For Allegra

I'm sure many of you know that Allegra has been ill. It seems she has taken a turn for the worse in the last few days. We are hoping for a miracle. Please keep both Allegra and Barry in your thoughts, hopes, wishes and prayers.

Together strong.

Dear Santa ...

Every year Oliver writes a list for Santa. This year he wrote William's too. Being five years of age William is just starting to read and write and jolly good he is at it too, but he is not quite up to list writing just yet. Astonishingly the two lists are virtually identical in every regard. I think perhaps Oliver is hedging his bets knowing that whatever William gets , he will be allowed to play with too ... super smart boy that one. On his own list however, Oliver added this postscript ...

"p.s. please give me an apple instead of an orange in my stocking"

Children have many valuable lessons to teach us. I have long been of this opinion and am unlikely to change it any time soon. When did we lose the knack of asking for the things we want or need? Why is it that children can do this so freely whilst we anxiously tie ourselves in knots instead?

Merry Christmas everyone. xx Jos

30 Days of Truth - 29 & 30

Christmas Eve Eve is upon us and so I'm doing a double post in order to clear the decks for the festivities. Want to change the pace tomorrow (if I get time to post at all).

Day 29 - Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.

Just one thing? Are you kidding? I have a long list ...

OK one thing I hope to change about myself is I want to learn the knack of living in a more "present" way. It is abundantly clear to me that I over think. The knock on effect of this one aspect of my character is just huge. It stops me from enjoying, and it stops me being joyful. I can see that. And I hope I can change it.

Day 30 - A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself

Ah Jos, you are a funny one. Such a tender soul hidden beneath these layers of awkward outwardness. It's not all bad you know, not by a long chalk. And yes, you have made some mistakes and not all of them are undo-able by any means. I know that troubles you. One of these days you are going to get the hang of exercising grace in regard to yourself. Along that same path comes the art of accepting that which can't be changed however much you might wish it.

In the meantime I will tell you this. You are changing. Bit by bit and perhaps so gradually you mightn't see the signs of it, but look back ... are you the person you were even a year ago? No. That funny feeling you keep getting ... that fluttering in your heart? Well that is hope and it burns bright within you. It is something that is essential to your being and well-being. It is something that I love about you.

The funny thing about all this trying to change yourself is that at it's root you seem to think that you will find it easier to love the person that you are trying to become. But what about the present Jos as she is right now?

You remember that stuff you read about mental filters? How if someone says something that chimes with your internal view of yourself you listen properly, but otherwise you kind of hear it but it is just like noise ... it bounces right off your ears without going in? Well, I want you to listen to the things that people say to you and open your heart to take in their meaning.

You are kind. How many times are you going to hear that before you believe it? It's a good thing to be. You are not perfect and never will be but that doesn't stop you being decent, hardworking, reliable, trustworthy and a good and loyal friend. You are a loving wife, sister, daughter, and aunt. You are OK you know, really you are.
What do you think would happen if you started believing all this stuff? Would the world stop turning? Would your head grow to be the size of a pumpkin?

To value yourself is not a bad thing. It's neither boastful nor selfish. Just be yourself Jos, that's always going to be good enough for me. Be thankful for who you are, and be thankful for the life you have. And relax ... remember to enjoy, will you? I love you. xx

30 Days of Truth - Day 28

What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?

I remember the day I found out that I was pregnant. Oh my word what a period of mixed emotions that was. Unplanned but not unwelcome news at the time. Pretty momentous all the same.

As the pregnancy progressed and my body changed it was kind of a wondrous thing to feel a little one moving around inside. To see her on the screen at the ultrasound scans. Perfect little fingers and toes, and such a funny little nose. Tiniest hands making the smallest of waves.

To lose Charlotte so late on in the pregnancy was very hard. It tore me apart to the point where I thought I might never recover. Grief feels so unbearable at the time doesn't it? You think it will never ease but time does it's work in this respect as in so many others.

And now in retrospect although I do still feel some of that sadness at times, I also feel deeply grateful to have experienced that wonder at all.

30 Days of Truth - Day 27

What’s the best thing going for you right now?

The best thing going for me right now is that I am in reasonably good health at the moment.

It's far too easy to take this for granted. I know it. So given that, I really don't understand why I find it so difficult to remain in a state of gratitude. I have a lot to be grateful for. I see so many people around me who either have had or are having unbelievably hard times ... healthwise, relationship-wise, family-wise, financially ... just life-wise really.

My problems, such as they are seem pretty insignificant in comparison. And yet it seems that my default mind-set is more inclined towards the negative than the positive. Why, when I can see how lucky I am, why do I persist in focussing on the few things that are not going so well rather than the multitude of things that are fine and dandy?

I allow this negativity to overshadow me. I allow it. Even when things are mostly fine, still in the back of my mind I am anticipating bad stuff happening. I think it's partly because there is an element of never really feeling safe. I am all too aware of the fragility of even the good things in my life. It's not good to live in dread what might never happen ... or even what might. Worrying changes nothing.

30 Days of Truth - Day 26

Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?

I'm not sure I want to write about this at all.

I have thought about giving up and ending my life. I've had the idea knocking around in my head from time to time but only a couple of times have I given it any kind of active consideration to the extent of making a plan and starting to hoard medication.

I can't really pinpoint specific times when I've had these thoughts as they've recurred throughout my adult life although not usually in the context of giving it serious consideration ... more as a way of re-assuring myself that there is always a choice however dreadful things might seem at the time. I guess it sounds strange as a way of providing comfort to myself but sometimes it has helped me to see things more in perspective when things have felt unbearable.

I have been through some times of deep despair. Times when I've felt there was no alternative other than to give up. I have thought about how to do it and worked it out in my mind. In my day to day life I think once I'd made that plan and knew it could work it kind of eased the mental pressure. I stopped thinking about it as often. I know it's always there as an option but I also know that this is an act with far reaching repercussions for the people I love.

I have got people in my life who love me. I love them too. I wonder how I could ever have thought of leaving them ... hurting them. I know there is nothing more selfish than to think of myself in isolation like this. It's not like I could take it back or say "oops, sorry, I made a mistake".

I've known people who've tried to commit suicide, and one who succeeded. I saw at first hand the devastation wrought in the aftermath ... the result of acting upon that self destructive impulse. For years one of my friends has been haunted by the notion that she and their children were not sufficient reason for her partner to want to stay alive.

To despair is natural enough at times. To give up on life even. I can understand how a person gets to that point. I know some people get scared at talk of giving up or even actively seeking a way to end it all. I think a lot of people consider it at some point in their lives without really getting anywhere near acting upon those thoughts.

30 Days of Truth - Day 25

The reason you believe you’re still alive today.

I very nearly died before I was even born. My mother started hemorrhaging at around week 30 and was taken into hospital. Because of the seriousness of the situation she stayed there until I was born. Apparently I spent the first couple of months in an incubator because I was born prematurely and had some complications.

When I was three I slipped through the railings of a bridge and nearly fell into a waterfall about 20 feet below. My father caught the collar of my coat and pulled me back. When I was six I fell into the deep end of a swimming pool. I couldn't swim. My brother grabbed me and swam to the shallow end.

In my early teens I was attacked by a man with a knife. I was lucky to get away with quite minor injuries. In my late teens I came off my motorbike and was dragged under it along the road for quite some way. Other than scraping the skin off down to the bone I was largely unhurt. Good leathers. In my twenties I was in a car accident. The car was written off but I walked away with bruises only. A few years ago I had a series of minor strokes. And this time last year the lump I'd found was diagnosed as nothing more serious that a benign tumour.

I remember once being told about my guardian angel. I was sleeping out having got stuck without any money about 50 miles from home at night time. I'd found a haystack and was using it as a bed. When I woke up there was a travelling man resting not far away. He told me that he'd seen a shining man standing over me in the night. How I wish I'd seen this angel ... or any angel for that matter.

I'm not sure that there is a reason that I am alive today. That doesn't mean I don't thank my lucky stars that I am though. I try to remember to be grateful every day.

30 Days of Truth - Day 24

Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)

I know you thought that I wasn't really listening whilst you tried to inculcate a love of "proper" music in me. And I know you thought I would stay stupidly stubborn for ever. Ha! Just shows what the passing of years can achieve. Drip drip is not only a form of water torture you know. And now look, only 40 something years later and I do actually love much of it ... my top ten are below. So ... I'm all ready for Desert Island Discs should they ever make that call (ha ha).

Sibelius - The Tempest

Elgar - Cello Concerto in E minor

Camille Saint-Saëns - Carnival of the Animals (The Swan)

J S Bach - Goldberg Variations (Glenn Gould)

Chopin - Nocturne in E flat major Op 9 No. 2

Handel - Messiah (Amen)

Dvorak - Moravian Duets

Bach - Brandenburgh Concerto (No. 5 i:Allegro)

Vivaldi - Harp Concerto in D

Tomás Luis de Victoria - Obra: Motete Magnum Mysterium

I could go on Mum ... and on and on. Such a wealth of music out there for us still to enjoy. Not long now until we're off to see Il Travatore!!! See you friday.

Much love, Jocelyn xx

30 Days of Truth - Day 23

Something you wish you had done in your life.

I wish I had done more than simply trust to nature in order to become a mother.

I'm not sure I can describe exactly the pain being childless causes me. This emptiness. It is a hard but dull ache that mostly exists in the back of my mind these days. As time has passed and along with it any hope of motherhood I have largely come to terms with this. Mourned it. It's just every once in a while that a keening rises up to snatch my breath away.

I balance this against the joy I have in being an auntie, godmother, friend and now even a great auntie ... how did I become so old? Lucky me to have lived so long.

Asked a question of this nature it's tempting to focus solely on something I wish I'd done where the chance to do it has now passed. Hence my initial answer above, which I wrote yesterday. Then I had a think about it and realised that I quite often do this avoidance thing where I focus on what I can't change rather than what I can. So with that in mind I'd like to answer again whilst leaving my initial response to stand.

I wish I had put as much effort into living fully as the person I am rather than focusing so much energy on continually trying to be the person I want(ed) to be.

Some things are almost too simple aren't they? How can peace come from acceptance? How can it possibly be as simple as that? And how stupid does it make me to have taken so long to finally come around to it? I am going to get the hang of this acceptance malarkey ... I may have to learn to accept my own stupidity with a bit more grace first though!

30 Days of Truth - Day 22

Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.

I wish I'd never done things that hurt other people.

I wish I'd never done things that hurt me either.

I wish I hadn't spent so many years opting out of life generally.

That about covers it.

The thing is that I have spent quite a long time thinking and writing about the vast array of things I've done that I regret. They are many, and the hurt I've caused is my biggest regret of all. In saying that I realise that the regret I have is not focused so much on the actions themselves but the harmful outcomes of those actions.

I wonder if that is wrong? To repent the outcome of sin rather than the sin itself? Absolutely I acknowledge the wrongdoing in my actions. But a part of me sees these mistakes as part of a whole rather than in isolation. Perhaps this is just a "let out clause" though. A way of not shouldering my responsibilities.

Mostly when I think about this its something along the lines of ... "how could I have been so stupid and how could I not have foreseen the consequences of my stupidity?" This learning to forgive yourself bizzo is bloody hard.

It is what it is ... so given that what to do?

But what of the actions themselves?

I guess at the end of the day it should be like this. There are things that I've done that were patently wrong ... ethically, morally ... whatever you want to call it. To feel regret and/or sorrow is one thing, but I think perhaps to feel contrition is better. Contrition drives the desire to change for the better.

I wonder if contrition is really a healthy background for living a life though. Permanently I mean, rather than a phase to go through on the way towards a life that is fuller ... freer. I don't know but it seems kind of ... joyless. At the crux of this I don't feel deserving of joy. Too sinful perhaps. I see that.

How do you shed guilt whilst retaining personal responsibility for actions done and their consequences?

30 Days of Truth - Day 21

Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?

I always thought I was the queen of feeling guilty until I read this question. Even to me it seems just ludicrous to link these two events in any way.

It kind of reminds me of the other day when I was talking to a friend of mine. She is pregnant. After a string of miscarriages she is haunted by the prospect of another. On the day she came to visit us she'd discovered a dead pigeon in her back garden. She asked if I thought this was a bad omen. I wanted to laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of this suggestion. I mean how can anyone in their right mind read any significance into such a random event?

It just goes to show how stupidly rigid my thinking can be some days. Thank goodness for facial expressions and other non-verbal clues. One look at her face was sufficient to quell any humour in my mind. Deep rings under her eyes and anxiety etched clear across her face. No, I quickly saw that my humour and cynicism were inappropriate responses to my friend's concern.

Similarly here, I can see the ridiculous nature of the scenario posed ... but I can also see that underlying this question is one of how we perceive cause and effect. Our emotional state affects that perception and hence our responses to events.

If my best friend were in an accident I would do the same things regardless of any preceding row. I might feel very differently in terms of spurious feelings of guilt but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't let it affect my response to any great degree. I am a practical person so I would try to help in that way as well as offering emotional support to my friend and her family. That's it really. I guess there are some advantages to seeing things in such simple terms.

30 Days of Truth - Day 20

Your views on drugs and alcohol.

If ever there was a subject I wish I could talk over with my younger self it is this one. I suspect however that my younger self would be almost as hard headed when it comes to listening to advice as my older self appears to be!

Bizarrely perhaps considering my life experience I still have a somewhat liberal view on the use of drugs and alcohol. Some people enjoy using mind altering substances as a form of recreation. I don't see anything morally or ethically wrong in that as long as no-one is being harmed.

There are health risks ... both to physical and mental health. In much the same way as people need to be aware of the risks associated with any activity, so they need to be aware of those associated with the use of mind altering substances. Informed choices can then be made from the outset.

Which is all very well in principle.

A lot of people "dabble" in drugs and/or have a drink socially from time to time. It is part of their lifestyles and they give it only passing thought. It neither dominates them nor causes them any real problem. Some see a vast difference between alcohol and drugs ... as if alcohol were harmless in comparison to other substances. The media portrays them in such different lights, but alcohol is a drug.

Drug. Addict. They're just words. Huh.

The problem arises with an escalation from what starts off as occasional casual recreational use to what over time spirals until the person concerned finds themselves caught up in the trap of full scale addiction.

Addiction is a scary word. It conjures up images of down-and-outs ... rake thin junkies or winos sitting on park benches talking into space and drinking their days away. There are some poor souls who end up in this state. I have a lot in common with these men and women.

How do people with lots to live for allow themselves to be sucked in to this ... what increasingly becomes an almost double life ... the addict ... and the outwardly "normal" person. And once trapped why don't we wake up to our situation ... why don't we struggle harder to escape it? Are we as weak and pathetic as it sometimes appears? Perhaps.

I wish I knew the answer but addiction crept up on me and I hardly even noticed it happening ... at least on one level. Denial becomes a way of life ... we are so adept at turning a blind eye when it suits us. A drink in the evening became every evening which became a bottle and then more ... and all the while there was this disquiet going on at the back of my mind and the only way to stop it was to drown it out. I lost most of my friends, my work suffered, my remaining friendships suffered, my marriage increasingly became an unhealthily co-dependant relationship with addiction at it's center.

And still I carried on. Why? Partly because I denied that I was addicted at all. How could I be? I didn't fit the image I had created in my own mind of what an addict looked like. Paradoxically the reason I carried on was because I had in fact become addicted. Funny that.

I fully accept that this was a trap of my own making. There is little comfort in knowing that I fell into it because of my own folly. Even so that's the truth of it. I didn't exercise control because I wasn't drinking for the taste, or to be sociable. I didn't take drugs for the buzz either. What I wanted ... what I craved was oblivion. I wanted escape from my own head and all the thoughts and memories it contains.

Addiction is a form of madness that feeds upon the madness already within us.

Because it is progressive in nature I became ever more deeply entrenched in behaviours that facilitated my addiction. I increasingly detached from the reality and consequences of my own actions. My natural resilience, character and personality were being gradually stripped away to almost nothing, leaving only this never ending need to escape from life.

The thing that I could never have guessed at the outset is how you end up doing unimaginable things in order to feed your addiction ... things that leave you burdened in the longer term with feelings of deep shame and guilt.

Plenty of people enjoy using drugs and alcohol recreationally and will never develop the kinds of problems I have described or experienced. Plenty do though and only some of these are lucky enough to stumble upon the road to recovery. I know how lucky I am to be here.

I talk about all this as if it were in the distant past. That is not true. The reality is that although my road to recovery started some years ago these last few years in particular have been ones where I have taken one step forward only to take them back ... and then some. I am changing that now. One day at a time.

The principle of freedom of choice is generally one I agree with. There is a price to freedom. People are free to make poor decisions ... ones that can result in them leading impoverished lives ... and not just them, but those that depend on them as well. Such a lot of senseless misery hidden beneath this banner of freedom.

30 Days of Truth - Day 19

What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?

I think religions offer ready-made constructs that one can choose to subscribe to or not ... they can also act as a starting point for a spiritual journey of unknown duration and destination.

Faith and religion are not synonymous in my eyes. I think the two can and quite often do co-exist quite apart from one another. To some, all matters of this nature are seen as a complete irrelevance. To others it's central to their lives and everything that matters to them.

I think what is important above all else is to act in good faith ... regardless of the source or label of our particular faith.

I have said before that I long to have an enduring faith. I want to believe in something beyond what we see in the here and now. I tried to believe for quite a long time, but trying is not in itself sufficient to cement faith into place. I fasted and prayed ... I read my bible. I lived as if I already had faith ... walked the walk so to speak. But there is an inherent mis-trust in my heart I guess. Perhaps I've tried to believe in the wrong thing. Hard to tell.

In a lot of ways I want to say that I hate religion, but the reality is that I hate what is sometimes done in it's name rather than religion itself.


I think political activities are often seen as exercises in futility. It's pretty popular these days to be cynical, insisting that politicians are out solely to line their own pockets or to toe the party line regardless of personal ethics. It may be true for some but on the whole I choose to believe otherwise. I think most people are well intentioned and when faced with impossible choices they try whenever possible to go down the path of least harm.

But I know too from working in various organisations that the prevailing culture can have a massive impact on our thinking. Over time it can whittle away at our core values as we get increasingly weary of standing firm against what can seem like a tidal flow of popular opinion. I can understand how people who initially set out with all good intentions can find themselves on the wrong side of their own moral code.

Politics does interest me although I know little about it. In my very limited experience I've yet to find a viable alternative to one of the popular democratic systems in terms of maintaining personal freedoms, rights and what is loosely termed "the greater good".

I believe these three are imperatives and therefore must be balanced in order to both please and displease everyone to pretty much the same degree. To me, this almost defines democracy ... that it is so apparently imperfect and yet we seem unable to improve on it.

And what of the merits of a benevolent dictatorship? Surely this can only ever work if I am in charge? Ha! ... thoughts for another day methinks.

Missing you

How does a year pass in a day
it seems that there is elasticity
at play
in the way that time passes

I remember you so well
I still think it will be you
when the phone rings
find myself storing jokes
to add to your collection
of tawdry bawdy wit
something more for you
to torture me with

Can you see my smile
I put it on for you
I am missing you
every day.

30 Days of Truth - Day 18

Your views on gay marriage.

Pretty simple really. Love is love. I'm all for love. Why should there be any barrier to people honouring one another in marriage?

30 Days of Truth - Day 17

A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

I'd love to say that I am really widely read but I'm not. Mostly I read pretty mainstream fiction, some poetry, some hobby based stuff and a sprinkling of other types of non-fiction. I haven't read many profound books, but I have read some that have affected me profoundly.

"The Problem of Pain" by CS Lewis really is a profound piece of writing. At the time of my first reading of it I was seeking answers to questions that threatened to undermine my already faltering belief in a loving God. I remember being hugely frustrated at being continually told to "just have faith" by men and women much more experienced in matters of faith and wisdom than I.

"In what?" I wanted to yell. "In a god that allows all this?" I remember that confusion and anger. I carry it with me still, although perhaps not with nearly the same intensity.

I have a deep longing for a faith that is sustainable ... that withstands scrutiny. I want to believe in "more". I accept that what I'm talking about may not be faith at all. It seems to me that at it's core faith is a complete surrender of will ... an acceptance of things unknown and unknowable. This kind of faith is beyond me.

What I loved about this book is that it engages in an intellectually rigorous argument. It starts with the premise that there is a creator god, but from that point on there is a scientific-like exploration and analysis of the issues. The author attempts to reconcile the apparent dichotomy of a divine, omnipotent and loving God who yet permits the pain and suffering we see in the world around us.

In his response he argues that even God must act within the confines of natural law. To do otherwise would be contradictory to God's own nature. Thus intervening to eradicate pain and suffering risks changing the fundamental order of things ... an action that might have far reaching consequences ... certainly beyond our limited capacity to predict.

So it seems that God is inherently unable to reverse that which is caused by nature itself.

It appears then that there's no divine omnipotence, or at least not as I'd come to understand it. Not in the space time continuum in which we currently exist anyway. There is a strong inference running through this argument that once we move into the spiritual realm the laws of nature become an irrelevance. Quite a thought in itself.

I suppose I'd always thought that a Creator God worth his/her/it's salt should by their very nature have had the foresight to design in an ability to intervene to reverse pain, suffering, injustice ... to basically right the wrongs that happen and redress the balance.

If anything persuades me of the level of my own ignorance it is this. That I think myself in any way capable of judging such matters when it is so apparent that I am unable to see anything except this miniscule portion of the overall picture. To balance anything one must first see the whole, have the capacity to comprehend it, and have the wisdom, compassion and capability to act on a truly universal plane for the greater good.

Even so, it made me think about the joy and sorrow that I feel must exist at the heart of this decision to allow suffering and pain in order to protect the natural order of things.

I suppose the thing was that I'd never tried to think anything through in quite this way before. It changed my views on the nature of certainty, faith, and of what divinity itself might actually mean. We have such limited ways of thinking don't you find? I still find that. It frustrates me to catch such fleeting glimpses of a wisdom that lies so very far beyond my grasp.

On a lighter note I have also been re-reading "The Cloudspotters Guide" by Gavin Pretor-Pinney. Some books are just a joy to browse through and read. If you get the chance, have a look. There's a lot more to clouds than I ever imagined. I will never look at skyscapes in quite the same way ever again.

If you have read this far then you and I both deserve a break! Will be back with more "30 Days" posts in a few days. xx Jos

30 Days of Truth - Day 16

Someone or something you definitely could live without.


I understand the value of lessons learnt. That in pain we learn acceptance, and that acceptance is a sacred art.

I understand that in weakness we find a new kind of strength. That we learn grace and patience. That we can look beyond the immediacy of our pain to find that joy is still possible in any given moment. That we learn to be present in our lives.

I understand that grief is followed by healing. And I understand that without darkness light has little meaning.

I could live without knowing all this. I understand that wisdom comes at a cost. I could live as a fool.

30 Days of Truth - Day 15

Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.

I do not like to rely on others. Partly it is a hatred of feeling like a burden, but also there is an element of fear that I will be let down. By keeping my distance from most people I thought I was protecting myself from hurt. I didn't realise the pain it was causing me. I suppressed it along with a lot of other things. I am changing that now. I wouldn't want to live in such a dis-connected way ever again.

That said, I know I can live without even the people I love the most dearly in life. I wouldn't want to, but that is not the same thing as couldn't. The people I love bring joy and meaning into my life. They make my life worth living. In a few days time I will be marking one year since my very dear friend Gabby died. What a hole she has left in my life. I miss her every day and I think I always will. My life is not the same without her in it.

If I were to have to live for the most part without people again, I would always want to have a huge stack of books and my radio if at all possible. I spent many years living alone before I met Trev. I hardly watched TV and didn't trade in my black & white for a colour one until I was in my late twenties. I prefer reading, listening to the radio, and playing or listening to music. I am comfortable with silence. It's not something I have enough of these days and I miss the feeling of calm and "centered-ness" that comes along with it. I will work on ways to balance my need for solitude and silence with the other demands in my life.

Other than the bare necessities for survival I know I could live without pretty much everything I have in my life right now. I wouldn't choose to but I could. In the past I have lived with very little for quite long periods of time. Not in poverty, but with very limited resources. For over a year I lived alone in a small caravan, around 6' x 12' inside. No water, no power, no toilet or shower. This was many years ago now, but I remember what it was like. It's amazing how we adapt.

I lived without being in contact with my sister for over a year. We fell out and neither of us had yet learnt the humility necessary to heal that rift. A valuable lesson. In the end nothing matters to me as much as the people in my life that I love. I could survive without them but I wouldn't describe that as living.

30 Days of Truth - Day 14

A hero that has let you down. (letter)

When I was a very small girl my hero was my father. I had no idea how badly that would turn out. I guess a lot of little girls idolise their dads.

The problem with heroes is that they are after all only human ... and perhaps the most amazing thing about heroes is that they are as human as the rest of us. It has taken me quite some time to stop expecting perfection from myself. I am glad at least that I learnt early on not to expect it of others.

These days I define heroism quite differently than I've done in the past. I look at people fighting their personal battles with grace and dignity ... I look at those who do much for others at great personal cost ... and I look at some who make the headlines in their field of endeavour for one reason or another. All flawed humans doing exceptional things. Not always perfectly, and not often recognised. To me this is the essence of heroism.

I have written letters to my dad. I've tried quite a few times over the years to mend our relationship. I won't stop trying. Some things are broken beyond repair but I live in hope that this is not entirely true here. I do accept though that I can't change anyone else, only try to better myself.

30 Days of Truth - Day 13

A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)

I would have to pick Joan Baez for this one. For me she is not only an outstanding artist musically, but I admire her for her courage and determination to stand by her political views through good times and bad. I was privileged to go to her concert in a nearby town earlier this year and even now she has a voice that anyone would envy. She is aging well ... to the point of laughing on stage at forgetting the words to her own songs. It was without a doubt one of the highlights of my year going to see her and taking my mum along to share the experience.

My all time favourite album is 'Ring Them Bells' ... although it runs only a whisker ahead of 'Between The Lines' by Janis Ian. I could wax lyrical for hours about this album too. Again that mix of fabulous instrumentals intertwined with beautiful melodies and evocative words.

But Joan's album wins because not only does it showcase her own talent but has introduced me to the truly wonderful music of other artists as well. Outstanding amongst these is Dar Williams. Oh my, such a voice.

Just listen to this ...

When I have days where everything just piles in on top of me I retreat to the bathroom if it's at all possible. I run a tub of scalding hot water and put on a loop of 'Ring Them Bells' back to back with 'Between The Lines'. I let the music wash through me. It reminds me of beauty and the power of hope.

Shhh ... don't tell anyone will you? The bathroom is pretty much the only place where I "sing" out loud. Har har har.

So ... onto my letter ...

Dear Joan

You don't need me to tell you that you are awesome. You have a massive fan base, that should tell you more than any words I can ever write. You make my heart sing ... even on the bad days. This is no small thing. I hope your heart sings along with the songs you share with us all.

Warmest hugs from your 10 million-th and one fan. xx Jos

30 Days of Truth - Day 12

Something you never get compliments on.

I'm not altogether clear how to interpret this one. Pin-pointing a specific area infers that I think there are things where I feel entitled to compliments. Ha! The vagaries of the over-literal mind.

I do feel under-appreciated at times. Not often though. I don't give it much thought. Mostly it's at work. Sometimes though it's at home too. Since Trev lost his job things have been pretty tight financially. This causes me a lot of stress as it does Trev too. Rows erupt out of nothing because of this stress. We are both trying to recognise this and address it. Part of this is paying more attention to each other and complimenting one another more.

Generally speaking Trev doesn't compliment me at all often. So I have taken to telling him when I have a new haircut or a new blouse on ... whatever it is. He wouldn't notice otherwise, but with a not-so-subtle hint from me he will respond with a compliment. Kind of defeats the purpose but then I suspect that he is never going to become more observant. I have got used to it.

I don't generally get compliments about my looks but that's OK, I don't spend much time or effort on looking any particular way except on very special occasions. I don't feel at all comfortable when I am dressed up, to the point of avoiding doing so if at all possible. Particularly if I think it will be necessary to wear a dress or other quite feminine clothes. It makes me feel awkward ... which seems so silly at my age! I still can't walk in heels of more than about an inch in height. I prefer shabby casual. The jeans I am wearing today are about 8 or 9 years old and wearing out. I am loath to replace them despite obvious threadbare patches and worn seams.

I have had 2 hairdressers in the last 18 years and would be still going to the first one if she were still working. It takes me ages to break in a new one ... to stop them banging on about lifting roots, volumising, waves, perms, highlights, low lights, tips, covering grey, .... "all I want is a haircut please ... no extras thanks." If I can get away without having it being blow-dried I do. I don't like my hair being messed around with. I don't like the feeling of someone hovering around me.

I love my current hairdresser Nathan. He gets it. He washes and cuts. I'll let him blow-dry it because he is really quick about it. He knows I hate the blow dry bit. We chat all the way through my visits. I know all about his family and he knows about mine. I've been going to him for about 5 years now. I've stopped hating getting my hair cut which I attribute largely to him.

Hmmm .... quite a lot about my hair in this post. I like that it is going grey. Some of my women friends think it's odd that I am greying naturally. They compliment me on being so brave ... kind of a non-compliment hidden in there somewhere! They are kind about it though which makes me smile. I have some lovely friends.

30 Days of Truth - Day 11

Something people seem to compliment you the most on.

A few people have mentioned that I am kind hearted. Some also say I am soft in the head! I tend to agree with the latter more readily than the former.

I do make an effort to be kind wherever possible. I don't like to see people struggling, I would rather stand alongside and help out where I can. I think this is an instinctive response though, so I don't entirely accept that it is something to be complimented on. I am not very comfortable with compliments on the whole.

To me being kind is not about saying nice things although that is part of it. It's about being more aware of the people around me, noticing them and thinking about how they seem generally. It's all too easy to ask people how they're doing and then not listen and look properly when they're answering. People will often say that they're fine verbally but give non-verbal clues indicating otherwise.

Sometimes I'm tempted to offer help when I think I see a need, but where it hasn't been requested. I guess in this instance being kind also entails letting people figure stuff out for themselves even when I see or think that they're going about it all in a very cock-eyed manner. Respecting others involves letting them make their own mistakes but being there to help pick up the pieces if need be. No-one likes a know-it-all.

Sometimes I find it hard to find ways to soften the truth with kindness ... this is especially the case when friends ask for my opinion. I've always thought that part of being a true friend is to treat them lovingly but also like the adults that they are. So I give my honest opinion even when I know it might not be what they are hoping to hear.

I still debate with myself internally whenever I find myself stuck between trying to be kind and telling the truth. I pretty much always opt for the truth except when it comes to people's physical / personal appearance or outfit, even if I don't like it. I figure that my opinion in this area is of no real consequence anyway, so I go with confidence building responses. If I can think of something that doesn't sound too over the top so much the better. Too much emphasis is put on appearance in my view ... why should it matter so? And so that's how I justify it to myself!

30 Days of Truth - Day 10

Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.

I know that I am a very lucky woman. In my small but select band of friends there isn't one person I feel the need to let go of. Or at least I can't think of any compelling reason to do so.

One of the things I have learnt over the last year or so is to be a little more circumspect when making too many friends with others in my addiction support network. I have on occasion found myself being asked for support at a level I am just not able to sustain over a lengthy period of time. I hate letting people down and will generally stick by people for a lot longer than I perhaps should.

When anyone needs help my instinct is always to do what I can, even when it depletes me of strength to fight my own battles. I am learning to see the signs of this happening and hold back a bit more. It goes against the grain to do this. I hope that when I am stronger in myself I will be in a position to offer better support to these friends. In the end though I need to recognise that I cannot carry other people's burdens even if my instinct is to try.

So I am learning to be honest with these friends about how things are with me just now and trusting in their understanding. It is sometimes tempting to think that when friends withhold support it is because they don't value friendship to the same degree as us. It is only now that I am learning of this need to focus more on sustaining my own recovery first and foremost, however selfish that makes me feel.

So rather than letting people go as such, I am learning to balance my needs as being of at least equal importance as theirs. I have made some really wonderful friends through my support network and with these friends there is a strong and deep bond of mutual help, support, respect and love. I couldn't manage without them that's for sure. We pick one another up when hard times hit and I have been feeling the benefit of that a lot recently. They light my life.

Like many of us I have people in my life who are not friends. Their behaviour affects me ... sometimes deeply, but on the whole I am so practised at keeping my distance emotionally that I generally let go of them relatively easily. Not always in a very tolerant or forgiving way though! So much to learn ...