Back to my back..

It’s a cloudy, grey, drizzly day, I am full of cold, coughing and struggling to breathe through my nose, lacking both sleep and energy, unable to taste or smell; and yet today, I cannot feel anything, but gratitude. Today is my CES birthday, a two year anniversary since my life-changing emergency spinal surgery. CES stands for Cauda Equina Syndrome, induced by a spinal cord injury that can provoke paraplegia, or a range of mobility issues, affects bowel and bladder, and pretty much everything from the waist down. I’m often asked what caused my spinal cord injury, and the short answer is: ‘I’m not sure, but an accumulation of events led to a disc gradually slipping and impinging on the nerve root’, this is the long answer:

I didn’t get my CES from a dramatic, adrenalin fuelled accident such as skiing or sky-diving, I didn’t acquire it in the aftermath of some dreadful car crash or a freak disaster, or even in the noble act of pregnancy or giving birth, nope mine was a boring, gradual onset of increasingly worrying symptoms, as I stoically (but stupidly) persevered with a bad back, just living an independent life, persisting in thinking I was stronger than my reality.

Looking back, there were several signs that there was a problem, but it is only in hindsight that I have been able to connect the dots, and see the warnings too late for me. I suspect my journey from Greece to the UK in December 2014 started the problem. I had left Greece in my trusty, 18 year old, Ford Fiesta, ‘Rubini’; a lovely old lady with relatively low mileage for her age, but holes in the floor, a disconnected (faulty) heater, and inadequate windscreen wipers. She was perfect for the few miles drive from my island home to the beach, and a fortnightly trip across the mountains to the main town, for vet visits and provisions, yet I had taken my chances and pushed my luck taking her to Southern Italy, where I had intended to spend my first winter with Platonas, my stray dog puppy. However, the home (and associated car) in Italy didn’t work out, and I figured my best option was to stuff everything back in to the still sandy Rubini, with Platon curled up neatly on the passenger seat beside me, and drive as far as I could towards London; hoping that if I fell short, it would be close enough that someone would help me, without having to distress Platon with an experience as aircraft cargo.

We were driving through the most breathtaking scenery, but equally as terrifying, road out of Italy, which was loaded with heavy cargo lorries from the port of Genoa. The AutoFiori (Autostrada A10) passes through Liguria, across a steep and sprawling hillside, though a series of tunnels and viaducts, sometimes plunging you into echoing darkness for almost 2 km, before ejecting you onto vertiginous viaducts, precariously perched high above ravines in couloirs that stream to a sparkling sea; almost too beautiful to take your eyes off, except that the road is too narrow, too fast, too busy and wayyy too dangerous to take your eyes off either. As I carefully negotiated my way through the perilous barrage of trucks and juggernaut lorries, in my underpowered old lady of a car, I suddenly felt a stabbing in my heels, too intense to ignore. I suspected I had simply tied the laces of my trainers too tightly, but remember first struggling to untie them whilst driving, and having to pull over at a service station to loosen them. I must have stepped out of the car to stretch my legs, completely unaware that I was relieving the pressure on my spinal cord, caused by a seemingly innocuous seating position. Anyway, I carried on my journey, making it all the way back to London, having a fantastically, wonderful adventure on the way, and irritatingly tight shoe laces (or so I thought) completely unaware of the damage I was doing.

After a short winter period in London, I had resolved to sell my home of 20+ years there, looking for something more dog friendly to accommodate my darling, but decided to wait until after another summer in Greece, so I packed up the house to rent it for the interim. My back ached from carrying heavily laden boxes of books, clothes, kitchenware, everything, into the garage; but you know, it was just a bad back, so I kept going. It was a bitterly cold winter, as I walked Platon round the sprawling graveyard, with glittering frost and plumes of our warm breath in the biting cold air, and yet despite the sub-zero temperatures, I noticed one foot was always pleasantly warm as if I had a heating system in the sole of my right boot. It took me a while to address, as it didn’t hurt, in fact it was a lovely contrast to the blue, cold toes of my left foot. But, since I realised it was a neurological issue, I eventually presented it to my GP, who dismissed it with ‘well if it doesn’t hurt, why worry?’ and I foolishly left it at that.

My drive back to Greece in April 2015 was in a car I bought ‘for Platon’, a Toyota Rav 4, with a much higher seating position, and much more room for my height, Platon, luggage, everything. We had a good journey down, apart from a strange bout of nausea and breathlessness, as I headed through the now familiar but no less intimidating deep tunnels through Liguria. I wondered whether it was purely psychological, but there was a lack of rationale to the feeling, I wasn’t afraid in my mind, despite my symptoms, which I eventually put down to an upset tummy, but I am now not so sure, and wonder whether somehow the duration of the journey, or even the memory of my stabbing heels was another unheeded warning.

My back was often a bit sore, I had packed up 20 years of accumulated living, well ok, ‘stuff’, into boxes, traipsed them down at least one, mostly two flights of stairs to the garage, then spent a week driving, and lived with a loving but stubborn dog of around 30+ Kg, whom I was often impatient enough to pick up, when his mood and mine differed, such as when he didn’t want to get in the car, and I did, for example. Then I found Leo (timid, terrified, and bearing the broken bones, bullets and many wounds of his abuse), and had two darling dogs to manage. They were absolutely fine most of the time, but Platon became reactive on the lead when I walked them together, I suspect in a protective manner of his much adored and fearful, little ‘brother’. I was probably a comical sight, walking along the curvaceous mountain roads, with Platon lunging and barking at anyone or any vehicle that approached us, as Leo hid nervously behind my legs, and leads tangled the three of us together. Fortunately they are quiet roads, but still, it wasn’t an easy walk for a bad back.

Then the storm came, we have some wonderfully dramatic electrical storms on the island, the thunder crashes (Zeus moving the furniture, as my dear friend Hilda quips), and lightening forks through pink and purple night skies. The rain relentlessly hammers on the glass balcony doors, and seeps through the cracks if we don’t secure the shutters, drumming on the roof and drenching absolutely everything! The electricity often fails, and we have to unplug the internet for fear of blowing the modem, so there’s little chance of anything other than watching the storm by candlelight, or sleeping. The dogs were excitable (Platon) and panicked (Leo), and as I was trying to keep them calm and hunker down for the night, I heard a faint scratching at the door, then mewing that grew with intensity. Dressed in my pyjamas, I manage to keep the dogs inside as I ventured out onto the step, finding a stray cat and her kitten, crying for mercy. My neighbours, the Russian ladies in the apartment below ours, were great cat lovers, and I remembered seeing a cat box on the wall of their patio. Thankfully, it was still there when I got soaked to the skin to fetch it, and after wrestling to keep the dogs inside and retrieve a dry towel for them to lie on, the cat and her kitten were keen to get in it. I struggled once more with the door, trying to keep the two dogs in as I brought in the cats; I lifted the not particularly heavy cat box, and felt a sharp stab in my lower back. It brought me to my knees, and as I knelt hunched over the crying kitten, with my wet hair plastered to my face, and rivulets running down my neck, on my knees, in the storm, on my doorstep, I did wonder how comical this painful story would be in the telling! I eventually managed to prize the door open, and slide the cat box inside, before crawling to bed, with Platon and Leo whimpering, seemingly sympathetic, as they settled beside me.

I spent about 3 weeks hardly moving from my bed, my Italian neighbours kindly took the dogs out for toilet walks every morning, my landlord gave them a quick walk some afternoons, and plentiful parcels of food arrived from friends and neighbours; such is the Greek virtue of philotomy, my back hurt like hell, but I was never hungry! The lovely local physiotherapist made house calls, and was reassured that the pain was only in my back and hadn’t radiated down my leg, and the doctor handed out pain-killers like sweeties.

Eventually I started to feel more able, and regained mobility, enough to take the car for a service in preparation for my now delayed journey, back to London. I set out early, to avoid driving in the heat of the day, leaving the dogs at home with the balcony doors open so the air could circulate, and they could lie watching the sail boats bob along across the still blue sea below. It seemed strange to be completely alone without their constant endearing company, and I breathed in deeply the solitude of my journey, across dusty mountain roads, strewn with lazy goats that dawdled precariously along the cliff edges. Whenever I approach the place where I first found Platon, a remote road, far from any villages or habitation, my chest starts to tighten, and I experience an emotional reaction; sometimes tearful (that poor, sweet, soul, left to starve and suffer), sometimes angry (those bastard monsters that could perpetrate such an act of brutal cruelty) and that day was no different, except that it was cut short, by amazement, and another Puppy! Poppy (short for Penelope) as she became, was a few months old, skinny and cowering in the road when I saw her, I stopped the car, and cursing that for once I didn’t have any leads or even treats on me, approached her very slowly. I squatted a few metres from her, and let her draw near, which she did tentatively at first, before planting herself submissively between my knees. I gently stroked her dusty fur, feeling her skinny ribcage and spine too easily, noticing the wounds on her hind quarters, wondering what I was going to do; but knowing I couldn’t leave her abandoned here in this wilderness to starve to death. I stood and sighed, before talking gently to her as I slowly walked over to the car with her following, opened the boot, into which she jumped without waiting for me to ask or change my mind. So suddenly I had three dogs to take back to the UK, well 4 actually, as I had already agreed to take Dexter, another dog to a home I had found for him in Switzerland en route. And so I must add a car journey, mostly alone with 4 dogs, my luggage and a bad back, for a week across Europe to another thing I inflicted on my poor back, when it was already struggling.

Once back in the UK, I tried not to drive too much for a while, I was tired, my back was still sore, but the easiest way to walk three untrained dogs, is to take them to a secure paddock (20 minutes drive away), and let them chase each other around for an hour. It wasn’t ideal, but it was manageable. I started studying canine behaviour, and found it impossible to sit through the lectures, standing at the back of class trying to stretch out the odd feeling in my leg, and then grimacing as the sharp stabs returned, just before a trip to Athens for a wedding. I remember at the airport, wondering why I had even contemplated anything with a heel, as my grey suede knee high boots weren’t exactly towering, but they definitely had a heel.. so I purchased some foldable pumps in duty free, a little leopard print pair of salvation, worth every single penny!

I arrived in Athens to be greeted by an old friend, a gorgeous English girl from our modelling days, decades ago. She warned me she was struggling with a dodgy knee as she whisked me through the streets to her home, where we collapsed on the sofa, and I suddenly couldn’t get up again. Every time I moved the shooting pains attacked, but you know, I didn’t think it was anything serious (?!?). So the two of us managed, we hobbled around together, laughing at our predicament, and gritting our teeth as we stoically soldiered on. I attended the wedding, even managing to dance a little in my newly purchased pumps, but after the frivolity faced another 4 hours seated on an aeroplane back to London, which really added insult to injury, as far as my back was concerned, literally.

The next day, having missed my dogs desperately, I drove them to the paddock for a run, except that I started to feel light headed and nauseas as I joined the motorway, and as fought to keep panic at bay, suddenly realised I couldn’t feel or move my right leg. This is not a pleasing revelation, whilst driving in excess of the speed limit on the M1, and I quickly searched for a safe solution. Fortunately there was very little traffic about, so I headed over to the hard shoulder (emergency lane) and braked shakily with the handbrake. I struggled to get out of the car and stumbled to the barrier, where I leant over breathing deeply, focusing on the toes of my boots, trying to stop myself from fainting. Again the change of position must have removed the impingement from the nerve, as I realised as I got my breath back, that I had regained mobility, if not all of the feeling in my right leg again. I made it to safety, but the pain when seated was excruciating, as if the muscle in my right thigh was tensing involuntarily, and I had to stop every 5 minutes to stand and relieve the pain.

I went back to my GP insisting on an MRI as quickly as possible, and endured the most painful car journey, lying agonizingly across the back seat, to get to the appointments. On receiving my results, the GP informed me that he would refer me to physiotherapy, despite having informed him of what I now know to be red flag symptoms, and I struggled through Christmas and New Year, with an irritatingly persistent urge to urinate, without passing much (neurogenic bladder), and what I thought was an upset tummy (impaired bowel control). Eventually, impatient with the GP’s tardy referral, I booked myself to see an osteopath locally, who took one look at my MRI, and recognised my symptoms, before sending me immediately to A&E (ER room), where I was operated on ASAP. (You can read that episode in my previous post: When I woke from surgery, my heels felt as if they were being stabbed with hot, sharp knives, which led me to discover that they are the site of the insertion for the affected nerves, suddenly the early warning signs made sense.

My outcome is incredibly lucky; I have almost full mobility, although two years later I am still working on building my core strength, and still can’t lift anything heavy, or even push a full supermarket trolley. Despite my initial fears, and necessity of a second emergency surgery, I am able to use the toilet normally, and don’t have to rely on the catheters, as I feared so dreadfully. Most of the saddle-numbness has disappeared, apart from a small area on my right thigh. The PTSD I suffered post-surgery, seems to have abated, I haven’t had a panic attack for at least 6 months, but I am still careful about driving on motorways, especially in the dark.

I know from the CES support forums that I am definitely one of the fortunate ones; many of my fellow sufferers have had to adjust to life in wheelchairs, or with walking frames and AFOs (Ankle Foot Orthosis – plastic supports). Many people with CES suffer with incontinence (both types), and rely on catheters and unpleasant evacuation techniques as part of their daily routines. Many people’s relationships fall apart, they lose their ability to work, and suffer with debilitating depression, and isolation, as a result of their CES. Whilst my surgery wasn’t life-changing in those ways, it has given me perspective, I no-longer strive to be fitter, faster, stronger in the gym; I am content to be able to walk the dogs and carry smaller hand bags. I’ve found a true appreciation for simple pleasures, and take time to reflect on my abilities, rather than dwell on my inabilities or failings. I am also acutely aware of an increased empathy for anyone that struggles with mobility issues, and hope that my increased awareness is reflected in increased kindness towards others.

So, a little back ache at the end of the day, is not something I can complain about, I might not be able to ski or ride horses again, but I can walk my dogs; and trust me, the little things really are the big things, sometimes we just need a little perspective! Please take care of yourselves, especially your backs, and if you have any suspicious symptoms, please insist on a thorough investigation, and don’t let doctors fob you off with their lack of concern or failure to take you seriously. Love & blessings, Hxx

{Photo: Rubini, with Platon and I on board, Greece 2014. Words, by me, Hayley Darby © 2018}

If you want to know more about CES here is a useful little video:

The writing in between..

country morning

I used to write in the mornings, after waking slowly, languishing in my hypnopompic state, and savouring my emergence into wakefulness. I liked to recount my thoughts and realisations over a latte, reclining on the awesome white sofa, before they got lost in the misty memories of my mind. My days started with the exploration of self-reflective studies, before dashing off to work, where I found time to ponder and write in the moments between. The moments between A and B whilst travelling, often on tube trains that shuttled swiftly underground, from one side of London to the other. The moments between patients, a temporary escape from writing up notes and checking emails. The moments between the things I should be doing, a break in responsibilities and ticking off the endless lists of chores to be done. Now those gaps in my day don’t seem to present themselves, not because I’m busier, but by contrast, because those gaps in between have stretched to accommodate long walks, informal studies, designing, and being blissfully happy.

Now I wake in the mornings with my three dogs pressed into my body, waiting for signs of consciousness to present me with wet noses for kissing, and soft bellies for tickling. Platon usually stretches his full length (he’s not a small dog), whilst Leo jumps up to stand and peer into my face, and Poppy leaps off the bed to sit bolt upright beside me and chatter away (not barking, but that gentle noise dogs make, as if they are trying to verbally communicate). After I’ve paid them all sufficient attention, and acknowledged and returned their affection, I get up to raise the blinds, and creep back into bed to admire the view of rolling countryside, that stretches greenly across the valley, to the church tower a top the distant hill of the horizon. The dogs tend to take turns on the window seat, pushing their noses up again the glass, before settling back on the bed for our morning ritual of treats and cuddles. They are less enamoured by the view than the idea of chasing round the garden to determine its nocturnal visitors, so I buy myself a few moments of snuggles as my mind and body wake up, with some biscuits kept by the bed for this purpose. Then I grab a thick, shawl cardigan, and shove my toes into substantial slippers, as the dogs bound down the stairs ahead of me, to wait patiently for doors to be opened, so they can charge round the beach hedge at any wildlife that tarries unsuspectingly.

As I brew coffee in the bright farmhouse kitchen, I snatch a few moments to check on my social media accounts, and then if it’s not raining, swap slippers for wellington boots, and take my latte out into the garden to watch the dogs and inspect Mother Nature’s artwork. I am new to gardening, but enjoying it immensely, and my newly acquired garden is full of exciting plans and discoveries. Once coffee is done, the dogs are ready for breakfast, so I feed them and have mine in front of emails and admin. This is usually brief as I have three dogs waiting for walks, and I am keen to get out and on with my day. I walk each dog separately, they are all previously abused and abandoned, and each has their separate issues that we are working on. Our walks are opportunities for valuable one to one time, some training, and more importantly counter-conditioning and desensitisation for their individual fears and frustrations.

We recently moved to our new home in the country, a 16th century thatched cottage, on the edge of a delightfully friendly village, in quintessentially English countryside. We have a large garden for the dogs, and lots of wonderful walks, right on our doorstep; through tunnels of trees, or across fields of cows and horses, along pretty hawthorn hedged lanes, and over grassy meadows. I walk for approx 3 hours a day, which is great for my back, following spinal cord surgery (January 2016), and I walk in gratitude for my stunning surroundings, my darling dogs, our happy home, and this peaceful time in my life. I tend to take lots of photos of the changing season, as I notice details here and there that charm me, and of course lots of the dogs! (You can follow me on instagram under PureNourishment, a few people have copied the name, but you will recognise my account by the profile pic 🙂 ) I am also keenly aware of the desire to write again, I have so much to be thankful for, and really want to document this happiness, (which is pure contentment), of this chapter in my journey. I just have to figure out finding the best time to write, in-between those moments of magic, gratitude, abundance, joyfulness, and snuggles with the dogs 😉 Love and blessings to you all, Hxx


Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest. Words by me, Hayley Darby © 2017

Dear 2016..


Dear 2016,

You have been brutal, by far the most difficult, painful, expensive, terrifying, sad and challenging year of my life. You commenced with life-changing, emergency spinal surgery (x2); and culminated with the heart-wrenching demise of my beloved father, cruelly snatched from life, so suddenly and unexpectedly. I have gritted my teeth determinedly, bitten my tongue patiently, and cried several oceans, unreservedly. My body aches daily, my mind worries anxiously, and my heart is repeatedly smashed to smithereens as the waves of grief crash over me. Yet, I am grateful, you have been a year of my life, I have learnt many painful lessons, and I am ready for 2017.

You have been a year of struggles and loss, but loving light has pierced the darkest depths of despair. Every day, as my world fell apart, the sun still rose, and the world kept on turning, even though I had wished it would stop and let me step off, momentarily. I noticed sunlight dancing gracefully in the leaves of a tunnel of trees, as I drove from the hospice, blinded by tears I couldn’t curtail. And once as I crested the brow of a hill, overwhelmed with sorrow, strong shafts of light poured through the clouds, reaching down from the heavens to steady me. When I felt hopeless, rainbows magically appeared to comfort and encourage me, and when I was tired and defeated, sunsets gently soothed and nourished me.

Amongst all the difficulties, angels have emerged to help, support and care for me, friends and family who held me when I fell apart, and picked up the pieces of my life as they lay scattered around me. I have been enveloped by kindness, as I learned to walk after surgery, and again as I learned to walk in a world without my Daddy. Dear friends have shared their understanding that the gaping hole in my life will never be healed, but that I will come to accept its presence, and learn to live by filling it with never-ending love and happy memories. I am eternally grateful for these loving souls that have shared my journey.

My mornings greet me unfailingly with the wet nosy kisses and joyful tail wags, of unconditional love. My dogs have been my best medicine, strongest motivators, and most comforting, loyal companions, through everything. Because of them, I have found the strength to get up and embrace the day, and found myself admiring beautiful dawns, when I thought I wanted to hide in sleep. They have licked away my salty tears, snuggled lovingly into my broken body, and found smiles in my face when I didn’t think there were any. They have silently acknowledged my pain and let me bury my face in their warm furry necks to weep, sought me out for snuggles and cuddles, and accepted the changes they couldn’t understand, patiently. Leo is such a loving boy, and continues to fight valiantly against the life threatening disease you bestowed upon him. Poppy is becoming affectionate and sweet, learning to trust and settle, despite the many moves and upheaval. And Platon remains my rock, protective and patient, unswervingly loyal and devoted, even when earthquakes unnerved him.

2016, you have been horrible, the world has lost some amazingly talented souls, you enabled Brexit, and voted in a disastrously dangerous choice of American president. Many desperate refugees have drowned fleeing war torn countries, terrorists have ripped apart the lives of many and their families, and atrocities continue to be inflicted on innocents as their homes are destroyed by militants. The world is full of hostility and cruelty, it is plagued by anger and swamped in sorrow, but light still shines through the darkness, beauty blooms amidst despair and misery, courage clings on through adversity, hope remains steadfastly, and love is still stronger than anything. Please tell your successor 2017, to bring it on, I am ready!!

Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo credit: The talented, Maria Koutala, Kefalonia. Words by Hayley Darby ©2016}

Dear 2013

HD beach

Dear 2013

You have been a year of my life, and I am grateful for you. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, and there have certainly been times when I wished you were shorter than 365 days, but that was only when I was hurt and upset, struggling with my human-ness and fighting to get ahead of the pain I was feeling; which really wasn’t your fault at all, rather mine for having expectations that could be disappointed and an immense impatience inherent of my personality. However, despite my faults you always stood by me, and managed to surprise me with wonderful, unexpected gifts and joyful memories, a reminder that things are often better than we can imagine, as long as we can let go of our plans and let life take us blissfully and carefree to where we are meant to be.

With you I have wandered along sandy Californian beaches, and sat watching the early surfers with my morning coffee, as dolphins played delightedly. I met blue whales, whose peaceful presence held me in awe and took me to new depths emotionally. You were there when I conquered my fears and braced the waves for surfing lessons, and let the tide carry me, accepting things the way they’re supposed to be. We danced at concerts in the park, and around bonfires on the beach, we sang along (loudly and badly) to the radio, driving PCH with my hair dancing in the breeze. Together we wandered round art galleries and enjoyed good company, and watched sunsets that burst my heart with gratitude for their beauty.

We returned to float in the turquoise blue of favourite Greek seas, and watch sunlight sparkle on the water feeling blessed and carefree. With you I enjoyed peaceful hours at the beach, and submerged into a marine underworld, snorkelling and scuba diving. We hiked through the villages, visiting interesting characters and revisiting memories; and we followed in the footsteps of mythological heroes to climb mountains and worship at ancient temples. We watched storms rage in the sky and toss the world around angrily, then suddenly forgive and restore calm, quickly and quietly. We discovered cracks in hearts that were quietly bleeding, and found forgiveness and love are by far the best remedy.

With you I found myself tempted into unexpected adventures, and let my heart lead without plans or itinerary. I celebrated my first Thanksgiving holiday, danced on bars in Vegas and flew to Mexico for an escapade in Acapulco. We let the night time breeze sweep through dreams to the sonorous sounds of the ocean, feasting on papayas for breakfast and drank pina coladas for supper. I was charmed by customs in Houston (who’d of dreamed!) and skied in Colorado, where I left a smarting hurt on a moonlit road through the mountains, and found some salve in the Garden of The Gods. I shared shrimp with Tiny Tim on Malibu beach, and had a delicious Mexican meal for Christmas dinner instead of traditional turkey, with dear friends in Laguna.

So dear 2013, thank you for being the year that turned an unexpected corner, and after a bump in the road, took flight towards the previously undreamed. You have been a serendipitous year that changed my direction by several degrees. With you I have learned to accept that letting go is often stronger than hanging on, and often an opportunity to discover a new route engraved on the map of my heart, for perhaps a more scenic journey. I appreciate all that you have given me, even those bits that hurt like hell in the beginning, but are shaping me towards the person I am meant to become. I’m excited in anticipation of future adventures, ready for the unwritten chapters waiting to take shape in the year to come. So as I prepare to say goodbye, know that I appreciate you, and tell 2014 I’m ready!! Blessings & love, Hxx

{Photo & words ~Hayley Darby ©2013}

Jet-lag and in between


Good morning everyone! It seems as if my soul is weighed down with lead as it struggles to swim to consciousness from the deep sleepy depths, and there is a tussle between the choice of languishing in that peaceful dark solitude, and waking to embrace the day with all it’s beautiful potential. I woke earlier this afternoon, jet-lag always seems harder to overcome when travelling in an Eastbound direction. It’s my second day back in London and there is still a moment of confusion on waking amongst the fluffy white cloud of my bed, as to how far into the past I was dreaming and what has actually happened. After a summer in California, it seems a little surreal to wake in the familiar surroundings of ‘home’. The time has passed so quickly, yet it seems so much living has been squeezed in to those 3 months, so that it feels elastic and difficult for my brain to measure; rather like looking at a map, and gauging the journey time, without any indication of speed capacity and limitations.

An elderly man in India once kindly informed me that the mind and the body travel at different speeds, and it’s a truth that I observe acutely after long-haul journeys. The 10+ hour flight from LAX to LHR feels extremely quick in comparison to the thoughts still floating along the Californian coast; little things like the decision to have hemp or soy milk in my latte at ‘The Laguna Coffee company’, as I potter downstairs to greet my Nespresso machine. Actually I feel somewhere in between, as if suspended in the blueness somewhere above the Atlantic ocean, neither here nor there, or caught yet in life’s responsibility. It’s a feeling of surrender, an awareness that I’m not ‘driving the bus’ or perhaps not ‘flying the plane’ that gives me space to observe without engaging completely. My departure from Laguna followed a hectic period of packing and preparing to leave, hurriedly saying goodbyes to the friends I left behind, and stealing moments to treasure in memory; on the beach, favourite cafes, beloved scenes, and places where I dwelt in gratitude (so almost everywhere, really!). My arrival back in London was met by relative calm, my sanctuary of ‘home’ waiting with the peaceful, quiet, clean and tidy embrace I have missed whilst renting, and my local bistro (aka my second kitchen) provided the perfect post-transatlantic poached eggs to enjoy with my dear friend RO and a chance to catch up on stories, as I fought to stay awake and realign my body clock.

Two days later, the suitcases (all 3) remain half unpacked in the living room, and there is an unwillingness to settle in again too quickly. I find myself lingering in this uncommitted space, reticent to make plans or promises, not wanting to clutter up my diary, home or life with ‘stuff’ to do, or have, or be; or to unpack my memories and shove them in the back of a drawer till my next journey. So for now I am enjoying jet-lag, the perfect ally in resisting reality, whilst I make some decisions about what I want that to be. Meanwhile I’m going to enjoy what remains of the afternoon, a sojourn in a scented bath (dear tub I have had an amazing affair with an outdoor shower, but I missed you dreadfully!), then perhaps a journey into Selfridges for supplies (more coffee pods!), and somewhere delicious for a late lunch at dinner-time with my thoughts, and time to reflect on where and what I want life to be.

Hope you have a beautiful day, wherever you are, whatever you do, and that you can find time and space in your busy life to observe that place in between; maybe you will find the peaceful place waiting for you there too! Much love & blessings, Hxx

{Photo: Leaving LA, London bound, the sky in between. Taken by me on Saturday/Sunday. Words also mine ~Hayley Darby ©2013}


Me 1974

Happy Monday everyone!! This morning the day greeted London with blue skies and sunshine, that slipped under the blind and pulled me from my reverie. I’m not sure what I was dreaming of, but the feeling of discontent was difficult to shed in wakefulness, and it took some time, and a second cup of coffee to find the motivation required to address the busy ‘to do list’ that’s been waiting all weekend. I sat at my desk, and surveyed the books and papers, searching for inspiration, wondering where the answers to my dilemmas are hiding.

I have a photo in my office, a treasured memento; clients often enquire whether it’s my daughter, or perhaps a niece, but the little girl with her hair brushed in bunches, smiling at the camera, is me circa 1973. It’s one of my earliest memories, taken at playschool (kindergarten) and is a reminder to not let studying/work eclipse play too frequently. Today my younger-self seems to sigh and question why it’s so difficult being a ‘grown up’; making decisions, shouldering responsibility, and I wish for a moment that I could warn her not to embrace it too eagerly, to enjoy the freedom and simplicity a little longer.

I have a lot going on at the moment, and it seems exhausting juggling disappointments and realizations, opportunities and obligations; and I wished for a moment that I could escape it, that choosing which was my favourite picture in the book the photographer had given me, was again the only thing I had to worry about. Then I realized, it is still that easy actually, except the pictures aren’t printed, we have to draw them, not with pencils or crayons, but our choices and actions; and that creating the life we want isn’t about what it’s supposed to look like, but letting our imaginations run wild with the colours available.

Suddenly being the grown up version of the little girl in the photograph isn’t so daunting, life is a much bigger canvas than she could have imagined, and there are seemingly unlimited colourful possibilities. There are still decisions to be made and a myriad of complicated questions, but the answers are where they have always been (in her heart), and she knows where to look for them, when she’s patient enough to remember anyway. I hope you have a beautiful week, and that a snapshot of now will be a motivation in your future : )) Blessings & love

{Photo: Me circa 1973} © 2013



Today I met a young man, well younger than I (mid 30’s at a guess), a good-looking guy, with gentle eyes and a smile that lit up like Christmas when he saw me. We chatted briefly about the things people do; the weather, the traffic, and places we knew. His eyes shone brightly, despite the redness around the edges, and his smile was engaging, captivating, infectious. My gaze momentarily fell over his shoulder, where his shadow smiled back in silent acknowledgement, detached from our exchange, yet with a definite presence.

The young man asked questions animatedly, interested and even fascinated by our conversation, which ended too quickly, I’m sad to say. I said I was leaving, and he wanted to know how long I had been staying, I explained I was only visiting, and he twisted the edge of his robe a face full of questions. I looked into those eyes, and felt a flicker of his confusion, before he smiled again and wished me well on my journey. His shadow, much larger than he, stood by and opened the door. I heard him locking it securely behind me, protecting his charge from harming himself, any more than he had done so before.

Life is harsh, and sometimes people don’t cope as well as we would wish, which is why we must be kind all of the time, because we rarely see the suffering under the skin. Sadly their shadows aren’t always there to protect them, and they are only equipped to deal with the physical, whilst the emotional demons fight within. And I drove away in the traffic he could only imagine, out into the world that was too painful and challenging for the man with thin skin, leaving him behind in a safe place that respects his fragility, where shadows are kind and caring. Blessings & love, Hxx

© 2013 ~Hayley Darby

{Photo credit: 2,000 Suspended Dandelions by Regine Ramseier}


heart break

Hearts break, that’s just what they do. Lungs breathe, livers detoxify, stomachs digest, brains think (from time to time), and hearts break, and ache, and bleed inside, they drive us insane with questions we can’t answer; oh yes, and they pump blood too! I think maybe our hearts break to teach us things that we’re too stubborn to take from the brain, whose teaching is logical, which our hearts aren’t at all. At least I like to think they break for a reason, that the pain we feel isn’t all for nothing, because wouldn’t that be an awful waste? I think my heart first broke to teach me humility, kindness and compassion, that relationships aren’t easy and shouldn’t be taken for granted, and that probably loving myself was a big part of the equation. Well I wish it was just the one, tough, terrible lesson; but it seems I had more to learn, because I somehow kept enrolling in that same class, and managed to flunk it again and again.

I believe our hearts are fragile for a reason, so that we know to handle with great care and respect, those of others that we are given. I suspect that hearts break to teach us resilience; so that we come to understand that once they’ve been busted and hurt and trodden in the dirt, that they will scrape themselves together eventually, dust themselves down, and hopefully be brave enough to risk it all again. Because the amazing thing about hearts is, that no matter how bruised and battle scarred they get, they have an amazing capacity to keep on working, and will love indefinitely if we let them.

I think hearts break to show us that no matter how bad it seems, that love is stronger than the worst we can imagine, and then we can truly appreciate what a wonderful gift we have been given. So please don’t hide your heart away, or protect it too tightly for fear of pain, because hearts are masters of recovery, and each time they show us a different reason for whatever they drag us through. Have a little faith, be brave, because yes, hearts break, but they keep on loving

{Photo sadly uncredited, via Pinterest}

Rainy days and opportunities


Good morning everyone! It has been a very busy week, and the opportunity to laze on the sofa and write this today feels like a luxury. It’s a damp, grey, rainy day in London, and as I sit on the sofa with my latte I watch the rain drops race down the window pane, snuggling under the cashmere throw dear ADS gave me. It feels like I’m fighting off a cold, which wouldn’t be surprising, stress depletes the body of immune fighting nutrients, and I’ve been stood in the less than clement weather on several occasions.

At the beginning of the week I gave a presentation on the detrimental effects stress can have on our bodies, sabotaging health, fitness, and waistlines too; since our hormones conduct our appetites and metabolism. I spoke to a larger audience than usual, in fact I’m more familiar with 1:1 consultations, which gave me an opportunity to observe my own stress response, particularly in the preparation. Stress is a largely unavoidable part of modern life, but much of it also depends on our choices, and sometimes it’s a worthy exercise to reflect on those elements. I often see patients who are neglecting their health and happiness as they strive to achieve in areas of work, or sport, or being the best at everything; as their health and happiness suffer tremendously. Sometimes it helps to take a step back and gain a little perspective.

This week I have observed lots of stress, my friend ADS had her laptop stolen on a short flight to Spain from Switzerland, it seems it was lifted from her hand luggage whilst in the overhead locker, something she failed to check before disembarkation, because who would think anyone would be so cheeky? Having endured the expense of a trip to Apple, she then discovered her time-machine back-up is defunct, so two years of her business development appear to be lost, and she’s devastated. My consolation attempts are limited to acknowledging her anger and frustration, as I try to focus on the things she CAN do, and the things she DOES have; whilst she laments her loss. There are some things we simply cannot change, and acceptance of such is a key step to moving forward. For ADS this feels like a bereavement, and she is going through the painful process.

I had another bereaved friend this week, I accompanied dear GH to a funeral as she said good bye to a man that seemed to have filled his short 50 years with an extraordinary amount of life, an action hero with a reputation for being jolly. As I sat and listened to his friends and family deliver his eulogy, it gave me cause to reflect on what I would want my own to be. I wondered about my life currently, and what my present concerns mean in the bigger picture, am I focusing on the things that really matter, or am I stressing about details unnecessarily?

So this morning, I am relishing the opportunity of just watching the rain, as I curl up on the sofa with my latte. I’m taking time out to assess what’s really important, and which aspects truly don’t deserve the energy expenditure I have been spending. And I know that some of life’s stress is unavoidable, but I’m going to try and monitor whether those levels of damage I inflict on my well-being, reflect the gravitas of the issues in the over-all picture. As I write the rain continues to fall, and the grey day beyond the window looks cold and uninviting, but I am grateful for the blessing. I’m privileged because I still have an opportunity to impact the meaning of my life, I have choices and the chance to make changes that may reflect in my eulogy, so I’m working on it! I hope that today you have a chance too, to choose a life with less stress about the little things. I’m off to meet dear LS for coffee and a dance in some puddles : )) Much love & blessings from a work in progress ♥ Hxx