It’s been a while

Well what can I say? Life has got in the way a bit recently and I just haven’t had the time or the inclination to write.

If I am honest it was more the inclination. I have spent a lot of time wrestling with my emotions and appreciating those emotions. I will not be going into detail about the specifics of what is going on, as it is not all my news to share (I am physically well). What I am prepared to share is my rumbles and wrestles with my emotional state and how I am managing, or not my resilience.

For quite some time I have been writing about resilience and how I endeavour to maintain my resilience based on what has been written. On that very base level being realistic, value driven and creative works well, but I what I did not know was how well this theory held up when something really important and challenging happens.

So far so hard. Maintaining all elements is tough. When you are going through difficult times, rarely do you get a full picture of what is happening to you in one go. That is something have experienced over the past couple of months. The attacks that lay you low, seem to come from different directions without you seeing them and do not come complete. It just so happened that I have been reading and still am reading Raising Strong by Brene Brown. Brene describes it (as ever) wonderfully when she explains that her research shows that our minds hate incomplete data, so will always make an attempt to complete the story. We also like familiarity, so the fictional part of the story tends to fit a narrative we have adopted about ourselves and our world. Then if you think our minds are hardwired to protect us, then it makes sense that the story will often take a worst case scenario arc. And can I tell you, this storytelling is relentless and really does test your resilience. Realism goes completely out of the window, these fictions beat up your values and remove any kind of creativity.

Do not despair, these stories that we tell ourselves do not have to take over our thinking. Adopting these stories is a default setting, however we can make a conscious decision to ignore them and stick with uncertainty. Uncertainty is not a comfortable place to be, but what it is, is real. It does not crush your hope or give you false hope, it lets you wrestle with and identify those emotions you are feeling. I tell myself stories about what is happening to me everyday, several times a day. When I catch myself doing this I bring myself back to the not knowing, and ask myself what I do know, and sit with what I know and my emotions.

My emotions make me feel sad, they are painful at the moment, and so they should be, I am going through a difficult, painful part of my life. For most of my life, I have held the truth that emotional pain and discomfort are bad. I am now beginning to shift my paradigm. Emotional pain is inevitable as is physical pain, not only is it inevitable it is essential, as long as it is transient. For many of us it is. When I accepted and embraced my discomfort I found it easier to embrace my happiness. I find it easier to laugh and have positive emotions, whilst still feeling sad, in fact I have found myself laughing about the circumstances I find myself in. I know it is easy to say ‘accept the pain’, but it is a damn site harder actually doing it. I still do not enjoy feeling sad, and I hate not having the answers, but the stories I tell myself don’t make it better, in fact they made me feel worse. It felt like a spiral of despair. Uncertainty to me feels more optimistic, it is real, it reminds me that I am alive as are my loved ones, so lets live our lives and not let our thoughts get in the way.

Thank you for reading. Writing this out has certainly helped me, I hope you get something from this too.

Week off to re-charge

I had rather an eventful week last week, popping over the other side of the country to see a member of my family who was poorly. They are fine now, and I am certain it was more for my benefit than theirs. My mind is at rest, and I have now stopped letting my imagination get the better of me.

You may remember in my last blog, that I have started a course on strategic coaching, and I was doing some research in preparation for writing my assignment, on coaching and mentoring in an organisational culture. So everyday this week I have spent a couple of hours continuing the research and making copious notes, on organisational culture, coaching and mentoring policies, and people strategies to name a few of the subjects I have been immersing my self in every morning this week. So for many of you that may sound as dull as ditch water. For me it has been restorative and enlightening. I know! I’m a boring bastard! When I have not been writing I have been re-acquainting myself with one of my favourite writers Brene Brown. Before I went to Chester I ordered Rising Strong, so it was waiting for me on my return. If you are feeling less than resilient at the moment, if you have been knocked down and are struggling to get back up, then this is the book for you. Have you seen her Netflix special yet? If not seek it out, I laughed, cried and felt inspired.

It has been a week where I could work at my own pace, where I could just allow my anxieties and worries wash over me. Where I could just let myself be me.

I spent the other evening trawling through Spotify to compile a playlist, as you know I love music and often bang on about my eldest son’s band (incidentally they are playing in Manchester on 30th April at The Castle Hotel, please pop along and say hello if you are in the area), oh and now my youngest is in a band now, so I will be boring you all about them soon enough, I have heard some early demo’s and they are pretty awesome. Anyway as I was telling you I spent the other evening compiling a playlist of new music. There is a lot of really good music with something to say at the moment. So if you are interested in music and if like me it holds mystical restorative powers for you, I have included a link to this playlist for you.

Ahh April Playlist


I hope you enjoy the playlist, I generally use music to help me be present, it suspends my thought process as I let the sounds wash over me, I can then focus on what is happening to me at that moment, how the music interacts with my senses and allows me to tune into my environment. I have started running again. I wish I hadn’t stopped, as it has been harder than ever to get going with it again. I am using a couch to 5k app, and it is really helping me, but so is using my playlists, they don’s stop the discomfort but they help me reconcile it, and gets me through that initial discomfort. I am beginning to feel they I am making progress, which is good really as I doing the Hull 10k in June (no pressure). Wish me luck!

All in all another good week, roll on the next, and lets see what adventures that brings.

Happy Birthday My Old Friend

This week saw the 70th Birthday of the NHS.

The NHS provided the Midwives and GP that brought me into the world. It trained the surgeon, anaesthetist, nurses, ODPs, play specialist, porters, caterers and cleaners that looked after me when I had grommets inserted into my ears, to get rid of my glue ear.

When I was 16 the Nurses, Doctors and Physiotherapists at City Hospital in Chester inspired me to be a Nurse.

When I was 18 I moved to Hull and trained as a Nurse, at the Hull District School of Nursing.

When I was 21 the NHS gave me a job as a Staff Nurse on a Children’s Ward.

When I was 23 the NHS trained me to be a Children’s Nurse.

The NHS took me on as a nervous homesick boy and turned me into a compassionate, competent, professional Clinical Nurse Educator and Coach.

The NHS has been by my side, helping me become all I am today for the past 29 years.

The NHS has and always will provide outstanding health care to all and for free at the point of access. This is an incredible achievement. In fact is is miraculous, when you think of the scale, and the incredible progress that has been made over 70 years.

There are people who have experienced major trauma or sepsis in recent years who are alive, that would not have survived even a decade ago. Some of the routine work carried out in the NHS today would have been unthinkable when I started my career at the end of the 80s. All of this is done with challenging finances, and under the glare of constant political and media scrutiny.

NHS is not just a health service, it is at the heart of who we are in the UK. Let’s not take it for granted, and let’s never lose it.

Thank you NHS for being there for me all my life.

On Thursday I attended The Hull and East Yorkshire Health Expo. This is an annual event showcasing healthcare in Hull and East Yorkshire. This is our chance to show the breadth of services the NHS provides locally and the diverse career opportunities available in the NHS. This year’s event was incredible with it being the anniversary of the NHS. I had a great time, getting people to make smoothies on our smoothie bike, meeting and greeting and talk about careers in Nursing.

I know this has not had much coaching content, but I wouldn’t be a coach if it wasn’t for the wonderful NHS. So I needed to celebrate this incredible national treasure.

Being a Parent

Being a parent is a privilege, on the whole it is wonderfully rewarding experience, watching your child grow, and develop.

However it is also exhausting, stressful, and sometimes terrifying. We are after all hard wired to protect and nurture our children, we can’t help it we just do it.

When our children are young we develop eyes in the back of our heads, and survive on a few hours sleep (mums especially). This behaviour can be confused as neurosis. We all remember that look on the GP’s face when they see you in the surgery for the tenth time in a month with baby David’s rash, cough, funny eye, etc, etc…

Then before you know it they are starting school and you turn into a blubbering wreck. This doesn’t last and soon you start to relish school, some of you live the time to get back to work others relish the support network that develops at the school gate. You start to connect with you fellow neurotics. It is they say good to share your pain.

This network can be a double edged sword, with stress and anxiety creep in when you realise that Tabitha and Sebastian are on a higher reading book than Dave, and Sebastian is tipped to be the next David Beckham playing for the local under 7s. You start taking David to football, horse riding (good for balance), chess club ( intellect), and Guitar lessons (he could be the next Ed Sheeran). Your exhausted, Dave is exhausted and to be fair he is shit at all of them.

Within a blink of an eye your child is leaving Primary School and heading of to High School. And you thought starting Primary School was stressful!

The first 2 years at High School are fairly benign. Then puberty hits! This coincides with GCSES. You might call it a perfect storm. Hell on earth is more like it. If you have boys (I have boys so it might be the same with girls, I don’t know) the first thing you notice is the smell. They start to sweat a lot! Then they stop talking at length and barricade themselves in their room, making the smell worse. Every now and again they will come down, so you ask them how school is going, how is revision going, what subjects might they want to study in 6th Form. You know show an interest in their lives. Big mistake you get accused of interfering in their lives and interrogating them. So you answer back and before you know it you are in the midst of a full blown row, started by asking how they were!

Then they go and do something that stops you in your tracks, that might be something kind and thoughtful, or pass their exams, or produce something amazing. Your heart swells and you remember how proud you are and how much you love them.

As they get older you spend less time in contact with them, but the same amount of time worrying about them. There comes a time when you realise that they are not children anymore, and your role as parent is going to change, and pretty soon it will be more of a distant role. I am at the start of this stage and let me tell you emotionally it is draining. I am having to come to terms with a change in the way I support them, and it is hard.

Each of us is going to experience parenthood differently, and parenting one child is different from parenting the next. So everyday as a parent is a pioneering day. We are always on virgin territory, we are never going to be experts in parenting. Just when you think you can apply what you have learned from experience, you child bowls you a googly.

So give yourself a break, stop comparing yourself to your friends and family. Every family is unique. Also remember your child is new at this too.

If your are stressed and tired, but feel so proud that you could burst then you are on the right lines.

Enjoy your journey, you only travel this way once.

Music on my commute to and from work

It’s been a while since I shared a playlist.

I am not sure if anyone listens to them, but I really enjoy putting them together.

With it being Mental Health Awareness week it is important to remind ourselves to give some attention to our mental health. One suggestion is to do something everyday that you enjoy, if you can it is best to spend an hour doing something that makes you happy. Now putting together this playlist took slightly less than an hour. So I have another 45 minutes left to fill today. Now that is fairly easy on a sunny Saturday. However during the week that can be a little more challenging. Trying to fit a an hour in our busy days can feel a little indulgent. Trust me, it isn’t, it is vital, vital for your health and well-being.

So if it is we have to be a little more imaginative about how we fit that time in. Firstly though we all need to examine our days, and think about those activities we do in a day where we derive enjoyment, that could be spending time with our children, taking the dog for a walk or cooking. Create an inventory of enjoyable activities, once you start you will realise how happy you can be simply by appreciating the things you already do. When you add them up you may be halfway there. Now cherish those activities, and if you need to move them up your importance order.

Once you have created your inventory, then look at those redundant parts of the day, such as your commute to work. My commute is about an hour a day, 30 minutes there and 30 minutes back. To fill that time I know put my music library on my phone on shuffle and sit back and listen. Now I have a couple of playlists that automatically update with new music that is downloaded onto my phone, so when engage the shuffle option I can listen to a song for the first time. Therefore that anticipation of not knowing whether I am going to listen next, it could be an old favourite or a new classic is so exciting.

My boring 30 minute commute is transformed and flies by. So why not in the car, on the bus or train put your music on shuffle sit back and see what happens. For me I have nailed in hour of happiness.

Because I like to share here is a playlist made of a shuffle I did this morning, not on a commute but sat on my sofa. Have a listen if you like, if you don’t that’s ok too, I have had my fun.

My commute shuffle

A walk up Snowdon

Last weekend , I met up with a few of my old school friends, and we went for a walk up Snowdon, as you do!

Now normally we meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, reminisce and get hammered. Not all of us manage to get to these sessions and even when most of us are there we don’t always get the chance to speak to everyone before we all go our separate ways.

Well back in December most of the lads, not me however, met up in Chester, and the idea of spending the weekend together, and hiking up a mountain was formed. All the best ideas are born in a drunken stupor, don’t you think!

Luckily the idea did not fade with the hangover, but actually grew and by late January early February had become a thing, a thing we had all become committed to, both financially and philosophically. Many of us in the group (when I say many, I actually mean myself and possibly Lee) had no idea what the reality of walking up Snowdon was. Thousands of people young and old walk, run and even cycle up Snowdon every year. Colin even did it over Christmas when it was -15 (I will get back to Colin later). So how hard could it be.

So the day came to travel to Chester to meet up with my friends and travel on to the farmhouse we had hired for the weekend (their was 8 of us and it was quite reasonably priced before you think of us as flash gits). I was so excited, it was like Christmas Eve when I was 5.

We stopped off on the way to collect supplies in Colwyn Bay. My advice would be if visiting Colwyn Bay, do your shopping before you get there. This shopping experience however did not dampen my excitement.

When we arrived Colin and Rich Turner (there are 2 Rich’s) decided to test out a route before the main ascent the next day. Like 2 demented fools myself and Lee gleefully volunteered to join them. My glee soon soured as we clambered up a hillside through muddy fields and over styles. I thought my legs were going to fall off and my lungs explode. Rich informed us that this was a trial to see if we could cut across to the trail we would use tomorrow to prevent us from walking along the road for half a mile. When we reached the said trail, I thought to myself how the fuck am I going to walk all the way to the top tomorrow. What had I committed myself too. I had seriously over estimated my level of fitness and ability to walk on slopes. It was like waking up on Christmas morning and discovering that Christmas was in fact just a really long Maths exam. I didn’t want to show myself up too much, however the few of us that had taken on this mini adventure had witnessed my distinct lack of ability on slopes.

Fuck it! I thought, give it a go, and see what happens, I said to myself.

Ian had stayed behind during our recce to cook tea, and what a fantastic tea it was, veggie chilli, and tequila! The rest of the party except Rich J arrived later that evening, and much merriment and laughter ensued.

Throughout the evening and into the night, I grappled with my self 1 telling me to bow out, fake an injury or illness, anything just don’t do it, because at best you will look fat and useless and at worst you might die, self 2 saying, just do it, think of the views, the sense of achievement.

I went with self 2 clearly but resolved that I would go at my own pace, just to keep self 1 happy.

Rich J arrived just after breakfast and we set off. We walked along the road to the Ranger trail, we had decided that was a sensible option.

When we got to the trail, I struggled from the off, and had to stop regularly to release the tension in my back or get my breath. My fitter, and thinner friends were all very understanding and regularly waited for me or walked with me. Colin being super fit, went off ahead (he had already run 7 Miles before we set off). At times the others were grateful to take to wait for me and have a breather. I was determined to finish, to reach the top. To do that I had to go at my slow pace. This walk up Snowdon had turned into a personal battle. My self 1, the cautious me, wanted to stop and go back, my self 2, the spontaneous me, the achieving me wanted to carry on. Throughout my life when it came to physical achievement, and pushing myself, self 1 would nearly always win. This time self 2 was going to win. I used Colin as a focus, to me Colin always appears to let his self 2 take the lead, so during that walk up Snowdon I was allowing Colin to inspire and motivate me. He didn’t know he was doing it, he was doing something he enjoyed. I needed something or someone to focus on and Colin fit the bill. I imagined him waiting for me at the top and that thought pulled me up. Every time I wanted to stop, Colin said to me give it another 5 minutes then see how you are. (Colin never said that Colin was too far ahead to notice me) That got me to the top.

When the summit came into view I cried, in fact I wanted to break down and sob. I didn’t, I managed to hold myself together. I had done it, I had managed to prevent my self 1 from getting me to give up, my self 2 had one. This personally was a landmark moment in my life. That is why I wanted to breakdown and cry, I was so relieved.

Anyway enough sloppiness. When we arrived at the top, it was packed, there was a queue to the summit! Worse still the cafe didn’t open for another week, and it was snowing!

After some food when started our descent, via another trail, this trail was partly along a ridge that Rich T said was nice and safe. He might have thought that! I was terrified! Looking at some of the pictures the views from the ridge were incredible, I couldn’t see them, I had lost my peripheral vision by this point.

This was harder than the ascent, most of the time we were scrambling down rocks, trying not to slip. Again my athletic prowess meant that I brought up the rear. I was cold, wet and mentally and physically exhausted when I arrived in the pub nearly 6 hours after we set off.

That first pint was the nicest pint I ever had. After another we all went back to the farmhouse for showers and food this time cooked by Rob. We had a selection of curries, That frankly were wonderful.

That evening was a little more subdued, than the evening before and a little less alcohol was drunk, but still a wonderful evening was had nonetheless.

After a fitful sleep and a hearty breakfast we said our goodbyes, with a promise of doing something else in the autumn, perhaps a little less challenging than Snowdon.

After coming back I have felt strange a little subdued, and a little unsure of myself. Whilst writing this I have realised why. That weekend I did something I rarely do, I pushed myself beyond the limits I set myself. I realised that I am really unfit, and I need to do something about that. More importantly I have learned that I can go beyond what I think is my limit, all I have to do is listen to self 2 more. It is easy said in coaching sessions, but doing it is different, now I understand how I can turn my self 1 down. I know I can achieve far more than I think I can.

Being able to use this experience in my coaching will be invaluable. Giving the client the space to explore what their self 1 and self 2 are saying to them, will help them determine who has the stronger voice and who needs to have the stronger voice.

A bit of escapism

I Love to daydream. It takes me to a happy place, when I am feeling a little fed up.

Most days foggy makes an appearance as I have mentioned before. That on the whole is fine, I have come to accept him and his negativity, he is me after all. Some days the things he says are more painful than others, and I find it a little harder to be passive and not try to suppress what he is saying. This is normally when he is highlighting my shortcomings. Paradoxically in the long run him shining a light and exaggerating these failings is useful as it spurs me into action, to at least go some way to addressing them. That is no doubt why they are more painful.

To help me handle the discomfort I will often reach for my music to help distract me, to take me to another world. If I am feeling sad a melancholic I might go through my back catalogue of sad songs to allow me to wallow and enjoy the misery of self pity. Now self pity is a comfortable state to be in as it requires no action. The thing is I want action, I don’t want these shortcomings to be shortcomings I want to turn them into actions. I need to be forward thinking.

I still reach for my music, music creates emotions and changes the way I feel. When I want to be positive and forward thinking I listen to new music, music I have never heard before, sometimes it is brilliant, sometimes it is ok and sometimes it is awful. It is always exciting and creative and optimistic. It makes me feel creative, optimistic and forward thinking.

Now I will not address all my shortcomings because I listened to Father John Misty’s latest song but I might just start working towards some of those neglected goals and remind myself of all the things I have achieved over the last week.

We all find our ways to pull us out of our funk, just remember do the thing that makes you happy and creates optimism, not what you think you should do, or what makes other people happy.

Writing this blog always makes me happy. Sharing playlists makes me happy.

So here’s both my blog, and below is a playlist. An Apple Music one this time. If you want it on Spotify let me know otherwise enjoy my little bit of escapism this month.

My New Music Escapism Playlist

If you want to discuss how you can create an optimistic future for yourself get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or this blog.

Have a great rest of the week and remember we have a rough times, it’s what we do with them that counts.