Episode 19 -Taz Thornton & Asha ClearwaterHindsight is a wonderful thing! Making Conversations about Partnerships Count!
Taz Thornton & Asha Clearwater, Business Coaches
Making Conversations about Partnerships Count!
Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
Making conversations about partnerships count.
In a Making Conversations Count first, we are joined by two dynamic guests in this episode. Both Taz & Asha provide business coach services in different areas.
Joining Wendy chatting about all the elements that make up a great debate. You are not going to want to miss the observations with Taz Thornton and Asha Clearwater around questioning, opinions, debate and discernment that makes for wonderful colourful conversations.
An energetic episode that even features an attempt at a quick rendition of the Pearl & Dean theme tune, ABBA and the Wombles…showing our age!
These ladies have been pioneers in many aspects of life, business and spirituality. It would be impossible for them to pick just one pivotal moment – take a listen and see if you can count how many are shared in this brilliant conversation.
Listen to other episodes on your favourite platform…
Full Episode Transcript
Making Conversations Count – Episode Nineteen
February 25th 2021
Wendy Harris, Taz Thornton & Asha Clearwater
00:03:03: The conversational approach to coaching
00:05:32: Learning not to sit on the fence
00:07:46: Listening skills
00:09:29: Think for yourself
00:10:51: A combined pivotal moment
00:15:39: Asha’s pivotal moment
00:19:02: Sharing stories through online content
00:20:10: Taz’s pivotal moment
00:22:58: Depression and mental health
00:23:25: Wendy on her pivotal moment
00:26:52: Communication from medical experts
00:29:32: Humour can lighten any subject!
00:31:47: Being labelled with a disease
00:34:26: Laughter impacts your physicality
00:37:29: Final thoughts
Wendy Harris: So, welcome to Making Conversations Count, the podcast that brings you business leaders to share their pivotal moments, a conversation that really has created a turning point in their life or career. Today, we have a Making Conversations Count first, because we have two guests. I’m going to introduce them as I know best, two powerhouses of LinkedIn, which is where I’ve gotten to know them, and that is Taz Thornton and Asha Clearwater. Please introduce yourselves, ladies.
Taz Thornton: Hello!
Asha Clearwater: Hello!
Taz Thornton: Go on, you go first.
Asha Clearwater: No, after you.
Taz Thornton: No, after you.
Asha Clearwater: We could be here a long time. Hello, I’m Asha Clearwater. I’m what I call a Content Coach, and I’m delighted to be here; it’s amazing. I run my own business, I have done for about 20 years; how did that happen? Oh my goodness! Obviously started when I was 5 — yeah, all right, thank you!
Wendy Harris: Time flies when you’re having fun!
Asha Clearwater: It does, and that’s me. Taz, over to you.
Taz Thornton: I am an award-winning coach, lots of awards, which my PR tells me I need to talk about a lot more; two best-selling books, three more in the pipeline. I do one-to-one coaching with people in business, working predominantly on visibility and personal brand, as well as growth and planning and all of that, rah rah rah! And, on an individual level, I work with people on confidence, empowerment and a lot of spiritual empowerment too. A lot of people are out of alignment and I help them to get that alignment back and feel more energised.
When I’m not doing that, I’m speaking on stages across the world, or teaching other people how to do the same. I’ve done three TEDx events so far and counting.
Asha Clearwater: And we happen to be married!
Taz Thornton: We do.
Asha Clearwater: We’ve been together 23 years next year.
Taz Thornton: 23 years next year.
Wendy Harris: So, you were just arguing about that before we came on, as to how long it’s actually been. So, it’s a miracle!
Asha Clearwater: Yeah. That was our youngest dog, Bailey, barking in the background. I think he’s saying I’m right!
Wendy Harris: Yeah, exactly.
Taz Thornton: Don’t you be on your mummy’s side.
Wendy Harris: He’s agreeing with his mummies!
Asha Clearwater: He is, definitely.
Asha Clearwater: But, we’ve got very similar career paths. When we first got together —
Taz Thornton: Yeah, you could pretty much overlay our CVs; it’s really quite freaky. And then, we ended up working in the same place several times over. It was fun when Asha particularly was in the closet and we were having to hide being together; that was good times!
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, that was interesting.
Wendy Harris: My greatest fear about having you two on, without seeing you, which is what the listeners are maybe going to have a bit of a challenge, is that you sound so alike. So, it’s great that I can see which one of you is actually speaking, because I know.
Asha Clearwater: We’ve had that actually. A lot of my family members, whenever they’ve rung up, they’ve said, “Is that Taz, or is that Asha?” and I can’t hear it. Taz, I think, has got more of a Midlands, haven’t you?
Taz Thornton: Do you want me to drop back into Brummy; does that help?
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, exactly, you’ve got a bit of that; she has got that.
Taz Thornton: All right.
Asha Clearwater: But, I’m from the South East, so we’ve got very different accents, potentially.
Taz Thornton: I tend to pick up accents wherever I go, so I’ve just got a weird mix.
Wendy Harris: I think you kind of mirror each other, and that just shows the closeness of your relationship, I think. I was thinking about it over the weekend thinking, “Oh, I’ve got that pair on Monday; that will be –“
Asha Clearwater: Double trouble!
Wendy Harris: And, for how we’ve gotten to know one another online and I know online at some of the networking events, Taz, and some of the empowerment groups that you’ve got on Facebook, I know I’m a member of those, your conversational approach to everything has really been what has drawn audiences to engage with you and then turned it into clients.
I would say, I’d take it one step further than just being a client relationship, because it’s that people meeting likeminded people, and the holistic approach that you both take in your respective roles, that they become more like friends and family?
Taz Thornton: Totally, yeah. There are certain situations, particularly in a coaching scenario where, of course, you need to have very clear boundaries. But, yeah, I’m absolutely committed to putting people first, whether I’m speaking on a stage for thousands of people, or sitting one-to-one with someone; it’s always their needs that come first. Sometimes that means that I’ll have to push people in a way that they might not enjoy at the time, in order to get the best from them, but I don’t think I could do that if I didn’t have that approach of showing that I genuinely care about people being able to make proper, genuine, lasting improvement in changing their lives.
It’s that framework that enables me to sometimes push people’s buttons a little bit, because they know that if they fall, I’ll catch them. And, you’re very similar with your work, aren’t you?
Asha Clearwater: Yeah. I think, for me, because I coach people on particularly writing content, but also speaking it, whether it’s video or it’s audio or it’s written, it’s about bringing the true them out in what they’re creating. And, sometimes that needs a little bit of a gentle push or prod, and maybe delving into areas of content that they’re not sure about or they don’t think people are going to be interested in. And, I really work hard to get that through to people, so that we can work as a team to bring that out and bring the best out for them so it’s their voice.
So, I’m really passionate about that, having worked in PR, and it’s fantastic; there are some great PR agencies out there. But very often sometimes, it can come across as the PR’s voice and not the client’s voice, and I think that’s absolutely crucial for good content and to get that rapport, to build the rapport and to get the kind of reaction and response you want from the audience.
Wendy Harris: It’s bringing that personality that you both have, big personalities, and you bring that in. Sometimes I get to the bottom like today, Asha, you know, with getting the keyboard out, I was answering you, I was having the conversation in my head with you. So, by the time I’d got to the bottom of finishing the post, I was kind of like, “What was the question again; I’ve just answered you?” and now I’ve got to think what I’ve got to put in reply.
So, that’s what I think connects with people. You’re divisive sometimes and that’s the pushing that I see, “Is this okay? I’m not sure it is?”, so you’re questioning, you’re constantly questioning and getting people to not sit on the fence so much, which I think is really important.
Taz Thornton: I think, particularly when we’re putting ourselves across on a public platform, we’ve become far too used to sitting on the fence. I think too many of us still have this old kind of 1980s, 1990s business idea that we just need to not offend anybody, because then we’ll get more clients.
Well, Marmite gets cited an awful lot. They’ve built a whole business around people loving them or hating them. I wouldn’t mind being 50p behind Marmite in terms of profit.
Wendy Harris: Sure, yeah.
Taz Thornton: So, I think we need to come away from that, I think we need to recognise that beige doesn’t offend anybody, but it’s nobody’s favourite colour either, and we need to get back to who we are; and to go really deep just for a minute, I think that’s where social media has kind of messed things up for us a little bit, because the algorithms put us in bubbles with everyone with the same opinion, and we start to believe that our opinion is in the majority.
Where in fact, step out into the real world, and then we’ll underpin conflict, because we stop recognising that — how can I say it in a way that won’t get bleeped out? Opinions are like bottom holes; everybody’s got one, you know, and we need to remember that it’s opinion and we need to be proud of our own opinion. We need to have our opinion, we need to be brave enough to speak it, and that doesn’t mean we need to get into conflicts and arguments; it means we can get into discussion and learn from one another, not try and convert somebody to our point of view.
Wendy Harris: Yes, it’s a real vegan status, isn’t it, you know, “I’m vegan, so you’re going to have to be vegan too”; well, it doesn’t really go down very well, does it?
Asha Clearwater: And that’s the thing, isn’t it? Since we’ve gone vegan, since we’ve gone plant-based diet, it’s that I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of kind of — you can feel people getting really agitated about it very early on in a conversation. And, that’s where I always say to people, “I’m not a political vegan; I did it because of my health”. But, even if I was, you know, it’s about debate, isn’t it; learning how to debate on an issue and not take offence, just listen.
It’s those listening skills that you talk about, Wendy, all the time; you know how important that is, really, truly listening.
Wendy Harris: There’s equality in everybody’s opinion, isn’t there? It doesn’t mean that you have to agree, but you can agree to disagree and have a broader spectrum of opinions to judge your bias on.
Taz Thornton: Absolutely, and to recognise the difference between discernment and judgement as well. So, for instance, if we just look at someone who has a different opinion and say, “Oh, they’re an idiot”; that’s judgement. If you say, “Oh well, okay, their opinion is different to mine. It might not be for me, but I wonder why they think that?”; discernment.
Just before lockdown, I remember sitting down with one of my clients and we had absolute polar opposite opinions on Brexit and foxhunting; it was a bit Smith and Jones. We sat opposite each other on this table —
Asha Clearwater: You’re showing your age now, Taz.
Taz Thornton: Yeah! We literally said, “Okay, well why do you believe that; and, why do you believe that?” We didn’t argue; there was no trying to persuade each other; there were no raised voices; we just listened and learned from one another, and then understood why we both had those opinions. And that was fine.
Wendy Harris: Because some opinions are not even based on fact, are they; they’re quite emotive opinions?
Taz Thornton: Yeah, definitely.
Wendy Harris: And, they can even be passed-down opinions. You don’t even realise why you’ve adopted those opinions.
Taz Thornton: Yeah, it’s not your opinion in the first place, is it; it’s somebody else’s opinion that you’ve —
Wendy Harris: Yeah. So, it’s important that we are unpicking a lot of societal constraints; I don’t know if that is the right word. But certainly, we are kind of told what to think and where to think it, and this year has opened the chasm to just how wise that is, I think
Taz Thornton: I think that’s exactly it. One of my big things, particularly — well, we both run spiritual empowerment circles together; particularly when I’m sitting in those, and that’s a mix of kind of coaching and medicine path and NLP and empowerment, even a bit of fire-walking brings it all together.
But, one of the big elements of that that we’re both so passionate about is, we’re not here to tell people what to think; we’re here to remind you how to think, or just to think. I’ll never tell somebody what to believe; I’ll say, “Well, there’s this, this, this and this, it’s up to you”.
Wendy Harris: Get them to think what else is there.
Taz Thornton: Precisely. Just scratch the surface a little bit.
Asha Clearwater: It’s really important that, I think.
Wendy Harris: Three women agreeing; who’d have thought it?!
Asha Clearwater: Quick, frame it!
Wendy Harris: This is what I love about the guests on the show, is that we all have a passion for that conversation, and to kick-start something. We’re kind of little revolutionaries in our own right, aren’t we, doing what we do, where we do it and how we do it. So, it’s just a delight to be able to chat with you today.
Everybody that comes on the show, I ask them all to have a think about a pivotal moment. Since you are my first duo, I have no idea whether you’ve picked the same conversation, whether you’ve got your own individuals, or whether you’ve just got a bit of a mix. So, who’s going to go first?
Taz Thornton: Well, it was a bit of a mix. I think initially, we both came up with one each. But then, one of the pivotal moments for me that crosses over is when we were finally able to legally marry, and we were the first same-sex couple in Lincolnshire that were able to marry.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, we were!
Taz Thornton: And, on my 40th birthday.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah.
Wendy Harris: Double bubble!
Taz Thornton: 25 years ago now.
Wendy Harris: You don’t get that for manslaughter, do you?!
Taz Thornton: Yeah, but we were married 23 years ago, actually.
Wendy Harris: I was going to say, you’re wearing well then, Taz, if it was 23 years ago on your 40th. I would never have put you at —
Taz Thornton: I’m 46 now, so 6 years ago. But, what was interesting is when we were booking the wedding, because it was so close to them changing the law —
Asha Clearwater: It was literally like a week.
Taz Thornton: — the registrar’s on the other end of the phone saying, “You mean it’s going to be a civil partnership?” “No, marriage”. Because, I wanted to do a civil partnership and Asha said, “No, I want to wait until we can get married”, and I said, “Don’t be ridiculous; it will never happen in our lifetime”.
Wendy Harris: And it did!
Taz Thornton: It was difficult to book it, because they didn’t have the paperwork through in order to book the ceremony, so it was really, we just scraped under the wire, didn’t we?
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, exactly, yeah. And it was amazing. I mean, it happened at the time when my mum had just died and I was obviously dealing with that. And although she’d been ill for some time, it’s always a shock, isn’t it, whatever the circumstances. So, I remember, because that had happened that week, and then I kind of proposed.
You’d been proposing to me for years, hadn’t you, and I’d been saying, “Let’s just wait, let’s just wait” and then that happened and then I proposed to you, and we said, “Let’s do it”. And it started off as a little ceremony, and then it got bigger, didn’t it; I got a bit Bridezilla-like!
Taz Thornton: Well actually, we had two, didn’t we, because one in the registry office that we just had fun with, and we did the legal bit there; and we themed it all around our years of birth and the year that we met, so we had Asha 1968; I’m 1974; and then we met in 1998. So, we themed everything. We walked down the aisle to the Pearl & Dean theme tune, you know, the old cinema. Then, we signed the register to Waterloo.
Asha Clearwater: Do you remember the twist, though, with that?
Taz Thornton: Yeah, one of the guests was related to the guy who wrote the theme tune!
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, can you believe that!
Taz Thornton: That was Great Uncle, whatever it was, “What? Really?” and we thought she was winding us up, but no! Then we signed the register to Waterloo by Abba, which was 1974 —
Asha Clearwater: Because, I love Abba. I know you love it or hate it.
Taz Thornton: Asha’s a massive Abba fan.
Asha Clearwater: I am a massive Abba fan.
Taz Thornton: But, we bought those kids plastic echo mikes and put them on the seats, so made everybody do karaoke to it while we were doing the register.
Wendy Harris: Brilliant!
Taz Thornton: And then, we walked out to the Wombles.
Asha Clearwater: We did.
Taz Thornton: But then, the second day, right, we’ve done the kind of small —
Asha Clearwater: [Humming a tune]
Taz Thornton: That’s the one! So, we had the limited numbers to that. So, we had the wedding in the morning, then we just had a kind of big, group meal in the evening for my birthday; we split the day. And the next day, we had our woodland, not quite a handfasting; it was our spin on a handfasting.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, so kind of quite Shamanic, wasn’t it? Lots of drums, lots of singing.
Taz Thornton: We just put a note out to our friends on Facebook saying, “We’re going to be in this woodland, we’ve got permission for the woodlands to do it as this point. If anybody wants to come and join us, then come along”. And, we were late turning up, because my mum, bless her, had come over for the legal bit, and she was supposed to be coming the next day, but she felt poorly. So, we were running late and she decided to stay home in the end.
By the time we got there, we got to the woods and all three car parks were full and we were like, “What’s going on; have they got an event here? The day we’re — this is no blooming good. How are we going to do this if they’ve got loads of people?” and they’d all turned up for us.
Asha Clearwater: It was marvellous.
Taz Thornton: Wow!
Asha Clearwater: And we had, “Taz and Asha” on the front of the car.
Taz Thornton: Yeah, magnets.
Asha Clearwater: With a bright green — you know those really green Fiestas; bright green.
Taz Thornton: Yeah, we’d got those at the time.
Wendy Harris: Was it with the dice?
Asha Clearwater: You’ve got that in your Mini, haven’t you?
Taz Thornton: I have got furry dice in my Mini. Got to do it; it’s got to be done. Yeah, and a Tazmanian Devil sitting on the dashboard to scare everybody.
Asha Clearwater: And she’s now got Xena as well, haven’t you?
Taz Thornton: Yeah.
Asha Clearwater: So, it was an amazing day.
Taz Thornton: Amazing two days.
Asha Clearwater: Two days, yeah.
Taz Thornton: But, just that turning up and thinking the car parks were full and getting really irritated about it, and then realising they were all for us; it was like, wow!
Asha Clearwater: And we wrote our own vows, and —
Wendy Harris: And really, you are those revolutionaries that I had in my mind’s eye, because if it was so close to, like you being the first one, you’ve kind of forced their hand to get that paperwork ready for you, because they had a legal obligation to fulfil that for you.
Taz Thornton: I hadn’t thought about it like that; that’s a nice way of looking at it, isn’t it? Thank you, Wendy, yeah, I hadn’t thought about that.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, so you’ve paved the way for those that came behind you, because how long would they have, not stalled as such, but they would have just dragged their heels over it.
Taz Thornton: Well, legally they’ve got to do it, but yeah, absolutely, totally.
Asha Clearwater: I like that; that’s a lovely way of looking at it.
Taz Thornton: We were right out in the sticks in the Lincolnshire Fenlands and it’s been okay, we’ve not really had any issues here. In Peterborough, we’ve had a little few issues —
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, we’ve had a few issues in Peterborough over the years.
Taz Thornton: — interestingly enough, but here it’s been all right.
Asha Clearwater: It was amazing. So, that was a big pivotal moment, wasn’t it, for both of us. But, you mentioned that.
Taz Thornton: We’ve both been through individual ones before though, hadn’t we? So, yours was when you couldn’t walk?
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, my MS diagnosis 12, 13 years ago now and I got really poorly. I had a mum with MS, so I grew up with that, so I knew what it was like being a child with a parent with MS and so my mum’s —
Taz Thornton: Your diagnosis, if we go back, came two weeks after my dad died and then the week after, you were made redundant.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, so it all came together, you know how it always does in life, doesn’t it?
Wendy Harris: Like buses.
Asha Clearwater: It hits, then it hits again. Yeah, and it was like that and it was really difficult, and just thinking about mum. But, mum was just such an inspiration. It’s funny because, when she was here, we always sort of say that, don’t we, or very often, that I wasn’t that close; I was closer to my dad.
But, now I can see and really acknowledge how strong my mum was going through all of that. She had it at the age of 38, diagnosed at 38. I was diagnosed at 38; freaky, or what?
Wendy Harris: But, she protected you an awful lot; she shielded you, then? So, it’s only in your hindsight that you can see just where that strength came from?
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, definitely. She was amazing though, and always saw the funny side in it, was always laughing, you know, falling over, people thinking she was drunk. She could absolutely hold her drinks all right. She used to drink my dad under the table. She could do the old, what’s the old pool table game, you know, the snooker table where you have all the different coloured drinks; she would do that.
Taz Thornton: I remember, at your nephew’s wedding, because by then she was quite bent over and she couldn’t get her head back properly.
Asha Clearwater: She was in her 80s then.
Taz Thornton: We turned round and she’d literally got the entire champagne flute in her mouth trying to get the rest! “What are you doing?!”
Asha Clearwater: And she liked her Sherry, bless her, so she was amazing; and, a great conversationalist. That’s one of the things that really gets on my nerves sometimes when people, if there’s somebody with a disability, say they’re in a chair, for instance, and they talk to the person that’s wheeling them in the chair, not the person. It’s that; it’s acknowledgement, you know.
Wendy Harris: What I would say, Asha, is I didn’t know about your diagnosis?
Asha Clearwater: Oh, okay, cool.
Wendy Harris: And, it doesn’t have to be what defines you either.
Asha Clearwater: And, that’s what my mum always said, and I never got it until later on again, because things like, she was a member of the MS Society. They do amazing work and I want to realty make that clear; they really do, and I’ve raised money for them myself. But, what mum would do, or dad would say, “Do you want to go to the MS do tonight?” and she would say, “Why do I want to go there, sitting around with a load of people in wheelchairs?”
It sounds awful, but sometimes you can get sucked into that. And I did that for a while, when it becomes the only thing you talk about. So, I do talk about it, and I’ve talked about the MS a little bit, but I’ve not talked about it a lot, and that’s because it’s only a tiny part of who I am.
Taz Thornton: A pivotal moment, isn’t it, was that you got the diagnosis, but then a few years later, you had that relapse and you lost the use of your legs again, and that was ultimately why you went vegan —
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, yeah.
Taz Thornton: — because you started working with a guy who said, “Try this diet”, and literally, within two weeks of changing her diet, she was walking again.
Wendy Harris: It’s amazing, isn’t it, the little things, which isn’t such a little thing when you think about it, as your diet, that can have such an impact on your whole system?
Taz Thornton: It’s the things that make you think. And obviously, it was on the back of that that you changed your whole business —
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, I did.
Taz Thornton: — and went from doing PR and marketing for people, to only doing that kind of occasionally for causes you really cared about, to being a content coach.
Asha Clearwater: And hence why, the only time I’m doing that now is things like National Pet Month, which is a pet charity, so that’s close to my heart, because you know I’m pet-mad; so, that fits beautifully. But now, I coach people to create their own content, because I feel, you know, I know it’s such a cliché, but it’s true; everybody has a great story to share.
Wendy Harris: So, it’s not just one story, actually, there are loads of stories that people have got and when you come to think of it, because of the situation, we’ve kind of been forced more online with our communication than face to face. So, what better way to be able to convey those stories?
I kept saying to people about my book because now, Taz, when I go to your book on my shelf, a little bit of, “What would Taz say?” you’re in my head! I hear Taz in my head, and I’ve had somebody message me over the weekend going, “Wendy, you’re in my head!”
Taz Thornton: Well, it’s really getting through to people when you’re hearing that; that’s fabulous. I love that.
Asha Clearwater: You’ve got a mug, haven’t you; you do things in your shop as well, don’t you?
Taz Thornton: Oh, my merch range?
Asha Clearwater: The merch range, and she’s got a mug and sometimes I’ll pick that up and it says —
Taz Thornton: If it can be a pink silhouette of just my hair and my glasses, and then it says WWTD underneath, “What would Taz do?”
Asha Clearwater: I think it’s great, but it’s lovely; that’s a real compliment, isn’t it, when you hear that back? I think that’s really lovely.
Taz Thornton: One of the posts I put on my Facebook page, on my business page last week, somebody had posted underneath, “Did anybody else read this in Taz’s voice?” so it does happen!
If I was going to go for a pivotal moment, there are so many, but the one I always talk about is the one where I broke my back in three places. There were others after that, and it didn’t immediately create this change, but that was the beginning of me starting to turn my life around and change things.
Trying to check out of life, and ending up instead not only killing my car but breaking my back, was a real wail, and it sounds such a cliché, but I ended up on a hospital flatbed for nine hours with my head packed in sandbags and nobody telling me what was going on. And, at that point, when they first said “spinal damage”, it sounds so clichéd and cheesy, but I literally went from hopeless to hopeful.
I started calling out to whoever I’d been speaking to, whatever your beliefs are, I used to just ask them to just give me terminal illness. I’ve done a lot of work to undo that energetically since. But, I went, in that moment, from instead of, “Let me die”, to, “Just let me walk. Just let me walk and I promise I’ll use what I’ve been through to help other people. I’ll do it; I’ll do it”.
So, I didn’t do it straightaway; I went back into my career and back into goalsetting and hiding behind masks for a few years, but that was the start of changing things for me.
Wendy Harris: It’s that undercurrent that follows you though then, isn’t it?
Taz Thornton: Yeah.
Wendy Harris: Because, as much as anything, when something so traumatic happens, it’s that need of getting back to some form of normality. So, you went back to what was your security blanket as such?
Taz Thornton: Absolutely. But, I think we forget, don’t we, that once we’ve dropped the stone into the pond, we can’t stop the ripples.
Wendy Harris: No, not at all.
Taz Thornton: And actually, what came next that really created the change was that same series of happenings we just touched on, when my uncle died, my dad died, a load of family debt came to light that I hadn’t been aware of, so my financial future as I thought it was literally disappeared overnight. Then you got your MS diagnosis, then you got made redundant.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, it was interesting, wasn’t it? Interesting times.
Taz Thornton: That all happened in eight weeks. And, in the middle of that was all this stress over, do I come out now, because my parents had known for years, but we were being asked to keep things quiet and pretend we had boyfriends and stuff for a long time.
Asha Clearwater: That was really quite difficult, wasn’t it?
Taz Thornton: And the family half joke had been, “We don’t care who knows once your dad’s died”, and then dad died and it was like, “Well, I really need my partner with me now”. So, it was, do we stop hiding now; what do we do? So, everything unravelled in the best way, or began to. And again, hindsight’s a wonderful thing.
I think, when you’re going through a breakdown, a lot of the time, I don’t think we realise. To use a really crass saying one of my old workmates used to use was, you’d work like a rat in the sewers, just going through the motions. I think I was like that and in hindsight, I can look back and say in my corporate life, I worked through a breakdown in four years without anyone really knowing what was going on. But, I didn’t realise that I was going through a breakdown until after I was through the other side of it. The best way out is through.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, that’s so true, isn’t it?
Wendy Harris: I think that’s why depression is so dangerous.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, it’s only afterwards, isn’t it, once you come through the other side, that you can see where you were. And, it’s the same for me when menopause hit, or perimenopause hit.
Taz Thornton: Yeah, because you had your unravelling, didn’t you?
Asha Clearwater: I had my unravelling, and that was all kind of around that time, and family not accepting us and all of that stuff going on, and my mum dying. I hadn’t dealt with that at all. And as you know, it piles up and up; you get layers. And, when you’re in it, you can’t see it. It’s only afterwards, now thinking —
Wendy Harris: A similar experience for me about four or five years ago, my sister was diagnosed as being psychotic and she was threatening to come and take my daughter who, at the time, would have been about seven, and she was going to go and collect her from school. So of course, I had to get the school involved so that they didn’t let her go with her auntie, and it became really difficult.
I kind of went into an autopilot of, I was going through the motions of everything that I was doing at work. As far as the family was concerned, the shopping was bought, the dinners were cooked, the washing and ironing was done and everywhere was clean and tidy, Wendy was going to work. But, what I was actually doing was sitting with my laptop, not speaking to anybody, communicating only by email and watching boxsets. I was shutting down and it was to the point where I thought my results were being affected, everything.
So, the only thing to do was to go to the doctor and say, “I don’t want tablets; I need to talk to somebody. And that first CBT session, they said, “We know what the problem is; you know what the problem is; it’s not that, it’s this; cut it out of your life until you are ready to deal with it again”. It was a massive change, just instantly, and it was like a pivotal moment.
Taz Thornton: Absolutely. And I think that’s one of the other really important things to recognise with mental health. Obviously, through my work now, I work with a lot of people going through all kinds of different stages of that umbrella term of “mental health”. I wish we could change that because that covers —
Wendy Harris: Mental wealth; it should be mental wealth.
Taz Thornton: Or mental wellness, because I think mental health covers such a massive spectrum that people who would see themselves as being at the lighter end, with depression, stress, anxiety, won’t want to identify that, because it covers the extreme end as well. There’s still so much stigma attached to that, but it’s so important for everybody to recognise as well that one size doesn’t fit all.
So, sometimes it can be that we need to take more exercise and we need to drink more water; sometimes it can be that we need CBT, we need a coach, we need a counsellor; sometimes we do need anti-depressants. I mean, you went and got the tablets, but never took them.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah. For me, all it needed for me was to actually say, “Help; I need help”, but go through the motions of going to the doctors and going into floods of tears and just releasing it. And, those tablets probably are still in the drawer today. I haven’t taken them; that’s my choice.
Wendy Harris: I’ve got a packet just the same in my cupboard! One day, I might just go, “I’ve got them, I’m going to take them”!
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, exactly that. It’s actually going through — that, for me, was a healing. That, in itself, was actually deciding that I was going to go ahead and do it and saying I need help was the biggest thing for me.
Taz Thornton: Whereas for me, I did take the tablets route. I was on and off anti-depressants for years. But, I remember that last time, when I was going through the breakdown, as I can now call it, arguing with the doctor that, “Okay, well I’ll do this, I’ll be on them for six months and then we’ll review”. And, I think they’re so used to just saying, “Just give them to these people as a crutch” whereas for me, it was about getting myself up to a stable enough platform so that I was strong enough to do the work with whatever was going on underneath the pain, underneath the disease.
So, it matters not whether it’s tablets, whether it’s CBT, whether it’s coaching, whether it’s counselling, whether it’s exercise, water, whatever it is, but just get yourself to a place where you’re strong enough to look at what’s really going on under the surface.
Wendy Harris: Those experts, like doctors, are there to serve us, but they have their own boundaries that they have to meet, which means that they don’t necessarily serve us in the best way that they can, because we don’t know the questions to ask in the first place.
Taz Thornton: Exactly. And, sometimes it can depend so much over where you are in the world and what your doctor’s like as well. We’ve got great doctors near us; we can get in first, same day if we need to, outside of lockdown, but they’re all still, well one of them, it’s also a very rural area where I think they’re just used to people coming in and saying, “I’ve got this problem; what do I take for it?” And when you try and say, “Well, hold on, what have we got outside of medicine?”
Asha Clearwater: When I was diagnosed with MS, my GP printed off something from the internet —
Taz Thornton: In front of you!
Asha Clearwater: — about my diagnosis in front of me, and that was his idea of support, which I thought for me maybe wasn’t —
Taz Thornton: And, they’re specialists as well; your first specialist appointment! When you have your next relapse, when you are in a wheelchair, when you can’t walk, when you’re permanently disabled —
Asha Clearwater: Sod that! Sorry, am I allowed to swear? Sod that; that’s not happening, you know?
Taz Thornton: Why can’t they say, “Well, this is what could happen; this is the spectrum”. What do you need to do to help you stay out of that for as long as possible?
Asha Clearwater: It was. I wrote quite a lengthy — you can find it on Medium actually; I wrote quite a lengthy article about it, didn’t I, because I found out about my MS diagnosis in a letter. It wasn’t a phone call, it was a letter, which was a bit of a shock, and I remember ringing you up at work to tell you. But, that whole experience taught me a lot about how to broach a subject with somebody like that, that is so potentially life-changing and how it can be done.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, you see it’s interesting, isn’t it, where communication sometimes is disjointed. I was having this conversation with another guest where he said that his consultant rang him and said, “There’s evidence of prostate cancer” and he said, “What do you mean by evidence?” and he went, “You’ve got it”. If you’re the specialist and you’re delivering this kind of communication, you’ve got to have found a better way of saying it than that!
Taz Thornton: There’s never a good way of delivering bad news, is there? When it’s a medical professional though, you might expect they’ve had some level of training, or some understanding on bedside manner?
Asha Clearwater: I mean, what, for me, made that bearable, because that whole experience of going to Lincoln Hospital for the first time, sitting in a waiting room full of people with something similar to me; when we arrived, it was obviously quite difficult. It was a really busy waiting room, because I remember it, and we went into the consultant, and he didn’t even make eye contact at all.
Then, I did a really silly thing. I’ve got to tell you this, Wendy, because this will make you laugh. Taz, you must tell this story, because you know sometimes humour, if you believe in a spirit God, whatever, but I think it’s the universe’s way of lightening the subject and helping you through it; something very funny, I thought funny, we thought funny happened. So, go on, Taz.
Taz Thornton: Well, for anyone who’s friends with us on Facebook, mild swear word coming in, you can’t really bleep this one out without losing the context, but there’s a hashtag, “Sh*t my wife says and sh*t my wife does”, that we put out to friends on Facebook, and this was one of those moments.
The consultant touched his finger to his nose and said, “I want you to do this”, so he was obviously checking for her coordination. So, she reached out and put her finger on his nose! And she saw nothing wrong with it!
Asha Clearwater: You went into hysterics.
Taz Thornton: Which was almost as good as the time you had your eyes tested and I took you to that appointment too, because it was when your legs weren’t that good. And, she was sitting at the machine and the optician said, “I just want you to look at the green light”, and she said, “I can see it; I can see it!” and the optician said, “The machine isn’t on yet”. She went, “I can see the green light” and she paused for a moment and went, “Mrs Clearwater, that’s my eye”!
Asha Clearwater: So, I’ve obviously inherited that, because my mum was very much like that; always doing silly things. But, we laughed hysterically in the room with him, didn’t we, and I said to Taz, I would have loved to know — he buried himself in his notes, I will always remember that, writing; I’d love to know what he’d written.
We were in hysterics, crying with laughter, but it lightened the whole experience, didn’t it? And then, we came out of that room laughing and smiling and of course, that spreads, doesn’t it? We sat in that waiting room and we saw these people and people were making eye contact, and it was a different place.
Taz Thornton: Yeah, but when we first went into that waiting room to wait to go in, I could absolutely understand what your mum said about, “Why would I want to go and sit around with a group of people in wheelchairs, because the energy in that room; it was so oppressive, depressive. It was like nobody had any life left.
It was like going into Gregg’s, the bakers, just before payday, when everybody’s broke and surviving on sausage rolls. We’ve all been into one of those cheaper cafés and felt that vibe, you know, and it’s like that.
Asha Clearwater: It was that, but when we started laughing as we came out of the waiting room, which is what I say in my Medium article, it spread, didn’t it?
Taz Thornton: Yeah.
Asha Clearwater: Suddenly people looked up and we smiled and we made eye contact, and we had that connection with other people, without sounding like an old hippie; I am an old hippie at heart.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, but that’s the right sort of infectious, isn’t it?
Asha Clearwater: Yes.
Taz Thornton: It’s like, why aren’t they doing that in places where the mood is going to be low, possibly not in places like funeral homes, no; but, in hospitals and things where people are ill or poorly, or have chronic conditions; why aren’t we doing something to lighten the mood instead of sending people out with this badge of honour and all these labels, “I have all these things wrong with me and it’s become my identity”?
We’re not doing anything to lift people out of that identifying as the disease. And, I just wish that we could do something to change that, because how awful, my opinion of course, but to go through life connecting so solidly with a label a medical professional has given you, that you lose sense of everything else. That level of low energy, low vibe, depression, disease, when there are things we could do fairly easily to just lift that up a little bit.
Wendy Harris: Do you remember me writing about Valerie?
Taz Thornton: Yeah.
Wendy Harris: She was staying with us this weekend, and she’s got PSP, which is a very rare form of Parkinson’s, and she freezes. But, we have her laughing about it, because she comes sometimes, she is so down in the dumps. She fell over in the bathroom and I heard her bounce.
So, when my husband, Rob, went and picked her up and said, “What have you done; what did you do that for? I’ve told you to wait for me” was kind of the wrong way about it. Whereas, I came in and went, “Are you okay; are you hurt anywhere?” “Oh, my bum hurts a little bit”. “I’m not surprised, because I heard you bounce”. Then, she laughed, she was shaking, she was crying, but the laughter broke that energy.
Asha Clearwater: And that, Wendy, that sums up my childhood; that’s what my mum was like. So, she’d frequently have falls like that, and it was in the days before we had all the things to help us in the way that we do. Actually, we had a lift in our house. I was very proud as a kid, because we had a lift going up from the —
Wendy Harris: You’re like, DIY is the best!
Asha Clearwater: Oh, it was fantastic. I used to get everyone, you know, the postman had to have a ride in the lift, and the gasman; all these people coming in. The Avon lady would be in the lift. But, what mum taught me there was, she would laugh at it. She’d come out of the loo and you’d find her; she’d be in her sling. Sounds a bit dodgy; not like that. And, you’d come home, I’d come home from school, and mum would be upside down nearly with her head down the loo, but she’d be in hysterics about it. And, that laughter is what got us through, what got her through.
She’d be covered in bruises sometimes, because she had a lot of falls. Because MS, you know, that’s how it approaches. She went from walking to going into a chair, but she would always laugh about it. Laughter’s the best medicine.
Taz Thornton: And it has such an impact, even on your physicality, I think, when you have a chronic condition. So, you will have seen me talking with Emma Sheardown, who is one of my clients online. She’s a quadriplegic, cerebral palsy, but she’s been World and European champion in the sport of Para Dressage, that medics said would never walk or talk; now her Para Dressage career has come to an end, is now a motivational speaker.
In the time that we’ve been working together and, goodness me, if anybody heard some of our conversations sometimes, we’re so un-PC, you know, when we’ve been trying to get her to high-five and stuff, and talking about whether she could catch a fly with chopsticks; really un-PC stuff that people would frown upon. And yet again, it breaks the energy and she can laugh at herself.
Emma would tell you herself, I’m sure, that when we’ve been working together a few months, she’d get to the point where she’d walk into where we were having our coaching session and I’d go, “What’s up?” “How do you know?” “Well, because you’re walking’s not as good today, and I know that if your mood is down, it impacts on your walking and it impacts on your speaking”.
So, we’ve done so much work just to get her to the point where she’s really chilled out before she goes to do a speaking gig, which of course is a real opposite because, of course, people very often get wound up and stressed before they go and speak in front of people. With Emma, we’ve had to create the opposite because, if she’s stressed, she won’t be able to communicate as well, and she won’t be able to walk up to the stage as well.
Working with Emma has really, really shown me how much our mental, emotional mood, state, can really impact our physicality; in the same way that I know, when I was in corporate land and when I was depressed, the kind of run-of-the-mill colds and things would have bowled me over and I would have been off work. Whereas now, because I’m happier, I go, “Oh, it’s just a cold”, and carry on.
So that, for me, is such a measure of where we are with our with our mental wellness as well that, if we have a bit of a sniffle and we find that it stops us and it bowls us over; I’m not talking about people with chronic conditions, I’m talking about people who are ostensibly healthy. If we’re finding that the little knocks are stopping us, that’s really time to go, “Okay, what’s going on with my mental and emotional health right now?”
Wendy Harris: Yeah. Our bodies do tell us, don’t they?
Asha Clearwater: Without a doubt, they do.
Taz Thornton: But even that, our mindset, if we are in a good place, will keep us going.
Wendy Harris: Yeah, our bodies are our biggest defence.
Taz Thornton: Our symptoms can seem so much worse if we’re not in a good place mentally and emotionally, and I find that fascinating.
Asha Clearwater: It’s the key, isn’t it, to everything really; it’s the key to everything, isn’t it, having that PMO?
Taz Thornton: Your psychology really is your physiology; it’s amazing.
Wendy Harris: Quite a few pivotal moments there and some insights into our own experiences and how that’s affected us, and in terms of defining why we do what we do now. It is about serving as many people as we can, sharing that story and empowering people to be the best that they can ever be.
Taz Thornton: Definitely, 100%.
Asha Clearwater: Yeah, it’s what makes the world go round.
Wendy Harris: Ladies, thank you so much for giving up your time to share those stories with us. If anybody wants to pick up the conversation with you, where will they find you? Is there a page for both of you, or do they have to find you separately?
Taz Thornton: No, you have to find us separately. You can find me, search Taz Thornton on pretty much any social channel and you’ll find me. You’ll find me on Snapchat, but don’t try and contact me there because I’m just there, but I never actually show up on that one.
Wendy Harris: I’m addicted to TikTok.
Asha Clearwater: Oh, TikTok; I keep trying to do TikTok. I keep listening to Gary saying, you’ve got to do TikTok, but I don’t get it!
Wendy Harris: Hang on, we’re going to have loads of people approaching us now, “Do you want some training on TikTok and SnapChap?”
Asha Clearwater: Well, mine’s much smaller, because really the ones that I work on predominantly is LinkedIn for me. You’ll find me on there, you’ll find me on Medium on there, because I write on there as well.
Taz Thornton: Oh yeah, Medium as well.
Asha Clearwater: You will find me on Insta; I need to do more on Insta really.
Taz Thornton: Yes, you do; yes, you very, very do.
Asha Clearwater: As soon as I said that, I just get that look and I know that look very well. Yeah, but come and find me on LinkedIn, is probably the best one, I think. And also, Medium; and go and read that story about my MS diagnosis.
Taz Thornton: You need to get on Twitter more, too.
Asha Clearwater: Pardon?
Taz Thornton: You need to get on Twitter more, too.
Asha Clearwater: I do need to get on Twitter, yes, because it’s the place where all the journalists hang out.
Taz Thornton: It is.
Wendy Harris: I think you’ll be found! Thank you so much. Don’t forget, listeners, to subscribe at www.makingconversationscount.studio/subscribe. You’ll get notifications for every episode so you won’t miss a guest or guests. Thank you for being my first duo, ladies; it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Taz Thornton: Thank you so much for inviting us, loads of love.
Asha Clearwater: Thanks, Wendy, bye.
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