Thursday, 27 December 2018

Pause. Step back a moment. - Day 28

28th December 2018

28 is the curing time for concrete - curing concrete is the term used for stopping freshly
concrete from drying out too quickly. This is done because concrete, if left to dry out of
its own accord, will not develop the full bond between all of its ingredients. It will be weaker
and tend to crack. 
During curing hydration occurs, allowing calcium-silicate hydrate (C-S-H) to form.
Over 90% of a mix's final strength is typically reached within 28 days. Concrete is the most
used construction material in the world.
I'm back to work today. I have new clothes to wear, a few treats in my bag to cheer me during the day and the music from Hansel and Gretel as an earworm. 

I am in awe of the lady who wrote today's post - it is candid and well balanced, but it must have been hard putting her thoughts onto the page. I would like to thank her for her contribution (she is a regular writer for the series) and also for being such a valued member of the HR and L&D social media-linked community.

Today's post is by Rachel Burnham, a learning and development consultant, sketch-noter and designer based near Manchester. Rachel works with trainers, L&D professionals and HR teams to help them modernise their approaches and become more effective. Rachel, as you can surmise from the sketchnoting is highly creative. The photographs for today's piece are taken by Rachel herself. Rachel is a talented lady. She writes an excellent L&D focused blog - L & D Matters and is active on social media (you can follow her on Twitter via @BurnhamLandD). When not drawing, reading or helping others to learn, Rachel enjoys spending time with her nearest and dearest and has a passion for gardening (as you can tell from the below piece). She is also a keen jazz aficionado - a cultured lady. Reading between the lines you can see that 2018 has been a challenging year for Rachel but that she has found a way through. She is brave, resourceful, honest and resilient.


Pause. Step back a moment.

In the spring of 2017, my son and I took a day trip from the island of Mykonos, to the nearby island of Delos.  This was our second trip to Greece – part of the big shake up in our family life.  Sam is a history nerd and so we spend these trips visiting museums and archeological sites – the only beaches I have visited in Greece have had nearby ruins and that’s fine with me – I am getting a great second-hand classical education and it is rather wonderful when an adult child chooses to have you as a holiday companion.

It was a hot day – deep clear blue sky and even early in the morning it was blazing hot.  The island of Delos is one huge archeological site – one fascinating ruin, statue, and pillar after another – far more than it is really possible to take in in a single day.  And on this April morning it was also full of wild flowers – self-seeded all through the walls and floors were vivid red poppies, purple mallow, chamomile, vetch - cousins of garden plants I know and love here in the UK, but smaller, more intensely coloured and billowing everywhere across this small island.  As the heat intensified, we explored the remains of villas, shops, streets, temples and a theatre.  Buildings once grand and lavish – though I was captivated by a drain from some indoor plumbing and the complex water tank system used to store water captured from the roof of the theatre.

Half-way up a hill, we turned in to the courtyard and colonnade of a villa, which seemed more sturdy and upright than many of the other parts of the site.  And in these rooms found the most wonderful, not-much damaged mosaic floors. 
We looked and looked at them.

I love mosaics.  As a child I remember seeing Roman mosaics found in the UK shown on television – probably Blue Peter.  I had a phase of cutting up magazines to create piles of colour-ordered roughly rectangle scraps of paper, which I then used to make mosaic pictures. Tesserae from paper. It took hours. I’m not sure I would ever have the patience now.

When you look closely at a mosaic you sometimes lose sight of the picture – of the images, pattern and story.  As you focus, you home in on the tesserae and pick out the mix of shades and colours – the individual tiny tiles that the artist used to create their picture with.   Sometimes as you focus in on an area representing the sea or sky you are able to distinguish the mix of hues – shades of blue, dark and stormy,cornflower, to the palest blue, and mixed in a stone or two of sea-green, or a speckle of white and cream or brightest of all a gleam of gold.

And that is what my year has been – a mosaic.  Some stormy blue days of heartache, many many days of the palest blue of work and home and the doing of life, a taste of sea-green and speckles of pure gold. 

Part of the heartache for me is that this is my first full year since I separated from my husband, after 33 years together – which has been a very sad thing, but through recognizing that things had gone wrong between us, also has led to new hopes and a new phase in our lives.  We continue to share a house and I am incredibly proud that we have both worked at finding a way to still be a family.  Somehow we are finding our way back to being good friends.

I have been learning how to manage holiday seasons when on my own – a bit of a mixed experience – I actually like time on my own – good for recharging, great for reading, which is one of my passions, it gives me time for drawing and is a necessary balance to the social busyness of my work and volunteering.  But I find it is a bit tricky to get the balance right and I have had one or two wobbly Saturday nights when I would really rather of had some company. 

I have had heartaches too in my professional life – real blue days.  Back in March, I had one of those horrible times that so many of us face of a total loss of confidence – when you are independent there can be times when you don’t win contracts, when you don’t just feel rejected, but are rejected and even when you have been freelance for 18 years as I have, it doesn’t make it any less challenging to deal with.  I had a very long and tearful phone call one wet Wednesday with my closest friend before I moved into a more sea-green state.
Towards the end of the year, I made a poor decision and ended up letting down a client.  Definitely a low and very blue moment.

And there have been other times of hope, fulfillment and great contentment – a great times introducing groups to Sketchnoting in both Manchester and London, reading student reflective blogs on their learning from a programme, hosting CakeCamp evenings, co-leading a session at NAP with Mike Shaw, lots and lots of fabulous live music – jazz of course, but also being swept away at a performance of Tosca, drawing a picture of my father that actually looks like him!  

When your life is busy, sometimes you don’t have a sense of the whole picture, what the pattern is.   It rushes by and all of a sudden it’s the near the end of the year and it seems a blur – all of a murkiness.
But when you pause.  When you step back.  When you seek out and sense the pattern, then you can see the whole picture.

And now that I have paused, I see that this year has been full of golden moments and days as well.  Sitting outside and eating our first meal in the garden in the sun – not realizing then that this year it would be the first of many.   Visiting Delphi with Sam – breathing in the scent of oregano on a sunny hillside.  Conversations in the course of a piece of research.   Working with Gem Dale and a whole team of folk to put on a conference on flexible working.   Trying out so many new things but particularly starting flamenco classes.  Cutting back a shrub on a very cold day in February and the beautiful blue hibiscus flowers that resulted in July.  Cricket on a super hot day with friends. And more.

(Blue hibiscus)

And what stands out is that it was the people who made this year – students, clients, volunteers, co-workers, new friends to draw with, family, my closest friend and Sam. The people who see you through the heartache, who you share hopes with and dream dreams with and celebrate every small win with.  It’s the people who make the year.  Thank you.

Rachel Burnham

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