Monday, 1 January 2018

A Journey from Darkness to Dawn - Day 33

Day 33 (Tuesday 2nd January 2018)
33% of UK adults paid for Christmas on credit during 2016, according to research
National Debtline run by the charity Money Advice Trust - this percentage increased
to 37% in 2017. Money worries are an issue for many throughout the year, but
the festive season can be particularly demanding. 24% or respondents stated that
this year they paid for food on credit that is an increase of 22% compared to last year.
Worrying statistics.
For many today is the first day back to work after the festive period. I hope it proves an excellent start to your working year. I have booked one day's holiday and suspect I will spend most of today sleeping - I must confess that I am exhausted. I have not shared a lot of the complications of my past few weeks, although reading between the lines in some of my daily updates, you might have deduced a bit of it. I am not complaining, I know how lucky I am to have the life I have, but it has been demanding.

Today's post is by Andy Campbell. We have known each other for a number of years, but only really got to know each other well when my company opted for Oracle as our HRIS and payroll system and I started attending more of the Oracle-hosted events to learn how to get the best from the system and to meet fellow users. In addition, Andy is an active and supportive member of the City HR Association -we both contributed chapters to the recently published book on advanced people analytics and HR metrics, Measuring Up, which was co-published with Oracle.  Andy grew up in the south of England and took his first degree in Biology at Exeter University. He commenced his career working for Devon County Council, before moving to the supply side by joining the Consortium. He has a head for business and enhanced his skills by undertaking a Diploma in Management Studies, Business, Marketing and related Support Services at Bristol University followed by an MBA from Nottingham Trent. Andy has undertaken a number of successful roles at Oracle since 1996, culminating in his current position of HCM Strategy Director. He is a much-loved and trusted member of the business and HR community. You can connect with him on Twitter, his handle is @Axcampbe. He writes an interesting blog via his LinkedIn page: Away from HR and work he is a loving husband and father with a wide circle of friends - not a bad thing given the challenges he has had to cope with in 2017.

I live in a very pleasant location on the outskirts of Salisbury, Wiltshire. An estate agent might describe it as having a view of the cathedral, but frankly you risk putting your neck out trying to prove it. 

Salisbury Cathedral at dawn
My office , window looks out over a relatively long garden and a couple of months ago I bought a stone bird bath. I am still not quite sure what drove me to it, but it fits in well with the other garden furniture and looks quite nice. The garden plays host to a wide variety of birds, blue tits, great tits, chaffinches, sparrows, robins to name a few, all of which take great delight in the abundance of bird boxes and feeders that frankly litter the place. I am especially drawn to a family of magpies that live in a large hornbeam tree and are regularly seen attempting to remove our solar light fittings and take them to their nest. They still get fed peanuts on a regular basis despite their kleptomaniacal behaviour.

Magpies Roosting by CF Tunnicliffe
I really enjoy watching the birds, finding it really relaxing and quite therapeutic. Most of us have a stressful life in one way or another, so having the opportunity to pause and reflect in the company of such beautiful creatures is a great privilege. I am also fortunate enough to have a loving partner, two wonderful children and some fantastic friends. I enjoy my work finding it stimulating, rewarding and fun. Things might be a bit better if Bath won the rugby more often but all in all, life is good.

In January 2017 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. About 6 months later after a series of tests, biopsies, scans, probes and therapy I finally went public, once there was a clearer understanding of the likely prognosis and the planned course of action. I underwent a rather invasive operation which was followed by many weeks of radiotherapy. The latest news is that these interventions appear to have worked and whilst the treatment continues for another 2 years, the outcome so far looks positive. This one relatively short paragraph describes the year 2017 and my personal journey from darkness to dawn.

So what have been my reflections on this rather unfortunate but sadly all too common journey taken by many men as they get older?

The first it that, unlike that charming Mr Gove, I found great solace in the advice of experts. They offered a clear explanation of facts with great clarity, answering any concerns and questions with understanding and calm reassurance. As a consequence I did not feel depressed or angry to an extent that would have bemused Elisabeth Kubler Ross and other supporters of the ‘change curve’. I found comfort in being pragmatic, willing to accept things over which I had little if any control without stressing unduly and surrendering to the expertise of trusted professionals, an experience that was strangely calming. My outlook has been described as stoic.  

Second, as many who have been through any form of invasive procedure may testify, you cannot afford to be precious. In hospital it does not take long to learn that one's personal sense of dignity is a purely artificial construct and we should not let things like that unduly influence how we act or behave. If a nurse or doctor is not worried about things, then there is probably no point in worrying. Once I had realised and accepted this I was quite surprised to feel a strange sense of freedom.

Sharing and communicating my experiences came quite naturally and this was the source of the third big learning. Having written a blog at the time of my admittance to hospital I was overwhelmed by the kindness shown by people who were generous with their thoughts, time, energy, love and money. I am very proud to say that my son Finlay ran a half marathon for prostate awareness charity and raised over £2,000, a fantastic effort.  Many people came forward to share their own experiences. Some were close friends, some I did not know that well and there was even a few who were total strangers, but all of them had a personal story to tell. So what is the point? Well there is real value to be found in candour, honesty and openness. We should not be scared to express our feelings and beliefs in case we offend, annoy or upset someone. Keeping things bottled up is not good for anybody.

The next point is quite similar and has probably been most manifest at work. I have become much less tolerant of minor irritants and much more willing to call out things that seem to be either wrong or a waste of time. It has felt quite liberating!! Time is a precious commodity and it does seem rather odd to fritter it away on things that do not really matter that much.

Lastly, as well as thinking about the good things that we want to do, I have learnt that it is also worth thinking about the things that we decide not to do. For example, I love scuba diving and a month ago I went on holiday to Sicily with my wife. There is some great diving in Sicily and a couple of nice volcanos to boot. Did we go diving?-No and we didn’t visit the volcanoes either. And we were fine with that, because we didn’t feel pressured into doing something just because we felt we ought to, we have learnt to be receptive to the unexpected, and it feels good.

So there you have it, an eventful year and my personal journey from darkness to dawn. I have learnt a lot over the past 12 months and hopefully in the long run it will all prove to be for the good. I wish you all a happy festive period and hope that you get the opportunity to rest and relax with family and friends. If you do get a chance to take a little bit of time out to watch the birds then do, I can highly recommend it.  

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoy watching birds go about their lives. They've helped me through all kinds of physical and mental health problems