“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened”

This is the beginning of a poem by Rumi, the Persian poet and Sufi mystic, born 30th September 1207, died 17th December 1273.

It takes some courage to admit that you have woken up feeling empty and frightened and to feel it and take a look at it. Much easier to just dive into the day and get busy. There are lots of things to do, after all.


“Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading.”

Rumi was a scholar, so that would have been his way of doing the usual thing, getting busy.

“Take down the dulcimer.”

Do something that soothes you and makes you feel good; fills up the emptiness and allays the fear.

“Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground.”

There are hundreds of ways to put down our burdens for a little while, be gentle with ourselves for a while, make a choice to do something that’s not on the list.

We do everything we can to avoid suffering. Most of the people I know, including my family and my patients, are suffering to some degree. It might be physical or emotional or both. One always impacts on the other anyway, so it’s usually both. My home page when I open up my computer, is the BBC News website. There’s always plenty of suffering on there. Today I see that David Cameron has said that we, the UK, will help the Americans to destroy ISIS. Well, the words speak for themselves.

But to offset suffering we have hope. And to help hope along we have the power of choice. I read a lot of books about health, nutrition, and different things we can do and try to make ourselves feel more well. At the moment I am reading about oil pulling, the Ayurvedic technique of swishing oil around in your mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, and the benefits of that. It’s by Bruce Fife and there is information on the Web if you want to look.

I got a book in the post from Amazon yesterday called Elements of Danger by Dr Morton Walker, DPM, (doctor of podiatric medicine, to do with the feet) about the hazards of modern dentistry and metals in the mouth, as in amalgam fillings and other procedures. The information in this book has been around for a long time and it is quite frightening but it also reminds us that we have choices about what we do with the problems that all of us have, and who we listen to and what we then do.

On the same day I got an email from Dr. Sircus, a doctor practising natural allopathic medicine in Brazil, with the headline “Confessions of a Cardiologist – Treat the Inflammation, not the Cholesterol.”

Dr. Dwight Lundell, former Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery at Banner Heart Hospital in Arizona is talking about statins and why they are a bad idea. You can read it if you like: http://bit.ly/1OflH6m

The theory is that atheroscerosis, hardening and blocking of the arteries, is caused by lack of magnesium. We have too much calcium in our diets and too little magnesium. These two minerals need to be in  balance with each other. If there is too little magnesium, calcium gets deposited in places where it shouldn’t be, like the joints and the arteries. In the arteries it makes small tears. Cholesterol, which is a necessary substance that is in every cell in your body, is part of the body’s attempt to heal the tears, and this causes inflammation and blocks in the arteries. This is not conventional thinking so you may have to search to get information. But it’s worth the search. And it does make sense to me

Information which is new and contrary to what you have been taught and told can be alarming and lead back to feeling empty and frightened. We can look for an escape route or hide our heads in the sand. But knowledge is also power and it’s up to us how we use that power, and the then-empowered choices that we make. And that takes us to hope.


I must make a correction to today’s blogpost. It was the Dutch Foreign Minister who gave the speech I referred to. He was therefore not the leader of a country but a representative, of the Netherlands. Nevertheless it was still a heartfelt speech and a reminder of humanity and sanity and respect to the actual victims of the shot-down aircraft, the people on board, all of whom are now dead.
We would all do well to remember that people are more important than power, and who’s “right” and who’s “wrong”. It’s all in the perspective anyway. It’s all a point of view.


Well, now I’m really feeling, what shall I do with the rest of my life. I’m thinking and considering, what shall I do? It’s now 2013. My partner passed on, left the planet, six and a half months ago; I’ve been on my own for six and a half months and his absence and the permanence of it is only just beginning to register with me. Memories and tears come, seemingly from nowhere, disabling me. This is a nowhere place I am in; unfamiliar, unknown, strange. And challenging.

I have discovered that death is the great taboo: people don’t want to talk about it. Friends with elderly husbands avoid the subject. The husbands themselves don’t look at me – my partner was thirty years younger and in apparently considerably better health than they are. The wives look at me and see their future and the husbands look at me and see the absence of themselves and their own death. It’s scary.

Yesterday morning I thought I would do some exercise on the rebounder and I put on some Leonard Cohen – not exactly jolly, Leonard Cohen doesn’t do jolly –  but it’s got a good beat and it’s six minutes long, so good for bouncing. Then, wham, he’s there in the room with me, (my partner, not Leonard Cohen) or is it a memory of him in the room? But it’s overwhelming, the presence. His actual presence would not have been. We might have looked out of the window and noted that the apple tree needs pruning or the beauty of the leeks that we have allowed to go to seed. But because I feel him there when he is not physically present it knocks me sideways and I have to stop bouncing, turn off the music and sit for a while.

Maybe movement triggers the emotions, as in walking is good for stress relief.

So, I’m looking at possibilities and making notes, talking to people and getting information. I could do some volunteer work, helping families in difficult circumstances. I could train to be a soul midwife. I feel I would like to study the beginning and ending of life, the bookends, as Elizabeth Lesser, author of “Broken Open”, calls them. A soul midwife helps the dying to cross the threshold between this world and whatever is next.

I’ve ordered some wool to knit a cardigan. I’m joining a knitting bee, meeting on a Tuesday evening with other knitters to chat and share our lives and our knitting problems. As I’ve done very little knitting for the last twenty years or so I will have problems and it will be really good that all I have to do is look across the table to someone to help me.

I’ve been sitting for the last hour in a favourite tearoom in Chichester and, having commented on the pleasure of the tearoom, the log fires and the peaceful environment, met an interesting and helpful person. So that was pleasurable too.

Granny sex

Have you heard of Hilary Boyd? Well, I bought The Times on Wednesday last week and now I have. I don’t usually buy The Times but it had something on the front cover about Granny sex so I had to buy it and find out.

Hilary Boyd is 63 and a granny and has been married for 40 odd years. She has written a book called Thursdays in the Park, which wasn’t doing much in terms of sales but then Amazon started selling the e-book version at a discount price of 20p and as of Wednesday, 14th, it had sold 100,000 copies and foreign rights to France and Germany.

Hilary Boyd believes, as do I, that life doesn’t end at 60, and, neither does having a sexual identity and a sex life: being loved physically; wanted and desired. When you hit 60 life can become confusing, as I’ve written in this blog already.

Thursdays in the Park is a romance between two grandparents who meet in the park while babysitting their grandchildren. How cool is that! Get it to find out more.

I love what she says in the interview in The Times. She’s not afraid to tell it like it is. I quote “A woman hits 60 and everyone and everything is telling her she’s past it. Advertisers have started describing her as “the mature woman”, friends have started letting themselves go, putting on weight and wearing fleeces. And special needs shoes. And elastic-waisted trousers! …They stop dying their hair, the women are effectively neutering themselves. And their husbands are happy because they’re not going to run off – looking like that.”

There is a confusion of identity at 60 but 60 is not what it used to be. There is a pull at 60, a comfortable slot to fit into, which does involve cheap fleeces, clothes which are comfortable and practical and which hide a lot, whether you want them to or not, and plenty of examples of this nature to follow.

But there are also plenty of 60 somethings who do still colour their hair, wear make-up and refuse to go quietly into an invisible old age. As she says, we are the baby-boomers and a “stroppy bunch.” Grannies are not what they were a generation ago, even 10 years ago. We still have a life, including a sex life and we’re not about to give up on any of it.

Hilary Boyd again, “The problem is that we don’t yet know how to be old, but we’re learning. We’re learning fast.”

Three cheers for Hilary Boyd. And three cheers for the rest of us for whom she speaks and writes.


Grief is messy and hard. It doesn’t let up. You grow up an “I” person: I’m doing this or that, I’m going to such and such, I’m studying this subject etc. Then you meet someone and you find yourself becoming a “we” person: we’re buying a house, we’re having a baby, we’re going on holiday.

Then maybe that all goes wrong – or not – and you are again an “I” person, but not the same “I” person that you were before. Now you’re a little older and possibly a little wiser, or at least you have some life experience that you didn’t have before. You’re aware that you are now an “I”.

Further down the road you meet someone, again, and you find yourself back in the “we” mode. For me the “I” and the “we” jostled against each other for a few years and lately I settled into a “we”. But now I am again an “I” because the other half of “we” has left the planet. Gone for good.

Yesterday I visited my partner’s grave, in Clayton Wood Natural Burial ground, just by Ditchling in East Sussex. It’s a lovely place to bury someone you love, if you find that you have to do that. My partner loved nature and now he’s resting on the South Downs. He has a plaque with his name on it. That’s a very odd feeling, to see the name of someone who so recently was so very much alive, on a wooden plaque in a burial ground at the end of a grave and a mound of earth. But the plaque and the grave do have a presence that gave me a focus so that I sat and talked to him for a little while. Of course I know that he’s not really there but somehow it helped. I sprinkled some poppy seeds and chatted as I would if he were at home with me or we were sitting in the car going somewhere.

Then I went and had tea in a lovely teashop in Henfield, Norton House tearooms. I was hungry because I’m not eating much so I had a smoked salmon and cucumber sandwich and a pot of Assam tea made with loose tea, not a teabag, and a home-made meringue with whipped cream. It was all delicious and all of this, the visit and the chat and the tea, lifted me and I felt quite cheered up.

And then tomorrow comes and I wake up and it starts all over again. The pain and the challenge of grief and a new way of living. Variable and unpredictable and messy and very tiring.