Do you remember that scene in Fleabag when Phoebe Waller-Bridge says:
“Hair is everything. We wish it wasn’t so we could actually think about something else occasionally. But it is. It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day. We’re meant to think that it’s a symbol of power, that it’s a symbol of fertility. Some people are exploited for it and it pays your fucking bills. Hair is everything.”
Yup so true. But something else I’ve noticed when I , or one of my gorgeous girlfriends, goes for a totally new look there’s trouble ahead. Women NEVER cut all their hair off for no reason.. Never.
So just before Christmas I burst into my local hairdressers and demanded “get rid of it all”. Reece – best hairdresser in London – was terrified as he knew my penchant for rage and regret when he’s been a bit too sissor happy. But this time he knew I meant business and off it all came.
I hadn’t realised it at the time, but a new me was ready to emerge. I should have seen the signs, my partner certainly had as he stepped gingerly around me. My long suffering mentor/coach realised too: “somethings going on….” she said smiling and knowing that her calm counsel was starting to take effect.
I’m a bold person by nature – I don’t like too much comfort and like to work at the edge of my comfort zone. It’s where I’m happiest. But over the year I’d somehow lost my passion and enthusiasm – I’d started to feel stuck and emotionally drained.
“You’re a people pleaser,” my annoying coach kept pushing me “Just stop it – life is short. You know what you want to do. You’re fooling yourself thinking you’re helping anybody.” And, as usual she was right.
The key to my problem was I’d strayed well outside of my circle of influence (if you haven’t already pls read Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People®, doing way too many things that a) I didn’t have any influence over and b) was totally emotionally draining and c) not aligned to my fundamental principles.
Bad. Bad. Bad. There are so many things I want to do and it was sheer arrogance that I could do them all. On one week alone I’d pulled two all nighters and almost a third – fine when you’re 25 not so good when you’re not. So this is my promise to the new me:
never say yes immediately. Check diary and strategic plan and remember the answer is way more likely to be no.
focus on what you love doing and ban yourself from looking away from your strategic plan
update strategic plan and stick religiously to what is in it. Put a scull on my desk – like the buddhists do to remember that, in the words of my Grandmother “you’re a long time dead”
remember you are a creative who needs managing and structure – ideas are great but without a plan they are meaningless.
work with people you love, trust and respect. Avoid people you don’t
value everything you do and put a value on it. If you don’t, nobody else will
Just the kind of thing I’d say to one of my best girlfriends.
Like so many of you I love Brené Brown‘s work on vulnerability and shame. Her new book Daring Greatly is awesome too. I totally get the courage needed, and the subsequent terror afterwards, when we take off our armour and allow a little glimpse of the mess and chaos that lies behind most of our behaviour. The older I get the more I feel we are all just a breath away from that inner chaos and if too many life events topple us over – we lose our footing and that is indeed a terrifying place to be.
I think this is what makes us human, helps us to connect to each other and allows us to really live our best, most honest, most exciting life – together. Bad behaviour, nastiness, bullying always comes from a hurt place inside a human being. When ones gets that it’s so much easier to be kind, compassionate and not to take things personally. As my late husband used to say “hurt people hurt people.”
Bruce Springsteen talks about this with his usual tender, heart wrenching honestly on Springsteen on Broadway and admits that he isn’t sure why anybody wants to see the real him (God if only he knew!) He suffers from depression. This doesn’t surprise me, I think it’s the strength of our own self hatred and shame that often is the source of many mental illnesses. We all need to forgive ourselves a little more – I know I do.
And, in my humble experience, it often is the most lovely people who hate themselves the most.
I’ve written a lot about my life and I’ve talked on many public stages about what has happened to me and how it left me feeling. I’ve always worked as a writer and story teller – it’s how I make sense of the World. But I honestly can’t tell you that writing or talking has helped me in any way. I know I’ve been crippled with self doubt and terror at the thought of sharing too much or the thought of people rolling their eyes saying “oh not that tragic woman again.”
What I do love is when other people write to me and say “thank you. You made me feel better/less lonely/that I can do this if you have.” That makes it all worthwhile. I’m no saint but I’m fundamentally driven to serve a purpose in this world. Forget money/status/position – I want to have been useful to others in my life.
Charley Mackesy, author of the Times’ best selling book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse (if you haven’t read it I beg you to get it now) was on Radio 4 this morning talking about the colossal success of his book and about being brave. . He said he didn’t ever see himself as a brave man, in the traditional sense, but when his friend Bear Grylls, who certainly is a brave man in the traditional sense, asked him what’s the bravest thing he’d ever done he answered “asked for help”.
I still find asking for help one of the most incredibly difficult things to do – I trace mine back to a very painful childhood memory when I kept asking and somebody I loved wouldn’t give it to me (feeling very vulnerable admitting this). Intellectually I get what happened, it wasn’t my fault or really their’s, but boy does that memory still have power to drive my behaviour.
I was a great newsroom reporter. I was little and blonde (so a bit of a target) and had to cope with what I saw, at the time, as necessary low level sexual harassment – although now view that slightly differently. I was tough, spirited and never, ever cried at work. Ever. I was so often credited for my “steely calmness under extreme pressure” – in reality I was totally disassociated from the world and everybody in it. I allowed nobody close so nobody could let me down again/or hurt me – but at the same time I couldn’t truly love anybody either. Sure it got me respect/ promoted – but personally and spiritually it was a horrible place to be.
So Brene’s work on vulnerability has been life changing for me and I try to practice every single day. I know I care deeply about my fellow human being and about being a decent person – but I have to fight that frozen feeling at all times.
A few weeks back I was at a conference and a person (I don’t want to reveal any details so as not to hurt) got up and told their story. It was a dark story indeed. Strangely I felt I wanted to leave the room, stop listening, run away… It wasn’t the content – this never phases me – I think it was the intent. These were unprocessed feelings/events that seemed to be being emptied out onto the audience – I felt emotionally drained and really sorry for the person. I felt like we’d all been used as therapists for something very difficult. If I’m really honest I kind of felt used and I’m quite sure this was not the intention.
But Brene says vulnerability is good – so I didn’t understand my reaction. I checked in with others and there seemed to be unanimous agreement that the talk had repelled rather than drawn people in. I read Brene more deeply and I think I got close to what had happened. She talks about the need to never use people you don’t know/audiences to relieve yourself of uncomfortable feelings. It doesn’t work and it makes another person run for the hills – leading to less connection/more loneliness. Relationships are built slowly and surely – trust so hard to win is so easy to break. It is crucial that we all respect the space and minds of others – we must never stand on stage and use it as a personal therapy session.
This makes pure sense to me. I do a lot of public speaking and over the years I’ve learnt to take time afterwards to focus inside and to really ask myself “how did that feel, why did I do it and have I helped anybody by sharing?”. I’ve talked a lot about my daughter and I’ve come to understand that my daughter’s memory is so sacred to me – that I need to tred extremely carefully around what I share and what I don’t. Her dignity in death matters as much as in life. And there is also a group of people who are allowing you into their space, giving you their time – I try to think very, very hard about what will help them not what will help me. I pay a therapist to help myself. My job is to give them something that makes them feel a little better about the world – however small that is.
So in short this is what I think practising successful vulnerability is and is not:
having the courage to be humble and admit that it isn’t all alright sometimes
sharing thoughts that we have already worked on and understand ourselves first
admitting when we feel scared and don’t know what to do
telling somebody we love them for the first time and realising they may not feel the same way
showing up when we’d rather stay shivering under the bedcovers
being honest when somebody has hurt your feelings and not covering up
not people pleasing
asking for help and knowing and accepting that somebody else may not be able to help – but to love them anyway
crying but with no expectation that anybody else will make things better for you
making friends, falling in love, telling your family that you love them
It is not:
sharing photos of yourself shaving your legs (I’ve seen this)
sharing your addictions, your affairs, the fact you hate your spouse/sister/best friend with people you’ve just met
expecting people to make something better for you
sharing too much too quickly
Love to hear your views and have a fabulous weekend
Former US news anchor Pat Mitchell, aged 75, makes a bold call to action to all us midlife, and beyond, women to roll up our sleeves and get back to work. “dangerous times call for dangerous women,” she says.
She argues us women of “a certain age” have built a lifetime of skills – juggling child rearing, negotiating sometimes quite terrible life events and doing it all alongside power careers- we are way too important a resource to put out to pasture.
In fact when is it ever appropriate to put people with brains, skills and experience out of the workplace. We can’t afford to and how nuts is it to spend years training people up only to say ok off you go now. Go play some golf, bridge – whatever takes your fancy. (oh and of course that’s only for the “lucky” ones who have some kind of gold plated pension.
I thank God that I don’t have this option as I think it would have turned me soft and lazy – and I would have hated that. So there is no choice but to keep on showing up and giving it your best shot.
There’s also something that can sometimes happen when you hit 50 – I appreciate it doesn’t happen for everybody but for me it did. Forget feeling invisible, I’ve never felt more visible or alive. I found that I knew stuff – loads of it in fact. I didn’t have to wing it or bullshit my way anymore – I actually understood a lot of stuff. And perhaps most importantly of all I learnt to understand myself at quite a deep level – to know when to lean in and when to back right away. (key lesson that backing away is sometimes the best and most courageous thing we can do).
I don’t think anybody can be effective, or helpful to others, if they don’t first do some serious work on themselves.
Oh and I’m pretty fearless nowadays too – and I keep meeting new dangerous women of that “certain age” and we nod to each other and recognise that fire within. It’s a truly wonderful thing. Sure I get hurt, knocked back, disappointed – all that life stuff – but nobody can keep me down anymore. I’ve learnt to do the right thing – always – not the popular thing – anymore. I made a pact with myself a while back that I was going to live full on and never apologise for standing up for the things I really care about.
Integrity, purpose and a mission in life are great ways of staying strong, confident and engaged. But humility, kindness and compassion matter just as much – I’ve been working on this for years and I can report from the frontline that this is the only way to live. Yes it is a work in progress, and I fall flat on my face way more often than I want to. But now I know the way to get back up and keep focussed in the right direction.
In the words of one of my pinup women Helen Mirren when asked what she regretted in life “not telling enough people to f**k off.” But, of course, this should really be done with a wink and a smile and a huge dollop of kindness:)
Have a great week
What I’m reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. Wonderful!
I’m quite certain that many of my regular readers will be dodging this post – not really a sexy headline I guess So HUGE well done from me if you’re still reading. I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time.
We’re all going to live forever right? We are all hugely important and that job/status/new shoes/money making enterprise – will make us happy forever and ever.
Well I tried that years ago and none of it worked. New job title = happiness level seven for about three weeks. New sports car = nice and still fun to drive. But life changing? absolutely not. I’ve been very poor and pretty well off – I prefer the latter but only because it provides more choice. In hindsight one of the happiest times in my life was trying to scrape a living by working as a freelance TV journalist/presenter – one of the most ruthless and insecure professions there is – whilst being a single parent to an 18 month old and a five year old and trying not to be evicted.
I dug myself out of that scrape and never missed a shift on the news desk. Surviving all of that in tact and keeping the house, my sanity, my children safe, fed and clothed – remain one of my proudest achievements. And in truth I don’t think I’ve ever felt happier since. It was something about knowing that the only person I could rely on was me – and that actually I was pretty good person to rely on.
I’ve spent Christmas/ New Year in deep reflection. It’s been incredibly hard as when you go inwards you have to look all that internal pain and chatter square in the face. I thought a lot about death; as death has been such a close companion of mine since I lost my Mother when I was 19. I have felt physical pain as I think about the people I’ve lost and felt myself, at times, sinking into despair. But I held tight and didn’t look away as the creeping depression was telling me that I was running away again from the central core of who I am.
But not now. I have emerged, after three weeks, more alive, more vibrant and full of energy than ever before. I feel ready now to unleash that dangerous woman inside! Good God don’t we need more dangerous women out there – ready to be bold, brave and challenge what is going on in our World in that magnificent way that us women work.
I truly believe that when life starts to get too difficult to cope – a short period of retreat is the only, and by far the healthiest, option. There’s that wonderful saying the only way out is through…
As a mid-life woman I know I have – like so many of you – huge skills and talents that I want to unleash. I am almost entirely fearless around confronting issues I care deeply about – my only enemy to this is self pity and despair and I, like so many others, need to take care of this part. There is only one benefit from seeing your child, and other children, die from cancer – nothing ever again will be that scary. And I survived and now owe it to everybody to roll up my sleeves and get working for a better World whilst I still have breath in my body.
I truly do want to be completely used up physically, mentally, spiritually when I’m finally laid to rest.
As an a la carte Catholic – with a strong and growing interest in Buddhism – I find huge comfort in the spiritual teachings around death. And yes even us Catholics have some good things to say about death. Most importantly they don’t dodge the issue and pretend that it isn’t going to happen.
One of the big blocks to getting better treatment for children with cancer – and there are unbelievably many blocks to this – is that the subject is just too awful to contemplate. It is so much easier to turn away when there are lovely glittering things to look at instead. The result is that it is so difficult to mobilise the kind of fierce challenge that is needed to say IT IS NOT OK FOR CHILDREN TO NOT GET ACCESS TO BETTER TREATMENTS BECAUSE THEY DON’T MAKE MONEY FOR INDUSTRY. Nice simple message that.
Likewise there are huge problems getting treatments for anybody who has a rarer illness – too few people = not enough profit. And if you’re over 65 and get some horrid illness you too will be discriminated against because you’re more like to have other illnesses which mess up the clinical research data. The result being you’re not considered lucrative enough for the pharma industry.
We really all should be involved in these kind of debates. It really is about our life and death and we need to take responsibility and look beneath the surface.
Over the past few weeks I’ve practised what I’ve long preached – meditate on death each day. This is a fundamental instruction from Buddhism and they believe – as do I – that this single action done daily is the one thing that can release us from so much internal pain and suffering. If you really thought you were going to die today would those extra few pounds, that annoying work colleague, that perceived slight from somebody you don’t know – really matter?
Contemplating death is the best medicine I have ever taken. It beats therapy, anti-depressants, massage, everything – hands down. We will all die, the only thing we don’t know is how and when. I intend to be like the Buddhists and ensure that my death does not creep up and surprise me ….. I want to be ready each day. And by doing this I know I will find the very best of who I still want to be.
I’ll be talking much more about this in 2020 – I do hope you’ll join me and please let me know your thoughts either here or send me a private message.
Life is a funny old thing. Just when you think you have it all sussed something comes out of left field and pulls the rug away again … and again… and again.
Why should we really ever expect anything else. Life is hard for all of us in our own individual ways – isn’t it. That gap between expectation and reality is the thing that gets me all the time. I am, I think, an optimist at heart – which is a very good and a very bad thing.
Every year I still look forward to Christmas, I love the partying, the hope, the family and friends. But every year I’m completely floored on the day by a deep pervasive sadness. It’s like all the lights have gone out. Nobody would know as I plaster the smile on and get on with it.
Every year I suspect every bereaved parent deploys heroic efforts to even get out of bed – let alone smile their way through the day.
It just wasn’t meant to be like this.
And every year I don’t talk about it as there’s only so much time that others want to hear. They have their own stuff going on and my story is “old news”. But there’s the trouble with grief, if we don’t talk and share, the darkness starts to embed and that old familiar feeling of sinking under the water starts to take hold. And to me my story is never old news – it is who I am.
Thank God for children “Chloe liked to dance didn’t she,” my young niece Lucy reminded me on Christmas day. For a moment she was there.
I met a lovely woman at a party this Christmas. She was 70 -, but still fizzing with energy and vitality. She was curious too – wanted to know everything about everybody. She told me her story, it was a very sad story, of terrible loss and disappointment. It reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s words “there’s a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.”
Don’t you think It is so often the most hurt amongst us that seem to burn the brightest .
And then I recoiled. The reason for her vitality, she said, was that she’d “found God”.
She may well have said she was taking drugs – I would have had the same reaction. But why? Me a Catholic – can’t shake that one off easily – who may have long dispensed with confiding in priests, but still seeks solace in churches across the world. Why was I so judgemental about somebody who had found something that gave her happiness and meaning.
After all isn’t it meaning that we all want deep down. Something outside of us, above us – something that helps us make sense of it all. I couldn’t stop thinking about this as we move towards the New Year and I get that familiar sense of emptiness and lack of direction.
And then I remembered I’m a survivor aren’t I? I’ve learnt quite a lot about resilience and getting up again … and now was the time to start implementing some of what I’ve learnt. I think I’ve made peace with my version of God – something is still there but it blows in the background like a candle in the wind. I’m glad I have it, but won’t be stoking that flame any time soon.
Instead I will look into my tool box and pull out those trusted old tools to guide me through this difficult time of year – and to continue in my quest to make every second count. And to remember that life is still very beautiful if one chooses to look in the right direction.
Connect with people who make you feel good. Keep building your tribe.
Don’t pretend to be ok when you aren’t .. give your feelings space to just be
Forgive everybody – for your sake if not for theirs
Never compare yourself to others – it is a futile, painful waste of time
Say No more often and when you need to.
Know that there’s so much you don’t have the power to fix – focus efforts on where you can make a difference
Keep building from the inside out – why ever do we focus so much on the outside World when the real action goes on in our heads
Be bold brave and never ever stop trying – whatever your age or circumstance
There’s this new book that I’m obsessed with – it makes my heart sing. It reminds me of the first time I ever read Winnie the Poo. Pure magic. It’s called The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse and it’s written by Charlie Mackesy. As a writer I take copyright very seriously – but I’ve taken the liberty of showing you one of the pages in the hope that you will rush out and buy it. If you do one thing this week I hope you will treat yourself to this treasure chest of happiness, kindness and a window into a much nicer, braver world.
“SIMPLY, THE WORLD NEEDS CHARLIE’S WORK RIGHT NOW,’ MIRANDA HART
Back in my work life, I’m dealing, as usual with the UK tabloid press – an activity I enjoy and hate in equal measure. I don’t buy into the idea of an evil “other” hating media – as, like everything else in life, the media’s filled with the best of us and the worst of us. So strangely one of the most obnoxious journalists I ever met at work; turned out to be the very best of people when I was going through my dark times.
People surprise you sometimes.
But this week pitching a gorgeous client, who is a little way over 40 – even worse – is a female who still looks amazing for her age and wants to live a bold, wonderful, purposeful life. So we stepped out onto social media/traditional media with our heads up – this is a charity story and with nothing controversial in it at all – and the comments started. To be fair most engagement was fabulous – but then sure enough in they came as they always do. The nasties peeking their heads up and boy when they got going did they sink low.
I’m not going to repeat any of the comments – needless to say they were, mainly anonymous or under some stupid immature pseudonym – usually with some connection to sci fi – extremely personal, very angry and shouty, spiteful, ageist and (no surprise here) very misogynistic.
As a seasoned professional I was, sadly, ready for them and know how to protect my clients. Ah the power of the delete button and my constant mantra from the glorious Michelle Obama: “When they go low – we go high”. And I will never let a client leave the room before agreeing to NEVER EVER respond to any of these moronic messages – it is a waste of life, oxygen and it gives them exactly what they want !
But what I wasn’t expecting was the impact that these comments had on my client – and I’m posting my views here with her full knowledge. This is a highly educated, super bright, talented woman who’s spent her life at the top of her career in Law. Not exactly a career for over sensitive shrinking violets – but the comments had really upset her, but worst of all had shattered her self esteem and confidence and she was wondering whether to carry on doing her fantastic work.
At this point I was steaming with rage “NO, NO – why in the World would you let these sad, anonymous voices influence you in any way whatsoever. Hurt people, hurt people. If you try and look at this in the kindest way possible these people must be deeply flawed, sad and unhappy – It is not a healthy or normal thing to do – to sit on a computer spewing out vile comments to fellow human beings who you don’t know. With a bit of amateur psychology I’m guessing that their comments provide a horrid glimpse into what they feel about themselves.
But it made me think we all have that voice in our heads – well maybe you don’t if you’re Donald Trump or happy selling double glazing to old people who don’t need it – that keeps on whispering “who do you think you are. Be quiet. Know your place. You’re too old/thin/fat/short/tall “.. and I do think it’s probably us women who suffer from this most of all.
So my wonderful friends here are my little words of “wisdom” from this older “mole”. who’s been battered and bruised by life, but has learnt some very important lessons along the way
do stay safe on social media. Remember when you post something on another site it can stay there for many years. Make your delete button and your privacy settings your best friends and, as in life, stay well clear of negative toxic people.
remember Michelle Obama’s words: “Public judgement sweeps in to fill a void. If you don’t get out there and define yourself, you will quickly and inaccurately be defined by others.”
Buddhists spend a lot of time contemplating death – not in a miserable way but they see the ability to understand that we are only here for a short time as key to living a good life. I like to keep working on my epitaph – it stops me wasting time on living other people’s lives/insecurities/hangups
keep working on any negative voice in your head and challenge it. We all have faults – hey it’s what makes us loveable. Meditation is great for this – working on the inside is what a truly content, peaceful, good life is about – all the ancient religions and philosophies knew this. My personal weapons are: authenticity, integrity and kindness – then it really is none of my business what other people think.
Psychologists often look to people who are dying to work out what makes a really good, meaningful life. They ask people on their death bed about their personal highlights – and their regrets. There’s a lot of learning in these conversations for the rest of us – those of us truly blessed to be still in this wonderful World of ours.
When my late husband was coming to the end of his life, aged 56, he reflected so insightfully about what life had meant to him and the time he’d “wasted” sweating the small stuff. As a writer I’m so grateful that I managed to capture some of his ideas.
I write a lot about thriving after trauma – it’s become a specialist subject of mine. I read as much as I can and continually search out those people who live life well. I feel so driven and curious to understand them better. Look around you, as my GrandMother used to say ,”People are either and inspiration or a warning”.
So I’m starting to sketch out what I believe are the components of a really rich meaningful life. So here’s the start of my list – this is definitely a work in progress. Please help me add to it and share your thoughts.
I’ve seen quite a few of my very precious people come to the end of their lives. The thing I’ve been really struck by is that people rarely look to an “all singing, all dancing” bucket list – instead what they want is the magical ordinary things of every day life. A fresh coffee in the morning, a walk to take in the seasons, having our nearest and dearest as close as possible – oh and perhaps most important of all always trying to find the humour in life .
My Mother died when was 19 and her words ring in my ears. A feisty, independent, Irish woman she said: “I don’t regret any of the things I did; but I do regret not doing the things that I wanted to.”
Again from my Grandmother Mary Doyle – her advice: “there’s bad in the best of them, and good in the worst” . Her words remind me of the words from Rudyard Kipling’s If “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much; My Grandmother was 5ft nothing, had 14 children and the heart of a lion. She was fierce, loyal – but terribly kind too. Her message was simple: don’t take anything at face value, look deeper and always be open to human kindness – you may be disappointed but sometimes a few may really surprise you.
Helen Mirren says she wishes she’d told more people to “f**k off” as a young woman. May I add that one should avoid at all costs living other people’s dramas/lives/opinions. I tell myself often “mind your own business” – I think one should be fiercely independent but know when to ask for help. Workout how to spend time alone, without being lonely, but surround yourself with good friends too.
And finally in the words of one of my favourite authors Sylvia Plath “I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of nonfeeling, or stop questioning and criticising life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
Oh and one last thing: read, read, read. It’s what helps us make some sense of life.
I’m not sure I’m your typical Eminem fan, but life’s full of surprises. And, as in everything else in my life, I have pretty eclectic tastes. This one line “there goes gravity” from the brilliant song Loose Yourself has been spinning around my head for days.
Such a smart songsmith that Eminem – a brilliant poet really. I admire anybody who can capture the magnitude of a sentiment and craft it into a few carefully chosen words that erupt with meaning and passion. LOVE LOVE LOVE.
This week I lost my footing – metaphorically speaking I hasten to add. I woke up and wham the World suddenly felt so very sad/ so very shaky. Is it the season as the bleakness of winter edges in? Is it the political climate, most especially in the UK, which feels so very dangerous, so chaotic, so very un-British. I don’t think I was alone in shedding a tear watching a stream of talented, brave, committed female MPs leaving politics because the price to their well being and precious families had become too high.
When did things get quite so horrible?
And I thought of my fellow human beings who may also be struggling with the World. Those who wake up feeling sad, but may also have a magnitude of other challenges too. So many of you write to me and I’m honoured that you feel able to share your sadnesses, your losses, your worries. We all need somebody to talk to sometimes – life is just way too difficult to not have that.
Reasons to be cheerful
I wish not to be glib, but I wanted to sketch out some reasons to be cheerful – or in point 5 to find a way of living with our tears. Although please feel free to delete as sometimes being sad really is the only sane thing to feel in this mad mad World. Anyway here goes:
Head out of the City and marvel at the Autumn colours in full glorious display. Could make one believe in God (almost – I’m still way too angry for this one). Certainly a reminder of what a beautiful country we still have.
My favourite caustic commentator Camilla Long – her election commentary is sharper than anything else I’ve ever read.
Trips on the London tube (granted this needs to be out of rush hour when it turns into a manifestation of hell on earth) . But at the right time of day it’s fast, friendly and super clean. And I just love the happy messages they put on the station – nothing like the English sense of humour. Having recently moved back into the City – I LOVE the tube.
The heavenly haunting new album Ghosteen by Nick Cave. I’ve always loved his music, but it took on another dimension for me after he lost his son Arthur in a dreadful accident. I look to him to make some sense of such loss. His words as he feels the continued presence of his son, “a little white shape dancing at the end of the world”. Cave assures us he’s coming home “on the 5.30 train”. Why not believe in ghosts? “There’s nothing wrong with loving something you can’t hold in your hand,” Cave muses, on the title track. And Arthur’s analogue, the Ghosteen, appears from time to time, to say: “I am beside you.”
Please remember that you never know what somebody is going through. Sometimes it may be beyond your wildest dreams. So above all else be kind. It could make all the difference.
What I’m reading – Just dipped back into A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, in preparation for the annual book club festival. Definitely my book of the year.
What I’m watching -Saturday night in with the man watched the Quentin Tarantino 1997 film Jackie Brown. All about a sazzy middle aged woman who gets involved with drug runners. Fabulous! 5 stars from me and gave me a few cheeky ideas;)
Book and film recommendations very welcome. Winter is such a great time to catch up on these.
A while back I sat in a meeting and watched a group, of otherwise quite decent well-meaning people, tear into each other and completely trample out the final embers of a relationship that could have been so great. Nobody was listening to each other and the air was fizzing with all the supposed slights, grievances and offences that had apparently been caused.
It was a sad missed opportunity.
I’m sure a psychologist would have had a field day. This was a group of people who were all hurting for various reasons; but without firm loving leadership they had descended into the behaviour of children who really probably just needed a way of managing their own feelings. Don’t all of us grown ups sometimes just need that above all else?
Whilst disappointing, this situation provided me with a fantastic insight into what happens without firm boundaries, good leadership and a way of containing natural human emotions. It’s true that we often learn more from failure than success.
We need to work on our own behaviour first
As somebody fascinated by change and innovation, I want to show up as the best version of myself and when appropriate take that leadership role. We can do so much more together than alone. But I passionately believe that we need to check in on our own behaviour first and foremost and this takes hard, consistent, challenging lifelong work.
I coach others, so I need a rich array of tools to draw from. This month I’m focussing on one of my biggest and first loves – animals and most especially dogs and horses. They have so much to teach us about being an authentic effective leader.
A dog/horse will not follow you unless you know where you are going and can clearly signpost the way.
If you want real behaviour change, you need to deploy continual patience, understanding and love. Do not forget the love bit – we all need a bit of this and those who deny this are kidding themselves and missing out on one of the real reasons we are all here.
A dog/horse knows when you don’t like it or you’re scared of it. It will never follow you if it picks up either of these things. Animals are sometimes scared of their own power – humans too…
It takes time to develop trust; but this is the single component that can unleash the possibility of mobilising people to follow your lead. Never, ever trample on this trust – it is so hard to win and so easy to lose.
Step into their “shoes” – understand the language that they can understand and try not to give mixed messages. Those tiny, fine movements that a horse responds to demonstrate clearly the critical importance of non-verbal communication
Horses/dogs know instantly when you are trying to cajole, bully or manipulate. It may work in the short-term – particularly bullying – but you better hope that they never get the upper hand as the revenge will be swift and bitter.
Taking time to understand the animal’s personality is the key to unlocking their potential. Acting with love, authenticity and integrity is the only longterm way of leading the pack/herd.