The sky’s the limit

IMG_2651

“When you got a view so clear. Ain’t no fear of falling. The sky’s the limit. So dive on in it. Go, fly you’re colours. So high above us. You’re just beginning. So don’t look down, cause the sky’s the limit!” – Nik Kershaw

“Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.” – Albert Einstein

The view from the ground of the sky. Now there’s a thought. I don’t know about you but I love looking at the sky. It’s patterns, and how those patterns form fascinates me.

What, a blog about the sky? There’s a thought, but no.

Have you ever used that expression ‘that’s as good as it gets’ or ‘it can’t get better than that’? I have, regularly – as a positive expression about an event. But, for some reason, my mind has wandered about these expressions – like a dog ambling through leaves, looking for its ball only to return with a stick.

Yes – here’s another blast of my unconscious consciousness, or as I like to say, a dive into my ever explored mind. Although, sometimes, it’s like trying to mine in a puddle.

It’s an interesting world, wouldn’t you say? Ignorant leaders and politicians; money makers grabbing money from those without money; national and international media reporting nonsense whilst out beautiful planet implodes and poor souls escape with their worldly possessions from one wealth-less country into another wealth-less country.

There is more money (what is money?) in the world for poverty to be wiped out. But the rich get richer – saving for their rainy day – whilst the poor get drowned in their monsoon day.

Sorry for the rant. I guess even my happy, smiling, positive disposition gets repositioned occasionally. I feel for the masses who are scraping a living whilst the few dance through opulence and frivolity that we could only dream about.

But, fear not, happy Jon is back. A quick look around the place that #TeamDuke have established as home – a rare time when in the living room I have Audrey, Ben, Liv, Ringo and Zeekee. A greater wealth a man could not wish for. And, that the starting point. What is wealth? Money? Properties? Jewellery? Flashy and numerous cars?

I guess what I’ve listed is all about materialism and, to some, that is important. Fair play, if that’s your thing, who am I to judge?

But, my wealth is right in front in me – or, as I write this, nestled right into my shoulder. It’s easy to forget, when things are hectic or one of your ‘life glasses’ (I’ll explain that one in a minute) is emptying, what you have in life. It becomes too easy to focus on what you don’t have. If I’m honest, for me, personally, it’s been one of those weeks. So, this blog is almost me telling me.

So, life glasses – what am I on about? Well, I’ve had this thinking for a long time now that in life we have a collection of glasses. Each glass represents a part of our life – family, friends, finance, employment, health, emotional wellbeing and so on. The aim is, of course, to have each glass as full as possible. If we ever get to the point where a glass overflows we look to use that surplus to improve someone else’s life. In other words, where we have surplus finance, perhaps we use it to help others.

But, then there are those times when one or more of the life glasses is rather low. And, it can then be easy to focus on that life glass being empty rather than recognising how full all of your other life glasses are.

Am I making sense? I hope so. I guess that’s been me this week. One of those glasses was definitely running low and, rather than celebrating how lucky I am with every other glass, I got caught up with being miserable and angry about the deficit in one glass.

You see, even I get it wrong. But the key is to learn, understand, refill and move on.

Anyway, the sky’s the limit, and ‘that’s as good as it gets’, what is that all about? I guess it’s my take on how we maybe programme our minds into a state of limitation.

Bear with me, but it’s just my mind exploring the English language and how we use it. Think of another interaction we have – ‘Hi, how are you?’. ‘Not bad’. Effectively we are using a double negative to say we are good. So, why not say ‘good’ or ‘great’ or even better ‘awesome’. Just a thought, but, for me, it’s been a big shift since I stopped saying ‘not bad’. Go on, try it.

So, taking not bad / good as a good shift, what about ‘that’s as good as it gets’. I have to confess to saying- ‘that’s the best’ – but I usually add ‘so far’. Here’s an example – Ben and I went to see the mighty, mighty Leeds Rhinos win the Super League Grand Final and we both said ‘ that’s the best one so far’. There’s no doubt it was, but we said the same when we won 2 years ago. It’s a magnificent feeling. The tension in the week before the game is tough to take – and that’s just as a supporter. But, the feeling of euphoria and relief when we won is indescribable. Magic!

Back to ‘that’s as good as it gets’. Is it, or is it just a case of it’s as good as it gets in your experience up to that point in your life. So, with a small shift in your words to ‘that’s as good as I’ve enjoyed so far’, or even ‘that’s so good I want more of it’ (no rude comments please, I’m not being smutty. However …………….).

What we should be doing is aiming as high as possible. One of my favourite lines from a film remains ‘to infinity and beyond’ from Toy Story. So simple, but what a life statement. So, maybe the blog should be called ‘To infinity and beyond’. But as a starting point if the sky is where we aim, to the highest point of our vision, just imagine what we can achieve. Doesn’t that sound better than ‘it’s as good as it gets’? Let’s reach for the highest point and not limit ourselves to just getting to as good as it gets. Yes, let’s get to ‘good’ but then let’s go for ‘excellent’ and then beyond.

Limitations are a mindset. A mindset is what we implant. We implant what we choose. Let’s choose the sky’s the limit. So, as Nik says, let’s dive on in it.

Live your life to the full. Love your chances to the maximum. Laugh at everything you can find.

 

Jon

Advertisements

It’s the start of the world as we know it, and #TeamDuke feel fine

img_2854

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” ― Abraham Lincoln.

Welcome onboard the flotilla that is forming alongside #TeamDuke as we continue to navigate the joyful waters of 2017. And, I’ve got to say I choose to be happy. Why not? Today, is the first day of the rest of our lives and, on that basis, it’s the start of the world as we know it.

Before I continue to paddle you through this latest splodge of words, I want to share a pretty inspirational set of words from Jay Shetty. I saw the video of this speak at a session about mental well being in the work place – a subject I have a really passion on. To be fair that passion is about mental well being in its entirety. There are too many people who are hiding their well being challenges as the whole subject on mental health still carries a stigma. That has to change.

Anyway, during an inspirational presentation from someone who bravely talked about her own challenges, she introduced a video of Jay. Please have a read.

“Albert Einstein famously remarked in a conversation with Werner Heisenberg, “You know in the west we’ve built a beautiful ship, and it has all the comforts. But actually the one thing that it doesn’t have is a compass and that’s why it doesn’t know where it’s going.”

This paradox of our times was propounded by the Dalai Lama when he said, “We have wider freeways but narrower viewpoints. We have taller buildings but shorter tempers.”

Will Smith said that we spend money we haven’t earned on things we don’t need to impress people we don’t like.

And it’s phenomenal how the same technology that brings us close to those who are far away takes us far away from people that are actually close. 30 billion WhatsApp messages are sent per day, but 48 percent of people say that they feel lonelier in general.

The paradox of our times is that we have more degrees but less sense. More knowledge but less judgement. More experts but fewer solutions.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said that the irony of our time is that we have guided missiles but misguided men. Have you ever found it perplexing that you’ve been all the way to the moon and back but you struggle to start a conversation across the road or across the bus?

It’s amazing that Bill Gates was known as the top earner of 2015 with a wealth of $79.2 billion but one in four CEOs claims to be struggling with depression.

Do we actually thrive on this paradox? Is it that this paradox actually makes the media interesting, it’s what makes journalism interesting, it’s what makes politics interesting, it’s what makes television interesting?

Is this paradox actually what we feed off and what we live off and what we talk about and discuss in our circles? Doesn’t it seem that we’ve tried to clean up the air but polluted our soul, we’ve split the atom but not our prejudice, and we’re aiming for higher incomes but we have lower morals? So how do we bring a change?

Well, it starts with us, each of us pressing pause, pressing reset, and then pressing play again.

Taking a moment to become more conscious, taking a moment to become more aware, taking a moment to really reflect on the consequence, the implication of a misplaced word of an unnecessary argument that we all know we didn’t need to have, or to speak to someone just slightly differently in a different tone, in a different voice, in a different empathy, with a different perspective. Just to really connect with people on a different level.
This, thinking out loud, started from Albert Einstein when he actually said that the problems we have today can’t be solved with the same thinking that we used when we once created them.

We need to research alternative teachings and dig deep down into these ancient books of wisdom.
We need to go back to understanding if there’s anything written in those creased pages of time that can actually reveal more knowledge and more wisdom of how we can transform our experience of life today.

Otherwise, this paradox means that every step forward we take, we’re taking three backwards every time.” – Jay Shetty (Changing the world starts with you)

Inspirational words! I strongly recommend that you look up the video on YouTube, his passion shines through brightly.

I was particularly drawn to the words towards the end – ‘how we can transform our experience of life today.‘ I think they relate to a wider context but, for me, these words really link to many other things.

As regular followers will know, I practice mindfulness to the best of my ability. I try to bring this into my life to help me to bring order and calmness – particularly when things get disorderly and hectic.

Mindfulness is still a relatively recent practice- at least by definition.

I was interested to find that here in that a report on mindfulness was published 2 years ago by the Mindfulness All-party Parliamentary Group – Mindful Nation UK. I’m amazed I didn’t know.

In the report I was drawn to the definition of mindfulness: –

“Mindfulness means paying attention to what’s happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness.

It is typically cultivated by a range of simple meditation practices, which aim to bring a greater awareness of thinking, feeling and behaviour patterns, and to develop the capacity to manage these with greater skill and compassion.

This is found to lead to an expansion of choice and capacity in how to meet and respond to life’s challenges, and therefore live with greater wellbeing, mental clarity and care for yourself and others.”

Just imagine a world where everyone on this beautiful planet that we call home paid attention to what is happening in the present moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. Just imagine.

But, reality is, everyone can. As Abraham Lincoln suggests, we can if we make up our minds to do it.

Mindfulness is a choice and, I have found, with that choice we can raise that greater awareness of thinking, feeling and behaviour patterns, and a development in the capacity to manage these with greater skill and compassion (as the wonderful Mindfulness All-party Parliamentary Group informed us).

I know I tread the boards (or some may say ‘boreds’) of mindfulness regularly but I really want to raise awareness to as many as possible. It is something that I am trying to bring into my daily routine – and, being honesty, with varying degrees of success.

However, every morning, I get the perfect opportunity when I take Ringo for his walk. Just me, the dog and his lead as we venture into fresh air and nature. The perfect time to pay attention to what’s happening in that exact moment in the mind, body and external environment, with an attitude of curiosity and kindness. To focus the moment. To filter away all other thoughts. To listen to the birds. To, at the moment, breathe in the autumn air. To focus my eyes ahead, not looking down, but at a spot somewhere in the distance. To exercise and just be. Magic!

Now, whilst I would advocate that everyone should get a dog, that’s not going to happen? However, what about everyone pledging to themselves to have a 20 minutes walk – minimum – after we get out of bed. And to use that time to – pay attention to what’s happening in that exact moment in our mind, body and external environment, with that wonderful attitude of curiosity and kindness.

And if we can’t do it at the start of the day, what about at the end? In fact, let’s try both. Get that step count working.

I know it’s simple stuff and many people will wonder what the fuss is all about. Well, here’s where to grab a piece of honesty from my privacy locker – being someone who lives with depression, which is ready and waiting to sweep in, mindfulness is a daily need to keep that depression in check. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hiding from it. I know it’s there. But, by starting the day with a mindfulness exercise – a wide awake meditation, if you like – I am training my mind to deal with it.

It’s like Jay Shetty said – it starts with us, each of us pressing pause, pressing reset, and then pressing play again. That ability to reset is so important. We all know that things happen in life where the reset button isn’t that easy to press. But, over time, through consistently practicing mindfulness it will become easily for those more difficult challenges to start fading, fading, fading.

Of course, I am just one part of #TeamDuke. If the whole collective of #TeamDuke started to practice mindfulness in earnest, and then started to share the joys of mindfulness with their friends and extended families. And they in turn did the same – it’s that 1 5 10 multiplier factor that I have spoken about before.

And, there we have it. Mindfulness. The future. If we could all embrace it, it truly would be the start of the world as we know it, and we all would feel fine.

Thanks for joining me on another cascade our if my even inquisitive mind. I’m now going to do a bit more book work.

Take care.

 

Jon

 

 

 

 

 

Sing for the moment

IMG_2830

“How can you see into my eyes like open doors? Leading you down, into my core. Where I’ve become so numb, without a soul. My spirit’s sleeping somewhere cold. Until you find it there, and lead it, back, home.” – excerpt from Bring Me To Life, Evanescence.

Think of a significant time in your life and, more often than not, a song or a piece of music can be associated with it. The magic of music. There are many times when I hear a song and it invokes a memory, and then there are other times when I think of a memory and it invokes the sound of a song.

And, so we start to rummage through another bag of words in the shopping trolley full of #TeamDuke goodies.

You will have noticed, I hope (if you’ve read previous blogs) I like to plough the fields and scatter the occasional seeds of songs from the past. Obsessed in music? Well it’s better than being lost in music. Although, don’t get caught in a trap as there will be no turning back and you, will then, be lost in music.

What in the name of Sister Sledge am I on about?

For the discerner ‘View From The Ground’ blog reader (note, the use of singular), you will have noticed a music connection with a lot of the recent ramblings that have been posted – in no specific order: –

Thinking back over the years with Ben and Liv, there are specific songs, or CDs, that invoke wonderful memories. For many, many years, Ben came with me to pick up our Friday night take away and 2 CDs stick in my mind – by Evanescence and Eminem. We listened to them endlessly – I can even pick certain parts of the journey – and that feeling of complete contentment – after all of these years (don’t get me wrong, Ben still comes with me for the take away when he’s at home. We just walk, talk, and take Ringo now as I we have local take away now). But, the power of music is incredible.

I know there are certain songs that, if we allow it, can bring through certain sad memories. It’s up to us whether we want to allow that. For some, it can be cathartic. For some, it may be an opportunity to release emotion and surely that can be good. However, I choose music as a route to remember happy events; to think about those who are special in my life; that just make me smile. I’ve now got a ‘Sing for the moment’ playlist. Maybe a compilation album to accompany the book.

But, it’s those specific songs that are just so perfect. I always remember a couple of years ago when Ben put a CD together for me for my birthday. A CD where all of the songs had a meaning. Bands such as Sum 41 – the first gig I took Ben to when he was 8 years old. He’s 23 now and been to over 100 gigs and 25+ festivals. There was Fire by Kasabian – that song brings back incredible memories of a Leeds Festival from a few years ago. Me and Ben, bouncing around in wellies like nothing else mattered. Magic! And, then there’s the song that reduced me to tears Hero by Foo Fighters. I’ll say no more.

And then there’s songs that always make me think of Liv. I remember the first time Liv saw Green Day live – at Wembley stadium. The look on her face when they hit the stage to 21st Century Breakdown. It will stay with me. Pure excitement.

Liv and I have done some concerts together. The Fray in Manchester. Liv has always said she feels uncomfortable in crowds and yet, for The Fray she pushed us towards the front. It’s the power of being able to escape; to feel part of something that music can bring. That a great band / artist can bring.

Music can also help with those ‘dark’ moments. Last year, Liv and I spent a lot of time in the car together and Biffy Clyro were a regular on the CD selection. The song ‘Medicine’ was played over and over again as we sang our hearts out. Some quite appropriate lyrics for the occasion – ‘I shouldn’t waste my time. Having you around. What was up’s gone down. You take your road and I’ll take mine. I was done talking but I still couldn’t sleep’. The singing was a real help, even though it was tinged with tears at times. No for me, for Liv and how she was at that time. We still sing it but, now, there’s a sparkle.

The music runs through us like blood. It’s very rare that there isn’t music being played. And, when the mood takes us, we sing for the moment.

And, since Audrey stepped on board #TeamDuke, more musical memories have been created.

I heard ‘Something just like this’ by Chainsmokers and Coldplay and I could immediately relate it to me and Audrey and what our relationship represented. I messaged Audrey about the song and I was overwhelmed by the underwhelming response. How could “Where do you wanna go. How much do you wanna risk? I’m not looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts. Some superhero, Some fairytale bliss. Just something I can turn to. Somebody I can kiss. I want something just like this.” miss the spot.

But, the lightbulb moment struck and the same realisation swept in that struck me. What we have is just perfect ……….. for us. We’re perfectly matched in every way. What we have is special but, to someone else, it maybe looks like a case of ‘what’s all the fuss about’. And that’s just the point and so it us with all beautiful relationships – there’s no superhero involved but it’s perfect for it to be something just like this.

As #TeamDuke we have been blessed to enjoy some wonderful gigs and Festivals. Incredible memories have been created which can never be taken away. Those moments of balling out classic songs – Basket Case – Green Day; Gold – Tony Hadley (Spandau Ballet); Don’t You Want Me – Human League; Mr Blue Sky, Telephone Line, Turn To Stone, etc – ELO; Wonderwall – Liam Gallagher; Fire – Kasabian; sing For The Moment – Eminem; Heaven – Psychedelic Furs. The list could go on. The other awesome bands. I think 70+ bands seen so far this year. So lucky.

One highlight in amongst was Green Day, when they sang Still Breathing. This is a song that became the #TeamDuke anthem at the start of the year – ‘’Cause I’m still breathing. ‘Cause I’m still breathing on my own. My head’s above the rain and roses. Making my way away. ‘Cause I’m still breathing. ‘Cause I’m still breathing on my own. My head’s above the rain and roses. Making my way, away’ (Green Day). Love it!

Music and the importance of singing for the moment, getting lost in that music. It can never be under estimated. I have imprinted on my mind such stunning memories. I also have songs that I can listen to which can invoke great memories.

I hope it is the same for you. I hope this blog gives the opportunity to sit back and think about, and then to find that song and you can then just drift away, for the moment.

 

And, so there we have it. Time to the close another trip with the good people onboard the #TeamDuke ship. Or, have we being doing the equivalent of runnin’ down the avenue? If we have, I hope the sun has being shining brightly (sorry, had to close with a final song reference).

Strangely, during a recent morning walk with Ringo, I managed to change the title of the planned book 3 times. I think I have now landed where I want to be, which, ironically (and I love a bit of irny bru), is right back with a previous title idea. Watch this space. I am kind of buzzing about the book process. Having got the title locked in, that has lead on to a few structural changes. One thing I would love to do is use some of the wonderful comments about the #TeamDuke blogs. Of course, I will need permission to use them – so, if you get a request through, please be kind 😀.

Take care in these days of world leaders name calling. Bizarre. Maybe they need to just sit down and put on some good music.

For now,

 

Jon

And I’ve been sleeping like a dog (#TeamDuke move on from yesterday)

 

IMG_2825

Have you been losing sleep? Have you been losing sleep over where the term ‘blog’ originates from? No? Me neither, however it dates back to the 1990s and is an abbreviation of weblog. Sleep well my friends.

Sleep? A state of rest where, before descending into that beautiful state of nothing, many wonder whether they will experience a dream.

Dream? ‘A state of mind in which someone is or seems to be unaware of their immediate surroundings.’

‘Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.’ – Buddha

‘Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.’ – Khalil Gibran

And, there you have it in 110 words, a pretty amazing start to the latest View From The Ground blog …………… not! But then, my dream is to ensure no blog starts identically to a previous one. Yes, there’s a couple of quotes. Yes, it’s already rambling more that an over excited hiker.

However, it’s different and, for once, it has an indirectly directly indirect link to the title of the blog – sleep!

How can a blog be formed out of talking about sleep? Interesting question, so bear with me.

From the offset of the journey for #TeamDuke, the context of sleep has taken on a different meaning. You read the studies about the importance of uninterrupted sleep. About sleep been important for the mind and body. So on and so forth.

What the studies don’t seem to analyse is when does sleep take on less importance. When do you have to be available to those endless waking hours? When do you learn that it’s not ‘all about me?’.

And, of course, the answer is when some else’s waking challenges outweigh your need for sleep. When someone needs to talk.

I learned, very quickly, last year about the importance of talking. And, I guess, although not linked to the title – maybe I should have called it ‘Help’ – that’s a bit of a theme I want to explore – talking.

I wrote a blog a while ago – ‘Talk Talk – its my life with #TeamDuke – so I know it’s a subject already trodden. However, as events unfold I want to return to the importance of being honest through talking and, hopefully, through the blog, can inspire someone who has been a closed book to open up and trill like a bird.

As previous readers know, my dream, through sharing some very personal experiences in the #TeamDuke blogs, is to inspire others to take action and to understand there is hope. And, there is always hope.

I believe some people read my words and think I’m having a meltdown; that I’m bitter towards the root cause of the starting point of the #TeamDuke; that my emotional state is of concern. I use the expression ‘he protesteth too much’ a lot and it would be a fair challenge to suggest this applies here. However, it couldn’t be further from the truth. There’s no doubt, last year, when the darkness still hung over the house, I was angry. I was upset. And, I was on meds. Worse, though, is the effect it all had on Ben and Liv. You can’t imagine! But, during our growth this year, under the banner of #TeamDuke life is good thank you very much.

So, any reference to the past is just that, a reference. It might be a reference with a tongue firmly in the cheek – that’s just me playing.

I’ve just had to read back into the blog to remind myself what I am talking about and, ironically, it’s about talking. In Britain, I believe, we are too willing to bottle things up. Certainly men are. Talk? It’s not what men do. Not real men. Real men talk about women, and sport, and flatulence (is that how you spell it?) and beer! No, my friend, real men talk and listen and are open and are proud of who they are.

So, getting right back to the subject – when someone wants to talk, the need, the real need, is not for sleep but it’s to make sure that person knows you want to listen.

This is something me, Ben, and Liv have learned and something we practice. There have been times when my bedroom door would creek open for me to be joined by Ben or Liv. They need to talk! I need, no I want, to listen. It has been so important for us all to listen. And, now, there’s Audrey. Always, unconditionally, willing to listen. Of course, my challenge is ensuring that Audrey also talks. We all have the need to talk – don’t we?

So, the morale is – speak up and don’t hold back. By doing so, it will help you to forget about yesterday, to enjoy today, and to plan for tomorrow. And to, over time, let it be.

Then, of course, there are those nights when sleep is available to you and it wants to embrace you. But, our mind is working overtime. Strangely enough, for me, the cure came when I stepped into helping Ringo cure from a rather horrific ear infection. I decided to let him sleep in my room so I could monitor him. Great idea at the time. However, not being an expert in the mind of a dog, I did not appreciate the routine that would be built into Ringo’s thinking so, weeks later, guess who thunders upstairs when I say I’m going to bed? Audrey?????? If only. She’s so mini Ringo sweeps her out of the way when she’s here, in his excitement to claim his spot on the bed. Well, actually, just to claim the bed.

And, the wonderful thing is, since Ringo has been joining me on the bed, I really have been sleeping like a dog. Blissful, restful sleep (apart from last night, when my ageing bladder wound me up). He’s very calming and always willing for a morning hug without wanting a coffee (😀). Who’d have thought it.

So, at that happy point, I will bring another blog to a random end. I hope, at the very least, these words have caused a smile, so thought and, hopefully, you won’t be thinking that was a minute of your time to that you’ll never get back.

 

Jon

 

 

#TeamDuke, the journey aka don’t stop believing

IMG_2795.JPG

“Let’s make this the best year yet” – Me and then Ben, and then Liv!!!! – 01 January 2017 and beyond.

Hold on to that feeling, indeed.

Welcome to #TeamDuke taking a view from the 2017 ground to date. This follows on from the latest blog. Well, I wouldn’t call it a blog. ‘Ben speaks’ was so much more. Truly heartfelt words which, in reality, should never have needed to be written.

“Blood makes you related. Loyalty makes you family”.

You know what, I’ve started nearly all of this year’s blogs with a quote. So, let’s shake it up.

“Where do animals go when their tails fall off? ………………………. The retail store”

Perhaps, I’ll stick to the quotes.

As those close to me, I like to reflect. In fact, anyone who has the misfortune to enter into any kind of conversation with me will know I like to reflect. Perhaps I should do a blog – Mirror Man. Hold that thought.

But, for a whole host of reasons, I have been reflecting on 2017, and unlike my reflection in the mirror, it made me smile.

Strangely enough, Ben was commenting about how good things are and how we are now at a point where, if we look back over, let’s say, a year, we can see development. We are also at a place of enjoying the day and looking forward. Such words are music to my ears and emphasised why it is important that you don’t stop believing and that you certainly should hold on to that feeling.

I know I have already charted the course of #TeamDuke through the waters of the year so far. But, in reflecting through my rear view mirror, it has been so heart lifting to understand the changes that have occurred. And through that understanding, then to be able to see clearly through the windscreen to the road ahead. There’s no doubt that there will be unexpected turns in the road, a few unwanted bumps. But, I feel we can see where we are going as we head forwards.

From a person perspective, to see how Ben and Liv have grown throughout the year. To see how they have been strong, for themselves, for each other, for us as #TeamDuke, and for others when they falter.

To see Ben, with a new job which has given him confidence in himself and gives him real opportunity to develop in a media related role. I’m so proud of him. As he starts a relationship with the wonderful Gaby. He’s a tower of strength and a beacon of love. Always there for others, always there for a chat, always there with that twinkle in his eye as he lines up the latest wind up. There’s no doubt that the year has brought its challenges for Ben, but he’s faced them and won. Ben brings a smile into any room!

And, then there’s Liv and her development. Getting ready to relaunch her university life. The way that Liv has grown throughout the year is an inspiration to anyone. Her bounce back ability has been incredible. I have provided a backdrop of the challenges that Liv has faced – but have wanted to maintain privacy on the true pain she has suffered – but this blog is a celebration of where we are now. Liv has been surrounded by some awesome friends and she has shown incredible strength and maturity and I am proud of her.

Ben and Liv have been my inspiration and light through this journey that we have been on. There’s no doubt I have lost my way on occasion, but Ben and Liv have taken my hand to bring me back onto the right path.

And then there has been the welcoming of Audrey into #TeamDuke. I know I have said it before, but Audrey wears the term ‘unconditional love’ like an invisible badge. She’s there for everyone and anyone who needs her. A real quality of Audrey is that she doesn’t know how special she is – and fen though I try to remind her every day. I am blessed – yes, blessed – to have her in my life. And #TeamDuke is all the better for her been with us (not forgetting her priorities are Eilidh and Liam).

I’ve already written about our animal house. The house bossed by a cat – Zeekee – and cared for by a dog – Ringo. When I say cared for, I mean the ‘spiritual’ care that only an animal could bring.

When one of us is getting wound up, upset, or angry about something, Ringo, without any prompting, just wanders over and plonks his head on your leg giving you those eyes that say ‘what’s up buddy?’. Awesome.

Over the last few days, I’ve come up with the phrase ‘be like Ringo’ – to be applied when things feel a little crazy, a little frustrating. If you’d have told me this time last year that I would have such love for and such understanding of a dog, I’d have barked myself silly. And let’s not forget bum wiggling Susie – Audrey’s dog. Again, the love she gives is incredible.

Of course, Zeekee has been with us for nearly 2 years now and she’s seen her share of ups and downs and ups again. A beautiful cat, and a perfect pal for Ringo. She’s definitely the boss – but then I’m bound to say that. As we do with all females in our lives, we let them feel like they’re the boss. 😀😱

Love, love, love. Yes, as Messrs Lennon and McCartney said, ‘all you need is love’. A subject that I have covered many times before and will cover many times again. Love can pick you up, and it can help you to understand how totally lucky you are. Love is the touchstone of life.

And love has been the feast upon which #TeamDuke has fed at a time when it could have felt that we were starved of it. When you’ve had love and then it turns out that the love was a lie, at least in the way you believed it was shared, that hits you in the pit of your soul.

But, when true love, unconditional love, is fed to you, the taste stays with you even when you are feeling uncertain about your situation.

Emotionally, there have still being times when this year has felt like riding a stormy sea but, in the main, it’s been a river cruise (all these water references are effecting my bladder). I’ve chartered our well navigated journey over the course of the blogs this year and to all of the many, many stars of our show, thank you, thank you, thank you (last year, 3 was a concept introduced to me as being significant. Nah, I just like repeating myself).

‘Ben Speaks’ gave thanks to our family / families and friends. There’s also The Ramsden family who I have name checked before. But I will always be indebted to the light that they brought in the dark times of #TeamDuke. And now our lives are full of light Steve and Susan join in with our good times.

There are the many, many people who have reached out to us on Facebook. We are so lucky to have such support.

I should also mention Liv’s gaming friends – in Belgium, in Denmark, in the USA and everywhere else in between. You will never know just how grateful I am for the belief that you showed Liv. You are truly wonderful people.

And, so, there it is. Our journey so far. As we sit here and look in awe at where we are, one of our learnings has been to always, always accept offers of support and love. That support and love is the water that helps our roots and strength to grow and flourish. With that growth and that strength, we can the, always be willing and able to give.

Never doubt it, love will find you. Let it happen, and when it does don’t forget to share it.

So, as I bring another humble blog to a close, I have to admit to being in awe of Liv and Ben for their recent postings – ‘An open letter from Liv’ and ‘Ben speaks’. The responses have been quite overwhelming. Both postings were written with love, not anger. They were written from the heart. They were written with the intention of reconciliation, not to divide or isolate. These are 2 young adults who had their worlds ripped apart through an act purely self focussed, self absorbed, and with no thought for their feelings. An act which continues to hit them in the pit of their emotional make up. And yet, no response or acknowledgement from the person they are appealing to. The person who out poured on Facebook due to something read that caused reflection, and who then records a message criticising those who challenge her and her soulless partner. If that sounds harsh, sorry. As I said, the posts from a Liv and Ben were filled with love, but the response to their attempts to reach out – nothing. Whilst I understand she is not now on Facebook, perhaps if one of her ‘followers’ read this (and, yes thank you, my emotional well being is still intact – although that may be questioned if they know where I’m writing this. Please learn to differentiate between parental frustration and irrational comments), please let Ben and Liv’s mum know they say ‘hi, how about getting in touch, we love you’.

Having said all of the above paragraph , we don’t stop believing in #TeamDuke, we continue to hold on to that feeling because all you need is love. And we have an abundance of love, love, love.

 

Jon

 

Ben speaks (#TeamDuke)

IMG_2788

The following are the words of Ben – my inspirational son. The words are written from the heart, with love, and are published in the hope that they will reach the target ‘audience’. I also want to publish them to show that there is light after dark, there is hope after despair, and wherever and whenever there is love, good will be the result.

I’m not entirely sure how to start these things, so I’ll start how Dad loves to, with a cheeky quote (although Im pretty sure there is nothing remotely cheeky about this quote, other than taking the pi** out of Dad”

“Triangular sandwiches taste better than square ones.” – Kay, Peter

Right now that’s done, onto the real reason I’m here. As many of you may, or may not know, this past year (give or take a few months), has been a hectic one, and probably the hardest of my life. It feels appropriate I write this blog on the 5 year anniversary of my incredible Grandad passing away, whom I share many treasured memories with. A wonderful man, married to a wonderful woman and Gran. Unfortunately both are watching down from the heavens now, but I live to make them proud. They made this family everything it ever is, and everything it ever will be. I love them both dearly, and miss them greatly.

The song Angels by Robbie Williams is a song I used as a strength at the time, a song me and Mum used to relate to each other. A song we listened to around the passing of Grandad, because it allowed us to release our emotions. “She offers me protection, a lot of love and affection” etc, this were lyrics I related to Mum, because she was my angel sent from heaven. Spent many of special mother and son moments together, and I was very lucky, so lucky to call her my Mum.

Unfortunately this paragraph takes a little turn for the worst. So, as many of you may know, my Mum walked out on the family over a year ago whilst I was away having the time of my life in America. She “found the light”, and ran away with Rich(ard), a man who shared a similar unrealistic dream of saving the world, and similarly left a wife and two sons behind. Me and Mum were a tight as you could be as a mother & son, inseparable, we were the same person. She was my emotional support, and my rock whenever I was feeling down. So in July 2016 when she walked away from her family, is for the first time really, where we found our roads taking different turns. I chose to stay with my Dad & Sister, and she chose to run. I’d be lying if I said even now, my heart doesn’t break a little everyday when I wake up and realise she isn’t just downstairs for a chat. The whole process felt like mourning, she was alive, but not the Mother I knew and loved it. It genuinely felt like a death, and was one of the worst feelings I’ve ever felt in my life. To see the affect it had on my Dad (who I’ll get onto later), and my sister was heart wrenching. I knew I had to stay strong for them, even on the days when I wanted to break down and turn into a recluse, I knew I had to stay strong for them. I also knew I’d made the right decision, because family for me is everything, family is my divine.

Fast forward a year, and things regarding Mum are possibly worse. She had deleted Facebook, and told me and my sister she’s cutting contact. We haven’t seen her for over a year, and again it has caused a great amount of emotional outpouring, and even caused me to shed a tear or two. If anyone knows me well enough, they know I don’t cry! But it allowed me to release my emotion and carry on being the strength for my family. All I truly want from her is a sign, some human emotion that she still cares. It’s upsetting reading her open letter on Facebook. All I can impress on people is that is not Mum, it’s what she has been turned into by people who now coward away, and try and hide behind what they’ve done, and instead now turn on the people they previously called their friend. It takes a lot for me to write this down, I’m a closed book and only open up for people I feel a true connection with, and trust. This has possibly been my greatest learning curve in life, and there is no doubt I have come out a stronger person.

The truth is though, we as a family now are stronger than ever for so many reasons and I am happier than I ever have been, and content with the course life is taking. I have a new job, a career driven job and everyday learning something new, and gaining a tremendous amount of experience. A girlfriend (who’d have thought it). Gaby, all though only in my life for a short amount of time, has shown a tremendous amount of courage herself and has been there for me when I was possibly at my lowest. It took me some time to realise it, but I feel I have truly met someone special and someone who I can be myself around, and makes me incredibly happy. My job, working in media for the first time in 2 years has also provided a timely boost, and the start of a new era.

I have my music, music to me is cathartic and switches me off from the world. Although bands like Architects may seem like screamy nonsense to some, to me they are more than that. There music reaches out to me like nothing else can.My sister Liv is moving onto far greater things, and has the fire in her eyes that had be extinguished so cruelly over a year ago. I am prouder of Liv than I could ever tell her. She has overcome adversity and come out fighting! Dad, my hero and my best friend. Taking on the role of Dum (Dad & Mum), even the household chores! This man has been a pillar of strength, and has held me and Liv up when all we wanted to do is fall. I could sit here and write for hours, but he knows, he’s saved us both. He’s everything I want to be, and couldn’t be prouder of everything he does. Audrey, the wee one. The support she has offered has just been off the scale, she has offered me and Liv a female figure to turn to. To her I probably give my biggest thank you. She’s taken on a load that she really didn’t have to, but she cared, she showed that she cares, and that was massive to me, Dad and Liv. She’s a great laugh and just fits in to our home perfectly.
There are too many people to thank, The Wallers, The Dukes/Ashby’s, Kathy, Cathy, Liam, Connor, James etc, the list is endless, but you know who you all are.

I struggle to put this kind of thing into words. We as a family now are at a great point in our lives. If Mum was ever to return I’d welcome her back with open arms. Despite everything that’s happened, I love her dearly, and if anything, the last year has made me appreciate the time I had her there 1000x more than I did.
We’re closer now than we ever have been. Keep an eye out for Dad’s new one, and he’ll tell you all about it.

 

Ben