Today I sewed on a button


Today I sewed on a button.

That may sound so inane, so simple, so easy.

Yesterday, I found it overwhelming to even think of sewing a on a button. So, for me, it’s progress.

This is not the story of me climbing Everest, or winning an Olympic medal, or even overcoming a traumatic injury. It’s just one day in which I managed to overcome so low, dark, depressed feelings. Just enough to complete what would ordinarily seem a simple and straight forward task. And even now I’m belittling an achievement, making light of it. It’s just a button, right?

Getting up was difficult. A night with little sleep, which becomes a pattern during times like these. Everything spirals, and what didn’t worry me yesterday worried me in the night. So it feels good to put on a fresh pair of clothes. A clean pair of trousers. I’m halfway in, skinny legs covered, and pulling the waist up, zipping up, and realise the button is missing. They’re active wear trousers, a special kind of stretchy material that’s all treated with insecticide and UV protection and waterproofing and all sorts of marvels. But without a button, I can’t wear them.

And that’s the day ruined. But I drag them trousers off, and find another pair. In a few minutes, I’m at least dressed, and manage to feed myself and take some pills and have a cup of tea.

The Epic Search begins. Not the Third Ring, not the Keys To Time, not the Golden Fleece. Just a sodding button. High and low – every button but. Surprising how many buttons you can find lying around when you want one particular button. The right button. Because, if it’s not the Right Button, I’ve Completely Failed.

It’s located. I sit myself down, consider this to be a Mindful Task. It will calm and self-soother me, so it can help with the dark mood. I focus on the needle I’ve pulled out, and the black thread I have chosen – it has to be the right thread or it will look STUPID.

And I try, and I try and I try to thread the needle. And I fail, and I fail, and I fail. Again, again, again. The mindfulness becomes a barrage of self criticism, and encompasses everything I haven’t achieved today, yesterday, this week, this month. I can’t even thread a needle now.

I gave up. I just couldn;t face it, and halfheartedly mention it to family in the hope that Someone Else Will Do It For Me. Rescue me, save me, from my own failure.

The morning comes, slow and inevitable and unwelcoming. The trousers remain on the floor, the button unsewn. A cup of tea, pills, some toast.

Today is another day. Another attempt. I pick up a thread, a needle, a button. And I try again. Cursing the size of the eye, cursing the state, of my eyes, licking and sucking the thread to straighten it. I try to think mindfully, to focus on process and not outcome. perhaps I will be able to thread it this time, perhaps not. I am in the process of doing it. This time, I have not given up.

Unbelievably, astonishingly, I reach the summit. I climb Everest, I find the Golden Fleece, I knock out Goliath. The thread is in, and I tie it off before it escapes. I hold the button in place, and I thread in and I thread out. In and out of the back, in and out of the front. A slow but determined rhythm develops, and I try to breathe with it. This is process. This is determination. This is The Moment for which I am grateful.

I’m wearing those trousers, and the button is still on. This is the small tale of that moment, when I dragged myself out of gloom and despair and failure.

I sewed on a button.

Enjoy The Silence


Shhhhh ….


Can you hear it? Can you hear it?

Can you hear nothing at all?

Can you just enjoy the silence….?

I was at a yoga class last week. A nice sunny evening, so we decided to do the class outside. On the lawn. Which is astro-turf, and full of ants. So as you might imagine, my mind was distracted anyway. I’m not terribly good at the whole focus and mindfulness thing, even though I do practise. It evades me.

And as we settle in, scan our bodies and get in tune with ourselves, focussing on the breath – like all good yoga practitioners do – we were encouraged to ‘enjoy the silence’. And the more I tried to enjoy the silence, the more I could hear. Planes overhead. Birdsong. Cars starting. Police sirens wailing in the background. Children laughing somewhere (up to no good, I imagined). My class members fidgeting and breathing and the gurgling of their bellies. An occasional fart (oops, apologies.)

And my heart. Beating.

I haven’t enjoyed the silence sine the heart operation almost two years ago, and the installation of a mechanical heart valve following my heart breaking, tearing apart from the stresses and strains of ordinary life.

In recovery, I thought I was imagining it. That the anxiety and trauma had fixated me on the sound of my heartbeat, thumping around my head and not  my body. A self-imposed marching rhythm, a private dialogue that I had punished my frailty with.

No. It’s real. The loud and regular workings of a mechanical valve – my audible bionics. Sometimes unnoticeable, sometimes deafening when all around is silent. In the middle of the night, when I wake from a night terror, or at the buzz of a morning alarm, it seems to boom around the house, like the woodpecker boring into a tree I heard in our spinney last week. It’s loud and inescapable. For me, it’s the sound of life. As important as the sound of my breath, of involuntary farts, of gasps at scary movies and the moans of lovemaking. The Universal Om.

And I yearn for silence. I want the only noise to be that which is around me, that I can tune in to the soft heartbeat in a lover’s chest as I rest my head on their chest on a lazy Sunday morning. The dawn chorus, the last note of a song sung and finished.

And yet, I dread the silence. It will be the loss of life, the end of days. As long as there’s the click of a valve, the turning over of life itself, I know I’m still here. I know that every part of me is still engaged, still journeying through life and all of its noise and music and tears and laughter. The fall of the surf and the wind in the trees. The alarm of the bell, the march of boots, the baby’s cry. Dog whistles out of my range, tremors on other planets and in different galaxies.

It’s all there, in the heartbeat. The constant sound of life, and of  living.

Enjoy the silence?

No. C’mon, feel the Noize…

Yes, Life Is Unfair – So Be Grateful



It’s a strange contrast. Last night I watched a documentary on ‘The Virgin Killer’ , British born Elliot Roger, who went on a killing spree in America earlier this year. He videoed himself moaning about life being unfair before ending the chances of so many others from experiencing both life and fairness. What struck me was the sense of entitlement that he had – that because he wasn’t getting the sex, the women, exactly what he wanted, life was both unbearable and unfair.

The documentary talked of his ‘privilege’ – affluence, status, education. He didn’t see it, and focussed on what he thought was lacking in his life. Life isn’t fair, he complained.

I can recognise that, after going through a period of difficulty following my surgery. I’ve spent too much time ruminating on what isn’t, what’s missing, what’s unfair. I’ve only recently learned how close I came to dying. So, everything else is a bonus at the moment. I live in a world where food, water, sanitation is all easy to come by and whereby, largely, I’m untroubled directly by war, violence and poverty.

It doesn’t always feel like that, particularly when I focus on insecurities, mistakes, weaknesses… myself. It’s been a trying time, both for me and for those who have been supporting me. We all thought I was doing well – 5 months back at work, back in my own flat, driving, fit and healthy (kind of).

But good news can also be difficult. A friend of someone I know commented that it was almost a relief to know that things can be difficult for someone else. We get taunted and lured by the notion of ‘happiness’ that we lose the value of pain, loss – even unhappiness.  The rain as well as the sunshine.

I’ve been trying not to beat myself up for feeling low, or for recognising that life can feel unfair.

But it’s also so much more than that. So, as a discipline, I’ve started to listen to some advice I often give to clients or family and friends. It’s very fashionable now in ‘mindfulness’ circles. People used to talk about keeping a ‘Book Of Blessings’, a term which I felt uncomfortable with because of vague religious connotations. Another term is simply ‘gratitude’.  I noticed that a Facebook friend had taken to posting about things that made her happy and fulfilled. Even reading her posts made me feel a little warmer, a little less jaded. It also gave me some insight into what she found important in life – not the sex, status and privilege that had so preoccupied Elliot Roger. But simple acts, expressions, and experiences of humanity. An awareness of the present.

So  I started to try it out for myself. Over the last week or so, I’ve made a point at the end of the day of using social media to reflect on what I feel grateful for from the day. It’s been about family, friends, some bare necessities that I’ve taken time to notice and been grateful for. It’s also meant that I look for those things, throughout the day and as I experience them. Sitting with family, friends, and recognising ‘I’m grateful just for this moment right now.’ It’s given me a bank of happy memories from the day.

For a long while, I’ve been having difficulty sleeping, and I’ve been missing my dreams. The last couple of nights I’ve been dreaming again.

I encourage you to try it, and see how much difference it can make. You’ll thank me for it, I’m sure.

And, by the way,  thanks for reading…