Introducing The Peloton

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My family and friends could rhyme off a long list of ideas that I’ve come up with over the years for such things as new business ventures, new charities or new support initiatives. Very few of them came to fruition. Most of them - after lots of excited talk and planning - end up dumped on the ‘I’m bogged down with the nuts and bolts of it; I’m too frightened of it failing; I’m worried about what some folk will think; the logistics are too complicated’ pile. My long-suffering family and friends then wait patiently for me to start all over again with the next ‘great new idea’ to surface.

 

Sometimes, I manage to overcome those mental barriers and put my ideas into action, with some of them being a success and some not working out quite so well. But I never regret at least trying.

 

So, it’s one of my life’s little mysteries that I still hum and haw when I come up with something that seems like a great idea - then usually end up talking myself out of it. This apparent lack of confidence is especially frustrating when I’m told, time and again, that I’m a great encourager and enabler when it comes to helping other people to move forward or ‘face their fears and do it anyway!’

 

One of the ideas that I most regret not carrying through was the one inspired by my ‘World of Difference’ music therapy project at our local hospice. When my contract at the hospice ended, I toyed with setting up a new charity, called ‘Playlists for Life’ where I would provide support using the medium of ‘personal meaningful music’.

 

I started off, spending lots of time researching and thinking it through, with great enthusiasm and gusto, but gradually I started to feel bogged down when I realised the amount of work involved in setting up a charity and when my little niggling inner voice of doom got louder and louder with such things as, ‘You can’t do this, you’re not a trained music therapist!  How would you cope with the funding applications? How would you promote it? What if no one wants to use the service?’ And so on and so forth. I hummed and hawed for months until, eventually, the idea started to gather dust in a folder on my shelf. (It’s still there to this day, on my shelf, in a big dusty folder with ‘Playlists for Life’ scribbled on its spine.)

 

So, you can imagine my reaction when I read, about a year after I finished my work at Strathcarron Hospice, that Sally Magnusson had set up a new charity called ‘Playlists for Life’…!

 

Now, I’m not suggesting for one minute that Sally knew about my work or got inside my head and copied me!! Not at all! It wasn’t a brand new idea to me, other people had already done similar things - and her ‘Playlists for Life’ is specifically about supporting people who’ve been diagnosed with dementia. It’s brilliant and has gone on to be a huge success, which is truly wonderful. My idea was more about reaching out to people with a terminal diagnosis - at home, in hospital or hospices - and exploring how talking about meaningful music, then making up playlists together, could be used to ease both their physical and psychological pain. Maybe one day it’s something I’ll come back to…!

 

In the meantime, my mantra should’ve become: ‘When you come up with a good idea, bloody go with it!’ But, I just don’t seem to learn…

 

Over a year ago, I thought of setting up some sort of informal, supportive social group or meet-up in a café-style setting - basically with the aim of creating an environment where people can spend some meaningful time feeling valued, relaxed and connected by leaving their masks at home and being ‘real’ with each other. It can make us feel really good (even through the toughest of times!) when we’re listened to - and when we listen - in the company of people who won’t judge us, won’t try to fix us, won’t be cynical or judgemental, but will just sit there with us.

 

Talking and listening - over a cuppa and some cake! Open to anyone who’s looking for something more meaningful to do than watch the telly on a Thursday night! That’s the basic premise of the idea I came up with - to create a place where people, especially those who might be feeling a bit disconnected, feel comfortable, valued and heard in an informal, social environment (as opposed to the more professional therapeutic environment that’s offered by such things as de-stress clinics, or counselling groups).

 

I’ve been doing my usual humming and hawing for months. Trying to think of the best way to pull the idea together, how to promote it, how to structure it - but, one thing I did come up with, ages ago, was a name: ‘The Frazzled Café’.

 

So, you can imagine my reaction when I read that Ruby Wax has recently launched a new initiative called ‘Frazzled Cafes!’…I nearly fell off my chair!

 

Again, I’m not for one minute suggesting that Ruby Wax broke into my computer and copied my notes!! (Please don’t sue me Ruby..!) But, incredibly, yet again, we definitely did both come up with the same name! Having said that, Ruby (who’s a terrific ambassador for mindfulness and mental health) is using a structure that’s slightly different from the one I have in mind. We both have the same goal - crudely speaking, to create an environment where there’s no bullshit, where it’s safe to drop your mask and relax in other people’s company without the social anxiety that goes along with small talk. But, where hers differs from mine is that her meetings are more ‘therapy’ based, being facilitated by a counsellor with a professional from the mental health community on hand, and starting and ending with a mindfulness meditation.

 

This time, even though Ruby’s started a similar thing, I’m determined not to see my idea gather dust on the shelf! I really want to give this one a go.

 

So, before some other celebrity makes an announcement that might knock me off my chair, I’ve decided to take the plunge and put it out there on a public platform that my new venture is going to be The Peloton!

 

I’m not quite there with it yet. But, my vision is that it’s going to be a place where you won’t have to wear your masks to ‘fit in’, but will always feel included. A place where you won’t feel you have to talk, but will always feel you have a voice. And a place where you can come on your own, but be amongst a supportive group of friends.

 

At the moment, I see it happening in a local café (somewhere with a separate, more intimate space), in Stirling. I hope to start with one evening and one morning or afternoon per week, and I hope to get it up and running mid-January 2017. I see it as me - along with everyone who comes - creating a space in our community where people can come for a coffee (and cake!) to just be. To simply sit, chat or listen, to talk to other people without feeling the need to make a good impression, without having to make awkward small talk, without having to have any other reason to be there other than to be. Just to be yourself, in a supportive and compassionate environment. To benefit from authentic social connection.

 

I’m thinking that sometimes it might run like a drop-in, with me - at the very least - always there to offer some friendly companionship over a cuppa. Sometimes I might run with a theme, or suggest topics for group discussion, sometimes I’ll invite a speaker along, or run mini workshops. Sometimes I’ll give out information, or signpost to other organisations. I’m thinking I’ll have to charge some sort of fee - but the money side of things is the thing I’m most hopeless at, so I’ll no doubt mull that over plenty more!

 

I definitely don’t see it as a ‘networking’ group, but I do see it as somewhere that might (as a sort of by-product!) facilitate the finding of new friends to share new experiences with. Lots of people would love to join sports groups or take up a new hobby but understandably feel too anxious or nervous to go on their own. Doing it with someone you’ve got to know through joining The Peloton might not be quite so daunting.

 

So, there. I’ve put it out there. And that means I’m more likely to do it. It also means I’ve opened myself up for comments, constructive criticism or suggestions! Please do let me know if you have any thoughts - and do let me know if this is something you might be interested in coming along to.

 

This time, I’m determined to be sitting steadfastly on my chair with an idea that’s come to fruition, rather than falling off while some celebrity does a damn good job of it instead…

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