This year I’ve been writing reflective notes at the end of each month.
I’ve found writing them helpful in getting me to think about, articulate and record things that otherwise I wouldn’t have, and hopefully it’s also helping me to learn.
So I’m back again. Slightly different this month perhaps, because we spent the last week of June on holiday in the Lake District, and that’s where my mind is as we’re still there as I finish these notes.
1. Who inspired you?
Cassie wrote a beautiful explanation of the value of working in the open. I don’t think my reasons for doing these #MonthNotes quite measure up (and they’re not just focused on work), but I found her article inspirational.
Last year, I read Proust’s novel In Search of Lost Time — probably the most beautiful and most extraordinary book I’ve ever read.
Thanks to art, instead of seeing only a single world, our own, we see it multiplied, and have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists, all more different from one another than those which revolve in infinity and which, centuries after the fire from which their ray emanated has gone out, whether it was called Rembrandt or Vermeer, still send us their special light.
Back then, I discovered a virtual book club reading the novel together using the hashtag #ProustTogether on Twitter. However, at the time I discovered the group, I was a couple of thousand pages ahead of them. But in June they got to the final volume of the novel and I was inspired to re-read it with them. (As an aside, I enjoyed this article on re-reading.)
It’s been my first experience of a virtual book club and I’ve enjoyed people sharing their reflections and answering one another’s queries — they were a generous and supportive bunch. I’d definitely join the group again to read a different book together— in fact, I’m already signed up to read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain (a book I’ve wanted to read for over 20 years but never got round to) in 2024, the centenary of its publication. Mike Palindrome, who set up the group, discusses reading Proust with strangers in this podcast.
2. What are you grateful for?
- Modern medical practices
I had a small operation to close the hole in my heart (a ‘percutaneous device closure of a Patent Foramen Ovale’), which the doctors had decided was the cause of my stroke last year, and which they recommended closing in order to reduce my chances of having another one.
Having gone in though my groin, they went up through a vein and into my beating heart, where they left a small device, which they used to close and seal the hole. I was in and out of hospital in a day. Hearing about and reading about the procedure, I am amazed at what they can do inside a living human body. It makes no sense to me, and I’m awe of the doctor who did it (a “straightforward, routine procedure” as he called it) and others like him.
I have a tiny scar of about 5mm, and that’s about it. Oh, for about a week afterwards, I didn’t run or do yoga and didn’t walk for more than a mile. I really missed them, which surprised me a bit and helped me to appreciate how much I get from my rhythm/routine of now doing these things regularly. (As an aside, I enjoyed this article on walking.)
3. What did you learn?
Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering.
- Thanks to David Heath, I watched The Wisdom of Trauma, with Dr Gabor Maté
- I had my first session of Somatic Experiencing (SE), with Giselle Genillard
It was extraordinary. I found SE to have a profound effect on my body, my sleep, and my well being, and Giselle was wonderful. From the moment I first saw her, before either of us had even spoken, I relaxed and felt at ease. I can’t explain that, but I really noticed it. Furthermore, I have never before had the experience of feeling held through a zoom call.. This doesn’t really make sense to me — how can you ‘feel held’ through a screen, where there is no touch, and you’re 100s of miles away from each other? Again, I can’t really explain it, but that’s ok — many of the most precious things in the world and in life cannot be adequately expressed in words.
4. What else did you learn?
5. What was fun?
- Dancing on the beach
- Watching Ocean’s 11, and West Side Story (the 1961 film)
- Seeing some old friends who I lived with 25 years ago (we met up in London, my first visit there and my first train or tube journey in 15 months: very weird — I felt like I’d forgotten how to travel…)
6. What did you enjoy?
- Our garden — June is probably the best month for the flowers in our garden, the colours, the smells: alliums, clematis, delphiniums, true geraniums, ever-lasting peas, sweet peas, honeysuckle, irises, nasturtium, peonies, poppies (red ones, pink ones), and LOTS of roses: white ones, red ones, yellow ones, peach ones, pink ones — bright pink, dark pink, light pink, purply pink — plus dog roses
- Seeing hares in fields near our house
- Eating elderflower fritters
- Eating home-made strawberry ice-cream
- A weekend away camping with friends in Suffolk
- Seeing skylarks skylarking
- The Lake District, including swimming in Buttermere (the first time I’ve swam since last August and the final one of the milestones I set myself seven months ago as part of my stroke rehab)
9. What are you looking forward to in July?
- Continuing our holiday in the Lake District
- Seeing friends in Birmingham
- Watching England vs Italy in the final of the European football championship
- A long weekend, courtesy of another Wellness day off for everyone working in our company