For as long as I have been writing a blog, each September I say how much more of a "new year" it feels compared to January. September is a transition month for me: return from holiday, but not quite back in to the full flow. When I turned the key in the lock of my front door at home on Saturday having been in France for 2 weeks there was certainly an awareness of something ending and also "things to come". I've got in a habit of returning from holidays on the Saturday: it allows a whole day Sunday to unfold - to settle back, and to plan ahead and get prepared for 'reality'. It also allows a connection to the emotional undertones - the "post-holiday blues" yet an appreciation to be back home.
As long as I can remember, August means “holiday month”. My Grandad’s birthday was the 13th, and I remember as a child we were always away when we celebrated it with him. And indeed, August is when I am taking my main holiday of the year: two stints in France, my adopted country. So it was timely when the latest edition of “The book of Life” newsletter came through from The School of Life, an online project founded by philosopher Alain de Botton. It shares some ideas on “The Holidays When You’re Feeling Mentally Unwell”
I have long struggled with holidays, since becoming an adult I imagine - as a child they were rather idyllic, as I could spend long hours climbing trees, camping or staying up later to watch the stars. Later, those hours were spent on the tennis court or the golf course. And while I can yearn for the summer and the imagined ease it brings, the reality as an adult is this: holidays mean more time and space on my hands, and doing has always been easier than being for me. So I definitely related to the article pointing to the higher than normal pressure to be happy at this time of year; and I hear it with my clients too. Karen Horney had a wonderful expression, the “tyranny of the shoulds”, which might go along the lines of “I am in France on my only holiday of the year, I shouldn’t be so restless and unhappy”. That might be instead “I am restless, and I know this happens with me when I suddenly have a lot of space”, in other words, being with what we actually feel.
After my post touching on my concerns for the emotional well-being of cyclists last week, a few people contacted me: some sharing their own experiences of how they used training and competition to numb feelings or deal with distress; others questioned if it really was as bad as I saw it. I was particularly grateful for getting to know about this write up in The Washington Post: It details the heart breaking story of Kelly Caitlin, a young American cyclist who won multiple world track team pursuit titles and the silver medal at the 2016 Olympics.
I’ve little more to add this week. I read the article at a time I was already in touch with a deep sadness: client stories, and my own experiences with close friends and family have me thinking about our mortality, the fragility of life. It can lead to despondency, or as a client recently asked me “what’s the point?”. I totally get this position - yet when I read words like in Kelly Caitlin’s suicide letter, I fully understand how important it is to do what I can to support others in their pain...
“I cry,” Kelly wrote, “because I only ever truly desired Love. Kindness. Understanding. Warmth. Touch. And these things shall be denied, for eternity.”
...this gives ME a point, a purpose. But that doesn’t make it easy to bear sometimes.
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