So… how was your summer? I celebrated a Big Birthday this summer (clue: I shared my birthday with the annual Glastonbury festival), and, I’m sure as for many who celebrated milestone birthdays in lockdown, it was by no means the celebration I had planned.
However, as I gathered with a handful of family members for a somewhat muted, socially distanced picnic in my communal garden, I acknowledged how fortunate I was to be surrounded by my loved ones, that I and they were well and healthy, that the sun was shining – that, in the midst of uncertainty and tragedy and loss, we all had much to be grateful for. Like the rolling green fields viewed from Glastonbury Tor, the anticipated throng of festival-goers replaced this year by a couple of pensive-looking cows, I saw potential to use the celebration of my milestone year as an opportunity for reflection and retrospective, honouring of what has gone before, and to embrace the silence, space and solitude in the present for a period of deep inquiry.
I felt a pang of recognition when I read the opening paragraphs of our Chair Carolyn Mumby’s message in this issue. I can relate to her tale of brain fog, exhaustion and overwhelm. I seem to vacillate between brimming with energy and purpose, my belly full of fire – and being barely able to get out of bed. Like many people, I can’t fail to have been affected by the events of the past few years, by the national and global inequities and social injustices that have only been highlighted by the current pandemic, and questioning what my role is in all this. What is the point of me and my work, and what responsibilities do I carry towards my fellow human beings, to life on earth and to this planet?
I am also aware that the pandemic has elicited a wave of people rushing in to help, to volunteer their services to those who have been most affected by the virus, and I admit I feel a sense of kinship when a fellow coach
or therapist states that they have not felt any desire to jump in and ‘do their bit’, or are actively resisting the call to do so. I have huge admiration and respect for those who have the energy, availability and fortitude to volunteer their services, but I think in that fervent drive towards action, there is a real danger that those of us who choose to focus on our own self-care, on our basic physical, financial and emotional survival, feel shame for our perceived ‘inaction’.
It’s important to remember that we too are impacted by this virus, and we can never know what is going on for another person beyond the role they inhabit. Just as my muted milestone birthday celebration taught me to slow down and find pleasure in the small things, I am learning to acknowledge and honour my own achievements and successes, however small or simple they may seem (like writing this column, for instance), and to exercise some self-compassion when I fall short of my own high standards. Isn’t this, after all, the approach we take with those who come to us for help? Perhaps, here is our opportunity to model authentic self-leadership and to be the change we want to see; to have the courage to speak our truth; to be kinder to one another; and to work with each other – in whatever ways we can – to be the co-creators of a new world.
Whatever you’re doing – keep going. You’re doing a great job.
Diane Parker firstname.lastname@example.org