Real Life

A poem about living with disability or illness

Real Life

She lies awake at night,
eyes wired,
frantically reading
anything, anything,
to not think about it,
to patch up the cracks,
sew up the seams,
stuff the holes with cushions
made of trash TV and Facebook,
while the mould seeps
down the bedroom wall,
letters lie ignored
re: default sum unpaid,
So sick, sick
of hospital appointments,
waiting in the waiting rooms,
waiting at the bus stop,
waiting for results,
waiting for the pain to stop,
waiting for her real life to start…

©️Janey Colbourne 2018

There’s also an audio version of this poem on my Write Out Loud poetry blog


Lessons from Nettles



Nettles flourish on disturbed ground or highly fertile land, liking high levels of nitrogen, so they grow in abundance where human activity such as intensive farming or waste dumping has enriched the soil. The more we artificially fertilise the soil, the more nettles will grow. Every child quickly learns to recognise nettles through the experience of being stung, and is taught to seek out dock leaves to rub on the sting for relief. This is a lesson that nature provides comfort as well as pain, and that beings that complement and balance each other are found in the same vicinity. It reminds me of what has been said about disaster situations, ‘look for the helpers’- a life lesson that reminds us to see the hope and the connection when we are in despair.

Nettles are also highly nutritious once cooked or dried out to neutralise the toxins, providing iron and other minerals. As a medicine nettles can help with hay fever. So nettles have a dual nature of both warrior and healer/helper. This has led to the saying, ‘grasp the nettle’. If one grasps the nettle firmly and boldly in the right way, with the stinging hairs lying flat to the plant, it is possible to pick it without being stung. So the phrase is used to mean tackle a difficult problem with courage. My thought is that it also means once you face it bravely you find the positive benefit (the nourishment) within.

©Janey Colbourne 2017

Here is a good article about the teachings of Poison Ivy from Dana at The Druid’s Garden blog:

Poison Ivy Teachings from The Druid’s Garden

The Equinox and dynamic balance.

Equinox. What does that word mean to me? Balance, equal day and night, spring, autumn. The equinoxes come at a time of changing seasons, or rather, in the midst of the seasons that are changeable. Spring and autumn, while having their own qualities, are the shorter seasons en route to summer and winter. In my part of the world spring and autumn herald variable weather, on average mild, whilst nudging the temperature towards the following season. Most all when I think of spring and summer, I think of fresh air, breezes, blustery winds and rain, lots of it. I think of rain and sunshine together, heavy showers and low sun that dazzles my eyes. Possibly rainbows and possibly hail, although these are rare.

All this fresh air and movement-movement of air and water, and in autumn, falling leaves, creates negative ions in the air. The result is very refreshing, clear air. This contrasts with some of the dry days in autumn when disintegrating leaves combine with dry, loose soil, no longer covered with vegetation, to create a dust storm in the swirling winds of autumn. Some spring days can be warm and humid, with the first rising pollens, and later the cherry blossom dancing on the air, creating a stifling perfume that takes the breath away and makes me sneeze. But still, I love it all with a passion. Spring and autumn are my favourite seasons. I love the change, the moderate temperatures and promising feeling of things to come-cosy winter nights by the fire, crisp snow and fairy lights, or the fattening buds preparing for summer’s burst of abundance and moments of sun in sheltered spots that warm my bones and remind me how summer feels. Spring and autumn make me feel like making a fresh start. They have far more meaning to me than the traditional calendar New Year date.

At the equinox day and night are of equal length, and the seasons are held balance, although it is a dynamic balance, fluctuating through the transition to summer or winter. Balance in nature is not a static thing. Stasis means death, stagnation. Homeostasis, the name for the whole process of our body’s maintenance of balance, is in fact a misnomer. Homeostasis is far from static; it is a never ending minutely adjusting state of balance, a constant process of flux and movement. In this energetic dance of change a balance is achieved that gives the impression of stability, the illusion of ‘stasis’. The moment of balance at the equinox is fleeting. To remain balanced in life, we constantly have to adjust our stance, our actions, to re-evaluate and adapt. The equinox is a good time to reflect and to look at our life balance, to take stock, contemplate, make changes and fresh starts. This equinox, I am working on integrating two sides of myself that have not been working together. This is something I was not conscious of, until I had a clarifying dream very recently. In order to achieve this I had to let go, to some extent, metaphorically closing my eyes and trusting to my inner sense, my ‘spiritual proprioception’ so to speak, to find the right balance. Rather than blowing away-as I feared I might-or remaining rigid and tense, and therefore brittle, letting go and surrendering to the winds of change, while staying aware of my rootedness, means that I am flexible and strong. As I finish writing these words, I look up, and at that very moment, out of my window, I see a rainbow. Synchronicity is a lovely thing. Happy Equinox.

© Janey Colbourne 2017


A special thank you to my dear and wise friend Karen from One Heart Healing, Lancashire and everyone in today’s group for an interesting and inspirational discussion and meditation on acceptance, receiving and balance.

Karen’s website:

Expanded awareness: being in the present for emotional wellbeing

When I’m feeling stressed, frustrated, tired or even just bored I like to expand my awareness out of myself. I begin by focusing my awareness on my points of contact with the world: the sun or wind on my face, the ground beneath my feet. Then I extend this awareness from my feet into the earth, down deep and also outwards across the curve of the Earth. I am conscious of the vast earth that supports and sustains us all, and of all the beings that live in or on the earth. With practice, this can be achieved in seconds, and can be done anywhere, quietly and discreetly. For me this provides a sense of security and of perspective.
It’s a form of meditation that allows you to still be present and aware of your surrounding circumstances, in fact all the more so, whilst maintaining a greater equilibrium. It can be momentary or more involved; there is no need to complete a process, so it is not an issue if you are interrupted. I would exercise caution when driving or other similar activity.

©Janey Colbourne 2017

Work Capability Assessments and the Disabled

It is probably the genuinely sick and disabled who suffer most from the government’s policies on work capability assessments. The constant barrage of not-so-thinly-veiled threats: “you must attend an assessment interview; if you don’t get enough points you will not be entitled; you will be assessed for work capability; you may be expected to do work-related activities” (all delivered at rapid speed on a crackling phone line) -begins immediately on the very first phone call to make a claim. No matter if your medical certificate is for two weeks or two months. The people most likely to be put off by this approach are in fact the genuinely sick. The impression given is that the default assumption is that everyone is pulling a fast one. The process is humiliating, intimidating and degrading, adding insult to injury, and piling on a few more reasons to be terrified, on top of whatever affliction you are already struggling with. When you are ill, this is exactly the kind of thing that is so difficult to cope with, and exactly the kind of stress you don’t need. There is ironically a danger of people actually being sick for longer than they would have, because of the pressure they are under. Stress has a major impact on health. That is one of the reasons people need time off-not just because they can’t physically manage their job, but because illness and disability can profoundly affect mental and emotional capacity. The irony is that those who are mentally and emotionally incapacitated are the least able to articulate their difficulties and defend themselves. This becomes a vicious cycle: persecuting them for not recovering, preventing recovery, ad infinitum. Who knows where it ends? Perhaps shortened life-span? Eugenics anyone?

© Janey Colbourne 2017


#ADHD and #ASD do they make a good couple?

It is not uncommon for ASD and ADHD to be given as a dual diagnosis. I’ve been considering if, when they occur together, rather than being comorbid, they in fact complement or compensate for each other. The classical symptoms of ADHD include distraction, impulsivity and hyperactivity. The classic symptoms of ASD include obsession/hyperfocus, a love of routine and predictability and a tendency for social isolation. Clearly this is stereotypical but I am simplifying here for a moment, while I explore an idea.

I have ADHD and my mind flies around, bursting with ideas. I can be impulsive, with a tendency to blurt and easily get overexcited. I also have autistic traits, awaiting diagnosis. My autistic side loves predictability, hates excessive demands and prefers solitude and quiet contemplation. These two might seem contradictory, but they act as moderators for each other. They coexist at the same time, although sometimes one or other may be slightly dominant. Sometimes they conspire to get me in a panic. Overall I think they help each other.

My ASD hyperfocus helps my ADHD to get focused and stick to a task. On her own my ADHD gets so excited about something that she wants me to leap around shouting, or alternatively she gets bored and wanders off. My ADHD is bursting with ideas and darts off in unexpected directions to bring back a fresh perspective. This helps my ASD to open up and not get too stuck in a rut. My ADHD has a tendency to blurt what I’m thinking before I’ve assessed the situation. My ASD might not be great at assessing the situation either, but has sufficient inhibition and dislike of making a fuss to make me bite my tongue. My ASD gets tired easily, especially when it comes to auditory processing and is another way she calms down my ADHD from throwing me into excessive social peril. Together ADHD and ASD love to think and create. ASD helps my ADHD to stay on track and not run off chattering inanely to the nearest person, so they can work together. ASD needs ADHD’s bright ideas and energy. ASD can get the quiet she needs if ADHD is kept occupied with some exciting revelations to chew on. ASD has some awesome topics that she wants to work through and ADHD is only too happy to bounce these around and see what she can make with them. She can also spot when ASD is overthinking and pull her out of her ruminations.

ADHD doesn’t like to be too constrained by rules and routines. She finds them too boring. She might get into trouble. ASD craves predictability and likes to do things correctly. She might sometimes miss out on opportunities. ADHD and ASD are good together, like Howard Moon and Vince Noir.