“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
What a busy few weeks it has been.
A couple of weekends ago we visited family on the mainland. I spent Saturday afternoon in the wacky, wonderful world of my beautiful 2 year old niece. It was almost as if I’d fallen down a rabbit hole. We searched for tiny snail shells in the dirt, kissed and hugged the flowers, chased and popped bubbles and peered into the compost bin to see what lurked in the dark beneath the lid.
In stark contrast to my previous weekend’s adventures in wonderland, last weekend I worked two very long days preparing our new work HQ for everyone to move in on the Monday morning. Whilst collapsed on the sofa surfing the web on Sunday evening, reflecting on why I’d given up my weekend to do this, the mystery was solved when I spotted the following quote: “What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other” – George Eliot. As project lead for the move that’s exactly the scenario I’d committed to deliver.
I promised myself that I’d seize this weekend, to reconnect with my family and our beautiful Island. We headed to Yarmouth (a place that does exactly what it says on the tin). With the warm sun on our faces, blinded by the dazzling light glinting off the water, we meandered along the footpath by the estuary, feasting on sweet and juicy blackberries from the hedgerows – memories of my grandma’s delicious blackberry and apple pie, with its cracked and misshapen pastry lid, came flooding back.
In all, it has been a very happy and rewarding few weeks. But none of it would have happened if I hadn’t kept promises, both to myself and others – to have done what I said I was going to do. As Stephen MR Covey says in his book “The Speed of Trust”, making and keeping commitments both to ourselves and others, builds Trust. He goes on to quote Cardinal de Retz “A man who does not trust himself can never really trust anyone else”; and to point out that people judge others on their behaviour, but themselves on their intent.
“Pain is temporary, quitting is forever” Lance Armstrong
In his book “Graceful”, Seth Godin explains that we are all wired to avoid situations that might endanger our great-grandchildren. It is what scientists call our lizard brain, responsible for anger, revenge, fear and reproduction. It was for survival, but now it just makes us miserable. It’s the petulant and incessant voice in the back of our head that destroys our good work.
Godin goes on to say that anxiety is experiencing failure in advance; repeatedly putting yourself through something that didn’t happen and probably never will. It sounds a daft thing to do when you put it like that and yet, I’d bet that most of us regularly do it. However, as Pema Chodron says, “lose the story and you only have the feeling left and that will fade”.
Three years ago I prolapsed a disc in my back. The pain was dramatic – indescribable. Until earlier this year I was utterly terrified of doing any exercise, fearful that it would happen again. My lizard brain had kicked in. I decided that enough was enough and that the annual “Walk the Wight” was the cure.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. For the last few hours of the 10 hour (27.5mile) walk it was lashing with rain and blowing a hoolie. So much for waterproof clothes, even my underwear was drenched. By the time I got to the summit of Tennyson Down (3 miles from the end), I was crying. But thanks to a wonderful work colleague (our un-official team coach), my determination to prove wrong the physiotherapist who thought I’d only manage half the walk and a promise of £200 in sponsorship, I got to the finish line. What an amazing feeling – definitely worth having to waddle for the next two days.
The lizard has been banished.
“In everybody’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those who re-kindle the inner spirit” Albert Schweitzer
What was truly wonderful about the whole experience was getting to know an amazing 10 year old, who walked as part of our team. Despite only planning on doing half the walk, she did all of it, holding her mum’s hand and sobbing (like me) for the last few miles. Awe-inspiring – but that’s only half the story.
On the morning of the walk she arrived with her mum, having had her long, golden hair cut into a very chic, cropped bob. She explained to me that she’d been growing her hair to a certain length so that it could be donated to the Little Princess Trust, who provides wigs and hairpieces for children who suffer hair loss due to cancer treatment. Wow – this hit me straight in the heart. A friend’s daughter, also aged 10 and with long, golden hair, had recently been diagnosed with cancer and was about to receive a wig from the Little Princess Trust. We are hoping that they can soon swap photos.
Keeping commitments to ourselves and to others, living our lives with no gap between our intent and our behaviour, is brave and powerful. This week a GP colleague, who was presenting to a large audience our organisation’s strategic priorities, one of which was to remove the stigma associated with having mental health issues, openly spoke about suffering from depression herself. It was courageous and inspiring. I bet that everyone in the room admired her for it and believes she is committed to delivering what she had said.
Mahatma Gandhi believed that “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony”.
Perhaps we all should reflect on whether we “do what it says on our tin”.
If you’d like some more food for thought, try reading “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce.