Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys.

My friends are getting a divorce.

Well, not literally. They are two Facebook friends. So far as I know they have never met. But oh, the venom, the bitterness, the hatred...

And dammit, I'm in the middle; in spite of never having met either of them myself!

Look, I got dragged in, okay? A writer I know (Jocasta), invited me to join a group promoting a certain cover model, a muscled young man we'll call Zack.

Over time, that group became close. Probably too close. We shared too much. We supported each other. But the focus was this particular model. When personal affairs meant Zack walked away for a while, there was a lot of grief and anger in the group.

Well, I'm guessing that all of us have at some time felt the need to walk away, to lock ourselves in that dark room, to cease involvement. It doesn't mean we don't love our friends anymore. It just means we need to hide under our stone for a while. I wasn't going to unfriend Zack just because he wasn't playing with us every day like he used to. I emailed him every so often just to say "Hi." Occasionally he'd even answer:  "I'm fine. Just dealing with things. Thanks keeping in touch."

Meanwhile, I supported Jocasta through her problems with administrative support and legal wrangles with her publisher.

Then Zack came back. His modelling career took off. Without Jocasta's help. And that's when the smelly stuff really hit the fan.

Oh it's hard when two people you care for (because as humans we're programmed to care) behave badly. When they throw written punches at each other that make you wince (remember the ammunition we'd given each other in the group!). When they accuse you of "enabling" the other simply because you will not commit to them and unfriend the other.

My husband and children think I should walk away from them both. They have a valid point. But, I have tenacity in my DNA: once you're on my "friend" list, you have to fight hard to get off it. I have been known to come and find you twenty and even thirty years later!

So it's taking valuable emotional resources from me. I hate it. Maybe I should walk away. I'm not going to. I do care for them both. Even when I want to bang their heads together.

One day they'll both reach calmer waters. They will have moved on. Maybe have even forgiven the other for whatever sins that other has committed against them.

And I will still be friends with them both.

That has to be worth it – surely.

A Moodscope member.

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

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Thank-you Moodscope.

Leah's post "This old dog can learn new tricks" and the subsequent comments on Friday 28th August resonated hugely with me. I have been a member of Moodscope since 2011.
Life had been tough since early 2008 (a combination of a heavy caring commitment, a stressful job, hubby's stressful job, a nervous breakdown in 2010, three minor operations for early breast cancer in 2011, recuperating, then being diagnosed with a chronic fatigue condition in the Autumn).
I always read the daily blog, the comments afterwards and I particularly appreciate the "Thought for the day" at the end of the email. I usually do the cards and when I do, I annotate the graph.

I have been rereading my comments and scores and reflecting on how far I have come since then.

The key thing I notice is that it is not WHAT is happening that has changed (I still have to manage the medical condition, the job is still stressful, swop the caring commitment for bereavement and winding everything up, and add an escalating family row...) No, the key change I notice is HOW I respond to life. I am far calmer, more sanguine, more accepting, more positive, more realistic, no longer frustrated and resentful, less anxious and "controlling".
A key part of my recovery and increasing peace of mind is down to Moodscope:

to the wisdom in the blogs,
to the wonderful, caring community who respond,
to the feeling of no longer being alone but part of a wide circle of understanding, empathising, supportive members, some of whom feel like friends.
I can never thank-you all enough for your help in bringing me to where I am today – and special thanks must go to Caroline for making it happen, to Adrian and to lovely Jon who started it.

Prompted by Les' poem "If I were young again" (Thursday 27th August), I have summarised what I have learnt since joining Moodscope. This will appear in three future blogs entitled "Wisdom received from Moodscopers".

Thank-you one and all.

A Moodscope member.

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

Monday, 28 September 2015

Planting Trees.

The wise teacher asks, "When is the best time to plant a tree?"
I can let you into a secret: the answer they are seeking is, "20 years ago!"

So, when is the second best time to plant a tree? Of course we could say, "19 years ago..." and so on, but the answer I am holding onto today is... "Today!"

Having seen the Dalai Lama recently, several important matters became far clearer to me.  One was that "Happiness" is definitely an inside job. Happiness has surprisingly little to do with external materialism. The undoubted value of material wealth is nevertheless eclipsed by: enriching relationships, being in the now, learning, growing, appreciating, giving, and creating a sense of purpose and direction. If I win the lottery this week, I shall be joyful, but that material wealth will only serve to fuel the other elements I've listed. Poverty, of course, can severely impact relationships, our ability to learn and grow, and can even sometimes make us reluctant to give. But money clearly isn't the answer it's been made out to be. It is not of prime importance.

A second important matter was that emotional change takes time. Becoming resilient takes time and experience and review and reflection. Resilience, like a tree, needs nourishment and nurturing. And so does learning to be happy.

I'd thought of planting financial trees that would help me in my later years, but I hadn't thought of planting the seeds of becoming more happy, more resilient, more at peace. I certainly hadn't considered that these trees might take 20 years to come to maturity. Of course, many trees can bear fruit within a few years - so I might be surprised by joy earlier than expected! However, the important lessons for me were that happiness really is up to me, and I need to be planting the seeds for the harvest I want now. With nourishment, those seeds can then grow and bear fruit year after year after year.

What trees would you like to plant? If money isn't the answer we'd been promised, are we focusing on it too much? Is there a better use of our time?

A Moodscope member.

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

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The ladder.

I've been reflecting on Mary's amazing blog from a couple of days ago and the sense of kidnap that takes place for many of us. I too was happily skipping along, creating my life, writing blogs, supporting people around me, being a bright light for my son and an inspiration to my friends when WHAM. BAM. Thank you mam. Here I go, down the hole.

It could be a hormonal issue, it could be weather, it could be a thought that popped up that I mistakenly followed and it led me down a dead end. I don't know. Right now, I don't care I just want to get out!

Mary got it spot on when she said she knows what she needs at times like this, she knows her own strategies of self-care. And I thought: what are mine? So I created a list and am acting on it; little steps of action through the pain.

My ladder:

· Get outside. Every day. Run if I can.
· Eat well: no sugar, alcohol or caffeine.
· See (a carefully selected!) set of friends. One a day. Or call someone if going out is too much. Social contact is so important.
· Write, write and write.
· Meditate or do some gentle yoga.
· Help someone. Do a nice thing for another person.
· Learning. I read/listen to a lot of self-help and inspiring books.
· Write my Proud List – even the tiny things count – the brain needs five positive thoughts for every negative one to even things out.
· Write a gratitude list – as long as possible and even if it feels forced it's training my brain to swing towards the positive.
· Care for myself – have a bath, gets lots of sleep, be gentle and kind and treat myself like I would a treasured friend.

I hope some of these help you too and I'd love to hear what's on your ladder. Even if you can't get up every rung today which are the ones at the bottom that can help you to start the climb?

With love and light

Debs xxxx
A Moodscope member.

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

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Family favourites.

I don't live close to my family. One of those things. We all become more mobile, the world shrinks and distances grow.

Alice, she drank from a bottle called DRINK ME 
And she grew so tall
She ate from a plate called TASTE ME
And down she shrank so small
And so she changed, while other folks
Never tried nothin' at all.

Shel Silverstein

I'm actually quite family orientated and this year I have had visits from both my offspring (and their families), I live in a seaside resort, so my home is their hols! I used to think they came to visit me and of course it is an element. But I found myself this year feeling used rather than loved and dreading next year and the next set of visits.

And it actually wasn't their fault. It should have been a great pick me up for me, as well as for them but it didn't workout like that. I was too tired, too solitary, too sad to properly respond. I let them down.

It is hard to put one's life on hold while family visit. OK, I may not have much of a life, but there is that dreadful assumption that you exist purely for your children and their convenience. I am expected to be on Nanna duty when they arrive from the time the kids wake until they go to bed. 'Oh so nice mum to be able to get away from it all and relax for once'. Great to be appreciated. They do work hard, they do need a break and the little ones demand energy! But I am not sure I am up to it anymore. I feel like going on strike!

They talked about a holiday home abroad we could all go to next year, but once looked into it was all too expensive. What a shame! I would have loved that. How nice it would have been. But they prefer to come to me. After all it's a homecoming for them. They love it.

They know how I am. They are supportive but not totally empathetic. They want me to be well and believe that they and the grandchildren are the solution to my problem. And they are supportive by phone. So why can't I cope with them being here?

A Moodscope member

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Friday, 25 September 2015

Simpletons R Me!

The definition of a simpleton is 'gullible', 'ignoramus'. I don't agree.
(Dear Hopeful One... I am being your Ernie Wise, I have left this wide open for you to fill with an appropriate joke my friend...)

All of us are busy. We have demands on our time, our wallets, our health, our everything.  But really, when we die we might not wish we had given more.  We might wish we had done less.  We might wish we had waited to wave, we might wish we had made friends with the tree on the path to work, as it turned through the seasons and as it grew old with us. We might wish to have a few minutes more doing one simple thing.

Today, can you keep that thought in mind? Can you try to include something you wouldn't normally do? Just a little thing. Ask the postman how his day is. Cut a flower from the garden and have it on the table beside your meal.  Hold a loved one just because. Smile as a gift for someone else.

My postie was a shy sort. (As am I.) I think he must have dreaded coming up the path. But now I know his name is Peter and that he is wearing shorts and a t-shirt every day in a competition with his colleagues to see who can last longest into the changing season.  I've learned he's given up smoking. And I've learned that, once he relaxes, he has a cheery face and smiles with his eyes. He doesn't know it, but he regularly gives me my first adult connection in my day and for that I am very grateful. A connection that makes me feel like I have a colleague. That I'm not alone, that someone else was up at a hideously early hour, yahoo!

I don't want you to aim high today, I'd like you to aim simple. Bow and arrows ready my friends.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Journey... Your Journey.

"Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it."   Greg Anderson

In the last 4 weeks, my own journey in a physical sense has brought me in contact with many others who are all at different stages on their life journey. I have been in Spain, France, London, Italy and Switzerland.

What a contrast to my life a few years ago where I would have been holed up in my house – maybe even ONE room of the house 24/7, due to depression.

I may also only have had water for my muesli, as I couldn't face going outside the front door, and I'll have not met anyone face to face for days, only speaking to one person on the phone, avoiding all other callers or possibilities.

Self-imprisonment in my own home. Anti-depressants made no difference to me and the journey through depression was mixed and tortuous with impersonal psychiatrists and suicidal thoughts.

My recent journey has connected me with so many people at so many different levels of life from a globally acclaimed scientist (Switzerland - Italy), to a nationally recognised musician (Switzerland), a retired public servant (Spain – France), American musicians travelling on a private Lear jet and personal videos of peace from Ban Ki Moon.

I have just spent the most exciting continual four weeks of my life at 62 years of age, and am so grateful for the joy that this part of my journey has brought me. I trust that will give you hope.

Focussing on this journey without desiring any outcome has opened up new joys to me. How many of us at times rush through each day without stopping to live – thinking we are healthy? The joy IS the journey.

Like any journey, it's the travelling to where the real opportunities arrive... meeting new people, new opportunities, new ideas, new forks in that road less travelled that can bring unexpected joy.

How are you travelling? Attached to an outcome or living in the 'present', the greatest gift in your one and precious life?

Stop, breathe, look around... what do you really see, or more importantly feel about your own journey?... and never ever give up hope!

A Moodscope member.

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

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Keeping Vigil.

[Today's blog is by Mary, who, as you will read about, is not feeling great at the moment. Please read it carefully as Mary is specifically requesting that no-one says "I hope you feel better soon". She knows, as I do, that you'll all be thinking about her and she appreciates that. I'm sure those of you who have been in this position will understand. You are welcome to leave other comments. Carolinex - The Moodscope Team]

Help! I've been kidnapped again.

Yes, there I was, just walking along, minding my own business, planning my life and setting goals and taking action when suddenly – WHAM...

"I wake to feel the fell of dark, not day," as Gerard Manley Hopkins so eloquently put it.

Here I am, in this dark dungeon, a hundred feet underground, weighed down with heavy chains and unable to move. There is a skittering and rustling around me (Rats? Cockroaches?) and the ghostly echoes of those who have been here before moaning that all is lost, this is forever; now is the time for despair.

A hundred feet up, from the small circle of light that signals the outside world, I can hear the concerned voices of my friends and family. "Why do you think this happened?" "Was there a trigger?" "Have you been doing too much?" "Is there anything we can do to help?"
And yes, there is something you can do to help: you can stop asking me all those stupid questions! While I'm down here I'm incapable of answering you in a way you will find acceptable.

What happened is that my serotonin levels dropped. It may qualify as a mental health issue, but believe me, it's physical. No, there was no damn' trigger; I just get hijacked by this faulty chemical balancing act in my brain. No – I haven't been doing too much, because by this time I know darn well not to ride the high I get before the fall.

So you can help by not worrying about me. I'll get through. I've been here before – many times. It's not pleasant, but it is bearable. You can help by not asking those questions which make me feel as if somehow I'm to blame for falling down here. Believe me, I do everything I can to avoid it. You can help by not saying "I hope you will feel better tomorrow," because the shortest time I've been a prisoner here before has been six weeks. Tomorrow is unlikely to be the day I am released. You can help by understanding and by just - being there.

Today I was kidnapped in another way by a lovely friend who told me, "I'm taking you out for coffee. I'm picking you up at 10am. Be ready." We went out, we had coffee, just for an hour, because that's all I could manage. She said, "I want you to know that we care and that we haven't forgotten about you while you're down."

That's the kind of help I appreciate. The odd email, just to say "hello", maybe a card. Not a telephone call please – I can't take those.

But – it's nice to know you're still there, keeping vigil for me.

While I'm in this oubliette, please don't forget about me.

A Moodscope member.

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

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Sleepless in Suburbia.

Did you sleep well last night? What does sleeping 'well' mean to you? Either way, sleep is essential for both mental and physical wellbeing. Arguably also vice versa.

A regular bedtime routine helps. My 3 year old, for example, woke in the twilight hours recently demanding his usual bedtime story. Why? Because I put him straight to bed from the car (story-less) after he nodded off one evening. But such was the power of our routine his little brain was still holding out for one!

Recently, mild psychotic symptoms returned for me during one night. On reflection, a period of intense, broken sleep (my younger son is teething) was a key factor. Lack of self-care was another.

My sleep will be interrupted for the foreseeable future (my youngest can wake up to every 2 hours nightly). So how to cope?

I can't abandon the (breastfeeding) nightshift. I have to get up each night, wake up each day, operate heavy machinery and be a responsible adult for two demanding, yet delightful, boys. One thing I can focus on is my routine. Go to bed at similar times, read a few pages of my book etc. Whatever works for me. Whatever works for you?

Another focus? Become a better 'fall-back-to-sleeper' than ever before. I have to drop off quickly after my baby settles (although when I drop off, may not be when he does!). It is a disorienting, exhausting, overwhelming and yet beautiful time in my life (and should there ever be a Sleep Olympics, I'd be capable of at least Bronze now!).

Staying off my mobile phone in the twilight hours helps. Cutting sugary bedtime treats helps. Limiting caffeine in the day helps. Not engaging with negative thoughts, difficult but helpful. Focussing on breathing in the darkness. Feeling comfortable. Stilling myself.  It's not easy. It's a real life skill I think. I hope it stays with my eldest. I hope it grows in my youngest.

What aids sleeping well for you? What small thing might you change?

A Moodscope user.

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

Monday, 21 September 2015

Worrier or Warrior?

[If you'd like to listen to an audio version of this blog, please follow this link:]

Oh what a difference a couple of vowel movements can make! Swap an "A" for an "O" - and change begins to flow; then a final "E" for an "O" and off we really go!

Two words with the same framework of consonants and one shared vowel in the same place: W-rri-r, but what a different outcome! Of course, the vowel they both share in the same place is the identifying letter, "I". "I" is the decision-maker!

I've been a professional Worrier for years - paralysed by fears.

But I'd rather be a Warrior, ready for action. And I think that this is the difference that makes a difference: taking action. When I focus on worrying, I become frozen and inactive. Everything seizes and ceases. But if I seize the moment and take action, everything changes. Sometimes gradually; sometimes dramatically.

I can't pretend to be brave, but perhaps being courageous doesn't require one to be brave?

Perhaps the courageous person is the one who takes action when other people hesitate?

Through the eyes of my inner Worrier, I have some impossible challenges before me - 50 years of clutter and mess to sort, save or shed.

Through the eyes of my inner Warrior, I have a plan: one box at a time, one shelf at a time, one cupboard at a time. It's not a battle like so many dear people are having to face for their future at the moment - I am not in dire straits, so it's important to have a sense of perspective. But emotionally, it is a battle for me.

We are all in a tug of war between our Inner Worrier and our Inner Warrior. Today, I would appeal to your Inner Warrior and simply ask, "What's the first physical action you can take?"

I wish you a courageous day!

A Moodscope member.

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

Sunday, 20 September 2015

What makes you feel you belong?

I have never really felt I fitted in. On a good day I am in the same play as everyone else but am on a different page, so I find it hard to follow what is happening. On a low day I am in a different play to everyone else so it is very confusing. On a very bad day, I don't have a script all, and watch everyone else read from their scripts as I feel very isolated.

Being different isn't always a difficult thing. I like being different at times and being a bit of a rebel. However I do have that innate human need to want to feel part of a group.

When I read Ruth's comment to Ratg's blog about this being the first time in her life she had felt she truly belonged to a community, it touched me as I knew that yearning.

As humans we want to feel like we belong somewhere, a soft place to land, a place where we are truly accepted for who we are. A place where we don't have to change to belong, where we're liked for just they we are.

Especially if we are having a low day, coming to terms with a mental heath diagnosis, facing, grief, dealing with our own illness or that of loved ones, it is important we have somewhere to go where we are understood, where we are welcomed .

Often you are faced with loved ones, friends, health workers, strangers, neighbours who say unhelpful even hurtful things that make us feel even worse when what we really need is a hug and someone to hold our hands and tell us everything will be alright.

The place I find where I belong is a bookshop, the older the better. As soon as I enter and smell the leather bindings, the dust, the old books and I breathe in all that knowledge and literary wisdom, I feel I am home and I belong.

What makes you feel you belong? Is there a special place, your happy place, that you can go to when you need a lift. What makes it so special?

A Moodscope member.

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

Saturday, 19 September 2015

The power of memories.

We know how debilitating painful memories can be, and for many people memories of past traumas take years to deal with. I suspect that we often become "experts" in reliving painful memories in all their gory details.

Lying awake in the early hours of the morning tortured by such memories I have been grappling with how to deal with them. Add to that the present daily struggle of living with one severely depressed offspring and with darling hubby who suffers regular black moods and you will understand the sleeplessness – which as we all know impacts on our own moods and can adversely affect the quality of daily life.

So, how to deal with it all?

Much is written these days about mindfulness, which I have yet to achieve. So my current strategy is to harvest the positive memories. Unable to sleep a few days ago, despite all the usual tricks (drink of water, reading, listening to soothing music, relaxation breathing exercises etc. etc.) I finally opted for reliving moments from our recent holiday.

I took myself back to the lake we had canoed on, and pictured the trip from start to finish; I remembered getting into the canoe, how it wobbled as I got in, the way the paddle felt in my hands and the sound it made through the water; the cows coming down to drink at the lake and how they watched us glide by; the way the canoe drifted gently along; so peacefully; the feel of the sun on my face; the water trickling down my arms... and I could feel the tension and anxiety leaving me, my face relaxing into a smile and I drifted off to sleep.

It's like looking at a mental photo album or video clip (which in themselves can be great mood lifters).

So, I invite you to harvest a positive memory today; recreate the scene from the beginning;

What can you see? A mountain? A lake? A woodland clearing? A roaring log fire? What can you hear? The sound of water? The sound of children playing? Birds singing? Waves rolling the shingle up and down the beach? The crackling of logs? What can you feel? The sun on your face? The wind in your hair? Warm and cosy?


A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 18 September 2015

I choose life.

I've recently enlisted the help of a coach to guide me in reaching my goals in life - one of which is to be emotionally healthy.

One of the first things she said to me was 'You are choosing depression'. In that moment I don't think I could have hated a human being more if she had stabbed my mother and stolen my husband (I don't have a husband but if I did and she stole him... er... anyway, you get the point).

I rallied and pushed against her words until I almost walked away from our relationship. She just doesn't get me I thought, she's not the right coach, she has no experience of depression, what does she know, pah, pish, stuff it.

But I went ahead with the coaching. And I'm discovering she has a point. I do choose my depression. Well, not me exactly but my thoughts do. And those thoughts are a style of thinking that has been with me for 40+ years so undoing it and choosing not to choose that style is a very deliberate and conscious choice. And its a choice to make daily. Hourly. Minutely. (Minutely?) In every single moment.

What I've also discovered is that my thinking has a style or an act - lets call it 'The Victim' - and that act has run my life for a long time. Oh, I couldn't possibly do that, I'm not good enough, I'm not confident enough, poor little me, I'm not one of 'those people'. But I'm learning that no-one is one of 'those people', there are just people who choose confidence and action and to get out there. They still have the same 'I don't fit','I don't belong' nonsense in their heads but they laugh at those things until the thoughts lose their momentum. And they choose life.

The past few weeks since I started coaching have been hard but amazing. My coach is like an alternative voice who crashes through the self-limiting stuff that comes into my head and out of my mouth and never stops believing in me. And I have a choice: listen to her and her empowering words, or listen to the words of the victim voice in my head which keeps me small and depressed.

So I choose to believe in me. And all of you. You chose to join Moodscope, you choose to write, read, comment and support each other and me, and for those choices I will be eternally grateful.

With much love,

Debs xx
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Driving - The Road Les(s) Travelled...

There’s always new beginnings,
There’s always some ends,
It’s just how you navigate,
Around the bends…

There’s some dead ends,
There’s some circular loops,
You may even feel,
Like you’re a nincompoop!

Don’t be so hard,
So hard on yourself,
It’s just life,
But don’t sit on that shelf.

It’s not the routes you take,
That dictate your life.
It’s how you respond,
To add or subtract strife.

That road less travelled,
Is inside you.
You have to keep going,
To find the true you.

Most stop ‘travelling’,
Because it’s too hard!
There is nowhere worth going,
That hasn’t cut or jarred.

There is no short cut,
To where life opens.
To where you’ve found,
True life, not tokens.

Tokens of joy,
That never seem to stay.
Tokens of love,
That simply fade away.

You may even break down,
And need a tow rope.
And your life depends,
On how you can cope.

Cope with hurt,
Cope with pain,
Cope with the slips,
When you ‘drive’ in the rain.

It’s not the roads,
That lead you astray.
It's how you respond,
To their particular way.

It’s not the weather,
When you’re driving that counts.
But how you deal,
With those kerbs and dismounts.

The ‘drive’ outside,
Is to escape your present place.
The ‘drive’ inside,
Is the only way to find your base.

A base for life,
A base for growth,
A base away from strife,
One where you can take your oath.

To truly find you,
To truly ‘be’,
Not always driving,
And lost at sea.

It ain’t easy,
It takes courage.
There will be pain,
But you won’t be a hostage.

A hostage to your past,
A hostage to your parents,
A hostage to your thoughts,
You won’t live in fragments.

You’ll finally be whole,
You’ll finally be you,
You’ll love driving through life,
With hearts and hopes anew.

If you’re still ‘lost’ on your drive,
If you still seek a destination outside yourself,
If you still get frustrated at lights and crossings,
Time to inscape and find your true self.

A Moodscope member.

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

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

A Plague (of shrimp) Upon Your House – And Upon Your House Only!

It was 8.30am and, being on holiday, we were enjoying a leisurely breakfast, when a knock on the door heralded the concerned face of our neighbour, several chalets down the sea wall.

"Tell me!" she said "Have you been invaded by shrimps?"

There was one of those pauses where you are aware that whatever you say is bound to be inadequate. We looked around in a bemused fashion. "Um – not so far as we know..."

"Well, I've got them an inch deep all over my front room! They're getting EVERYWHERE!"

And it was true. Her chalet had been visited by a legion of sand hoppers, or Talitrus saltator, a type of amphipod crustacean, common to our East Anglian coasts. It lives around the high tide mark and feeds on rotting seaweed. In turn, it feeds the seabirds.

Except that morning hundreds of these little things, about half an inch long and resembling nothing more than a cross between a shrimp and a flea, were not in the sand, but had migrated over or under or through the meter high sea wall and were in my friend's beach house. And they're not called sand hoppers for nothing. Like a flea, these things can jump; and yes, they had got EVERYWHERE. There were some even caught in a spider's web near the ceiling!

Well, we had the children and fed them breakfast while she and her husband swept and vacuumed, and fished in corners, under furniture and inside shoes and gradually de-shrimped their house.

It happened again the next night, and then again about a week later.

And it was only their house! Nobody else along the sea wall was affected. It is still a mystery as to how they got in and why they only picked the one particular house to invade.

It made me think about the way we struggle with misfortune. We try to seek answers or patterns. We ask ourselves "What did I do to deserve this?" or "Is this Karma?"

But sometimes bad stuff simply happens. We were just unlucky enough to be there at the time. If we're lucky the misfortune is merely an annoying inconvenience; sometimes it's a tragedy. Other times misfortune passed by our door without knocking.

Usually the best thing to do is just accept what happens, pick ourselves up as best we can, brush ourselves down and carry on. It doesn't help to try to find the answers because there are no answers. That way madness lies.

Sometimes shrimp just happens. Deal with it.

I'll lend you a broom.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2015

149 days.

That's how long it has been since I last recorded a score. Until today.

Today I felt good and some supportive people in the comments room said good things and I felt it was time I started scoring again. I want to become a master at knowing this illness so well I can start to close off its airways before it eyes up mine.

I have been a Moodscope member for some years, reading daily, never commenting. Eventually I made a small comment anonymously... this was accompanied by shaking. Like someone was just waiting to shine a spotlight over my head and shout "HERE IS THE DEPRESSIVE".

Then I got brave and commented a few times. Braver still and I added a name. (Ridiculously long and un-typeable when you are (a) in a hurry and (b) not well.) I realised it was ok.  For long enough I stood in the comments room feeling like I had farted but nobody had heard... I got away with it! Then one day, someone replied to me and there was no going back. I started chucking in my tuppence worth regularly and it made me feel like I had something of worth, that I mattered. That, for me, was key. This illness was something I knew a lot about and I could use that.

Now, I quite often submit a blog. Sometimes it's when I'm broken, the words fall out, and you send me a sentence which is enough to feel sellotaped. Sometimes it's just ramblings and ways that have helped me and so I share in case it might help you. What I wonder is if everyone reading today was to type the word of where they are right now and submit it (anonymously or named) would it make us all feel included?

We might suddenly have a comments room full of people standing side by side, not speaking, but quietly smiling that we're not alone. And feeling included and that you matter is often just the start we need to taking one step towards 'better'.

I dare you to comment with one word of where you are right now. Kitchen.

Love from

The room above the garage.
A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 14 September 2015

I Long For Structure.

(Audio version here:

If you are of a certain age, you may remember "boring Sundays". In the UK, when and where I was growing up, most business pressed "pause" on Sundays. There were no shops open, save for a few Newsagents. Everyone, it seemed, rested.

Whilst I now believe this was a good thing, as a child I thought it was boring.

Why? Well, there was "nothing" to do. My time was not structured for me.

I can vividly remember regularly going down to the tennis courts, where the guardian of the key to the courts watched benevolently with his pipe and Red Setter. My sister is four years younger than me, and, at that time, deferred to my seniority, even though she is a great tennis player and knew more about actually playing the sport than I did.

So, we would begin to knock a ball back-and-forth, to-and-fro, monotonously. Boring!

Then one of us would wake up!

"Hey!" they'd say, "Let's play a game!" Suddenly there would be a structure to our Sunday - a purpose.

Where time dragged and energy flagged before, passion would be ignited and the time would fly by. We even say this cliché: "Time flies when you're having fun!" My sister and I discovered the truth in this.

What we experienced satisfied what is stated as a basic human need by psychologists. Apparently, we crave structure - especially structured time. We may resist a standard 9-5, Monday-Friday routine but it gives us a rhythm to the week.

My Father is now loving the routine he has in his retirement. He finds comfort in structure.

Because of known rhythms to our week, we can have beginnings and endings, and a sense of closure.

As someone who directs my own time, I too often lack this structure, and, as you can well imagine, it causes a lot of stress. Nothing seems to have an end to it. There's always more to do.

So my suggestion today is to embrace routine like a long-lost friend. Seek structure where it does not currently exist, confident in the knowledge that your psyche longs for this.  Add a rhythm to the day.

And, to be utterly specific, break your day into 45 minute segments with a micro-break in-between. Find tasks that can be completed within 45 or 90 minutes. Get closure. More than this, there is a surprise set of benefits awaiting you. Taking a micro-break that involves a shift in posture will "reboot" your lymphatic system, leading to more energy, more creative insights, and a surprising boost to your immune system!

You don't have to believe me, just test this for yourself and then share the results!

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 13 September 2015

For every season there is a reason.

When does one year end and another year begin?

Some people might say 31 December and 1 January are the beginning and the end of the year. Others might say the Winter solstice or maybe it's Spring when the leaves start breaking from the trees and the first buds of the snowdrops appear?

For me however the Autumn is the end of one year and a beginning of the next.

As the year turns, the leaves start to drop, and it appears that everything comes to a stop.

To the casual observer it may appear the trees have gone to sleep and that everything is dead. In fact everything is just beginning again.

The leaves that have been dropped by the trees start to breakdown through the action of the bacteria and become food for the trees and the plants. The trees themselves form their new buds in the Autumn, rolled tight and ready for the spring. Deep beneath the earth the Spring bulbs start to stir and send out new roots and form new shoots which will start to push through the soil, ready to appear when the weather becomes milder.

As we pass through Winter it is easy to look and think that everything is dead or asleep as we cannot see what is beneath the surface but we would be wrong.

To me depression feels like Winter, everything seems grey or dead and I can't do anything but rest. But I have to trust that, like Winter, things are changing though I may not be aware of them and that spring will come back in to my life. Nothing ever stays the same,  all things change, but like the arrival of Spring, change does not always have to be bad.

A Moodscope member.

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Saturday, 12 September 2015

True Colours.

My daily walk is to school and back before I start work.

Yesterday was the usual initial refusal to walk by number one child, along with the excuse her shoes were hurting which was probably true.

My city is not well known for its beauty but our walk to school is truly beautiful. After the moans and silence we saw a magic ring of mushrooms, a heron and this was topped by meeting our favourite lurcher on his walk with the owner. This lovely lady gave number one child a treat to feed him and then we were there.

I power walk back and then are fit for the day, as much as I ever will be!!

Last Sunday Cyndi Lauper's song "True Colours" came on the radio, I danced round the kitchen, remembering that I had this on an old tape, and sung to number one child, "You are beautiful, like a rainbow".

I find beauty in my big city and my daily walk keeps me sane. My challenge to you is "Can you sing that to yourself today?" You are beautiful, like a rainbow"...

Brum Mum
A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 11 September 2015

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

So sang Ms Heather Small in a song that was about being anything but. She urged us to step out of the ordinary and see our soul ascending... Quite a tall order when you're fighting to just get through the day.

A few weeks ago I read a book called Thrive by Rob Kelly (I highly recommend it if you haven't read it - it's amazing). Rob urges anyone struggling with their mental and emotional health to start tapping into what they've done to make themselves proud. And to create a Proud List (I'll call it a PL for short but not a VPL, that would be too public ;-))

When I first started my PL the things I put on it were tiny (got up, made a cup of tea, called a friend). And gradually they've got bigger (went for a run, wrote my first blog for Moodscope!) But the things themselves don't really matter, the magic comes in the reaction you give yourself to the action.

So here's how it goes:

1. Write down what you did (made a cup of tea)
2. Say what was positive about it (It felt nice doing it, it tasted good)
3. Write down what someone else would say if you told them about it (that's so brilliant, a huge step forward from where you were last week, well done you!)
4. Finally, write down what you've learnt from that thing (that if I just do one small thing each day I can make a big difference to my life)

And if it sounds like hard work I've got a template I'm happy to share: I first started my proud sheet when my Moodscope scores were rock bottom and I saw an immediate lift. I started to treat myself like my own best friend and began to reverse the negative chat in my machine-like mind. It's time to fall in love with ourselves... one proud step at a time.

And now I'm off to tell myself how proud I am for writing this blog and connecting with you! I've learnt I can write and make a difference to other people's lives... and that deserves a cup of tea.

Look forward to hearing what makes you proud of you.

Debs xx
A Moodscope member.

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Thursday, 10 September 2015

The Parable of the Spanish Pueblos...

Today I was travelling along the south Spanish coast and it was explained to me that the original towns, which we could clearly see, were built up on the hillside, away from the flat coastline (a pueblo).

These old towns with their white walls, sat just before the hills became mountains. And here we were travelling along the motorway down on the flat coastline, which, in safety, is now built up with thousands of modern living accommodation and shops next to the water.

Now, it was explained, the reason for the hillside locations, was because in the old days, the villages did this to be protected from water travelling pirates, who would easily be seen landing and coming up the hills.

This situation, then made me think of how we behave and communicate as modern day human beings.

If we perceive there is danger, we kind of shut up shop and retreat 'in' rather than 'up'. Or maybe we do retreat 'up' – away from our heart and any real EQ connection, into our safer IQ head.

Maybe many of us, due to past 'pirates', actually start from 'up the hillside' as the early villagers did. We feel we may always be in danger and thus do not come down to the area where most people are – we may never show our true self to possible new companions, for fear of being 'attacked' or let down as before!

I wonder how many of us do not openly show our vulnerability, by waiting on the shores to welcome new comers; we keep our distance and still today, remain untrusting! And yet how many of us truly wish to meet someone we can be authentically open with and thus have healing and positive intimate conversations?

And don't forget – who is the only person you can change? Yup... yourself.

So, what do WE have to do?

Come down from our heads in the hills? Take more risks to wait on the shore? Show more of ourselves to offer safety to others? Show others (our children?) that it is safe to play in the water simply being mindful of the risks?

All too often we say we want better, more authentic relationships and yet we 'say' it – we often don't act on it!

Where are you between shore and hill?

Look at each relationship you have and give it a score between shore 10 and hill 0. (do it intuitively and it'll take seconds.) Where would you like each to be? It's mainly up to you.

OK, since only you can change yourself, are you going to take the risk in those once dangerous shoreline waters and possible past pirates, who may now just be people?

A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Often the Best Thing to Do; Always the Best Thing to Say.

We have had a young German lad staying with us for the past week. His English is excellent and his knowledge of the European political situation and history puts ours to shame. His plan is to study international law at university and all I can say is, "World, watch out – Jan is on his way!"

Normally I would not discuss politics with a guest, not if I want to maintain a cordial relationship, but seeing as this is his area of study I thought I would ask what his opinion was of Angela Merkel.

"She is doing an excellent job!" he said, and laughed. "Considering that her job is to do nothing."

Which reminded me of President Coolidge who is reputed to have said that nothing was often a good thing to do and always a good thing to say. (I believe, during his presidency, he pursued a course of masterly inactivity.)

Not always, however. We have to consider also that evil flourishes when good men do nothing.

But, on the whole, I rather think "nothing" has a lot to offer.

My mother always says, "If you can't find anything nice to say then say nothing." And, when I hear my daughters employing their venomous tongues on each other and occasionally on me (they wouldn't dare say those kind of things to their father) I think my mother is very wise.

In recent months, especially coming up to the election, I have found myself disagreeing violently with the political posts some of my friends have been uploading to social media. I have had to restrain myself from either a) commenting in a negative fashion or
b) uploading posts representing my own political views. I acknowledge that their views are set in stone, as are mine. In the interests of maintaining those friendships, silence is my best ally.

And what of my good friend who when, going through a bad time recently, found himself surrounded by Job's comforters? You know the ones – they do more harm than good with unwanted advice, sensible suggestions and snide complacency. Wouldn't we all rather that friend who comes and says helplessly, "I don't know what to say – I'm so sorry I can't do anything to help..." but yet who stays with us, wordlessly offering comfort and tissues?

So words can be silver, but sometimes silence is golden.

And is always best accompanied by a hug.

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Today comes only once in a lifetime.

Depression often means our mind feels like a landfill site. Picture that. Mine does. I regularly crumble under the weight of my landfill mind and so I decided to zip on a white forensic boiler suit and try a little eco-mind. Recycle some rubble. And create a conveyor belt of sorting.

Meditation is not coming easily to me but I have seen significant benefits in a very short time and so I am committed to daily practice of 15 minutes. Andy Puddicombe talks into my ear every morning when I wake up and I really thank his wife for lending him to me.

It doesn't really matter how you take mediation. Yes, ideally you would sit in silence and run through a guided or unguided focus of anything from ten minutes upwards. But if you feel at this point in your mental battle it is either too daunting or just not for you, you can look for it in other ways. It can be a daily walk, a daily read, a daily dance, a daily good deed, a daily look at the horizon, a daily logging of landmarks or pavement marks on the daily commute, daily nutrition, a daily bath, a daily write, a daily friend, a daily smoke, a daily whisky, a daily game, a daily nap, a daily gym, a daily dessert. I have now said the word 'daily' so much it sounds weird... I used to love doing that as a kid!!! Daily, daily, daily, daily!!

Karen wrote a brilliant blog on alcohol back on the 9th of August and Norman's comment struck me. He was describing how he found, at that moment, the pub was bringing him some solace in a tricky time but that he knew it might not be good for his depression. My view is that whilst I needed to address my drinking because it was making me ill, it is ok not to live like a monk or a nun. If you give something your full passion, daily, it will bring you joy. If you enjoy a daily drink or a daily feeding of the birds and it brings you passion, peace and happiness... ENJOY IT! It is only if it is bringing you, or others, down that it needs to go.

The key word is DAILY.  Whatever we commit to daily will bring us success. And be aware that if you commit to daily self-loathing or daily self-praise, you will succeed. Daily.

Love from

The room above the garage
A Moodscope member.

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Monday, 7 September 2015

A Walk in the Park?

[Audio version here:]

There are many strange clichés in all cultures. English has its fair share. How about this one, "Life's a walk in the park!" This means that life is easy and pleasant. This is a wonderful state that we're all supposed to aspire to. Apparently.

Well the more people I get to know - really know - the more I realise that I don't know anybody for whom this is true.

Scratch under the surface a bit and you find that all people or their friends and families face battles against poverty, ill-health and all manner of sorrows. None of them have a life that is a walk in the park.

So, should we abandon the dream? Yes, I think we should! The exaggerations of marketing professionals, fashion gurus and media moguls set us up to expect the unrealistic. When the unrealistic is continuously unattained, disappointment and disillusionment can set in... and even despair. Far better, then, to choose a better path - a path of realism.

The path I recommend is a path through the park. Not a walk in the park, but a walk through the park. By this, I mean the conscious decision to take time to enjoy the park each day. The 'park' can be anything you take pleasure in. Your loyal and adoring pet. Art. Music. Nature. Whatever your 'park' is, is must be cherished each day, at least for a few precious moments.

One of my parks is the park! There's a recreation field at the top of our cul-de-sac.  There, with space to grow and be itself, is a young oak tree. I get a ridiculous amount of pleasure from pausing and just looking at how well it is developing this year. I haven't seen a single other person pause and enjoy this feast for the senses. For many, it seems the park is an interruption between where they are now and where they are seeking to get to.

May I recommend a walk through the park? And when you do take up this recommendation, may I suggest you pause and drink in the sensory feast prepared there for you? The clouds, the trees, the grass, the birds...

My desire is that, in taking a walk through the park, you find that your life might just become more like a walk in the park.

A Moodscope member.

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Sunday, 6 September 2015

Improving life... one conversation at a time.

Something we do all the time can become so commonplace that we don't think about it and it becomes, in effect, a blind spot.

Perhaps the most important blind spot of all is in the way we talk and listen to other people in conversation.

Our most fundamental need is to feel heard. To feel understood. It allows us to feel validated and acknowledged.

Yet, it can happen very rarely. In fact research shows that 70% of conversations are unproductive or poor.

The key seems to be to listen attentively, concentrating on what the other person is trying to say. And importantly, then to show you have heard by summarising what you have heard (the words and music) and check it with the speaker.

By listening hard, ironically, you will find that others will want to listen to you. Mutual understanding or empathy will grow. And this empathy is the basis of rewarding relationships. And good relationships are the basis of a better life.

Sounds easy, but it can be very difficult in practice. But well worth the effort.

The Moodscope team.

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Saturday, 5 September 2015

My intuition.

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift." Mary Oliver.

This for me is a deep quote which I didn't get it at first.

My father was a bit of a violent alcoholic which broke the family in many ways.

This meant that I became like an animal... trusting my senses more than my societal mind to stay 'safe'.

I could tell by the way his steps sounded or the way the key went in the door, whether I needed to be around!

Anyway, after reading this quote many times, as it somehow resonated with me, it dawned on me...

My greatest skill and one that enabled someone with no degree or 'classic' profession, to become the UK's second youngest local government Chief Executive, was that I can read almost any situation and any person... my intuition is off the scale in Myers Briggs.

My greatest 'muscle' is that which my father enabled through his bad behaviour... I now thank him for that, even though he is long gone.

How can you use this quote for your life, and what ARE you going to change and by when?

A Moodscope member.

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Friday, 4 September 2015

My magical Gumboots.

It has been raining a lot here recently, well thats understatement, the creek at the back of my place has flooded and I could swim from my place to the general store about 500mtrs away.

I was feeling really confined as I hadn't been out for a while. So I put on my gumboots (wellington boots/galoshers), my raincoat and umbrella. It started to rain quite heavily on my walk but I felt fine. I love my gumboots as they take me to places I could not go with my joggers. I like jumping in puddles or simply stepping in water so I can continue on my walk. What would I do without my gumboots, I would be stuck inside on wet days.

It made me think about things that help me negotiate the world when I am not really coping - I have a handspun shawl my mother knitted for me that I wrap myself in when I need a boost. I have colourful socks which make me smile.

What about not actual things but metaphorical gumboots to make life easier. I sometimes imagine my smile is magical and will let me manage a bad day.

Maybe I need a pair of colourful invisible gumboots that will help cope with difficult situations, that will make me stand tall when I feel like slouching, that will encourage me to get dresed when I want to stay in bed.

What are your magical Gumboots that help you and make you smile?

A Moodscope member

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Thursday, 3 September 2015

Job Satisfaction.

I predict reactions to this blog: ‘What a prig this woman is’.

Remark: ‘How lucky you are to speak so many languages’. No luck, except a retentive memory – then application.

Remark: ‘I’ve always been scared of meeting you, heard all about your activities, how do you do it?’ Only answer, impossible to give, was ‘Get up in the morning’.

The catalyst for this lot is a course I attended on ‘Time Management’. For a week before, we had to log our day’s activities, down to the last phone chat. Try it, you’ll be shattered.

My dearest and most disorganised friend said ‘I’ve always wanted to play the piano’. Me, ‘Why not?’ No time. She had two ‘tidy’ children, a husband abroad half the year, and no money shortage. She could have learned half the orchestral instruments in her life-time.

Am I satisfied? Yes. Until five years or so ago I never went to bed without thinking I could/should have done more, and done it better. I’ve managed to stop that – but my sons, who can turn their hands to anything and have excellent brains have yet to reach that stage – I hope they can do it earlier than I.

And lists! I made lengthy lists, unattainable when they were written, without any glitches or spanners. The undone bits haunted me. Conversely, I love deadlines – last minuter, of course - it adds a lovely spice to life.

Have a nice, satisfactory day.

The Gardener.
A Moodscope member.

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Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Friends for Life.

Every summer I am in the fortunate position to be able to come down to the sea. The family sails, swims, builds sandcastles. We drink wine with other families along the sea wall and watch the sun go down. It's a magical time.

As the years go by our children are building memories and relationships. They only see these other children for a few weeks each summer, but I know these friendships will endure.

How do I know this?

Well, this year, my eldest daughter (age 13) is the Vice Commodore of the sailing club cadets; which has meant that she has been responsible for a lot of the organisation of "Activity Week" in which 50 young people, age 8 – 14 learn about sailing and have fun on the water. (And if my pride in her is oozing out of the screen as you read this, I can only apologise.)

My point is that this year there are many cadets from families who – 35 years ago – had their fathers in the cadets. These men have brought their children from far afield (from abroad in a couple of cases) to join in "Cadet Activity Week." I have spoken to them, in my capacity as "parent of the Vice Commodore" (just had to get that in again – sorry!)

One father explained to me, as he looked around the group, "This set of people is the nearest I have to an extended family, I value them so much." Another almost had tears in his eyes as he said, "James was my best friend growing up. We only had the summers together, but he was my best friend. It means so much that his daughter and my daughter are now sailing together and are friends too."

Most men have the desire to see their genes go forward, to continue the family. But there is an additional joy in seeing your children do the same things you did and getting equal enjoyment from them.

I like to think that the strong bonds formed in childhood can endure, and can be passed down to future generations.

There is a comfort in continuity. Especially the magic of continued friendship – friendships that are passed down to the next generation.

Even if we don't have children of our own, we can probably find some area of continuity in our life. What continuity in your own life brings comfort?

A Moodscope member.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Accepting we are who we are.

I'm not a massive Bob Marley fan but was listening to David Rodigan's radio show when driving home tonight and he played "Three Little Birds"...

I have had a couple of days off work this week and have enjoyed the freedom to lie in, to read, to see friends for a coffee. I have also had time, free from my normally ridiculous schedule, to reflect.

I have realised that I have come along way... two years ago I was in psychiatric hospital, completely bewildered as to how I had sunk so low and wondering what the hell was going to happen. That low was followed by nine fraught months as I negotiated the end of a very unhappy marriage, a new job, moving house and trying to ensure our two children were ok.

Now I am decorating my living room, in my lovely little house and have realised that I am happy. Now that's not to pretend that life is all roses... it's taken me over twenty years to accept that I have quite a serious mental health condition and some would call me bi-polar, although I'm not sure that's how I would describe it.

But what I have realised despite all my fears, self-doubt and sometimes self-hatred I am loveable, I have some fantastic friends and I have even rediscovered a sense of humour.

So if your day is not starting well or you are feeling a bit black and blue, whatever you are feeling, like Bob sung "Everything's gonna be alright"... stick with it.

Brum Mum
A Moodscope member.

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