I have just returned from a month off. My heart is filled with gratitude and love that I got to spend quality time with my family in a beautiful place after such a long and painful time apart. I completely switched off. I hardly read, which, after reading 34 books this year, is unusual for me. I didn’t think about work at all, I didn’t strategize or vision the future, instead I was fully present, and I embraced the views, the walks, the light and the air of southern France. I also laughed with and embraced my beautiful, brilliant daughters, the light of my life. At the end of our weeks together I was forced to cancel the last leg of my journey, to London, to see my mother as she caught Covid. My family flew off in different directions and I was left alone, in France, for 4 days of solitude. Not only was I alone but due to the change in plans I didn’t have a confirmed flight home and nothing makes me more unhappy than uncertainty. When my husband drove away, after leaving me at my airbnb, I stood on the pavement and burst into tears. How would I manage all by myself? How would I fill my days? How would I walk the same streets that just days before we had walked, laughing, as a family and not be struck with the kind of nostalgia that grips your heart? My heart. It was both broken and filled with gratitude, at the same time. I had a physical pain in my chest and I knew I had to feel it all, and feel it alone. Over the days, I walked, I wrote, I read, I drank wine, I watched tv, I talked on the phone and I fought the silence with music. Choosing what music to listen to was tricky, it had to be upbeat but not irritating, foot tapping but background, it had to be gentle and familiar. I ended up listening to soft rock from the 80s. Music I listened to in my bedroom on the radio, growing up. I took hot baths and slept in layers of clothes, hugging the spare pillow. I stood and looked out of the window a lot. The tiny, ancient fishing village was so blindingly beautiful, that I gasped each time I turned a corner on my many walks around the looping streets. I carried a camera loaded with film and took photos whenever I felt moved. At first I listened to podcasts, then nothing, as I started to listen to the sounds of my boots on cobbled streets, the waves bringing the mediterranean sea onto the long beach. Sea air, French voices, warm bread, hot coffee, every sense was magnified. On Day 1 I found it hard to sit still and kept standing up for no reason. Stillness and silence threatened me. I grieved the loss of company but as hours passed I started to listen to ideas that popped into my head. After a month of close knit company, card games, laughter, shared meals, long drives, singing, debates about which movie to watch, deep conversations and re-discovery of our family, I was suddenly alone and quiet with only my own company. And I realized, this might be the very gift that I needed.
I am fully aware of my luck and privilege. Gratitude is a key value of mine and it is front and centre of my conscious thinking. Growing wise comes from knowing myself and knowing how fortunate I am is clear. But I also realize that we have made this luck. We have made choices and turned our life in directions that have often been hard, stressful and very uncertain. Chaos has been present. But these choices, like a climb up a steep hill, have brought me to this point. In all the self help dialogue that seems prevalent everywhere one loud bell keeps ringing: In order to experience growth you need to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable. But who actually wants discomfort? Wouldn’t we rather be comfortable under a warm blanket, by a roaring fire with loved ones? And yet, being totally alone was uncomfortable and in that place I started to hear some hard truths.
I have been pondering my word of the year. Last year it was courage, because I needed to be brave. Brave to use my voice, to create my coaching business and brave to sit with my own company. Bravery takes many shapes and forms. For some it is speaking in public, or using one’s voice, for some it is changing jobs, for some it is jumping into an ice cold pond and for others it is exploring extreme sports. For me, it is being completely alone and using my voice. I have been married for a long time and I realize that I rarely get to do anything by myself, rarely do I drive, book tickets, face and conquer hurdles, fix challenges. I am wrapped in the security blanket of a comfortable marriage and I live in a safe country. Rarely do I do hard things. For me, being alone is a hard thing. And I won’t apologize for that. Everyone has their own hard thing.
My word for 2022 is LESS. Walking alone in France I started to think about what I want this year. Not more scrambling and climbing, not more content and noise. No. I needed more of this: quiet.
Less listening to the message that is louder than ever in January: You need a new you! Less believing that message. Less doubt.
Less striving for other people’s kind of brave, less of the things we don’t need, less complications, less stuff, less hassle, less shallow talk, less of what doesn’t matter. Less of seeing things from a perspective of scarcity, less hiding, less fear, less worrying about how I am perceived, less concern for people who don’t concern me.
More contentment, silence, listening, awareness, beauty, connection. More belief that I am just perfect the way I am.
The last months of 2021 were very hard for me and I felt the familiar and terrifying grip of depression returning. Now I face a new year more whole, restored, connected and loved. I am comfortable. I have more clarity, the kind of clarity that comes from being around people who are your tribe and spending time listening to them. The kind of clarity that comes from being comfortable with your own company. Stepping into hard things with a conviction that I have everything I need. It is a journey, and I have not arrived. But with less noise I might be closer to where I want to be and what I want.
What is your word for the year?
Please get in touch if you want a no obligation chat to see if coaching is for you. I work with anyone who wants to take some time to pause and listen. Coaching can take you from where you are to where you want to be. Coaching starts with the belief that you are just fine as you are. Now it is time to ask for what you deserve.