This is a two-part blog.
Part one was an incredibly emotional one for me to write.
The fuel or kindling for writing this stems from the worst year of my life. At the start of 2019 I lost my grandmother, a figure who defined stoicism and “sticking to your guns”. She surpassed the age of 100 and then shortly thereafter passed. She was someone who never drunk alcohol and was incredibly active deep into her 90’s. I think she played at the local tennis club into her 80s and continued to play golf for a long time.
On top of this she would not take no as an answer when it came to gardening. This would test my Dad and his brothers bargaining skills in getting her to come around to what would most likely be a wiser decision.
Then, in April 2019 I received probably the worst phone call of my life. That my Dad was in palliative care as his pancreatic cancer had become incredibly aggressive. This meant he only had a matter of days left to live. I got this call while I was in Wide Bay (just south of the Sunshine Coast after completing a field exercise. I don’t need to explain how hurt I was, I’m sure you could imagine the turmoil in my mind at that time.
After getting my ass to Sydney as fast as I could, I spent a considerable amount of time by his side; I can’t begin to explain how much it tore me to pieces seeing my father, the man who I looked up to and learned so much from lying in bed incapacitated and unable to feed/stand or look after himself. I still can’t comprehend how much that hurts. That image is engrained in my brain forever.
Something I will never forget. Something I never want to forget because it’s the last image of my Dad.
Following his passing, I saw my family around me hurt so much. For the first time in my life, I saw my uncles’ struggle. My little brother could not finish his speech. I decided to dig into whatever I had inside me and hold my shit together. I had to. It was for Dad. So, I stood and read my speech with all the conviction, poise, and strength that I could muster. After the reception, I walked outside on my own and broke down. I had no emotional energy left. It had drained me completely.
Fast forward a few weeks and I tried to train as hard as I had before, probably even harder. This is where the lesson from this blog comes.
I have spoken before about stressors coming from all walks of life, and regardless of the source of the stress, it takes a similar toll on the body. During times of extreme turmoil and emotion, we need to be able to process these emotions and understand them. During this time of my life, I turned to Headspace to practice mindfulness and meditation.
(Do you have a way of practicing mindfulness, or meditation; or something other than training to reflex on such life events?)
When we are going through hell emotionally or mentally, it is paramount to have tools in our kit to be able to deal with these thoughts and emotions in an appropriate manner. Everyone will deal with this in a different way and over different time periods. However, one of the most helpful analogies I have heard to date see’s our emotions take the form of cars on a highway. That is - You are merely standing on the side of the highway watching these cars speed past.
Now, logic tells us not to walk in front of the cars, chase them or try and hold on to them as it will only cause pain and damage. Instead, it’s more appropriate to stand on the side of the road and watch the cars go by, notice them, acknowledge them. But don’t latch onto them. This practice is called noting. Learning to accept the events, process the events, but not let them take you over – is a concept that has helped me more than I care to accept.
Another maybe more apt analogy can be seen when hiking or climbing a mountain. We get to a peak or look out on our climb and take in the amazing views. We stand, admire the view & nature in all its beauty. Maybe we take a photo to capture that moment in time. We let our senses soak in everything around us. We allow our body to recover slightly before continuing to the top.
Then, once we’ve had a drink of water, we get on with the climb and keep going.
We only spend as much time as necessary to acknowledge what we can see.
We get on with the climb as much as we must get on with life.
But, we never forget.
In part 2 I will talk about how we can change our modify our training to make sure we look after our mental and physical health.