I wrote this poem after a creative writing class in a Gallery very near Waverley station. It evoked so much in a week that the Flying Scotsman took us back in time and the new Trainspotting filming has started across the city. Hope you like it. And thanks to Angela for the photo that's started it all off.....choo choo
Glenrothes with Thornton
broken by memories
Glenrothes with Thornton
a flying Scottish
red rusted bridges
Promises of joyful
life stretching ahead
Monday, 16 May 2016
I'm part of the Health and Social Care Academy team so I'm not able to take part in the creative competition we have just launched but I'm keen to write something as the questions really made me think. What changes would make a difference to my life? What would a healthier or fairer Scotland mean for me?
I found myself focussing on what a healthier Scotland would mean to me. And yes we all know now that exercising more, eating less processed high calorie foods, drinking less alcohol and less high calorie soft drinks would make us healthier but I'm wondering if there is something even more fundamental than that.
When we know that loneliness is a major concern across all age groups, when stress and mental health issues are at epidemic levels in our schools, workplaces and for those on low incomes too; then external solutions cannot be the only solutions. Something deeper needs to shift in our society. It's complicated at some levels but I suspect at another level it's actually very simple.
My simple solution would be for us all just to try a little kindness.
OK stay with me, I know that makes me sound like the ageing hippy I am but close your eyes for a moment and picture your workplace where everyone works well and is kind to each other, see the schools and universities where learning is fostered and kindness is the norm, benefit systems that respond to need kindly without judgement, neighbours who lookout for each other with kindly intent, care systems where kindness is fundamental to all they do....are you still with me? As you imagine that how do you feel? We're you smiling as you pictured it? I was.
Now I'm not suggesting the shallow kindness of "have a nice day" or a like on a Facebook page, what I mean is the kindness that does the honour and respect of honesty, that shows compassion ( in sense of being alongside another in their suffering), that is willing to work beyond self interest for the greater good, where everyone matters; that's the kindness I think could fundamentally make the difference to us all. And that wouldn't just make Scotland healthier but fairer too.
And as my recovery from breast cancer goes on its the kindnesses that stand out. The kindness of my wonderful family, the friends who look out for me, the work colleagues whose support and flexibility has made all the difference, the surgeon who organised my surgery so I was able to enjoy birthday celebrations with those I love, and the team who made it clear that I'm not just a number. It's kindness that has been more therapeutic as any medicine. And I'm grateful beyond words for that.....for me it's made all the difference.
You may say I'm a dreamer .....but as the song said.....I'm not the only one. And it's something we don't need to wait for the government to do or legislate for we just need to start with ourselves. Now there's a thought..
If you want to join our creative competition here's how to do it .....it's a great way to have your voice heard, whoever you are and what I do know from all the years I have worked with the Alliance is that all our voices can collectively make the difference we want.
Tuesday, 12 April 2016
This fucking disease has no shame
It took the twinkle from your eye
That brand of fire and humour
That didn't flinch from the truth
When we first spoke
Me in Shetland for one job
Testing the waters of
A new one
I'm 12 years on from my diagnosis
I'm 10 you said
Was there a belief of safety
In that exchange?
Your warmth and passion
Sealed my path
But a few short years later cancer
Changed both our paths
But I'm here - you're not
There is no sense to that
No warm words of consolation
No bright side
A light has gone from here
I hope it's burning brightly again
Free from pain and distress
Laughter its language
Monday, 28 March 2016
I'm in an unusual position just now. I'm transitioning from convalescing after treatment for breast cancer again to engaging back with the external world of life and work. It's always a challenging stage and I feel I'm pacing out the boundaries of what helps me return to all that life holds and what keeps me well. I suspect it will be a lifelong challenge. And one I share with many others.
But my work is in the field of health and well-being and there's a different lens I'm seeing that world through just now and that's really very valuable. There's something fine tuned to seeing what really matters and equally being aware of what doesn't. The report on the national conversation on a healthier Scotland was launched recently and also I have been part of discussions on bringing the Buurtzorg model to Scotland as well as exploring what we can learn too from the Alaskan NUKA model. It feels like there is a shift happening and my sense is that we have an opportunity to really respond to that. The consultation that happened across Scotland's many communities drew out some strong and compelling themes.
• The need for a greater focus on preventing illness – through education and support to help us make healthy lifestyle choices;
• The importance of mental health and wellbeing – and the role of connected communities and good support networks as part of that;
• The themes of person-centred care, support to self-manage health and the importance of a holistic approach;
• Increased awareness of the full range of social care services and how it benefits different people, along with recognising and valuing the important role of unpaid carers;
• The need for more accessible and flexible services, better partnership working and joined up care, and an easier way of signposting people to what’s available;
• Recognition of the challenges ahead and the need to set clear priorities for the future.
The detail is here: https://creatingahealthierscotland.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/creating-a-healthier-scotland-summary-report.pdf
These are hugely important themes and what is key now is to have the right culture and context for these themes and our people to flourish. The Buurtzorg model prioritises Humanity over Bureaucracy and my sense is that needs to be the priority for us in the here and now in Scotland as integration becomes the new norm and we set out the direction of travel for the next phase of health and social care. The NUKA model which emerged from a health care system in Alsaka that was essentially broken created a new platform to enable health and wellbeing in its community using the WELLNESS acronym as core concepts.
Work together in relationship to learn and grow
Listen with an open mind
Laugh and enjoy humour throughout the day
Notice the dignity and value of ourselves and others
Engage others with compassion
Share our stories and our hearts
Strive to honour and respect ourselves and others
The strong theme of humanity is common to both of these transformational care organisations. Although person-centredness is a key commitment, whats less evident is of the system working in a way that supports this in its people as well as those it serves. I hear signs of the stress in the system that in many ways is understandable going through a huge transition like the integration of health and social care. The focus perhaps inevitably has been on structures, roles, systems and so on but it's the people who will make it work. Its the people who need to share that vision of the future and know they will be supported to prioritise it.Its the people who will make the transformation. And to do that they will need to lead and work from their humanity, not as too often can be the case, feel the need to hide it.
The recent Think Tank we hosted at the Health and Social Care Academy had a rich discussion about what will enable this kind of change. Emphasising humanity was one of the themes. And from where I'm sitting with a foot in recovery from cancer and the other foot in enabling transformational change in health and social care nothing, absolutely nothing can be more important than that. So come April 1 when the integrated boards become legal and as we shift to implementing the recommendations of a healthier Scotland I call on them to emphasise humanity over bureaucracy and show courageous leadership ( another of the themes from our think tank). Leadership that listens and responds, that supports innovation,that knows success comes from failing too, that trusts more and puts the people at the centre, throughout the whole system. And if they also emulate the core WELLNESS concepts from NUKA ,I'm absolutely certain everyone will benefit and we will achieve a flourishing health and social care system.
Friday, 11 March 2016
There has been a strange rhythm to the last few weeks. We have had two bereavements in the family. Both long lived but nonetheless mourned by those who loved them. I've struggled to get my equilibrium right in this time, concerned for others and keeping a weathered eye on my self-care. And getting it wrong regularly.
Any loss of course evokes our own grief and reminds us of our own mortality. Standing by a grave side recovering from cancer is not easy for anyone concerned. The demons I'm fairly good at chasing took over for a time. The "how long", "what if's" returned and how life sapping that is. I've endeavoured to return to being in the moment and mostly I can do it apart from when I don't feel good; then its harder.
I have shared other people's huge relief for me not to have needed chemotherapy but it hides a recovery that's not without its challenges. I still need regular pain relief from my surgery, I'm taking anti-oestrogen tablets for five years ( with more to follow) that give me rotten side effects, like joint pain and breathlessness. And I'm pretty wabbit to use an old Scots word (adjective(Scottish) weary; exhausted).
Now, I'm glad that once I have got the makeup on I look fairly well but it hides a reality that paradoxically,I want to hide and want people to be aware of too. I wrote a blog before when i was recovering from surgery about feeling I should have a T-shirt saying "I'm not very well you know". It would be for the days I want people to give me space especially in public transport, to give me time if I can't rush, to smile and pat me on the head like a Labrador ( well maybe not that but you get my drift? )
We don't always look unwell, even when we are, and our busy, noisy, clamouring world can really impact on us when we are tender. Gone are days when folk who are ill or grieving get to lie on a chaise lounge or winter in Switzerland, we go back to work or are expected get on with our lives and the pain too often gets dug in. When benefit systems are so inflexible, pensions delayed well into our late sixties and jobs so uncertain how can people hope to heal properly? Where is the space in our lives to recover now? Somehow though we need to find that space and time.
But for all that this time has also been the reminder of all that's important in life. A Mother's Day visit to my Mum was precious.As was a morning ( slow) walk in the cold, snow dusted spring day to a nearby lake. Watching Cara the dog swim joyfully and not want to leave was quite magical.
So I'm enjoying life, trying to grab it with both hands and doing my best to pace myself. Some days I even manage it. It was in that spirit I booked tickets to see Carol King play the whole of Tapestry in Hyde park in July. I was tearfully delighted when I got them. Here's the title song, Tapestry which I've long thought I would like to play as I say my goodbyes.....but not for a good while yet you understand! https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s7q-1OAbNXg
I read this poem this week and it really captures with beauty the spirit of gratitude I feel just now. Hope you enjoy it, its by the wonderful Mary Oliver ...
The Place I Want to Get Back To
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
and first light
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me
they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let’s see who she is
and why she is sitting
on the ground, like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless;
and so they come
on their slender legs
and gazed upon me
not unlike the way
I go out to the dunes and look
and look and look
into the faces of the flowers;
and then one of them leaned forward
and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life
bring me that could exceed
that brief moment?
For twenty years
I have gone every day to the same woods,
not waiting, exactly, just lingering.
Such gifts, bestowed,
can’t be repeated.
If you want to talk about this
come to visit. I live in the house
near the corner, which I have named
~ Mary Oliver ~