Word of the Week: Gentle
Anxiety, grief and learning when to surrender.
For me, grief brings a giant spotlight to the mind body connection. Grief is the gangster that straps me to the chair in that dank warehouse basement and grabs the light cord and holds a bare lightbulb inches from my face until I am dazzled into submission. Grief is a gift. It reminds me that I am not in control, which is hard when you’re starting a business and are a natural control-freak who has strong proven track record of overcommitting.
And so I pick gentle as my word of the week.
Recently my schedule has been full, not in a pleasing and positive way but crammed, fit-to-burst full. I can see it now but I couldn’t then; my body forced my mind to confront this, as it always does when I’m racing around forgetting to listen to the warning signs. Here’s how it looks since my mother died: heart palpitations and sensitivity to sensory stimulation. It’s a powerful reminder to stop. Here were the clues:
- driving to Richmond the other day I had to pull over because a song on the radio had set me off and I couldn’t see the road through my tears. I arrived for my meeting all discombobulated and discovered I was an hour early (unheard of!)
- I was at Paddington last week waiting for the tube to Kings Cross and the sheer numbers of commuters climbing the stairs, cramming onto the platform and spilling out of the carriage made my heart race. I felt dizzy, sick and frazzled and unable to process the announcements telling of delays back at Hammersmith. I arrived late and for the next hour or so struggled to focus on my colleague’s words when the background music, whiff of the oil burner in the cafe/bar, lighting and the movement of people in the square outside competed for my attention
- a minor domestic issue tipped me over the edge and I spent hours in a mess of snot and tears and difficult memories for two days.
Reader, I got the memo. In. The. End. Here’s what I did: cancelled everything, accepted that I was not going to get much work done for a while and just retreated into books, sleep and the love of good people. A phone call with a dear friend and a cuppa with kind souls who nurture me when I need it most.
The best part was having a sleepover with my littlest nephew and two nieces. We made tiny books and stitched in secret pages and painted patterns and tales in vibrant inks and watercolours. We played thumb wars (Nephew #2 always wins because he always cheats), read Mr Men books and picked juicy strawberries from the garden. We talked vampires, werewolves and Brexit; listening to my 12-year-old and ten-year-old nieces make declarations about Trump, Cameron and the state of the country was both amusing and grounding.
Cancelling events, meetings and commitments is very hard for me. But grief is a gift and it forces me to reassess what really matters in the moments when I creep back to my say-yes-over-committing ways. And you know what? People are generous and kind when you’re honest with them. This is how I wish to build my business – not through sheer grit and tenacity but with gentleness and the desire to feel good while I make the work that I believe will help others.
Today I will go gently. Instead of worrying about not being on track with my business plans and finances; I will focus on feeling calm and stable. I might get an hour of work in, perhaps it’ll be more. All will be fine.