From survival to being able to thrive

I was recently tasked with a self development project of looking at my life and my career and plotting them out. Looking at the positives and the negatives of both. It was a good project and also got me to look at my strengths, skills and values and what gives me reward and helps me to thrive.

It helped me to realise that over the years I’ve experienced many ups and downs… hard times which have seemed to have gone on forever with seemingly no end in sight… but also good times filled with fun, adventures and happiness. You could say it’s been nicely balanced, and you’ve probably got to take the rough with the smooth.

This is a long one, so grab a cuppa!

In life and in my career I’ve faced challenges, but it’s the way that I’ve dealt with those challenges, what I’ve learned from them, and how I’ve bounced back which has truly shaped me into the person I am today. It’s also helped me to seek out and appreciate the fun / good times more.

I’ve written before about how the hard times have led me to realise and come across (and look out for the) many positives – the key ones are people – realising that others are there for me, and that I’m there for them. That people really make life special, and I have an opportunity, enthusiasm and drive to hopefully make a difference and help others too.

In my experience, people help you to see a wider perspective. The good ones listen and question you honesty and openly. They tell you the truth, even when you might not want to hear it. They make you think and they can help change you into a better person. You know who you are – so thank you. (And hopefully you know that I’m here for you too.)

Now Covid and the pandemic has had the unusual effect of putting most of us across the world in a similar position of restrictions and lockdown… and much much more.

As the quote says, we might all be at sea, but we’re not all in the same boat – some are in luxury cruisers or yachts, some are in rowing boats, and some are drowning. But for the first time that I can think of we’re all under similar blanket restrictions which will hopefully be for the good in the long run.

Life seems harder, or certainly a lot different than we’re used to, and the not knowing how long it will last, along with winter and whatever else, is hard.

Whereas I can think of, and maybe you can too, of times where things were really tough for me (or you). Life became a real struggle… a never ending storm that wasn’t seeming to let up.

Meanwhile others just get on with their lives, and they’re not affected by the things which impact is individually. Inside it felt unfair, but you just had to get on with it.

When bad things happen we might ask, why me? But when we’re all in it together it doesn’t seem so bad. That others are going through similar, or that we all (should) do what’s right for society.

When shit hits the fan in life, maybe it’s easy and reasonable to ask why me? What did I do to deserve this?

Ill health and injury
The actions of others
Emotional or physical abuse
Bumpy childhoods
Workplace issues or redundancy
Death and bereavement
Even through to wild fires and earthquakes or floods, which might impact a group or community

Bumps and storms in life like those above have the ability to shape us, or break us. As the saying goes – fall down 7 times, get up 8 – it’s the way we get back up from the falls that is important.

Resilience is being able to bounce back. And as in Lucy Hone’s TED talk (link below), the ordinary magic that resillience can become is based on three things:

1. The understanding and acceptance that struggle is part of life – to expect that tough things happen.

2. To tune into the good – focus on the positive, giving the good attention.

3. Asking yourself if what you’re doing will help or harm you? If it harms you, it’s not worth it.

Lucy Hone: 3 secrets of resilient people

Being able to accept our vulnerabilities, and knowing when to ask for and get help and support, is key to being able to bounce back from adversity or trauma.

Accepting that struggle is part of life, it’s happened, but to move on, learn from it, find the positives and shape our future from it all. Not dwelling on the past, but learning from it, to make our future better.

Read – How to take charge of your life with NLP, by Richard Bandler.

‘If someone wrote bad things all over your walls in your house, you wouldn’t leave it there would you? You’d maybe read it, or some of it, then your paint or wallpaper over it and forget it.’

When I was a teenager, that actually happened to me – writing all over my bedroom walls. It was almost unbelievable. I came home one night when I was about 15, to 4 walls full of writings in black marker pen, all written by my Mum.

It was truly horrific and so very upsetting. But I got through it, I eventually forgave her and moved on. Fully confident that I would never be like that, or treat anyone like that in my lifetime. I longed for a normal nice home, and that’s what I have now. And it’s ace.

Getting back to it, focusing on and talking about the positive, rather than the negative or bad bits in life, really does make a difference. Why focus on or keep thinking about the bad? Will it help or harm you? If it’s the latter, let it go.

Sure it can help to talk things through and get other people’s perspective so you know if you’re on the right track or not, but don’t be consumed by it. (I say that because I have been, so many many times, and I know it’s not good for me, but sometimes it’s hard to let go).

Think about what you can control. Let go of what you can’t. Give the good oxygen, not the stuff that drains the life out of you, or keeps you up at night. Keep perspective, and remember how special and fortunate you are.

Looking back I can see two major themes in my life which really shaped who I am, but were also unique to me. They helped shape the person I am today, and how I deal with things – a bumpy childhood, and a series of deaths where I felt it was my place to step up and play my part to remember those who passed on.

The uncertainty of a bumpy childhood from age 9 onwards, probably led to me finding it hard to process and deal with uncertainty…

…but it also made me into someone who works hard to fix things, to lean on others for help and support, and someone who’s grateful for the simple things in life – A settled home and family life, friends and family, fun, health and happiness… because that’s what’s most important in life (to me).

With a Mum who wasn’t quite there for me for one reason or another, I reached out to at least 5 other female figures in my teenage years, who I’m grateful to, and who have helped shape me into the person I am today. And they are still there for me any time I need them.

I learned very young to seek the support and advice of those I trusted, to help me survive and keep a good level of perspective and learning.

And of course, there’s my Dad, who helped and made a difference to so many others, and gave me the belief that I could do anything I set my mind to…

… he was also worried that what I went through with my Mum as a young teenager might break me, but I rose above it and vowed to use my experiences to recognise when I might be like her, and break the chain.

… And my big brother who always looked out for me, from day dot, and still does – maybe all big brothers should do that, but he does it effortlessly and always has. (Even his annoying name calling made me resilient and able to deal with banter and cheek at work and in life – but don’t tell him I said that, or he’ll add another nickname on to it!)


Now I’ve transferred that experience into resilience, problem solving skills, great networking and people skills, ensuring I build and grow networks in my life and work, to get the best from them. For me and for others too.

And it all now feeds into my values of being there for people and hopefully making a difference, being the best I can be, and aiming to help others be the best they can be too. To always try to look on the bright side, to have perspective and deal with and bounce back from trauma / hard times.

I could have fallen apart and gone off the rails when I was growing up, but I worked through my issues, worked to try to understand the issues my Mum had, and ultimately forgave her.

Through out my life I’ve got help – I’ve contacted and signed up to counsellors, working through my issues, my concerns and worries. Helping me to come to terms with everything. I think it’s important to take care and live to your values and what you believe in. Be real and be who you want to be.

Then I was able to out my big girl pants on and be there for my Mum after she passed on, and for her Mum (my Granny) and sister (my Aunt) – in one of the most important parts of life, in their death – to ensure they were sent off / remembered well.

Death and illness is hard. They can come along when you least expect it, can change your life and outlook forever, and they can impact people in a similar way, or a different way. I’m fortunate (touch wood) not to have been impacted by illness much in my life, but bit by bit death has knocked me and made it’s mark on me.

Death is partly unique to you, in that you had a unique relationship with the person (or animal!)… but others suffer and are in pain in their own way too. It can be life shattering, and it’s hard to know what to say to people who are dealing with it. The best we can do is remember the person (or animal), remember the positive and good times. And as a bystander, be there for someone going through it.

When you experience the death of someone yourself or you need to be responsible as executor or in remembering them, it can be about simply surviving… about taking care, being kind to yourself, asking for help if you need it, and taking each day at a time. Speak up. reach out, ask for help if you need it.

Using every part of you to get though the pain of it all, to get out the other side. To grieve, to learn that grief is ok, and it’ll be around, but that life will come back and be around too. I turned it into a task by task thing, go to the lawyer, the funeral director, pick the coffin, register the death.

Let others help you too. You’re not alone. And there are professionals as well as those close to you to help. Funeral directors, lawyers, and the Samaritans or other charities which are there to help you.

Or it can be about you taking time to remember the good times, the fun and the influence the person (or animal) had on you. The good they brought out in you, the good you want to live on though you.

My elephants and rainbows, for my Granny, stars and the moon for my Aunt, the number 222 haunting me (by my Mum), giraffes and sun rays for the lovely Norma.

In the two years after my Mum’s death it crashed down on me and my brother in a way I never would have expected. My other siblings of course lost their Mum and perhaps dealt with the challenges and thoughts of dealing with it, but my brother and I dealt with the estate, the detail, the action, the decisions – the low lying storm that it was for a whole two years. It was horrific and probably life changing.

I wrote before about how a rose tinted world works for me – whilst times were tough, there were a lot of good that came of it too. Good memories, photos and things, friends and a reminder that there are many people there for me. Maybe it did nearly break me, but my attitude and the people around me, as usual, bouyed me up and helped me to survive and thrive.

But then I was always the optimist, me. Always looking through rose tinted glasses. Glass half full, or overflowing. Trying to always remember to think of and aim for the positive, have perspective and learn from and bounce back from any challenges. Trying to remember to focus on the good, and let go of or park what you can’t control.

Meanwhile – and what felt unfair to me at the time was – that the world carried on as normal. Work continued, society continued, others we born, others died, but this was a big bloody horrible thing which was impacting me and those very close to me, with the enduring disruption that a long storm brings.

I was working through it all, feeling a bit like I needed to move on, but felt I couldn’t. Other things in my life had to be put on hold, meanwhile I was close to falling apart and was put back together by friends and family.

A long period of never ending uncertainty, then once we were finally out the other side, then my career started to unravel leading to times of real uncertainty leading to me fighting… put plainly, fighting to survive again.

By saying fighting to survive, I don’t mean I was close to suicide, I’m confident and grateful that I’m quite sure I would never be that low to take my own life … but I was fighting to fix what had gone wrong, and it wasn’t working. I was speaking up, for what felt like an age, and no one was listening. Nothing was working.

It was a struggle, that seemed to be keeping going on and on and nothing I tried or did could fix it. I was choosing to go forward with it, knowing that it was the principe that I was standing up for, hoping that right would come through. And it didn’t. I tried and I tried, for so long, and it was all for nothing.

But then positives came out of that too – again I built strong supportive relationships with colleagues and friends, there for me to help, listen, support and guide me through the storm I was trying to steer through again.

Just like in my teenage years, I had very little control over what would become years of uncertainty and loss… me trying to fix it and it not working. I tried to secure a future, and I still am… but it’s getting tiring. I’m feeling done in and like I need to take another tact. But I’ll know I’ll get there, one day, hopefully soon.

In all of these tough times, I do remember thinking, why me? Why couldn’t I just have a good life, a nice normal home and family and life?

But then I know that all of the tough times in life are teaching me good lessons, and are certainly making me more resilient as a person. I’ve learned, built a wider perspective and good support network. I’m calm, unflappable… and I’m a good person, who cares a lot.

It was all life experience to help me or others in the future. If I’m able to get though this, I can do anything… in the same way, I know I’ll get there, no matter how bad or unsettled things feel, I know everything will be ok.

It’s how we respond to these things that can help us to get out the other side into better times. We might have little control over the things that happen to us, but we can choose how we react.

We could fall apart and cry and get angry and bitter, or do damage… or worse, we can damage ourselves or make ourselves ill…. or we can stand back up, accept it’s happened, take care of ourselves, move on and know we’ll get through it.

Here we go back to resilience, and if it harms us… it’s not worth it. Focus on the positive, the good and the good will come through. If you have no control over it, let it go.

Now add covid in, and all of a sudden we’re all at sea… it’s not just something / tough times impacting me, and those close to me it’s affecting everyone in different ways.

In an odd way, what I’ve found is that covid isn’t all that bad – for me at least. I’m lucky to have a home, and gym, a job where I’m able to work from home, good food etc. Good friends, family, technology etc, I have everything I need.

Gratefully so far, I (and the people I care about) have managed to stay safe, and not contract covid. I’ve some fiends / colleagues who have caught it, and it sounds truly awful, but luckily I don’t know anyone who has passed away from it or been affected too much by the restrictions.

I’ve survived – I’ve got through the hard times in my life and come out the other side. You probably have too, many times.

As well as that, I’ve thrived in life and in my career and I know I will again. Fun, holidays, kite flying, ice creams, rainbows, friends, family, rewarding work where I make a difference – I’ll get back to it all. I know I will.

There’s a saying to ‘be kind as you never know what others are going through’.

It’s true. Be there for each other, ask if everything is ok. Be there in whatever way you can. If you see someone struggling, phone them, text them, give them your time, listen. I do it for others, and I’m grateful that others do it for me too (you know who you are!)

Let them know that you’re there if they need you. That there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that storms don’t last forever, rainbows will appear and sunnier days will come. They will survive and they will be able to thrive and smile again.

Storms come and go, but rainbows and sunshine are a plenty too. We can get through the storm with others at our side, and the right clothes to keep us safe, dry and warm, if we have the brave the outdoors. X

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