I have mentioned a few times in various blogs about my love for music, and how music helps me keep an even keel when my resilience is being challenged. At the moment my resilience is being tested. Now part of being resilient is accepting that there are times in your life that will hurt, and occasionally it will hurt so much that you find it hard to imagine anything worse. Now I am not quite there, but I have been there before. Accepting emotional pain is so hard to do. The key is making space, which is not the same as letting your pain takeover. Allowing pain and happiness equal space and attention is the answer. You have to actively do this, we will automatically move to and pay attention to the pain and then try to get rid of it.
As Paul McGee would say, allow yourself some hippo time (some time to wallow in your self pity, but don’t make it a place of residence. It is then time to look for what makes you smile, what you value. Now my go to for evoking positive emotion is music. I will always go to my playlist and find something that fits my mood.
I am super lucky, as I have 2 boys that are musical. Both are in bands, Jack’s band is in it’s early stages so their is no music to listen to yet, but I cannot wait to share there first single. Ben however you will remember is in a band called Vialetters and they play live regularly and have just released their third song on all platforms. Listening to their music has got me through some challenging times recently. So as a huge heartfelt thank you to Ben and the rest of the Vialetters here is their latest offering Genera.
Yesterday was a day of mixed emotions. I was excited, proud, reminiscent, scared, and sad.
Yesterday we took our eldest for an open day and interview at The BIMM Institute (British and Irish Modern Music Institute) in Manchester (I know, how cool is that!).
On the drive down there was a sense of excitement in the car, that was until the rain starting coming down really heavy, and quietened us all down for a while. At one point visibility was nearly zero, and this does tend to concentrate the mind somewhat.
Once we parked up an got on the tram the excited and nervous chatter started up again. Well me and Lisa were talking excitedly, Ben was a little more circumspect, he was going to have 2 interviews after all. Lisa has a particular soft spot for Manchester, and was a regular visitor to the city as a young adult, therefore this added to her excitement.
When we arrived at open day, that is when the reality of what we were doing really hit home. We were helping Ben choose where he will spend at least the next 3 years of his life. There were plenty of positives and the institute looks like a fantastic place to be, with amazing opportunities, including working with some iconic names in the world of music and media. This to be frank was just making it worse for me. They then started telling us about all the pastoral support that is on offer, and the holistic approach they have to education. All I kept thinking was…. “what about us, do you offer pastoral support for the parents?” I kept a brave face though, I projected an excited engaged exterior and to be fair that was mostly true, I hope I hid my feelings of dread and despair for losing my little boy to adulthood.
In the afternoon Ben had his interviews, so myself and Lisa had a look round the city centre and attempted to retrace our youth. Lisa was desperate to revisit her old shopping haunt Afflecks Palace. We eventually found it once we got our bearings. It was like jumping back 25 years. There is a little more choice than there was then, but essentially the place was the same. Lisa loved it, however there was that realisation that in the proceeding 25 years her sartorial taste has changed somewhat. It was great to see the place though.
Our shopping trip did not last as long as we anticipated, this was down to the poor weather, and our inability to concentrate, wondering how Ben was doing, so we ended up in a coffee around the corner from the Institute killing time until it was time to go and meet him. The reality of our trip hit me again. I kept telling myself we are doing the right thing, we are helping him find his future, we are supporting him to find his own way. God I’m filling up just writing about it!
So after 20 minutes (that felt more like an hour in the coffee shop) we went to meet him. He had a broad grin on his face when he came to greet us, clutching 2 offers for both courses he interviewed for. Now all he has to do is pass his A Levels and decide which course he would prefer to do. I felt so immensely proud of him. I know he has got a lot still to do, to realise his dream, but he has taken the positive step and impressed the tutors at BIMM with his attitude and application so far. Also when you are a year older than nearly all of your fellow 6th form students it can be hard to stay motivated positive, this was a much needed shot in the arm for him to get over the line.
In our excitement, we left the institute in the wrong direction and got lost. Luckily Manchester is fairly easy to navigate and we eventually after a tour of Manchester City centre in rain found our way back to our tram stop and back to our car.
I am so proud of both my boys, and like many parents I love them with all my heart. On the face of it preparing for them to leave home is heartbreaking. At the same time I know that my role as a parent is simply changing (something I have written about in previous blogs). As I have said many times, it is so important to pay attention to what is happening right now. Yesterday was a wonderful adventure, where we helped Ben add some reality to his dream. Those kind of moments are priceless.
If you or your children are struggling with the prospect of moving away, get in touch, it doesn’t have to be painful.
If you are a regular reader of my blog you may have noticed that is has been a different kind of week for me. The big giveaway is that I have blogged 6 out of 7 days. It has been pretty special, not amazing, but pretty special.
The most notable thing this week has been that I have spent the vast majority of the time in the present. Being in the present and appreciating what was happening in real time, has actually made my future prospects far more attractive and much less scary.
I said at the beginning of the week that I still had some residual tension and that I could feel that in my jaw. As I have been writing this, this morning I have just checked in with my body, I have got no fingernail marks in the palm of my hands, my jaw is relaxed and I don’t have that faint feeling of nausea I usually experience in the morning. In other words Foggy has got his feet up and is having a snooze. He is content that he is not needed at the moment. Everything is on an even keel, he is particular dose of realism is not required.
Now I am not saying I am really happy, and that is the point, that is why Foggy has got his feet up. I am neither ecstatic or miserable, I am just content to allow both emotions the space they have in my mind. I have not suddenly reached another plain of consciousness, I am not sat cross legged in the middle of the floor at one with my inner being. I have, however consciously paid attention to and appreciated what surrounds me, how my body feels, what I am doing, and what is happening to me. This has started to calm my thoughts, to the point that I have woken up this morning quite relaxed. I am knackered and full of cold and physically feel a bit rubbish, but that is not having a detrimental effect on my state of mind, it is just something I am experiencing. It is weird and fascinating to experience mindfulness (if you want to call it that) in action. It works, it really does work. I have been setting myself free from my thoughts all week and thoroughly enjoying the journey.
So why do I think I am living the dream?
I do a job I absolutely love, a job that allows me to follow my interest and work within my values, so much so that my role has become an intrinsic part of my identity. People have enough belief in me as a coach at work that they allow me and encourage me to pursue my interests, to the point that they are willing to fund me to complete a course on strategic coaching.
I am writing a book. I have always wanted to write a book, but never thought I was good enough. I listened to my self critic. I listen to my self critic less now I am writing it, because people like me can and do write books.
I write a blog. Writing a blog is my release, it helps me make sense of my world, and according to feedback I get it helps other people make sense of their world and has inspired them to take action in their life, and for a coach there is no better motivation to do something.
I have a loving family. They laugh at me and sometimes look at me sideways, but they love me and I love them. Every time I see my sons my heart swells with pride, they are handsome, kind intelligent and talented and there is not a day goes by when they do not amaze me. Just as I wrote that my youngest just cycled past the window on his paper round and a little bit of joy jumped into my heart. On Wednesday we went to watch Ben my eldest play in his band (Vialetters) at a local venue. I am so blessed to calm them both my sons to the point I look for opportunities to talk about them to others on a daily basis, and I will often talk about them when I teaching.
So that is just a few highlights about why I am living the dream. I am not rich or famous. I don’t live in a big house and drive a fancy car. I am enough , I am alive and I am making a difference.
Are you living your dream? Have you checked? How often do you pay attention to what is going on around you?
Being mindful does not mean you have to meditate or do something dramatic. Just pay attention to what is really happening right now in the physical world, not the world constructed in your mind. It is really obvious but takes practice to actually do.
As you know I have been a little fed up over the past couple of weeks. In my previous blog I mentioned the tonic of being coached for my well-being which was truly excellent.
Then on Thursday morning I woke up to this song on my Spotify. There is nothing better than hearing something one of children has produced with his band mates. They are so talented and they deserve all the recognition I am sure they are going to get. Please click play and have a listen, I know I am a proud dad but they are bloody brilliant. If you are in Hull on 13th February 2019, pop down to the Polar Bear to see them in the flesh. Tickets are available via Hull Box Office or you can pay on the door. They are supporting another talented Hull band Mauritia.
Make an old Dad happy give them a listen and let them know how good they are.
The other day I made the mistake of watching Toy Story 3 alone. Oh god it was carnage. Now I enjoy this film and I also know being a sensitive soul I generally shed a tear at the end. Normally however there are members of my family around me, namely my sons who will have a laugh at me for crying at a cartoon. In fact Jack points out to me that I cry watching almost anything, including X-Factor (well I love to see people trying hard). Anyway none of these filters were present.
In hindsight I should have thought on and given the film a wide birth. But no, I thought I would be alright. I had things to do on the computer I said to myself, so I would not get completely drawn in and it would provide a pleasant backdrop to my work. That worked fine until the final 2 scenes. The scene where Andy is preparing to leave, and he walks into his bedroom with his Mum. She looks around the now empty and bare room. A room us as viewer of all 3 films recognise as a place of fun and adventure for Andy and his favorite toys, that is now is just an empty shell. All his toys and pictures packed away. Well the look on her face grabbed me, and it started. It started deep down in my heart and rose up to my mouth, I let out a little sob then the tears started and just did not stop for the next 10 minutes, accompanied by increasingly louder sobs and the obligatory snot bubble. my face was all contorted and I could not help rocking. If anyone had looked in through the window they would have assumed I had just been told some terrible news, and not watching a kids film.
As you all know, I have 2 boys. They are my world and I am so proud of them. They are 16 and 18 years old and over the next 2 years will be leaving home. Ben will no doubt leave next September. I want them to leave, and I want them to be successful and independent. Like every parent I want the best for my Children, but I would also quite like for them to stay young and need me, the way I am used to them needing me.
I have been starting to prepare myself for Ben leaving home for a while now. Many of his friends left home in September, so it has been on my mind since then. I think just watching Toy Story 3 brought those feeling to the surface. I realise now post sob that this is all part of the process of change that we are experiencing as a family and what I am experiencing as a parent.
There is nothing like a good ugly cry to let out all of those unhelpful emotions. It then gives you some space to create clarity in you thoughts. I felt so much better after it. I wish we all could feel more comfortable with full on sobbing, instead of repressing it. If we don’t let these feelings out, they just muddle our thought processes, and we end up being much more unhappy. In fact I was coaching someone recently that had a good old cry, we just sat there for a couple of minutes whilst they just cried. Once they had finished we had such a productive conversation, once the blocking emotions had been expressed. I did notice that they kept on apologising for crying, and I realised that was something I do. There is no need to apologise for doing something that is so useful. From now on I am going to practice not apologising for crying, I am also going to allow myself to have a good ugly cry and not repress it. I am going to appreciate the snot bubble. In fact I think that should be my mantra for the New Year.
APPRECIATE THE SNOT BUBBLE!
Have a lovely Christmas and New Year, and if you feel the need have a good old cry, you will feel so much better.
We all remember the day our children were born, their first steps, the first time they say mummy or daddy. Then there is that moment when you say goodbye to them on their first day of School. Then all their landmarks throughout their school life and childhood.
Last night we went to see my eldest and his band support a nationally recognised band called Blaenavon. Now I have seen Vialetters play a few times now, each time they get better and better. Then there is my youngest who generally leads the moshing in the audience. Anyone that knows me well, knows that I am an emotional soul. Last night at one point I was overcome with emotion. It was a special moment, the band were playing well and the reaction from the audience was incredible. At that moment I was so incredibly proud of both my boys.
When I was thinking of writing this I started looking at some pictures of my boys through out landmarks in their and our lives. If I say so myself we have done a pretty good job.
There are times when you are bringing up your kids the way you think is best, and it just doesn’t seem to be working out. Some days they just behave like little shits, and you wonder what you are doing wrong. You are not doing anything wrong, you are trying your best to do the right thing. There is only one thing worth asking, is your behaviour in line with your values? Are you being true to yourself? If you are crack on, no one said it was going to be easy. But I tell you what the rewards are pretty high. All those early mornings stood in the rain watching your boys play football or netball, listening to them read the same stories you read at school, being knee-deep in shit and vomit, are all worth it.
As Brene Brown says (of course I was going to mention her) be the adult you want your children to be.
Below is a bit of self-indulgence, to let you know how proud I am of my boys. Have a look through some of your photos and remind yourself what a good job you have done.
Earlier in the week, I was talking to my eldest son about his University application, where he would like to go and what he would like to read. I do love our conversations, especially the ones that take place in the kitchen, whilst we are both busy doing stuff. It seems the more involved we are in doing stuff, the more honest the conversation. In terms of transactional analysis you would say it was an adult to adult conversation, rather than a parent to child. As we talked we got onto how his friends that have just left for University are getting on. It was clear that there is mixed experiences, with some really struggling and others getting on and embracing the experience.
That got me thinking about 29 years ago when I left home to come to Hull to start my Nurse training. I wanted Ben to know that, the worries his friends are having are normal and almost certainly transient.
For the whole of the first month being in Hull I wanted to go home, most days I sat in my room and cried. Now it wasn’t Hull that was the problem, far from it I loved (and still do) the place, the people and the hospital. If I could have transported my friends and family, this place would have been perfect.
The issue was coping with the transition of my old life to this new life without my Mum, Sister and my friends. I remember suddenly feeling very young and useless. I know my Mum had prepared me for leaving home and had shown me how to use a cooker, a washing machine and an iron. But all those lessons left me the minute she waved me goodbye. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing I was lost.
The minute those hormones start surging through your body when you hit puberty you start pushing against your parents in preparation for being an adult. You start insisting that your parents treat you as an adult, that they give you the freedom you deserve and accept that you can make your own rules now. Then on that long journey to University or in my case School of Nursing, you start to panic. Shit this is it, I’m not ready to be an adult yet!
That was the feeling I had for the first month, the reality of this is it I am moving to my new beginning. William Bridges would describe it as me moving through the neutral zone between leaving my old life behind and forming my new life as a Student Nurse. It was uncomfortable. I made loads of mistakes, like washing a new red t-shirt with all nearly all of my other clothes. As a result nearly everything I wore was pink! I remember eating cold tinned meat and beans, because I didn’t want to look stupid in front of me new friends in the communal kitchen.
I now realise all this is normal and most people go through this pain and discomfort, those that don’t probably didn’t leave home.
After the first month it started to get, I got friendly with some other men in residence that were a little older than me, who taught me how to cook and gave me the space to be me.
A few years later I spoke to my Mum about this time and she told me it was like having her arm cut off saying goodbye to me. I have spoken to other parents who describe that feeling as some kind of bereavement. I so relate to these feelings, as the thought of Ben leaving home next year makes me feel very emotional. It is the same process as described earlier, us parents have to travel through that neutral zone between our old life as parents of children to our new life as parents of adults. We always look back fondly on being a parent of young children and them being dependent on us. Our new life requires us to be interdependent with our adult offspring. We have to learn how to belong in our new life. It is uncomfortable but at least I will never have to sit on my bed crying into a can of cold stewing steak wishing I had paid more attention when my mum was teaching me how to cook.
A message to all of us, it is uncomfortable but so worth it, hang on in there, we are all feeling it together.