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Winning ways

A drop of golden sun
A survey sent out to a sample of readers included an open question about which concerns they would most like life coach Jo Middlemiss to address in 2009. In this fourth article she suggests that, to help us cope with pressure, we could all do with a little ‘head-fake’ and kindness.
ome you may know that a few years ago I compiled a book (Middlemiss, 2008) about my sister Maggie, who died in 1982. During the last few weeks of her life she made a tape for her baby son to listen to when he was 21. What happened after that is another story but suffice to say the whole process, from hearing the tape to this present moment, has been a journey of immense significance for a multitude of reasons. Although I almost know the tape off by heart, I sometimes listen again when I receive a comment from someone new to it. I like to imagine what it must be like to listen to it for the first time. Most recently I realised that the last words I hear from Maggie as she tries to teach her son to sing “Doh a deer” are “...a drop of golden sun”. Why do I want to tell you this? I think it’s because I have realised we can hear a thing over and over again and not be aware of what it is actually saying to us. On one level it’s just a song but, in this context and in the world of metaphors, this tape has proved truly to be a drop of golden sun. My son has asked me repeatedly if I have watched a You Tube video called ‘The Last Lecture’. It is presented by a very youthful looking professor called Randy Pausch who is diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. It presents as a lecture about an innovative way to educate but is in fact about living life to the full. He introduces an idea called ‘head-fake’. As I understand it, this is about learning the real lesson while you think you are doing or learning something else. It’s pretty hard to recognise this at the time; usually it is only on reflection that we realise there was even a life lesson going on. My 94 year old mother needs looking after. She isn’t aware that she needs looking after, and just thinks we are visiting a lot. Fortunately for her she had lots of children and we can spread the care. I spend about two and a half days a week with her and basically I live her day. I see some pretty awful television, and quite a lot of the time we live in a loop of repetitive questions and answers. The head-fake is that I am learning patience: how to keep even a hint of exasperation out of my voice as I answer the same question for the 12th time. I have also learned that my mother and I sing well together and that she knows the harmony to hymns and songs that I know too. We are spending hours practising our turn for

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READ THIS IF YOU WANT TO • APPRECIATE LIFE’S LESSONS • HARNESS A NATURAL HIGH • HAVE MORE GOOD DAYS

the Christmas Party and getting excited about showing off to the family. My head-fake here is that I thought I knew everything about my mother but I didn’t even know that we could sing harmonies together. It has been like a gift - another ‘drop of golden sun’. I recently attended a workshop given by Dr David Hamilton on ‘The Science of Kindness’. David is a research chemist to trade and has written several books on the connection between thoughts and health. This time he introduced us to the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has many uses and many names and I can hardly believe that I had never heard of it. It is known as the love hormone, and sometimes called Helper’s High. It surges at the time of great loving - childbirth, breastfeeding - and kindness. It is a wondrous thing when science and goodness meet and agree. Oxytocin also surges when we even think of a loved one, when we do something kind or generous, when we dance or sing, or have a good cry. Spelling is not my greatest skill and I was having problems with this word. On my notes I had written oxy-toes-in. It wasn’t till I had seen the correct spelling that I realised I was wrong. However I have this mistake as another head-fake because, if we dip our toes in the water of gratitude, kindness and appreciation, we suddenly realise that it is easy to get the little surges of oxytocin that can make all the difference between a good and a bad day. It brings you back to the fact that you may not be in control of what happens in your day, but you can always control your reaction to it. You can be in charge of your daily dose of oxytocin - a natural little drug that it is impossible to overdose on. Someone asked Dr Hamilton at the workshop if there was a pill that could be bought. Indeed there is a pill - apparently it is pre-

scribed when induction of labour is recommended. However Mother Nature gives it out freely and safely; all we have to do is be kind, loving, generous and appreciative. All of these little gestures or ‘drops of golden sun’ can accumulate and contribute to life lived on the sunny side of the street, no matter what the SLTP weather.
Reference Middlemiss, J. (2008) What Should I Tell You?: A Mother’s Final Words to Her Infant Son. Brechin: Printmatters. Jo recommends Wallace, D. (2004) Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways to Make the World a Better Place. London: Ebury Press. Hamilton, D. (2008) It’s the Thought that Counts: Why Mind Over Matter Really Works. London: Hay House UK Ltd. Pausch, R. (2008) A Final Farewell. The Wall Street Journal Online. Available at: http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=mIysXLiA5s0&NR=1 (Accessed 3 November 2009). Pausch, R. & Zaslow, J. (2008) The Last Lecture. London: Hodder & Stoughton General. Jo is looking forward to Hamilton, D. (2010) Why Kindness is Good for You. London: Hay House UK Ltd.

Jo Middlemiss is a qualified Life Coach, who offers readers a complimentary half hour coaching session (for the cost only of your call). Please note that Jo moved in May 2009 and her new telephone number is 07803589959.

SPEECH & LANGUAGE THERAPY IN PRACTICE WINTER 2009

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