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How knowing when the sun sets on a chapter in your life, can be healthy and empowering.

Apr 05, 2021

Sunshine Desserts

Many moons ago, I worked for a coach holiday company. I would drive the 90-minute journey from my home to a motorway service station and my role on a Monday was to greet passengers from several coaches (think Gladys Pugh), as they arrived at the services, they then dispersed for a cup of tea as their luggage was swapped by the drivers between vehicles, and each of those coaches became tour coaches to take passengers away for the week to a UK-bound destination. At the end of the week, those coaches returned; once again, I’d board each one, taking the mic to say hi and then off they’d go for a break as the luggage got swapped back to the coach taking them home.

It was the same process each week, but each shift could present a new challenge – someone tripping up a kerb, suspected heart attacks and lost medication leading to a fit. I lost count of the number of times I needed to call for an ambulance.

I met some amazing people – the demographic of the clientele was mainly the older generation and so they had many a tale to share. I met more than one who had been a pilot – both commercial and fighter, female and male; and many who were world travellers with a story to tell. It all added to the rich mix that was the nature of working with people.

You’d also get the coach drivers who you’d share great banter with and there’d be the irascible ones who you’d pity the passengers sharing a week with.

A friend of mine worked in TV land at the time and she’d hoot with laughter when I’d tell her the numerous stories from my shifts with Sunshine Desserts - as my Dad called it; my friend was convinced there had to be a TV show in this and I think quite possibly she was right. Not only did you have the coach drivers and passengers, but the microcosm of life that takes place at motorway services – the phrase ‘nowt strange as folk’ sprung to mind on many an occasion.

But over time, the clientele got frailer leading to more accidents and the journey to and from the services took longer with the ever-expanding roadworks. I began to dread those two days a week.

Alongside that job, I was freelancing two days a week and wanted to expand and build my portfolio. I was feeling drained by the coach job and knew a choice needed to be made. It was putting all my eggs in one basket though and if things didn’t work out with the freelancing, I had blown it with the guaranteed income. It was time to make a decision. Did I stay doing what I was doing and nothing changes, or did I take a leap of faith and have the self-belief I could make a success of things?

It meant leaving my comfort zone – even if I was comfortably uncomfortable; I was used to it after 10 years and there’s a weird comfort in keeping on doing something even if you know it’s not exactly serving you well; the alternative means you’re then forging a new path which can mean you feel vulnerable at first. It’s recognising it’s time for the sun to set on that chapter of your life and knowing you’ve got this, that you have the inner resources to cope and you’re resourceful and resilient enough to make it work.

So, I quit and have never looked back. Sure, I miss the banter with passengers and drivers, but I don’t miss the travelling, nor the complaints, or the extended hours when I’d be waiting for one late coach coming all the way from Cornwall. Or Scotland! I made a success of the freelancing and I was so happy I’d paid attention to the stress, which was me allowing my values to be compromised.

Hard habit to break

We do this with relationships too. When a couple first gets together, very often, things couldn’t be sweeter. They perhaps want to look their best, be the best version of themselves and the shared interests are obvious and everyone’s happy as Larry. In some relationships though, at some point, over time, when neither is even conscious of it, things start going awry. Maybe they take each other for granted, perhaps they stop putting the effort in. Or one person in the relationship stops caring but the other is so forgiving and just wants to keep the status quo; they overlook the cracks as they start to appear. The relationship has perhaps become habitual and it’s more about companionship – sometimes not even that, more like living under the same roof and like two ships that pass in the night. Comfortably uncomfortable because the alternative is too difficult/painful/awkward to contemplate.

And then five years pass, ten years and so on and you turn around and realise this isn’t what you wanted. Sure, relationships change over time and not everyone expects it to be love’s young dream forever but is this the version you really want?

It’s important to recognise when that inertia is setting in and doing something about it. It doesn’t need to result in a parting of the ways but instead, finding common ground, shared interests and fun that can be had and new memories made together. To be intentional and consciously working at it.

If there’s been fighting and despite efforts to change that, it continues and no amount of talking, or seeking professional help can make a difference, or if your partner just won’t listen and acknowledge there’s a problem, perhaps having a long hard think about your values and what you want in life is the course of action to take.

If there are children involved, it can make it all the more hard because there are so many other factors in play here. But I don’t think it’s about having to put up with second best for their sakes. A template for relationships is being laid for them and it’s important to think what you want them to know is happy and healthy for all concerned. It’s not for me to give relationship advice but it’s important to recognise and work on what will help you and your loved ones to feel happy and secure. That may take some time after the fallout, but it is possible.

With friends like these…

The same can be said for friendships. We may have a friend from eons ago. Maybe the friend is becoming more and more reliant on you and it feels more like a co-dependency situation. Or maybe the gentle joshing has turned into a friendship where they use you more as a fall guy or they see you as the one that makes them look good. It all feels rather demeaning, but you put up with it because after all, they’re your friend right?

Do you continue to put up with situations where again, you feel there is friction with your values? Or do you speak with the friend and explain you don’t feel there is a healthy dynamic at play here? Or maybe it feels like that isn’t going to work and gradually stepping back is the answer.

Just because it’s been something which has happened for years and years, it doesn’t mean it should continue. We sometimes unknowingly find ourselves in these situations because we’ve not been paying attention, then we stop sleepwalking and wake-up – the subconscious becomes the conscious and we realise that what we’ve been doing has over time, stopped serving us well. It’s causing friction with our values or playing a part in allowing us to let self-doubt take over, or we’ve become a different person without even realising it.

Something of value

So, what can we do? It’s about living life consciously – intercepting the habitual loop and knowing that change can be good. Because we are the only ones that perpetuate the old habits for ourselves. And that change can take courage. However, if we have consciously chosen values, we know why we make the choices we do, we know what’s important to us and what we will and will not negotiate on. We have a line in the sand of what is and isn’t acceptable. When someone tramples on our values, we will know because our thoughts and emotions will give us that signal that they have either fallen short or exploited our values. We know when something isn't feeling right – it isn’t serving us well and thus something needs to change. Maybe it’s moving on from something or someone.

Our assumptive affirmations will also keep us on track with who we want to be and what we want in life. One affirmation I repeat twice daily is I AM ENOUGH. This ensures I keep the nagging thoughts at bay of whether I am being the best Mum, wife, daughter, friend and colleague that I can be. I know that by living life consciously and being aware of the nature of my thoughts, and being intentional with all that I do, I am being the best version of myself – maybe not all of the time because then I’d be a Stepford version of me, but as near as darn it as I can.

Be you and be awesome and be conscious of your values – your ‘why’ - who you are and why you do what you do. This will be different for each of us but ensure you are being true to you and everything else will fall into place.

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