I’ve always mentally lived in the future. My life meticulously planned in advance, scheduling my diary for the forthcoming months around client projects, workshop delivery and my ultrarunning calendar. Every last detail painstakingly visualised and worked through; so it’s simply a case of going through the motions when the time arrives.
These embedded behavioural patterns have consistently supported my inner drive, determination and perseverance to achieve more. However, the shadow side of this strategy hides a myriad of unhealthy deeper insecurities in an attempt to exert control, mask an inner restlessness and constant desire to be somewhere else. This instinctive, protective mechanism originates from my childhood where my vision was firmly set on leaving home, being independent and feeling free in order to counter a former unconscious limiting belief based on four words; ‘I’m not good enough’.
Unsurprisingly my ‘I’m not good enough’ monster has followed me into adulthood and shaped my life, career and relationships. Only recently, as I have been able to openly acknowledge and accept this core belief as a part of me has it been possible to move beyond the consistent need to prove my worth. I based my self-value on the achievement of successful outcomes whether through academic qualifications, race results or the generation of a specific level of financial income. These classic outward representations of individual accomplishment and status are so often social currency in our twenty-first century work and lives.
Ironically, it was the sudden arrival of COVID-19 sweeping across countries earlier this year which consolidated this realisation and ripped my world apart. My underlying intuitive gut ‘feel’ which had started as a soft whisper that something was out of sync following my DNF at Diagonale des Fous in October was transforming into a cyclone as 2019 was drawing to a close. I was slipping to the very cusp of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual burn out. The chance to retreat into myself and carve out time to rest during the annual business festive lull over Christmas and New Year was utterly ignored despite every cell in my body screaming out to hibernate. Instead, I was channelling my dwindling energy into re-vamping my website, identifying future business development opportunities, attempting to satisfy my inner thirst for learning and adapting to a new ultra-running training routine having switched coaches.
As the 2020 rollercoaster started and the pace of work and life shifted up even further, the gathering grey clouds of COVID-19 were beginning to sweep across the world. Then in March the storm truly exploded. Lockdown restrictions unleashed an unprecedented level of change as our worlds shrunk and we were imprisoned within four walls, only permitted to leave for shopping essentials and daily exercise. The ‘Corona-storm’ metaphor illustrates some of the emotional battering we’ve all endured. Everyone’s experience is deeply personal, different and in all likeliness infused with pain. It’s a confusing and messy space. There’s no benefit or advantage to compare challenges or hardships.
The safety and security of moving through my back-to-back schedule and living out my premeditated diary had vanished. Every day approached like a gapping black void. My mental and emotional bandwidth to power through each day was gone.
In fact, I needed an entire new armoury of strategies to face and move through my world; breaking time into smaller chunks: morning, afternoon and evening. Prioritising self-care rituals such as spending time surrounded by nature, as spring transformed the countryside into an array of green; transporting myself to another place by devouring Philip Pullman fiction novels and re-connecting with friends from the past over virtual coffee.
Another tiny oasis of calm set amongst this chaos has been weekly ‘tree care’ days helping out Joe from Joe Thomas Tree Care in Trowbridge and getting to grips with the skills needed by any novice ‘groundie’. I was able to get back to nature with my feet planted firmly on the ground and wind in my hair; pruning, chipping or moving brash. The physical labour focuses attention and the connection to nature brings me firmly back to the present whether it’s supporting pruning apple trees in Colerne, taking down a yew tree in Bath or reshaping beech trees in Marshfield.
It’s also been a time to speak up and ask for help drawing on the expertise of former school friend Naomi Cambridge, my Relationship Coach, who’s gently de-bugging my beliefs around relationships and ramping up my feminine energies (or ‘yin’ or ‘left’ brain depending on your language), Yoga Ben guiding me through the exquisite pleasure and pain of stillness on a yoga mat and Stuart Sandeman for opening the world of breathwork to shift emotions. At the heart of all these lies spending time outdoors and connecting people (to themselves, to others and to our world) which align with my core values of connection, respect, curiosity, courage, love and sustainability.
Lockdown restrictions are beginning to ease and our pace of life is starting to creep back to previous levels. Will you mindlessly slip back to the former status quo or take time to re-evaluate your priorities?
The path ahead is fuzzy though at the heart of everything I’m hoping the future will be brighter. I’ve got a part to play in designing it. We’ve all got a part to take in creating it. Our conscious choices shape the world. Make each one count.