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A conversation starter - A blog about the blog!


A few weeks back I went on a long run with a virtual stranger. My usual running buddy was on parenting duties; pancakes, PAW Patrol and Play-Doh kept him away from his planned training.  Sadly he would remain entrenched in the house on what was a perfect day for running. The sun was shining, the temperature was in double-digits and I had brand new running shoes in an ostentatious colourway. The Holy Trifecta. Of course, long runs are always improved by the company, so it was unfortunate that this key-element had been ruined by the middle-aged burden of responsibility. Luckily, the previous week a third runner had joined us, a friend of my friend who held all the characteristics a good running buddy should hold.  He ran at a similar pace to me, was keen and capable of running the required long-miles and had decent banter. So, despite having only met him once, I reached out. I felt like my six-year-old daughter approaching another child in the playground “Will you run with me? Will you be my friend?”. It’s absurd how making friends is so much harder as an adult. Well, it feels harder. In-fact to counter this very point he enthusiastically texted back and soon we were out in the morning sun, enjoying our run. Simple as that.

Of course, having only met once we talked about the usual things that you do when you don’t know someone very well; suicide, gender identity, mental health, politics and the turmoil of middle-age. Wait…that’s not the usual thing! The usual things strangers talk about on runs are the weather, race chat, running gear and aggressive comparisons of marathon times. What was going on!? Let’s rewind a few weeks.

As I begin the final stages of my Msc at Strathclyde I have been reflecting on what it has given me. My main motivating factor in starting this journey was to prevent what is best visualised as my brain melting into a gelatinous soup, chunks of Peppa Pig, My Little Pony and Barbie offering the only evidence that something solid once sat there. The past five years of child-raising, beautiful and rewarding as it had been, had left me feeling like my IQ had dropped into the single digits from a great height (medium height, I was never that smart!). The course has been successful in switching on the creative and curious part of my brain, and I have specifically relished the opportunities the essay assignments have given me to read more, think deeply and especially to write. I don’t profess to be the greatest writer, but I’ve always enjoyed doing so, and it’s been years since I took the time to put pen to paper. Knowing that my University career would end this year I started to think about how I could maintain the motivation to write without the jolt of imposed deadlines! Without giving it too much thought, a particular strength/weakness of mine, I dived head-first into the twentieth century and created an online blog where I could hold myself accountable to write more, and by proxy read and think more. Maybe no one would read it. In-fact, that’s the most likely outcome!  That was fine. That wasn’t the main driver for the project. I just want to write about what interests me; mediation, relationships and the power of community and prevent the soupening (New word. Take that Shakespeare!) of my brain for a while longer.  So Mongoose and Cobra (dot co dot uk) was born. A little place on the internet where I could put my thoughts and indulge my want to write.

Back to the run! Why was the conversation atypically serious for a sunday morning run with a stranger? Well, it turns out that my new pal had read my blog. I had mentioned it off-hand the previous week and generously he had gone out of his way to check it out before meeting me again. The positive feedback was delightful to hear, but more importantly, and surprisingly, was the depth of conversation that arose, sparked by the blogs content. I learned more about my new running buddy in those two hours than I might have in two months of typical running chat. As other friends found the blog I noticed that this wasn’t an isolated incident. Suddenly small talk gave way to spiraling conversations about community, anxiety and the devastating revelation that more than one of my friends thought I was doing a degree in MEDITATION rather than MEDIATION! This functionally explained why they have been greeting me by saying  namaste recently. My good friend Paul (who graciously offered to create the incredible art for the blog) and I had lunch and discussed how hard it can be to say that you love your male friends. Other friends, many I hadn’t spoken to in some time, reached out to tell me something had struck a chord with them, and in a bittersweet discovery I found that some of my friends are not doing as well as I had thought. Put simply, my relationships with my friends and family are improving, and the blog is acting as a catalyst.

I am hoping that this piece comes off in the spirit it is intended. I am not here espousing my writing as special or even especially good, but I am writing with honesty about things that matter to me. And they seem to matter to others too. The small community of friends, family and colleagues who have indulged my literary fantasies are responding to it in ways that I really appreciate. I don't want the blog to be an isolated monologue. I want to have deeper conversations. I want to be closer to the people in my life. I love talking about the latest Netflix show, but I don’t want that to be the only thing we talk about. So, whilst I started the blog just for me, I’d like to invite you to have a read. Have a read then come to me and tell me why I am wrong. Present me with your alternative perspective. Help me learn and improve. Tell me why shuttle mediation isn’t actually terrible (The only thing that I got any push back on in my last Mediation Matters piece!). Mostly, let's get to know each other better, whether we’ve been running through life together for years or for a week.

I became a mediator because I believe in the power of conversation - so let’s talk.


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