Unusually for me I didn’t check twitter the moment I woke up this morning, instead I visited the twitter website as soon as I turned my mac on. It was this that meant I spotted something quite surprising, to me at least – that last night I’d reached the (completely meaningless really) marker of 35k tweets.
That got me to thinking about how much of my life is contained in my twitter archive. I joined twitter on 8 September 2008 and really had no idea of what I was letting myself in for, or what would come of this new social media thing. I also couldn’t have predicted the twists and turns my life would take over the last four and a half years. So, I find myself 1714 days later, pondering how many amazing people I’ve met, the adventures I’ve taken, the loved ones I’ve lost.
It’s this last point that really sticks. My 35 thousandth tweet fell at the end of
#dyingmatters week and it was sharing an article in The Telegraph that talks about the amazing Kate Granger @GrangerKate:
We need to relearn the art of dying
A doctor tweeting from her deathbed deserves our attention – and our thanks
It’s worth a read, as is Kate’s article at the start of Dying Matters week in The Times, and perhaps more importantly as is her blog which you can find here. To get back to the topic of this rambling, pondering blog post, quite a few of my 35k tweets have focused on death. I’ve always been interested in death, fascinated by our inability to discuss it as a society and simultaneously intrigued and grateful for those that do.
My experience of death has been unavoidable in the recent past, in fact it is unavoidable for us all however much we may hide from the opportunity to discuss things. Six months after Dad died I find myself with less of an urge to talk about death, but with more of a drive to study it and watch how others face it. This past week has thrown up some fascinating resources and conversations that I’ve tried to capture on Pinterest here on my various boards.
The thing that stopped me in my tracks the most was a video from Lord Philip Gould, filmed a couple years ago as he faced death with oesophageal cancer. The film, When I Die, is beautifully shot and starts with the words ‘In six weeks time I will be dead, I will be cremated, I will face huge fear but it is an extraordinary experience’.
I urge you to take ten minutes out of your day to watch this film. It captures a courage and strength that stopped me in my tracks, a sense that I often feel when eavesdropping Kate Granger’s life as I do through the power of social media. Dying Matters week has been and gone for another year, my 35k tweets have passed us all by, charting the conversations and support of friends and strangers alike.
I do think we need to relearn the art of dying, and I think we need to continue to develop and learn the art of dying with social media. Philip Gould and Kate Granger are pioneers in this, sharing their most intimate experiences with us so that we might be better equipped and prepared when we face these situations for ourselves or with those we love.
My 35,001st tweet will share this blog post in gratitude to them. Thank you.
Today it is six months since Dad died. I can’t quite believe it, one minute it feels like yesterday and the next like it was years ago, six of the longest and shortest months of my life. Time is a funny old thing, especially where grief and loss are involved. To mark the occasion this morning I went for a dawn walk down Meadfoot Beach, one of Dad’s favourite places, and I was there enjoying the view thinking of him at the time he left us.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Dad and loss and grief this week. When Dad first died I started making a list of the things that I’d have liked to share with him, I don’t keep up with it these days and in a way that feels like less pressure. Some days I still catch myself saying ‘Must ring Dad later and tell him about that’ or ‘Wonder what Dad will say about how I should fix X or Y’, it happens less often but it’s like the new neural pathways aren’t worn in enough yet for it to be default. One thing I’m confident about though is that Dad would be proud of us as a family, and particularly of my Mum, for how she is handling life.
I think my Mum is the living definition of resilience at the moment. The thing I think he’d be most proud of is how naturally she has taken to her newest acquisition – an iPad mini. My Dad was a bit of a technology fiend, or would have been if he could have afforded it. He used to love Tomorrow’s World and was a sucker for a new gadget! I remember him coming home pleased as punch with a CD player when they were very first released. Of course he could only afford one CD to play on it for months, but it was the feeling of being ahead of the game that counted for him. I’d held out from buying an ipad mini for the best part of a year (I’m not so interested in being cool obviously), I was waiting for v2 to be released but decided to stop waiting last month! As soon as Mum saw mine she was smitten, and less than a week later she had her own. She’s busy listening to her choir music on it, emailing, shopping, banking and kindling and touch typing like a digital native. Every time I see her use it I feel proud, and get a warm fuzzy glow just thinking of what Dad would say.
It’s not all been plain sailing though, especially the last couple of weeks. Yesterday, we had to have Dilys, my parent’s gorgeous, dignified, graceful and beautiful cat put to sleep. The vet said something rather lovely about Dad wanting his cat back, it made me shed a tear at the time (don’t worry it was a Cheryl Cole one) but it was such a comforting idea! Dilys knew when Dad was dying, she wouldn’t leave his bed the night before and last week she’d started sleeping in the room that he’d died in. We tried everything to get her to eat but in the end she decided herself that enough was enough. I watched on in awe as my Mum dealt with yet another loss with such dignity and resilience.
Since Dad died I’ve been trying to rebalance my own priorities in life. My ‘Work Less, Live More‘ board on Pinterest now has 45 things on it; I’ve only crossed one thing off so far (to watch a live Cross Country Ski race) but there are a glut of things that should get crossed off in the next month! Mum was always complaining to Dad that despite years of serving in the Army Cadet Force he never once took her camping, not properly under canvas. So next month we’re righting that wrong and my Mum, sister, my two nieces and I are going glamping! I can’t wait, I’m sure there will be lots of laughs, reminiscing, new memories formed and no doubt one or two crossed words, but I’m really looking forward to it. I also have a couple of birthday treats planned, more on those in due course.
So, it’s six whole months post-Bobby, life isn’t the same, the Dad shaped hole is still very rough around the edges, but I do think it’s getting easier with the passing of time. Like one of those pebbles down at Meadfoot this morning, the constant rhythms of life washing over us is gradually smoothing the jagged hurty spikey bits away.
Here’s to the next six months of building new memories and remembering the old ones.
My Dad died four months ago from bile duct cancer, cholangiocarcinoma. Since then I’ve seemed to blog less, and in a way that may be no bad thing, I’ve been doing lots of thinking and reflecting and recharging, but have had less concentration and less inclination to put fingers to keyboard. Then this week a chance conversation on twitter with the lovely @ChrisandHarvey got me thinking, and suitably wound up enough to write this blog post. I’ve followed Chris for a couple of years, he’s a hugely inspirational guy, Dad to his son Harvey, and he works as web manager for Weldmar the hospice in Dorset; go check him out. He retweeted this tweet:
This just left me feeling quite deflated, I wasn’t as philosophical as Mrs Glove and not as quick to just accept that was that. I have blogged on the life changing care that our local hospice, Rowcroft, provided for my Dad and our family in his final days. The Hospice at Home team made an immeasurable difference and I have committed to myself to continue to raise awareness of the excellent work they do, which is sort of where this post comes in.
So what’s the problem? Well luckily for you the CEO at Weldmar, Alison Ryan, wrote an excellent blog post outlining why this is problematic. I’m not going to repeat all that Alison says, you’d be better off going and reading her original post, but in a nutshell she is drawing attention to the fact that too often people in the local area are under the mistaken understanding that hospice care is provided by Macmillan. This matters for two principle reasons, the first is around fundraising, people going onto the streets to raise funds as a thank you, but mistakenly providing them to another incredibly valuable charity. The second reason of course is more pragmatic, if people don’t know who is providing their care and support, then what happens if they need to complain or make a request? Alison draws the brilliant analogy that not all vacuums are hoovers, the same goes for end of life care, not all hospice care is provided by Macmillan, in fact as I understand it in the South West very little (if in fact any?) is. As I understand it this is a common problem faced by many hospices, how do they get the message across that they are providing the service that they do.
Is it a case of overload? It’s a simple fact of life that by the time you encounter support from a hospice then you are already having to deal with some fairly harsh realities, life and death decisions and if our experience is anything normal you are probably quite simply overloaded. Whether you have been dealing with a terminal illness, or spent years living with a medical condition, or indeed if you have just found out that your life is limited, there’s a good chance that you are exhausted from the information and advice overload; you are likely to have met more professionals and individuals than you can even remember, you struggle to remember their name (and trust me it’s awful when you are so grateful and yet can’t remember the name of the person with you) never mind who they work for; you are dealing with so much that who funds the staff supporting you isn’t likely to be at the front of your mind. When Dad was in his final weeks one of the things I did once the hospice staff started visiting us at home was start a list on an empty cereal packet that happened to be in reach, of the names of the people as they arrived – this served two purposes, it meant that I’d be able to check each time I forgot who was upstairs with Dad, and it also meant that we had a list for when we came to thank people afterwards. It’s not like me to be so organised and I don’t know why I did it, but I’m glad I did.
Do we just not like talking money? So, at what point should the hospice be making it clear who funds the service someone is accessing. It could be because we’re terribly British about it, and because we don’t have a great awareness or general literacy around the cost of healthcare, but at no point was the cost of Dad’s end of life care discussed with us. That may well be completely appropriate, and I know that no-one who works for a hospice would want a family availing of their services to worry about the cost. Despite this, I know that my Dad for one was incredibly aware that other people could be benefitting from the support he had as an inpatient at the hospice, in fact I think it was one of the reasons why he wanted to return home. I’m not sure, even now, on the relative costs of providing an inpatient service versus the hospice at home service, I have seem some statistics about what it costs to run them but I’m not sure whether it was cheaper for him to be supported to die at home, I suspect not.
Anyway, this wasn’t a post particularly about Dad, it was a more general sense of what limits us from discussing, or knowing, the costs of such a service. Maybe we have a long way to go before people are confident or comfortable in discussing the costs of care, I know when I blogged about this before it got a very mixed response in the comments and on twitter.
Is it simply a case of mistaken identity? Unfortunately it seems a bit of a case of David and Goliath, Macmillan are an excellent organisation, much larger than any of the independent hospices across the country providing palliative care. They are also very canny and often pump prime the establishment of services and fund a small number of posts (there’s more in Alison’s blog post about this) and I guess once you are established as a Macmillan Consultant/Nurse/Advisor then you aren’t likely to ever really change in people’s minds who you meet.
Macmillan are also blessed with a very strong brand, and lots of hospices aren’t in my opinion, although I do *love* the new Rowcroft branding! I’m sure that it’s a hard sell to trustees, colleagues and supporters if you want to spend what hard raised money is available on changing branding but I can’t but think it might help in some instances. Short of rebranding and awareness raising, I wonder whether a conversation should be happening at a more strategic level. I’m under no illusion that this blog post is likely to reach more than a handful of people, raising anyone’s awareness is a good thing, but a more straight forward honesty and awareness from Macmillan might be welcomed too, after all we all want the same thing, to provide a quality end of life care service and for people to have greater awareness within that of who is providing their support. If the recent horse meat debacle has taught us anything, perhaps it is that a case of mistaken identity is not one that the public take too kindly too.
So the next time you decide to give to charity or sponsor someone, or are looking for an organisation to raise funds for, then consider your local hospice, they’re likely to need your funding far more than some of the larger organisations.
It’s 81 days since my amazing Dad died. He had been fighting bile duct cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, for five years and two months.
Today is World Cancer Day and the campaign is seeking to dispel four key myths about cancer, I hope this blog helps to dispel at least two – that cancer is a disease of the wealthy, elderly and developed countries (Dad was 65 when he died) and that cancer is a death sentence. Dad did indeed die as a result of his cancer but his life was no death sentence.
Current figures suggest that 1 in 3 of us will develop cancer in our lifetimes. Trust me this disease isn’t something that happens to other people, look around, there’s a good chance that at least one of the people sitting with you this evening are likely to face this illness, and it could of course be you. Recent research shows that people in the UK are still too good at the stiff upper lip when it comes to cancer diagnosis – concerns about wasting GP’s time or being embarrassed prevail. If you have any concerns about your health then raise them with a medical professional as soon as possible.
Cancer Research UK estimate that 1000 people are diagnosed with bile duct cancer each year in England, so (very) crude maths suggests that in England alone 222 people have received a diagnosis of bile duct cancer since Dad died. If this blog, or any of it’s positivity about living with and fighting this disease, reaches one of those people or their families then it’s work is done.
If you wish to know more about life with cancer then take a look at Kate Granger’s blog or Helen Fawkes’s blog – two amazingly inspirational women who are sharing their experience of life with cancer.
It’s four weeks since Dad died. Four of the longest, and simultaneously fastest weeks of my life.
I’ve blogged a few times and am very conscious that I don’t want to turn into someone who just blogs about death and dying and loss…. and yet that’s sort of what I start typing when faced with a keyboard. I could have blogged about so much this evening, leaving work, holiday, Christmas markets, hope, life, job searching…the list goes on and yet I start typing about Dad (again). I’m not sure if it’s a natural reaction to keeping his memory real and alive, whether it’s just a habit that added purpose and meaning to his illness that I’m trying to transfer now, or whether it’s just the easiest thing to blog about…verbal emotional blog diarrhoea doesnt take too much thought (although I do *always* have to check how you spell diarrhoea).
It feels like there are so many words, words of thanks and acknowledgement, words of memory, words that need writing/typing/capturing, yet despite having so many words I can’t really describe how it feels. We knew that Dad was dying for a number of years, of course you know that you won’t really be prepared for it, but in some ways you are. I had imagined what life would be like without Dad, I had thought about speaking at Dad’s funeral – not planned it but mused a little about things and hoped I’d pluck up the courage to ask him if I could do so, is amazing where your mind goes when you’re sat in hospital waiting rooms and we spent a hell of a lot of time waiting.
I’m still pretty exhausted and I guess I feel relieved but I don’t really feel happy. In some ways it was a relief when Dad died, physically having barely slept properly for the fortnight that preceded it, and emotionally feeling that there would now be some certainty. Despite visiting numerous Christmas markets in five different cities in the last week, I still don’t feel at all christmassy.
Kate Granger wrote an excellent blogpost today about her emotions knowing that she is terminally ill; she had just got the news that her cancer was stable and she says this:
So you’d think I would have been over the moon. Not so. In fact I was on the verge of bursting into tears for a few days and remain a little on the emotionally labile side even now. I feel completely irrational about feeling this way. I should be happy. But in my mind everything was getting worse and there was a path to follow even though that path was not going to pleasant. Instead I am left hanging in limbo, a state I have existed in for months. It feels a little as though the rollercoaster has broken down with me left hanging upside down. How much longer is my reprieve going to be?
In April I wrote a blog post The cancer rollercoaster: living with the unkown when I returned from a week away to find Dad had been admitted to hospital as an emergency:
It’s been quite an immersion, not that I ever really escaped it on my week away, but it’s a real reality check as I sit on their sofa banging the keys trying to make sense of it, or share the lack of sense in it with you (assuming as the eternal optimist I am that someone has read this far), and think about how all encompassing living with not knowing is. There are so many unknowns and so little certainty, the immediate reflection is that it can feel overwhelming at times. It’s like a constant faulty rollercoaster ride that you can’t get off, occasionally it slows, in fact sometimes it stops just long enough for you to feel rational/balanced/normal again then it’s like it flies off again, throwing any sense of equilibrium out the side of the ride with you.
Kate talks about her approach to dealing with the uncertainty being to try and restore normality and return to work. I read her post nodding along, painfully aware that I have no normality to return to. My last working day was two weeks after Dad died, so that option is no longer there for me. In fact I think the uncertainty and lack of structure around my future is almost certainly contributing to my sense of disorientation. It’s not that I’m not grateful, in some ways I’m hugely relieved that I don’t have to return to work and try to get on with normality, after all I’m confident normal will never be the same now Dad has gone; I’m really very lucky to be able to start afresh in life. I’m enjoying the first holiday in five years without any concerns for what I’ll find when I get home which is really quite novel.
I do feel in a way that I’m off the fairground ride. Perhaps I’m just in that dizzy, head spinny, not quite reorientated state, still a little wobbly having just got off a ride I was stuck on for five years – everything is a little blurry, a little out of focus, a little soft around the edges. All of that said I wouldn’t have missed out on that ride at all.
So much has happened in the last week that I would like to blog about but one of the side effects of grief that I hadn’t fully appreciated is my complete inability to concentrate on anything for more than two minutes! Given this current affliction, that I’m confident I will recover from in time (probably about the same time I start sleeping through the night rather than waking up and listening for noises) I am not going to blog about Dad’s death just yet, not in detail. I’m also not going to blog about how I’m left feeling, not yet, but I promise I will in time.
The one thing I didn’t want to wait too long to blog about was the absolutely amazing and life changing support that we received as a family from the Hospice at Home service provided by Rowcroft, our local hospice. I’m going to try to explain a little about Hospice at Home, how we came to meet these phenomenal people, and the difference it made (all in spurts of two minutes concentration). When Dad received his terminal diagnosis I suspected that we’d be involved with Rowcroft in some way, but never could I have predicted quite what a difference it would make.
Dad had a two week period as an inpatient at Rowcroft towards the end of his life, this happened once he actively decided he wanted no further treatment from the medical team at the local hospital. Before that he had met a number of social workers from the hospice and the one that made a lasting impression on Mum was Lynne (she never stops talking about how lovely she is) and he had also been receiving support from a specialist nurse, Tracy, who did a great job of coordinating the different aspects of Dad’s care, of coming out to the home to visit my folks, and of generally managing to focus on what Dad wanted and how we could all work together to achieve that. It was Tracy who arranged his inpatient stay and it was following her visit to see Dad at home a couple weeks later that the Hospice at Home service arrived in our lives. We’ve a lot to thank her for.
The Hospice at Home service does it exactly what it says on the tin. It is available to patients in the last two weeks of their lives, and it provides them with invaluable support to enable them to remain in their own home. It was only after Dad left the hospice that he decided he wanted to die at home. When we had discussed it previously he wasn’t too keen, I think both him and Mum (and I would have been too if I was asked) were a little scared about how it would work, and I know that Dad told me he was worried about having bad memories associated with our family home which has always been such a happy place. I can reassure you that our family home has only been enriched by the memories we have formed in the last two weeks, and the people who we have met and who became a part of our family for that short period; I believe that Dad had a fantastic death, there were ups and downs and some scary moments, but Dad wouldn’t have had it any other way. Dad lived his death much the same as he lived his life, and his illness – with a stubborn determination, a sense of humour and a positive mental attitude – all in his own way. The Hospice at Home service* enabled that to happen.
Dad died on a Thursday morning and we had someone from Hospice at Home with us 24-7 that week. We nearly bit the Sister’s hand off when she offered us someone to do a nightshift that Saturday. Dad had been getting worse since the previous weekend and we were all exhausted from lack of sleep, we had brought a baby monitor which meant we didn’t need to be sat in with Dad all the time, but by this point it was beginning to be a mixed blessing because it meant we were constantly up in the night when Dad was coughing or dreaming! The first night Mandy stayed, she came with her own hot water bottle and blanket, she walked into our home having no real idea of what she’d find and she just fitted in. She was professional and polite but had no airs or graces. She was amazing with Dad (who was still awake some of the time then), patient and interested with Mum and myself, and friendly with the dog and cat. That night I was on my best behaviour and went to bed intending to keep out of her way….but it didn’t last, I was awake twice in the night and popped in to check Dad and Mandy were ok and I can’t tell you how ok it felt to be wearing my PJs in front of someone I’d met less than 12hours earlier!
That was a theme that continued really, both me in my PJs and the comfort and ease at having these people in our family home. Mandy covered the first night, Mum and I managed Sunday day time on our own but were relieved when Tracie arrived for the second night. At this stage Dad was declining quite a lot and it was a big relief to goto bed knowing there was someone with him – nights and weekends have always been the hardest and it made such a difference to know that there was someone there looking out for Dad and to provide support for us if we needed it.
From Monday we were lucky enough to get 24 hour care and support. Monday morning saw Jane come, Monday afternoon-evening was Elaine (that was the Spotify night but that deserves a post in its own right another time), Monday night was Lisa. Tuesday morning Jane was back and she persuaded me to goto work for my leaving do (with Mum’s encouragement too) as it was what Dad would have wanted (he’d told me as much the week before) – at this stage I was fairly convinced that Dad wouldn’t die if I was with him so I completely expected he would have died by the time I got home (I was out for 90 mins – another blog post required for my amazing send off – another time) but he hadn’t and that felt like a huge weight had lifted.
Tuesday afternoon-evening saw Chris come into our home, by this stage I was seriously frazzled and couldn’t believe Dad was still with us – it was my cousin’s birthday the next day (Dad’s favourite niece – not that he ever had favourite’s you understand) and I was desperate for him not to die on her birthday; Chris was very patient, almost zen like and she simply pointed out that Dad would go when he was ready. I felt ridiculously guilty at the time, thought she must have thought I was some awful daughter wishing him away, but it really wasn’t that. Dad surprised us all anyhow because he lived past her birthday. Tuesday night saw Mandy back again after a few days off, Wednesday morning was Karen’s turn, Wednesday afternoon-evening Chris was back again and Wednesday night Mandy completed her hattrick. Dad died at the end of Mandy’s shift, she was due to leave at 7am and he died just before with Mandy and (blonde) Sister Sue with us. Lovely, lovely Elaine was due to be back with Dad on Thursday morning, she had shared our playlist hijinks and I think she had seen our little family at it’s most mad, and she made him respectable for the undertakers and kept us all company.
In addition to the people I’ve mentioned above we also got to meet the two Sister Sues (one blonde and one brunette), Sister Anne and the legendary Sister Clare whose reputation preceded her. Clare’s staff raved about her, I’d done some internet digging and knew that Clare was special, and most importantly Clare was on the poster at the bus stop outside Torbay Hospital – Mum have regularly seen that poster but never had we appreciated what a difference the service would make. When Clare visited she told us a little of the history and that she had been involved with Hospice at Home since it’s inception, we have a lot to thank her for. Night sister’s have drivers and the whole service is coordinated by Teresa during the day and I’m sure there are lots of bits of it that we don’t understand but we are grateful for none the less.
This post doesn’t even begin to tell the full story, it doesn’t really speak about what these brilliant people did, they gave him medication, kept him comfortable, changed his position, washed him, joked with him, spoke to him, calmed him, held his hand….the list goes on. What they also did was support his family members and friends and share the experience with us, by being part of it but also by sharing themselves. We learnt about their families and friends, previous experience, reasons for doing the job they all do, bits about their childhood and upbringing – it could easily have felt like an onslaught of strangers in and out of our home, but it didn’t to me, these were people who were sharing in our journey and sharing themselves with us. Really, really special.
I’ve raved about the support we received to a few people and most people respond along the lines of ‘Glad to hear it, but wouldn’t you expect that from a hospice’? Quite simply no, there is a world of difference between what you hope for or what you expect and then what you experience. So often since Dad has been ill we have had our hopes and expectations dashed – usually by a poorly under-resourced system rather than any individual – but no, I couldn’t have hoped or believed that the support we received would have been as good as it was. Rowcroft’s support, and particularly for us the Hospice at Home support, really did take care further. I really couldn’t have wished for a better death for my Dad, or better support for us as a family.
We’ve requested donations in lieu of flowers at his funeral for the Hospice at Home appeal, and watch this space I can imagine there will be a few more attempts to raise funds or awareness over the coming months.
*I’ll write a blog post another time with other people who played a pivotal role such as the Community Equipment Service, the District Nurses and Dad’s amazing GP (and his equally lovely secretary) – it really was a team effort.
JANUARY 2013 Update: I’m delighted to share that the retiring collection at Dad’s funeral raised £911.03 for the Hospice at Home Appeal.
I’m also honoured that Rowcroft Hospice have featured an extract from this post in their newsletter to help raise awareness of the fantastic work that they do.
If you would like to know more about the hospice, their amazing services, or would like to make a donation yourself please visit their website by clicking here.
Last night I spent a few minutes reflecting on the 2008 American Election and the momentum of hope. In Obama’s 2008 victory speech he offered this:
We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.
You can read the whole speech here. I’ve been fascinated at the focus on hope and the impact of belief, and self-belief, on this campaign. Times are hard and Obama has been faced with a shed load of cynicism, criticism and complaint, faith has been wobbling, and it was ultimately a very close call.
This year’s victory speech was, in my opinion, even better than the last. The novelty has warn off but the orator was back. Obama’s unwavering faith in America’s people came good:
Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward. It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family, and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people. Tonight, in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come….
Tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future. I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the road blocks that stand in our path. I’m not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight. I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting.
Obama is back, the light is in his eyes, the belief in his heart. That positive belief is contagious and I’ve never been more grateful for some hope. I sat watching that speech with my Mum, family life is difficult at the moment, Dad had no interest when his medicine was accompanied by the news that Obama was victorious at 04.30 today, but for us it was like a shot of energy, of pure optimism and belief.
The best is yet to come. The man with hope in his eyes said so. I’ll buy it.
Four years ago today I was in Virginia, USA. I was on holiday in the States on my own, staying with one of my closest friends and her kids. In the days running up to the election the energy, momentum, hope and excitement were palpable. You could feel it, get drawn into it, in fact you could almost smell it; wherever you went, on the subway, wandering the streets, in the museums, on the bus, there was an over-riding sense of optimism and potential in the air.
(cc) Photo by farmgalphotos on flickr
For someone who derives considerable personal motivation from a belief in what is possible, not just the reality one finds oneself in, this was quite some experience.
I knew the election was due to happen when I was on holiday, in fact it had influenced my decision to travel at that time, but I hadn’t expected to get so drawn into it. Which was ridiculous with hindsight, the Obama campaign was so strong, had so many unique elements, was so engaged at a grass routes level, it heavily relied on social media so I was probably more exposed to it than I was anticipating, but it also drew me in because it was so positive. So full of hope.
On election day I went for lunch with my mate and a few of her work colleagues, having grown up not really discussing religion or politics with people you didn’t know well, it was a great lunch chat. There were a mixed group and boy did they get into the conversation. Young children and no babysitters on such a momentous night meant no all nighter down the pub for us but we took up residence on Sarah’s sofa and settled down for an evening viewing the show. And what a show it was.
The day after the election I caught the subway into DC and wandered the streets, soaking up the atmosphere and drinking coffee and chatting with people. What a day, everyone I came into contact with was in a good mood, there was a heady air of optimism, of belief and hope. Like the first day of a new school term, where everyone wants to be there and there’s a strong belief in what great things lie ahead. Strangers were wishing each other good day in the street, coffee shops were buzzing and as a tourist it was a great day, as a complete stranger who was leaving shortly I still felt a part of it. I’d witnessed this historic change and, if I’m honest, I’d got caught up in the gulf stream of hope and optimism.
Fast forward four years and Obama is looking tired. His enthusiasm is muted, no less sincere, but lets just say he’s now more older Statesman than youthful Tigger.
Not that I can talk, I’m feeling tired, bone tired and my belief in hope and optimism (as a personal or professional strategy) has been sorely tested of late. Life seems more monochrome, more challenging, more about survival than hope. I take some comfort from knowing that doing good isn’t easy and finding your path in life is a journey, not a single simple decision; it’s more complicated than simply ticking a box on a ballot sheet.
…The truth is that, in order to make progress, you need to physically and mentally fight against the momentum of ordinary events. The default state of any new idea is failure. It’s the execution–the fight against inertia–that matters. You have to remember to go against your instinct, to confront the ordinary, and to put up a fight.
As America goes to the polls, I am settling down for my third night at my parent’s house with the Bobby monitor, not knowing what might happen, politically or personally.
The soup of anticipation, anxiety and hope is bubbling and while there are no guarantees of what the next four years hold, I for one am digging deep to recapture the potential that shone so brightly four years ago, to remember and relive the hope that was, to fight against the momentum of ordinary and unearth something special. I hope America does too.
Earlier this week I wrote a short post about the benefits of a baby monitor in supporting life with my Dad who is terminally ill. It allows him to be in bed but still remain connected to my Mum, myself or anyone else who is at home looking out for him. There were a few downsides that I’ve discovered since – notably the constant requests for cups of tea that make you jump as they emanate into the atmosphere; some interference with the wifi when I was trying to use Skype; and it also has the risk of fuelling my own paranoia. Any of my mates who have had me babysit (especially when they are uber little) know that I doubt the tech, and if I dont hear anything for a while I end up going and watching their precious bundle of newbornness to see if their chests are rising – this week I ended up doing the same with Dad; stood in his doorway staring at his chest. I guess the reality is that this is nothing to do with technology, it is to do with the fragility of life and my own need to watch over it.
Anyhow I digress….the other downside of the baby monitor is that it is one-way, it helps us connect to Dad but it doesn’t keep him connected with us, but this does:
Take a bow the wifi enabled photo frame. This thing is amazing, it allows my folks to get photos of their grandchildren, granddogs and of course grandcat; their kids, scenery, cake, whatever. We just take a photo, email it to an email address and hey presto it arrives, usually immediately although sometimes it takes an hour or two. This device is amazing, it has been a brilliant connection for my folks to keep in touch with the everyday existence that goes on, especially when yours isn’t so normal. The last few weeks it has come into its own, Dad has been home from the hospice a week and has barely made it out of bed, but this little gem allows the outside world to come to him. It gives Dad something to look forward to (the symbol on the front lets him know there are new photos waiting), the photos arrive and loop constantly, you can sort by sender or most recent and when all else fails it’s a great, ever changing talking point.
Pick what you’re interested in…
- I know it's early but the #cclive13 hashtag is a bit quiet....hope frontline #socialwork won't miss opportunity to engage tweeted 47 minutes ago
- When I rule the world research methods will be taught in school! Mind I had an 8yr old explain triangulation to me yday re online searches! tweeted 53 minutes ago
- @leat72 @McLikey @SocialWorkKent rarely is new learning pointless in my experience; good on ya for initiative and peer support #cclive13 tweeted 59 minutes ago
- RT @leat72: @GeorgeJulian @McLikey @SocialWorkKent always wantd 2but told @uni that research is 4post-grads-never taught it <<< This SUCKS tweeted 1 hour ago
- @leat72 anything you particularly want me to look out for ya/ask for ya? #cclive13 tweeted 1 hour ago
- @leat72 we shouldn't confuse attendance with learning; huge gulf between the two - besides you'll engage remotely #cclive13 tweeted 1 hour ago
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