Sunday 24 February 2013

On Loving Oneself via Anita Moorjani

Yesterday I went to London to hear Anita Moorjani talk about her Near Death Experience.  She told us of how she had died temporarily, and had chosen to come back to the world of the living, inspired with magnificent love and knowledge, to tell us things from the other realm that will make us like ourselves much more, and stop being so mean.  It was a wonderful day out; Anita Moorjani was likeable, gentle and kind.  All of us in the audience needed to hear things that took the pain out of our lives, me included.  I wanted Anita to say that artists in their fifties were allowed to have low moments. I wanted her to say that in the other realm, she had specifically been told that someone in the audience in Euston London, you will know who you are, artist from Bognor Regis, will never have to worry about a thing ever again.  A huge cheque awaits you at home and a cleaner is on her way to clean your house daily.  Oh, and your children will behave perfectly from now on and even if you eat fourteen meals a day of deep fried eggy toast and fudge for pudding, you will never get fat or spotty.  Of course that didn't happen, but one of the things that Anita did repeatedly tell us to do was to love ourselves.

I have heard this often.  It is generally agreed that we should love ourselves.  I, too, agree and I am sure everyone in the audience did too.  But I wondered - what does loving yourself look like.  My first thought about loving myself, from my audience seat, yesterday, was to take myself to a pastry shop to eat five cheese turnovers, one after the other.  I love you, I would say to myself, and because I love you, I will give you more cheese turnovers than is polite, because not only will that will show you how much I love you, but I know how much you have longed to do this.  But this is not what Anita means.  Loving yourself is about being kind to yourself. Eating five cheese puffs regularly is unkind and will eventually make me fat and pasty and then I will doubt the love that was shown to me, by me, because it is doing me harm and making me unhappy.  Real love, I expect, is not positively bad for you, like the cheese pie thing.  That could be called indulgence, but not love. 

Loving oneself means not criticising yourself, not giving yourself ridiculously high standards, about not being mean to yourself.  Ah.  The audience, and me, we all got that.  We heard Anita tell us this, we know it is true, but here we all were, suffering in our little worlds, suffering from rejections, disillusionments, sorrows and pains, thinking Oh!  But I must love myself more!  Oh, I know I must but it is hard!  And each of us sat there gazing at Anita Moorjani wondering how can we love ourselves, when we don't even like ourselves?  How can we love ourselves, when to do so means we must look at ourselves and see ourselves as we really are and accept it?  But Anita up there on the stage must practice this self love, and she looks completely normal, so how does she do it?  It would help to have a list to follow, and if we followed her list, perhaps we could be saved.

What does this loving oneself look like?  Who, I asked myself, in my circle of friends and colleagues, loves themselves?  I will see what they look like, how they live, and I will take some lessons from them.  If you love yourself, do you have no problems?  Or does it mean that you meet life's challenges with a kind face, a firm but fair handshake, and an admirably steely core?  If you love yourself, are you perfect?  Can you be horrid to anyone if you love yourself, can you snap at the person in the checkout at Tescos, can people who love themselves have road rage?  Good Lord.  I do not know anyone like this.  So perhaps I am looking in the wrong places.

Who then, amongst all the people I know, just appears to get on with life, has many friends, loves their neighbour and is nice to animals?  Who appears most grounded and able to cope?  And then, having come up with a couple of names, I wondered - perhaps I am only seeing a public image.  Maybe these people don't really love themselves either, maybe they just look like they do.  Perhaps in private they shout at themselves and tell themselves that they are rubbish.  That led me to think that if I don't know how to spot someone who does love themselves, I certainly know how to spot someone who doesn't.  Ah.  So we have some progress.

Someone who doesn't love themselves is unhappy.  They do silly self harmful things.  Not loving yourself looks like sadness, tiredness, making unhealthy choices.  It looks like a lot of people that I know.  It looks like seeking comfort in damaging things, it looks like not listening to your body when it tells you that it is struggling.  Ask someone who doesn't like or love themselves to write a list of their good points on a piece of paper, and they can't.  Ask them to write a list of their bad points and they need to ask for more paper.  Pay a compliment to someone who does not love themselves, and they cannot take it.  No no no, they say, and bat it away with a defensive sweep of their hand.  It looks like all these things and more.  It looks, in fact, like me.

And so what does loving yourself mean.  It means imagining that you are a small child asking for affection, and you, you, giving that small child that is you, affection and love.  Most of us find it easy to take a needy child in our arms.  Well, you are that needy child, and you can put your arms around it, yourself, and take it from there.  Loving yourself does not happen over night.  It takes time, it is an ongoing thing, it is a life long thing.  It is trial and error and involves forming a relationship with yourself involving honesty and strength.  Beginning to love yourself gives you eyes to see, and if those around you do not support you, then they will have to go.  There is no guilt in the love you are forming for yourself, there is no selfishness.  You begin to benefit from giving yourself the time and attention that you need to be healthy, and it becomes easier to notice and love other people.  How can I, if I don't love or even like myself, know how to love you?  It just won't work.  But if I take the time and make the commitment to love and respect myself, I will make a much better job of it with you.

The most difficult thing about beginning to loving myself, is shining a spotlight on myself as I really am. Blimey, I said when I first shone the spotlight on myself, not very assertive, are you?  And what is all this saying yes when you mean no, and vice versa, and pretending that you don't?  But after a little prod and poke with the spotlight, I found kindness, and a sense of the ridiculous, and thought, well.  Perhaps I am not so bad after all.  And a small feeling of excitement about seeing myself for who I really am, kindled in my heart.  Thank you Anita Moorjani, I think you started all this.  (A voice from afar, from a distant place in time and space, says That's alright, my pleasure.  Love you!)

Saturday 16 February 2013

Here I Sit, With A Pizza

Here I sit, with a pizza.  It sits beside me on the sofa on a large circular tray because no plate I have is big enough for it.  I saw the pizza base sitting on the table in my kitchen last night, after having done one for my youngest son, Teenage Boy Giant, and I thought, I will save that for myself.  I half expected my other son, Elusive Boy, to come home, and I was thinking that he might like it.  But in my heart, I knew that even if he did come home, which he did not, I would not give it to him.  This morning, on seeing the pizza base, I decided that now was the time.  A very large pizza for breakfast would be the same as a very large fry up and therefore, legal. And so it came about that I am sitting on my sofa, a vertical pizza created from all sorts of things I like in my fridge by my side, and a feeling of pleasure and connection with my breakfast, that I have not felt for a breakfast before. 

I am taking things easy for a couple of weeks, starting with this weekend. Everyone that is in my house, is going to be gone by this evening.  My cousins have taken Teenage Boy Giant for half term and I hear on the grape vine that he has already been to a party with my cousin's teenaged son.  I put him on a train to Kent last night, and he must have stepped off the train and been taken straight to an all night knees up with girls and alcohol.  I never provide that, and he often wonders, loudly, what kind of gulag I grew up in to be so mean and backward. 

Elusive Boy is like the mist in the distance that you think you see, but is gone if you try and focus.  He may or may not appear, at some point or other, and make himself comfy, and then slide away again leaving a mug of steaming green tea half drunk in the kitchen.  Was he here?  I will say to myself, or am I dreaming it?  And here, this mug of half drunk green tea, this is a clue.  I must work all of this out.  Was that him, passing me by last night, or was it a mirage?  Well, whatever happens now, I have taken the pizza and there can be no turning back.

Glamorous Daughter is happy in Brighton with her Lovely Boyfriend.  She is keeping half of her fancy Valentine's bath goodies for me, her old mum, so that I too can have a Cleopatra in asses milk bath moment.  My daughter is my luxury consultant, and keeps me informed and aware on the pampering front.  And as I write, two of my lodgers are moving out of here and into their own place today.  My other delightful Polish lodger works at nights, so tonight, I will be completely on my own.  My house will be cleared of people, silent and empty but for the sound of munching, echoing around the hollow rooms, as my pizza is finally finished.

And Alan, who stepped in to take over for me last week and saved the day completely, is off in Norfolk with his brother, looking at houses for us to live in.  Find me a house, I say to him wearily on the phone, and the reception goes dead in his car, so I don't know if he was spurred into even more dedicated house hunting action, or whether he says to his brother, quick, there's a fish and chip shop, let's spend the afternoon in there doing crosswords and we'll pretend there are no houses left for sale in Norfolk.

I had a scare this week, and ended up in hospital for a couple of days.  The exodus of my children from my house is part of the get well soon plan. (The lodgers moving out is entirely coincidental.  I didn't go into them and say, you there! I feel poorly and I need you to move out tomorrow so that I can recover.  Bye!)  I do however, need time and space to think.  What am I thinking about?  Well, quite.  What am I thinking about.  Mostly, I will consider what is necessary in my busy life, and what is not.  Am I giving everything that comes my way equal weight?  And if so, why?  Am I, perhaps, a whirling dervish, that has speeded up her gentle whirl to a kind of Taz of Tazmanania hurricane?

 A psychological portrait of me until last week.

 It seems so, and in order for the over whirling to stop, I have been told by a Consultant, a Junior Doctor and my Mum no less, all sitting around my hospital bed, all in total agreement and each thinking the others were the really on the ball and top of the class, to take time off and think a bit more clearly.  Ha! When did anyone ever think clearly!  OK, I said, and so here I am, on my sofa with my large pizza, avoiding anything strenuous, like reading a book, or having a bath. And clearly not thinking clearly at all.

And so I write this blog from my sofa, in a silent house, my pizza by my side.  No one is coming in, though quite a few people, it seems, are going out.  Here I stay, unmovable, pondering, considering life from all angles.  Here I sit, in silence, the grandfather clock ticking away beside me, and time passing with every tick of the hands slowly moving round the clock face.  Have I come up with anything, with all this thinking?  Well, yes, and no.  On the yes side, I have decided that it is very hard to sit and think and that it is best when one is so very tired, not to think.  And on the no side, I have simply fallen into a light doze at the beginning of a thought. 

And there I will leave it.  I will let you quietly leave the blog, as I fall into not just a light doze, but a profound one, my hand resting lovingly on the last piece of cold pizza. The light outside fades and the clock ticks away gently beside my sofa, and in my dreams I am thinking clearly, and speaking articulately with short sharp sentences.  In my dreams, I am whirling gently again, but this time with focus, and before I wake up, I will become aware of the meaning of life.  Which on waking, I will forget, and to console myself, I will eat that last slice of cold pizza.

Saturday 9 February 2013

Go On Darling, Listen With Your Heart.

I only think of relationships when difficulties with them arise.  When a relationship is challenged, I look at it from all angles to work out where it stepped out of the usual easy pattern and things became icky.  I like to look for faults in the other party, it makes it much easier for me, because in my mind I am fine and dandy.  I never mean harm, and therefore do no harm, and I never intend to be unkind, and so am not unkind.  A hiccup with a relationship, therefore, is as a result of something from outside of me.  I am a very nice person, and very nice people don't have bad relationships unless other people get it wrong.  What a relief.  Fun, but not entirely true.  I am as responsible for the relationships that I have, as those with whom I have them.  

We all have relationships, and most people, it is believed, want good ones.  There are those for whom any kind of connection with other people is difficult, and there are those who simply do not want anything to do with other people.  There are cultural, medical, social and circumstantial reasons for all sorts of odd behaviour in our world, and I am sure that we all know at least one person who is out of the loop, so to speak, and we can't imagine how they manage any kind of personal connections.  And yet, it is fairly unusual, I think, to find someone who will not connect with anything (or any one).  Even crotchety, difficult, anti social folk can find huge joy in something.  I knew of an old man who didn't like people at all, but loved his cows.  And so, he lived in an extremely run down old farm house with his cows, who roamed happily room to room.  He saw no need to have anything to do with anyone or anything, but he did find a great deal of satisfactory conversation with his cows. 

With relationships come all manner of emotions.  And as we get older, we change our expectations of relationships.  There are rules and boundaries we learn to apply to our dealings with people, and these are here for very good reasons.  Generally, they protect us from getting it too wrong and making mistakes. When I was a little girl, anyone who was nice to me was my best friend.  Time and time again, I was astonished that my new best friends moved almost instantly on to someone else, and I didn't see it coming.  Now, at the grand age of 52, anyone who is nice to me is not my best friend.  My expectations for relationships has changed, and I no longer hone in on anyone who is nice to me and want to be glued to them forever.  For all those who know me, this may be a relief.  You are safe, I do not want to be glued to you. And, I suppose, these boundaries and rules helped me not to agree to marry a man who started to talk to me in a train station in Italy when I was in my early twenties.  I had internalised enough of them to realise that that was never going to work.

In my work, with people at the end of life, there is no time for pretending. Necessarily, I am guided by strict rules and boundaries within this work, created to protect all of us from becoming too involved.  In order to be of any use, I have to keep some distance.  There are some very strict guidelines so that the huge machinery of Doing Any Good At All runs smoothly, and no one is too dependent on anyone else. Our relationships are governed by rules, and the worst thing you can do, I am taught, is get to close.  Do not, I am told, have an unhealthy relationship with anyone you are working with.  Well, no, I won't.  Thank you for pointing that out.  To me, an unhealthy relationship with someone who is dying is one where I say constantly, you feel bad.  But what about me?  Or I end up saying, don't leave me!  I can't stand it!

But, sometimes, people take absolutely no notice of these rules, and sometimes, the relationship that works with someone at the end of their life, is about entering into their world, and riding the tidal wave with them, as far as you can go, until they take that final step themselves.  Sometimes, those rules and boundaries have as much place in your work with someone at the end of their life, as a gift to them of a place in the London Marathon.  Sometimes, you are required, in order to do any good, to take a risk, take a plunge, and enter into something akin to a whirlwind of love and rule breaking.  You darn well get involved.

I went to the funeral of such a lady on Friday.  In the four months that I visited her, she taught me of the need to listen with my heart, and to be ready to overstep the rules because the rules were of no use to her in the end.  My lovely lady was beautiful. She was an ex model, and worked in films in her youth.  From the very first, she wanted to talk about her life.  She had lived full of passion and energy, had married twice, had had four children, and at nearly 90, was still full of this fire.  I do not like people to get too close, she said, I do not want them to know my business.  But, she continued, I know theirs. I can read them.  Do you know, she said, that I saw a young man unable to pay for his groceries the other day?  I paid for them and put ten pounds in his pocket.  Go over there, she told him, to the fish and chip shop.  You look hungry and this is for your meal.  And he went, she told me.  She saw him eating his fish and chips later.  I am so old, she said, I can do these things.

Old people are lonely, she once said.  I sit with them on the bench by the sea, and tell them how nicely they are dressed.  They like that, she said.  I ask them how they are, and they like to be listened to.

My visits with this lady were never under three hours long.  There was so much for her to say, so much to talk about, and I broke the rules, and entered into her world.  I am so glad I did.  But one day she was not there.  Gone to hospital, I was told, very ill, do not go to her.  Now is the time to go to her, I thought.  Now more than ever, is the time to go and see her when she is so ill and so old. I cannot let her think that I walked away, after I have listened for so long to her life story.  Eventually I found her.  In a small hospital, not too far away, and I went to see her.  I knew she needed me to come.  I found my sassy, elegant, passionate lady crumpled, smaller than ever, sitting in colourless arm chair, confused and full of fear. When I walked in, she looked at me and started to cry.  Where have you been? she said.  I put my arms around her and held her close.  I called her my darling, and broke more of the rules.  Her legs were cold, her feet were cold, she could no longer walk, and could not remember why she was there.  I took her cold feet and massaged them, I found some socks, put them on her feet and tucked her trousers into them.  After putting her slippers back on I found some blankets and told her that if she was my child, I would do this to her, and I wrapped her tiny body gently as I could in blankets, and sat close and watched.  I told her I would return the next day.

Until a home was found for my lady, she endured her stay in this good but soul less tiny hospital.  Sometimes, my tiny, teeny lady lay exhausted on her bed, her eyes closed, but her mind clearer.  Talk to me darling, she would say, talk to me and tell me of your love life.  Sometimes, my lady would cry and be confused and I would gather her into my arms and tell her she was safe.  When she showed her old wit and spirit, she would apologise for being in this state, and other times, she would cry that she needed to go home.

And soon, very soon, she was taken to a wonderful home nearby, and this time, I followed her there.  She spent two weeks in the home, and a day after her birthday, she quietly died.  I went to her funeral yesterday, and found myself in tears. I have lost a wonderful teacher.  She taught me to be strong, and to follow through.  She taught me that it is essential to show love, and she taught me that sometimes, it is not only good to break the rules, it is the only way, in the work that I will do with the dying.

I have been thinking about relationships ever since.  I was asked to take on this lady by an organisation.  The rules, amongst other things, state that I could not contact her family, and they could not contact me.  All communications were to be through the organisation which, if it works, is fine.  But it didn't work. There were staff shortages, and confusion and lack of communications within and with the best will in the world, it was a total shambles.  In the meantime, my lady was dangerously ill somewhere and it was against the rules to tell me where or to give me her family's number.  And, it turned out, it was against the rules to give her family my number.  And all the time, an old lady needed a simple visit, because it would help her at the point when she needed it most.  But the rules, created to maintain order and dignity within the organisation, put in place to protect those who are giving and receiving visits, were patently not relevant here and were in danger of harming the person they were created to help. 

When my lady was suddenly taken to hospital that day, it was felt that my role with her was ended.  But I knew that that would break my lady's heart, she would not understand why I didn't come to her, and her family could not find me to ask.  When I met with her wonderful and dedicated family eventually, with huge relief, at the small hospital, we all agreed with enthusiasm that I would continue my visits.  Which is why, at her final birthday party, I was invited to join them, and I sat with my arm around her and told her of what she always wanted to hear most: how my love life was going.  I knew she was very close to death that day, but still, I was terribly sad to hear that she had gone.

And now, here is something to think about.  I rode that tidal wave with my lady.  I broke the rules and I don't know what else I could have done.  I loved her and am wiser for having learned so much from her.  But, I am not grieving.  I cried a little at her funeral, but I am not sad.  She has given me courage, confidence and has affirmed that at the end of life, there is no time for rules, if they get in the way.  She has shown me that when someone is dying, you owe them the honour of your whole attention.  Now, I am working with another old lady, in her mid nineties, and I can hear my lady saying in my mind, go on darling.  Listen with your heart. Go on, you can do it. Remember what I taught you, listen with your heart.

Friday 1 February 2013

You may all be wondering if I actually do anything.  Recently I have been writing about ephemeral things, such as time, niceness, and keeping one's pecker up.  I was going to write about diaries today, but I thought perhaps you will think that I do nothing but spend all my days pondering.  I have given you no real evidence that I do anything else at all.  So today I will tell you of some of the things that I am doing, when not pondering and gazing dreamily into the middle distance.  I will, in the spirit of an efficient person, itemise them.  In this way, you will be made aware of the more earth bound nature of today's blog.  Instead of sitting back into your sofa, a mug of hot chocolate in your hand and a blanket of pure lambswool wrapped around your knees, the phone on silent and Radio 4 on mute, so that you can drift safely into the gentle world of time, peckers, niceness, you will be sitting up straight on the edge of the sofa, shoulders back, blanket folded beside you, and a look of alertness in your eye.  That is what I aim for this week.
  • A Graceful Death.  This large exhibition is growing ever larger.  By the end of this year, there will be 52 paintings and poems, and so, I am taking a step back.  It is time to reorganise it.  I have been speaking to interesting and intelligent people in the business world, the end of life care world, and the public world, and the plan so far, is thus.  a) I will not do any more paintings for the exhibition after the 4 paintings that I am doing at the moment. The exhibition is large enough and soon may be too large to fit in to even a removals lorry. It may get so large it will fall off the British Isles and into the sea.  That would be very inefficient. b)  I will reorganise the exhibition to include speakers, workshops, and related events. This will mean the exhibition can adapt and change according to the central message of the event at which it is showing.  It can include other interesting and fascinating people who can educate and inspire.  Notice that I said other interesting and fascinating people.  c) I will make the exhibition financially stable and viable. I do not charge for any work I do for the exhibition, and I do not charge for entry.  I do charge for taking it to institutions, conferences and the like, but I have worked on creating and maintaining it, since 2009, through miracles and the kindness of friends, until now.  It will become too big, and it needs to be financially viable and stable.  So.  I will continue to paint those at the end of life, but I will now do as a commission.  I will continue the Soul Midwife work through the paintings, and work with families and individuals who commission me to paint, and record what they want to say, privately. I can continue the A Graceful Death idea, and concentrate on working with people outside of the exhibition. d)  The exhibition will be flexible and will be able to help to promote awareness of all sorts of end of life issues, such as, for example, Motor Neuron Disease, Cancer, bereavement and Soul Midwifery.  And I want to expand the AGD experience to include other forms of expression, like music, drums, art, storytelling, dance. 
  • Paintings.  As Artist Extraordinaire, I paint all sorts of subjects.  Recently, I have been painting Every Day Angels, a Jesus on the Tube, illustrating a new children's book, and I am about to embark on the portraits and words of the next 4 sitters for the A Graceful Death exhibition. 
  • And these painting are - oh, the Jesus on the Tube. This was for and about a venerable, much loved man of 93, a Jewish doctor, author and scholar, living in America.  His daughter commissioned it to be done fast, by mid January.  The morning that I finished it and sent an email of the image to her, he died.  I am so sorry that he won't see it, it is the most amazing Jesus on the Tube ever.  This handsome elderly doctor is painted seated on a London tube train, the station is Nazareth.  Behind him, Pope John Paul II is waving goodbye, and gathered around him, standing and looking at him with admiration, are Moses, Freud, and Jesus.  Each of these glorious men are holding books written by the doctor, and surrounding them all, are posters and references to his family and their achievements in the creative and academic worlds.  The painting will be a memorial to him, it is a testament to a daughter's love for her father.  I am also doing a Weight Watchers Angel for a lady priest in Germany, a very slim lady priest in Germany.  I am just finishing the illustrations too, for a new and wonderful children's book, about a sweet little witch girl called Isi, who has hot chocolate and marshmallows in her cauldron, and a little puppy poodle called Sweep.  The book is called Isi's Magic, and is for children between the ages of 4 and 7.  The author, Dreena Martin, and I have created a bonny, pretty little witch girl with masses of auburn curls, a green dress, a purple cloak and red boots.   I will post all the details when it is published.  I know you will all want to bulk buy. 
  • The 4 A Graceful Death portraits. 
  • No. 1 Portrait. In Tescos before Christmas, a lady tapped me on the arm.  I wanted to say hello she said. Why do I know you?  I asked, I knew her eyes, but I couldn't place her.  From the Hospice! she said.  You looked after me at the Hospice.  I am out now, and I am better.  And so she is!  I had last seen this lady in the Hospice, ravaged by her cancer, bald, weak, thin and silent. I knew she had gone home, and I thought that she had gone home to die.  Now, I saw a slender, beautiful lady, her hair a mass of soft silver curls, and I recognised her.  This lady is astonishingly articulate, she has so much to say, and I am oh so delighted to paint her and let her tell her story for the exhibition. Photographer Extraordinaire, Eileen Rafferty, has recorded and filmed a powerful interview with my new lady, and her friend, and I am due to start painting her this month. This, by the way, is another development for the exhibition, the use of video and recorded interviews.
  • No. 2 Portrait.   A dear Soul Midwife friend and colleague has introduced me to two people from her local Mcmillan unit, both of whom have Motor Neuron disease, and both of whom want to take part in the A Graceful Death exhibition.  This is a whole new kettle of fish for me.  I know nothing.  But I now know, from our initial conversations, that Motor Neuron Disease has absolutely no cure, it is terminal, and it will follow its own path whatever you may say or do.  I have learned that the only way to cope is to live life to the full with it, as it doesn't listen to anyone.  I have had an initial meeting with Mike, a wheelchair bound, funny, intelligent ex head master who can only communicate through a computer keyboard. He is teaching me much about his condition and how he and his wife live with it.  I have written an article about this meeting, which moved me, despite myself.  Please do read it, he is someone to watch. Click onto this link following, it is called I Can Still Pull The Birds.    
  • No 3 Portrait I am due to meet Julia next week.  Julia also has MND and can talk without a machine.  We have spoken on the phone, and I look forward to our initial meeting.  I will learn more about her experience of MND and what it means to live with it, from Julia.  It is very good that AGD will have 2 new portraits and stories, from people with this disease.
  • No 4 Portrait - I have yet to have this portrait confirmed.  I met an inspiring doctor, a young doctor, who has decided not have treatment for her terminal cancer.  She just wants to be a doctor, and this is what she has done.  I met her in Edinburgh, where she was speaking, and I know that she is full of insights and knowledge that we need to hear. She has agreed to take part in the A Graceful Death exhibition, and a date to start work has yet to be arranged.
  • Fund Raising for the next 4 AGD paintings!  Yes, and I have begun with a fund raising effort on the website Go Fund Me.  Well, I suggest you go do that thing right now and follow the link to see what it is all about -  I do not charge for any of the AGD work that I do.  But I have to now.  I have worked out that each painting costs between £1,000 and £2,000 to do.  This includes all the travel, the time spent interviewing, the costs of the cameras, recording machinery, the paints, the canvases and my time in the studio painting each portrait.  I am now raising funds to paint these 4 paintings for the exhibition this year, painting by painting. I have worked out that I need to raise at least £8,000 to complete all 4 of them.  Are you shocked?  Just think, it takes me about two months or more to do just one painting.  I was shocked at how much I have to find to keep this going myself.  After these, I will, as I have said, work privately on commission, to paint and record those at the end of life.
  • And Other Stuff I am off, any minute now, to the Wellcome Collection for their event What Makes A Good Death, today and tomorrow.  I will be taking notes.  I hope there is no hands on practical, I hope I won't be called upon to demonstrate my idea of a Good Death.  I have not idea what mine would be, my immediate thoughts are that it would contain swans and music and a light show, but that may just be because I am tired right now.  I am sure I will be listening to and contemplating lots of ideas from all sorts of wise and knowing folk, and I will just move amongst them all, being modestly amazed at how much they know.
  • Age UK My lovely, elegant, beautiful lady's funeral is on Friday.  She asked me every time I visited her, why exactly was I here, and I expect she knows the answer to that, plus the answer to the entire universe, now.  I shall miss her.  But Age UK has handed me another wonderful lady of 92, a modest and cautious lady who has a wealth of experience and life behind her.  It turns out she is fluent in Greek, but let it drop, because there's not much call for Greek speakers in Bognor, she says. I am amazed.
  • A Graceful Death Exhibitions.  Planned - I will be setting up at St Catherine's Hospice in Crawley in Dying Matters Awareness Week, from the 13 to 15 May.  I will be working with the Hospice to help raise awareness of end of life care, and to celebrate what the Hospice does.  Being Planned - I meet with friends in Bridport on Sunday to plan A Graceful Death and Soul Midwifery event in October or November.  We want to use the Unitarian Church there, and so I am going to have a look and a chat.  I am going to Dorset and back in a day.  After London and back.  I will be pooped, I am pooped now, I will be double pooped on Sunday.  Onwards and upwards Antonia, onwards and upwards.
  • Home the usual amount of rioting followed by excellent behaviour from my family. My lodgers are all moving out this month, nothing to do with the riots, they are moving on to better things, and I will miss them.  I am very lucky to have had lodgers who are like family.  (Except that they never riot, they are extremely sensible and well behaved).  I shall put up ads for their rooms, and show the new lodgers around with a hanky to my eyes and the occasional sniff.
While listing all of this, I began to see why my blogs can be fanciful pieces of whimsy.  I need an excuse to escape.  I am tired at the moment, to begin with, but now having written all of that down, I am exhausted.  I must add that there is more, much more, in the diary, but I am finding myself in need of a lie down and need to try and forget some of it.  And before I forget, I have 3 diaries.  Did you know that?  I have one in the studio, one in my bag, and one in the kitchen.  There.  We are back to diaries.  It is time to stop.  I need to sleep.