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Finding a purpose – or a dolphin

For many years of my life I struggled to find any sense of identity, direction, purpose or path.

I didn’t know why this was the case, or what to do to change it. It took many years of jumping in at the deep end – particularly with relationships. I hadn’t known how to form them, or make emotional connections of any kind when I was younger, and eventually I knew that I had somehow to kick-start my life into action if I was going to have any kind of life at all.

Two divorces, another failed relationship, a shipwreck of a business venture and extreme bullying in the workplace led to me having a breakdown in all aspects when I was in my late thirties.

This included having what was described later by a psychiatrist as a ‘psychotic episode’. The psychotic episode followed a period when I was desperately trying to be as positive as possible about a situation that was too much to bear. Afterwards, my brain went ‘clunk’, ‘clunk’, ‘clunk’ down into the depths of depression and I have spent much of the last 25+ years training my brain to come to terms with the past and think differently about the present and future.

In my desperate state, running on survival instinct at best, I began to realise that I was very much not alone; that many people were struggling with many different difficulties, and when I could I reached out to help them too. I decided at one point that, knowing I was going to feel crap inside for a very long time, at least if I did ‘stuff’ along the way, I’d know that I hadn’t just done nothing.

After doing loads of different kinds of voluntary work and then part-time paid work, I was able to start a full-time job again and sustain myself in that for the next 14 years. By that time I’d learnt to prioritise, and I concentrated on work to the exclusion of most other things. Working and resting didn’t offer much scope for a personal life, but it was my way of getting through. At one point I decided that, if I could achieve nothing else in life, I would make sure that my cat, Bertie, had a good one. It felt like that was enough, and I do believe it was. At that time, that was my purpose in life.

Who is to say what is important in this world and what isn’t? In finding my own priorities I finally started to find my own path. Not a well-trodden one, and not one without trip-ups and tricky spots along the way, but mine.

I was eventually able to start and maintain a fulfilling relationship and my life is continuing to open up in ways that I could never have imagined possible when I was so aimless and adrift.

I continue to prioritise on a day-to-day basis, often on things that may not seem important to other people, but they are precious to me. My purpose is to make the most of things that come my way, the everyday, the challenges, the opportunities to engage – with others, with household tasks, with being creative or being quiet.

As for the dolphin, well that’s another story!

The monster that lurks . . .

It can be profoundly difficult to acknowledge the dark side of our selves.

We’re brought up to be “nice”, “good”, “well-behaved”, and get no instruction as children on how to deal with thoughts that counter those values in constructive ways so we work it out for ourselves. As a result – because we want to please our parents and other adults who are important in our lives – such thoughts can get buried, pushed out of mind, to fester in the deepest darkest resources of our brains. Left unattended, the smallest ‘unacceptable’ thought can grow into a monster, desperate to do what monsters do, and our psyches go to great and often bizarre lengths to keep the monster behind bars.

My partner wrote the following piece about his monster. It takes a lot of courage to acknowledge the monster that is part of us and even more to write about it and be prepared to share that part of our selves with others. I don’t agree with him though, that the monster needs to be banished. In my view it is enough to see it for what it is: a thought that we can simply be aware of, trusting ourselves enough to just let it be.

Frankenstein’s Monster

The monster, with the horns and tails of a devil, lurks in the deepest, dankest dungeons of my mind, eyes burning red, teeth like vampires’ fangs, talons like dragons, hunch-backed, ready to pounce. Saliva drips from its gaping maw, the talons clutch a dagger dripping with blood.

All is dark, the blackness is solid, no light penetrates.

The air is hot, oppressive and stifling.

The smell of death pervades the atmosphere.

The monster is a chimera reflecting all my fears in one being. Its hybrid nature combines all my fears.

The shadow lurks in my unconscious, emitting negative thoughts, amplifying the anxiety.

The dread is unremitting, the torment is ceaseless.

I close my eyes.

I breathe in. Om!

I hold my breath. Ah!

I breathe out slowly. Hum!

I exhale black smoke.

I inhale bright white light.

I visualise the banishment of the monster.

The dread eases; a dim light starts to glow dimly through the dark night.

The monster disappears in a cloud of sulphurous smoke, emitting a shriek of rage and frustration.

The dismal fog clears. I see the sunrise.

(c) Trevor J. Leavesley 2023

Shoes & Boots

I desperately needed a new pair of dog walking boots and have just found the perfect pair at #shoezone.

Also bought some black patent shoes, which made me think of some patent shoes that I had when I was a child, with a buckle. I loved those shoes, as I did a pair of purple patents that I had a while ago.

I loved those purple shoes so much that I wrote a poem about them. Here it is:

Perfectly Purple Patent

No other shoe
Looks quite like you do
Purple patent perfection
You don't just give my feet protection

Your bright shiny uppers
Light up my soul
When I'm out wearing you
I can only be bold

Bright yellow stitching
A statement of strength all around
Air cushioned and confident
A complement of colours profound

I love you purple patent shoes
You're perfect in every patent way
And every time that I wear you
My heart and soul become more purple
And less blue

Time Out

I’m taking some time out this weekend – just me and Lydia – to rest and recharge. I knew I’d run out of steam and, after a bit of searching on #airbnb, found a super dog-friendly place just a couple of hours drive away.

It’s a small converted barn, built in the 19th century and perfect as a peaceful retreat.

I don’t have a coherent plan about what to do while I’m here but it involves eating, drinking, sleeping and catching up on a few things.

There is a secure grassy area so I can let Lydia out whenever she wants.

Yesterday she had a walk in the morning as usual, then I took her to a secure dog park near where we live #poochiepark before we set off to come here. Tomorrow we’re booked into a park near the barn #littlepaddocks. So today it’s a pj day for me.

I think Lydia is OK with this arrangement – she looks pretty chilled to me💕

Early Christmas Presents

I’ve had two unexpected and early Christmas presents this year. One came in a box and the other was unwrapped; both are brilliant.

After a session at the ceramics studio which enables me to make and fire my own work – – I was putting my coat on to go home, and found a small cardboard box in my pocket. When I opened it up there was a handmade and personalised Christmas tree ornament, made by a fellow potter, Jenny. What a wonderful surprise; I felt I’d already had Christmas with that gift alone.

Then came another one…

After taking my partner’s daughter and three children home after a party at our house, I started taking one of the child seats out of the car. The four-year-old – who’d declared on the journey that he was tired – unbidden walked round towards me and took hold of one side of the car seat to help me carry it into the house. He didn’t say anything, he just spontaneously did it to help me. I was so moved by this; what a sweetheart – literally, a very sweet heart.

Two Christmas presents to treasure forever.

Let it snow!

Potfest 2022

Next weekend I’m taking part in an event called Potfest in Melton Mowbray #potfest.

Maggie Baker

This completes a cycle for me that started many years ago.

Poetry & Pottery: The Perfect Partnership

There is no way I would have completed that cycle without all the help, inspiration and support I’ve had from family and friends.

And the wheel is going to keep on turning!

Bicycle pumps & bananas

The other day I went through a box full of pieces that I’ve written in the past, and picked out seven items: poems, essays, ramblings. These are the titles:

  • Stirring abroad, without … within …
  • Bicycle pumps & bananas
  • Memories of a difficult day
  • Memories of a distinctly different day to the one I had yesterday
  • Surfing the Turf
  • Ms. Carriage
  • Written on the train to London some time in May

I also picked out a couple of pieces that I hadn’t written: one about learning and the other about ‘Being Human’.

I think the most important thing that I’ve learned about being human is to be able to accept that I get things wrong because I’m human, and for no other reason.

In any case, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in my experience aren’t always clearly defined, particularly since our lives are always unfolding, never fixed or final. We have expectations based on concepts of ‘normal’ but when we can drop those then all sorts of other possibilities arise.

There was a time when I thought that if I could do nothing else other than make sure that my cat – Bertie – had a good life, then that was enough. Who’s to say that it wasn’t?

I might publish ‘Bicycle pumps & bananas’ eventually but, for now, here’s ‘ Surfing the Turf’:

I'd like to roll myself
In earth-warmed turf
Like a bug in a rug
Safe from harm

The grass would tickle
My nose and toes
The worms would squirm
Warm and

I'd have to put an elastic band
Around the roll of turf
To stop it unfolding

But if it did
I'd need to find
A sleeping bag
To ease my mind

And then I would
If I could
Sit by the river
Forever watching
In awe and wonder
At the world
Bicycle pumps, yeh!

Hard Core

Breaking big rocks into smaller rocks: the hard core approach to mental health recovery was the title of an article I wrote in 2013. It was published in a journal by the Royal College of Psychiatrists:

I was surprised, though, that there was no follow up from that. Nobody from the world of psychiatry or related fields sought to make further enquiry about the approach I was taking to rehabilitate myself back into a relatively healthy state of mind.

I think maybe it was because what I was doing seemed quite bizarre: undertaking hard physical labour involving a large sledge hammer and a lot of rocks. And yet the improvements I found in my mental well-being were significant, and lasted for several weeks after I returned to my day job, based in an office.

While I don’t believe that all aspects of my complex mental health needs would have been resolved by continuing to do rigorous physical endeavour all day, every day, the experience certainly had a part to play in my overall recovery.

And the principle of breaking things down into smaller chunks is one that I work with every day.

How else do you create hard core?

Tea towels

Trev and I went to a ‘Yes’ concert recently. The music was sensational and he bought himself a very nice hoodie from the merch stand as a memento.

I said it was a shame they didn’t have tea towels in the merch range. Trev said it wouldn’t really be in keeping with the rock band image but I don’t know why.

I’ve been to other music concerts where tea towels were part of the merch range, a favourite being Seth Lakeman. That tea towel is still going strong…

For the first time in my life, I’ve ironed a tea towel!

Whenever I use that tea towel it reminds me of my friend Rosemary, who I went to the concert with. She bought me the tea towel, and it has further sentimental value as she passed away a few years ago.

Ironically, I never dry dishes – only ever wash and drain – but I’ve got a really good collection of tea towels. I’d have bought a ‘Yes’ one though, if they’d had one, to add to my collection.

The midges danced around me … and sometimes they kissed me

Photo by Pixabay on

I’d prepared well for my trip to Iceland. But nothing had prepared me for the wild and fragile beauty of the place. And never have I felt more in tune with nature in all its manifestations as when I entered the Jokulsargljufur National Park.

Giant rock formations thrust and thundered their way out of the earth; solid and fluid at the same time. They looked as if they could be there for time immemorial and yet gone tomorrow as the cycle of changes continues to turn. Iceland is a place of mixtures and contrasts; of separateness and unity.

Young beech saplings, richly green, provided a delicate backdrop to purple meadowsweet and long-stalked buttercups. Anemones grew among the rocks and on the open heath, alongside thrift and heather.

Wandering off alone one evening after dinner, I lost myself in order to be replenished with a new sense of awe and wonder for those tiny things that keep singing and smiling and dancing and shining, night after night in that place that beckons and welcomes and yet turns cold and hostile to test the spirit and firm the resolve: the midges; the birds, the flowers.

I walked, I climbed, I turned, I fell, I closed my eyes, I clung
to a rock. I scrambled, I gasped and I grasped. I cried and
breathed and yelled and pleaded. I sought forgiveness. I felt despair (but only for a moment).

The midges guided me and the birds showed me how to flap my wings
to keep warm. I thanked them and rejoiced and sang and danced and
whistled and cried. After many twists and turns and loops and leaps, after crossing snow and stream, diving under branches, scrambling up hard rocks and across soft moss, the path became straight and broad and familiar.

Heading finally for sleeping bag and tent, I peeled off my cold,
damp clothes and piled on layer after layer, breathing warmth back into my bruised body for as long as I needed to.

I had survived but I had changed. Iceland survives but is changing. The change is being managed intuitively and generously, respectful of the needs of the wild and of those who need to escape to the wild to find a fleeting sense of freedom as a reminder of what we are, have been and always can be.

Goodbye midges. And thank you.

Au revoir Iceland. Bon voyage!

I wrote the above in 1995. Not long after that I spent two weeks as a voluntary inpatient in a psychiatric hospital, where my experience was described by a psychiatrist as a ‘psychotic episode’.

I’ve largely had to fight and find my own way through from that point to this, and never knew what to do with the piece that I wrote. In one sense it’s a piece of ‘travel writing’ and, as I feel more settled now in my head and my heart than I’ve ever been, I thought I might as well publish it on this blog.