Saturday, 16 March 2013

I'm moving ! !

Thank you everyone who has read posts on this blog over the 3 years or so it's been up and running.

As a result of my professional interests expanding, I am developing a new website, which will go live very soon ...

 ... To work alongside this, I have decided to begin a new blog called 'Therapy & Other Things with Sharon' which can be found at

I hope you will join me there, where I am planning to continue writing in the same vein as I have here.  I also intend to import all of my 'Therapy, Thought & Learning' posts over there ...

I look forward to hopefully seeing you soon !

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Inspired Motivation ...

Two weeks into the New Year, and I suspect many peoples’ New Year’s Resolutions will already be beginning to flounder or indeed, already have gotten lost …
It can be difficult to maintain the motivation to continue with these kinds of resolutions or plans to change.  It’s a topic I often work with with my clients.  It’s easy to come up with things to do to improve yourself, your situation or your life; what’s not so easy is maintaining the effort it takes to put these plans into practice.

As humans, we seem too ready to give up on things that take effort.  Any big change requires effort; it doesn’t often happen spontaneously.  It’s too easy to focus on the sacrifices or effort required in the here and now & not think about the long term gain.  It’s too easy to procrastinate and put off until ‘tomorrow’ what could have been done today; but tomorrow never comes & suddenly years have passed and the person is still stuck in the original position.  It’s too easy to find easier or more enjoyable things to do & put off the task that requires the effort.

But then you don’t achieve the goals you made and you’re left with a personal sense of dissatisfaction, frustration and often failure.  And you’re left in the same place as where you started …

This topic is on my mind right now because 2013 is the year in which I intend to write up my PhD thesis; all 100,000 words of it!  If I need to, I could allow it to take me into 2014 and even the first half of 2015.  But I don’t want it to drag on that long; I want to get all of my research written up and disseminated as soon as possible.  I’ve been working on it since 2008 and it’s been a huge part of my life since then.  It’s become part of me!  It’s always there at the side of my mind, no matter what I’m doing or who I’m with.  And it’s time to begin the process of letting it go; as in a pregnancy, I’ve fed and nurtured it with vast amounts of data, this is the year in which I finally give birth to the baby which is the thesis, allowing it to begin its own journey out there in the world …

I know that the write up is going to be, at times, hugely frustrating and I’m going to want to give up, or find something ‘easier’ or more pleasurable to do.  But I need to keep focused, to organise myself so that my thesis does take priority this year; no matter what those sacrifices entail.  I will ensure that I plan fun things and relaxation time, but the thesis, and its’ completion must remain my number one focus.

Because of the extra time I could add on to the end of this year, I’m aware that my completion date has the potential to drift.  But to ensure that I remain focused and to have something to look forward to at the end of it, I’ve decided on my ‘reward.’

As human beings, we like rewards!  And if you’ve got something to do which requires a lot of time and effort, or something which you don’t really like the idea of doing, but know that you have to do it, having a ‘reward’ in mind at the end of it can be a useful strategy.  It’s good to have something positive or exciting to focus on when the task is becoming tedious or difficult.  The end reward has to be worth the sacrifice it feels you’re making, otherwise it’s too easy to just give it up.

And in my case, I know the sense of achievement I’ll feel when the thesis is written up and I have that fully bound book in my hand will be reward in itself.  But, that’s an intangible outcome, which is sometimes difficult to focus on.  As with the kinds of issues I work on with clients, their outcome in itself (overcoming an eating disorder, changing their communication style, overcoming anxiety, etc. etc) will be a huge achievement; but that’s often not enough to maintain the motivation needed to put in the required effort.  A sense of achievement, personal change, etc, are all intangible. 
Motivation can sometimes be better maintained when there is something concrete there to work towards.  A specific reward that will be given when the outcome has been achieved.  Something tangible that can be easily seen or imagined … it can be useful to have a physical picture or something that symbolises the reward at hand to look at when motivation is beginning to slip.  The more valuable the reward is to you, the more likely it is to reinforce your motivation.

So … what’s my reward to myself going to be?  Other than becoming a Doctor of Philosophy!?

A two week trip to South Africa, living on a Big Cat sanctuary, feeding, taking care of, and playing with the big cats …

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Thesis Meadow: The beginning of the end ...

Five years ago this month, back in January 2008, during my annual appraisal, my manager at work first suggested I think about completing a PhD.  It's something I'd never even considered until that day.  I'd always intended to complete a Masters Degree in Counselling, but hadn't gotten round to it ... & yet suddenly, I was contemplating the idea of a PhD!

It's been a hugely interesting journey since then and I can’t believe that this has been such a big part of my life for five years; that’s a long time!  And yet, in many ways, those five years have flown by.  So much has happened to me and the people in my life during those five years; loved ones have come and gone, new adventures have been lived and are now just memories, new learnings have taken root both within and with-out my research.  The PhD has been the one constant throughout it all.
And five years on, here I am at the start of my writing up period.  I’ve learned so much over the past five years; much of which I think I’ll only fully appreciate as I begin the long process of putting it all down on paper.  It’s an exciting time for me; time when all of my reading, thinking and data collection finally comes together. Right now, it’s all scattered across numerous books, various computer files, and, of course, all around my brain!  This is the year, I pull it all together, process it finally and produce the (hopefully!) sense-making thesis.

Scattered workings of a PhD
There have been times over the last five years, when I’ve doubted myself and wondered why I ever embarked on such a huge project.  Times when I’ve felt privileged to be talking to many of my research participants.  Times when I’ve felt hugely excited and the new learnings, connections and discoveries I was making.  Times when I’ve not been able to see my way through it, out of it, under it; times when I’ve felt completely lost within the forest of knowledge. 

And here I am now, seeing daylight and feeling freedom.  I’m at the edge of the trees & ahead of me is a beautiful open meadow, which I’ve stepped on to today when I typed up my thesis title page … 153 words down, just another  99,847 to go!!

I know that although I’m now walking through the open meadow, there are going to be many storms ahead.  I have no doubt that I have frustrating, doubting and disheartening days ahead of me when the storm clouds descend; I also know though that there will be many exciting, enlightening and satisfying days too full of sunshine.

And right now, the sun is shining, and I’m full of excited anticipation as I wonder just how my thesis will turn out and what I will find in there.

Please come along with me as I begin my journey across Thesis Meadow …

Happy New Year 2013 ...

January 1st 2013 and here I am sitting at my computer, listening to Curtis Stigers’ ‘Let’s Go Out Tonight,’ and gathering my thoughts and intentions for the coming year.
Myself and Curtis Stigers
Photo kindly taken by Matthew Fries,
Curtis' fabulous piano player
Bradford, April 2012

Curtis Stigers & his fabulous band, signing autographs
 on the concourse, The Sage, March 2012
John 'Scrapper' Schneider, Cliff Schmitt, Keith Hall,
Curtis Stigers & Matthew Fries
I'm very aware that across 2012 this blog drifted from its initial concept; but it seems that that was a reflection of my recent reconnection with my musical self. Music has always been a hugely important part of my life, but over recent years other things had taken priority; mostly my therapy trainings and PhD.  Back in March 2012, a very unexpected and exciting encounter at The Sage, Gateshead (thanks in part, to Curtis Stigers and his band!), opened me back up to my musical creativity and since then I’ve found myself being able to write songs again (the lyrics of some of which I’ve posted on here in previous entries), playing my guitar and piano much more and joining a choir. 

Countdown to flash mob Auld Lang Syne
I ended 2012 performing to an almost sell-out show in Hall One of The Sage, as part of a choir backing an Abba Tribute band; and I & started 2013 singing Auld Lang Syne as part of a 3-part-harmony flash mob performance with my choir.  It seemed like the perfect ending and beginning for me …

Party on The Sage concourse with the  James Taylor quartet

2013 feels like an important year for me, and one which I am looking forward to with excitement, hope, and apprehension; I turn 40 and I (hopefully!) complete my PhD.  I know it’s going to be a challenging, frustrating yet ultimately satisfying year if I am able to complete my thesis over these next 12 months.  To do this though, I need to be focused and organised.  My thesis has to take priority across 2013, although I also need to ensure I have fun and freedom too!  And for me, the downtime is going to be filled with music.

I intend to commit to writing regularly on here again, and I suspect my entries will focus on my thesis progression, my continuously developing thoughts around it as me, my data and my computer become even more intimately connected! 
Elsie & I studying together

I also though, want to ensure that these entries reflect the musical progression in my life too … and who knows what 2013 has in store there!!

The piano playing cat
And of course, tangled in all of this will be Elsie, my cat, who turns up wherever and whatever I’m doing; studying, songwriting, & whatever else I happen to be doing, she'll be there with me!

Wishing you all a fabulous 2013 filled with love, happiness & lots of nice surprises, x

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

"Here on Christmas Day"

A Christmas song ... 

"Photographs in picture frames
Around memories of yesterdays.
Raise a glass to everyone
Whose footsteps are still on my heart,
Whose loved has kissed my soul,
Whose heart has held my own,
And though they’re gone,
I feel they are still here on Christmas Day.

Come with me and let me show you
This wonderful, magical Christmas Tree. 
Each toy is a memory; past, present and future,
Each light is a kiss; there’s even a spare!
Raise your glass high; both behind and forward
As we toast the past, and what’s yet to be.
Santa Claus holds us all safe in his arms,
As we over-indulge in this love that we share.

Stories that are yet to be
Written down in memories.
Let’s spare a thought for those yet to come;
Souls that my heart has yet to meet.
Gifts that will be share,
Food to be prepared,
And though they’re not yet here,
I feel their love here on Christmas Day.

Come with me and let me show you
This wonderful, magical Christmas Tree.
Each toy is a memory; past, present and future,
Each light is a kiss; there’s even a spare!
Raise your glass high; both behind and forward
As we toast the past, and what’s yet to be.
Santa Claus holds us all safe in his arms,
As we over-indulge in this love that we share ..."

(c) Sharon Cox 25.12.12

Monday, 3 December 2012

Beating at the Heart of Christmas ...

Once upon a time there was a lonely little Christmas Tree Toy.  She was a pretty little thing; a beautiful red heart, which had been made with lots of love and care.  But she was sad and lonely as she sat in a house all on her own …

She remembered the kind and happy old man who had made her.  He’d taken so much care when he carved her from the huge plank of wood from which she and her friends had come from.  She had no idea what had happened to all of her friends.  The last she remembered of them, they’d all been hanging together on a branch in a shop.  And then a lovely lady came along & gently looked at them all, before deciding to take away the beautiful red heart.

The beautiful red heart was happy and excited; she knew that she must be special.  She was the Christmas Tree Toy that the lovely lady had chosen.  And because she was such a lovely lady, the beautiful red heart felt safe in the knowledge that she would be going to a lovely warm home, to hang on a beautiful Christmas Tree and make lots of new friends with the Christmas Tree Toys already hanging there.  She was wrapped up nice and warm and safe in tissue paper so the lovely lady could take her home. 

But the beautiful red heart was disappointed when she got home with the lovely lady because she just put her to one side and left her there, and the beautiful red heart began to feel sad and lonely, wishing she was still with her friends in the Christmas shop.  She’d been told to expect such delights when someone came along to take her to their home … but the beautiful red heart thought she must have just been forgotten about, cast aside in her Christmas wrapping …

And then one day, the beautiful red heart heard happy voices and her heart rose as she felt herself being picked up by the lovely lady and being given to a gorgeous girl.  The gorgeous girl carefully opened the tissue paper in which the beautiful little red heart was nestled.

The beautiful red heart was feeling so happy and excited … what was about to happen to her?  The gorgeous girl took one look at the beautiful red heart and her face lit up with a huge smile and she said; “You are so beautiful.  You can have pride of place on my Christmas Tree this year!”

The beautiful red heart was so very happy to hear this.  She knew that at last, she was going to find her home on a beautiful Christmas Tree full of friends …

But wait.  No!!  The gorgeous girl is leaving and she’s left the beautiful red heart behind.  The beautiful red heart screams at the top of her voice; “Stop!  Wait for me!  You’ve forgotten me!”

But the gorgeous girl doesn’t hear her, and the beautiful red heart begins to cry as she realises she’s being left behind.

The gorgeous girl mustn’t want her after all.  She’s not going to spend her Christmas on a gorgeous Christmas Tree after all.  The lovely lady spots the beautiful red heart sitting on the side and carefully wraps her up in her tissue paper, and puts her to one side.

Back to being the lonely little Christmas Tree Toy without a Christmas Tree.

The lonely little Christmas Tree Toy spends a few days feeling sorry for herself, part wrapped up still in her tissue paper, wondering what fate has in store for her. 

And then one day, she looks around and notices the lovely lady with a box full of Christmas decorations.  She feels herself begin to get excited.  Might she have a Christmas Tree to hang on after all?

She watches the lovely lady take a Christmas Tree out of the box.  But this doesn’t seem right.  It’s black.  Aren’t Christmas Trees supposed to be green?  And aren’t they supposed to be big and bold?  This one is tiny.  The beautiful red heart can see just how tiny it is when she sees the lovely lady’s cat sat next to it.  The tree is no bigger than the cat!  There’s no room for the beautiful red heart and lots of friends to hang on there.  She watches the lovely lady put small, brightly coloured baubles and tinsel on the tree … but there’s no room for her.

The beautiful red heart’s excitement begins to fade as she realises, that this Christmas Tree isn’t for her. 

Back to being the lonely little Christmas Tree Toy without a Christmas Tree.

The lonely little Christmas Tree Toy snuggles back down inside her tissue paper, dreaming of Christmas Trees and all the friends she was going to meet there.  She thinks about all of her friends in the shop, all of the Christmas Tree Toys who were cut from the same plank of wood as she was.  Where are they all now?   “Are they still hanging in the shop?” she thinks.  “At least they’ll still have each other and won’t be all alone like me.” 

The lonely little Christmas Tree Toy spends a few more days feeling sad and sorry for herself.  And then one day, the lovely lady picks her up.

“I wonder where I’m going now?” the beautiful red heart thinks.  “I hope it’s somewhere nice.  But what if it’s not?  What if I’m just going to be thrown away?  A lonely little Christmas Tree Toy without a Christmas Tree to hang on, isn’t much good to any one.”

The beautiful red heart was taken outside and carried by the lovely lady to a different house.  And when she got there, she was surprised to see the gorgeous girl again.  And as the lovely lady handed the beautiful red heart to the gorgeous girl, the gorgeous girl looked so happy to see the beautiful red heart again that her loneliness was swept away forever.

The gorgeous girl took the beautiful red heart carefully out of her tissue paper, and, as the beautiful red heart’s excitement built and built, she carried her into a lovely warm living room and there, there was the Christmas Tree that the beautiful red heart had dreamt about.  She felt filled with such love and happiness that all of her sadness was washed away.

The gorgeous girl gently hung the beautiful red heart onto the Christmas Tree, and the beautiful red heart looked around her, she just knew that she was going to be very, very happy hanging here.  There were lots of new friends just waiting to be made and she just knew, that she was the heart beating at the centre of them all.

Love, friendship, good luck and happiness would beat throughout that Christmas Tree that year and through everyone who was lucky enough to see it … with it’s beautiful red heart beating … beating at the heart of Christmas …

Sunday, 25 November 2012

I catch the songs that make the whole world sing ...

 Playing my guitar this morning, working on a couple of the songs I've written recently, I began thinking about the process of songwriting ... & how obscure it is; at least for me!

I can't consciously grab hold of what happens when I write a song.  I never write in a formulaic way. I don't think about music theory when I'm writing.  I don't think about what 'should' work or 'shouldn't' work.  I just allow the song to emerge ...

And that's the process for me.  I can't force a song to be written.  I can't just sit down and decide to write a song.  The song will only be written when the time's right for the song; that's just how it feels.  

Earlier in my life, I was a prolific songwriter.  Songs came easily to me.  They weren't all necessarily good ones, but some were!  What, for me, was important though, was that I could write songs.  I could express myself, my thoughts and feelings through music and lyrics; and that was a powerful outlet for me.  And then, somewhere along the way, I seemed to lose that ability.  Fortunately, for whatever reason (& I could hazard a guess as some of those reasons!), I seem to have broken through my writers' block and have written 3 new songs over the last few months, which gives me great pleasure.  

And yet, to go back to the songwriting process, I'm not sure what I do to write a song.  It's feels more like a process of me having to capture what emerges through my fingers on the guitar or piano, or through my mouth when lyrics & / or a tune begin to emerge, or even what I sometimes hear vaguely playing somewhere in my mind.  I'm not consciously creating the song ... it feels more like it emerges through me & I have to catch it!!

Which isn't always easy.  Sometimes, I can 'hear' that tune in my head, but I somehow can't quite get it out through my voice or instrument.  And that can be really frustrating!  But that moment when I do stumble across, or find, the right notes or chords is amazing!  Such a sense of achievement; 'Wow! that's it!'  It can make me smile or even laugh out loud, when the song is suddenly out there!  I feel a sense of pride at this piece of music that I've created, that's come from me ... & yet I still don't fully understand where it comes from!

Does that matter though?  The final creation is what matters ... the song; no matter where it comes from, or how it gets there ...