Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Into the Dark - Day 6

Day 6 (Wednesday 6th December 2017)
Six sides form the typical shape of a snowflake, due to
the arrangement of water molecules in the ice crystal lattice.
The slang term 'snowflake", meaning a person with an inflated opinion of their
own uniqueness, who is easily offended and poor at coping with challenge
or criticism, was coined as a phrase by 
Chuck Palahniuk in the 1996 novel Fight Club .

"Generation snowflake",  referring to  young adults of the 2010s, entered common parlance
in 2015 following an incident at Yale University
Traditionally today is the day that people celebrate St Nicholas. In the Italian port of Bari St. Nicholas' statue will be carried by sailors from the Cathedral, where the saint's bones reside, to the sea to bless the water and ensure their safety over the coming year. Being the patron saint of sailors, St Nicholas was the saint that William the Conqueror chose to pray to before setting off across the Channel to invade England in 1066. Most people think of St Nicholas (or Santa Claus or Father Christmas) as the jovial fellow who delivers gifts to good girls and boys. In the Netherlands many children will have woken to find their shoes or clogs filled with gifts and sweets. In parts of Germany, Switzerland and Austria St Nicholas is accompanied by the Knecht Ruprecht who acts as a foil to santa's generosity by giving naughty children lumps f coal, sticks and ashes. I am pleased that today I have a gift to offer to you and it is a treat.

Last year Niall Gavin pledged in his Advent Blog (on this site) not to "wallow in the hollow" - although judging by this year's post 2017 has held its challenges for him, I think he has succeeded in his aim. Niall is a respected and much-liked independent L&D and learning technologies specialist (after having had a successful career working in both the public and private sectors). Prior to helping people develop and grow, Niall spent some time as an actor, a postman and a fruit picker. He writes an enjoyable blog, A Little About a Lot and is active on social media, you can find him on Twitter (his handle is @niallgavinuk). He usually has some great insights that he shares on #LDinsight every Friday morning on Twitter. Niall lives near Worthing on the south coast of England. He is a devoted husband and father. In his spare time he enjoys walking and is also an "armchair astronomer".


It's that time of year again, when the wonderful Kate Griffiths-Lambeth (@KateGL) invites contributions to the now-annual Advent Blog series which she curates. This year's theme of Darkness and Dawn has inspired me to dig out an unrealised blog idea from Autumn this year and to flesh it out as my humble contribution.

As Summer moves into Autumn, from my West-facing home office window, I watch the sunset creep further and further South as Earth’s axial tilt moves the UK further away from the Sun. Winter approaches. Dark days ahead. My heart sinks as the clocks go back and my annual feelings of seasonal claustrophobia starts to colour my world. Time to check the weatherproofing, gather in the harvest, and batten down the hatches. Short days, long dark nights. Cold and wet. 

I'm not a Winter person. Did you notice? You'd have thought that the Scot in me would have developed coping strategies by now. Wonder if I have any Mediterranean DNA in me at all. Maybe I have a form of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Although looking at the NHS 'Choices' info pages (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/), I suspect not.

The good news is that the seasons come round relentlessly. The cycle continues. Within a couple of months I'll be eagerly tracking the sunset's slow progress back North again, looking forward to the new seasonal dawn that is Springtime. Just like I do every year.

When I was in full-time, employed work, commuting to and from that there London during the Winter, I'd get up in the dark, got to work in the dark, travel home in the dark and, other than brief sojourns outdoors at lunchtime, spend my whole working week in the dark. 

Maybe it's the years of doing that, being triggered by those memories, that unsettles me. But, of course, I don't work like that any more. A combination of part-time work at my local college and occasional consultancy and accreditation work means I can now balance workplace visits, classroom sessions and working from home and I have taken control of if, when and how I include daytime travel into my work schedule (and now having a Senior Railcard and getting that off-peak fares discount helps too!)

But there are still dark days. I started to feel out of my depth recently and very concerned that I might be letting people down as a result. Imposter syndrome, basically. I wasn't sleeping, felt sick, anxious, scared that I would be found wanting. Everything that I wanted to avoid feeling, I was experiencing. Dark days indeed.

But if I have learned anything in the last three years since my heart surgery and redundancy, by focussing on my physical and mental health recovery and ongoing maintenance, it has been to not be a victim, to not feel that I have to accept uncomfortable situations and feelings as the norm and try to 'push on'. So I sat down and mapped out what was going on for me, clarified what I felt was 'wrong', what I needed to change and what my options might be to effect that change. And then I shared it - with my wife and with my counsellor - and guess what? Whatever decision I came to was going to be OK.

So I had the courageous conversations that I needed to have with the people that could help me resolve the problem and, together, we made some adjustments and it's going to be all right.

Out of the darkness came a new dawn. I'm good enough. And that's good enough for me.

If you’re fighting your own battle that no-one knows anything about, maybe it would be helpful to share how you’re really feeling. There’s no shame in talking stuff through, in asking for some help.

How are you doing?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Kate and Niall for curating and sharing these wise words. For me, particularly of late, I find myself listening from a much deeper place than ever before -- and it sounds a little like that for you too, Niall. Blessings to you both and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas. Julian