Sharing things

Who am I? Ellen and Rachel revisited

January 27, 2022 The University of Edinburgh
Sharing things
Who am I? Ellen and Rachel revisited
Show Notes Transcript

Welcome to a dive into the Sharing things archive and a selection of 5 episodes that revolve around the themes of belonging, fitting in and finding your place. These are conversations about growth and about identity. In the first episode we revisit the conversation between Ellen Blunsdon and Rachel Weiss and listen to them as they talk about dying and not dying, familial love, and ketchup splatters.

This episode is hosted by Amalie Sortland, who joined us un the summer of 2019 and stayed until March 2020. She graduated in politics as part of the class of Covid in 2020. 

Ellen is a fourth-year history and politics student and the Disabled Students’ Officer 2019/20 at Edinburgh University Students’ Association. In this role, she has campaigned for the inclusion of disability on the curriculum and created an online resource hub for disabled students. In her spare time, she oversees Europe’s oldest student newspaper as president of The Student.

Rachel describes herself as a perimenopausal, park-running partner at Rowan Consultancy and parent of three. After graduating from Edinburgh with an MSc in Knowledge Based Systems in 1990, she trained as a teacher and gained a Diploma in Counselling, leading to the creation of her business offering counselling, coaching, workplace mediation and leadership training.

Each episode of Sharing things is a conversation between two members of our university community. It could be a student, a member of staff or a graduate, the only thing they have in common at the beginning is Edinburgh. We start with an object. A special, treasured or significant item that we have asked each guest to bring to the conversation. What happens next is sometimes funny, sometimes moving and always unexpected.

Find out more at

This episode of Sharing things was recorded before the Covid thing.

mages designed by Chris Behr. They are part of his Nice Things icon set.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: Hi, I'm Amalie. I'm a current student and I'm the host of Sharing things. Sharing things is a conversation between two people who have just met but who share a connection to the University. We start with a meaningful object that they've brought to the studio and we take it from there.

In this episode you will meet Ellen Blunsdon and Rachel Weiss. Ellen is a fourth-year student and the Disabled Students' Officer of Edinburgh University Students' Association. Rachel runs a counselling and coaching consultancy and is the founder of Menopause Café. Let's see where this takes us.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: Erm ok, so we usually start with the question, what have you brought to the studio and why?

Ellen: Do you go want to go first, shall I go first?

Rachel: Go on, yours are so mysteriously...

Ellen: [Laughs] like hiding them. Erm, so these are-- this is my granny's wedding ring and this is my papa's signet ring. I wear them every single day. They both passed away last summer quite unexpectedly and they meant a lot to me.

My family's quite small: it's you know me, my mum, my dad, my sister and it was those two as well, so now that they're gone it's a lovely reminder of the wonderful memories I have with them and I feel very out of balance right now because I'm not having them on my hands, I've got the other table, so there's are my two things and I love them very dearly.

Rachel: Whose parents, were they your mum's?

Ellen: My mum's parents, yeah, so we all lived in--- live in Aberdeen and yeah they were a big part of our lives and they passed away about a month apart from each other in the summer. And we had such a-- if I can describe a funeral as lovely I will.

The church was absolutely packed, we raised so much money for the hospice that my granny was in, there were so many lovely, lovely people they were-- I appreciated them while they were alive so much but now that they're gone I can appreciate the impact they had on so many other people as well.

They were-- you know my granny was a nurse, they owned a car garage and they really did just touch the lives of so many people and it's such a nice reminder of them. This is also one of Granny's watch as well.

Rachel: How lovely.

Ellen: So I have them with me all the time.

Rachel: It sounds like they had an impact on you as well.

Ellen: Mhmm, yeah, hugely, my mum worked when I was younger so I always used to go to my granny's house after primary school, either she would walk me home and once I got like big enough I could walk home by myself.

Rachel: Go you.

Ellen: So I stayed there for tea a lot. When they were selling their house, there was ketchup splatters on the living room wallpaper from where I was eating like my chicken nuggets and chips and ketchup as a kid, which is hilarious so I hope the new owners have redone that room, cause now my like 12-year-old ketchup splatters would not be appreciated. Erm so I spent a lot of time with them growing up and my younger sister did too, she's six years younger than me so she's 14.

Rachel: Did you fight over the rings and the watch or was she not interested?

Ellen: We didn't, it was quite good actually because we had my granny's engagement ring, which my mother has, she had a lovely silver with like blue sapphires in them. And my sister only wears silver jewellery and I only wear gold jewellery so it worked out perfectly.

Amalie: Amazing.

Ellen: That we were able to get and you know we found then and my Papa hadn't worn this in years, I don't even know if he ever really wore it, but it's got his initials like carved into the -- GCH which I just love, I think it's great and...

Amalie: Do you know the stories behind the rings?

Ellen: Yes, so this is her wedding ring, which I love, I have it-- put it on here and it's got really cute engravings in the back of it, which I don't quite know what they mean, I need to work that out because I didn't actually notice that until recently. And then I presume this was a present to him probably from his dad. His dad started the garage that they owned and then it was handed down to my papa so I presume this is a present. But it is, considering how old I presume it is, it's very in good condition so presumably--- we found it in the back of a drawer somewhere so I think it's just luck that I have it now and it is just nice to have something of his that's mine.

Amalie: A piece of him that you wear every single day.

Rachel: Yeah, I always think they live on in you, in their influence on you and that's like a physical...

Ellen: Yeah.

Rachel: ...representation or manifestation of...

Ellen: Of the meaning that they gave to me, you know, we were so close, you know, it's just it's such a nice, like I have a very distinct morning ritual where I put my jewellery and it's just so nice to like put this on and think of them and think of all the of the things that we had and you know with-- some are so consumed with grief that was very difficult for especially for my mum, you know, losing both parents unexpectedly, it was very difficult.

My granny's cancer diagnosis came and then seven weeks later she passed and then my papa passed a month after that, erm of a broken heart basically, which is difficult but it was kind of, it was quite reassuring for our family I think that his-- that his, that he got what he wanted. You know, he didn't want to live without, you know, he loved her so much and...

Rachel: For them it sounds good, but for those left behind...

Ellen: Absolutely.

Rachel: There's a Greek myth that the gods visited a couple in the skies and then the big reveal, hey we're the gods, what do you want? You know, I'll give you anything you want and what the couple asked for was that they would die together, so that neither of them would have to live without each other and I was just thinking of that when you were talking about your grandparents. And it sounds lovely for them...

Ellen: Yeah, it's...

Rachel: Although you...

Ellen: Yeah it was difficult but they were...

Rachel: [unintelligible] but you're saving them having that.

Ellen: Yeah it was definitely a, an int--- 'cause you know when my granny died it was so so hard but then it was kind of a very different emotional response when my papa then passed because it was a solace, it was a comfort, it was, you know, it's ok. And they've got what they wanted, I'm not personally a very religious or spiritual person but it's nice to think they're together now.

Ellen: Yeah.

Amalie: I like that a lot.

Ellen: Yeah. While it was so difficult at the time, it's the best way it could have happened.

Rachel: I think that's it, we never want them to die.

Ellen: Yes, yeah, if...

Rachel: Just please stay for ever.

Ellen: If it was up to me everyone would live forever.

Rachel: Impractical though it is but that's what we want.

Ellen: Oh absolutely but it would be great.

Rachel: Let's never encounter loss, but given that they have to go...

Ellen: Yeah, this is the best possible scenarios and, you know, my granny had seven very happy weeks in a hospice, she was the most sociable person and there's the classic story of me as a six or seven year old saying, 'Granny, did you know everyone in Aberdeen?' Because every time we went to town together she would like stop, it was actually very annoying sometimes I was like I'm just trying to shop.

Rachel: Can we get on?

Ellen: Yeah, like come on guys, I wanna get lunch [laughs] but you know she was such a sociable lady who knew so many people.

Rachel: And I love seeing a packed church for a funeral.

Ellen: Ah yeah, it was...

Rachel: And if we lived too long or long, there's nobody left to come. So actually even...

Ellen: It was incredible, like, you know it was just like the-- my dentist came, you know, it was-- we had a table with a quilt that my granny had made and some big photos of them on their wedding day and some tapestries that my papa had done for the church, it was just beautiful.

Rachel: Yeah, it sounds like a good funeral, or a memorial, whatever it was.

Ellen: Yes, yeah and my granny didn't want anyone to wear black, so I wore a pink dress with very inappropriate acrylic nails on and she chose the shoes I was going to wear...

Rachel: And she was smiling down...

Ellen: She was having a brilliant time, she was like all my friends are in the same room and everyone's wearing pink so...

Amalie: Aww, that's so nice.

Ellen: It was good, yeah.

Amalie: Rachel, what did you wear? Uh, what? [Unsure] What did you wear to the funeral?

Rachel: To Ellen's grandma's funeral?

Ellen: I didn't see you there, thank you for coming.

Rachel: I was at my cousin's funeral a month ago who killed herself so that was tragic but.

Ellen: Aww, that's very hard.

Rachel: Again we were asked not to wear black and they had a quilt one of the other cousins had handmade a quilt for her and that was over the coffin...

Ellen: Oh that's lovely.

Rachel: And that for me somehow felt that she was being-- that we were trying to care for her and that even though she clearly wasn't feeling that when she was alive but then with something about the quilt...

Ellen: Yeah.

Rachel: At the funeral and the wearing some colour and imagining her.

Ellen: Quilts are-- there was that other episode of this podcast where she brought in the quilt...

Amalie: Yeah!

Ellen: And I was listening to that, I think quilting is such an amazing art form, my mum trained as a textile designer but erm quilts a lot, all the time, we have so many quilts, we'll never get cold ever and...

Rachel: Even in Edinburgh [laughs].

Ellen: I'm warm for ever. Quilts are just-- they're like another level of art form because I love the practicality of them, combined...

Rachel: I like the mathematics of them because they're geometrical as well.

Amalie: I like the therapeutic aspect of it.

Ellen: Yes.

Amalie: Like making it and stuff.

Ellen: Making it then taking so much time to do all of the steps and then you're left with a product that you know will last for years and is also just-- you can literally wrap yourself in the..

Rachel: That's it, the love...

Amalie: I mean I knit, I made this one.

Rachel: Me too.

Ellen: [Impressed] You made that?

Amalie: Yeah!

Ellen: That's gorgeous!

Amalie: For the listeners I just-- I'm wearing a self-made uh thing.

Rachel: I nearly brought my knitting with me.

Amalie: Oh really?

Rachel: I'm towards the end of a jumper.

Amalie: Ahh it's my number one activity to do.

Rachel: But it is calming, it makes me stop and slow down and...

Amalie: Exactly.

Rachel: Again it's all you said about when it's a gift you know unfolding somebody and it's personal, yeah.

Amalie: Yeah and like when you're watching something, it makes you feel productive even though you're not really.

Ellen: Yes.

Rachel: Yes.

Ellen: I've started many a scarf...

Amalie: Many a scarf.

Ellen: I sadly didn't get my mother's artistic talent and I'm Disabled Students' Officer for the University and sometimes my hands just don't work, so knitting is like a-- comes and goes. Sometimes I can do it and then I just leave it for six months and then I do one more line and then another six months later-- one day I will finish a scarf.

Rachel: This jumper is about five years old, the one I'm trying to finish off.

Ellen: [Laughs] Yeah.

Ellen: But it will be new when you finish it.

Rachel: It's fine.

Amalie: I have tendocitus-- wait, what's it called, tendocitus in my arm right now because I spent so much...

Ellen: Oh that's an RSI?

Amalie: Time just in one go making this, so then now the repeated...

Ellen: I just can’t believe that you make the like…The different types of knit you put in a zip.

Rachel: [Simultaneous chat] Yeah the zip is really getting me, knitting no problem, but sewing the zip in-- I hate sewing, so that is another level.

[Sharing things theme music]

Amalie: Tell us about your object.

Rachel: My objects, I couldn't pick so I have three, but I think the most important one is this, which is my donor card.

Ellen: Yes.

Rachel: For the listeners at home, an NHS donor card because I just discovered you can get one with different belief systems on them.

Ellen and Amalie: Oh wow.

Rachel: So I'm not quite sure why but that for me made it a two-in-one card because I chose to have the Christian symbol on it and the donor card means a lot to me because, how many years ago, about 19 years ago in 2001 my husband's life was saved by somebody who was carrying a donor card.

Ellen and Amalie: Ohh.

Rachel: And I'm just really touched that a complete stranger in Northern Ireland, and her family, because it's not just the person carrying the card, the family have to go, yeah we agree, in a moment of grief, you know, thinking of that bereavement because it was a sudden death, as far as we know, the generosity of strangers saved my husband's life.

Amalie: Fantastic.

Rachel: My kids have grown up with a dad- they were sort of five, three and nothing at the time and I haven't had to be a single mum because I think being a single parent is very difficult, I take my hat off to everyone who does it.

Ellen: Absolutely.

Rachel: So, any organ donors listening out there or blood donors- thanking you. You have changed our lives.

Ellen: And if you haven't registered, then register. [See Scotblood or NHS Blood donation]

Rachel: Yeah [laughs] you can stick the link at the end of the podcast.

Ellen: A call to action.

Rachel: That's right, easily done. So that's my object that basically changed my life and I think that's wonderful that cheers me up when I despair of human nature, the cruelty that we're also amazingly wonderful as humans as well as amazingly cruel and I'd love to hang on to my thought.

Ellen: That's beautiful.

Rachel: Yeah, we're both. We're all a mixture of good and not so good, you know, in our best moments we're just amazing and we have moments, we all have moments we're ashamed of and there's both in there, rather than just there are good people and there are bad people, maybe I'm a bit idealistic, that's what I believe.

Amalie: No but I think that's nice to, to look out for the, for the best in people.

Rachel: Yeah.

Amalie: Yeah.

Rachel: I just try to believe that everyone's doing the best they can yeah with the resources they have, given whatever they were brought up with or whatever shit they're going through at the moment, but...

Amalie: How did you feel when you got the message that your husband got...

Rachel: A liver?

Amalie: Yeah, got donated this...

Rachel: Well, huge relief because we've been on the waiting list for nine months so he had nearly died several times, it's like great, it's happening and we had to get in the ambulance, which I'd never been in before, from Perth where we live to just across the road here at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary which is now something else.

Ellen: A big ambulance journey.

Rachel: It was!

Amalie: Oh um, Edinburgh Futures Institute now.

Rachel: I think that's what it is now.

Ellen: Oh really, is that with that?

Rachel: Uh huh, that building with turrets. So when we got the call, huge relief but also tempered because you never know till you get there whether it's going to be a good match and whether it might have cancer in it or whether it's-- so trying not to get too excited, it also felt very weird to be in an ambulance going to hospital for a dangerous operation when he was actually ok that day.

Amalie: Yeah.

Rachel: Because usually we tended to rush into hospital when he was not looking good, like he was a bit odd. And we had the baby with us [laughs].

Amalie: Oh wow.

Rachel: It was like ok, little baby, have we got enough food and actually I think she was still breastfeeding at that stage and leaving the other two kids at home and having to arrange for someone to tell them when they woke up and he was meant to go to my eldest's primary school class that day.

Amalie: Awww.

Rachel: So when she woke up it had to be broken to her that Daddy was not going to be coming in and she was not pleased [laughs]. We're like, well he's busy saving his life, you'll be glad in the long run.

Ellen: Five-year-olds don't...

Amalie: Priorities...

Rachel: It doesn't matter at that point when you're five and dad's meant to come to school and he doesn't. Yeah, come on, do the transplant another day.

Ellen: Leave the liver.

Rachel: Yeah [ laughs]. So yeah I remember waiting because it's like a nine-hour op in whatever Futures Institute that it is now in the turret. So that, that was a tricky day but it ended well, you know, so after that we don't take colds very seriously [laughs]. It's like you're alive, it's fine. No sympathy, no sympathy for anything less than their life and death.

Amalie: Yeah, how do you feel about that experience now?

Rachel: Oh we still commemorate it, we have a celebratory party for friends about every five years on the anniversary, just to celebrate being alive.

Amalie: Yeah.

Rachel: And I think it's changed, in my better moments it means I'm just very appreciative, like you guys talking about appreciating the view when you wake up.

Ellen and Amalie: Yes.

Rachel: And It's like catching those moments of, hey aren't I lucky to be alive?

Ellen: Yeah.

Rachel: I mean in my worst moments I completely forget that and get very annoyed with him.

Amalie: Oh yeah.

Rachel: As one does.

Ellen: Absolutely.

Amalie: As one does.

Rachel: And I kind of forget [gasp] aren't I lucky.

Ellen: Yeah I had a-- it's a-- I always feel like it sounds very dramatic when I say it, I had a near death experience in December-- November but I did. I had a near death experience. I contracted meningitis and yeah-- which was not good so I basically, I passed out in my house, I spent two hours where I was-- I was definitely awake but I was basically just staring at a wall and just had nothing, there was nothing going on behind the eyes, um I managed to stumble my way through phoning NHS 24, which took me half an hour to dial 111, which was fun.

I was then-- I actually thought that because of-- I have a lot of other medications for my other conditions, I thought I was overdosing on something, I thought maybe I'd taken too much or something had gone wrong.

My lovely friend Louise, she took me in her car along with our other friend Alice, who was just kind of trying to talk to me to make sure that I stayed and they very quickly admitted me and the nurse said, we're giving you these antibiotics, they're basically if bleach was a medicine, so they-- yeah so I got-- I had a lumber puncture.

I had an MRI scan or a CT scan, I can't remember, I had as many fluids as they could get into me and thankfully they caught it but I-- they didn't quite realise at the time how serious it was until the consultant came in on her morning rounds and said we're-- you know we can start to discharge you today because you're going back with your parents, she said, you know if had just been going back on your own, we wouldn't have let you out.

And she said, anything that happens within the next couple of months, come back because basically if I'd gone to sleep rather than phoning NHS 24 I would not have woken up, which is-- it's a scary thought because as someone with a lot of health conditions anyway, I-- you know it never really got to that point, you know I've been in pain, I-- you know they test me every six months to see if I need both my knees replaced, you know, we-- there's lots of things going on.

Rachel: But that's different from dying or not existing.

Ellen: So different, yeah and it's just like I feel so sorry for my poor mother who I phoned in hospitals and was like, can you come and get me? Death is weird, basically, and after a year being kind of surrounded by it to then almost go through something myself and my mother is quite superstitious- sorry mum- and she very much was like, death comes in threes [laughs].

Rachel: Well you proved her wrong!

Ellen: Yes, I've beaten the superstition, I'm still alive. Um yeah death is a very scary thing and you know I can't-- it's so interesting to hear you speak about it from a family member perspective because I think families process it more, I don't know if this is the same for your husband but I feel like it's just like, oh yeah that kind of happened, you know, I kind of joke about it like I almost died but I'm still here.

Rachel: Well you weren't at the bedside looking at you as your mum was or as I was.

Ellen: Yeah I couldn't see myself.

Rachel: It's a bit like I've been told childbirth like-- so I have three kids but I don't really have a big thing about childbirth because I was on the inside of it whereas my husband had to watch it, you know I think they're a bit like...

And I don't know if it's the same with death like, I don't know, not having been on the inside but like with my kids I've always thought, aren't I lucky I can have kids and they might die, cause I know because-- I'm just rather gloomy because of the whole death thing and I just want to enjoy them as long as they're here, rather than do you know the other way around, which is to think why did my kid die or my husband die or me.

Ellen: Yeah.

Rachel: It's like the glass half full/glass half empty.

Ellen: Yeah you've got to spin it, you've go to...

Rachel: Enjoy whatever we've got.

Ellen: Enjoy it and process it in a way in your head that doesn't cause excess harm afterwards, yeah it's such a difficult and different thing, realising mortality.

Rachel: I think we can't take it in because it would just be too much.

Ellen: Yeah, yeah.

Rachel: But people like you have touched it or even with the disabilities, I think you get a bit closer than those of us who just maybe bob along regardless.

Ellen: Yeah, you can see the storm coming but it's always away and then occasionally you drive head first into it by accident, you're like uhhhh.

Rachel: And then you forget it for a bit.

Ellen: Yeah and then away it goes and you turn around and look at the sunshine.

Rachel: You worry about frost on the window or.

Ellen: Yeah, well you worry about things and then you kind of-- I think that's why the rings are so good for me because it's-- it's very grounding and it's very centering.

Rachel: You can touch it.

Ellen: Yeah you can, like when I put it on I think how lucky I was to have someone and then also how lucky I am that I'm still here, you know, it's kind of a wake up call to be like oh now you have to do something, like they did so well.

Rachel: They believed you.

Ellen: They loved me.

Rachel: They want you to be well, so.

Ellen: Yeah I've got to go, I've got to go for them.

Amalie: So what makes you feel-- because you touched on kind of like the feeling of being alive and stuff, what do you think specifically makes you feel alive or is there anything that makes you feel grounded or I mean you mentioned the rings but yeah.

Rachel: I'm sort of a bit embarrassed to say this but it is my faith, so there's this sense of being connected to something bigger and that can be triggered when I look at the mountains, like on the train right here, and then with full moon and there's just that awe of, whether you call it nature, or I call it God, that just bigger thing, or yeah it's in the still, silent moments, because I meditate or pray in the morning and it's those moments, otherwise I would rush through life, you know, you talked about being busy, Ellen, I would just go from one exciting, brilliant experience or awful, stressful moment to the next without ever really getting that feeling of stopping.

Ellen: Processing it and reflecting.

Rachel: Yeah being alive and being in awe, basically being in awe of the miracle of wonderful, awful, mixed-up, beyond our comprehension of life.

Amalie: Yeah I think that's...

Rachel: Because we can't box it and explain it.

Ellen: That is so interesting because that answer is so similar to my answer in a very different way, because as someone who's not religious, as soon as you said what makes you feel alive, I was thinking about community and thinking about people and it is that overarching sense of belonging and there being something there that you have, and whether that's from God, whether that's from people whether that's from whatever else you believe in.

Rachel: Uh huh for some people it's a belief system of politics.

Ellen: Yes, yeah.

Rachel: Or campaigning for the environment but yeah community and people is very basic to us, we all need that.

Ellen: Yeah and I think about, you know, the best times I have and it's times where I'm with a group of people and, you know, I think back to-- it was Disability History Month in November, sadly I only got 10 days of it before I was...

Rachel: Nearly died.

Ellen: Nearly died, you know. And we had a lovely mixer at the beginning of that month and it was supposed to go on from 5 until 7pm and I got home at about half 10 having drunk a bit, eaten a meal and wasn't expecting to have such a wonderful, productive evening with these people that either I knew and were friends with or I'd ever met before or I kind of only half knew, you know, speaking about these big issues and it felt like a productive rant of like, here's all of the things that I think are bad, that, you know, ableism and the problems that we have with the institutions that we're in, but here's what we can do about it and we haven't done any of that yet, but we will.

Rachel: And you know you're not alone.

Ellen: Yes.

Rachel: I think it's that real contact-- I'm a counsellor and a coach and we talk about that true contact when you're being yourself and talking about what matters, rather than just...

Ellen: It's so lovely to know that people have the same problems as you, ultimately we'd like the problems not to exist but having that connection is just so important and I think that there are pockets of the University community that I just feel so attached to, that have made my time in Edinburgh what it is, you know, the classes are great and getting a degree is lovely, I would love to graduate, that would be nice but...

Rachel: No, it's the connections with people.

Ellen: Yeah.

Rachel: I was thinking what do I remember from my year in Edinburgh and it was the people that came to mind first, I loved the studying, I mean that's where I met my husband, he was studying here and some of my lifelong friends, one of whom just visited for New Year, we hadn't seen each other in 20 years, she lives in Switzerland and it was the international community for me because I was a postgrad.

Ellen: Yeah.

Rachel: And it's people and connections.

Ellen: Definitely there's so many incredible people that I've met here and it's just so beautiful to have a sense of belonging somewhere, you know, it's very different belonging to a hometown, the transition from school to uni for me it was quite interesting because I didn't feel very settled.

I'm from Aberdeen and I never really felt a connection to the place before, it was kind of a running joke that Aberdeen's rubbish and there's nothing to do here, because there wasn't, our like fun after school activity was getting in my friend's car driving to the beach and then going home because it was too cold to actually go on the beach.

Rachel: I was a student in Aberdeen.

Ellen: I'm so sorry, it's a place [laughs]. Not to bash Aberdeen, you're lovely. So coming to Edinburgh and getting something that I hadn't really felt before, and I didn't realise I needed, I didn't quite realise that I didn't love Aberdeen and I didn't get that sense of community there, I shout to my friends in Aberdeen, I do still love you.

Rachel: But I think there's something about leaving your home community and finding your own one, where you're yourself, you're not the daughter of your parents and you can reinvent yourself.

Amalie: Your chosen family.

Ellen: Chosen family, I love that.

Rachel: And then I think when we return to our hometown, we see it with different eyes and appreciate it but we need to leave it.

Ellen: Yeah, need to spread metaphorical ways, yeah.

Rachel: What you said about belonging, I think we all have a deep need to belong and to connect and I run Menopause Cafés and again it's different because it's not really a disability, but it can feel like that, and the things that people say after it are, now I know I'm not alone, you see, even though the challenges haven't gone...

Ellen: No it's just, oh ok it's-- it's normalising the things that you struggle with and once they become normalised they seem smaller and they seem more manageable.

Rachel: That's it.

Ellen: And there's hope.

Rachel: Hope is what we need.

Ellen: Yeah, yeah and the turbulent world that is full of so many things that are beyond our control.

Rachel: It would be easy to despair.

Ellen: Absolutely.

Rachel: But hope is one of-- like Pandora's Box, hope was the little one that crept out.

Ellen: Yes!

Rachel: And I look back at the hard times in my life and it's like hope, faith, call it what-- but that hope that despite-- contrary to all logic maybe something good just might...

Ellen: Yeah, hope's a kind of-- I feel like it's more of a shared emotional than an individual one.

Rachel: I think so, it reminds me of my day job apart from Menopause Café is running a counselling and leadership organization and one of our lines as counsellors is: We believe in you even when you can't believe in yourself.

Amalie: Ah that's nice.

Rachel: And it sounds like your grandparents believed in you.

Ellen: Yeah, they did, they really did.

Rachel: And we all need people who believe in us even when we can't believe, whether that's friends, grandparents, counsellor.

Ellen: Yeah absolutely.

Rachel: And that keeps us going I think.

Ellen: Yeah very much so. I'm in the process at the moment of kind of learning to just like, it's ok.

Rachel: To be kind to yourself.

Ellen: Yeah, you almost died two months ago, like..

Rachel: Yeah, you're doing amazing to get out of bed.

Ellen: Yeah, you know sit down it's ok, you don't have to be everything all at once.

Rachel:  Self-compassion.

Ellen: Self-compassion's so important, yeah, and it's so much easier to practise compassion to others than it is to yourself.

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Amalie: Wow I've really enjoyed listening to all of this, honestly.

Ellen: We've had fun.

Amalie: Yeah.

Ellen: I've had to put my rings back on as well, cause I felt really unbalanced without them I was like, I-need-to-put-them-back-on.

Amalie: I think that's so interesting that like as soon as you take them off, you feel like not yourself.

Ellen: Something feels wrong with my hands.

Amalie: Yeah.

Ellen: It's like, as soon as I put them on, I become on. You know, I become back, I'm ready to face the world.

Rachel: It's like your protective shield.

Ellen: Yes, very much and it's just if I don't have them on then it's just a bit-- I just feel a bit weird.

Rachel: And that's just after a few months.

Ellen: Yeah, yeah.

Rachel: But what a few months.

Ellen: Yeah, what a few months.

Rachel: Nearly dying and losing your grandparents.

Ellen: It's been a-- 2019 will go down in the books as like maybe not the best [laughs]. We've all got like hopes for this new decade, like, please.

Amalie: My um-- so when I was born I was given this gold necklace and then my sister found it, like very recently, she found it hidden away in some drawer, like we had all forgotten about it, and now she wears it every day.

Rachel: She wears it? Your necklace?

Amalie: I know but...

Ellen: That's such a sister move.

Amalie: I know, first of all, stealing my things but second of all, when she told me that, I was like wow that...

Rachel: It's a link, yeah.

Amalie: That makes me feel so happy because you're wearing my necklace every day.

Rachel: Yeah.

Amalie: Yeah.

Rachel: This was from my sister, this is my other object.

Ellen: That's so cute.

Rachel: And she brought it back-- it's a little elephant, wooden elephant that she brought back from a trip to India that has baby elephants around it and my mum comes from India, my sister brought it back, it reminds me of my kids, it's like there's so much...

Ellen: Aww that's beautiful, so much in one object.

Rachel: …in this and I can stroke it.

Rachel: So it's been on my desk since actually before I had kids about 25 years and I really like it. Sisters are good.

Amalie: Sisters are good.

Ellen: They are good.

Amalie: They are a pain in the bottom.

Rachel: Oh absolutely as well.

Ellen: 14-year-olds are never great but my sister is I have to say a pretty cool one, she cut all her hair off and then one day was like, mum can I shave my head? So mum got out the clippers and she shaved her head and now my sister, we call her kiwi, cause she does look a bit like a kiwi with like the little fuzz on top.

Rachel: Brown hair?

Ellen: Yeah um but she is so much braver and so much smarter than I think I will ever be or any person...

Rachel: Watch that self-compassion.

Ellen: I know, I know, but...

Amalie: That self-compassion.

Rachel: Comparison is the enemy of joy.

Ellen: It is, but like on paper she is just better...

Rachel: Ok, on paper, fine.

Ellen: Than any other human that's ever existed, so that's not even to put myself down.

Amalie: Yeah maybe that's just sister love.

Ellen: That's just really like, she's great, she plays the drums and she sings opera.

Rachel: My sister's even better...ok maybe not (laugh).

Ellen: With her little shaved head singing opera and she's the best.

Amalie: Wow she's sounds cool.

Ellen: Yeah, you should have had her on honestly, we would've been like...

Rachel: In a few years' time.

Ellen: Yeah, she'll be here with her-- she'll bring along a crocodile or something, a real one.

Amalie: So to end our conversation, we always end with the same question, I don't know if you've heard it, and that is: If you could associate your object with one word what would it be?

Rachel: Love.

Ellen: Ah, yeah, I think I'll have to go the same, I think we've both converged onto compassion and love and a sense of togetherness, whether that's from the memories of someone that you've lost or the carrying on of life in both loss and then living, I think love just sums up the community that we've been talking about, the objects that we have and not to be cheesy but also like my Edinburgh experience, eww gross [laughs].

Rachel: Sometimes being cheesy is...

Ellen: Yeah it's ok.

Rachel: It's alright.

Ellen: Yeah and it is love like if I didn't love Edinburgh, if Edinburgh didn't love me back, I wouldn't have stayed. And I am after four years.

Amalie: About to graduate.

Ellen: Hopefully.

Rachel: You will!

Ellen: I hope so, but love, that's so nice.

Amalie: Thank you for being on Sharing things, Ellen and Rachel.

Ellen: Thank you so much you for having us.

Rachel: We enjoyed it.

Amalie: A very, very...

Ellen: Heartfelt.

Amalie: Heartfelt chat, I enjoyed it a lot.

Ellen: Me too.

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