Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Free at last

The radio alarm clicked on at 6am this morning. The first words I heard were “Alan Johnston, BBC correspondent, has been freed ….”. “Thank goodness” I said out loud. An understatement if ever there was one! This is wonderful news! I watched Alan on TV tonight and I am just so full of admiration for him. He conducted himself with such professionalism and dignity. But there was also such honesty about him – there can be no doubt that he feared for his life, no doubt that he wants to get out of there, and no doubt of the loneliness he experienced. But he is a survivor and he will go from strength to strength.

Welcome back Alan.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Alan Johnston, BBC Correspondent

A very simple post today. I've added the Alan Johnston button to my blog. Having seen him on TV again tonight, I feel so distressed for what he and his family are going through. No one should be treated like this - it is totally unacceptable. Alan was doing his job and by all accounts in a very fair and unbiased way. There can be nothing to gain for those who have taken him. No glory - nothing. Alan, my thoughts are with you.

Friday, 1 June 2007

New Millennium – Take 2

There’s not much I remember about the start of the new millennium in 2000 other than the fears over Y2K and how at the stroke of midnight between 1999 and 2000 there was the potential for total and utter chaos. The other thing about 2000 though was that it was the year in which I was very ill.

The problem started the year before (in the previous century and indeed in the previous millennium!). But of course, me being me, I ignored it and I also kept it to myself. I put it down to basically being tired because I was working too hard and ridiculously long hours. That changed one Sunday when I was working in the garden on a project. I was pushing to get it finished but I could feel the energy draining from me and could feel the intensity of the pain in my neck increase. The lump was far bigger than it had ever been – maybe this was more than swollen glands due to tiredness (my diagnosis). I knew then I had to see a doctor. What followed was a near immediate appointment with an ENT consultant. I needed an operation to remove the lump. “I’ll be a day patient having this done under local anaesthetic?” I asked. “You need to recognise the seriousness of the illness” was the reply “general anaesthetic, possibly a week in hospital and who knows yet what follow-up treatment”.

Within days my body just seemed to give up – I could hardly move. I had no energy and I was sure that the antibiotics that I was taking in lead-up to the operation were making me feel worse – I was right, I had a massive reaction to them. The operation, which was expected to take up to an hour, took several hours. I had actually exacerbated things by having ignored the problem for so long. A week after, I was to see the consultant to have the stitches removed, and to hear what the analysis of the lump had revealed. Everything was fine – it was benign. I was off work for 3 months though as a result of the illness – I had no energy, my system was out of sync due to the medications and I’d started to put on weight as a result.

I decided that this was a life-changing experience. I needed to mend my ways. My focus would be on looking after myself, getting a better work/life balance, and putting work into perspective. So let’s fast forward …….. here I am in 2007. I have no energy, I’m carrying too much weight (which I still blame on my illness), and I still don’t have that work/life balance and focus right.

These past few weeks since ‘The Disappointment’, I’ve been sitting thinking and jotting down (mainly through mind-mapping) my thoughts, the issues, things I’d like to do and so on. I’m at the point now where I’ve identified some actions to take. What keeps stopping me is I feel I just don’t have the energy to push things along even a little bit. I read again my ‘Triple Gym Workout’ and realised that this is the lynchpin of my PLAN A. I need to take action in this area before I will feel up to taking action in other areas. I took a big step last night when I rejoined a diet class and this coming Monday I’ll get back to the gym. So I’ve started the ‘Body’ workout bit. ‘Mind’ and ‘Spirit’ to follow. Happy New Millennium!

Saturday, 26 May 2007

The Disappointment

I don’t know why but I feel I need to write a bit about The Disappointment I refer to above. I think it is because until I do this, I can’t draw a line under it. At the moment it just always seems to be there, somewhere in my mind – and I feel it now gets in the way of PLAN A.

So here goes. I’ve worked with the same organisation for many years now and I’ve steadily worked my way up the ladder to a reasonably senior position. Around 4 years ago a further promotion opportunity came up. I went for it, encouraged by my managers, but didn’t get it. I was disappointed but it wasn’t the end of the world. I knew it would be a while before another chance came along but decided that I would take that time to position myself as best I could for when the next one came. I took on some very big challenges and delivered on them. I took on additional tasks and delivered on them. I took on corporate roles and delivered. I got great appraisal reports.

Then earlier this year, it happened. A couple of positions opened up and were offered for promotions. My managers were so convinced I would be promoted that they started to look at who they might get for my job. I remained cautious because I knew there would be stiff competition – but I knew I was ready for it. Everything I had done over the past 4 years was about proving I could deliver at that level and creating a bank of experience I could draw from.

It went wrong at the very start of the interview with a psychologist who was doing the psychometric testing. She arrived late and unwell. She did not add on the time lost due to her lateness. Throughout the interview she made wild assumptions about me and gave me little or no opportunity to explain. I didn’t get the promotion. My managers were shocked. Representations were made but the psychologist would not admit she turned up late. That was it.

In some ways it feels like it should be no big deal. I’m lucky really because I have a fairly good life. Putting The Disappointment in perspective with problems other people have or with some of the dreadful stuff that happens around our world, this is nothing. But it rocked me. My career seemed to come to a dead-end. I felt lost and didn’t know what to do next. Through the gloom of The Disappointment came a glimmer of something else. I don’t exactly know what the something else is yet. It could be one or more things. What it’s not, is about investing so much of me into an organisation which at the end of day said “oh well, never mind – something else will be along sometime”. I’m still working through what next and developing my PLAN A.

That’s it – the line is now drawn!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

You talkin' to me?

Communication is one of the things that helps the world go round. But I’m certain it’s also one of the things that can get in the way of the inhabitants of the world getting it together.

Example 1: I can’t get internet access. Help what do I do? How do I find information without the internet? I remember the telephone directory – get a number and call …. If your call is about X press 1 ….. if your call is about Y press 2 ….. if you call is about Z press 3. Thank you. If your call is about A press 1 …. on and on …. if you are absolutely clueless press 99 and we’ll know we have a hopeless case. I press 99. Eventually I get a human. I soon realise that said human is sitting in a call centre in an entirely different continent. Based on previous experience I think – here we go! I offer apologies now. The English spoken by the person I dealt with then and the other 8 or so people I spoke with in the call centre over the following 5 days was actually very good. It was the technical bit that got me! A series of questions followed around master sockets, routers, DSL cables, microfilters and who knows what else. I responded with “there’s a white cable that’s plugged into the thingy that goes into a wee white box that goes into the other thing in the wall”. But is it the master socket they asked? “It’s the thing in the wall” I said. By day 5 I was saying, I’ve tried a different DLS cable, another router, a different microfilter but it’s still not working. I should say that every conversation with the call centre, which lasted a minimum of 30 minutes and often much more because I had to go over everything again, was punctuated every few minutes with them apologising for the loss of service. When eventually, I got it back I was falling over myself to thank them for the service they had provided and the help they had given me. Anyway, the thingy is plugged into the what’sit and the doodly thing is flashing – so I’m cooking with gas!

Example 2: The Disappointment as mentioned at the top of my blog page is at the forefront of everything at the moment. My big boss (the one above my immediate boss) is concerned I’m going to leave the organisation. She invited me for a discussion. “I know you are ……..” she says. “Disappointed?” I fill in. “There will be other ……….”. “Opportunities?” I ask? “Yes. But there are no …………”. “Guarantees? Well I understand that.” I decide not to complete her sentences after this point. It seems they think highly of …. They would be sorry to lose …. They would like me to …. And will do what they can to find something to keep …. There are ….. coming up and I would be …… for them ….. if only I can wait for …….. I came away wondering what nudge, nudge, wink, wink actually means.

Example 3: My boss (who doesn’t deserve the title!) wants me to stay in the job I’m doing. He says to me, “I promise to give you more freedom. These are exciting times. This next big job is yours to stamp your initials on.” I think “why my initials and not my name?”

You talkin’ to me?

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Zen and the Art of Cleaning

Phew! I've just spent two days decluttering my kitchen and scrubbing it from top to bottom and corner to corner. What a way to spend a Sunday and a holiday Monday! However, I am so glad I tackled it. It's been bugging me for some time now. The cupboards were full to bursting, everything was muddled-up and the counter-tops had become just further storage space. I'd been planning the big clean for several weeks now.
Why did I let things get so bad though. Time is a big factor - just not enough of it. So while I knew I needed to do something about it, there was just never the time to do it. Hoarding is another big factor. I just seem to have trouble throwing things away - I'm not going to go into lists of stuff I had and have now thrown out but one example would be receipts and instruction booklets for appliances that have long since gone to the big scrapyard in the sky. I'm also prone to taking other people's 'rubbish'. I think when family and friends don't really want to part with something but feel they have to, they bring it to me because they know I'll hold on to it, so that makes it easier for them. The other factor has to be organisation - or lack of it. Nothing was organised or in it's right place. At one time there was a place for everything - but recently everything been fighting to have any piece of space at all.
But no more! A place for everything and everything in it's place - my new mantra! Everything shining and sparkly clean. And, I have counter-tops again! I decided to rid myself of just about everything that doesn't get used and a few tins of things that had got to the back of the cupboard and were past their use by dates. I cleaned the ceiling, the tops of the cupboards, inside them and the fronts - there is not a part of that kitchen that has not been cleaned. I've done so much that I actually feel like I've had an intensive workout. My muscles ache like I don't know what!
But what's all this got to do with PLAN A. Well I worked out recently that if things are in chaos around me and I'm under stress with work then the chaos seems to intensify. My home has to be my sanctuary and it can't be that if every time I open a cupboard something falls out. So part of my plan is about bringing order to my life where I can.
I keep going into the kitchen now and looking round and feeling great satisfaction. One room down - several more to go!

Thursday, 3 May 2007

Triple Gym Workout

“Church is the gym for the Soul”. That’s what the poster outside the church said when I drove past last weekend. It got me to thinking. First I thought - clever. Then I thought - sad – even churches are reduced to sound-bites. Then, can you give your soul a workout?

It got me thinking about gyms. It’s been a while since I’ve been near one. I still have my membership, it’s just it seems that I keep coming up with other things to do – I mean there’s never anything on TV - apart from when if there had been nothing on then I might just have gone to the gym! But there can be no doubt that having stopped my fitness sessions, I’m suffering in various ways – stiffening-up, putting on more weight, and losing contact with my gym pals.

Thoughts then drifted to ‘mind gyms’. It seems now that in order to keep our brains healthy and active there are mind gym workouts we can do. Personally my mind never stops – but usually I’m thinking about work. I fall asleep thinking about it and I wake up thinking about it. Not healthy! This week I’ve had a bit of a distraction because I’ve been focussed, at times, on this blog. I often try and meditate – and try the ‘if a thought comes into your mind just let it come and go’ approach. Problem for me is that there is a big line of thoughts – one comes and goes, then the next, and the next and so on and so on. Sometimes my mind is so full, it’s like everything is competing for first place. More than once I’ve said something which has been a combination of several non-related thoughts! This needs to stop.

So, back to where I started. Can I give my soul a workout? Well it’s a while since I’ve been to church – so I’ve certainly not been doing it there. When I was younger I went to church then at some point I just seemed to stop – not sure why. I think though that I’m quite a spiritual person, although I’m not quite sure how I would define what I mean. But I’m interested in different religions and I now have a ‘fusion’ of beliefs. Basically, it comes down to compassion, understanding, and equality. But I think this is an area I need to examine more.

In terms of PLAN A, this means I need to build in Mind, Body and Spirit workouts.

Monday, 30 April 2007

‘Non est ad astra mollis e terris via’

‘There is no easy way from the earth to the stars.’ I came across this Latin quotation in one of Jonathan Cainer’s horoscopes some time ago. I’ve been giving it some thought these last few days. I had always thought of it as referring to some sort of ethereal journey. But recent events have made me think of it in a more physical form. 1) I heard two space tourists speak on Chris Evan’s Radio 2 Drive Time show. 2) The ashes of the late James Doohan (Scotty, Star Trek) went off into space. 3) Stephen Hawking undertook a zero-gravity trip. All of this turned my thoughts to my long-held dream to go into space as an astronaut!

My love of space and space travel came about as a result of growing up in the 60s and 70s and watching the various space and moon missions. So long as I live (or have my memory) I will never forget sitting with my Mum and Dad watching the July 1969 moon landing with Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to set foot on the moon. Nor will I forget the Apollo 13 mission in 1970 or the terrible fate of Challenger in 1986. And of course there were many more missions – some successful and, very sadly, some not. But the thought of going to space has always excited me.

In the past, I’ve mentioned this dream to go into space to a few people and have nearly always been surprised by the reaction. Most seem to think of it as quite a strange thing to want to do and they talk about why they couldn’t do it (fear factor mainly). I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to get them to see why I want to do it. Of course, unless someone’s job is as an astronaut and their job description says "fly into space", then it is quite difficult to actually do. The space tourists had the money to do it. It was James Doohan’s ‘last wish’. And, while Stephen Hawking hasn’t been there yet, he has tested his physical capability and is surely now on his way. So, all of this leads me to conclude that while it might not be easy to fulfil my dream, there is no reason to dismiss it.

So what does all of this have to do with PLAN A. Well, I think for a while I’ve been denying myself the right to dream and go for things that seem out of reach. But I’ve realised that if I don’t have dreams and don’t stretch myself then I am likely to limit myself to only those things that I know I can achieve and attain. But no more. So, on my PLAN A will be a list of ‘Things I want to do’ which will include – Astronaut.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

First post on my new blog!

Well here goes ....... It's a Saturday afternoon and I've been sitting creating my blog. A year ago, I would never have imagined I would be doing this. The first time I ever posted on any blog was probably less than 6 months ago. More recently, I've been part of a group that comment regularly on a site belonging to a very special person - you know who you are! That entire group mean so much to me and have heard the highs and the lows of my recent life - including the catalyst for me looking to change my life plan. I've also enjoyed posting on a few other sites.
So this is a big step in my PLAN A. I don't know how many people will drop by but I certainly hope that some of my old friends from other sites will do so. And hopefully a few new friends too.
I had probably hoped to leave some wise words in this post - but it just isn't happening for me. So, I'll leave it at that!