Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Going back to the future

This will be my final blog on this site because in future all my posts will be directly on my new website - still at . This one shall remain although all previous posts here will also be transferred over to the new site. I am also in the process of creating a category index for them so we will all be able to find relevant information easier.

As I am launching my new logo, website, stationery, etc. I have decided to revert back to my surname of Hanzak, without the addition of Gott. Regular readers will be aware of my rapid decision to do that following Clive's sudden death last year. There are several other reasons for my choice to revert including the approval by both families. It felt the right thing to do at the time last year and likewise I feel that it is also appropriate to change back now. It will also make leaving messages, repeating my name on phone calls and even ordering a take-away much easier! Not to mention any poor soul who asked the question 'That's an unusual surname - where is it from?' I bet they regretted asking!

Once again I start the administration process of changes! It amazes me how such a relatively simple process can then take hours, not to mention different procedures for places I am registered with. Some are a simple click on the computer, others require a photocopy of the change of deed, others want the original. I feel this last year I have learnt my way through bureaucracy well in dealing with aspects of a death, moving home and name change. It was one of the points I made whilst speaking for the Customer Service Training Network (CSTN) in Leeds last week, at the impressive Weetwood Hall. I suggested that if companies can make it easier for their customers during births, deaths, trouble and joys then they would build loyalty and efficiency the rest of the time. If you have a company what procedures do you have in place for someone during these periods?

I was thrilled to speak for CSTN again. The founder, Don Hales, heard me speak at a Professional Speaking Association event many years ago, even before I met Clive. So when his death last year left a gap in the programme at a meeting in Cardiff, Don gave me the opportunity to fill it. Back then my grief was still very raw and my presentation was extremely emotive for us all. To be invited back again purely on my own merit was fantastic! In the interim Don has also suffered from a heart attack yet following surgery he is recovering, thank goodness.

The last few weeks I haven't been blogging because I have used as much time as possible to put my new website together and I also wanted to prepare a new keynote for CSTN. I still used my story on the troubles and joys of my life then gave a greater emphasis on how my 'Hanzak' principles applied to aspects of improving customer experiences:-

Hope - we all want to be served and hope for the satisfactory outcome or even more.

Attitude - we want to be served by someone who is upbeat and positive, as opposed to a 'mood hoover'.

Nurture - we want to feel special, welcome and important.

Zest - we want to be delighted and have our senses tantalised.

Altogether - we want to be dealt with by effectively run teams.

Kindness - ultimately, no matter where we are in life, ultimately this is what we seek.

I illustrated each one with examples of how I have experienced these at different stages in my life. I didn't use a music track and didn't make anyone cry! I felt I was less emotional yet my messages more effective as a result. I was thrilled by the positive comments made by attendees, especially those who had heard me in Cardiff. One lady said it was wonderful to witness how I have evolved and grown. When I look back on the last couple of years I can see that in myself too.

Others speakers were Liz Cable from Reach Further who gave some great techniques on Social Media; John Hotowka who combined his humour, magic tricks and messages on making progress; Dave Bradley with his presentation 'New tent, same circus' about making changes and the dynamic Helen Hamilton who summed up the day with the research around customer experience and brought the rest of into it as examples.

Going back to my own name has been another step along the way in recovering from the loss of Clive. He has left a legacy behind that will mean the lessons he shared about life will continue after his death. From that I know he would feel that his purpose was achieved and, in his words, 'he left the world a better place for having visited'.

As I leave the familar layout and process of this blog procedure it almost feels like a goodbye to a friend. It started as a reporting idea for my talks and knowledge around postnatal depression but then last year grew into a 'story' that has been read worldwide. For a time my blog became addictive - I used it as a place to share my deepest feelings and emotions. Writing was a big part of my healing and a reaction to my loss. In doing so I know I helped others, which was why I continued. I am also aware now that at times, unknowingly and unintentionally, I may have upset others. For that I am truly sorry. From that I hope I have also learnt and will continue to be more sensitive.

My biggest emotion is one of gratitude. Thank you to those of you have supported me in any way. Simply by reading my blog and giving me a few minutes out of your precious day feels like a gift to me. For those of you have taken the time to check on me either publically and privately, I appreciate every comment. For all the practical and emotional support given by colleagues, friends, family and even those whom I have never actually met - thank you.

I am being asked at the moment for how I need help now. If you feel that you have appreciated any of my messages - either spoken or written - then please share my new website with your networks. From the strong foundation I now feel I am on, I would appreciate more platforms and opportunities to speak.

So I relaunch my new website with the knowledge, experiences, troubles and joys of my life so far with the delight and hope for what our future days, months and years will bring.

I invite you to keep joining me there ......


Wednesday, 7 March 2012

What do you count as a simple pleasure?

Am I the only person to celebrate hanging washing out on the line for the first time this year? Not only was it the first time I used the garden at my cottage, but the smell of the linen, blue sky, singing birds and warmth of the sun, truly uplifted me! Even if my son did roll his eyes and say I was sad!

Oh the simple pleasures of life! What do you count as a 'simple pleasure'? When are you planning on indulging in it?

Also Mum and I have got our tickets to see Lionel Richie in concert in the autumn! Old habits die hard!!

In my last blog posting I proclaimed that my new website would be up and running by the 5th March. Thank you to those who have asked 'where is it?'

Still work in progress, is the honest answer! Next aim is for 12th March - hence a limit on my blogs!

I have had a busy couple of weeks. I was back at the Open University for a Nursing Programme Committee Meeting and then Ann Girling and I delivered one of our workshops for team members from Children's Centres around Mansfield.

I am also currently preparing my talk for the Customer Service Training Network in Leeds next week - can you come along?

Several people have sent me supportive messages in memory of Clive's Celebration and the day we said our goodbyes to him last year. Of course I too recalled the day and the many aspects of it. He would be so thrilled that his beloved Leeds Rhinos are world champions again. I also like to feel that he would be proud of what many of us have achieved during the last year - and if you are still putting something off, you know what he'd say - just do it!

Now back to that website .....!!!

Elaine x

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Hope and Honesty

For several years now I have used my surname as an acronym around ways to make life easier and happier, e.g. in my blog about easing the pain of loss.

Yesterday as I drove home from a wonderful day at the Open University I realised I had been through a 'H' day - hope and honesty.

The event at the OU was to seek approval from the Nursing and Midwifery council on a new pre-registration Nursing Degree. I was invited as part of my role as service user representative on the Nursing Programme Committee. I never realised how much work or scrutiny went into the formation of a new degree course. The gathered academics, practitioners, stake-holders, etc, all met up with the hope that all their dedication and hard work would be worthwhile - with a few tweaks the new degree was approved and praised. Some of the success stories of people who have achieved a degree through the OU is truly inspirational.

Hope is something you can have that something will happen - you do however usually have to make an effort too! The team yesterday certainly had done that and I feel proud and honoured to be part of them.

'Hope doesn't come from calculating whether the good news is winning out over the bad. It's simply a choice to take action'.  
Anna Lappe.

Another aspect of hope brought a smile to my heart yesterday. During one of the breaks I checked my phone for messages to find one about a friend who had delivered two healthy girls yesterday. For many years she and her husband have faced the stress and heartache of being unable to conceive. As a couple they have so much to offer - love, stability, a supportive family. They could have become bitter - why when they have so much to give could they not have a child? Instead they kept hold of hope. They took action. They didn't give up even when their dream was crushed many times. Yesterday twin girls safely delivered! Fantastic!

Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.
Dale Carnegie

In both of the above examples people have made choices, communicated well and cared about the outcome. They have been honest about their goals and feelings along the way.

Yesterday morning I was faced with a decision about honesty. I did something foolish. In getting ready in the hotel room I used my curling tongs. The position of the plug and mirror was a bit awkward and I was rushing (pathetic excuses). I curled my hair, unplugged the curling tong and (yes!) threw it on the bed for a few moments whilst I went to check my hair in the bathroom mirror. When I can back through to the bedroom I realised the stupid thing I had done - sure enough, I had scorched the beautiful white duvet cover. Oh no!

So what could I do? Turn it over and hope the chambermaid wouldn't notice as she striped the bed and tossed it amongst the rest of the linen on the corridor? Surely I would get away with it? I have never, ever damaged a hotel room before. Surely this once didn't matter did it? The hotel are a multi-national chain and must have insurance, so it didn't matter, did it? The Open University were paying my expenses and they wouldn't notice either. So that didn't matter ....

To me it did. How can I speak and write about honesty and authenticity if I don't apply it to myself? How could I spend the rest of the day being welcomed by warm, friendly and professional people knowing I had left 'damage'?  Simply, I couldn't. I had done something wrong. Charged as guilty. It was my fault and I had to take responsibility.

As I checked out and was politely told 'Everything is fine' I confessed that it wasn't! I explained what I had done; how sorry I was and to please let me know if I needed to pay for a replacement. I was thanked for my honesty and left the hotel feeling far better than had I said nothing! As the day progressed I knew that had I not been honest it would have played on my mind all day/week/forever. What if they rang the OU to complain and report me? What if I damaged their reputation in addition to my own?  It was not worth the worry and reputation damage. 

If the cost is for a replacement it is far better than living with the cost of guilt - because I HAD done something wrong.

Being honest cheered me up rather than feeling glum and worried! 

If you need cheering up in another way look at this Cheergiving website

The past is a source of knowledge, 
and the future is a source of hope.
Stephen Ambrose

I have made a decision today too - my new website will launch on Monday 5th March! I am hopeful and being honest!!

What are you hopeful for? What are you being honest about?

Elaine x

Monday, 20 February 2012

I won't give up - on fighting postnatal depression

In a week where I could have given up and dwelt on the past it is incredible how my purpose in life to help others who struggle with postnatal illness has been boosted!

Last Monday I was called by BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex to talk about mothers who do not bond with their babies. I spoke on the Allison Ferns programme just after 12.30 p.m. (see my previous blog on BBC London for the content). I remembered to say how much I love Dominic this time!

Then on Wednesday I was invited to make a film for a joint project between NHS Choices and ITN to be launched later in the year. I was thrilled that some of the Mums there had agreed to talk about postnatal illness due to my plea via Facebook - lovely to meet you ladies and your gorgeous babies! Thank you for sharing.  Chris Bingley  from The Joanne Bingley Memorial Foundation came along with his friend Lee and the three of us did a session on postnatal depression and partners, e.g. spotting the signs.

This morning I have been approached by another film company who are making a documentary on the subject. Yes I admit I enjoy the media aspects of my purpose yet my true reward is the (often unknown) impact that sharing my experiences of postnatal depression has. I recently received this message, which is shared with the writer's consent, because I feel it is important to show that by letting other sufferers know they are not alone, we CAN make a positive difference to others:-

Dear Elaine,
I think you are an amazing woman and admire all your work. I often speak about you to the women that come along to our Mums Matter groups. Many of these women are in a dark and lonely place, just like myself five years ago after the birth of my much awaited second child. I too suffered severe PND and am all too aware of the devastation it causes both during the illness and after. I have now moved on so much, that I now say PND was one of the worst experiences I have ever had, but believe I suffered for a reason! My reason being to be able to share my experience with families and give them hope, when their life feels as though they are walking through a long dark tunnel with no sign of light or way out. I have now begun the process of setting up PND Aware - a trust aimed at raising awareness of PND and supporting services which work with women and their families living with PND. I would love one day to be able to come to one of your events and meet you in person as I see myself one day working along side you! I would love that, two women who have lived fought and won the battle, illuminating the severity of this illness and the need for more specialised services in this country. Sorry for going on I am so passionate and probably deep down want to save the world! X

In addition I have heard from another former sufferer, Sarah, who is based in Nottingham, and has asked me to share her information. She been very busy trying to set up a peer support group in her area for those affected by PND. 

Sarah has had fantastic support from an organisation called Self Help Nottingham and here is the link for her poster for a planning/information meeting to be held at their office on 1st March:-
There is a Facebook page set up - "Open House Nottingham".

As I continue to work on my new website I continue to be inspired by those who share my purpose and passion on this subject.

Please can you email me directly if you are a Mum or Dad who have been affected by postnatal illness and would be happy to share your story. I am often asked by the media for those willing to share their experiences. We can't have too many! Please email me at . I will not pass on your details without your permission but may pass enquiries directly for you to decide if you wish to respond.

I guess this song sums me up!

Elaine x

Saturday, 18 February 2012

A promising future ...... one year on.

Clive Edward Gott - left us last year at 8.50 pm on  Saturday 19th February.

His purpose was

' To be a permanent inspiration to anyone and everyone who seeks it. To constantly challenge myself in ways that test my emotional or physical strength, my integrity and my values. To prove to the best of my abilities that anything is possible to those who are prepared to step out of their self, or environmentally, inflicted comfort zones.

Then to deliver a message of inspiration to anyone and everyone who seeks the same and to do this with humour and abundance'.

He left us written instructions that his life be celebrated, not mourned. His brother and sister assure me that he would want us to treat tomorrow as any other day.

So let's smile as we remember and perhaps perform a small act of kindness or abundance in his memory..... and look to a promising, happy and fulfilled future where 'anything is possible'.

Elaine x

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Remembering Clive Gott on the 1st anniversary of his death

I have finally decided how to mark the anniversary of Clive's death next Sunday, 19th February.

It comes down to the three areas that I have identified over the past year in living without him - choices, communication and kindness.

He used to talk about authenticity from both the platform and in his writing. I agree with him that in our role as speaker and author we have to 'walk our talk'. I have been inspiring myself (and others, judging by the feedback you give me) so I would be letting us all down if I did not apply these principles for next Sunday.

I could choose to be morose and miserable, reliving the day and awful evening. I could choose to hide away and cry myself silly. Yet I ask myself, what good would this do?  I could choose to wallow in what a dreadful time I have had since he died so suddenly and ignore anything that has been good. I could be bitter and angry, cursing everything and everybody. Instead I shall choose to smile as I remember what a special man he was; how he is missed by many for his inspiration, laughter, hugs - or even annoyance! He was the first to admit that he was Marmite - people either loved him or otherwise! I have to remember that he did not suffer a long and painful death - something I feel we all hope we avoid. I will choose to remember the happy times we had. I also have to accept it is in the past and has gone.

I also choose to acknowledge some of the positives that have come out of the past year. I have met some incredible people; had some fantastic opportunities and done some wonderful things in spite of the severe grief I have experienced. I have been able to help, support and inspire others. Although I loved being with Clive I always pined for my family back in Cheshire - I am now back living amongst them, which brings me joy and contentment. Sharing love and laughter with my son and niece on a regular basis is especially wonderful.  I love my own home and enjoy the time I spend here either on my own or with company. If I don't learn to love myself how can I expect others to? Clive's death happened - I have had to deal with it.

I choose to acknowledge that I am happy again and excited about my future.

So next Sunday I choose to move on and put more of the past behind me. When Clive and I were creating our home together we sold many of our 'old' and unwanted possessions to create a new living room - television, furniture and soft furnishings. His notion was that why hang onto 'stuff' that you no longer need - let it become a means for others to enjoy and make new memories. So we had a clear out and were thrilled with the room we created. He also used to joke from the platform about how as Brits we have a habit of moving boxes from loft to loft when we move house and never even open them!

When I moved a couple of months ago I did this! So I am in the process of opening those boxes and letting go. I have a heap of my old clothes on Ebay and bit by bit am working my way through my possessions. Next Sunday there is a local table top sale. I have just booked a table and shall spend the bulk of the day finally selling the jewellery and cosmetic stocks from when I did Virgin Vie sales. Clive got fed up of me intending to do it and I never did! I can see him rolling his eyes and saying 'about time too'. I shall be amongst other people and have to be sociable. Have you ever noticed that if you, smile the world smiles with you?

I intend to make my family a meal and then settle down to Dancing on Ice and The Midwife on television. At 8.50 pm we shall raise a glass to him. I am arranging for my Ebay sales to finish between 9 - 9.30 pm so I shall have something exciting to look forward to immediately! Then parcels to sort!

By the end of next Sunday I should have a few pounds to then treat myself to some new clothes for the spring, in line with my new branding. I should have a wardrobe rail that is less packed and some empty boxes. I should slide into bed that night feeling that it has been a productive day and one that I am proud of myself for. I shall remember Clive but looking forward to the future.

So communication? Well I have told you about it, sent the booking email, invited my family and later today will do my Ebay listings. Targets and goals are far more likely to be achieved if you share intentions.

Caring? I care about myself (I have to first so that I can care for others). I want to avoid the tears and upset which we all know I have had over the past year. As my wonderful Mum would say to me 'why torture yourself Elaine?'
I care about my family - I have caused them much worry and concern over recent years. I want to continue to change that. I want to add to their happiness and contribute to their lives. I want to spend part of next Sunday with them.
I care about those of you who have followed and supported me. I want to avoid giving you a reason to cry, a reason to mourn and be upset again over Clive. His purpose was to make this world better for him having visited. He undoubtedly did that. His legacy has to be a positive one.

Whitney Houston died today. She was 48, as I am. I know I haven't abused my body with drugs and alcohol as it seems she did, but the news reminds me that none of us will live forever. Whilst we are here we therefore must celebrate graciously each day we are privileged to live.

If this was to be your last day, would you be happy with how you have spent it?

Elaine x

Friday, 10 February 2012

Mums who don't love their babies

Yesterday morning I was given a call by BBC Radio London in response to an article in the Daily Mail about mothers who do not love their babies. I was invited to speak to Vanessa Feltz on her programme - listen again here  (go to 2.08 - 2.15).

The Daily Mail article is well worth a read.

I explained the title of my book, and why my eyes did not sparkle with postnatal depression.
I said I was excited and had expectations about motherhood but spiralled out of control. I admitted that for a while I did not bond with my son as I developed puerperal psychosis. We spoke more about expectations - what I expected and what I got. I didn't expect to be so tired, failing, out of control and feeling like a 'bad' mother.

My main messages were that you must be honest about it if you feel like this. Don't suffer in silence; it's not just you. You are not a bad mother just one who needs more help. It is okay to admit if you feel like this - you need time to talk about how you feel.
Those around can help by being supportive and avoid platitudes and judgements.

I suggested that people contacted their GP's or health visitors; look at The Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation and seek help via 

I didn't say how much I love my gorgeous Dominic and it was just a blip!!!! Ooops!

Elaine x

Calling Mums and Dads happy to talk about PND in Manchester on 15th Feb!

I have been asked by Claudia (see message below) to spread this message. I will be going along.

We especially need some Dads!

I am currently working on a project called Digital Babies (a Digital Care Social Enterprise) which is a collaboration between ITN, NHS Choices and The Royal College of Midwives.

We are making lots of short, minute-or-so long videos that will eventually appear on the NHS Choices website, covering a huge range of issues about pregnancy, birth and babies.

Some films will be from midwives, giving medical advice on some subjects. But many will also come from real people; real parents who have been there, experienced it and bought the t-shirt.

One issue that is vitally important is Post Natal Depression. Many women suffer from it, but many don’t know they have it, how to deal with it or where to get help.

We ideally would need three or four women you may know, who have experienced PND who are happy talking about their experience. They would be filmed in a closed studio (no audience, just the crew) in Manchester on Wednesday 15th February. We would love them to bring their babies too! Ideally (I know I’m asking a lot) but if they have a partner who could also come and discuss, separately, how partners can support women suffering from PND, that would be amazing.

We can pay for their travel costs/organise travel and we will supply them with make-up and hair, food and drinks. But they need to be confident to talk about this very personal issue openly. We’d like to talk with them first over the phone to let them know more about the day, to assess their suitability, and to talk about the kind of things we’d want them to discuss. The filming will not be a one-on-one interview, just three or four women who have all been through PDN, sitting together and discussing it together, in order to eventually encourage other women who have experienced it to get support and help.

If you think you may know of some people who would be interested, please contact me on 0207 833 3000 extn 2076 or drop me a return email.

Kindest regards,



T +44 207 833 3000


Please share with any relevant contacts you may have.

Elaine x

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

'Don't count your days. Make your days count.'

I am grateful to fellow speaker, author and friend Paul McGee for the following reminder in his latest newsletter:-
'Don't count your days. Make your days count.'

How often do we count the days? Usually it is for one of two reasons - either towards something we are looking forward to, such as the next time we see a loved one again OR something we don't really want to happen, e.g. the end of a holiday!

In doing so we are actually in danger of missing 'now'. As I was poorly when Dominic was a baby I know I missed out on the pure enjoyment of his daily progress. I was always too busy counting the days in panic for when my sick note would expire and I might be told I had to go back to work, when I knew I could not cope with it. I also did not appreciate how precious each day was and how quickly he would grow up. How often as new parents are we waiting for the 'next' stage - sitting, walking, climbing, talking? We are in danger of wishing their childhood away.

Being self-employed does give me the luxury of working at the times I choose and also being of use to my family plus giving me pleasure in the process. Now back in Cheshire near my family, I am involved on a Tuesday morning to pick up niece Sophie from my sister's so she can go to work. My parents have Sophie for that day but it is early for them to collect her and I am between the two homes - the early pick up makes sense for me to do. Sophie has now got used to our Tuesday breakfast routine as we come back to 'Laine's house' for a couple of hours. I have learnt and appreciate the magic of this time. I give her my complete attention and we curl up on my sofa, munch our breakfast and watch a Disney film.

I like it at my Auntie Elaine's!
This week she was wearing the cardigan I had knitted last year. I smiled at the thought of how different life has become in recent months after all the trauma and grief. My favourite bit is dancing with her! She then cleans my bathroom whilst I put on my make-up and asks for lipstick before we head off. We often nip to Morrisons, then for petrol and arrive at my parents for coffee and toast. By late morning I am home again and ready to work and if I am still at my desk at 9 pm that evening, so be it. I can emphatically say I enjoyed 'now'. She is two next Tuesday.

What do you do on a regular basis that you can honestly say you soak up every moment? Or are you always onto the next thing/task in your head? I am probably most productive on a Tuesday afternoon as a result!

As a teacher for years, the demotivated team would start each day with a count down - 'only 4 weeks, 3 days until half-term', as appropriate. For a while I was guilty of joining in with that. I didn't like the disillusioned 'me' that I had become in the last years of teaching. I now accept that it was my responsibility to say what bothered me at the time and do something about it - instead I suffered in silence, muttered and moaned and made myself and those around me miserable! If I knew then what I have learnt in recent years my whole approach would have been different! I loved the children in my care but I could have been a happier, more efficient and content person if I had taken the right approach and actions.

Key to that is speak up! By explaining why you feel as you do and suggest ways to improve it then positive actions can be taken. If they are not, at least you can maybe move on but content knowing that you have no regrets (see last blog on regrets and choices).

I don't think I have ever really been guilty of rushing through a holiday with the 'doom' of back home in so many days. I remember having my nails done last year and the owner of the salon was moaning about everything! Her assistant was doing her best to buck her up and reminded her that she was soon to be having her holiday 'But I'll be back soon' was her retort!

I know that there are more moves within society, business and well being for us all to take time out to relax, meditate, etc. I believe very much in this. When I begin to feel overwhelmed I know I become unproductive. My new website is now designed and waiting for me to update the content. I am very pleased with Paul at Leeds Graphic Designers as he has built my blog into it and remarkably has been able to transfer all of my 667 posts! The beauty of my new one is that I can categorise it, so if you are here to learn about postnatal depression, coping with bereavement or even enjoy my taste in music, it will be sorted out. The snag? I have all of them to go through and categorise! Now that is a task! When I began it on Friday, with my impatience for wanting it all done NOW, by Saturday teatime with square eyes I got tearful! 

So what did I do?
1. Acknowledged that it will take as long as it takes and if it's worth doing (which I believe it is) then it is worth doing. Exhaustion will achieve nothing.
2. It doesn't all need doing NOW - be honest with myself.
3. There are 32 pages to edit, with 20 posts per page. Each takes about an hour. So I have applied the 'small steps' approach and have set myself the challenge of one per day. So far I have done 7 and am happy with that. Some days I may do more, some a little less. Either way, in small chunks.

I know when I am really looking forward to something there is the tendency for the days leading up to it to drag! Simple steps such as re-framing your outlook can help, e.g. change 'Oh no, 13 days to go' to 'Great, less than two weeks to go'. Also fill in the potentially dragging days with events, people and constructive activities! That way the time will appear to pass sooner AND when the happy event arrives you will enjoy it even more because you have been so productive! A win, win situation!

I have been getting some lovely messages from people saying how they are thinking of me as the first anniversary of Clive's death approaches on the 19th February. I am very aware of this and perhaps was allowing myself to dread it. I was in danger of dragging myself down with the expectation that on that day I am going to be very upset and the grief will be magnified again. What do I do that day? Where do I want to be? Who do I want to be with to 'get through' it? How do I 'get though' the awful memories of that evening?

In recent days I have decided to re-frame it. To begin with his sister shared with me that when it was the anniversary of their Dad's death, Clive's reaction was to 'just treat it like any other day'. I also have reminded myself of the wishes in his Will - that his life had to be celebrated, not mourned. The message in his last book was that NOW is the only time we have.

From all I have learned and achieved I now recognise that if I lead a 'mourning' on the 19th I would not only be letting his memory down, but myself and all those who have supported and followed me over the year.

I am not saying that I shall have a wild party and get drunk!  I am still not decided but I do know I shall not count down the days now to it with doom and dread. I shall approach it with positivity, hope and a heartfelt appreciate and celebration for all that Clive Gott was to me, his family and many, many others. I will reflect on the past year and acknowledge what I have learnt and how far I have come. I shall express gratitude for the many blessings I have in my life and for those around me as we all step into the future. Maybe I shall dance - even in the kitchen with Sophie!

Yet again I find myself back to my 3 C's in 'Don't count your days. Make your days count.'

1. Choices - we all can take personal responsibility for making our days count either leading to something great or not as great. Choose how you think about it. We cannot make the time we have speed up or slow down but we can make it appear to in how we live our lives.
2. Communication - when you have made your (positive) choices, then to make them happen, tell others! They can support you and will respond how you do. Moan and they will moan with you - be optimistic and they will also be lifted.
3. Caring - why make yourself unhappy? You probably wouldn't chose to make anyone else miserable so why do it to yourself. Think, act, speak with kindness to yourself and others.

So if you are 'counting' for whatever reason, how can you do things differently to enjoy, appreciate and shine in this life? 

Elaine x

Friday, 3 February 2012

Regrets and choices

If you were only given a matter of weeks or months to live what would you do differently? I wonder if Clive had been told this time last year that he had a matter of days left on this earth what would he have done differently? As his partner what might I have done differently? Would we have made different choices? In some things I guess we would - such as paperwork! In others I have no regrets as I know he knew I loved him and vice versa. Clive had only told someone two weeks before he died how happy and content he was and that gives me great comfort.

I am grateful to Pennie Lordan for posting a reference to an article on Facebook about Regrets of the Dying, based on the observations of a palliative nurse. It is similar to the work by Elisabeth Kubler Ross whose work I read last year and lessons I apply to my life now.

The link to the article is here however read on for the details from the actual site below.

From :-

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

So on reflection:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

I guess I did and I do this! Hence my move to Tadcaster to be with Clive in the first place. Likewise now he has gone I know I have been and will be criticised for what I do/don't do. I know I have to do what I feel is right for me.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard. 

That's easy at the moment! I am still in 'be kind to me mode'! However I am also VERY excited because my new website is well on it's way, thanks to Paul at Leeds Graphic Designers and Sammy at Ice Innovation. Watch this space! One of my tasks is to go back through the 700 blog entries here to categorise them! What's that about not working too hard? My 'work' is my passion.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Somehow I know I am okay on this one! My blogs say it all! This post should take it to over 70,000 views! It is something I have improved on whilst I was with Clive and my relationships now. I often used to suppress my feelings for fear of upsetting others. I now let rip!

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

12 months ago I was guilty of this. I have learnt that family are so important but also friends are. I now do my best to do this. I truly value and appreciate my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

Clive's sudden death has REALLY taught me how fragile life is. How precious each moment is - there may not be others. With him I learnt to really laugh and have fun again - that builds a great foundation upon which to grow and develop. He loved to see me smile and make me laugh - and that is how I intend to live my life again.

Even with someone else......

How can you answer those 5 'regrets' and what can you do differently? What choices can you make NOW so that you can live the rest of your days at peace?

Elaine x

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Do you consider taking a break and being good to yourself as 'Fluffy'?

When you are stressed are you at your most productive?
If you are snappy with yourself how can you expect to be good and productive with others?

I always speak about the importance of being good to yourself so that you can help others. It isn't about being selfish - quite the opposite. When I talk about having a 'feel good' First Aid tool kit, it is about being prepared with sensations that help you feel calmer, more relaxed and then more productive.

When I have been stressed, upset and pretty useless at times I find that by allowing myself to indulge and take a break really does help. I know that some business people consider that making room for the emotions is far too 'fluffy' and they are far too busy to consider it..... will they be the ones who 'go under' I wonder in the long run? Will they be the ones with a high sickness rate and employees on long term leave for stress related conditions? Or worse still, early heart attacks and strokes?

I was delighted to be told of this information about the top 10 big companies who actually build 'space' into working days for people to relax, meditate or simply 'chill' for a while.

Have a read of 

I just did a Google search for 'Happy Music' to give us a lift. I came across some relevant information on 
 - have a look at
Bet you feel better now!!

I also like a quote of theirs 'Stop holding on to what hurts so you can make room for what heals.'

And here's one to dance around to ..

'Everytime you get up
And get back in the race
One more small piece of you
Starts to fall into place'

So what can you do to 'switch-off' for a short while so that you'll return firing on all cylinders?

And get back in the race?

Elaine x

Saturday, 28 January 2012

How do you say hello?

Last night I had the pleasure of babysitting my niece for a couple of hours. Since Christmas her speech has come on in leaps and bounds and it was wonderful to be greeted with 'Hello Elaine', a smile and a wave all at the same time!

Isn't it amazing how quickly children learn the most effective way to greet others? Do you still remember the importance of making someone feel acknowledged or even better - special?

I went shopping with a friend a few days ago. I wonder how many potential sales are gained or lost through initial greetings? We actually walked out of some shops because the sales people ignored us! In one it was quite clear we could have used some help but the 'assistants' continued their personal conversations and completely ignored us! Do you make or break sales with your warmth or lack of it?

I often remind health professionals the importance of a warm greeting. It can make the difference between an excellent and poor experience. I am currently reading 'Blink - The Power of Thinking without Thinking' by Malcom Gladwell. I was fascinated by his reference to the fact that people do not tend to sue doctors who have been kind to them if mistakes appear to have been made, yet will almost queue up to take those who have been off-hand and rude to court! How much more understanding are you with someone you feel that has been pleasant with you?

My sister Claire and I watched a DVD together when she came home last night  - 'Julie and Julia' - 'Julia Child's story of her start in the cooking profession is intertwined with blogger Julie Powell's 2002 challenge to cook all the recipes in Child's first book'. I found Meryl Streep's voice to be a bit irritating after a while but I did find a great deal of empathy with the 'blogger'. I smiled when initially both she and others questioned why she should blog - what was the point? Who would read it?

I also understood how she began to let it become an 'addiction' and took over other aspects of her life, as I did last year. At times I found myself 'in a moment' and instead of either enjoying it, or otherwise, I was wondering how I would write about it! I remembered how I would exhaust myself in the process and the burning 'need' to post a blog. I also had the 'meltdown' moments of 'why bother' and at times wanted to stop it completely and once or twice delete the whole lot! I especially liked the point where she wants to give up but prompted by her mother, continues.  I just wonder if mine will become a book or a film!

Today I have spent a wonderfully relaxed afternoon with my family. My niece Indra is back from Zimbabwe for a few weeks with her daughter Alana. They came up with Annie, my sister-in-law and Kerita, my other niece.  Along with my parents, brother, nephew and Claire, Martin and Sophie we had a very mellow few hours. It was fascinating to watch Alana and Sophie play together and how they interacted.

There are many more pictures here. My Mum commented that we don't need to invite guests for a party - there are enough of us to begin with!

Sadly Dominic could not join us due to GCSE revision. He is developing his skills as a photographer, when revision allows. Have a look at his work here. I am a proud Mum!

I have had messages from people asking me how I am. I really appreciate this. I have to say that I am okay. I feel settled into my new home and love being amongst my family. I am spending my 'working hours' on my new website which will be up within weeks. I am very excited about it. I am looking forward to speaking in Leeds on 15th March for the Customer Service Training Network. See you there?

The charity that I am trustee of,  The Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation , is going from strength to strength and we have many plans for the future. Fellow trustee Ann Girling and I are busy booking more workshops aimed at teams in Children's Centres.

I have been affected by problems with my email over the last few weeks - apologies if you have sent me something but I may not have received it. My email appears to be working again now. Phew!

Through it all my memories of Clive of course remain. I am extremely aware that we are approaching the anniversary of his death. At my sister's today we found a newspaper that had been dropped behind a piece of furniture. The date - 19th February 2011 - that day Clive died. I felt a cold shiver down my spine. Little did we know that the morning that newspaper was bought, within hours he would have gone. On the front of it was an advert for a DVD of 'Larkrise to Candleford' - we had loved watching that series together.

Clive was a great believer in 'letting go and moving on'. He encouraged all those in his audiences to make positive choices. To be the best they could be. He had a very powerful way of saying hello - who can forget those 'bear hug' greetings to male and female alike? He made many of us feel very special. I continue to receive messages from people saying how he is missed and what impact he had made on their lives. Me too.

However, he would never take the credit for that. He used to dismiss the idea that he was a 'motivational' speaker because he said he would simply share his experiences and ideas - if we made different actions and choices because of that, then he was delighted to have helped but ultimately he would have reminded us that we are all responsible for ourselves.

It broke my heart when Clive died. Saying good bye before they took his body from our home has to be the worse thing that has happened to me ('so far', he'd say, as you never know what's ahead!). I used to love our 'hellos'. A 'hello' means the start of something.

I chose now to say 'hello' to my future, yet never forgetting who I had to say goodbye to.

Today surrounded by my family, Annie and I reflected on how quickly our children have grown. Claire was saying that although our bodies age we still feel the same inside. I know what she means but experience does change us.

I want to make sure that when someone picks up a newspaper printed the last day of mine on this earth, that they too can say that I made a positive impact on the world - as many say Clive did -right from that first 'hello'.

How will you make your 'hello' memorable?

Elaine x

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Take pride in how far you have come .....

I remember a conversation with my friend Chris Bingley several months ago as we shared our respective journeys of bereavement. His for his wife Joe (see her foundation details here) and me for the loss of my partner, Clive Gott. He said that you never 'get over' them but you do learn to carry on. Also that when you least expect it - wham! - grief gets you right between the eyes. Well right now this is one of those moments! (Oh dear, I hear you say!)

Using my analytical thinking, why today? Why now? I have written over the last two months how much happier I have been, having moved back near my family. I am excited that son Dominic is coming for his tea with me later; that I shall be looking after my niece for a few hours in the morning then having coffee and toast with my parents. I love my new cottage and my new car. I have learnt to focus and concentrate again - currently working on getting more workshops booked with Children's Centres. I am meeting up with old friends and new. So why this morning has a real pang of grief over Clive hit me?

Part of it is the realisation that almost a year has passed since he died. I have started to ask myself and others have how will I spend 19th February, the anniversary of his death. I really don't know. I watched Dancing on Ice on Sunday night, cosy and happy in my cottage with wonderful company. One of the acts danced to 'Summer of 69'. In an instance I was back on the pitch at Headingley ...

I felt all the sensations. Since then it has been just a thought away again. I have been reminded of the pain. The shock. The dismay.

This morning began with a call from our friend Molly Harvey. Her career is riding high and next week she will present for Forever Living Products at the event that Clive did last year. It was, in his words, 'his finest hour - it was what he had been working for his whole life'. He truly was magnificent that day, as those who were in the audience would have agreed. He had his new book out; his new keynote sussed and successful. He had lost weight using their products and sheer determination and drive. I am thrilled that Molly will be there this year instead. I felt the grief for what we all have lost.

I have finally got back into watching the news - for so long I could not bear to be brought down by so much doom and gloom so avoided it. Of course the last few days it has been headlined by the cruise liner disaster. My heart goes out to all those involved, as I am sure millions of us who have had the pleasure of a cruise will have empathised. Having loved our cruise a year last September, that has also brought back memories.

I still receive messages from people who knew Clive and they tell me of how he impacted on their lives. For the support, inspiration, friendship and laughter he gave. The last few days I have had some of those too which have affected me. As I attended to emails this morning from out of nowhere the tears flowed!

I decided that I needed 'a dose of Clive' and watched this for the first time in months.

Incredible. That's where I am today - content yet unhappy 'in the moment'. I loved to hear him say he had 'enough'.  I do feel a great deal of comfort from the fact that when Clive died, he felt he had all he wanted. He was working hard to maintain what he had. He didn't have enough of one thing - time.

It was good to hear his voice and hear his laugh. It was good to be reminded of the amazing man he was. Being apart from my family when I lived with Clive was tough. I now am back with them but without him.

I was at a workshop on Friday and a comment was made that I was now at a position of 'stability' upon which to rebuild my life and grow. I have been feeling that. It's just shaken a little today.

For a moment I hesitated if to share these feelings. I took the decision to do so because I have to acknowledge that it is okay to feel like this. It is completely understandable. Clive meant a great deal to me and many others. I know that we all will 'have our moments'. He wasn't a saint. He had his flaws as we all do but he was a man who has left his mark on the world. By sharing I hope it helps others to realise that even though your general direction is upwards and strong, sometimes it is okay to have a little wobble. Go with it and then move on again. Be kind to yourself. As Clive would have said 'stop shoulding all over yourself', e.g. ' I shouldn't feel like this after 11 months'. Who says?

Our good friend Paul McGee would say this was a 'hippo' time. A little wallow every now and then is okay.

So what would Clive be saying to me now? For starters it would be 'get dressed'!!! I still have my dressing gown on in the office (something he would be very cross about)!  He would then give me a hug; let me cry and point out I had a very red nose! He would then ask what was I going to do about it or simply say 'this too will pass and make you stronger'.

Clive often told me that I needed to believe more in myself and what I am capable of. On reflection this year I have done many things I previously would have doubted. I feel now he would be reminding to consider all of that. As I type my eyes just noticed the card I keep on my desk:

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

I guess I need to remember that. Smile at what we had and continue to plan for the future - including a way to celebrate his life on the 19th February.

So what are you beating yourself up about? As I say to people - be your own best friend and be kind to yourself.

For me that starts with boiled eggs and soldiers!!

Elaine xx

P.S. Clive's brother Malcolm read this and reminded me of this lion which Clive bought for him .... thank you xx

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Why I do what I do around postnatal depression .....

On Tuesday 17th January it will be seven years since my book 'Eyes without Sparkle - a journey through postnatal illness' was published. Only this week I received a humbling email from a lady who is currently suffering from the same illness and tells me that my story is giving her hope and 'getting her through'. That was why I shared what happened - it gives comfort to those who feel that the blackness will never end.

Since my book was published my life has changed, initially from leaving my teaching career to begin a new one as a speaker and advocate around maternal mental health. My marriage ended and I began new life in Yorkshire with fellow speaker, Clive Gott, who died suddenly last year. I am now back in Cheshire with my family and rebuilding my life again. I have determination, support and hope to find happiness again. I was told nothing and no-one could have saved Clive the day he died. His heart and arteries were beyond repair. I get comfort from that. The pain of bereavement is the worse I have ever faced.

If there was something or someone that could have avoided this pain then I would want to fight about it. I would want to avoid others from the devastation I have felt.

That is where my dearest friend Chris Bingley now is. His wife Joanne (Joe) took her own life whilst suffering from postnatal illness. He is in this position. As a trustee for the charity in her name now I am determined to join him in his call to action to avoid others families unnecessarily left bereft in such a way.

Currently Chris is on the media trail to highlight the charity and its aims.

I am listening to BBC Radio Leeds from last Wednesday 11th January (2 - 3 pm) when Chris was interviewed by Liz Green. I urge you to listen and share it. I know what happened but listening to Chris describe it all with such dignity, honesty and passion is truly inspirational.

Also here is the link to the article which appeared in the Yorkshire Post last week.

Please help us in the charity to spread the awareness about postnatal illness and call for more services to help families. The concept of 'just' postnatal depression needs to be shattered. As Chris says 'my wife died because we didn't get information which could have cost 70p.'

Chris is an incredible man. I am humbled and privileged to know him. His story has fuelled my desire and purpose to make early parenthood happier and easier for others.

Chris and I at Joe's charity launch

Please help us. Visit the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation  website and sign up for our newsletters on developments and how you can help.

Elaine x

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Can someone else please tell BT that Clive Gott has died?

Now my regular readers will know that I give credit where it is due. I love to be able to share my many positive experiences with my blog readers all over the world, for example, in my last post on buying a car. I may mention where I have had service that could be better but I don't usually name them - I prefer to give them the opportunity to rectify the situation.

However, next month Clive will have been dead for a year. Is it TOO much to expect a national company - BT - to continue to send me bills in his name at this stage? They were informed within a few weeks of his death BUT THEY CONTINUE!!

Even now I have moved house they are redirected to me here IN HIS NAME!!! I am almost past the severe emotional distress it caused me before I moved - when I would literally sit at the bottom of the stairs and sob my heart out at the reminder AGAIN that he has gone - see my previous blog
However, this morning AGAIN I have received my final bill reminder in his name and once again I am in tears - out of exasperation this time!

I have emailed numerous times, written and spoken to team members in customer service at BT, each time being assured that his name is off their database - yet still they come!!!! This morning I have lost my patience and therefore ask you to Tweet, Facebook, etc. about this! When I was at the Professional Speaking Association conference in October, which I wrote about here, I was talking about my dilemma then. The fellow diners suggested I named and shamed as within our network messages go global within minutes! Someone said how they had tweeted about poor service and within an hour they had the relevant head office on the phone!

So can you join me in getting my message to a company who refuse to listen and apparently do not care? My heart goes out to elderly widows and widowers who may have the same problem. Imagine how painful it must be to them months on if the same has happened? Why do BT insist on causing the pain of grief to be a constant reminder. They got my name right on my bank account immediately - so why can't they understand that the incredible Clive Gott has passed away?

Can you let them know please because for once I really am at a loss to know what to do?

In the meantime I need some Shayne!!

By the way - I signed up with Sky in my new home who have been great!

PS. After posting this I was given an email address by a friend to someone at BT. Within a couple of hours this matter was dealt with but what a shame I had to resort to this. I have had others comment that the same issue arises on divorce and a wish for BT to show more compassion. I have been told they will send me a survey to complete so that 'lessons can be learned'. I do hope so.

Elaine x

Monday, 9 January 2012

Baby you can drive my car ....

As 2012 gets under way I have found myself having to make another choice. This month my trusty Fiat Punto, which I have owned since it was new in January 2005, is due for tax, insurance and MOT. At 87,000 miles this was going to hurt!

You may have read about my windscreen wipers breaking a few weeks ago. My confidence in my car has been shaken as warning lights have also started to flash. We had intended to change it last year but due to Clive's death many plans have not happened as originally intended.

So the search began last week. I have become skilled at using Autotrader and had several phone calls and trips to car sales places on my own. I have never shopped for a car on my own before. It was interesting to witness the various 'stereotypes' of car sales people!

One car I viewed was pretty grotty - as soon as I sat in it I could smell cigarettes and stale take-aways. However I knew there was a similar car further away so I asked if I could take it for a test drive on that basis - if I liked the type of car I would venture to view the other one. The salesman simply gave me the keys and I manoeuvred it off the forecourt; up to the M53 and back again. 
On my return I re-parked it exactly how I had found it. The man appeared and in an amazed tone said.
'Wow! That was good parking ... we could use you here'.
The pause in the middle I suggested he meant 'for a woman' which he denied!
I didn't like the car. I left.

At another garage I was treated with the 'oh you're a woman on your own so I can pull the wool over your eyes and simply ask what colour you want'.
I didn't like his patronising manner. I left.

I went back to Autotrader and found another car I might like. I phoned the next day to be told that one had gone but they had others I might like. So I drove to Wigan. When I arrived the salesman was on his mobile phone and ignored me for a few moments whilst he finished his personal call (not that I was eavesdropping of course). He gained a point for realising that it was me that he had spoken to earlier. When I asked what else he had to show me he just gestured to the cars outside - 'have a look' he said - and continued his call.
I don't like being ignored. I left.

Also in Wigan I went to look at another car - when I found the garage - behind a cafe and a closed roller shutter door! I actually liked the shiny red car I had gone to see but the surroundings and elderly man smoking and 'dodgy' feel put me off. However, I decided that I wouldn't be so judgemental and give him a chance. That was until he made horrible comments about my car and offered me peanuts for it!
I don't like anyone insulting something or someone I love! I left.

By Saturday I had got down to a shortlist of three - top of my budget, middle and sensible! I took a friend with me who knows more about cars than me.

The first garage (sensible price) I hadn't been to by myself but I had spoken to 'Andy' on the phone who had been very pleasant. So we had a look at the Punto I was interested in - older than mine but less than half the mileage and in great condition. One snag was that ideally having my niece now nearby to pick up sometimes, a 5 door car would be easier - this one was 3. Otherwise everything else about it was fine. Andy was charming, without being a creep, gave us the keys and said he would not push us but invited us to explore the car. We did so. He then invited us into the warm office and gave us a copy of the warranty he would offer and when we explained we had others to view, gave us his card and said that if he could do anything above what he already was offering, then to ring and give him a chance.
We liked the car and him - we might go back  to MC Garages .....

Next was the mid-range car. The garage owner had said the previous day that changing my private plate over 'could be tricky' and that I shouldn't expect much for mine! He might give me a fraction more if it was MOT'd. However, I did like the car he had for sale so risked going back. The 'wind-up' windows made me smile in memory of one of Clive's keynotes when he had a story about self-control and road-rage - he'd make a joke about having a car with manual windows. The salesman refused to budge on anything. No negotiation at all.
My friend didn't like his stubbornness. We left.

At this point I suddenly felt very emotional. I realised that I would be saying goodbye to my blue car that has seen me through an incredible few years. I have been ecstatic and excited in that car - and hysterically distraught. When Clive had his knee operations in the final months of his life I had driven him many places in this car. That too was now going. Another sign of 'moving on'.

Finally we went for my top range one. I had liked the young girl who had originally showed me this car, in the absence of her boss. She had been helpful before I went, via email and phone. She offered me a great price for mine and I was keen to go back. Having made the comment above about women only choosing  a car on it's colour I admit that this one wasn't bright enough for me! I like to be bright! This one was black. Beyond that it was a 'bargain' due to water damage and then being refitted. Hmmm. Maybe trouble in future? 
We were concerned about the car although their service was great. We left to think.

So the decision was down to the dear one and the cheapest. So what was it to be? The shiny black 5 door with on 8,000 miles or the bright yellow one?

We called at my parents and a family 'conflab' was held including my sister! I decided we'd give Andy the chance he'd asked for. He then offered a bit more for my car plus road tax! Job done!

We went back to do the paperwork and again he was charming. He was so passionate and enthusiastic about his job and that came across. He will sort out all my paperwork for me and get me some new plates made up.
So on Wednesday I pick up my yellow Punto. And it just happens to match my new branding ...

So was my choice made just on the colour? It helped but basically I feel my choices were mainly directed by other people!

How many people do you influence by your manner? Do you appear friendly and helpful like Andy or disinterested and insulting like some of the others I came across?

On reflection my new car experience has again been impacted by the three aspects I keep referring to:-

1. Choice
2. Communication - this influenced my choices as I have described. Incidentally, the 'black car' garage, VIP car sales, replied to my email, informing them that I had decided against their car,  in such a lovely manner that I would go back to them another time.
3. Caring - Andy cared. He got the sale. Not only that - my friend has asked him to look out for a dream car for him!

I now have to compromise - any one got a spare car seat for a 2 year old I can have permanently in the back of my new car for Sophie, to make life easier and safer?!

What will you do today to positively influence someone?

Elaine x

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Sharp knives and wet kitchen floors!

Whilst I was washing up last night I remembered to leave the sharp knife out out the water until I was going to immediately wash it. I smiled as I recalled that it was something that Clive was adamant that I do. He would tell me the story of someone he had known that had taken the top clean off their finger by not being aware of a sharp knife lurking under the bubbles. He wanted to protect me. That story and advice is now part of my daily routine. My knowledge. My experience. A bitter sweet memory of Clive with his arms around me as I washed up (or he did).

That made me think of how others can impact upon us. I was away over New Year with my family in the Lake District. My brother-in-law Martin was often warning his toddler daughter to 'mind that head'. I guess we do it all of the time to those we love and want to keep safe. Yet I also reflected on how I teach myself advice. When I arrived back to my cottage the kitchen floor was flooded! For a couple of hours I had no heat either and stayed wrapped in a blanket on the settee feeling very glum. The rest of my family were still away; Dom was busy; I felt my mood slipping. I began to spiral into 'poor me' mode!

Then I gave myself a metaphorical slap! What would I advise others?
Choices - I could have easily gone to my parents or sisters homes for the night. I still had most of the basics in the house. All I had to do was wait for help which did arrive. As I listened to the wind I counted my blessings and thought of those who are homeless. I have so much to be grateful for. I had also chosen to come home earlier for a reason I wasn't sure of until I opened the back door!
Communication - I wasn't cut off. I had communicated with my landlord the problem and within a couple of hours he had got me sorted out. I hadn't just let the problem build up. I had taken action, asked for and received help graciously. I had done something. I just needed to remind myself of that! I wasn't wallowing and allowing more water to flood out.
Caring - I cared for my cottage and gave the landlord the opportunity to do so for both of our sakes! I cared for myself - I wanted to be safe and warm. I also allowed a good friend to care for me as they listened to my 'tale of woe' and some self pity before I talked myself back up! They also reminded me of my language - I had slipped into using 'try' and 'not too bad' instead of positive alternatives! So today I WILL take some constructive actions and acknowledge that life is okay and going to get even better!

I now have heat again - and a very clean kitchen floor!

Yesterday afternoon I also had a call out of the blue from a friend from Tadcaster just asking me how I was - much appreciated. Who can you call today and just say  'I was thinking of you'?

I now have a space both mentally and physically to plan and grow for 2012. I want to Dream Big! I am also prepared to take action too! Are you?

  • So what is it that you teach others and follow yourself?
  • What will people remember about you when you are no longer there?
  • What are your dreams and what will you DO to make them happen?

Elaine x

Monday, 2 January 2012

A New Year

‘An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.’  Bill Vaughn

Did you stay up? Which camp were you in? I confess I was in both!

2011 for me was undoubtedly the toughest I have faced (so far - as Clive would have said, as we cannot predict the future). It was worse for me than when I had puerperal psychosis and was in a psychiatric hospital after having my wonderful son. In many ways the illness ‘protected’ me and I suspect it was worse for those around me. Yet losing Clive so suddenly in February was awful. In an instance my life was turned upside down – emotionally, physically, financially, professionally. Readers of my blog have been with me on the journey since then and boy, have there been some dark times! There have also been some lighter moments and those which have made me smile.

On New Year’s Eve I went back though my diary and summarised the main events and experiences I have had in 2011. I was amazed on reflection! I have lost an incredible man – we all have – yet my diary reflects a varied and, taking emotion out of it, interesting list. I now feel far stronger, balanced and less upset than I was in previous months and have begun to realise now the extreme highs and lows I was functioning on. The ‘rollercoaster’ is now a much more gentle ride.

I thought back to last New Year’s Eve which I spent in Tadcaster with Clive and we went to some of the local pubs with Lynn, his sister, and Rod, her husband (below).

Clive and Rod

Lynn and I
Now I look at these I can see that Clive didn’t look well then. He was determined in the ‘New Year’ to lose weight and pushed himself to the limit to do so. Seven weeks later his heart gave up and Clive Gott left us. 

My sadness for 2011 is for the loss of him and our relationship. Our hopes, dreams, goals, plans. Our home and how we were building it together. Our friendships; our social life; our professional lives. All gone. It is the past. Clive wrote his last book ‘It’s not your time, it’s the time you have’, with the focus on making the most of ‘now’. My greatest legacy to him has to be to do that. To let go. To move on.
That doesn’t mean forget. It doesn’t mean what we had wasn’t special or to be brushed aside as if it didn’t happen. It did and it was an amazing time.  I now choose to smile when I remember instead of crying.

Coping with grief has been another journey – similar to depression – yet due to an event, not an illness.
So I could say that 2011 was an awful year but that would write off 365 days and nights. The first seven weeks were with Clive. Since his death my relationships with many others have grown, decreased, been rebuilt or even begun. I now have people around me that I didn’t realise how important they would become to me. I recommend Bob Beaudine’s book ‘The Power of Who’. We often seek new people when actually the support we need is already around us, if we can only recognise it, ask for it and appreciate it graciously. I now do!

I have pushed myself professionally to give presentations when I was ‘raw’ with emotion, yet that now gives me the strength and determination to do more, with the added confidence that ‘if I could do it then, I can do it anytime’!  Being given the opportunity to be a coach, via telephone, has taught me to listen and that it isn’t always ‘all about me’!!  The experience of rebuilding my life due to the loss of another, has given me a broader audience for inspirational speaking and writing. Living on my own for the first time has taught me how to be responsible for running a home, even if it just to put the bins out on the right day! 

Another huge positive step forward is actually going 'back' - to be with my own family. It was a big wrench to leave behind the home I shared with Clive but I had begun to be increasingly lonely there and holding onto something that had gone. Living within a 10 minute radius again of my son, parents, sister and niece has given me the strong basis on which to grow and develop in 2012. To be back to give and be part of my family on a daily basis is wonderful. I shall remain in touch with Clive's family and the friends I made over in Yorkshire  - just that I shall be making the journey over the M62 less.
Sophie and I Christmas day 2011
I am also just down the road from my friend and colleague Ann Girling and we are looking forward to expanding our workshops on postnatal depression, especially to Children's Centres. Our roles within the Joanne (Joe) Bingley Memorial Foundation look to grow along with the charity. I shall be looking to renew my reputation as an inspirational speaker at conferences and my work with the Open University. My support for individuals through Greatvine and a coach will continue too.

So I am looking forward to 2012 and all that it may bring. I leave you for now with these sentiments of one of Clive's favourite songs - I have to agree with them, even if he is no longer in my physical world.

So are you going to be the pessimist or optimist?

Happy New Year!