Joyce Chiu Broadbent is an MBACP accredited Psychotherapist and Counsellor, PCC Life Coach, Mindfulness Teacher and Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master. She read psychology at the University of Hong Kong (1974 – 77) and had a successful career in marketing research. In 1985 Joyce fell in love with Mike, a client, and they married in 1990. She shares her story, from heartbreak to finding strength through poetry.
Nothing perfect lasts forever. In the throes of a midlife crisis, I began a spiritual quest to discover who I was behind my different roles and in 1997, I left alone for London to train as a psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher. A year later, Mike joined me.
By 2001, life seemed complete and Mike and I had found our place in the world. We were surrounded by close friends and shared our new home with two cherished dogs and two greatly loved cats.
The year was 2004. The neurologist just dropped a bombshell. Mike has Parkinson’s Disease and had to take early retirement.
By 2015, things started to unravel and I found juggling my work life and caring for my ailing husband daunting.
To some extent, my training served me well and I started to find solace in meditation and renewed my love for poetry.
Initially, I was able to hold the present with some degree of equanimity, to notice all the chaos erupting before me that compelled me to write what I felt.
Outside My Window
This will fade.
The branches, stark naked,
Stretching upwards in supplication,
Will be clothed in tender baby leaves.
The sun, like a playful kitten,
Will peep out of the winter duvet
Of thought-leaden clouds.
This will fade.
And if I stride, stumble, run, dance, crawl, tip toe through life,
If I fail to notice, to realize
That this will pass,
I will have lost
By nature a sensitive and introvert honed to adapt to my work and social life, I found it increasingly unbearable to witness my strong, independent husband being struck down by this cruel disease.
All I could do was to retreat into myself and allowed my heart to articulate my pain. Sometimes, I did not even know what I felt and when the words wrote themselves, they revealed to me what was below the surface. Writing poems became my therapy.
After being woken up one night by Mike’s groan from a nightmare, I wrote this poem suffused with love and despair. Reading my poem back gave me the impetus to endure. For another night, another day.
A Love Poem
In bed I lie awake, alert
To your laboured breathing,
To any slight movement,
To the switching on and off of lights.
Are you caught in a nightmare
Or lying awake,
Frozen and cramped
Or shaking, unable to stop?
What dreams do you chase tonight?
Or are dreams chasing you?
Clutching at the edge of a precipice,
I hear a cough, a groan,
Shall I come to you,
Hold you in my arms,
Willing you to sleep with the words:
Dream of me?
The nights were the worst. I kept a semblance of containment and normality during the day. Before bed, I usually meditated, to attend to myself. And this was when the words began tumbling down recording the day and making sense of the hopelessness and helplessness I was experiencing.
And a throttled sob.
Strangling my throat,
Is the memory
Of a strong man
Struck down by the enemy within,
Crawling up the stairs
To the relief of his bed.
‘I could still be really fit,’
‘If it were not for this fucking disease.’
He grasps every second
To be useful.
To toil in the garden,
To empty the conservatory,
Ready for a new one.
Is this then our task
To empty ourselves of
Illusions of our invincibility
To make way for the promise of
Something that hopefully is our salvation?
I never want my poems to sink into self-pity. For me, they are the cleansing of my inner world and a way to reach out to others in a similar position: that we are all in the same boat, rowing against life’s currents.