Saturday, 22 October 2016

My best friend the tree.

My best friend the tree sits with me day after day. Some days he looks as though he is struggling and I will him on as I sip my tea. Some days he looks radiant and powerful and I look up to him as my mentor. He is, you may remember, half a tree. Some years ago, he lost his friend who had stood so close to him that he was only able to develop on one side. He is gnarly but elegant in his dancer's pose.
This week he has been helping me. The familiar cloak of nothingness was placed around my shoulders and I have been walking at a stoop trying to hold it up from crushing me. So I sat and looked at my friend to see if I could garner strength from him.
His Spring and Summer vibrance has faded and, although his leaves have turned into crisp and bright yellow flames, singing loudly when the sun winks her wink at them, he is losing cover and he is being stripped to the branch, exposed.
He taught me to hold fast. It will not last. It will pass. Just keep on. Hold the day and the night will follow. Surrender to the night but make it wait when light appears. Wipe your face, dry the tears. All will be ok. Ok is enough. Just when the caterpillar thought it was all over, it turned into a butterfly. Hold fast. Make tea. Eat nourishing things. Sleep with intention. Light a candle to soothe the dark. Walk outside when there is light.  Every, single, day. Keep to a routine.
He knows his stuff. And soon enough, he will dress and we will grow some more together. What would I do without him.
Love from 

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Friday, 21 October 2016

I am my husband's prime carer and I now have a week of respite, a time to lick wounds, sleep, and take stock.

Caring encompasses parents with children with birth defects, life threatening illness, like leukaemia, handicapped, physically or mentally. Then there are teenagers who have had horrific accidents, often with motor-bikes. Move on to strokes and heart attacks affecting those still of working age and the devil of old age, dementia/Alzheimer. And, always, as we see here on Moodscope, the long-term effects of recurrent depression. We all have common problems:

1. Finance. News today was of crisis in the UK National Health financing. It is, of course, the 15th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack ever, the twin towers. How many people are still physically or psychologically suffering from it? Carers need help – cost in time and money – often, one's 'right', but no resources, no help. Currently the Paralympics focus on what CAN be done, but so much input, sacrifices by the 'carers' and huge cost of specialist equipment and transport. Carers in all categories above will have their own potential reduced, earnings and pensions. Ditto sufferers from all those categories.

2. Your own 'space'. I hate the expression, but we all need it. A brisk walk – half hour lying down with a book – even browsing in shops instead of a hurried 'raid'.

3. Spiritual – this translates to the French 'esprit', not necessarily religious. My husband now finds comfort in church, so it will be top priority. It may be singing in a choir, support groups, yoga, meditation, therapy – they all need that rare commodity – free time.

4. Motivation – my big challenge at the moment. For all the above categories it does not matter how good the carer is, or medical and nursing facilities, if the 'sufferer' will not make their own effort, there is no point in nagging them until you are in a frazzle.

Anybody out there got a 'recipe'?

The Gardener
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Can you always accentuate the positive?

In the last decade there has been a trend to find the positive in everything no matter how distressing the situation. People who have a life threatening illness, people with disabilities, people with debilitating illnesses, people who have suffered a tragedy, people grieving, are all encouraged to remain hopeful, and see the positive.

I am interested in why there is such pressure to find the positive in one's suffering. A generation ago, when people became very ill, they received sympathy and best wishes.

Now people are bombarded with diets they should try, meditation and exercise regimes, positive ways of thinking to the extent they feel they are letting people down if they are not trying hard to be as optimistic as they can.

I recently read an article online about finding the positive things one has learned from depression.

Comments fell into three distinct categories: those who listed the things they had learnt from having depression, those who were angry that anyone would be fool enough to think there was anything the least bit positive about having depression and those who while acknowledging they may have a learnt one or two things from having depression they also felt that there was very little positive about having depression.

Probably among Moodscopers there are people who fall into three categories and maybe there are more groups.

What I would like to discuss is why it seems to me there is such pressure to be upbeat about everything. If one feels sorry because one has serious illness, one is made to feel they are being selfish.

Some people seem to be naturally optimistic but making everyone feel positive about everything to me seems a bit unnatural.

I would like  to hear what other people think.

Do you think finding the positive in everything is very helpful?

Do you think there is too much pressure on people to be optimistic?

Or are you somewhere between the two thoughts.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Drastic Action!

Oh, I loved Lex's Monday blog! I loved the multi-coloured dots and I adored his challenge to think outside the box.

I'm not very good at that. I'm very creative inside the box, but I always need that structure and security around me.

Except when I'm high. As I am right now.

So when Lex said "the length of the lines, the size of the dots, the width of the line, the 'size' of the frame - all these are negotiable," I was seized with the irresistible urge to grab an extra thick Sharpie and just draw one line through the whole lot!

There! Job done with one stroke, not four.

The trouble with this kind of drastic action is that, while the objective is certainly achieved (oh - those dots are certainly joined up now), the cost is inevitably high. In this case, no dots are visible at all. Oops.

I have suffered in the past from taking drastic action. My favourite activity seems to be decluttering. I am good at decluttering when I'm in this state. Too good, it turns out.

I threw out my children's Red Books in one such clear out. For those of you without children brought up in the UK, the Red Book contains the record of your child's weight and growth from birth and, most importantly, their official proof of inoculations. This is vital when they start school and the proofs are needed. Me? I have no idea when jabs happened: I know that they did, but I can't prove it.

Oh, I have thrown out so many things I later needed.

I have thrown out things I later realised I loved.

I have come so close to throwing out people I loved and needed.

I'm close to that now.

It has been a hard summer. The falling of the leaves and my kite-high mental state only strip the problems of their emotion and throw them into stark relief against a clear sky.

Like the kite, I long to cut loose the strings that hold me here and fly - just fly...

Have lap-top, have credit card, have spare pair of knickers and I can go anywhere; anywhere at all...

I can write anywhere, after all.

So I have to hold on to my common sense. Grab it tight and hold on hard!

This feeling is temporary. There is a crash at the other end. And, at the other end of that dark time, reality and proper emotions will be restored. Once again I will know I love and value my husband and family.

My friends in far flung places would be delighted to see me, but they would not wish me to abandon home and hearth to be with them. Buying a one-way ticket to Manila, to Munich, to Tomsk, to Phoenix, might go on the (credit) card, but is not on the cards...

So I'll write it all down here, and keep the credit card in safely in my pocket.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

What get's you through?

It's a while since I wrote. That's good - it means I've been ok! I've been living my life much as it should be - no unexpected 'Wonderlands' or unwanted 'Mirrors...'

So far I have recently had six and a half days of real contentment.

I have organised my time - targets for everyday - and rewards for achievement. It has been the best time I have had for a long time. Then I had a hiccup. I got maudlin. Ah huh - what a lovely word but what a sad sentiment. MAUDLIN.

MAUD - I imagine her in a garden. Full of glorious English country garden flowers - names long forgotten - but I can see them still, in my minds eye. Full of fragile colour, sun beating down on them, defying the heat to show their colour and form. Serried ranks of flower soldiers doing their duty in our borders. How did she feel, our Maud? Had she lost a lover or husband in a long past war, or was she a modern day miss with friends she was missing from Uni days. I feel that she was sorrowful though... sad.

LIN - a bird? a butterfly? I don't know. A sense of something ephemeral, not quite captured, fluttering above us. Happiness hovering. Warm air on the breeze. A moment in time. Life as we want it - as opposed to life as dealt it.

Maud would like me to wander 'lonely as a cloud' but Lin seeks to touch my heart and gentles me to come to terms with what brought me here.

So what did bring me here? I put my heart out there - as we all have done and committed it well and truly! And found some really good friends but not the love I was looking for. Isn't that that the way!? This time my down was unexpected - my unattainable love and I called it a day under totally affably circumstances. I feel adrift. I know it's for the best and I was a party to that decision. So I am seeking to soar high on the thermal winds above the land and above my pain.

Question - how can I make six and a half days up more? Does it matter if it is just seven days or nine days? I think just a day makes a difference. And then if I can make it one more day - why not two?

I think I need to just keep remembering what got me through those six and a half days and what will keep me going is larger than I am:

A regular routine
Daily challenges
A sense of achievement Companionship Purpose

Give me those and I think I can keep going. Take them away and I would be lost. What is it that helps you stay on the straight and narrow or lifts you out of the mire?

Alice (in Wonderland) 
A Moodscope Member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Monday, 17 October 2016

Jack Out-of-the-Box.

Image result for nine dot puzzle

Monday is the day I focus on creativity - or 'cre8ivity' as I like to call it!

Many of us creatives believe that the metaphor of "thinking outside the box" actually comes from the famous Nine Dots exercise. In this exercise, all nine dots - equidistant on the page - can be joined with four, straight, consecutive lines.

!!!Spoiler Alert!!!

If you've never done the exercise, have a look at the top of the page and see if you can solve the 'problem' without the clues that follow.

Jack in the Box?

I think it's time for many of us to Jack in the Box we've been living in.

This might be a job.
It might be a relationship.
It might be a limiting belief.
But before we jump, let's think about 'Jack Out-of-the-Box'!

Solving the Nine Dots Puzzle requires you to extend the straight lines beyond the boundaries of the 'invisible' grid or box that the nine dots appear to represent. They are an artificial constraint for most people. The 'box' is imagined, not real. The rules and restrictions are invented. I'm sure you can see where this is going!

The key to the solution is to challenge the variables - the negotiables.

Non-negotiables are that the lines have to be straight, consecutive (i.e. pen or pencil remains in contact with the paper and there are no breaks in the lines), and there have to be four of them that join all nine dots. Just about everything else is negotiable!

This means the length of the lines, the size of the dots, the width of the line, the 'size' of the frame - all these are negotiable.

Now is the time for the deep bit...

There are very few non-negotiables in your life.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Why I'm comfortable with 0%.

When I began using Moodscope, back in 2012, I used it daily and diligently; I read the Post every day and, every day, I carefully and as honestly as I could, completed the Test. I annotated my results too. It created a sort of diary for me; a way of expressing for me my most troubled thoughts and my most vicious feelings. Reading them back, I am slightly shocked with how violent I felt then. There is no doubt in my mind, that Moodscope allowed me to a safe place to process my thoughts and off-load my terrors.

I cannot imagine I would even be here, had I not had that safety valve.

That particular crisis passed; as I have learned in my long enough life (I am 62) that most things do pass; if you can wait that long.

My need to off-load my agony reduced and I stopped taking the Test so regularly. Why did it tail off? The reasons are surprising, I think. I was shocked when my score showed anything above 50%. The highest score I achieved – 71% - was over 3 years ago. And I stopped taking the Test on that day. So high a score could not be "me". To be "me" I had to score consistently under 20%.

In these recent months, perhaps the last 18 months or so, I have occasionally done the Test. And have been approving of the result; a consistent 0%. I approve of this result; 0% is how I feel I am most of the time, inside.

To the outside world, I present a very different face; I am told I "glow with happiness"; that I have an "aura of joy"; my smile "lights up the world". People tell me I am a most nurturing and loving person, one of the most capable, consistent people they have ever met; that my "can do" approach leaves them reeling in awe. One person told me that in moving to this place, I had become one of the village's most important assets.

Which just goes to show that our private thoughts and our public personas can be poles apart.
And that both are equally valid.

So, that is how I use Moodscope, as a safety valve so my social face is on show most of the time... do you have a comfortable score?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Friday, 14 October 2016

Routine Sleep.

Now that the nights are drawing in, I'm trying to get into a proper sleep routine. This has been helped by discovering a sleep function on the exercise app I use (Argus, by Azumio, premium version c£22 annually). I use it to give me some idea of how much sleep I'm actually getting and also to get into the habit of going to sleep before 11, because so much research shows that this is a good idea.

I wanted to see how a sleep routine would help my energy and mood levels. There are so many nights that I've read a book online or watched Netflix and ended up at 12 or 1 still awake and then found it difficult to drop off. As I wake up with the dawn, which got earlier and earlier as the year wore on, this meant some nights I was averaging five or six hours, which left me often feeling under par – as though I were operating with a layer of skin less.

Early indications are that it's really helping. I've felt pretty upbeat since about the third day of doing it – I feel as though I'm getting 'me' back and feel a lot more confident and motivated. I've also got more energy and am able to concentrate more.

Because I'm also keeping an eye on what I eat and drink, using MyFitnessPal (free version) and exercise on Argus linking through the Apple Health app (you can use Google Fit if you're on Android), the nights that I've woken up and been unable to sleep I'm able to see if there are any patterns with what I've eaten or drunk or done. Like Moodscope, measuring and tracking has been a great way to consistently see what the triggers are.

Sleep builds energy, increases memory and stimulates creativity. It also means our brains shrink allowing space for cerebrospinal fluid to flow into and throughout the brain, gently cleaning it of toxins, which is why we need good sleep so badly. Here's an article that I came across recently, which explains it all really well (and links to the study on cerebrospinal fluid).  It's called Sleep: The Best Thing You Can Do for Your Career, but think of it as what it can do for your health:

There's also an interesting video on the same subject:

A View From the Far Side
A Moodscope member

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The harvest.

When I was little, I didn't understand the harvest festival at school. It meant taking in some tins to put in a box and old people would survive winter... because we had put tins in a box. Then I watched the second Nanny McPhee film and more understood the harvest festival! A celebration that the fields had been worked, the harvest was in, the hard work was done and winter could be faced. Those scenes are filmed so beautifully and I recommend the film to all those who haven't seen it. It's gentle, funny, well written and beautifully acted.

Is there a way to harvest our mood and battles?

I'm a bit of a seasonal girl and I know this time of year can be good for me but I also fear the season after. Once in a while it's good to look back and see where we have been.  In the last year, have you had downs and some ups? How did you feel this time last year as Autumn started performing for us? Can you harvest these thoughts and feelings alongside the ones that remind us Spring followed Winter?

If you are a little seasonal like me, now is the time to think over what may come and how you plan to deal with it. I'm planning on getting things more in order (I'm having clear outs and having the outside painting done!) so that I might allow myself more hibernation in the coming months. I do not mean curling into a corner wrapped in a duvet (although that is SO tempting) but more that I will be able to go easier on myself. Accept myself as productive in the three other seasons and accept I need one to hunker down within.

Try saying 'hunker' five times and see if it makes you laugh.

Love from 
The room above the garage.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site:

Wednesday, 12 October 2016


Bliss. Oh, this is bliss! The pool is empty. There is no one here but I.

I have it all to myself.

That moment: that moment standing poised on the edge, mistress of the water, before diving in? That moment is the magic.

I can be anyone and anything. The tiled walls fade away, replaced by green rushes. Chlorine becomes the sharp scent of waterweed. I am a water vole; I am Ratty. My brown head moves smoothly on the silver surface of the river, leaving a sharp V behind, a reflection of the geese skein flying above...

Ten lengths.

A turn at the end and the inland water becomes the wild Atlantic as my sleek seal's body twists in the foamy spray under clear Hebridean skies...

But my solitude has ended. People push and smack through doors, their voices an avalanche of dry and broken bones. Ratty and the Selkie shimmer and wink out. The pool water becomes choppy and unpredictable. I attempt to lose myself in its movement and sounds.

That lace shimmer, brushes on cymbals. That slap, a turquoise bolt of silk shaken out with a snap. That deep aquamarine Gollum gulp. These are the sounds which surround me.

Ten more.

So I think of those I love and hold them up to the Universe. I think of Raz with his beautiful mind, generous heart, forged iron will and ice-axe tongue. I think of the benevolent hurricane that is my son and the fragile spun crystal and rainbows girl who is still in his heart but no longer in his life. I think of the comfortable rock of my husband, the quiet intensity and spiky rebelliousness of my daughters. I think of the titanium fox Richard; quick-witted, fleet of foot, always ready to turn on the demons running, baying, at his heels.

Another ten lengths. I focus on the ache in my shoulders and back and arms; on the tingling in my fingers as they sweep through water again and again.

My current novel is set in Orkney. I think of my hero, attempting to escape his weaknesses and his past, only to find that both pursue him. I watch him while he looks for the courage he never knew he had, beyond the cowardice he always feared was his. I think of his lady, with her steadfast heart and pragmatic loyalty. I will test her soon, when he tells her everything he has done. I worry that even her generosity will not cope with his dark past. It is dark indeed. He has done some terrible things. And he has shied away from worse things; thus concluding he is a coward.


And I think of my Moodscope blog. I start to weave the words; the words you have just read. I seek and capture each one, craft it into shape, polish it and set it in place.

Ten more lengths and out.

My morning meditation.

I'm sure it keeps me sane.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our blog on the Moodscope web site: