.com/ versus Warrington Wolves which I shared with Lynn and friends Nic and Bob. Even though we got beaten I enjoyed the game. The spectators behind us were rather loud and I was doing well until Rhinos scored a try and someone in the stand shouted ‘whoop – woo’ just as Clive used to. I held Lynn’s hand tightly and fought back the tears. The swing from pleasure to pain is horrible. It can change so fast and I have to remind myself not to dwell on the pain.

Once Nic and Bob had left on Saturday I knew I needed ‘me time’. I have had a week of travelling, presenting, being sociable, being very high, getting very upset and low. I have been gearing up to this week for a while and put my focus on it, and no further. It has been a success but I know I need to recharge before I follow-up and take the next steps forward.

I have spoken to several people and am looking forward to having time with my family next. Yesterday I merely settled on the sofa and caught up with various television programmes. I finally defrosted a mince dish that Clive had made literally the day he died. Yes I could have kept it for months but I know he’d have said ‘get a grip’! So I had a can of Guinness and enjoyed it whilst I watched Britain’s Got Talent. The combination of it all was too much and once again the tears fell. Between my red eyes, blotchy face and runny nose I laughed at myself. What would my audience say now? Where was the brave, courageous lady they had seen and described? A crumbled wreck in her dressing gown! I gave up in the end and went to bed. I was actually pleased that I had actually done nothing!

As I settled in bed I made my mind up that I would have a productive day today. I watched ‘Face off’ to avoid the inevitable void I get at bedtime. I try to be positive and not burden anyone. I know everyone else has to get on with their lives and I must rebuild mine. Yet still the ache of missing Clive is massive. I miss his laugh. His touch. His hopes for our future. His excitement. His singing. Every darn thing. Sadly no-one can help with that.

When I woke this morning I felt optimistic and decided to start with tea and toast in bed with Steve Wright Sunday Love Songs. That was fine until Frankie Valli sang ‘My eyes adored you’. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HJ7w9MTCqs&feature=fvwrel

I stroked the empty pillows at my side. In spite of all my best intentions this underlying massive hole and sadness remains. I loved the way Clive constantly told me that he ‘adored’ me. He always stressed the‘d’. Why oh why has he gone?

I gave myself a pep talk and decided to get into ‘busy’ mode at my computer to catch up on things. All systems go – except the computer! The mouse had died on me! And the printer needed ink. I went to Tesco for a new mouse, ink and a couple of bits. Whilst there I had a Sunday brunch, eating in the cafe where we had often had a scone. Sad again.

Back at home, fed, organised and ready to get busy the computer still refused to co-operate! I smiled at the thought that maybe Clive was telling me it was a ‘none office’ day! We often would have that rule at weekends as the tendency of being self-employed means you never switch off!

Instead, as the rain had stopped, I did some gardening. I had been ashamed of the length of the grass last week and had asked Rod if he would do the lawns for me, which he kindly did when Lynn and I were at rugby. The borders were a disgrace. In the past two of us shared all the house and garden tasks. It is a challenge keeping up and I am finding time an issue!

I regularly fought back the tears as I dug and weeded. Clive had really begun to love the garden and took great pride and enthusiasm in it. Each area held different memories. I wondered if he had realised as he planted some of the plants last year if he would have lived any day differently had he known his fate? Would you? If you knew that your days were numbered would you have spent today as you did? Would you be worrying about what you are worrying about now? Would it be so important? So should it be so now?

I have used my laptop for writing this as I watch Britain’s Got Talent. The last two years Clive and I had loved watching it together. He loved the whole concept of ‘people working hard at their talent and passion and getting recognition’. It was what he was about and often he’d be in tears too.

I am well aware that tomorrow my Mum will be telling me off for ‘torturing myself’ today. Arguably I have. Or is it that in order to be the strong lady at times I HAVE to allow myself days like today? I am not hiding from my emotions. I am not fighting them.

Clive was indeed my soul mate and would have been my husband with an exciting future ahead of us. It has been snatched away. After 3 months I feel that perhaps sympathy is waning. By now I should be ‘over him’. I should just ‘get on’ and let others do likewise.

It’s not easy when I still feel my heart has been ripped out. But I shall plod on! After such optimism for my speaking career this week I refuse to be down! Clive may not be here but his legacy would for me still to have fun and laughter.

Now it’s bath time, candles and restful music! Tomorrow is another day, I shall pick myself up and be determined to smile again!

N nite,

Elaine x

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Easing the pain of loss

13 weeks after the death of my partner and soul mate I was asked 'how do you cope with the physical pain of loss that you feel in your stomach?'

I have been told these ideas can help cope with change, loss or difficulties in many other ways too.

Here are some of my tips, using my HANZAK principles:-

Hope

Recall a previous time when you mourned the loss of something or life was challenging. Have you had periods of happiness since then and before your latest loss? If so, you know it IS possible and happier times will come again.

Be gentle on yourself and be patient. You may find your moods swing and flip like a roller coaster ride. At least when you have a dip you know that you WILL come back up again. When you are up, enjoy it and don't spoil it by worrying about the next inevitable down. As time passes the peaks and troughs won't be as extreme and a more even keel will gradually appear. Start to recognise and prepare for the pattern of triggers that bring you down - mine is tiredness and doing too much. Pace yourself. Be prepared to be more sensitive and vulnerable in those periods and 'ride the storm' before lashing out. I just made a mountain out of a molehill these last 24 hours and caused myself and a few others unnecessary worry. Sorry! In the space of a few hours I have gone from hysterical to happy!


I also struggled initially with parting from my other loved ones - would I see them again? We cannot live in a constant state of panic and 'what ifs'. My Mum always says 'worry when things happen'. I have made this easier though by always having a date in place for the next time I will see them. It helps with a goodbye if you know when the next hello will be.

Honesty

Bottling up how you feel is more likely to store up problems which will rear their heads at a later date. Express yourself! If this means finding an open space to literally howl, swear, sob then so be it. I think you may have noticed that I find writing helps! Often by describing my troughs by the time I have written it, my mood has lifted!

Think of the pain as a toxin you want to let out.

Talk to someone, starting with yourself. Admit how you feel. Anger, pity, whatever it is. There is no need to chastise yourself with criticism that you shouldn't feel a certain way. Acknowledge that is where you are at that moment and you are more likely to be able to move on.

Attitude

You are in charge and in control of your thoughts, behaviours and actions. The cause of your loss may or may not be your fault and out of your control but how you respond IS.

As my late partner would say 'it's happened. Deal with it'.

I continue to torture myself with immersing myself in situations or thought processes which remind me of him. For example, playing music which has poignant memories, playing out 'we should have been doing this together' games in my head.

I have to change my attitude to one of gratitude of happy times and what we did share rather than adding to my remorse for what will now not be possible. Earlier today I was tearful at anything! Now I have just walked along a shopping street and wherever I look are reminders - a car like his, Oakley sunglasses, Starbucks, the list is endless. I smiled at them now.

As with any situation in life others will prefer to be with you if you smile and are positive rather than being a misery.

Do you want to waste the present by clouding it with the past and therefore maybe negatively affecting your future?

You can choose to wallow at times (which I believe is necessary too) but if you have the chance to spend time with others, then put on a smile and go! Even if it is a fake one initially, give it time then it is likely to become genuine.



Needs.

These must be met - social, emotional, practical, etc. I break these down into the following:-

Nurture

How do you make yourself feel special? Treat yourself well. If you had been injured physically wouldn't you do this? It's okay to have a duvet day or few hours every now and then. Indulge and view it as recharging your batteries. After surgery you would do this and as it feels like your heart and insides have been ripped out then rest is needed. Later that day or the next the chances are that you will get fed up and/or your mood will lift.

Education

If this is a new situation for you find out about who else has been through it and consult them. Look on the internet for support groups or relevant information for ideas on 'getting through'. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone and reading of how others have managed can help.

Exercise

Staying in bed or having a love affair with the sofa and tv remote control are not long term solutions! Break up the day by even just a walk around the block. A walk in the elements of wind and rain can be soothing. And it doesn't matter if you are tear stained or wind blown!

I love a bike ride and wide, open spaces.

Diet

Extremes of this are easy. Pig out or starve! For the first few weeks I had to force feed myself. Everything tasted the same. Cardboard. My appetite did come back but I find shopping and dining for one is not fun - yet. The freezer still has food we bought/cooked together. It makes me happy and sad at the same time. Friends invited me around for meals or brought one with them. I also invited myself to their homes too! Accept all offers to go out.

http://www.dontenvyaspire.myforever.biz/store


Sleep

This is the one I find hardest and the one I know has a profound effect on the following day!

Having been used to sharing a bed the loneliness is worst here. Not having someone to chat about the day and plans for the next is hard. And just the cuddles, giggles and snores are now missing. The silence is deafening. The coldness is bitter. Initially I had strong sleeping pills from the doctor but she warned they were addictive so I only used them a week or so. I have tried milder ones but reacted badly.

What else?

I redecorated the bedroom with all the new things we had planned to use. It is now a beautiful room and has created a new anchor rather than the paramedics working on Clive.

I avoid turning off the light! I have a candle-lit bath plus music. A bin outside the door to 'leave' worries in and a journal to write things I have been grateful for plus happy memories.

I have pillows down the bed to physically fill the void and a cuddly dog given to me by my 9 year old neighbour plus other fluffy animals!
I still struggle. If I feel I am getting upset I now text a friend and/or chat. That helps so much. If I am away from home I now prefer a single bed. The empty space seems less obvious then.

Next to try is a relaxation CD. I am waiting for delivery of this one http://www.hantshypno.co.uk/mp3.html

For more sleep ideas see herefrom the Mental Health Foundation.

Zest

Just because you are recovering from the shock and reality of a loss does not mean you should be denied fun! I was brought up to 'if you are not well enough for school, you are not well enough for anything else!'

A good lesson but it does make you feel guilty about appearing to have fun in the midst of mourning. Clive used to say that guilt is an emotion we choose to accept. You should only feel real guilt if you have done anything maliciously wrong.

There are no rules about mourning apart from those limiting beliefs we put on ourselves. If we were recovering from physical ill health would we reprimand ourselves for smiling or worse, laughing, when we felt good? So why do we tend to do this when the hurt is mental?
We have enough pain. Why add to it?  Several times I could easily have declined and stayed in but having made the effort was glad I did.

So say yes to all invitations!

Sensory pleasures need to be indulged in. Create your own list of things that make you feel good. When you feel your mood begin to drop and the pain rise use your 'feel good first-aid tool kit' to boost you out of it.

Create pleasurable environments around you. Make your spaces ones which fill you with pleasure not pain. What is in your car to make you feel good? At your desk? The pictures on your phone?

Treat yourself with love, as you would a best friend. You deserve it. You need to love yourself before anyone else can effectively.

We all need days at home when we don't fuss with our appearance but making an effort other times really does boost you. Going out in your scruffs will make you feel worthless - dress up and your posture and thoughts will lift. Concerned friends can treat you to pampering! Thanks for my nails Dinah xxxx

Altogether

The last 13 weeks would have been even more unbearable without the support of others around me. Family, friends and neighbours have been outstanding in their unconditional love, support and offers of help and company. Accept it graciously and appreciate it warmly. They want to help and it makes them feel useful and therefore good. It is selfish to deny them!

Share yourself about though and remember that they have their owns lives to get on with. If anything, encourage them to spend time with their loved ones because, like you, there is no knowing if there will be another chance.  We all should learn to appreciate and value those around us more. What is it about a special relationship that you haven't done in a long while. If you have lost one, perhaps this is the time to attend to others?

Physically being with people cannot be beaten but also I find text, email and social media invaluable. There is always someone 'there' so don't suffer in silence. You will soon find out who are true friends and new friends will come into your life.

Get up, get out and be with positive people!

Kindness

Start with yourself! You have lost someone that you loved. A part of you always will do, even if just memories of happy times. Cherish them. Possessions and items can go but no-one can take those wonderful memories from you.

But spend time making new memories and friendships.

Be kind to others and treat them as you wish to be treated.

Choose the people that empathise and respect your loss, that will be honest with you and be there for you.

Just as a physical scar heals and fades a mental one will. It just won't be as painful.



Hope that this helps - it has been a good reminder for myself!
If you think it is useful please pass on to someone who might also find comfort from it.

Elaine x


www.hanzak.com
www.clivegott.com

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Back on the workshops again!

After my hectic but enlightening weekend at the conference it was brilliant to read this comment from Gary on my blog,

Hi Elaine ... you were a great hit at conference (knew you would be) and it was down to you being you ... so well done for an outstanding presentation and for becoming part of our conference by joining in with 'the experience!' ... Gary 

I am thrilled to bits!
I had a morning catching up with a few things - I am beginning to notice the number of jobs around the place that aren't being done, such as weeding. I am simply too busy at the moment - roll on the weekend and I will get dug in - literally.

Yesterday afternoon I was at my desk again feeling overwhelmed. I am so sorry if you are waiting for a reply from me. I will get to you eventually. My focus this week is on my presentations. I went into panic mode but then calmed down by dealing with urgent things.
Ann came in preparation for our workshop in Doncaster today.

We went for our tea to a local restaurant called Tritons. Clive and I often went here for fish and chips and always sat at the same table. I hadn't been since he died. I took a deep breath as we went in and found it hard but insisted in sitting in 'his' seat! I would have been okay except the music playing was Lionel Richie's Greatest hits. Regular readers will know the significance of that. I was back in the concert, smooching with Clive as the rest of the world disappeared...



The tears came but then when 'Three Times A Lady' played I remembered the previous night when James had played this for me in the bar at the conference. I smiled. A new memory. A decision to choose to think positively and the rest of the evening was lovely, with Ann and I increasing our bond with a glass of red wine!

We sorted out our workshop finer details and went to bed.

Today could have gone from bad to worse ... the postcode on the website for the Children's centre venue was wrong, so I phoned for instructions. As I leaned forward to change it on my Sat Nav there was a ripping noise and my favourite red dress was torn under my right arm! Aaargh! Once at the venue I had trouble with the projector and laptop, until Chris pressed 'RGB' instead of 'Video'. I could have chosen to decide all that meant a dreadful day. But I didn't.

So  Ann and I delivered our workshop on postnatal depression with a renewed passion and drive. The day flew by and once again the testimonials are wonderful! I am especially pleased that the delegates appreciate the need to look after themselves in order to look after others.

To those who were there, thank you for sharing the day with us and we look forward to doing more soon.

The settee and I are friends for the rest of this evening. I am tired but happy!

My Mum and others have been telling me that I have been torturing myself with some memories of Clive. I am learning to choose not to. I even coped with coming home without him tonight as I made more plans on the journey home and all I needed was my dressing gown on and REST!

N nite,

Elaine x

Monday, 23 May 2011

The International Association of Pure Hypnoanalysts - Part 2

I wrote up my blog for the day so far - but no wifi in the hotel! Don't be silly! By now I had almost begun to like the charm of this 70's relic! In my favourite long dress that Clive had got me on impulse I wandered down for the dinner. The room was like a set for 'Big Fat Gypsy Wedding'!  There were massive chandeliers, curtains and shiny floors, with black floral wallpaper. This room has been renovated!

The chandeliers, Rob Kelly and I!
The company at the dinner table was wonderful and the meal was, erm, long! The waiting staff did their best and our waitress was very pleasant but plates were cold, food served all at unco-ordinated times and rather basic! It didn't matter to me as by now I had begun strangely to endear to the place!

We were entertained by one of the Scottish therapists who played the bag pipes. Other talented members of the Association took to the stage and played all evening. I had a great time! James even had me doing figure of 8 moves!

 
James 'just back from Florida' and me

At one point I left the dance floor to go to the ladies. Half way down the stairs I suddenly heard the band play 'Summer of '69'. This is why ...




I froze. Tears pricked the back of my eyes and I began to feel the rising tide of grief about to overwhelm me. In a flash I realised I had a choice. Did I let this overtake me and spend the rest of the evening in my little room weeping OR did I turn back up the stairs, grab Patrick who I had sat next to at dinner by the hand and dance? I chose the latter and four hours later was still up and being sociable!

In the bar Rob and James plus others played the keyboard and singing went on into the early hours. Wonderful.


I am very grateful to Gary who suggested to Rob that I spoke at the conference. I had so many warm hugs from delegates! I was thrilled that it seems I have inspired some of them to share their own stories; they want to 'share' me with others who may benefit from an uplifting approach; struck a chord with others who had been bereaved; and especially those affected by postnatal depression in some way. I felt my visit was not in vain.
Me, Gary and Sue
I went to bed with sore feet but a happy and content feeling. No trouble sleeping tonight!
See more photos here.

Next morning I joined the conference again and first one was Gary with some great 'warm-up' activities. Dr. Mark Pummell then described his psychoanalytical approach to working with couples. Fascinating!

Rob spoke more on 'Changing Limiting Beliefs' . The more time I spent with these lovely people the more I was thinking of people who could benefit from their interventions, especially around postnatal depression. I was also so pleased to have my personal ways of coping with Clive's death 'validated' as clinically proven techniques, e.g. changing my thinking and making positive choices and thoughts instead of negative.

It was actually some sessions of hypnotherapy that resulted in my book 'Eyes without Sparkle' being written. I had got so far with it and then just left it to gather dust. In the late 1990's I development digestive problems and was in and out of hospital. Finally I was sent to Mike Mahoney for a hypnotherapy approach to pain relief. He actually listened to me, gave me some relaxation tapes bespoke for me and gently made me realise that I could take control. My diet was changed to be wheat free and the book got written! 

I was reluctant to leave but I know I have to pace myself for a busy week. I called enroute home for a quick catch-up with friends. I was a bit concerned that after being so 'high' I could crash on my return. Luckily some other friends popped round and I was able to share my excitement with them but also had someone to hold my hand when the thought crossed my mind that was it bad for me to actually feel so uplifted so close to Clive's death? Did it mean I didn't love him as much? Does it mean I don't care anymore?

I cannot write what my lovely friend Molly Harvey commented on those thoughts this morning!

Having spent the weekend with a group of the warmest, friendliest therapists I know I have to change my thinking to acknowledge that those thoughts are normal but also a sign that I am making progress along my journey of bereavement. 

I just hope that wherever Clive is he would be proud of me - I admit to being so of myself.

Elaine x

www.hanzak.com
www.clivegott.com

My weekend with the The International Association of Pure Hypnoanalysts

When a day starts with a visit from someone passing ‘just to give you a hug’ it HAS to be good. That’s what Clive’s sister Lynn did on Saturday morning as she knew I was about to leave for a conference to present my new keynote.

 It did look troublesome though a few hours earlier. On Friday night I decided I would take the new tablets I had been given to help me sleep. Very silly in retrospect as I knew I needed to be on top form for my talk. I took a couple at 9 p.m. and slid into bed by 11. I was feeling confident with my preparation, was thinking happy thoughts BUT then my legs began to twitch and my head was spinning. I could not relax at all! One night when I was really ill with puerperal psychosis I had been given a new drug and that had the same effect. On that occasion I had wandered around the ward, collided with a book case, knocking a vase off and was severely reprimanded by a member of staff.

I remember when Clive read how I had been treated that night he text me (in my saved messages),
‘Just so that you know, I am your knight and it is my job to protect you and I will do that with the last breath in my body. I truly adore you and everything you are’.

At the time I didn’t know he was reading my book but when we were next together he said that woman’s bullying of me had made him furious. Once he had read my story he completely supported my passion for making early parenthood happier for others by reducing the effects of postnatal depression.

So to have similar side effects in the early hours of this morning on my own was scary! For while I debated if to put on Facebook ‘Help! How can I get this drug out of my system?’

I must have dosed off eventually and thank goodness when my alarm went off I felt good. I didn’t feel drowsy but my mouth was as dry as the bottom of a birdcage – one of the other side effects. I won’t be taking any more! Back to other methods!

I took a drink and breakfast back up to bed – strawberries and lemon tart! Dessert left over from last night. How decadent! Neither would have been left if Clive had been around! Incredibly my hair was still looking good from Paula doing it for me at Genesis on Thursday so no action needed.

I packed up, got ready in jeans and T-shirt and set off for Coventry. En-route I had a few phone calls on hands-free but didn’t notice a wrong turn and kept wondering what the flashing circle with an arrow pointing down meant on my Sat Nav. Hmm, slight detour needed! I then realised I was doing a route near Worksop that I had driven Clive to present a workshop at a few weeks before Christmas. It reminded me of many happy hours in the car. He often had flashes of inspiration and blog ideas as he was driving and would suddenly announce ‘write such and such down.’ We were a great team.

I finally got to Tibshelf services on the M1. On one journey last year we had bumped into fellow speaker Paul McGee there. Until this New Year Clive would stop there for coffee and a cake for us, regardless of time of day. He ate so much junk on car journeys. In his desire to lose weight this year he had changed his thinking about diet and finance and we had a new habit. Fruit tea in thermo cups when we left home plus a bag of fruit and healthy snacks in the car. Over a few weeks he worked out that he had lost not just pounds in weight but also in cash. See his blogs here.

I sat today having tea and a toasted teacake remembering. Sad but not tearful. In the ladies I did my ‘random act of kindness’ by tucking in a ladies label hanging out of the back of her neck! Made me smile as that is what Clive would have done (not in the ladies though!).

I spoke to Dom who wished me luck and as I drove the last few miles more memories were uncovered. I passed signs for The Belfry where we had just sorted out some engagements a few weeks before Clive died. Next was The Forest of Arden hotel, the venue of a PSA event I have wonderful memories of. Even a Jet garage I recognised upset me. But I changed my thinking and my actions. Knowing I was only a few moments away from the venue I put Bruno Mars ‘You’re Amazing’ on and stroked my cheek as Clive used to. Both gave me strength.



On arrival at the hotel I knew I was in time to catch the last speaker of the morning. No exaggeration I then spent 25 minutes waiting for a member of staff to appear! Seriously! I finally found someone laying tables who apologised that she was also the receptionist. She told me I could not have a room until 2 pm on which I politely told her I needed somewhere to change as I was due to speak at the conference at 2. She literally ran off and came down saying my room was ready after doing some changes on the computer with the comment ‘it’s only you?’. Hmmm. My room was the tiniest single I have seen! The shower room had a plum coloured suite and the wardrobe so narrow you have to hang clothes sideways on the rail! It was a 70’s time warp! No chance of feeling lonely in a big bed here!

I was booked to speak for the IAPH. Once changed I caught the end of what sounded like a brilliant presentation by Rob Kelly. His last message on people changing their internal dialogue to make a tragic situation into a positive one blended great into mine. He told the story of a young woman whose husband was swept away by the Boxing Day Tusnami on their honeymoon. She has now set up a charity for the children in that area.

At lunch break I checked my presentation had loaded correctly and went to dine. Immediately I felt welcomed and at ease. The receptionist/table setter/waitress was now serving meals! Had she cooked too? The hotel has been taken over apparently and there is a great deal of renovation going on and not many staff. I just smiled at her and felt sorry she was so stressed.

Then it was my turn to speak. I told my life story – so far – using photographs, touching on the main points, ending with Clive’s death and my new journey. The photo collage I did along with Rascal Flatts 'My Wish', went down well. It is pure joy to see a sea of faces all being attentive! I got nods, smiles and shock at appropriate times. I went on to talk about my 'Hanzak principles' of coping with life’s challenges, illustrated with anecdotes and stories from my life.

I was really pleased that I did not have the urge to cry at all! I don’t want to be perceived as using the platform as part of my own recovery. I want to show strength but also not hide my vulnerability.

I could sense how far I have come since I spoke in Colchester within a few weeks of Clive’s death. That time I felt him hold me all the way through. Today I sensed a ‘hand on tummy’ time when I was looking at the photos on the song. I had chosen ‘fun’ ones because we did have a huge amount of it.

Comments I got were ‘Superb. Powerful. Touching. Brave. Wonderful. Useful’.
To say I am pleased is an understatement!

Back in my room I realised I hadn’t packed a nightie and was luckily talking to a friend on my mobile when two delegates let themselves into my room!! It was a good job Nic rang or they would have got a shock! The receptionist had told them she had just checked that this room was ready for them! What? A single for two people that a third was already checked in?!

It was a room. The company was what mattered. Time for a posh frock for dinner!

I just hoped the receptionist did not serve us cornflakes! .......

To be continued!

Elaine x

Friday, 20 May 2011

Andy's done it!

It's been an odd day. It started well with me adding finishing touches to my new keynote. I don't do a script as that is too 'wooden' and it doesn't flow well. I do just think and make a one word note for the most relevant points. I gave my audience of cuddly toys the first practice one. I was doing great until I was summing up, saying that I hoped my presentation had been worthwhile and that even if only one person does something with a positive outcome as a result of listening to me, then it has been worthwhile. I then added that I know of at least one reader of my book who says my story made the difference between her taking her own life and realising there was hope.

For the first time the enormity of that hit me - hard. You see I have never experienced the sense of loss that I now am. Also being involved with Joe Bingley Memorial Foundation I see the impact that suicide in the postnatal period has. Wow. To think my book has saved a family from that is beyond words and why my purpose is even stronger. I am glad I had that thought in private as I now can deal with it in public.


I looked back through my texts on my phone and there was a message from Clive which made me smile a week or two before Christmas. He had a Sunday night ritual of Maltesers. Both they and ice cream could not stay in our house for long! I always like a bargain and coached Clive into 'BOGOF' offers and reduced stickers! We must have got some Maltesers on offer and as I knew they'd go in one sitting I must have hidden some. This was the message:-

You have so many wonderful qualities that I am very proud of you for. You seem to cope with things and always have a smile. You have brought out so many wonderful qualities in me that I have lost count.  However you are the worlds WORST Malteser hider. Tee hee. Xxx 

I loved his 'tee hee' comments.

Next was off to see the incredible Andy McMenemy complete his final consecutive marathon after 66  days! Today was also his 50th birthday. Both Clive and I had today in our diaries and we had vowed to be at the finish line. My heart sunk as I drove into York racecourse. So many happy times with Clive there. I missed him so very, very much. Why wasn't he here to share in the pride of Andy's achievement?  

I fought back the tears and was warmly greeted by a few people who knew me. Andy's wife Caz gave me the most wonderful, warm hug. Bless her.

Some of the Forever Living Products team were there. Andy has been using the great Aloe Vera products to help him on his way. I too have been taking the Argi drink this week and I do feel I have more energy. They had much respect for Clive and it was lovely for them to embrace me into the fold - and eat ice cream under their gazebo in the rain!

Being there for Andy's final yards was very emotional. I simply cannot begin to think of the high he must be on. The whole team involved have been incredible. Please add to Andy's total to help Soldiers here. 

The television crews were there and the press, rightly so. 
The incredible Andy



What an incredible guy. He has the sort of voice that you could listen to even if he was just reading out a shopping list so when he gets on a platform to share this adventure it will be stunning. Clive would have been so very, very proud of him. 

See more photos here.

I felt very sad as I drove back home. What would we have done tonight? Drinks in Tadcaster?  I don't know except that it would have been together and fun.

So that made my evening even nicer when a dear friend, her partner and granddaughter called and we had an impromptu meal. The company was delightful and I know how pleased Clive would have been for them to visit. We are all in the Andy McMenemy fan club! 

And just exactly HOW do you settle after running all those miles? He is back at York Race course tomorrow on race day to raise the profile of the charity too. I wonder if he'll have to do a few laps to wear off some energy?

I wonder if he will tell people he used the law of persistence - simply putting one foot in front of the other?
Thanks to my guests tonight and the love and admiration I have for Andy, I shall go to bed a happy lady.

I wonder if I can plan my 50th birthday with something incredible in mind - got just over 2 years to plan it!

N nite,
Elaine x







Thursday, 19 May 2011

Elements of existence

Well another day has been and gone. Hope you had a good one.

I almost overslept and was late for my nail appointment! My lovely friend Dinah had treated me to it - double the pleasure! Thank you so much.

It was a different place and I won't be going back. When I arrived one member of staff was sweeping outside whilst the girl doing my nails kept breaking off from me to answer the phone. Meanwhile I had to ask if either the tv or radio could be turned off! They had both on. Is it just me or is that too much sensory input? I was there to relax and feel pampered. Instead I was getting more irritated!

The girl doing my nails was very nice and she did a good job however once the other lady came inside (it turned out she was the owner), she then began to make business calls right behind me! She was arguing with BT about her company phone bill! I smiled to myself as almost everything she said in conversation was negative. Her employee reminded her she is going away soon, 'oh, but I'll soon be back' was the reply.

Rick, one of the speakers at last night's PSA meeting had spoken about such characters. He recommended not even trying to change them! Stick to the positive people and let the negatives be miserable together!

I nipped home for a while and felt very sad that Clive wasn't about. He used to love doing a 'nails' check when I got back from them being done.

Next was the hairdressers. I sat in Genesis still feeling ruffled. I picked up Tatler magazine and my thoughts were all negative. I cursed the glamour models. Beautiful places I can't afford to go. Stunning clothes I would be too fat for. Wallow. Wallow. Wallow.
I looked at the horoscope page and remembered how Clive used to say they were rubbish but something drew me to mine - Leo.

Having been forced to reorganise elements of your existence you'd had no intention of altering, you're not exactly thrilled with the news of yet more developments. You should be. Even unsettling events constitute breakthroughs. But you won't know that until much later, which means plunging in. If in doubt, think of times in the past when you felt as uneasy. Those worked. These will too.
Tatler. June 2011

I wanted to laugh out loud! I thought back to the day when I had sat at the top of the stairs with a screaming baby in his cot in the room next to me and began to literally bang my head against the wall, as puerperal psychosis descended on me.That was a bleak day and life was extremely tough for a while. I got through that with help, support and time. I will get through this.

With that I changed my thoughts and conversation. I could have continued to down everything, especially myself. Instead I chatted about positive things to the staff. I was most impressed that the young lady washing my hair had remembered I was going to speak in Colchester last time I was in and she wondered how it had gone. Excellent customer service! Paula cut and styled my hair with me chirping away happily. Only once did my eyes fill up at a memory of our nights out with Clive.

With bouncy, bright hair I was then treated to lunch out by a friend where the conversation remained positive.

I have spent the rest of today clearing the old office. As I have done so I have come across a few of Clive's notes he had scribbled here and there.

The two which stick out are
'My purpose - to leave the world a better place than I found it.'

He did that alright! The many, many messages I have received confirm that.

On the notice board he had printed out,
"It matters not what I tell people that I do with my life, it is what I actually do when I am my only witness that creates my integrity"  Clive Gott
under which was a Post-in note on which he had written,
'At this point in your life why would you do anything that you are not passionate about?'  Molly Harvey

So tonight I ask you these questions,
  1. Could you improve your day by choosing to think/speak positively instead of negatively?
  2. Are you living your purpose?
  3. Are you being honest with yourself?
  4. Are you living life with passion?
A beautiful song I heard whilst having lunch made me put my hand on my tummy, as Clive told me to when I wanted to feel his strength. I did do. 




But I also recognise MY strength is increasing.

Elaine x

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Shuffle

Well didn't I get a shuffle on today?

I just woke with more energy and enthusiasm than I have had since Clive died! I have spent hours focused on my presentations for next week and some paperwork which has been shouting at me.

I could easily have slipped into glum mode as when I was having my breakfast there were some actors from
'Downton Abbey' on television. That reminded me of the blissful Sunday nights we had shared watching that series. The tears fell into my porridge as I stared at the empty sofa, just wishing and wishing that Clive was still there.

I had a choice didn't I? I took the positive one and achieved more today than I have in weeks. My new mantra is from the Rascall Flatts song 'My Wish' - 'May your dreams stay big and your worries stay small'.

There are still hundreds of emails and mounds of sorting to do BUT I have to be pleased with what I have done today. And if I don't acknowledge the progress I have made I have a sneaky suspicion my in-box will be full of reprimands!

Having been in all day I decided to join my speaker colleagues at the PSA NE meeting tonight.

The main guests were:-

British Record Breaking Mountaineer Nigel Vardy
Nigel has traveled the world since the early 1990’s in search of adventure and new experiences. He has survived in climates ranging from Tropical Rainforest to Arctic Glaciers and pushed himself to his physical and mental limit on many occasions. In 1999 he was climbing on Mt McKinley in Alaska when a severe storm trapped him at 20,000ft. Exposed to the elements he suffered severe frostbite and was lucky to be rescued in one of the highest altitude helicopter airlifts in history. At 30 years old found himself thrust into a new and difficult world. Frostbite took all of his toes, fingertips and nose. Months of surgery and hospitalisation followed and Nigel was forced to rebuild his life starting with re-learning such tasks as walking, writing and driving. Even through all this Nigel insisted that he would climb again, and over the past eight years he has proved his abilities by taking part in expeditions across the world. His recovery from frostbite has been described as incredible. But physical recovery is only part of the process. His mental recovery has seen him ride a rollercoaster of emotions, which he has built on to give him an incredible drive to succeed in everything he does in life. It is this drive which many people have found inspirational at Nigel’s presentations.

What a lovely guy! And  a stunning story teller too. All I could think was how sorry I was that Clive was not there to hear. It turned out that they had met briefly at an event a few years ago. Nigel speaks in schools a great deal but I feel his story could go wider.

Rick Armstrong spoke next.
Rick is an inspirational speaker regularly presenting to a wide range of audience on topics such as business creation, networking, referral skills, presentation skills, motivation and leadership. Rick speaks and advises nationally and internationally mainly on the subject of business creation with particular emphasis on SME’s and start-ups. He is a co-author of The Little Book of Positive Thoughts and of The Little Book of Visualisation. Biog: Rick Armstrong studied design and has a career background in advertising, management consultancy, training and marketing. For nearly two decades he lived and worked in the Middle East, mainly in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in various roles with leading firms, most notably as ME Director of Saatchi and Saatchi, GM of Picador Design Group and Director of the Gulf Business Foundation. Rick has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share with the PSA.

Another really warm and friendly guy who I instantly liked! Some people just seem to have a glow that draws you in. Both speakers did that tonight. It was a pleasure to listen to them both.


Richard McCann and Geoff Ramm spoke about their recent attendance at the Global Speakers Summit in Holland. Sitting next to Geoff brought back many memories of fun times at PSA events.

As I have driven home the pain of no Clive is intense.I am pleased I went tonight. It is always good to surround yourself with positive people. Hearing others comment on what Clive continues to mean to them is also lovely.

It just feels so unfair he isn't here. He would have enjoyed tonight too.
Geoff, Clive and Richard at a PSA convention

Rick kindly gave me a copy of his Little Book of Positive Thoughts. I shall take it to bed with me as I am in need of some!

N nite,
Elaine x

A lunch date for you

I have been invited to speak at a business networking lunch at Bradley's restuarant in Huddersfield on the 7th June.

I am delighted to support Forward Ladies as it was due to the European trips I went with them to Brussels, Milan and Latvia that I got the invitation to speak at the European Parliament.

Not only have a found some great business contacts through Forward Ladies, some have become good friends.

Full details of the event in Huddersfield can be found here.

Elaine x

Almost there!

My last posting yesterday concerned the feeling of pride.

As I went to bed feeling so positive once again the wave of grief swept over me BUT before I allowed it to utterly consume me I text a friend to see if they were still awake. Within a couple of minutes we were chatting and my tears turned to smiles!

For the first time in ages I am up, washed, dressed and at my desk for 9 a.m. ready to be busy. So far so good.
I did lie in bed for a while just thinking about many things but it was Andy who got me out of bed!
You see our friend Andy McMenemy has been running a marathon (literally) for the last 63 days! He is doing it to raise money for The Soldiers Charity.

Each morning he probably has thought 'Oh no! Not another!'
Through injury, exhaustion, all kinds of weather, Andy has kept on going. Just one foot in front of the other.

Clive ran marathons and was often asked 'how can you run 26 miles?'
His reply was that he didn't - he ran a mile 26 times.

We all should take a leaf out of Andy's and Clive's books.

Keep on going - just one foot in front of the other.

Andy ends his amazing feat this Friday in York (4 p.m. Race Course).  PLEASE give him your support here

We can only imagine his sense of achievement as he arrives into the racecourse. I look forward to being amongst those to greet him!



So what do you need to do today? What tiny step can you make? And do you need help from anyone?

And how will it make you feel? Proud?

Elaine x

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Proud?

Today has been another one where I have physically and mentally had to push myself.
Today has been another one 'at home' with a list a mile long.
Today has been another one I have survived!

First thing this morning I really could easily have stayed in bed and hidden again. I cuddled up to my 'Clive' cushions and remembered his broad chest. How I loved to snuggle up to it. I thought of the mornings that he had got up before me and would be beavering away in the office at his latest newsletter or blog!

I miss this guy so much

I actually shouted out loud  'Elaine - just get up'.
I put my head around the office door and groaned so instead I busied myself on household things - ironing, vacuuming. Okay so it was avoidance tactics!

I chatted to my friend Ann, who also is an excellent life coach, and she suggested I changed my language. I was using 'try' and 'struggle plus other negatives words. Clive often used to pick me up on this when I was feeling down. How often do we talk ourselves down further? I needed that reminder - thank you. 

Once dressed and mentally kicked up the backside I decided to do what I advise others and Clive did - little steps.

I was still floundering when I got a call from a friend of mine Mumtaz Hussain to invite out for an evening but also to see if I wanted to speak on her programme on Red Shift Radio at 1.15 p.m today as they were talking about charities. I took the opportunity to speak about Joe Bingley Memorial Foundation.
You can listen again at their website.

That call changed my mood and day! Why? Perhaps it reignited my passion. My purpose. My desire to make a positive difference to other lives. Was it because I felt useful again? From there tasks simply flew off the list!

I have spent hours sorting my new presentations and slides for the next week. Dom has helped me (again) with some technical bits and although not finished, the bones are there. I am eager to deliver it now!

In between I have been sorting some of the old office things out. I noticed a little card above where Clive used to sit. It reads:-


'Bless your difficulties and ask to see their hidden guidance.
Have the courage to accept what you discover and to initiate whatever action your healing requires'.

Guess that was his message to me today as I was cursing him!!

This evening I have caught up with some friends of ours who brought us McD's for tea! This is the first time they have been here since Clive died that I haven't cried! Progress!

I was telling them of how things seem to happen just when I need them. Our friend mentioned that he finds it difficult to 'let go' sometimes. On the bookshelf was a well read book of Clive's called 'The Secret of Letting Go', which I picked up to show him.  Inside the front cover was a card which read:-

'Take pride in how far you have come. And faith in how far you can go!
(Christian Larson)

I then came to do my blog and there were two comments on yesterdays along those same lines - thank you ladies. Perhaps I am making progress but I am just not noticing it. I was like this when I was recovering from postnatal depression and psychosis. I remember one day phoning my dear friend Sue several months after being discharged from hospital. At the other end of the line a very tearful Sue finally spoke,
"Don't you realise what you have just done? YOU have phoned me for the first time in many months".
I did not realise at the time.

Who can you praise or point out something that they have achieved something? It might just make their day.

So now it's time for Horlicks and some 'me' time.

Todays lessons -
  • Keep your language positive
  • Physical actions can lead to mental ones
  • Appreciate the input of others
  • Have faith in help and support
  • Allow yourself to feel proud.
I know it's corny but I am told you like the songs ...




That also answers the question why I can't sleep. I am still madly in love ... but he is no longer with us physically.

N nite,

Elaine x

www.hanzak.com
www.clivegott.com

Monday, 16 May 2011

Taking a dose of my own medicine

One of mine and Clive's values is about being authentic, which according to the New Little Oxford Dictionary is defined as 'of being undisputed origin, genuine'.

I think today is as good as any of this, which is why I choose to share it with you on how to dig yourself out of a pit - of despair, of isolation or however you see your 'pit' or dark, uncomfortable place.

After my hectic few days I have lined up this week to focus on work; lots of 'admin'; more sorting, etc. etc. etc. I went to bed (admittedly late after unpacking so I had a 'clear run' this morning) and went out like a light. I woke at 7.30 and decided to have a few more minutes! A phone call woke me shortly after 9 and it felt like it was 3 in the morning. I felt shattered. Exhausted. Apathetic. Angry with Clive for dying. Angry with myself for feeling so tired.

I didn't cry as that required effort. All I wanted to do was stay under the duvet with cries of 'too much to do' and hide away from it all. As I write that the scary thing is that is how I was feeling in the hours before I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after Dom was born. See my book .

Back then I was mentally ill. I am not now. I am bereft. The difference is that I CAN rationalise my thoughts and behaviour. I am in control and in charge of my actions. And I also have to keep on reminding myself that I am ultimately responsible for where I am now and because of that it is my responsibility to deal with the outcomes.

I cannot help that Clive had a heart attack and with him went all our joint visions, goals and plans. I could waste hours on 'if only', and I already have! Yet I know that I simply HAVE to move on so staying in bed solves nothing.

So many times Clive used to say 'when you don't feel like doing anything, just do something. Motion creates emotion'.

First stage was to get out of bed. A shower was too much so I just got dressed. Scruffy but comfy clothes and a big fleece of Clives. What a mess! My whole body felt like it was twice its normal weight. Each action was laboured.
But I was up.

Next stage put washing on. Tick.
Breakfast. Tick
The temptation was to continue to watch 'Homes under the Hammer' but would it really enrich my life to know how much a tatty bungalow had been resold for?  I compromised by coming back upstairs to make by bed but watched the outcome upstairs! One of my friends recently shared how she is struggling to get organised at the moment. Her first steps to feeling that her life will be neater in all aspects is to have the goal to make her bed each morning. I had explained to her that one way I try to motivate my mind is to have my surroundings tidy - it helps then to mentally make me feel so.

The office felt like a pit I was scared to enter. So much to do in there! Too much I didn't know where to start.
That's where support and working together comes in as Ann rang me about our  workshop for Children's centre staff in Doncaster next week. Just by talking about it inspired me to look at the slide show. I also moaned at her! Then had a moan at Chris by text!

I struggled on at a few more tasks but seemed to make them worse because I was in a negative mood. Even blogging about the fabulous show last night didn't improve me. Not even the beautiful photos of my niece. I was in a real 'can't be bothered' mode but knew I had to keep on. Little steps. Bit by bit.

My neighbours are wonderful in cutting the grass at the front of the house but the back garden was looking like a field. I decided that even though I felt so tired that the exercise of cutting it might help. It did! I came back in from the fresh air feeling pleased with myself. I tied up the sprouting sweet peas in the hanging basket and felt so much better.

And of course you know what I made for lunch ... egg and oven chips!

I then had the mission of making myself look presentable for my networking at an event in Leeds for the Chartered Institute of Marketing.  
I am due to give a talk at their Awards evening in Leeds on the 24th June so was going tonight to meet some of the people involved. I slipped on some 'feel good' underwear and a red dress - not quite the woman from the Special K advert but I left the house looking and feeling like a different one from a few hours earlier.

Meanwhile the support today continued to come in on my Blackberry - texts, emails, responses to my blog. I often don't get around to immediate answers but please be assured that they DO lift me. When I was with my college friends a few nights ago we were talking about the matching underwear 'theory' that Clive was so keen on, i.e. he believed that women should always have beautiful, matching bra and briefs on for themselves. If you felt good underneath your clothes it helped boost your confidence and mood.  Today I needed a boost and put on a silk set he had given me. Then my friend Margaret sent me this comment from an article in Woman and Home by Kathy Lette, words spoken after Pamela Stephenson helped her:-

'she reaffirmed my mantra that a woman's friends are like her human Wonderbra - uplifting, supportive and making each other look bigger and better'!

By the way - the same applies for men! Just how long have you had those baggy undies? Do those dirty grey ones with the worn out elastic REALLY make you feel good?





In some ways tonight was a challenge for me to 'network' again. How do I answer questions about where I am in life right now? Do I blurt it out? Do I ignore the fact that my soulmate has died a matter of weeks ago? Do I not mention it?  But it IS where I am right now. Back to being authentic I guess. The truth is that it is HOW I tell people. I have found the best way is to chat about other things first - starting with questions about the other person. That way I can at least smile, say positive things and be genuinely interested. That way an initial impression, eye contact, etc. can be built up. As the conversation goes on I mention that I have lost Clive, but do so with a smile and a comment about him and I both wanting me to carry on. Then I turn the conversation back to something about them. I haven't done this consciously but it does seem to make it easier for the other person who then invariably asks me for more details which of course I am delighted to give! Depression is a taboo subject yet 1 in 4 of us as adults will have a mental illness that requires treatment. Death affects us all so why do we not speak more openly about it?  As I have found speaking about both in an open and honest way generally eases the fears and awkwardness.

I met some interesting people at CIM and am looking forward even more to the Awards evening.
Thank you for the warm welcome.

On the way home from Leeds I called in to see Lynn and Rod. I haven't caught up with them for a few days so it was good to spend a little time with them. I can't come home and hug Clive but a hug from his very special sister is a close second.

I know I should now be in 'relaxed' mode of hot bath, relaxing music, and no computer but I just wanted to share today whilst it was fresh. I have plenty of things to do tomorrow so this will be one less.

So what are my top tips for a 'can't be bothered' day?
  • Be responsible for your own actions
  • A little wallow or moan to self and others is ok but then move on!
  • Get out of bed - wash, eat, move
  • Begin with household chores - a tidy environment will help you focus on other things
  • Fresh air and exercise
  • SUPPORT  from friends, colleagues
  • Pretty underwear
  • Small steps beginning with good underwear
And as Clive once sent me an email ..
'it doesn't all have to be done today'.

I miss him more than words can say but at least this 'dip' hasn't been as far down and without the buckets of tears. And when I present from a stage looking and feeling confident, like everything in my life is wonderful and easy it is days like today which will give me the credibility to acknowledge ways of getting through life's challenges - with a smile.

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand 
reasons to smile.
I leave you with  two questions -

Who can you be a human Wonderbra for? 
Who do you need to ask to be one for you?

Elaine x

www.hanzak.com
www.clivegott.com

The amazing Ella Performance Group

Last night I attended an amazing concert at The Brindley, in Runcorn of the Ella Performance Group.

My first career was as a teacher for children with learning difficulties which I did until 2005.
Through 'Facebook' I saw that some of my former pupils were involved in a show and decided it would be good to go along with my Mum and best friend Sue (who also worked with me for a time at the school).

On arrival one of the young ladies spotted me in the foyer and beckoned me over. I was delighted she recognised me after all these years!

The conversation went roughly like this.

Pupil: Hiya, luv. How you doin?
Me: Okay thanks, and you? It's good to see you.
Pupil: How's your husband?
Me: Sadly we aren't together.
Pupil: Did you get shut of him?
Me: Well we got divorced.
Pupil: Awww. That's a shame. Got another one?
Me: Well I did have a new partner but he died a few weeks ago.
Pupil: Awww. That's a booming shame. You're not doing very well are you?!!

There was no answer to that! Bless her, she did make me smile.

The foyer was like a flashback down memory lane! Staff, pupils, parents, familiar faces from my days in Runcorn. The place was buzzing. I would have loved to have chatted to many people but there wasn't time.

The show was fantastic! It was obvious hours and hours of planning, rehearsals, dedication had gone into all the songs, dances, costumes.

The energy, enthusiasm, confidence and talent of these young people was awesome. In the early days of my teaching career (late 80's) we often used to stand the usual curriculum down after October half-term in order to put on a whole school drama production for Christmas. All our art work, music, etc. was focused around 'the play' and we worked hard to ensure all pupils, age 2 -19 had a role. Some of those pupils were involved last night. As the paperwork and targets crept more and more into the school these productions were ended and many of us thought it was a shame. To see these young people last night we were so right to lay such an emphasis on performing arts.

The show was held together by the singer Keily Hampson
She was the producer and director. Mal Hampson is the founder of the group and is also manager of Halton Speak Out

I have taken several photographs here

Thriller!
The photographs in the programme of the cast were absolutely stunning, taken by Collette Kelly.

My only slight negative comment would be about the comedian who 'filled the gaps' to allow for costume changes, etc. Although he would be suited for Hen and Stag nights, Comedy Clubs, etc. he wasn't the best for last night as some of his jokes were not suitable for the family audience. Sorry Phil, but we wanted to see the real talents of the youngsters involved and when a member of the audience shouted 'Enough now' he spoke for many of us.

Having said that I enjoyed the show very, very much and thought it was better than some I had seen with Clive on our Royal Caribbean cruise last year!

If a show is to be judged by entertainment, value-for-money and leaving you with a true 'Feel Good' factor then Ella's 'One Night Only' rates up there with the best. For the real stars of the show there are many who could learn the qualities of passion, enthusiasm, fun, tenacity and dedication from them.

I felt very proud and privileged to have been involved in the school years of some of the cast last night. I 'lost' myself in the production and left with a positive vibe.

Well done and thank you to all those involved and when is the next one as I want to book some tickets?!

Elaine x

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Because

After my hectic night in Preston I was back with my parents to watch The Eurovision song contest and we also looked after baby Sophie for the night.

You'll have to catch me to clean me up!
Meanwhile my poor brother Kevin had 'nipped' up to Keswick for a few hours to deliver an important letter but a wheel had literally come off his car whilst on the motorway! He is currently stranded up there until it is sorted! Thank goodness he was in the inside lane and not the fast one when it happened!

I confess to falling asleep as I watched television and then slept well - first good night in 3. Not surprisingly this more it was a tearful one again. Mum and I played with Sophie as we listened to Steve Wright Sunday Love Songs and had a long, leisurely breakfast.



It was therapeutic to let the tears flow prompted by some songs and Mum made no effort to stop me! That in itself is good. How many times do we tell people 'don't cry'? I find it far better to be allowed to rather than bottle them up.

This song prompted more tears ...



Of course, all my thoughts at first were about the loss of Clive and for all the support he gave me.
However, as I listen to the lyrics they could apply to many others in my life at some point - my parents, Dominic, Nick, the list is endless. I guess the truth is that we all support others if we give them our best at different times and stages in our lives, whilst we are with them.

I am looking forward to attending a concert tonight where the stars of the show are young women who were originally in my nursery class! There will be faces there too from other periods in my life, who I know were a support to me in the past as I hope I was to them.

We are all products of our past experiences, relationships and challenges. They create our present. The choices we make shape our future.

I wrote yesterday about 'Sliding Doors' and how quickly our lives can turn one way or another. My brother could have so easily been injured, or worse, in hs car yesterday. I have just been with Dominic who shared events he was involved with on Friday evening which could have had terrifying results, but didn't.

We were looking at photos of Sophie's 1st birthday - 6 days before Clive died. I sobbed at how happy I had been then which so much to look forward to.
 I also cried at seeing Sophie today in this outfit I had bought that same day - I was in the shop as Clive was texting me in the minutes before his knee surgery. How life can change so fast.

My adorable niece Sophie

I am struggling a little again today. I miss sharing the details of everyday life with him. The texts and emails between us when we were apart. The fact that he will not be sitting on our stairs when I go home later on.

So I will put on my make-up and go out with a smile even though my heart continues to break, and count the many blessings I still have.

Elaine x

A step back in time and one into the future

On Friday evening I was delighted to be picked up from my parent's home in Preston Brook by a college friend of mine Margaret. We first met at Edge Hill College 30 years ago this summer!
We have remained in touch ever since, although not actually met up for a few years. I had been invited to join an evening out with some other ex-college friends to celebrate Chris getting married.

Here we are at the start of the evening at 'Trattoria San Marco Ristorante e Pizzeria', between Preston and Southport. It was lively, buzzing place and the food was delicious.



It was great to catch up on the many years - of children, careers, relationships, etc. 
From there we got a lift into Longton and went into the Red Lion pub where there was a live band. We became the dance troop!

It was a wonderful opportunity to just 'go with the flow' and the music and excellent company. 

 

Although I spoke about Clive and my current situation, as they are shared their stories too, we all slipped back into the college 'us'. 
What a tonic it was. When you are bereaved every thought tends to be around the loss, worries, feelings of emptiness and isolation. People around you are rather cautious of what to do or say in case it upsets you. That night it felt like the only rule was fun!

By the time the band finished playing we must have danced off the food we had eaten! I felt Clive was watching all night, saying 'go girl'!
Back at Jenny's we all had a room each to sleep in but Carolyn insisted on a girlie sleepover and 5 of us were in one room, chatting until the early hours. 

Next morning as we were sipping tea in bed I suddenly felt a rush of tears. For the first time I felt I had properly relaxed since Clive died but also had enjoyed myself too. I had switched my brain off and enjoyed the pleasure of friends from a time when I had been carefree and excited about the future.

The tears didn't last long and bacon sandwiches added to a wonderful get together. 

Thank you girls for an uplifting time which has motivated me to want to plan more times like that.
I have to focus on work now the next week - better get some early nights in too!

May I suggest that you arrange to meet up with old/new friends too?  Who haven't you seen for years and 'keep meaning to'?

Clive ran out of those opportunities 12 weeks ago. What can you plan, in his words, 'to make it count'?

Friday night was about going back in time but I have left with an optimistic air of 'where will I be in life' for Jenny's 50th next year and mine and Margaret's the next one? 
It cannot be with Clive but he will always be with me.

Thanks girls for a fab time and especially to Margaret for being there for me (again) xxxx

Elaine x