It’s happening. That big scary number has loomed itself in front of me and popped itself down on the seat next to me on the plane.
Honestly? It terrifies me.
The very notion that this wildly immature girl that writes this is 40 just freaks me out.
I am better. I can say the actual number now.
It doesn’t fit with me, however, I can say it.
Perhaps my version of reality has a particular “mould of a 40 year old”. All I know is that I do not fit that mould.
I remember reading that 80% of life defining moments happen before you are 35.
So, what now?
I often talk about the film Sliding Doors. I think life is like that. Life unfolds in different ways – and it’s all down to a moment – whether we get on the train or not. There are an infinite amount of possibilities in front of us and our choices define what possibilities lay before us.
And so, in a quest for me to deal with this “thing” (that I know is totally not a thing and I am eternally grateful that I actually reach another birthday. I have- in my crazy mind – made it a THING) I am writing this journal on (some of) my life defining moments.
If my mum reads this she will kill me.
To this day, (and at THIS AGE!) I cannot sleep the night before Xmas. My brother and I used to get up early and play cards and annoy our parents shouting and asking, “Has Santa been???” (we knew he had because our Santa sacks were full).
Xmas was (is) a big thing.
My brother would memorise the Argos catalogue (the children’s bible) numbers for the presents he wanted. Brilliant.
And so I do not know why I decided to go hunting. Perhaps I had heard something at school. Perhaps I had an inkling.
But, I went searching in my mum and dads wardrobe (and if my mum is reading this I am a dead woman) and I found a box.
A big box.
Like, Sindy campervan size box.
And I peeled back some paper and it was.
A. Red. Sindy. Campervan.
Just like the one I had asked Santa for.
In that moment (which even in writing this I still feel I want to erase from my mind), a strong powerful magical and wonderful belief system was shattered. Gone.
Never to return.
My parents had lied.
There was no magic.
But, what if the magic was just different?
I come from a running family. Mum and Dad both competed in marathons, half marathons, any-kind-of-running-thons – and we would always be cheering on from the sidelines at any sporting event near us.
I can still see my Dad running past the Cutty Sark at the 6 mile mark – my Dad! Running in the London marathon – amazing!
You cannot mention Alan Wells’ name in front of my mum without her crying. Sometimes, when we were younger we really worried about mum because she would get soooo wound up when any Athletics was on the TV.
And so, it was in our DNA.
Russell (my brother) and I were going to be running in some way. We became members of Kirkintilloch Olympians and I loved getting my spikes, my blocks, my shell suit (they were fashionable) and my running leotard (what a sight). Competing in athletics at an early age gave me an infinite amount of lessons.
It taught me about discipline, it taught me about competitiveness (although, believe me – mum had drilled this into us (do remind me to tell you about the Bible Prize at school)), it taught me about teamwork (the relay and our championships caused us to think about how we work with others and shape results together).
And I remember one Scottish Championships. I had won the 100metres and I was elated. Off the scale. Every cell in my body bubbled with delight, joy, pride and future wishes.
Rolling into lunchtime I started to warm up for the 200metres. This was my event – the stride length that caused me to rip my school skirts (long pencil skirts were so in those days and I really struggled to walk in them) was always gong to take me to a further distance.
And in that moment I realised I hadn’t enrolled for the 200m heats.
In the height of excitement and possibility I had forgotten my goal, my focus, my mission.
Crashing down doesn’t cut it. I ugly cried, I blamed everyone else and then my coach said to me, “never assume, because you make an ass of you and me” (you said it in your head there didn’t you?).
I got the biggest wake up call on that day – from elation to disappointment in a second.
You have an expectation of your life and its sad to change expectations. When you break up from a marriage you don’t just break up from a relationship, you break up from a life.
You get on another train.
I was so ashamed to say that my marriage hadn’t worked I didn’t tell anyone for about a year – how could I? With what I do?
I remember sitting with a client and asking her how long it had been since she became unmarried?
Divorced? She asked.
Yes-that, I replied sheepishly, avoiding eye contact.
The word divorced didn’t fit in my mouth. It wasn’t part of our families’ story– I do have about 68 cousins so you get the picture?
I remember one Aunt saying to me – “even though you are one of them (a divorced person – apparently it’s a disease) we shall still talk to you.
And then you are no longer part of a family that was part of your everyday family. I went from favourite Auntie to Voldermort – she who must not be named.
I understand, it was my decision. I do get it.
It still hurt.
And then I started a new movie.
I started a new movie by devastating another human being.
I remember my coach saying to me,
“A heart breaking is a heart opening”.
I clung to that thought, I meditated on it, I translated it to my clients, and it became a mantra.
Remember the Friends episode when it looked at what Phoebe would have been like if she took another path? Having a heart attack, big shot in the city?
Having a heart attack (whilst writing a presentation- yes, it was very nearly death by PowerPoint) at too young an age was definetly a wakeup call.
My athletics career had suffered injuries and my head discovered boys and beer at university and my metabolism changed.
I put on weight and was working crazy hours at work. And it was a late night, and I had pains in my arm. I called home, explained what was happening. And my reply to “get out of there and to the hospital now” was
“ I need to finish this powerpoint”.
Yes, I said it out loud.
And it turns out I have a sensitive heart
It turns out there is more to life than PowerPoint.
And I quit.
I was doing a lot of work in Leeds and travelling up and down from Glasgow pretty much every week. I remember one journey vividly when my dad called. He told me that he had being going for some tests and he had Parkinson’s.
I can still remember how sunny it was outside and how bright it was in the car.
I cried for the rest of the journey.
And that was 7 years ago now and my dad is “still eating soup” (as he says).
We deal with pretty much everything through the medium of humour in our family. Dad is often called “shakin Stevens” or told to be quiet when he is banging the table (we are a supportive bunch) but with humour we demonstrate our deep love.
My dad is my rock.
He is unbelievably annoying and detailed (you have to talk to him through a spreadsheet), he is ALWAYS right (he, and his family, have the “O’Donnell look which is the “I am always right look”), he is incredibly generous and fair, he is immensely clever, he is so funny, he looks like Kenny Rogers (old school reference) and can hold a tune (but please don’t tell him that because it was soo embarrassing when he sang when we were younger – you know the family parties where they all drink whisky and the kids sit on the stairs in the hallway rolling their eyes).
I cried when he wrote me a card last year as he gets irritated that he cannot write as well – to see my Dads writing was just like Xmas (pre campervan). My dad writes the best letters and so this was a call back to my childhood and my dad without Parkinson’s.
See, the thing is I see my Dad with Parkinson’s and compare him with Dad without Parkinson’s. My dad sees other people with Parkinson’s and knows he is not “suffering” as much.
It all depends on what you compare things too right?
And, as Brene brown says –
“Comparison is the thief of joy”
I can see how he gets frustrated and I (still) try his patience but I also see the joy in his eyes when the family sits round the table, when my brother and I are talking absolute rubbish and my mum won’t let us out the house without giving us Tupperware full of soup and chili.
There is nothing better than seeing my Dad get the fits of giggles.
He’s still my dad. End of.
In the work that I am lucky enough to do I consistently hear amazing stories about what people are doing since courses or coaching. In the early days of my business I delivered NLP courses and trained people to be practitioners and Master Practitioners.
And so I wanted to pull together a small book to get these messages out to more people.
So, myself and 46 of my students, wrote a book. Because someone told me that I couldn’t!
We had an amazing launch party and raised money for Cancer Research and it was a moment. A moment of creation. Receiving my first box of books and holding the first book in my hand was a soulful moment, I had created something. It was the first real moment when I noticed I wanted to make a mark.
It wasn’t the best book but it was the best moment.
And I am eternally grateful for the person who told me it could not be done.
People are in your life for a reason, season or a lifetime. I was never entirely sure what this specifically meant however, what I do know is that it gives me comfort. It gives me comfort when people are in your life in such an impactful intoxicating way and then, simply. They are not.
It gives me comfort to know that I have something to learn from all of my relationships, that I meet myself in the conversations, challenges and goodbyes.
All of these people are teachers.
I still miss certain people, my dearest best friend whom I think about every day – I learnt a lot about communication through this break up, a lot about listening and a lot about loss.
Effectively, that’s only a few of the life defining moments and as soon as I finish this off, I shall think of a million more.
And, if you managed to read to the end – then well done and, thank you.
Grateful from Glasgow x
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