The Gift of Time
I spoke to an old friend of mine yesterday. We have known each other since we were late teens. It's one of those relationships whereby we might not talk for a year but it has no impact on our relationship.
She has had a tough time recently - husband left her, children, full time work, balancing everything and everyone. Not an uncommon story in today's world.
She was her normal bright and lovely self. Asking about me and my world, making me feel like an important person. I noticed whenever I asked a question it was met with a;
"Oh you know, the kids are doing well, it's all great", and switching the conversation back to me. I felt she was avoiding talking about her world.
We carried on chatting, mainly about me until I said;
"Is everything okay, it just seems you keep switching the conversation back to me".
"It's all fine, I don't want to bore you".
Of course as soon as she said this I knew there was more going on and we were able to have an honest conversation about how she reallyfelt and some of the tough decisions she was facing and what had happened this year.
I sometimes feel we are all getting on with life, heads down, balancing full time roles with family, never wanting to burden anyone with how we feel or what's really going on. When you know people well you can see it in them. When you don't know someone or don't actually really like someone you notice it less.
Recently I have been looking more and more at mindfulness. Mainly because my lifestyle is forcing me to - recently I have been burnt out for a number of reasons- time of life, balancing act, working long hours, doing too much and mainly not stopping to breathe - sound familiar to you :-).
Ruby Wax has written some great books on this and there are some brilliant apps available. Sometimes I don't think we are kind enough to ourselves and sometimes it takes someone else to say to us "you're doing too much". Mine was an occupational health survey!! Who do you have who feels comfortable enough to say to you stop, "Stop because this is affecting you and us", whatever us might be.
When you read articles on what people regret in their lives as they get older, strangely enough no one says "I regret not being at work often enough!" or "I regret being at my kids plays and sports days".
I am in no way saying I have personally got this sussed, because I haven't. Thankfully I have been taught a load of skills and know how to listen and what barriers I have to listening properly. I am still learning and will always be learning. I know how emotionally driven I am, how my hormones are often all over the place, how I can be over dramatic and catastrophise things - ask those I live with :-). I also know all of this is fine and it's good to be me.
Recognising how you are and what's happening is a step in the right direction. Asking people for help is a good, not a bad thing and spending time talking and listening to each other is the simplest gift of all. You don't have to be a psychologist, a person with loads of letters after your name or a Dr to give this gift. You just have to care, be genuine and non judgemental to make a difference.
So if someone is avoiding the question, distracting you away from an issue or just doesn't seem right, check in with them and don't be afraid to ask.
Check in with yourself as well and make sure you have time for you. As one of my coaches, friends and mentors, Clive, always says to me;
" Breathe Nick, don't forget to breathe."