“Can you hear me?”
“Can you see my screen?”
It’s been 7 months since I last wrote Notes from a Small Country.
There’s a reason it’s taken so long. Covid19 has had a significant impact on many of us, and in the land known as one of the happiest on earth, I’ve been busy in Denmark surviving the ups and downs of this pandemic most of us didn’t see coming.
To reboot this series I’ll start with a story I didn’t plan on publishing. It was a recent journal entry for my eyes only. Yet, maybe there’s something in here that can help others? Maybe not? I figure at a minimum it’s a welcome break from all those posts about leadership, building your brand or how to get noticed more on LinkedIn.
Ready? I’m not sure if I am as it’s the most vulnerable post I’ve written here…
We don’t grow old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals
At some point in early October, I realised I was having a crisis. You know, one of those midlife things.
I reached the age of 47 during the summer of Covid19. Up until that point I hadn’t really thought about age, yet something stirred in me this time, deep down in the depths of my soul I felt an aching. Was I really doing what I wanted to do in life? I had serious doubts.
At the time I did what any typical self-respecting adult would do, I ignored it. I didn’t mention it to anyone, least of all my wife and family. Why worry them with something that would go away if I turned a blind eye?
I went out and bought the Lego Technics Land Rover (I couldn’t afford a sports car in Denmark, the tax is 150%). Nice! I had my dream vehicle at last (at least an accurate replica of one).
I’m pretty convinced this strategy would have worked if not for Covid19 life and being on Zoom calls for 8 hours a day. But then, I’m probably wrong about that too, we’ll never know.
Life is an onion and one peels it crying
What I do know (and you after reading this) is that the deep soulful aching turned into crying alone and then crying alone into drinking and then drinking into constant tiredness.
I had mouth ulcers appear. I had eczema pop up at random and then disappear again. I started to get headaches, and on top of feeling tired I felt an overwhelming sadness, a sadness I hid away inside me.
Life was not what I’d dreamed it to be.
I kept going, ignoring the obvious. I have a full-time job, I’m a husband and father. What I was feeling was nothing compared to the real problems others around the world faced. My commitments were many, my problems small, they’d go away over time. Or so I hoped.
So I hid my feelings from my family, I hid my problems from my coworkers and I hid them from my friends.
Given how I’ve spent years learning how to become effective and even share habits and tactics for living an effective life, the irony of my situation was not lost on me.
The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining
One sunny autumn day in October I found myself crying in my small office area in the spare room of our house. It had all become too much. The constant pressure of meetings, the constant lack of human contact, the constant lack of going out and enjoying time with friends, the inability to visit my ageing mum and my twin brother back in the UK, and the realisation my life was 45 hours a week in a room looking at other people on a monitor.
I was broken on the inside, and acting on the outside.
You’d think I’d have seen it coming, given all the warning signs. Turns out ‘ignorance is bliss’ is not a phrase to live by…
If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello
Before moving into software I was in a band, I wrote poetry, I wrote stories, I liked to draw. I wanted to be a rock and roll star.
Cliché I know.
What Covid19 showed me was I’d become a 47-year-old sat in a small room staring at video calls throughout the day, all without a sense of achievement.
Then, on a Monday evening not long ago I felt a rash appear on my back. I felt it grow, it was the weirdest feeling, I asked my wife to take a look, and she watched in horror as it appeared real-time.
Oh, the pain.
It wasn’t insignificant.
The doctor prescribed medicine. I’d broken out in Shingles. A nasty side effect of having Chicken Pox earlier in life. Commonly brought on by stress and a reduced immune system.
Oops, I should have faced that feeling back in June. I should have talked about it. I could have bought the Lego technics Land Rover anyway.
To be happy you don’t need to be perfect. You just need to be real and accept yourself as you are because you are already enough
What if we were exactly what’s needed? What would happen then? How would we live if we were exactly what was needed in the world?
I’d read about being exactly what’s needed in the world and forgotten about it. Now it popped up again as if my subconscious was showing me the first step to take.
And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve realised I’m exactly what’s needed. I’m living each day knowing I’m what’s needed in the world. We all are, we just don’t all realise it.
I’m not out of the woods yet. The fatigue isn’t over, the rash is still present (though no longer painful) and I need to continue to journal in order to know if the path I’ve chosen is the path I want to be on. I’m using Morning pages as my daily practice to creative recovery.
Either you run the day, or the day runs you
How has the pandemic impacted your life? Are the words you hear most often in front of your computer “Can you hear me?” If so take a look at the changes I’m making to my daily routine, I hope they can inspire you in some way, and remember, if you feel any kind of aching, doubt or sadness, don’t just buy a Lego Technics Land Rover, talk to someone who loves you.
The 7 Habits for mental wellbeing while working at home.
- Early to bed, early to rise – Rise early and read, meditate or go for a run. Before starting your day, do the thing you need most for your mental well-being.
- No matter your job, take control – try to limit video calls to 3 or 4 hours a day.
- Ditch video – In fact, for calls where you’re one on one and don’t need to review documents, take them by phone and go outside, your mind will thank you.
- Prioritise those small moments of joy – that call with a friend, that funny cat video, that song you love – this is more important than staying glued to Slack or email.
- Be kind to yourself – Instead of just keeping a to-do list, consider the addition of a “got it done” list, tracking your accomplishments, big or small, throughout the day.
- Choose a wallpaper you love – when you logon, when you minimise your active work pages, you’ll see your wallpaper. Make it something you love (I have incredible mountain bike moments). You’ll be amazed at how much this lifts you.
- Hydrate – It’s easy to forget to stay hydrated. We’re not talking coffee, find a herbal tea you like or just drink plain water. When you drink enough throughout the day it’s amazing how much more energy you have (forgetting this was a mistake I made for several months).
I hope you enjoyed this episode of Notes from a Small Country? I’d love feedback directly or in the comments. Which part was your favourite? What do you want to see more or less of? Other suggestions? Let me know!