Great-fully-Grateful

gratitudeIn my book A Journey of Creative Healing, I write that half a century ago my Aunty G’ advised me to ‘always seek the silver lining in any situation.’
Finding the silver lining is one of the six steps that enabled me to return to full health. Today we know it as a practice of gratitude.
Back in the early 1960’s, the double wammy of grief and illness – death of my husband and the diagnosis of an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis — made it unbelievably hard to be grateful. I was numb, I felt like I was in a dark cave, people’s voices came from afar and even the most effective circuit breaker like a smile or chuckle from my children did not reach me.

 Grief is a Process

 But now I see that those fearful dark days did have the nub of silver within. The long months of emotional hibernation had to happen to enable me to process the enormity of trauma and loss. The loss of my champion: our life together as I knew it, and as my sickness gripped harder, the dependence on others for my life.
The biblical metaphor of ‘death’s dark valley,’ fits the lonely dark space that had to be traversed, so change could occur.
As I emerged onto the gentler slopes of acceptance I started to appreciate the smallest things in life. I remember one morning hearing the birds sing, it had been long since I had heard their melodic call. As I listened and delighted in the bird’s song, I became aware of the blue-blueness of the sky. Life was no longer grey.

Determined Practice of Gratitude

Gratitude became a determined practice. I looked for it constantly. I pushed past other emotions like anger and confusion to find it. It became easier and easier to identify and expand that feeling of joy. And becoming more grateful with every passing day, I lost sight of things I lacked.
Scientific studies show how the practice of gratitude improves physical and psychological health, and it allows people to form stronger relationships and become more resilient.
I still practice gratitude today. But I do not say out loud ‘I am grateful for…..’ I do not keep a journal, or lie in bed at night and push myself to list three things that day that gave me a sense of gratitude. It is more a habit of awareness, being present in the pleasure and stretching the feeling so the warmth floods through my body.

I love ………

I love sun-kissed clean sheets on my bed, a garden tended with passion and dedication, a slow dance with my husband and singing loudly, a little off-key, in the shower – ‘I am still standing ……Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid, I’m still standing after all this time ……… ‘

Come on share with me,  what makes you grateful?

Advertisements

Creative Journeys

mummy
My parents and I on a summer holiday 1952

 

In my book A Journey of Creative Healing I tell how I believe  that committing to a creative project every day, come rain or shine, helped heal me from multiple sclerosis.

When that intuitive message came to do something creative everyday it made total sense as I had learned the joy and satisfaction of being creative from an early age.  My mother was the ultimate creative,  and an eminently kind gentle soul – I was her shadow,  I loved her beyond the widest ocean, higher than the sky and all of the tea in China!

My grandfather was a self-made man, he was an importer of coffee and dried fruits and conservative to the bone, which meant he did not believe in women working. Instead, Mummy learned to sew a fine seam, make all of her clothes and hats. She loved hats and wore clochethem well, so much so they became her signature dressing, ‘choose the hat first darling and the decision on the rest of the outfit falls into line.’

imagesWhen eventually my Grandfather gave permission for my parents to marry after seven years of ‘courting,’  in setting up her first home she rebelled against the heavily Victorian style of the house of her childhood and embraced the 1930’s cutting-edge-fashion of art deco. She was an avid collector of Clarice Cliff, the legendary ceramic artist’s pottery.  In the Blitz, we lost our home and everything in it.  Later when we lived with our grandfather, his house was hit by a V1 doodle bug and again all we had were clothes we stood in.

make do and mendMake Do & Mend’ was a government catchphrase during that time and my mother was very good at. She found a semi-detached house to rent and once again created a stylish home. There were no quarterly household item collections, there were no flea markets and furniture was scarcer than hen’s teeth with everything rationed. But she begged borrowed and made make-do-&-mend into an art form. Today’s home-stylists  would have adored her as she was the Queen of renovation.  She bought the old, tired and worn back to life;  recovering threadbare chairs and settees, French polishing scratched and dull furniture to a glowing patina and painting the house inside and out.

lampshadShe especially loved the spill of lighting from table lamps, overhead lighting was never used, and graced all of her many lamps with her hand-made pleated chiffon lampshades. She was equally at home in the garden and our small colourful blooming patches, both front and back, were the envy of neighbours.

She was a good cook, and when her father died and left her a small inheritance she set pinkup a small café. Immediately her morning and afternoon tea concept was a winner, people loved her sense of style, pink bone china for tea and for coffee, the first of its kind shatter free glass cups and saucers. Soon the market demanded luncheons and she started her day before sparrow twitter preparing, baking and cooking and achieving a regular sixty covers a day for lunch and a steady morning and afternoon trade.

She smoked, a pack of cigarettes a day, but elegantly like a glamorous heroine out of a forties film and died too young. She was a casualty of the English class system,  she identified herself as ‘upper middle class’ and fought to hang onto to this label throughout her life. Sadly if she had been asked to define herself her first priority would be ‘I am middle class, but upper middle class,’ instead of saying what a magnificent all-round nurturing Goddess that she was.

The Radical Remission Project

Dr-Kelly-Turner-PhD-Radical-Remission-1
Dr Kelly A. Turner

While I was researching and writing my latest book ‘A Journey of Creative Healing,’ I read  the New York Times best selling book ‘Radical Remission – Surviving Cancer against all Odds.’  The author is Dr Kelly A Turner, a researcher and psychotherapist who specializes in integrative oncology.   While Kelly was studying for her Phd she was shocked that no one was investigating cases of  unexpected survivor’s of advanced cancer,  so this became her purpose to research and identify common factors of these survivor’s cures – which she refers to as radical remissions.  The book summarises her decade of research, her thousand interviews of patients and finally identifies the nine key factors that can improve people’s chance’s of remission.

I was thrilled and amazed that most of my steps to recovery from MS mirrored those of these cancer survivor factors.

As with all the other health professionals work I feature in my book ‘A Journey of Creative Healing,’ I sought Dr Turner’s permission to use material attributed to her work. She is also the founder of the The Radical Remission Project that is dedicated to continuing research and creating a community for survivors, patients, guests, and health professionals and the Project’s mission is to collect and verify survivor stories so that these in turn may help others.  Although not a cancer survivor I was asked to document my healing from MS, over half a century ago, to add to their data.

Imagine my delight today  to find that I am The Radical Remission Healing Story of the Month.  (March 2018).

I acknowledge that some sickness is more immediately life threatening than others but I still see that sickness has the same commonality whatever diagnostic label you give it. Looking at the enormous contribution of Kelly Turner’s work and my singular, but no less effective, anecdotal story of recovery, it appears the predominant common denominators of improving your chances of  recovery to wellness are: Taking control of your health, listening and acting upon your intuition, releasing suppressed emotions, embracing social support, deepening your spiritual awareness and having a strong reason for living.

There are other factors in Kelly’s book – you need to read it – and yes in my case, the  vital icing-on-the-cake factor was to consistently put my  focus on doing something that gave me joy  – – a Daily Creative Project.