Hey mid-lifers – If only we could all listen less to our fears (and those nasty trolls) and more to our dreams

There’s this new book that I’m obsessed with – it makes my heart sing. It reminds me of the first time I ever read Winnie the Poo. Pure magic. It’s called The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse and it’s written by Charlie Mackesy. As a writer I take copyright very seriously – but I’ve taken the liberty of showing you one of the pages in the hope that you will rush out and buy it. If you do one thing this week I hope you will treat yourself to this treasure chest of happiness, kindness and a window into a much nicer, braver world.

“SIMPLY, THE WORLD NEEDS CHARLIE’S WORK RIGHT NOW,’ MIRANDA HART

Back in my work life, I’m dealing, as usual with the UK tabloid press – an activity I enjoy and hate in equal measure. I don’t buy into the idea of an evil “other” hating media – as, like everything else in life, the media’s filled with the best of us and the worst of us. So strangely one of the most obnoxious journalists I ever met at work; turned out to be the very best of people when I was going through my dark times.

People surprise you sometimes.

But this week pitching a gorgeous client, who is a little way over 40 – even worse – is a female who still looks amazing for her age and wants to live a bold, wonderful, purposeful life. So we stepped out onto social media/traditional media with our heads up – this is a charity story and with nothing controversial in it at all – and the comments started. To be fair most engagement was fabulous – but then sure enough in they came as they always do. The nasties peeking their heads up and boy when they got going did they sink low.

I’m not going to repeat any of the comments – needless to say they were, mainly anonymous or under some stupid immature pseudonym – usually with some connection to sci fi – extremely personal, very angry and shouty, spiteful, ageist and (no surprise here) very misogynistic.

As a seasoned professional I was, sadly, ready for them and know how to protect my clients. Ah the power of the delete button and my constant mantra from the glorious Michelle Obama: “When they go low – we go high”. And I will never let a client leave the room before agreeing to NEVER EVER respond to any of these moronic messages – it is a waste of life, oxygen and it gives them exactly what they want !

But what I wasn’t expecting was the impact that these comments had on my client – and I’m posting my views here with her full knowledge. This is a highly educated, super bright, talented woman who’s spent her life at the top of her career in Law. Not exactly a career for over sensitive shrinking violets – but the comments had really upset her, but worst of all had shattered her self esteem and confidence and she was wondering whether to carry on doing her fantastic work.

At this point I was steaming with rage “NO, NO – why in the World would you let these sad, anonymous voices influence you in any way whatsoever. Hurt people, hurt people. If you try and look at this in the kindest way possible these people must be deeply flawed, sad and unhappy – It is not a healthy or normal thing to do – to sit on a computer spewing out vile comments to fellow human beings who you don’t know. With a bit of amateur psychology I’m guessing that their comments provide a horrid glimpse into what they feel about themselves.

But it made me think we all have that voice in our heads – well maybe you don’t if you’re Donald Trump or happy selling double glazing to old people who don’t need it – that keeps on whispering “who do you think you are. Be quiet. Know your place. You’re too old/thin/fat/short/tall “.. and I do think it’s probably us women who suffer from this most of all.

So my wonderful friends here are my little words of “wisdom” from this older “mole”. who’s been battered and bruised by life, but has learnt some very important lessons along the way

  • do stay safe on social media. Remember when you post something on another site it can stay there for many years. Make your delete button and your privacy settings your best friends and, as in life, stay well clear of negative toxic people.
  • remember Michelle Obama’s words: “Public judgement sweeps in to fill a void. If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you will quickly and inaccurately be defined by others.”
  • Buddhists spend a lot of time contemplating death – not in a miserable way but they see the ability to understand that we are only here for a short time as key to living a good life. I like to keep working on my epitaph – it stops me wasting time on living other people’s lives/insecurities/hangups
  • keep working on any negative voice in your head and challenge it. We all have faults – hey it’s what makes us loveable. Meditation is great for this – working on the inside is what a truly content, peaceful, good life is about – all the ancient religions and philosophies knew this. My personal weapons are: authenticity, integrity and kindness – then it really is none of my business what other people think.

Have a fantastic week.

Debbie x

How to taste glory in each day – and what I’ve learnt about life through death.

It’s the simple things that really count

Psychologists often look to people who are dying to work out what makes a really good, meaningful life. They ask people on their death bed about their personal highlights – and their regrets. There’s a lot of learning in these conversations for the rest of us – those of us truly blessed to be still in this wonderful World of ours.

When my late husband was coming to the end of his life, aged 56, he reflected so insightfully about what life had meant to him and the time he’d “wasted” sweating the small stuff. As a writer I’m so grateful that I managed to capture some of his ideas.

I write a lot about thriving after trauma – it’s become a specialist subject of mine. I read as much as I can and continually search out those people who live life well. I feel so driven and curious to understand them better. Look around you, as my GrandMother used to say ,”People are either and inspiration or a warning”.

So I’m starting to sketch out what I believe are the components of a really rich meaningful life. So here’s the start of my list – this is definitely a work in progress. Please help me add to it and share your thoughts.

  • I’ve seen quite a few of my very precious people come to the end of their lives. The thing I’ve been really struck by is that people rarely look to an “all singing, all dancing” bucket list – instead what they want is the magical ordinary things of every day life. A fresh coffee in the morning, a walk to take in the seasons, having our nearest and dearest as close as possible – oh and perhaps most important of all always trying to find the humour in life .
  • My Mother died when was 19 and her words ring in my ears. A feisty, independent, Irish woman she said: “I don’t regret any of the things I did; but I do regret not doing the things that I wanted to.”
  • Again from my Grandmother Mary Doyle – her advice: “there’s bad in the best of them, and good in the worst” . Her words remind me of the words from Rudyard Kipling’s If “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; My Grandmother was 5ft nothing, had 14 children and the heart of a lion. She was fierce, loyal – but terribly kind too. Her message was simple: don’t take anything at face value, look deeper and always be open to human kindness – you may be disappointed but sometimes a few may really surprise you.
  • Helen Mirren says she wishes she’d told more people to “f**k off” as a young woman. May I add that one should avoid at all costs living other people’s dramas/lives/opinions. I tell myself often “mind your own business” – I think one should be fiercely independent but know when to ask for help. Workout how to spend time alone, without being lonely, but surround yourself with good friends too.
  • And finally in the words of one of my favourite authors Sylvia Plath “I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling, or stop questioning and criticising life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”

Oh and one last thing: read, read, read. It’s what helps us make some sense of life.

Have a great day.

Debbie x

oops there goes gravity …and reasons to be cheerful

Photo by Ismael Sanchez on Pexels.com

I’m not sure I’m your typical Eminem fan, but life’s full of surprises. And, as in everything else in my life, I have pretty eclectic tastes. This one line “there goes gravity” from the brilliant song Loose Yourself has been spinning around my head for days.

Such a smart songsmith that Eminem – a brilliant poet really. I admire anybody who can capture the magnitude of a sentiment and craft it into a few carefully chosen words that erupt with meaning and passion. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

This week I lost my footing – metaphorically speaking I hasten to add. I woke up and wham the World suddenly felt so very sad/ so very shaky. Is it the season as the bleakness of winter edges in? Is it the political climate, most especially in the UK, which feels so very dangerous, so chaotic, so very un-British. I don’t think I was alone in shedding a tear watching a stream of talented, brave, committed female MPs leaving politics because the price to their well being and precious families had become too high.

When did things get quite so horrible?

And I thought of my fellow human beings who may also be struggling with the World. Those who wake up feeling sad, but may also have a magnitude of other challenges too. So many of you write to me and I’m honoured that you feel able to share your sadnesses, your losses, your worries. We all need somebody to talk to sometimes – life is just way too difficult to not have that.

Reasons to be cheerful

I wish not to be glib, but I wanted to sketch out some reasons to be cheerful – or in point 5 to find a way of living with our tears. Although please feel free to delete as sometimes being sad really is the only sane thing to feel in this mad mad World. Anyway here goes:

  1. New TV drama on Tuesday. Gold digger. Mid-life woman starts affair with man 15 years younger. Family not amused. Sounds right up my street https://www.radiotimes.com/tv-programme/e/kb8yny/gold-digger–s1-e1-her-boy/
  2. Head out of the City and marvel at the Autumn colours in full glorious display. Could make one believe in God (almost – I’m still way too angry for this one). Certainly a reminder of what a beautiful country we still have.
  3. My favourite caustic commentator Camilla Long – her election commentary is sharper than anything else I’ve ever read.
  4. Trips on the London tube (granted this needs to be out of rush hour when it turns into a manifestation of hell on earth) . But at the right time of day it’s fast, friendly and super clean. And I just love the happy messages they put on the station – nothing like the English sense of humour. Having recently moved back into the City – I LOVE the tube.
  5. The heavenly haunting new album Ghosteen by Nick Cave. I’ve always loved his music, but it took on another dimension for me after he lost his son Arthur in a dreadful accident. I look to him to make some sense of such loss. His words as he feels the continued presence of his son, “a little white shape dancing at the end of the world”. Cave assures us he’s coming home “on the 5.30 train”. Why not believe in ghosts? “There’s nothing wrong with loving something you can’t hold in your hand,” Cave muses, on the title track. And Arthur’s analogue, the Ghosteen, appears from time to time, to say: “I am beside you.”

Please remember that you never know what somebody is going through. Sometimes it may be beyond your wildest dreams. So above all else be kind. It could make all the difference.

What I’m reading – Just dipped back into A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, in preparation for the annual book club festival. Definitely my book of the year.

What I’m watching -Saturday night in with the man watched the Quentin Tarantino 1997 film Jackie Brown. All about a sazzy middle aged woman who gets involved with drug runners. Fabulous! 5 stars from me and gave me a few cheeky ideas;)

Book and film recommendations very welcome. Winter is such a great time to catch up on these.

Have a wonderful week

Debbie x

Seven things I’ve learnt about change and leadership from my four legged friends

Love is a much neglected issue in working in any groups

A while back I sat in a meeting and watched a group, of otherwise quite decent well-meaning people, tear into each other and completely trample out the final embers of a relationship that could have been so great. Nobody was listening to each other and the air was fizzing with all the supposed slights, grievances and offences that had apparently been caused.

It was a sad missed opportunity.

I’m sure a psychologist would have had a field day. This was a group of people who were all hurting for various reasons; but without firm loving leadership they had descended into the behaviour of children who really probably just needed a way of managing their own feelings. Don’t all of us grown ups sometimes just need that above all else?

Whilst disappointing, this situation provided me with a fantastic insight into what happens without firm boundaries, good leadership and a way of containing natural human emotions. It’s true that we often learn more from failure than success.

We need to work on our own behaviour first

As somebody fascinated by change and innovation, I want to show up as the best version of myself and when appropriate take that leadership role. We can do so much more together than alone. But I passionately believe that we need to check in on our own behaviour first and foremost and this takes hard, consistent, challenging lifelong work.

I coach others, so I need a rich array of tools to draw from. This month I’m focussing on one of my biggest and first loves – animals and most especially dogs and horses. They have so much to teach us about being an authentic effective leader.

  • A dog/horse will not follow you unless you know where you are going and can clearly signpost the way.
  • If you want real behaviour change, you need to deploy continual patience, understanding and love. Do not forget the love bit – we all need a bit of this and those who deny this are kidding themselves and missing out on one of the real reasons we are all here.
  • A dog/horse knows when you don’t like it or you’re scared of it. It will never follow you if it picks up either of these things. Animals are sometimes scared of their own power – humans too…
  • It takes time to develop trust; but this is the single component that can unleash the possibility of mobilising people to follow your lead. Never, ever trample on this trust – it is so hard to win and so easy to lose.
  • Step into their “shoes” – understand the language that they can understand and try not to give mixed messages. Those tiny, fine movements that a horse responds to demonstrate clearly the critical importance of non-verbal communication
  • Horses/dogs know instantly when you are trying to cajole, bully or manipulate. It may work in the short-term – particularly bullying – but you better hope that they never get the upper hand as the revenge will be swift and bitter.
  • Taking time to understand the animal’s personality is the key to unlocking their potential. Acting with love, authenticity and integrity is the only longterm way of leading the pack/herd.

Have a wonderful day

Debbie x

Apple-box Media provides coaching and training in leadership, communications and change. For more debbie@apple-box.co.uk. We also provide a free communications audit service. http://www.apple-box.co.uk

Listen up ladies – we need to call time on midlife body bull***t – it’s a short life let’s use it well

getting out of your comfort zone ,and being a little bit ridiculous, is known to be good for healthy ageing

So apparently TV producers are finally realising that, outside of a programme called Love Island (proud to say I have NEVER watched it), if one exiles older people, like Mary Berry or that white haired lady on The Apprentice, their ratings fall. Doh! Media is about narrative isn’t it, it’s supposed to be a mirror for all of us to have our best and worst bits reflected back. We want to feel less lonely and see people living lives like us – rich, interesting, messed up ones. The good thing is we are likely to see more and more oldies on our screen as we have the buying power and our demographic is growing fast.

The fashion industry too is finally taking note. One’s body changes shape as we age – not necessarily in a bad way, but it is different. Personally I want to see how a dress looks on a lady of my age; it just doesn’t interest me otherwise. As someone who has seen so much illness, I delight in my body. Years of yoga means it doesn’t hurt at all and everything is working very well for now (about to take up horse riding again so I’ll keep you posted on this one). Curvier, sure, but I kind of like that as it makes me feel more female/more Motherly and less worried about enjoying one of life’s top pleasures – CAKE!.

Helen Mirren is everywhere

A quick flick through magazines today and it was noticeable how many more different shape/age/heritage models are coming through and Helen Mirren, aged 76, is absolutely everywhere. Good things are happening in the traditional/social media too. This feels really positive and a step away from the industry’s previous misogynistic obsession with 15 year old androgynous shapes as a “perfect” female specimen.

Yep I know there are darker forces at work too. This week I listened on Radio 4 to a UK surgeon calling for “Brazilian butt lifts” to be banned, following the horrendously high death rate of young women. This bizarre fashion (spent years trying to reduce my big bottom so really don’t get it) is also, the surgeon claimed, storing up huge problems for the NHS in the future as these women age. Gravity and butt lifts are not a good combination. Why, why, why!!!!!! would anybody subject themselves to this.

Courage, dignity and resilience

I watched my head turning beautiful Mother suffer terribly at what she saw as the fading of her “main commodity” – her model looks. I too could have lived with this depressing message ,had I not have seen so many teenagers and children with cancer. Their courage, dignity and resilience changed me forever and I find it so terribly sad that young/middle-aged/older women still find such fault with a perfectly healthy, or even well enough, normal female form.I bitterly regret the time, during my younger years, when I spent hours measuring the circumference of my thighs (yup I did this) and wouldn’t go out if the bathroom scales tipped over 8 stone. What a terrible waste of youth, vitality and promise. Please young people don’t repeat my mistakes.

So here are my musings on midlife bodies – but I also hope you younger women will listen too. You are way too lovely not to:

Life does not end when you hit the menopause

  • Life does not end when you hit the menopause – in fact in many ways a whole new life opens up and my experience has been rather wonderful. If you want to be invisible, which has it’s advantages, wear no makeup, an anorak and don’t blow dry your hair. If you want to still “own the room” invest in a beautiful silk gown (Kate Spade for high end, Monsoon for mid range and Next has some great bargains) killer heels and the right shade of red lipstick. Works every time.
  • Midlife is a great time for reflection and reinvention. But make sure this is first and foremost an inside job. Who do you really want to be? What are the messages you’ve been given that no longer serve you? Cherish those friends who make your heart sing and make new friends – there are so many of us out there. Keep connecting it is the absolute lifeblood of contentment.
  • Women are nicer as they get older. There’s less competition and we’re all a bit battered and bruised by life. Open up, be honest and watch the magic happen. Friendship is so very precious and, as a journalist I know this to be true, it’s really hard to find somebody who doesn’t have an interesting story to tell.
  • Take risks – within reason. But staying at home under the duvet is a fast track to depression and frustration. Embrace that feeling of really not giving a s**t what others think – as long as this is done in a kind way. This is your life and it’s a short one – make sure you find your authenticity and then live it big. I love that Helen Mirren quote. When asked about her life regrets she said “…not telling enough people to f**k off”.
  • If you focus only on what you look like, at any age, you will be deeply unhappy. This is a fact!
  • Self confidence, a smile and knowing who you really are is way more sexy, more beautiful, more wonderful than anything else at ANY age. Do not rely on anybody else to endorse you, it doesn’t work. Be lovely, be kind but be YOU.
  • Social media can be brilliant. Social media can be dreadful. Like many things in life, both are true. The key is discretion and finding what works for you. But do check out sometimes and read a book. Middlemarch has stood the test of time and is food for the soul . It also provides pretty much everything you need to know about life. Enjoy https://www.amazon.co.uk/Middlemarch-Penguin-Classics-George-Eliot/dp/0141439548/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=80607978241695&hvbmt=bp&hvdev=c&hvqmt=p&keywords=middlemarch&qid=1570903598&sr=8-1
  • Please read this from the wonderful wise writer psychotherapist Susie Orbach (author of the 1970s classic Fat is a Feminist Issue https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fat-Feminist-Issue-Susie-Orbach/dp/0099481936. Here she is writing about her latest book Bodies in an article in The Guardian https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4289095-bodies . “Bodies are no longer seen or experienced simply as things to be washed, deodorised, dressed and perfumed before getting on with our day. Bodies now are our ever-malleable calling cards, either erasing or articulating our class, geographic and ethnic backgrounds and gender aspirations. Appearance is crucial and the look, once achieved, has to be endlessly shared and approved through selfies and sexting. Teenage girls sculpt their appearance to garner “likes” and approval, which, sadly, they rarely achieve. Research done for Dove showed that it takes 124 likes to feel OK, but most tend to receive under a fifth of that number, not because they aren’t likable but because everyone is chasing a like, and time is against them.

Have a great week.

Debbie x

Keep burning brightly my friends – speak your truth to power as we need you NOW more than ever.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease.  This often exists in a man of sixty more than a body of twenty.  Nobody grows old merely by a number of years.  We grow old by deserting our ideals.”

Samuel Ullman (from the poem Youth)

Aren’t we all feeling a little unsettled at the moment. The calm, peaceful, prosperous world us westerners, at least, took for granted seems rather less solid than we had imagined. How I admire the climate change activists who have joined a world wide movement to speak truth to power. Whatever you think of the change agent Greta Thunberg, one cannot deny that she has mobilised millions of people and is leading the agenda.

I think it is marvellous when people join forces for a greater good. That people bother to get out of their comfort zones and demand that we treat others/our beautiful planet/our wildlife/our old and/or vulnerable with way more respect. We can’t keep having it all and blow the consequences.

Over the past six years I’ve spent a good deal of time “speaking truth to power” . My truth is it remains disgraceful/outrageous that children with cancer come at the back of the queue when it comes to dishing out life saving medicines https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49760750 It is a truth that people within the global healthcare industry know too well; but one that is hidden from the wider world.

There are complex reasons behind this dreadful injustice; but the root of the problem is (undeniable) fact that children with cancer don’t make money for the pharmaceutical industry. It’s as simple, and awful, as that.

Things are changing and there are reasons to be hopeful – better legislation, new and different models of drug development https://apoddfoundation.org/ and huge numbers of passionate people, including many in the pharma industry, working so hard together to call for a better way of doing things. But things are not moving quickly enough and way too many children are still dying, or facing life long health problems caused by heavily toxic treatments that we currently still rely on.

I play my part too. I tell my story – as I believe so fundamentally in the power of narrative to change minds/to reach hearts/to move people. A story of love in its purest form – the complete uncomplicated love of a child, and the most savage loss of all. The story of my graceful, beautiful, funny daughter who died of cancer aged 18.

” This was a life that had hardly begun
No time to find your place in the Sun
No time to do all you could have done
But we loved you enough for a lifetime”

Mary Yarnell.

I’ve become pretty fearless in life, one does after this level of loss. But I still shudder when I step on stage and open my treasure trove of memories to a group of strangers – however well meaning they may be. It hurts at the deepest level to talk about my child. But talk I must. I burn with a fury of a system that seems so cruel and unfair. I need to be able to look another Mother in the eye and know that I did my best to make it better for the next child that comes along. And just maybe if there’s a heaven, and I see my daughter again, I want to be worthy of all her suffering.

But that’s what’s in it for me. When I speak my truth to power I need to be sure that I am not just a “bleeding heart” looking for an audience to endorse my grief. That would not be fair. It’s a brutal question, but one I believe, is essential to ask ourselves before we step out and try and change the world.

I share my narrative in a quest to cut through the “we can’t” “it’s too complicated/difficult” – in a bid to reach into people’s hearts and ask them “if this was your child would it be good enough”. I’m armed with years of research, killer facts, bold questions and – most crucially of all – a huge respect and openness to the people who work in this industry – many of whom are also desperately trying to find ways to change. I am convinced that the only way to move forward is to make alliances, get people to feel safe and open to creative possibilities. Get them thinking oh “just maybe we could” . “what if we did something else.”

I spoke in Newcastle (fantastic City) last week on a medical conference about innovation and met some of the best medics in the World. This was a group of highly engaged people who wanted change. We had a wonderful conversation and I left the stage feeling elated. It’s taken me a long time to get here, but this is what I’ve learnt about speaking truth to power:

  • Tailor your message; but never dilute it
  • Forget being offended – people often rally against change. It isn’t personal it’s just human. Grow a thick skin and say it anyway. Change will never happen if we aren’t brave
  • Always be polite and respectful; even when other people aren’t
  • Find the people who want to innovate/change/do things differently and make them your best friends – this is where the magic happens
  • Target your message/energy/action to the people you are talking to – try and see things from their world view. Work out how you can create the greatest impact with the least energy (if you want to be an activist energy and time are very precious commodities)
  • Know very clearly why you are there and what you want to say – and then be quiet and listen very hard
  • NEVER EVER become part of the system/problem you are trying to change. Always step slightly back and use the outsider’s power of a different perspective.

Speaking up for something I believe in has been hugely rewarding for me. I don’t – yet – get involved with climate change activism, but I’m very tempted so watch this space…. and then there’s bullying, the criminal justice system that doesn’t allow a more compassionate response to children who have been traumatised/unloved….. Just so much to do and hopefully a good few years left to make a difference.

Thank you for all the stories you send me. I love hearing them and have started to get out and meet you inspiring people. This week I met the youngest Imam in the UK – fabulous and so interesting learning more about Islam. I’ll tell you all about it next week.

Have a wonderful week.

Debbie x

Let’s roll up our sleeves – there is so much work to do and it’s good for us and fun too

“Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Gosh my life, probably like yours, has taken some strange twists and turns. But there is one thing that’s always been steady, and for which I’ve been immensely grateful for, and that is my love of my work. I knew very early what I wanted to be and, apart from the odd wistfulness that I didn’t go into medicine and indulge my deep seated hypochondria full on, I’ve always been pretty delighted that I went into journalism. It has served me very well indeed. Most especially because I love talking, love writing and I’m hugely nosey about other people’s lives.

Young people find something you love above anything else. Older people find it now before it’s too late – and it’s never really too late until it all ends. In my humble option work is the secret to some kind of contentment and purpose. Money and status are very poor substitutes up against passion and meaning.

My Dad worked until he was 88

So I got thinking about work and how I can never envisage a time when I would ever want to stop working. I do realise I’m lucky as I work for myself and really enjoy what I do and have choices. I have got role models here; my father finally packed up his business at 88 and I had many elderly aunts who thought nothing of holding tight to their business reins well into their early 80s. They all lived in the United States, which back then really did seem to be land of possibility, and I admired their ballsy “the only way I’m leaving this desk is in a box” attitude. Priceless.

I was so delighted to hear Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland, speak at a conference this week. She’s a real hero of mine. She urged us all to roll up our sleeves – now more than ever – to fight some of the growing injustices of our world. It was 10am on Saturday and as I was busy rubbing the sleep from my eyes, when her words crashed through my complacency: “I reckon I’ve got 11 active years left to really make a difference on climate change,” she said.

I googled her age quickly. She is 75!!! And she was talking about “active” years – not just years. Check out The Mary Robinson Foundation https://www.mrfcj.org/about/mission-and-vision/– Climate Justice is a centre for thought leadership, education and advocacy on the struggle to secure global justice for those people vulnerable to the impacts of climate change who are usually forgotten – the poor, the disempowered and the marginalised across the world. What a woman!

And here’s me – a mere 55 – thinking, admittedly only sometimes, that I could kick back a little bit and really don’t have anything left to prove anymore? Shame on me. And then I remember how at this age work is actually more important than ever before (empty nests and time on our hands) and really us mid-lifers have so much to offer in terms of experience and not so many family ties (appreciate this isn’t the same for everybody) . And here are my musings for the week on the importance of midlife employment (not necessarily paid)

  • Lack of purpose and meaning is a one way track to depression and that feeling of being out of place in the world. Too much time on your hands is not good for the body or the soul.
  • Research continually shows that being part of something bigger than yourself is good for your health. In short selfish people die young (and probably unhappy)
  • There’s growing research that loneliness kills too – stay connected to lots of different people of all ages. It’s hugely rewarding and fun too. At 30 I had a best friend who was 75, now one of my best friends is 24. Work or volunteering is a great way of doing this.
  • The average age of death in the UK for a woman is 82.9 years (79.6 for men) – Totally get that I may not get anywhere near this, but if I do gosh all those years left to make a difference to something/to somebody. Now that is exciting.
  • There are so many people who could do with a kindly word/or a bit of help… in my quest to broaden my horizons this week I’m meeting with one of the UK’s youngest Imam’s. A brave young man who is so sad that more people do not know about the amazing work that muslims in the UK do to support all our communities – this includes blood drives, tree planting sessions, homeless feeding sessions, building schools in third world countries …. I’m going to be telling you all about him next week.

Oh and I’ve saved my best for last – take risks! Lots of them. Fail, get up and fail again. Get rejected, pushed back – and keep on keeping on. The greatest risk to your happiness is not taking a risk. Don’t miss a moment or an opportunity in this very brief very beautiful life.

Have a great week.

Debbie x

Find your inner superhero

If you look around, complacency is the great disease of your autumn years, and I work hard to prevent that.

Nick Cave

This is my new baby. 55 years old and I’m about to make a very tentative move out into the city roads on the green vespa I’ve wanted since I was 17. I feel completely irresponsible, scared stiff, a little ridiculous . But also vibrant, alive and so excited. Oh and brave and I love feeling brave above anything else and never, ever want to fall into complacency. There is way too much to do in this world to keep it safe for my children, Grand children/Great Grandchildren

If not now; then when.

I admire courage, living an authentic life and a refusal to “play by the rules” – but only if the rules aren’t working. . I always have and it was probably one of the reasons that I was expelled from my girls’ private school (long time ago now but that rebellious spirit was there early). I love people who fearlessly speak their truth in the world. But hate a**holes – who don’t care how their truth affects other people. With so much anger, polarisation and hate in the world now – compassion and kindness are so crucial now more than ever before. We really are all in this together and don’t we need each other. Barriers and division should have no place in our modern world.

I’ve been trolled – on a pretty minor scale after writing my book Yet Here I am https://www.splendidbooks.co.uk/ – but I do have a glimpse of how it feels and I know beyond any doubt that we must never let trolls stop us speaking our truth and displaying our inner superheroes. I think it’s extraordinarily difficult if you are an MP, or trying to make a seismic change in the world, outside of that I think it goes back to self esteem. Never allow online ,or real life ,trolls to stop you in your life’s work. Work hard on that, on your inner dialogue and what other people say will matter so much less. This is SO important for living a decent, full life – and for democracy more generally. Never let the bullies win- and always remember that bullies are unhappy, sad people! Say what you think is right as this is, I believe, the only way to live a rewarding, authentic life.

I love Nick Cave – so much. A super intelligent, uber-creative , truthful poet – digging deep into the darkest parts of life, love and loss and oh so cool. He lost a child, like me ,and his beautiful, shattering visceral portrait of grief, the album Skeleton Tree, has been a companion of mine for many years now. His words so often move me – and I love this quote that really captures how we all need to do our bit and not fall back into complacency. There is so much to fight for in this wonderful world and whilst we still have our senses and health we need to be out there doing our bit.

I hurt and grieve all of the time. It has become my constant companion and I’m now ok with that. Acceptance here is key – I will never be whole again but so be it. Whilst I’m here I want to be a fully engaged citizen – living life as fully as I can but also ensuring that I speak up for what I believe and where possible fighting for others less fortunate.

I have a girl crush at the moment on the UK MP Jess Phillips . Raw, angry, passionate – gosh how we need people like her. Surely with all that is going on now this is the time to be angry. Compassionate, articulate people who really care about other people in all states in life. This week in The Sunday Times she urges people to find their inner super hero and speak truth to power. She says that “fear is unfortunately the greatest enemy of freedom of expression and dialogue”

Don’t we all need to speak up for what we think is right and refuse to be silenced. The #MeTooMovement is a brilliant example of when people all around the world joined together to call time on this appalling behaviour. It’s had impact but I do think it has a long way to go before women of all ages can really unleash their power and not be cowered by a loud male voice. As I get older I feel more of a feminist than ever before.

So don’t we all need to start speaking up to hold firm on how we want to live and what is and is not ok. Speak up for justice, fairness, goodness and integrity. Speak up for our NHS system which, God knows, needs us more now than ever before. Speak up for love of our neighbour – living in one of the most wonderful multi-cultural cities in the World – I get so much from living next to people of all ages, religions, creeds, heritage – it is the MAIN reason why I love living in London. Speak up for compassion, for the more vulnerable members of our society – older people, people living with life limiting conditions, people who struggle with mental health issues. Speak up for all of us who are members of the human race.

So as I take off on my scooter this week I hope I connect and make more friends in my community and drive off into the sunset with a smile and a huge sense of spirit and adventure. I also hope to make some new friends along the way – if you see me please speak to me and tell me your unique story.

On and I’ll also be up in Newcastle with a bunch of medics – unleashing my inner super hero. September is Childhood cancer month. Imagine the horror – your perfect child struck by an illness that is so usually consigned to old age. But it happens and you know what when it does there is so much injustice. Children don’t make money for the pharmaceutical industry as there aren’t enough of them – so they come right at the back of the queue when it comes to new treatments. It’s an outrage and I will be finding the nicest way to say this – as I’ve learnt people don’t listen when your aren’t nice.

Have a wonderful week

Debbie x

Increase your happiness and power in one easy lesson


So close your eyes and think of the following people: the Queen, Michelle and Barack Obama, Judi Dench, Jess Phillips MP (love,love,love), journalist Caitlin Moran ( love, love, love), Angela Merkel, James Corden, Olivia Coleman .. oh and Rose, a handsome midlife woman I met recently who works in the care industry (I’ll explain in a moment)

Got the link yet? No?

They all exude happy high status. If you want to know more read the amazing book “How to Own the Room” by comedian Viv Groskop. She argues that almost any issue in life or work can be dealt with through developing happy high status. It’s especially good for bullying or challenging work situations.

The good news is anybody can develop it and when they do they protect their mental/physical health and reduce stress levels. There is so much research now linking high stress to a range of physical illnesses: it’s all to do with the inflammatory response. We owe it to ourselves to work hard on this trait now.

James Corden on fat shaming

I believe that anybody can develop their own version of happy high status. Watch this clip of James Corden reacting to a US talk show host who was encouraging people to “fat shame” https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/james-corden-fat-shaming-bill-maher-response-late-late-show-video-a9103746.html . He responds in a thoughtful, dignified manner clearly laying out, with humour, this guy’s complete lack of humanity, responsibility and compassion. So powerful and a really good example on being comfortable with yourself and dealing with nasty comments.

My heroine: Rose

Then there’s Rose. One of the most mesmerising, beautiful, graceful women I’ve ever met. She epitomises Maya Angelou’s words in the poem “Still I Rise”

Does my sexiness upset you?

Does it come as a surprise

That I dance like I’ve got diamonds

At the meeting of my thighs.

She exudes happy high status; despite the fact that for some bizarre reason in our culture we don’t always assume that care work is a high status occupation. Rose is having non of it, she believes wholeheartedly that she is doing the most valuable and important job in the world – she does it with dignity, grace and bucket fulls of kindness and compassion. She’s right up there with the best of the best and a fabulous role model for others.

How to do happy high status

So here’s my happy high status manual – give it a try and watch the magic happen:

  • Work hard, every day, on yourself. Nobody is perfect. Get to love your imperfections – it’s often by embracing these that we make ourselves more accessible to other people. If you do nothing else in this world learn to love yourself -it’s worth the investment. It makes the world a better place as people who love themselves don’t feel the need to bully, troll or hurt others. It’s a win:win!
  • You can’t change other people. If you work with “ass****s leave, or change your attitude. Don’t just moan; take some action and leave them behind. (life has taught me that karma is real – sit back and watch it unfold) Every second you spend trying to change their view/behaviour/attitude towards you is a waste of your precious life. Don’t do it.
  • Be honest, speak your truth and always act with integrity – this is what will get you through in the end. Be brave and work on allowing people to not like you. It’s really fine – imagine how awful you’d feel if Nigel Farage thought you were a great person and shared your views (shudder). As tough as this is, not minding if people like you or not is the key that unlocks your power and authenticity.
  • Say “no” way more often and don’t over explain – sometimes you can’t do something. That’s enough.
  • Find your tribe and invest time, effort and love into people who hold you up and will provide the protection and comfort from the two points above.
  • Laugh everyday. Always try and see the funny side and do something you love doing.

Have a lovely lovely week wherever you are. London is bathing in the most glorious Autumn sunshine. It really is a beautiful city.

Debbie x

Vulnerability – what I don’t want you to know about me

Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

In the Power of Vulnerability (amazing TED talk) Brene Brown discusses the heavy weight of shame; the fear of others judging, or disliking, so that we will lose the connection with them. And this is a deep rooted pain; as connection is how us human beings exist and thrive.

She says that people who have the least shame – who had the greatest sense of love and belonging – had something big in common; they believed that they were worthy of it. Simple as that. And by believing they received so much more.

Most importantly they were unafraid to share the deepest parts of themselves and to be vulnerable, and in this, their love and connection deepened even further.

But being vulnerable is complicated isn’t it? A friend who spent a decade in an abusive relationship admitted: “I get that vulnerability is trendy now and we are all supposed to be it/practice it. But it was by refusing to be vulnerable anymore that I got away from a monster and reclaimed my life.”

I get what she’s saying – but I also think admitting that you are in an abusive relationship makes one incredibly vulnerable – and hugely courageous in my book.

I think the key to power vulnerability is being very sure of yourself, understanding where you are in the world and where you want to be. I also think it’s essential that one understands who to be vulnerable with and who to run a mile from.

People pleasing

I love Brown’s work and I’ve been working on my vulnerability for years. Looking deep inside and continually trying to understand who the authentic me is. I was brought up in a pretty dysfunctional family, the youngest of three uber-ambitious/clever siblings, I had to fight my corner. My parents hated vulnerability/weakness – they couldn’t cope with it – so guess what I became the most talented people pleaser you could imagine.

Worked a treat in journalism. I could be sent anywhere any time and I’d get on with absolutely anybody. I was known for it. Fast forward 10 years and I woke up with two small children, no job, no partner – and I had absolutely no idea who I was. It was a text book existential crisis

The choice was then a breakdown or therapy. As a born survivor I opted for the latter and it literally changed my life. It’s taken years and it’s been really tough. Self reflection doesn’t bring about change unless it hurts like hell – but boy has it been worth it.

Sharing my secrets

So my dear readers as I seek to build a deeper connection with you here is a little flavour of what I’ve learnt about me

  • I still can’t cry out loud. I can feel all the hurt and sadness in my chest but I can’t let it out. This is why I’m signing up for the Bridge retreat later this year – I’ll be telling you all about it.
  • I still shake if I have to say “no” to a friend – I’m fine at work, it’s personal relationships that I struggle with here. I have to write down a script before being able to state why I can’t do something “don’t over explain” – is at the top of the page
  • For most of my life I’ve suffered bouts of crippling loneliness – you know the kind when you’re surrounded by people but feel you’re in a metal cage. Can’t reach out and they can’t come in…. I’ll be researching lots more about loneliness as I think it’s one of the biggest social problems that we now face
  • ….oh and for many years I’ve had this mad, crazy, wild crush on Tom Jones…. but I think he’s trendy again now so I’m ok on this one:)

I would love to hear your stories either here on on deborahjanebinner@gmail.com. Anonymous is fine, sharing and connecting is all that matters.

Have a lovely Sunday