A blog by Claire Standen Coaching
In 2009 my dad had a series of strokes. Having been a very fit and healthy man, it was a surprise to us all. It shouldn’t have been, though. It was a reminder that as much as you may regulate your diet and exercise, if you don’t deal with stress effectively, your body will eventually show the toll. It was a turning point for me. Having watched my dad work hard, and I mean really hard, his entire adult life, this was the ultimate shocker. That much talked about retirement? Nope. Days of leisure? No.
I’ll be honest though, he wouldn’t have known how to spend his days at leisure. It wasn’t a skill-set he’d developed. Even our family holidays were spent renovating a dilapidated French farmhouse from the age of 11 onwards. A different kind of work to his academic career, granted. But still. After his strokes, he languished for many years in a care home. He died in 2020, with Covid.
Most of all, he gave his time and energy to his work. That’s not to say he wasn’t an excellent, involved and devoted dad. He was. However, he went to work in the morning and when he came home, his work continued until late into the night. Grant proposals, marking exams, writing papers… He tapped away in his tiny office until sometimes 10 or 11 at night. And guess who went to his funeral? Well… almost no one, as it turned out. Since it happened in early 2020, I didn’t even go. I could transgress here about hypocritical politicians and inhumane loses of human rights, but I’ll stay the course.
The point is. None of those fuckers came to his funeral. He had some great friends at work, and was well respected, so maybe some of them would have, if they’d had the chance. The problem is- you’re dead by then. My dad, in my opinion, gave way too many of his fucks to his work. He gave almost none to his own wellbeing. Part of why I do what I do, is because growing up I didn’t learn from those around me how to do self-care. Much less self-compassion. The less said about self-love, the better. Or at least, that seemed to be the mantra in my family’s house. I’m not blaming anyone here, that’s just how it was. But when I look at my life, I want to be able to say I gave my time, energy, money and effort where it made a difference. I want to learn how to be self-compassionate without sacrificing myself at the alter of ‘hard work’. Perhaps given the chance again, my dad would still choose to make such huge gains in the field of physiology. But I like to think he might have made a little more time for relaxing.
It’s not just relaxing though… that doesn’t quite do it justice. The work I’ve been doing for the last four years could hardly be called ‘relaxing’. It’s a re-imagining of what life is actually about. It can take a lot of witnessing, effort and consciously turning the tide. It’s about choosing what really serves you, friends. Knowing people who die ‘too soon’ seems to really focus the mind on this issue. It seems to me that if you continue to just do what comes naturally, there are many pitfalls that you may encounter. I’d love everyone to ask themselves: who am I actually living for? I bet for many, there are tendrils of the expectations of others, which weave their way into the very fabric of how you live, what you do with your time, who you spend time with… everything. It is up to us, once we reach adulthood and autonomy, to ensure that what we do is aligned with who we really are.
So here’s a reminder to make sure your energy is flowing to things, situations and people who are worthy of it. That includes but is not limited to toxic family members, ex partners, frenemies, colleagues or bosses. Nobody gets a free ticket to your energy, just because of who they are. Let’s take good care of ourselves, in every way we know how. If you don’t know many ways how, this is your nudge to discover some new ones. Mine include wild swimming, hugs, joining a book club, bike rides, dog walks, camping trips and snuggling.