Connection and Being Alive
16th October 2017
Inspiration to help us wake up and feel better connected.
What does it mean to feel alive?
The idea of this blog series is to take a single word as a prompt to inspire, focus or remind us to think about our inner life while we race about tending to our outer one. It’s a creative project for people who want to live a meaningful life and feel alive!
Starting from October 2017, each week’s word is accompanied by a short reflection on what the word means to people like New York Times bestselling author Chris Guillebeau and Psychologies magazine associate editor Anita Chaudhuri, author and podcaster Srinivas Rao, Food at Heart’s Meredith Whitely, writers Sarah Peck, Derek Murphy and Jacqui Lofthouse. also sharing their thoughts are rational coach and podcaster Hannah Braime, adventurer and author Dave Cornthwaite, artist Carrie Brummer and me – Clare Barry.
In May 2015, I went to Alive in Berlin, a brilliant personal growth conference. It was timely for me on many levels; I met people who understood what my work/personal life focus was all about at the moment: authenticity, creativity and human connection. I made many new connections (for my biz) and my heart (friends).
I returned home to London tired but elated; I returned to my living nightmare, too. My father was diagnosed with blood cancer in autumn 2014 and Mum received a similar diagnosis in spring 2015. Tests soon revealed Dad had lung cancer too and Mum’s rare blood cancer had already ‘transformed’ into acute myeloid leukaemia. During summer 2015, my world shrank as I got caught up in talk about surgeries, stem cell transplants, survival rates, infection risks and more. My business plans fizzled away and my daily focus was on my mum.
I rarely left the family home unless it was for a hospital appointment. And yet, I was so inspired by the brilliant people I had encountered on that trip to Germany. I wanted to keep creating and connecting. At this most strange and extreme moment in my life where my time and energy didn’t seem like mine, I was desperate to cling on to some shred of me, Clare, and not me the daughter, carer and advocate. Below is some of what I wrote to my new friends and people I did not know but admired. I grew braver and bolder with each email. I asked for their help and offered my own in return:
Cancer has invaded my life for the past year what with my dad’s diagnosis and subsequent remission. Last week we were told my mother’s cancer has spread and she is now terminal. We don’t know how long we have with her until we see a specialist. I am not going public with it but naturally, this news is completely devastating. We have precious time to make even more memories and enjoy meaningful connection.
Aliveness, connection and purpose are more important and precious to me than ever. I can’t really work at this time and I am staying close to home. This is a small way in which I feel I’m doing something and connecting with people I admire and gaining strength from others’ stories and observations.
I was overwhelmed by the generosity of spirit and soulful responses I received. In the end, I did not run this community project because Mum’s sickness accelerated and she entered the hospice sooner than expected. My darling mother died in October 2015 with my brother and me at her bedside. Dad is still in remission but he is weakened and his life expectancy is limited.
Throughout this past two years of returning to my writing and work, the words of the Alive contributors have been healing and restorative. It’s powerful stuff. They wrote about their stories and understanding of things like: attention, service, kindness, purpose, essence, openness, truth, embrace. I look forward to sharing these powerful insights and observations with you.