#1 So…My First Blog Post

Taken from Jeff Foster

So much of our lives are spent running – from pain, from vulnerability and from everyday struggle. Shed your resistance and step into the limitless ocean of the present moment.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken

– Oscar Wilde

I used to have this idea that there was something wrong with me for not being able to accept the waves and make them go away, like I wasn’t strong enough. But it’s not about me being strong enough to accept the waves. The waves of present experience are already accepted in what l am. I don’t need to accept them. I just notice right now that they are already allowed in. I don’t have to be strong enough to accept them. I’m simply too weak to prevent them from coming in anymore.

– an unknown Dutchman


#2 Welcome to the new Mike

It’s a turning point in my life. I find myself at the crossroads with a real opportunity to change direction. I can be and really want to be a better person and everyday I thank him ( still not sure I believe in god but I believe someone is looking out for me). I have been given a second chance and I am going to take it big time.

For the last 10 years, off and on, l have led an alternate life, separate from my wife, Anne. And my children, Héloïse and Orlando. A life characterized by alcohol, substances including drugs and everything that one does when high. I was an a€@$£t. But no longer.

How I am ashamed of what I have done and more importantly the pain I have caused to my loved ones.

As a result of this continued abuse, I needed to have surgery on my nose and it was during my third operation that a mistake was made by the surgeons who took more of my head than was needed. It plunged me into a coma which lasted for 8 weeks.

When I came back from my near death experience, I realised I had changed. I wanted to repay all the pain I have caused starting with my wife, kids, parents, brothers, sister and dear friends.

And this is what I am trying to do…..

#429 So…Taxing

I find myself in the tax office of Sceaux and I am surrounded by men and women who are all trying to pay their tax declaration of 2023. People of all walks of life

There was a real rush at the beginning of the day as the office opened and when I arrived , after calling them and being invited to come down in person, there was already a long queue. People of all shapes and sizes, ages and sex, payment of taxes discriminates against no one. That was over an hour ago and I am still waiting. What’s bizarre is that I am not hear to pay my tax declaration but to pay a poll tax (what I call the living tax) on my old flat.

What I immediately realise is that the world is full of so many types of people. I was never aware of all these people before. There are people here that do not have houses and or flats, those with multiple houses, those that rent out their second house, and those that cannot remember where they live exactly. All walks of life. And I am noticing them for the first time.

That’s ok. What I am happy about is that my sphere of reference has just been magnified ten fold. I know I am so much more aware, that I think can be attributed to many different potential reasons. Such as due to the accident, my changing and adapting mobility, having more time to see and notice what is around me, a inner compassion that reduces enormously my ability to judge and criticise. Whatever the reason, I am welcoming this emotion and am curious about trying to understand what I am sensing, seeing and feeling.

The old Mike would immediately move to try and have a clever answer and be the comedian. Almost a role that was played out for those that were able to witness it. But (and I use the word “but” deliberately as I am concentrating hard on replacing the “buts” with “and” in my everyday language), that is not me. At all. Deliberately playing someone I am not to get a positive reaction out of my friends. Not any more. Not only do I take it at face value all that I see or am exposed to without judgement. At least initially.

But I am conscious of leaning in and being so much more curious. I have always believed that I am curious but have never really embraced the time that it takes to really discover a person. To really get to know them. So by not only admitting to this but slo proactively seeking out the “why” and not just be content with the “what” intrigues me.

Characters from Sceaux

So here I am, noticing so many personas and characters all living in the same town as me. A leafy suburb of Paris. I mean it’s not even a city. So to recognise that the uniqueness of these characters is unheard of for me. Almost mind blowing. But recognise them I do.

What is more curious is that I do not go up to them and ask about them. That will be a future step for me. But I content myself with the fact that I notice and I do not judge. This is not a forced reaction. The word natural comes to mind.

Now I am smiling. Even if I had to pay a fistful of Euros, I get to welcome a new aspect of me. Another layer has been peeled from the onion. So Refreshing.

Tax Office Personas

#428 So…Smooth

I heard a podcast about how a speaker help a Formula One pit crew become even faster in the ability to change tires on a Formula One car. The process they hit upon was not at all to do with speed, but concentrating in the moment on making their tasks as smooth and efficient as possible. The net result was an increase in performance and reduction in time taken.

My stepfather has always suggested that if it’s worth doing , it’s worth doing quickly.

Smooth Operator by Sade

Modern thinking appears to be changing that. There is a belief that to do anything well we need to be applying 100% concentration on a single task and not multitask. I have mentioned this before when talking about my son and his ability to play a mobile game or watch a Japanese cartoon as well as listen to what I’m saying and engage in conversation with me. His point of view is that 50% attention is all he needs to have a worthwhile conversation with me! That is a moot point.

For me, I prefer to give 100% of my attention to one task and ensure that I am giving my all to do it to the best of my ability. Whether that is a talking on the phone or in person, writing my blog, having in person conversations with my close friends and family.

Going back to the Formula One example, it was noted that the pit crew by being in the flow of the moment, were able to change the tyres even faster than in a standard pit stop. Pace was replaced with smooth. Moving smoothly is more effective and moving fast.

I dont move fast anymore. I get from A to B in my own time. I allow enough time to get where I choose to be and that what I decide to do is priorités against all my other to dos and then ranked and rated In the grand scheme of things, there are things that I need to do (ranking) and then those things that I choose to do (rating).

My life is simpler for sure, but it also fuller as I am able to enjoy the time I allocate to tasks. I am writing on the bus having walked 30 minutes with my heavy rucksack to the bus station I was told the next bus would arrive in 50 minutes and as I approached the stop, my bus pulled up. Thank you 🙏 Universe.

On the bus

#427 So…Just Do It

My meditation today was all about JDI. Just do it. The Nike slogan. When we can hold our awareness in the present moment, in a calm way, we can move through uncertainty and fear in our lives. How many times have you wanted to take of huge leap but fear of doing so has held you back. Fear of the future has prevented you from doing so. Certainly has happened to me. Uncertainty of the future is why we stop taking risks.

However there is no such thing as certainty except in this moment. There is only this moment that I have the certainty of my feelings and emotions. This moment of intention. A desire to try something new. When we can stop fearing future moments and stay in the present, that’s where we find the courage to leap.

As Hugh Laurie said “it’s a terrible thing in life to wait until you are ready. I have this feeling that nobody is ever ready to do anything. There is no such thing as ready. There is only now.” I think I have evoked this kind of thinking before, and it’s my bad that I am not recollecting it 100%, but at least I am remembering that I wrote about it some time ago. So this serves as a reminder.

And then I think about why, I sometimes don’t take my leap of faith, and immediately my accent, and the remnants of that, come to mind. But in the last few days, I continue to prove to myself that I am positive and have the necessary grit and determination.

I recently read about Kintsugi, which is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — a metaphor for embracing your flaws and imperfections. “You won’t realize your full potential until you go through the tough times,” Kumai says.

I’m not sure who Kumai is but I wholeheartedly agree with the statement. For the last two days, I have leave my life as normal as possible, and still managed to surprise myself in continuing to do things out of my comfort zone.

I had a wonderful day yesterday celebrating my good friend Nick’s birthday, being amongst friends and his family family up in the hills of Biot, close to Antibes

It was such a chilled affair with an incredible feast laid on by Sammi and Nick. Beautiful food was followed by Rochus, musing and fun games for all the family.

The first was a table tennis competition, and my name was drawn out of the hat first to play Jed, a 15-year-old table, tennis champion.

Of course I was very much in the B or C league compared to him. But entering into the spirit of the game, which was fun, I did manage to have some moments of my own. And of course, I milked the applause as much as possible.

Point to the Kent corner

Another comical moment was when we went swimming in the pool, and not being shy or awkward about my abilities, I allowed myself to be pushed in by Sammi as a reminder of what she did to me two years ago in the sea of Antibes. Once in, I swam to the shallow end, about 25 metres, to be able to stand up. Many of the partygoers just stopped talking and were just looking on with incredulity.

I was completely unaware of this, but I know afterwards. Charlotte told me that, although she had seen me swimming on video, she was amazed at how fast and straight I could swim. It is comments like that, that really propel me forward in my determination and desire to continue getting better!

Fast forward to this morning and and we were driving along the sea shore. When I suggested we go for a swim. It was such a hot day and so Charlotte quickly pulled off the road and myself and Winton changed into our swimmers and went into the sea.

It was so liberating to be once again in the sea. This is the first time since last year. Very exhilarating. It was much colder than the swimming pool so immediately I just started swimming. Buffeted by the oncoming waves, the incessant oncoming waves made it much harder and more difficult to swim in a straight line. But I managed it, turned around and swim back with an enormous grin on my face.

First swim in the sea this year

Wonderful memories, and a pivotal moment in my progression. It’s such a reassurance to be surrounded by such brilliant people. I even had great chat with Nick with brother Dave in Australia.

#426 So…All over the Place part 2

Part two

I went for a walk in nature, right around the park, almost for two hours, and suddenly The pain started to disappear. I could actually feel it diminishing as I walk back to the flat.

I walked down the 50 steps down to the canal with my favourite fountain. And I sat on the bench, manifesting my desire to move my arm as if I was swimming normally. At that moment. Three very big black ravens approached my bench eagerly, waiting for some crumbs to drop from my salmon and avocado baguette sandwich. What was comical and reminded me very much of the Fox and the Crow fable, I shooed the ravens away with my left hand, which was also holding the baguette sandwich. After three or four waves of my hand, the salmon and avocado, flew out much to the delight of the ravens, who promptly put these large pieces in their mouth, and flew off squawking with happiness. I laughed at the stupidity of my actions, but put it all down to experience. I got up and walked back and met twenty twentysomethings running up and down to 50 steps as part of their exercising. I was just about to have anxious thoughts about how I was going to walk up these steps and avoid all these testerone pumping guys when the leader, amongst his words of encouragement to the runners, told them all to avoid the man walking up the steps. And then he smiles at me, and I was so grateful and happy for him. And that’s when I felt the fog lifting.

My favourite fountain of hope

I came back and remembered that I had booked a session with Smile to improve my energy levels via magnetism. I’m looking out of the window I saw Two, maybe three green macaw parrots. That filled me with a lot of nostalgia as this was the symbol of my school boarding house, and then Smile work his magic, and with the Sun shining. I decided it was time to sort out the two outstanding tasks for the holidays with Heloise and Orlando. I also packed, wrote this blog, while delivering muscle and nerve stimulation to my hand via the Saebo.

Funny old day. Off to Antibes tomorrow to see Charlotte and celebrate Nick’s birthday. Spur of the moment trip. Guess who is smiling. I am so happy for my brother and his wife in Turkey and the fact that they can restart their retreat with no need to keep one eye looking over their shoulders.

#425 So…All over the Place part 1

My head is in complete turmoil. I really do not know what is going on inside. There is lots of fog and distress and it’s causing me a lot of worry. I know I know. What is the point in worrying and it is something that is in the future and is very unlikely to happen. So does that mean I’m not worried? Rather that I choose not to worry.

I don’t know! Right now, my head is in my hand, my elbow on the desk and I’m wincing with this internal pain. I have not had this feeling for a long time . One where I am trying so hard to work out what it is that I’m thinking, working out what the answer should be and nothing is forthcoming. It’s like there is a vacuum, an empty space that I so desperately want to fill and I don’t know how to do it. I don’t even know what questions I could be asking myself to provide the answer. There is nothingness right in the front of my head. I can feel the area in between my temples and I massaging it but to what purpose?

And then I start thinking about my purpose and my inner critic laughs at me saying that I have no chance of riding this wave, of seeing my desire to help others be fulfilled. It is mocking me and I’m not able to find the necessary strength right now to defend myself against this onslaught. I slept well for me anyway and I am not sure why I feel so tired. Demoralised. Out of breath. My arm is permanently… I will change this sentence because I refuse to accept any permanence with regard to my arm. To use the word permanently in the same sentence as the world is, is producing a fire inside of me. A rage because I know what I am going through is not permanent. And suddenly I don’t feel it’s rage and this anxiety is diminishing. Not completely. Not even half. But at least it is lessening and also I know why. Because I am refraining my story.

Nature calls

Time for a walk in nature. Tiny little things seem to really cause me concern. For some reason or other, the little widget clock on my Mac in the top right hand corner has disappeared, and I must have glanced at it more than 20 times just while writing this, looking for it . It gets into my system and eats away at me. Almost to my corps. I know I don’t know whether the word corps is French or English. How has it come to this? I am a mess. I am a mess.

#424 So…Koan

I heard today “without thinking of good or evil, show me your original face before your mother and father were born?” Mighty weird! This is an example of a koan. A kind of zen Buddhist brain teaser. Koans are riddles, stories or questions used to provide deeper meditation and contemplation. They are seemingly mind boggling but at the same time mind opening. Showing me how life is full of paradoxes. Although we search incessantly for solutions, we don’t always need to track down the answer. We can sit with the question rather than searching for the answer.

This is exactly what I am doing right now. I feel fuzzy and full of cotton wool. And so I am sitting with the question “what am I feeling?”

The most famous koan in the zen Buddhist tradition is the following: “two hands clap and there is a sound. What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Remember that the point is not to ascertain a clear logical answer. So it is not about looking for the words to express the sound of one hand clapping. It is to use the question as a jumping off point. For opening my mind and embracing intuition rather than reason. For looking at problems from unexpected angles.

One hand clapping

Some people have reduced koans to being silly and nonsensical but they can be also considered as illuminating as they provide a different way of thinking about thinking itself.

I sit with it, contemplate it, practice non judgement and approach the world with a beginner’s mind.

It forces me inwards to contemplate self discovery as much as it is about finding a discovery, resolution or explanation. Humans are logical creatures who love to take action and solve problems. We want to know what things mean as quickly as possible so we force ourselves to be analytical and rational even if the way forward is to have a different approach. But not everything can be rationalised and answered.

Not everything NEEDS to be understood and comprehended like that. NOT EVERYTHING MAKES SENSE. David Byrne eat your heart out (which is a horrible expression in itself).

The lesson here is that there are not always answers to the catch 22s in your life. Koans encourage us to remember that. Instead of forcing myself to find an answer, it is sometimes more beneficial to just sit with the question.

So now what is the sound of one hand clapping?

#423 So…LAGOM

Lagom is the Swedish word for just right. Not to much not to little. LAGOM

At the moment of writing this, I am incredibly stressed, managing calls from Charlotte and from Heloise and replying to texts from Anne who are all wishing to discuss flights. I am trying to keep calm and yet there are lots of kids shouting outside, accacerbating the problem. Instead of reacting to my situation, I’m trying very hard to take a step back in real time and understand why I am feeling how I am feeling and then finding solutions to the problems. The reality of the situation is never ever as bad as it seems when they are considered as thoughts in my head. 

The late nights with the children, getting up early as I do to complete all my exercises and personal tasks, coupled with the long walk around the park in humid conditions. All contribute to how I’m feeling right now.

I listened to a podcast earlier interestingly that was around stress relief. And in times of trouble, I should ask myself three questions. Question 1, how serious is this really? Question 2 what is essential here? Question 3 how can I let it be easy? And suddenly I made it easier by letting Charlotte know that she can call me later, letting Heloise know the flight times that I found and asked her to look into it and now I’m concentrating on writing my blog Post with the window shut so the noise of the kids is reduced. That is how I can let it be easy! And of course, it is not as serious as I’m making it out to be in my head. This method quickly reduces anxiety and brings back a smile on my face.

I have had a wonderful weekend seeing the kids together. We all got on remarkably well despite curveballs like fire alarms being set off, all sent to knock us off our straight and narrow path. By taking deep breaths and remaining calm in the face of adversity, I was able to keep calm and therefore the kids were able to respond to that by being their normal selves. I really treasure the moments alone with each of them. Heloise and I watching a romantic comedy on Netflix and helping Orlando learn how to shave for the first time. Filling me with lots of pride and love all at the same time.

I interspersed the time with the kids with going swimming on Saturday and walking right around the park on Sunday. Wonderful therapy but also tiring. I also managed to watch my football team lose the opportunity of winning the Premier League to Manchester City. That is in no way a problem because it was never expected.

Keep reframing the narrative. Be here now! I love both of these mantras. They both allow me to acknowledge the anxiety I am creating for myself and deal with it. In real time.

Finally, I listened to a meditation that summed up my spirit at the moment.

So in the spirit of LAGOM, keeping the balance just right allows me to deal with my concerns and still keep time for what makes me smile and be happy. Nice!

#422 So…Clouds and Silver Linings

It’s cloudy. It has been raining but it’s not cold. But with this change in the weather comes cloudiness in my head. Or is it in my heart? There are definitely clouds in my soul. Permeates right through the whole of my body to the point that I don’t know which way to turn, want to feel, what to think anymore.

I think I have had this feeling before and I’m trying very hard to rack my brain but nothing is appearing other than a familiarity with the feeling. I have this inclination that something is about to happen. But not knowing what it is infuriates me as I am looking for clarity and purpose, rather than cloudiness And confusion.

Since I have been down in the south of France, I have not been swimming but have walked quite a bit and exercised my leg and my arm, as well as my head pretty much every day. So it could just be plain old tiredness. My body is telling me to rest and I am listening to it. However, I think it is more than that. Sure, it contributes, but I don’t believe that it is the real reason.

Rays of Sunshine and Hope

I’m sitting here on the bench, surrounded by menacing grey skies, and in the few cars going up and down road, while I wait for my appointment with Rikke, the most famous, and most brilliant acupuncturist this side of Norway. I’m really looking forward to it. As I know how much I appreciate it and benefit from it. It is funny that just thinking about that session has immediately lifted my spirits. This despondent feeling has evaporated from me and I feel altogether lighter and brighter.

But this does not takeaway from this curiously bizarre feeling inside of me, but I can’t pinpoint it. I can’t work it out.

Fast forward two hours, and after my session with Rikke, the acupuncturist, I feel like a different man. It’s as if the dank, dark. damp clouds have been turned into a ray of sunshine with a silver lining. Furthermore, I have just listened to a meditation about change and climbing my own mountain. In order to progress, we need to let go of the turmoil and plunge ourselves into the new reality. Stepping stones allow me to navigate each eventuality as it arrives by only looking at the next step, path, wood, ridge, on my way to the top. I am getting there, wherever there is. Of course it will take time. But I believe! And this is my beautiful journey so I am enjoying it as I am living it.

#421 So…Best days Worst day

The best days have inconveniences. The worst days have silver linings. But they are still the same day.

When we hear bad news, it seems that the whole day is ruined. If on the other hand we receive a cheque in the post or a rebate, our attitude to our entire day changes and we are on top of the world.

Life is full of change. It is said that the only constant in life is change. My days are on the one hand very long and yet when I look back on the day, I am amazed by all that has been achieved. It puzzles me to understand why this is the case.

Right now I am sitting on a stone surround that is protecting a beautiful tree waiting for my Orthophoniste appointment. I am so much more curious than I ever was yet I tend to go with the flow and let life happen.

I do worry. Even though I try hard to lean into it and let it exist for I know that everything has its time before something else then takes its place. What are my worries? Holidays! Holidays for the kids, where to go and what to do. But I know that if I progress the research, choice, discussion and booking all at the same time, it will not happen and I will become upset. What’s more, what does that achieve? Headaches and heartaches with little or no progress. And how do I feel? Lousy, undermined, a failure and ultimately despondent.

And now I have finished with my Orthophoniste, Laura, who has just told me she is moving to the Var, an hour or so from Antibes and means our time is coming to an end, which is sad for me but I am happy for her. Very happy for her and her partner. I am now contemplating finding another Orthophoniste, who are few and far between in Antibes or accepting that this “season” is over. Laura explained that I have made outstanding progress. It’s not perfect but good progress. Last July when I met her, she noted that I could not even remember what I did yesterday.

Laura confirmed that nobody can remember what they did six months ago. She acknowledged that twelve months ago I could not even remember what I had for dinner the night before or what I had done during the day. She confirmed that I had made rapid and incredible progress. She gave me some advice to concentrate on clarifying and articulating what I wanted to say in clear bite-size chunks. She felt that because of my daily journaling, my blog writing and my book writing that I am working my memory very hard. And it’s showing. I also need to remember that it is four years since the accident and that at my age the brain performs less than say a young twenty five year old. I resisted the temptation to say that I felt like a twenty five year old. That’s progress in itself. Less impulsive and more reflective. But it is a thought provoking comment as I do feel that time is standing still and that my recovery is all occurring in the present moment. Bizarre!! But time is marching on and I am ok with that.

So all in all sad that she is leaving but I think it’s a sign and time to end this season and open up another

Antibes in the sun
Old man with young thoughts