It takes a taxi driver…..

To remind me what really matters in life.

2020, as we all know, has been a unique year. For some, it’s been a daily struggle just to keep pushing forward.  For others it’s been a time to take stock of their life.  Are they happy?  Is now the time to re-train and do something completely different?  Should they follow the voice in their head saying now is the time to start that business?

The pandemic, Covid-19, Coronavirus has many names but the affect on humans globally is uniformly devastating or utterly full of potential with new opportunities depending on their particular life and mindset.

For me, this year has been melting pot of everything.  At the start of the year I decided to investigate an alternative to MHFA England (Mental Health First Aid) training which is reactive and non-accredited.  I discovered Nuco Training which offered Instructor training for FAA levels 1, 2 and 3 – the same levels of Adult MHFAEngland training, still reactive but accredited.  Much more valuable.  However, before I could undertake this Instructor training, I had to attain Level 3 qualification in Education and Training – which looked like a year’s course.  Due to the pandemic, I completed this training in less than 12 weeks and became an Instructor able to deliver all three FAA levels regulated by Ofqual by the end of October 2020.

To make things even more interesting, I discovered i-act training and their two courses:

Managing and Promoting Positive Mental Health and Understanding and Promoting Positive Mental Health.  The former aimed at those managing teams.  The latter aimed at anyone.  Both courses are accredited by Royal College of Psychiatrists and are proactive – teaching wellbeing before someone becomes unwell.  On top of these positives, it has over 50 self-care tools and was written and designed for the workplace.  A platinum product, head and shoulders above anything else I’ve seen in all of my years in the sector.

The unrest of the pandemic has meant any plans for family gatherings have been scrapped at the last minute and there seems no end in sight.  

Like most, I had holidays cancelled earlier in the year but was able to get some long-awaited outdoors repairs done at home – social distancing of course.

The news is constantly negative.  There appears to be no balanced views given.  This is almost as bad as completely fake news.  If we aren’t given all the information, how can we make the right judgements for us?

Luckily, we were able to keep our Christmas Holiday booked a year ago, but only just.  The day after we flew out of London, it went into Tier 4 constraining travel – unless you are a business mogul as business meetings are exempt!

All of us globally facing various constraints on our lives will naturally feel there is no end.  Logic tells us there is.  Flu was an aggressive pandemic in the early 1900s.  Now we live with it and all of its different strains annually. Those that are vulnerable may succumb to flu.  It’s likely the pandemic will morph into a similar annual event and something we all have to live with.

No matter how old or vulnerable someone is, they are missed sorely when they pass.  There are many people the world over hurting right now.  That is the circle of life, we live and we die – not always when we are ready to.

Coming up to Christmas is particularly painful for those whose family have passed due to the pandemic. Equally, for those for whom this Christmas will be the first without their loved one who died prior.  Not being able to mourn together is an additional pain.

Setting off for this holiday at 4am, the taxi driver shared this is the first Christmas without his wife who died last Christmas from an aneurysm.  He was at work.  His three children were at home.  The guilt and shock we carry when we aren’t with the people we love at times like this hurts deeply.  Not being able to mourn/celebrate on the anniversary must be more so.

That taxi driver’s pain illustrates there is no rhyme or reason to life.  We can’t predict the future nor can we live in the past.  All we can do is tackle each day as it comes.  Make sure we are happy with our lives as they are.  If we aren’t, what can we change?  What can we do differently, do we have any evidence for feeling the way we do? Are there some things we just have to accept?  Only we can answer these questions by taking the time to look at our lives and ask these tough questions to be able to move forward and thrive – pandemic or no pandemic.

Whatever you plan on doing this Christmas, I wish you the best time possible and a brighter 2021!

Remembering Henry….

Henry’s wife loves Christmas.  In fact, Henry’s wife loves any celebration – Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, Easter – it doesn’t matter.  She loves putting together celebrations at their house for all the local children.

Henry came to the UK as young man to find work.  In Turkey, his dad was a policeman and didn’t like Henry ‘tearing around’ on his motorbike.  There was no work there so he came to the UK in his twenties.

Pre-pandemic, Henry and I would have a challenge – who could get in the office first.  I always won by about 10 minutes so Henry always had to get the hot chocolate drinks and then we would put the world to right together.  We both ended the conversation smiling and ready for the day ahead at work.  No matter what the issue, we always saw humour in everything.  We both had the same mantra ‘smile and keep going – what else can you do’.  So many times that thought has got me through troubled times.

Now just 60 he often told me about his childhood back home, how you never see lemons like those from his childhood anywhere, about the different roles he had after arriving in the UK – always a hard worker.  Henry told me about life on the market stalls, working in burger bars, training in data networks which led to his job now where I met him.  

Over the years we worked together, Henry would tell me about his famous BBQs, the homemade houmus he was known for, generous with everyone, Henry often brought in leftovers for his fellow engineers and anyone else in the office.  On hearing I didn’t eat meat, he made a special batch of humous and brought in some bread!  Henry loved his BBQ – especially sneaking the odd glass of ‘real’, as he would say, Ouzo without his wife seeing – or so he thought!

Last October, Henry brought in photos of the bundles of hand wrapped sweets his wife had put together – it literally covered the dining room table!  Whilst he’d say ‘she’s mad, there’s no stopping her’ about his wife, he clearly loved these events as much as she did.  Pictures of their many cats adorned his phone as well.  They had more than 10 cats at the last count!

By far, the festivity they enjoyed the most was Christmas – although it sounded a mission to me.  Henry and his family lived North London way and every year would drive to a particular farm to select their bespoke Christmas tree, which had to be wide, full and bushy.  As Henry explained, to get a tree as bushy as the one his wife wanted, he had to buy a really tall one.  I never really believed this took up the whole wall of his living room until he showed me some pictures.  The before photo showed a meter or so of the top of the tree bent right over along his ceiling before he cut it off.  After decorating by his wife the after photo looked amazing.  Henry was so proud.  He said the most difficult part of Christmas was driving the tree back home from the farm.  Tied to his roof rack he drove exceptionally carefully!  Could you imagine being behind a moving tree on the motorway?  That size would have eclipsed his car!!!

Henry was pretty unwell all the time I knew him.  He never let his health get in the way of his work – often working long hours away from home all over the UK – or doing something for others – friends, neighbours and strangers.  His favourite saying was always ‘I keep going, what else can I do?’ in his thick accent with a huge beaming smile.

In April, Henry died as a result of the pandemic.  Knowing how much he did for his family and others, how they relied on him, I can only imagine their pain coming up to the first Christmas without him.

Going back into the office without our early morning hot chocolates, putting the world to rights will be strange.  But I will always remember Henry with a smile.  What more can we ask?

This Christmas, tell those you love that you love them, be grateful for the good in your life, don’t carry around worries and concerns – the weight will drag you down.  Kindness rocks.  As Henry showed, people will always remember how you made them feel and that is the best legacy of all.

May you have the best Christmas you possibly can and a brighter 2021.