Back again 

A lifetime ago I sat here in this popular (noisy) cafe overlooking the beach. That time not alone – with the young very enthusiastic president of the student union I was Head of HR for. It was part of my induction. Mostly it was an opportunity for him to talk and for us to have a delicious lunch overlooking the beach. Those were the days. 

I’ve had lots of opportunities to be reminded of my Sydney life in my first week back here. Friends reminding me of the life and loves of then, work colleagues reminding me of some of the big things I did, back in the day. Leading changes across 3 countries. A lifetime ago.

Watching the city workers in Martin Place last night spilling out of their offices ready to engage in weekend life. Strappy shoes and fitted dresses. Used to be me. Like a relay race. The baton passed to others to make their contribution. 

And here I sit many years later eating a delicious kale and avocado salad, drinking watermelon juice after a morning swimming and enjoying the sun, and just a bit of quiet amongst the social whirl of my holiday. Really appreciating these little top up moments. Time to be, to think, to not think, to remember, to forget, to unwind. 

It’s been a working life of contribution to others, doing my best to make things work better for them – better services, better places of work, better leadership, better people practices. And now there is the contribution I have promised myself to give Dad for as long as he has – to do what I can to reduce his anxieties, ensure he feels loved, help him out with practical stuff, be a sounding board, be a loving daughter. The contribution I make too to my lovely marriage with John ( so reciprocated – he’s such a giving loving caring man) and of course the contribution to my friends all over the world. They’re so precious. 

And now there’s lots of time for me – feels like a start. My trip to Aus is clearing the cobwebs, creating space just to be and think about what next. 

My life couldn’t be more different now from how it was when I was here in this cafe all those years ago. I could never have predicted it. It’s a different life but a happy one. Looking forward to what comes next and most importantly just enjoying what is. 

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Grey day 

Speeding along in the train through the wet cold grey English countryside on my way to Brian’s London funeral. The mood of the day is fitting. 

62 and we’ll be gathering to farewell him, in his local after the cremation. Drinking pals he left behind – swapping social drinking for solitary vodka drinking at home. 

John is dreading it. His 35 year friend. Still left with a sense of if only, could have done more, why, could I …

Last few days 

Two days off ending my working career. Such a mixture of feelings, the strongest being happiness. A sense of anticipation, a longing just for more time to be, to love, to connect, to think, to move, to lead that bit of life that’s squeezed usually into weekends, short evenings and holidays.

40 years working feels enough. I can look back with pride at what I achieved with and for people in my roles over the years. I came, made a difference, learned always,  worked with some great people and I left. My work took me to amazing places  – Morocco, Canada, New York, New Zealand, China for 18 months, Australia, France, Germany, Sweden, Spain…

Ending my working career back in social care in London was the right thing. A place of such heart and people doing inspiring things every day. I know I have made a huge positive difference. Over the last few weeks since the announcement emails from and chats with people who’ve told me what I meant to them and how I made a difference for them. So very moving. Humbling. And in return this place of great people, commitment, values, innovation gave me a lovely last 3.5 experience of work, lots of satisfaction, fun, appreciation. 

So two more days, more farewells, meetings and contribution. I will be very sad to leave and at the same time absolutely ready to go. It’s good to feel sad about leaving. They’ve meant a lot to me and me to them. That matters.

And then from Wednesday the next phase of my life starts. I’m ready. 

For Brian 

A long term friend of John’s, some thirty years. Not always easy to be your friend it seems. Over the years the circle of people around you got smaller and smaller as those you had offended, cut off or had been just hard to be around, fell away. A mobile phone with only two numbers on it, John’s being one.

A feisty youth, a big drinker, often getting into fights, a tall tale teller but a man that so many knew and liked.  Big drinking led to a life that was all about the next drink. A social drinker became a solitary drinker. Bottles of vodka of an evening, drunk alone. Pints for breakfast. Hospital admissions latterly where you were dried out enough to discharge yourself and start again with a vengeance. Alcohol related dementia. Lost faculties. Soiled clothes. The fastidious you replaced by a soiled old guy banned from pubs because of the stench.

For all his friendship along the way John couldn’t stop your relentless path to self destruction. He did what he could to keep being by your side when you needed money or help. Without question they would be given.

You died last night on your sofa at home, bedraggled, malnourished, unable even to drink any more. A sad life. And you leave behind a grieving friend who wishes he could have done more. But he couldn’t.

Hoping you find peace now Brian. 

And life will never be the same again 

A colleague today heard her husband wasn’t at work, his boss wondering if there was a problem. Lots of calls around and no-one knew or had heard. And then an unknown number called. London Underground Police. They said they needed to come and talk to her. Not going to be good news. The tortuous wait in my office away from too many eyes til they came. Her young husband had died. Unexpectedly. And suddenly her life was never going to be the same.

My heart went out to this lovely young colleague, mum to a 3 year old. No words can help. No ability to empathise can really give me anything close to an understanding of the harrrowing loss of that moment. 

And things will just keep unfurling for her. The cousin who came to fetch her will help her navigate the conversations that need to be had, the things to be done, to cope with the overwhelming loss. Others will step in. But she starts a life with a huge hole in it. 

My heart goes out to her.

Tonight I will hold John close. Another reminder of mortality. Every moment we have with our loved ones is precious. 

It was just going to be a Monday like many others. For her there will never be a Monday like it 

Christmas 

Three days til I am off and limping towards the finishing line. Very tired. Full on interim job I accepted as wanted to support our CEO, such an inspiration. And it’s made a huge positive difference for her. That pleases me. Feels though like I’m having to dig deep in energy sources to do it now. End Feb and holding to that. An end in sight. And then it’s time to just be a bit. 40 years working very full time jobs and it’s time just to stop living that way, squeezing life between work commitments. Remembering the 22 years with a disabled husband, my first husband and the toll that took as well as the way that ended. Can’t underestimate that. I’m running out of steam. 

So round about me the sights and sounds and tastes and talk of Christmas. Should be family time and feeling keenly how fractured ours is like so many. So very different from the images of smiling faces of families round a Christmas tree. Distance, indifference and even dislike circles around the four siblings at its worst. Separate lives at its best with flashes of contact, caring and love experienced between some sometimes. Looking with pleasure at Johns quietly supportive, loving, would do anything for anyone family – and wishing mine was so but it isn’t and not going to be that any time soon. It’s so wearing. Endless awkward communications. The very frequent No or just silence as a response. Very very tired of it. 

So here I am a few days before Christmas. The sounds of a loving sleeping husband beside me, lucky to have him in my life – a sweet generous loving supportive man. And some time soon with a precious father making his Christmas time a good one feeling loved and cared about. Messages from Australian friends excited about catching up with me in April. Uncomplicated unconditional love. All these are good to focus on… so I will. Have to accept that I can’t fix all that sibling dysfunction so just have to find a way to not let it hurt so much. 

Happy Christmas! 

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