Mandy and Caylees learning from their forthcoming book.
The one thing that really struck me about the last Newsletter was the amount of response it got. I had more readers contact me about how it had impacted on them than ever before. The idea that everyone grieves in their own way and needs to be given space to do this really resonated with you. I learnt that when you are real and your message has a good intention behind it, people will get it. If you worry about what people might think and hold back or dilute the message nobody really gets any of it. You end up doing people a dis-service. I am also learning that loss can grab you from behind when you are least expecting it. I have been spending more time this month trying to work out how I can use more of my life experience to help others in a positive way. Or what I call my ‘life lessons.’ I had written a piece on ‘Why I really coach’ and was aware it was about unfulfilled potential. People like my mum and dad who lived very ordinary lives never really realising their potential together. I was also trying to work out where my experiences growing up fit into my book with Caylee. Anyway I was at a Coaching Community Day with other coaches and towards the end of the morning we had to say the following; “What is not o.k. with me is_______________and what I am going to do about it is____________________.” I tried not to think about it too much until it came to my turn. As I tried to speak I had all this emotion stuck in my chest. As I tried to speak I began to cry. I stayed with it, tried to take some deep breaths and said, “What is not o.k. with me is I will never have the chance to have any more of a relationship with my mum and dad because they are dead. What I am going to do about it is make sure I have the best possible relationship ever with my daughter Caylee.” The first thing I noticed was the power in speaking it out loud and being witnessed by others. The second thing was in not trying to stop the process because of embarrassment or looking a mess. When I was real, messy and vulnerable it had the most impact on people. Thirdly I was surprised by the amount of people that came up to me after and said it had really made them think about relationships in their own lives. So my question for you to ponder on this month is; “Whats it going to take for you to show up real, messy and vulnerable in your relationships?” I often cry when I am touched by something on TV. I noticed I felt embarrassed by this and would try to shield my eyes so that Caylee and my husband could not see me. The last few times I have tried to let go of the embarrassment and hide it so much. I have noticed that Caylee has looked at me more when she has cried at something on TV. There is a direct correleation between accepting something about ourselves, and it creating the space for others around us to do the same.
The other thing I have learnt over the last month is some of the deeper reasons why I coach. Going back to my earlier reference about unfulfilled potential I had been thinking of my mum and dads lives more. The following is what I have written so far.
The Reason I Coach (or Unfulfilled Potential.)
I am looking at the photo of a fresh faced boy of about 12 years old. It has an air of innocence and so much potential ahead. I wonder what dreams and hopes he has for the years ahead. And then I feel really sad because I know this persons life and potential has been unfulfilled. Not only unfulfilled but cut short in so many ways.
Now I am looking at the photo of a girl about 14. She has a big grin on her face. She has lots of big curly auburn hair and it looks like the wind is blowing through it. Again a fresh face of youth and innocence. I wonder what she dreams of when she is lying on her back in the garden watching the white fluffy clouds go by. And then once again I feel really sad because I know this persons life and potential has been unfulfilled. And not only unfulfilled but cut short in so many ways.
Their story is not particularly unique in many ways. In face their story probably resonates with many thousands of people living their lives from day to day, watching the pennies and wondering how they are going to afford the next bill, or the next pair of shoes needed.
Two people who at some point in their lives must have been so in love. Had so many hopes for their future together. So when does this change? When does it change for anyone? The honest answer to this is I don’t know. I am not them and I don’t know all that happened. I will never know their feelings and thoughts because they are both now dead. However I know what I experienced growing up and listening to other family members recount their stories. So some of this story is my direct experience, some is from other family members and some is me imagining I know what they may have thought and felt, trying to fill in the gaps if you like. And there will always be gaps because I do not have their voices.
I know my mum and dad both came from families that were very proud and instilled in their kids a sense of doing the ‘right thing’. I know my dad was a very good artist and wanted to go to Technical College to develop this skill. I know that even at this point his path in life was partially set when his dad said he wanted him to go into his family business instead. Now I don’t know how dad felt about giving up his opportunity to do something he loved and was really good at but he did. I know that a number of years later the business went bust and dad had no qualification or skill he could use.
He met and married mum in 1967 and before long I was born the following year. My brother was born 3 years later followed very closely by my sister. So they were newly married with a young family of 3 to feed and clothe. Life couldn’t have been particularly easy as we lived in a 2 bedroomed council flat on the seventh floor.
Now I am sure there must have been some happy and fun times amongst the difficulties most people face in bringing up a young family. However when I did a speech at my dads funeral the one thing that struck me was I don’t remember seeing him happy for a long time. This really upset me and I had to delve deep in the recesses of my mind to really remember some happy times. And I did remember some. Like us spending all day at the park with our sandwiches and playing football. Like dad drawing us pictures of planes and cartoon characters. But the truth is I remember a lot of arguments as well. I remember dad spending the little money he had on a bet on the horses, or a drink at the pub. I remember mum having a go at him because we had very little money as it was. I am not saying dad exactly spent a lot on these things. But when you have very little and each penny counts this can begin to cause resentment between 2 people. I remember there being cycles where arguments would stop for a period of time and then start up again for whatever reason. I remember there being a lot of tension, resentment and frustration around. What does that do to any relationship? It certainly doesn’t bode well for great communication.
I know people who knew dad, particularly his own family who said dad was always a quiet man. I don’t know how much he was not saying about how he felt. I don’t know the impact of working on a mundane job on the track at Rover, when you had once hoped you were going to Technical College. What I know is dads way of dealing with stuff was to escape by going to the pub for a drink, putting his bet on and having a cigarette. The sorts of things thousands of men do week in and week out all over the country. However I know that drinking can have an effect on a family when the person comes back in such a state it creates more arguments, and embarrassment while the neighbours can hear his singing coming up the street.
Then when I was 13 mum told us she was pregnant and subsequently our younger brother came along. Things settled down for a little while but then the arguments started up again. I had a sense dad was very unhappy and then a devastating thing happened. Dad got knocked over and suffered a serious head injury leaving him in hospital for 6 months. This was a very difficult time for everyone but I suspect most for mum and my younger brother. He was only 11 so to have your dad come home 6 months later a changed man must have been very confusing and hard to understand. By this point I was not living at home anymore. When I was visiting I would find it very hard as mum was very frustrated and resentful towards dad. She would speak to him in what I thought was a really disrespectful way. I did try telling her I didn’t like it but it was awkward. She would get really annoyed with me if I said anything and to be honest I was not the one that had him living with me all the time. Mum was his main carer and had to deal with the changes in their relationship this brought. I can only imagine that if there was any bitterness before he had his accident, there must have been even more after for him leaving her in this situation. Mum must have had a range of mixed feelings but I do know that she continued to have him live at home. She must have had some feelings towards him after twenty odd years of marriage. It may have been easier to have put him in a home but mum was not one for taking the easy route. Mum was very proud. Sometimes pride can be a good thing and sometimes pride can cause further heartache. Having pride can mean you appear strong and don’t need others help. People can respect you for soldiering on in the face of adversity. However I also think holding on to pride can mean you don’t share your feelings with people about your fears and concerns. It can mean you don’t ask for help and when it is offered you can cause embarrassment. It can mean you don’t let people into your life because you don’t want them to know whats going on. The one thing I do know about my mum was that she was very proud of all her children. She did a lot for us and tried to protect us from a lot as well. In 1999 aged 53 after suffering with a lot of back pain for a year she was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow. This was a very difficult time for all of us. Even then in the midst of her being so ill she reacted very angrily when I took dad in to see her for the first time. It was hard to know with his head injury how much he understood but I felt he needed to know how ill she was and that she may not live. He reacted by being visibly very upset when he saw her. Mum became angry and said she didn’t want him to see her like she was. Even then I felt she wasn’t going to let him in, and there was a mixture of anger, embarrassment and just too much upset for her to deal with. She died four weeks after going into hospital for treatment.
After mums death dad and my younger brother continued to live in the council house we had grown up in. However things did not work out and I made the decision to find supported housing for dad. He lived in his own flat with support for a while but as his falls increased we had to move him into a Nursing Home at 61. This was a very difficult decision as in many ways he was too young and able to go into a home. However he also had no money or estate so there were no other choices available. He settled in o.k. for a while but to be honest I think deep down if most people had the choice they would rather not put their mum or dad into a home. His health deteriorated over the next couple of years and he died aged 64, November 2005. He was buried with mum in a double grave. Under mums inscription we had one more line added which is “Step softly, a dream lies buried here.” And that relates to both of them. The dream they once had for their future and their life together.
And it brings me back to where I started. The photos of 2 young people with lives ahead of them full of potential….and lives of potential unfulfilled in many ways. Time wasted on arguments, bitterness, resentfulness and frustration. Two people wanting something different for their kids, trying to create a better future for them.
And that’s one of the many reasons why I coach. I see the potential yet to be experienced in people. Because I see the desire and need in people to live their lives in a different way to what they are living now. To have someone hold your dreams and help you realise them NOW before its too late. To have someone who holds your life and every breath you take as a precious gift. Don’t wait until someone has an accident before you realise what you have lost. Don’t wait until someone dies before you realise what you have lost. Make your own life and that of others count…because they do. As someone pointed out to me, my mum and dad have given me a gift in their death. I want to share that gift with you. Stop what you are doing right now. NOW! Before you read any more of this newsletter do what you need to do with the person you are thinking of. Make that call. Write that letter. Go and surprise them by seeing them when they didn’t expect it. Lifes too short to mess about. You get one chance in this life. So make sure it’s a bloody good one!
Book Report 1.
The Road Less Travelled. M.Scott Peck. Arrow Books Ltd 1990 ISBN 0-09-972740-4
The author Dr M. Scott Peck had a private practise in psychiatry from 1972 to 1983. He draws upon a lot of his personal experience with his clients. From 1984 to 2005 he devoted much of his time to the work of the Foundation for Community Encouragement, a non profit organisation. He died in 2005. It is a very insightful book about how to develop ‘real’ honesty and relationships with people. He talks about true love being about enabling growth in ourselves and others. Its also insightful about how our own selfish motivations can enable dependence upon us and others. I also found it to be ‘refreshingly’ honest about the energy true change really takes. I really liked seeing someone saying this rather than telling people how they can change their life in 60 seconds, 24 hours, and 7 days etc……!
The down side I found was it can be a bit heavy and wordy in explanations at times. I felt like I had got the point many times but then he went into another explanation leading to another point. At this point I had nearly lost the point a few times. He also makes some comments about his own theory on mental health that I don’t personally agree with. However that did not stop me from reading the rest of the book.
Book Report 2.
Whatever. A down-to-earth guide to parenting teenagers. Gill Hines and Alison Baverstock. Piatkus Books Ltd. 2005
Even the title of this book is great. It really does what it says on the cover. I also love the title ‘Whatever’. If any of you have contact with teens you will probably be infuriated by this phrase. Very clever of the authors to choose something that is very ‘now’.
As soon as you read the introduction it comes across as very down to earth and real. It tells it as it is, normalises things and doesn’t offer magic wands.
I also liked the flash backs. This is where you can consider a way of connecting with a young person or activities to do with them.
e.g. Chapter 1 has a list of what makes a good parent. It then gets you to consider asking your child how they would list the order in their priorities. Its these sort of activities I liked that really enable discussion and get you to really find out what your kids think.
The book also describes things that a teenager may think or feel, which I think enables empathy. It also has some great practical tips on how to re-phrase your words and conversation.
I can’t say I really found anything I didn’t like about the book to be honest
Book Report 3.
Self Made Man. My Year Disguised as a Man. Norah Vincent. Atlantic Books. 2006 ISBN 1-84354-503-9
Norah Vincent is a freelance journalist working in New York City. She has written a book on her experience of living as ‘Ned’ her invented male persona. She goes into detail about what happens when she dates women as ‘Ned’, spends time in a monastery as ‘Ned’, joins a bowling league and various other encounters. I found it a fascinating read as a woman to see how men treated her thinking she was a ‘man’. She ends up having a lot more sympathy for the men she meets than I think she really anticipated would happen. She tells of the emotional impact on pretending to be a man it has on her. She also tells what reactions she gets when she ends up telling some of them she is really a ‘woman.’
However there was another part of me that felt something was missing. I can’t even put my finger on it exactly which doesn’t really help you! What I was very surprised by was the speed with which the men in particular accepted she was really a woman and she had lied to them. I found myself almost disbelieving that they weren’t getting more angry than they were. And that’s my response to it knowing I was not Norah, so I did not have those experiences. I think I would find it really useful to hear a blokes point of view on reading the book. I would still encourage you to read it as the psychology of the process she experiences is very interesting.