Saturday, 3 June 2017


As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. 

C.P. Cavafy

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Poetry Wednesday - This Be The Verse

This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   
    They may not mean to, but they do.   
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,   
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

by Phillip Larkin

Sunday, 12 March 2017

We've all got choices.....

Sometimes I have choices, on one hand, I want to wallow in self-pity, on the other, I want take control, even if I can only control my emotions.

Sometimes I feel that I have no choices at all. That isn't true, I've always got choices.

I find focussing on my goals is helpful. It gives me direction and something to aim for. What do I want? In life? Today,? At work?

And then what resources do I have? What allies?

I've given up on focussing on what I don't want to achieve, what I don't have, people who disract me.

This single mindedness isn't everybody's cup of tea, stripping away the emotions allows me to focus on what I want to get done. I realise that some people need (choose) to focus on the emotions (their emotional needs) as opposed to getting the thing done.

That's why I choose to associate with positive people, people who inspire me, challenge me or people who encourage me.

Emotional choice? Can someone choose how they feel? I believe so, yes.

We are made up of our beliefs and our values, things that we know to be true, the lessons that were taught to us in our formative years.

Our emotions stem from our beliefs and values. The situation, the circumstances, the people that we find ourselves in or surrounded by, all elicit an emotional response within us. What if we can reflect on our values and beliefs? What if we can reflect on our emotions and what prompts us to feel the way that we do?

What if we could then minimise the negative emotions? We then have more choices.

Sometimes, I lay in bed, not looking forward to the struggle before me (It was a lot worse in the early days of my recovery!!!!). I have a couple of choices in front of me. Stay in bed, get up and moan about everything and how hard everything is...... or gird my loins, stick a smile on my face and sing a song in my heart! Sometimes habits help me choose, I've taken to listening to my favourite music in my car on the way to work, instead the Today program on Radio 4, frankly, I'm at least 1% more cheerful when I get to the office. The clothes I wear, how many cars I flash to let them out I front of me, I smile and say "Good morning". They are all choices. Taken in the right mind-set to achieve what I want achieve today.

Sometimes I need to adopt a different mind-set, a different 'mask' if you like, different 'emotions', (or 'behaviours'.....) to get stuff done. Sometimes people don't like that, the behaviour, the perceived inauthenticity, the single-mindedness. And there's a danger, when you've put a mask on, can you take it off? Or have you forgotten the real you?

Thinking yourself into positive state will help you to achieve things. But it's hard. Achieving things is hard, otherwise everybody would achieving things everyday.

Can you be 1% more positive today than you were yesterday?

Sunday, 5 March 2017

It's just flu....... - part III

So, my aortic valve replacement, the aneurysm repair and the ensuing stroke. It could be worse, I could be dead or long disabled. And yet I feel resentful. I'm just frustrated with what I haven't got :-(  

 It's just the grieving process.

Me and Tracey have a fairly good life, we enjoy our lives where we can. When Tracey came home and it was clear that she was going to make a full recovery, I was determined to have a life filled with love and beauty. Not shallow, facile surface-deep beauty, but beauty that shines from within. Love that is constant and unconditional. Life is to short to have things in it that are neither beautiful or held together with love.

And I think that my uncompromising honesty and intolerance comes from, it looks a bit like being grumpy or curmudgeonly (Tracey thinks that I am grumpy and curmudgeonly.....) I try to adopt the "I'm OK, you're OK" state (life position) and it's hard to do maintain all of the time.

My recovery isn't over yet, I still want my hand to regain more sensation, I want to develop more strength in my affected leg. I want my energy to increase to a level that I can do everything that I want to do (realistically) and I want my speech to improve to the level that I can tell ghost stories to crowded pub.

If I can get half-way there, I'll be a happy man. And I know that some people who are reading this may think that I should think myself lucky and you're probably right.

The end

.......  for now......

Monday, 27 February 2017

It's just flu..... - part II

The acute stage was over with the discharge from ITU after about 3 weeks. The staff on ITU where just fantastic, truly. Not so on the general wards..... The first night Tracey's plea for being made comfortable was greeted with "You're not on ITU now you know", putting a buzzer on the side of the bed and walking off......... I was horrified when I came in the next day. I made my mind to do all of Tracey's personal care myself. The ward sister didn't like, but I asked her to take responsibility to wash her and feed her at an appropriate time and with respect, dignity and patience, 100% of the time. She couldn't, I did.

Tracey was suffering from critical care paralysis, from prolonged muscle relaxant use, it took months to recover. She wasn't able to feed herself, wash herself. Total paralysis from the neck down.

I remember at one point, on the ward, watching her this the physio, so small and vulnerable, that the fight had gone out of her. I needed to encourage her. Tracey remembers this moment, she recognised it at the same time. She realised that it was going to be really hard and she didn't know if she was capable. The care, or lack of care, she recieved was, in part, the reason that spurred her on. Doing the the stairs with the physio reached an almost mythical status, retrieving the golden fleece or cleaning the Augean stables.  She came home with a zimmer frame and a couple of alterations to our house.

She was, and 5 years on, no ill effects, morbidity or disablity what so ever.

I met some awesome practitioners, the compassion and empathy to really make a difference to people's live and their recovery. And some others that need to reflect on their career choice. I was never aggressive or rude, but always honest and articulate, Tracey's advocate. Tracey's fierce advocate.

This was my training ground for want was to come......

Sunday, 26 February 2017

It's just flu.... - part I

Roughly 5 years ago I took my wife, Tracey, to the GP. Tracey had a few days of flu-like symptoms, I knew that she wasn't right. Following a visit to the drop-in centre and a early morning ambulance visit, clinically she was fairly ok..... I knew later that she was compensating.....

The GP took one look at her and requested a blue-light ambulance. In ITU (via resus) I said my good-byes, we'll see each other in a couple days, we said. I was relatively calm at this point, the lungs needed a rest for 2 or 3 days. I was calm, the ITU staff were calm.

I got home, literally got home and my mobile rang. It was the ITU nurse, "I know that you've got home, but you need to get back to the hospital. And you need to bring your daughters.....". I knew the code.

I sat in one of the relatives rooms with our daughters, waiting for the ITU consultant. After a while, he arrived with one of his registrars in tow. "We are doing everything we can, but we don't expect her to survive the night".

The next days a bit of a blur..... I remember taking our daughters in to see her, intubated and ventilated, and they burst into tears and they didn't want to stay. We got home and they went to their rooms. I realised that I needed to talk to somebody, but I didn't need to cope with somebody elses emotion...... Steve, the very person. He knows what emotions are, but he doesn't let them get it the way. The conversation went something like this.....

"Steve, it's Matt, shut up and listen. Tracey's in hospital, ventilated on ITU."
"Want do you need?"
"Nothing at the moment, I just needed to tell someone"
"Ok, let me know if you need anything"
"Cheers, bye"

I then went back to the hospital, on my own. Tracey was in multi-organ failure, for some reason, her body was compensating, but it isn't anymore..... Her ventilator pressures were high, she couldn't maintain her blood pressure, she needed dialysis etc

That evening was New Years Eve, the most surreal New Years Eve ever, me and our daughters watched the fireworks on the telly, in the back of my mind waiting for the phone call.

I didn't sleep much, I went into the hospital, the consultant said that she's survived the night, but we don't expect her to survive very long.

The next 10 days went from death being a certainty, to an possibility, to a life of severe disability. Day 10 was the day when Tracey was trialled without her ventilator. I wanted her to not cope, I wanted my memories of her to be happy memories, not sad, painful and frustrating. I didn't want to look forward to the rest of our lives together as anything less than happy and wonderful.... but I knew that surviving a physical insult this big won't be a walk in the park.

Part 2 is coming......

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Well formed outcomes

I've been using the Well Formed Outcomes tool of setting goals at work, personally and with staff, for a number of years now. It's been more pertinent now, with my recent predicament.

In short:-

1. State your goal in positive terms.
- What do I want?

2. Self-initiate and maintain your goal.
- Am I doing this for myself or someone else?
- Does my goal depend solely on me?

3. Ensure your goal is appropriately contextualised.
- Where, when, how, and with whom do I want it?

4. Describe the evidence that will emerge from the procedure.
- What will I be doing to get my goal?
- How will I know I’m achieving it?
- What will I see, hear, and feel when I have it?

5. Identify the resources you need.
- What resources do I have now?
- What resources do I need to acquire?
- Have I got evidence of achieving my goal before?
- What happens if I act ‘as if’ I already have it?

6. Check that your goal is ecological.
- What is the real purpose behind why I want this goal?
- What will I lose or gain if I have it?
- What will and won’t happen if I get it?
- What will and won’t happen if I don’t get it?

7. Describe the first step.

I've found it a powerful tool in terms of a holistic approach to goal setting. It takes a while to get your head around it.

I'm currently using it to work out what I want at the moment.

On the way in to work this morning, I listened to New Model Army's Green & Grey, I've just realised that it has metaphorical element...... pertaining to the problem that I am wrestling with.....