There was a jingle that two student friends used to sing. In a disparaging way (complete with ironic eye-rolls), the while thrust-jabbing both elbows backwards in a sort of chicken-wing shove, like this:

I must (jab) I must (jab)

Improve (jab) my bust (thrust) ‘

A little imagination might help you to deduce that

a) this was the early-mid 1970s

b) they were female (but not readers of FemailThe Guardian more likely)

c) they had not (yet) burnt their bras

although they associated with a group called The Girton Lads, and each went on to become a professor, with highly acclaimed research careers and contributions to science.

[Girls, for thus you will always be. do you remember the particular odour of the lobby between the Zoology Museum entrance and the Elementary Laboratory? And the coffee machine that I needed to put my hand up inside to retrieve a jammed cup, eliciting the comment from Bill W: ‘Kathy’s being a midwife’?]

Today I want to free up the intention/action machine, which (in my case anyway) is often jammed by ‘must’ and ‘ought to’.


I suggest that you divide your page into two unequal columns like this:

Today I must …
Today I must …
Today I must …
Tomorrow I need to …
Tomorrow I need to …
Yesterday I had to
Today I ought to …
Tomorrow I have got to
Today I am obliged to …

and in the first column do brain dumps using any or all of the prompts (or your own version of them).

Once, twice, or thrice.

Keep these short and quick: filling the first column doesn’t have to take more than five minutes or so.

Briefly scan through your body. Is it tense? stressed? Take a space to shake yourself out..

You might also allow yourself a qualified ‘Yes, if …’ or ‘No, unless …’, or variations on these – although this might need more space.

The possibilities are open wide. And so is the page, to receive some wholesome, provisional writing.

Again, don’t take too long over this, and ease up if it feels punishing. .

Remember, these are just words, only thoughts; and you are not committing yourself to any actions nor intentions simply by thinking/writing about them.

I can choose what I use

I have freedom of choice

Another version of this process, that levers under the Burden Of Obligation (to do or be something – BOO) by investigating The Underlying Fear (TUF) goes like this;:

First we start, neurotically and fearfully, by writing (for example):

I must do everything the dentist says or else my teeth will drop out;

or I must do everything the teacher says or else I will fail my exams and feel like a total failure.

I guess many of us know the shoulder-drooping despair that can arrive with such thoughts (so please be careful how you fill in your own example, and keep it trivial and light at first, not as fierce as my examples, which are sometimes still active for me).

And notice any tight shoulders, gripped pen, clenched jaw… And remember to breathe, sigh, let go, shake off.

Second: rewrite your phrase with a wording like this:

I can choose my priorities for good dental care today/ this week / this month and I can do what I can to value and appreciate my teeth and those who care for them ( including myself, my dentist, the growers and producers of tooth-friendly food)

or I can opt for a maximum homework limit per week also allows me time for self care and leisure too, remembering that I can redefine my definitions of success and failure

And today, which is at the end of Breast Cancer Awareness week, we could all (male, female, other) we could perhaps turn around the jingle began with:

I must I must improve my bust’

to which the morose teenager in me has added  ‘and in its shapeless form invest’

‘It’s best to get to know my chest,
and if I’m poorly, take a rest.’

This week you might like to spin your own Golden ThreadWork writing prompts, perhaps guideded by something we’ve visited today. Then I invite you to follow one of them.

With no obligation, and with plenty of care and compassion. Towards yourselves, and also to all those you know who have had first-hand experience or witness of this condition.

Today as most days I think of my mum Lecky Labrum, who died of breast cancer 35 years ago this week, and my eldest sister Carole – herself a wife and mother – who had died of an even more aggressive form of the same condition, nearly a decade before our mum.

My relationship with these two special women (you can read one of my poems here) is still complex, and includes my young witnessing of the relationship between the two of them. The complicated grief-pain of my forty-four years without Cally and nearly half my life without our mum has been eased and soothed through skilful therapy I’ve received (particularly from R). And through my companioned practice of ‘©writing our way whole at home’, one to one and in groups.

Thank you so many of you who have walked the journey with me, and shared your own stories with me. I hope you’ll stay alongside from time to time. { hug }

Copyright © Kathy Labrum McVittie, Samhaim 2021 All rights reserved

Appreciation practice

Today I am grateful for: