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An Olive

Last week, whilst out Christmas shopping  with my wife, we had a break from the shops and sat down to eat lunch in a newly opened Portuguese restaurant in my home city.

As we waited for out food to be served, the waiter brought over a complimentary bowl of olives.

I do not like olives!

I tried one, though!

The moment the olive entered my mouth, I knew I had made a mistake and that it was going to be impossible for me to swallow it.

As I fussed around me for the corner of a napkin in which I intended to eject the olive from my mouth,  two things happened in close succession.

First, my wife ordered me to swallow it, no doubt to save me from the indignity of removing the olive from my mouth, and no doubt so save herself from the indignity of watching me do so!

Second, the taste which I so dislike, took hold in my mouth, and made the experience all the more wretched.

The olive was propelled with speed into my napkin, rolled up and placed in my pocket for later disposal.

In these brief moments I had experienced:-

Generosity – the complimentary gift of olives from the waiter;

Temptation – I don’t like olives but I will try one anyway;

Repulsion – I don’t like olives!;

Judgement – my wife telling me to swallow the olive;

Independence – making it clear that despite her request, this olive was not going further than my mouth;

Restraint – discreet ejection of olive into napkin

Relief – water washing away all remaining lingering taste of the salty olive;

Joy – having lunch with my wife in a new restaurant in my home city;

Culture – a taste of Portugal in my own back yard.

No matter, how long the moment, life is calling out to be noticed.

I make every effort to notice mine  – don’t let yours pass you by

My next blog will be :- Vomiting

William Defoe






Head, Heart and Soul

The UK Prime Minister said as he resigned after the UK EU Referendum result that he had put his Head, Heart and Soul into his campaign for the UK to remain in the EU.

I was struck by his reference to Head, Heart and Soul and how he had aligned these elements of self behind his belief in the UK remaining in the EU, because I had struggled as I listened to the arguments to align all three.

My head was saying that we would be stronger and safer in the EU and that the peace and prosperity of the whole continent would be better served by our continued membership.

My heart was saying that we should seize this opportunity to escape this undemocratic, unaccountable institution which was hell bent on a European superstate which I utterly oppose.

So what is soul?

For me, and I suspect for David Cameron, and indeed all of us, the soul  is the connective which links the logic of the head and the emotion of the heart.

The soul is ultimately the deciding factor in the choices which we ultimately make in our decisions.

Some people will pray for guidance as they search to make a reasoned choice, a choice which fulfills their deepest truth to the issue at hand.

Others will reflect and listen to their inner voice as they process the arguments made from both sides of the argument.

I found that it was hard for me to align Head, Heart and Soul.

My emotional response to Brexit was the strongest emotion, and yet as the time of the vote became nearer and nearer, the logic of my head disturbed my sleep and made me feel anxious as the two opposing tensions within self called me from within to be heard.

My soul was at last satisfied when I considered the opinions of my adult children who all wanted the UK to remain in the EU.

My soul latched onto a wider family perspective and gave me an opportunity to show myself attune to their aspirations.

As I walked from the polling booth, having voted to Remain in the EU, my Head, Heart and Soul were aligned, my inner voice and truth had been heard.

The supremacy of an emotional response to my needs, which has been such a destructive feature of my life in the past , was heard in the wider context of my whole truth.

My next blog will be: Cucumber

William Defoe



Emotional Well-being

In a week in which I read that a 39 year old Belgian man wants to claim his legal right to euthanasia because he cannot accept his gay sexuality, I felt that it was right to reflect on the importance of emotional well-being.

I have only recently begun to understand, that my own suffering over the same inability to accept my gay sexuality in the past, was a  reflection that my emotional needs were not being met.

It is not that my emotional needs were necessarily the responsibility of someone else – say my parents, or siblings or my wife and children or my friends and colleagues, but for many years, I think that this is what I expected from them.

My inner narrative used to be:

“I am hurting, I can’t tell you why, and although I am often angry, stressed, irrational, and hurtful, I still need you to make me feel loved, I still need you to show me that you care no matter what”

I have come to realise that my emotional well-being is my own responsibility, but what is emotional well-being?

The UK Department of Health in 2011 said that well being is:

“a positive state of mind and body, feeling safe and able to cope, with a sense of connection with people, communities and the wider environment”

For me it is the glue, the life blood of my human and spiritual existence.

It encompasses my physical and sexual needs, my mental needs and also my social and religious needs.

My emotional well-being depends on my capacity and ability to feel motivated to look after and protect; and also project, who I am in the world without fear.

It’s essence comes from within, through my thoughts and feelings which arise within my head, but which are manifest in my body which sustains my life.

I recognise now, that before I began my intimate relationship with my inner voice and accepted my inner truth and learned to recognise it and love it, that I had given over to others, the responsibility to carry my emotional well-being for me.

When we love other people, we are prepared to do that for them, at times of crisis and bereavement and disappointment  – that is quite a straightforward human response which people are generally prepared to give.

When it is given over for many years, as it was in my life, for many people to carry for me, I recognise now that their generosity and love has been heroic.

A mature emotional well-being is achieved through:

  • being connected, through talking and listening
  • being active, through doing and enjoying and shifting your mood
  • taking notice of the things which give you joy
  • keep learning – surprise yourself in acquiring new skills and interests and developing and maintaining your old ones
  • giving your time, giving your presence, giving your words

yes, giving your words, and these have been mine!.

My next blog will be: Faith and Space

William Defoe





Secret Garden

In the book, “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett the climax of this beautiful story for children is “The spell was broken, my uncle learned to laugh and I learned to cry”
This book is littered with phrases which are a delight for children, but which have messages of profound importance for those of us, like me who are wounded, emotionally or in other ways carry a hurt at the core of their existence which demands to be heard.

Many years ago as I read this story to my own children, and at that time being unable to articulate my hurt or consider how to deal with it, I was struck by the words in the above sentence which spoke strongly to me that if relationships are to change, often it requires a different response from each of us to meet in the present.

In the Secret Garden, the uncle, lord of Mistlethwaite Manor is racked in grief at the loss of his wife, some years earlier, and his niece, Mary Lennox, a recent orphan , sent to stay with her uncle,  feels unloved and unwanted.

It is Mary’s discovery of the Secret Garden, her opening of it and re-flowering of it, which opens up from within the hurt of all the characters, the space for reconciliation, the opportunity for healing of misunderstanding, and the possibility for hope and love.

On my journey, in which I have opened up my emotional life from within for scrutiny, care, understanding and love, I am now able to share the sentiment expressed by Frances Hodgson Burnett that “if you look closely, the whole world is a garden”

So, through my own journey to love what hurts, I have learnt to listen and and be silent and my wife is learning to speak and at last feel that she is being heard.

“The spell has been broken!”

My next blog will be: Pointing In

William Defoe

I Want

I seem to be in the midst of a deep longing which despite all my efforts I am unable to silence.

I recognise that these longings don’t need to be silenced, they need to be heard.

So what are they?

I want my Mum, I want my Dad

These words come to mind so often and they don’t make sense to me. I able to see my elderly parents whenever I want to so what is at the heart of my longing.

I ponder and I think this is cry from inside for comfort, for my need to feel safe – I never quite feel safe. Perhaps I have things to say and I have not found the words I want to say and time may be short.

I want to feel loved

Oh dear, think man, you are loved by so many family and friends and this is demonstrated by them in oh so many ways.

I want to feel liked

Oh that old nugget. Sometimes it is clear that people like me and sometimes it is not.

This is a key area for me to work on in my continued development of self because I will never be satisfied if I am continually in search of acceptance from the same people time and time again.

I want to change career

But think of the potential loss of income and think of those who depend on you for their financial security.

Think of the risk you would be taking giving up a career that you worked hard to qualify for and the risk that your dreams for something different may not be fulfilling in the way you expect.

I want to feel closer to my faith

Then make time for it. Perhaps a little space for prayer each day and a longer spell on a retreat at a centre in the New Year.

So, I want, I want, I want

And, I will listen, listen and listen

I will find new ways to respond to the call from within me to understand my needs because everything is possible, whenever I create within me, a space for compassion, gentleness, patience and resolve.

My next blog will be: Tormented Soul

William Defoe