When I was a newbie coach aged about 48 I took on a new client who was a little older than me. She wrote in advance to say that for a couple of years she’d been in a fog due mainly to the menopause and the death of her mother.
I remember thinking, but not saying, and be kind please… I wasn’t yet much of a coach in those days…Get. A. Grip.
I’m almost ashamed to write that now, having spent the intervening 15 years listening to +/- a thousand people tell me their life stories.
And what makes that one all the worse is that over the next couple of years exactly the same two things happened to me, menopause, Mother’s death, and then I knew what she meant.
“Great Spirit, grant that I may not criticize my neighbour until I have walked a mile in his moccasins”.
Listening to all those people talk over the years has taught me much about life and death, some of which I have experienced first-hand, but not all. I have experienced bereavement and loss and family difficulties and financial worries and a court case, but not redundancy, a miscarriage, marriage, children or divorce.
But just like when I was a small business accountant, those things I hadn’t experienced personally, I discovered and learned all about by listening to and working with my clients, and sharing their experiences for the benefit of all.
I am getting a few more aches and pains as I age, but my health is generally pretty robust. But not so my clients who take it in turns to be laid low by things which make perfect sense. When they need to rest and they don’t, they are taken out of the game.
When will you learn to rest?
It has taken me about forty years to learn to do less and to understand the importance of rest. It really doesn’t need to take you that long, especially if you make a decision today.
My podcast partner and I are about 130 weekly episodes i.e. nearly two and a half years into making a show called Own It! Your Business and Your Life and yet it took us more than half that time to realise that we only ever talked about business and that relatively speaking we had no life, we were workaholics.
I sold my first (accountancy) business in 1997 when I knew what I needed was A Great Big Rest. A rest from people mainly; this was before I discovered my introvert half. I moved away from where I had been living and working and I stopped using the telephone, so sick and tired was I of constantly being at the beck and call of others and not any good yet at saying no and protecting my own boundaries.
These are lessons I have had to learn, and which I attempt to support my clients in learning, because they greatly improve the quality of our lives, even in difficult times, perhaps especially then.
This week a fabulous woman of my acquaintance told me she was tired all the time. This was a good time to say so since she was about to get into her car and drive to Gatwick for a ten-day retreat in Spain. But let me tell you what she’s been through since Christmas.
She’s moved house (and office) twice. Her business hit a sudden and unexpected doldrum which she had to steer it through, all hands on deck, adrenaline. She’d been doorstepped by bailiffs and TV cameras who laid siege to her (erroneously), which led to the two moves, one scheduled, one to get away from them, not in that order. She split with her boyfriend. She successfully supported her son through rehab. Just before we’d had this conversation she’d popped round to the house of her elderly mother to discover an awful smell of gas which her Mum couldn’t smell. If she’d left that for another day or until she got back from Spain… well, that doesn’t bear thinking about.
I noticed a trend amongst women of a certain age. There’s an awful triple whammy which can hit you in your early middle years where your parents are dying, often all across country which involves a lot of travel on Britain’s roads at weekends, so you don’t get any downtime. Plus you are worried about them and coping with loss and grief. Your children need you a lot, they are teenagers who are losing their grandparents, and they are going through horrid exams and/or leaving you to go to Uni. You are going through or enjoying (!) early signs of the menopause. You might also be getting divorced, you are holding it all together by a thread but there’s no time for you at a stage in your life where your career success is starting to reap rewards or your business needs a lot of time and attention too.
That’s a lot for one person. When will you learn to rest? And you don’t even need to be that old. Juggling babies and smaller children in your thirties or at any age, YOU NEED REST!
Since I had that realisation about the Your Life bit of the podcast, I have taken more than a year to cut my work time down by about 50%. Typically I work on either marketing or being with clients for about half of each day, Monday to Thursday, and I try to have Fridays off too.
What do I do when I am not working? I rest!
I do resting, reading, relaxing, sleeping, napping, thinking and cocooning*. And the more of it I do, the better able I am to serve my clients. I can be available, and more responsive; I have more of every resource for them including patience and focus and time. I can reply to their emails and PMs if I am online, and not if I am not. They appear totally understanding of that.
I am staying off social media today because of what happened in Manchester last night (I am writing this on Tuesday this week). I find I need a rest as much as anything from the horrors of life, the terrorism, the news, the politics, the politicians, the social media and news apps where I have to choose between being “informed” and – well – happy and rested.
I was sideswiped by waking up on the wrong side of the Brexit vote last June. That is nearly a year ago and I am not over it yet. When I said that to a man at my brother’s birthday party the other weekend, he said he wasn’t over it either, so it’s not just me and that helps to know. We’d walked in each other’s moccasins. That’s very comforting, especially coming from a man because it is good (for me) when they connect with and speak of their emotions too.
That’s an example of what I need my “be kind to yourself, Judith” time for. Brexit dragged me back into politics which I gave up by choice in the early Nineties, in order to have a happier life. Now I’m worried and appalled a lot of the time and it takes it out of me emotionally. The antidote is easily available, more downtime, more rest, more watering the plants in the garden, more birdsong, which is another reality of my own choosing, and it’s right outside my window not inside my office gadgets.
Now that I am only working about 4 hours a day it does mean I have to work differently. I have to focus on what I consider to be important and let everything else fall away. What’s important? Only you can decide.
Now that I have given up eating carbs I have nothing at my disposal to give me a false jolt of energy, and so what I feel now is the real me and the real me, aged 62, who has lost a friend this year already, chooses to rest more.
When will you learn to rest? Your body is crying out for it. Yes, I appreciate you are a busy person, aren’t we all, but could you re-calibrate busy into powerful, efficient, and still make time for important and restful? I bet you can.
Tell you what… you are receiving this on a Friday just before a Bank Holiday (this assumes you are in the UK where most of my readers are). Even if you are not looking at a 3-day weekend, you are just this side of a 2-day one which comes every week. How about stepping away from the work and the machine and the chores and the responsibilities for an hour to assess your own need for rest? When my friend’s son comes out of rehab each weekend, she tells me he (aged 35) just wants to chill, and I remind her that this is what weekends are for!
What shape would that R&R take for you and how can you create space for more of that in your life? I hope you’ll make time for an experiment and notice how it makes you a better mother and businesswoman, partner, friend and daughter.
Let me know if I can help. Many clients need my permission, over and over, to do this and I know why. Just look at how long it’s taken me to crack it! Some days all I did was hold myself together. And I’m proud of that.
“Cocooning is staying inside one’s home, insulated from perceived danger, instead of going out. It’s a desire for a cosy, perfect environment far from the influences of a madding world.” Read more about cocooning at Wikipedia.