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How to cope with those moments in time you’d like to freeze frame – but can’t.

Jul 19, 2021

Here I go again…

It’s the end of an era. My youngest daughter finishes Primary school on Wednesday and after 11 years of going back and forth to that school, that period of my life is coming to an end.

I still remember the first day my eldest started there, then my second daughter. It really isn’t that long ago yet seems such a long time ago – if that makes sense. I feel so much has changed. I’ve changed, let alone my girls. And all those memories – the Sports Days, Parents Evenings, Assemblies to sit in when they got a special mention, or prize, school trips and Bring Your Parent To School days.

I can’t listen to Abba’s Slipping Though My Fingers without being an emotional wreck and if I watch the Mamma Mia film version with my girls… Kleenex make a fortune!

This week, there was a post on Facebook, which I then shared, for all those with children in Year 6, suggesting that if you no longer walk them to school, to do it one last time (even if they don’t want you to!) and reminisce - about the sticks they’d pick up and wave as wands, the chat about what lessons they have that day, jumping in the puddles and missing the cracks – or lava, in the pavements.

Fortunately, my youngest still loves me to walk her to school, and the past few days I have held her hand just that little bit tighter.

Despite me convincing myself that I’m going to be fine about her leaving Primary school, that’s it’s going to be good for her, she’ll have more people to make friends with, it will be good to stretch her learning etc, those feelings of dreading her growing up run deep. I have been great with my self-talk, but I think I need to back it up with retraining my thoughts. I can’t just talk the talk, it’s important to walk the walk.

Your move…

Truth be told, I am feeling very emotional about it all, which is quite natural in these kind of milestone times in our lives. What’s important to get our head around though is the lighthouses in our lives.

Lighthouses are those immoveable circumstances and situations that we can do absolutely nothing about. Let me give you a little scenario:

A battleship is out on manoeuvres. The weather turns bad, the sea is rough and fog descends. The Captain is on the bridge. He receives a message: “We can just make out a light on the starboard bow Captain.” The Captain says: “Is it steady or moving astern?” “It’s steady Captain.” “Then send this message: ‘We are on collision course, move twenty degrees.” A message comes back: “You move twenty degrees.” The Captain is irritated and says: “Send this message: ‘I am a Captain, move twenty degrees now’.” A message comes back: “I am an Able Seaman. You move twenty degrees.” The Captain is furious and says: “Send this message: ‘I am a battleship, move twenty degrees now’.” The message that comes back is very simple: “I am a lighthouse! Your move.”

Just as a lighthouse is an immoveable object that vessels need to navigate around, so too is the weather and the passing of time. We can do nothing about those things, and so what’s important to know in order to feel a sense of control, is that we get to intelligently navigate our thinking around it.

I remember when my sister was getting married. She had put months and months of preparation into a carefully executed plan. The Church looked stunning, and the venue looked amazing. She had thought of every eventuality and covered every base to ensure guests were catered for and that the day would go smoothly. Except the weather was the one thing which couldn’t be controlled. At the start of the week, it looked like torrential rain was heading our way. One of the bridesmaids lamented this catastrophe and said the day was going to be ruined. Not on my sister’s watch! She visited that famous online retailer which delivers anything and everything you can think of next day, and ordered clear umbrellas for all the guests, and ensured parking could be as close to the Church and venue as possible. See, she might not be able to control the weather, but she could plan for it and choose not to feel upset about it.

On the day, the sun shone on the righteous and it was 27 degrees! Those umbrellas became parasols.

If it had rained though, we’d merely have chosen the way to think about it – that it was going to be a wonderfully happy day whatever the weather. We choose our mood – the weather does not dictate it.

Freedom of choice

Lighthouses are not to be confused with irritants. Irritants are things such as winding ourselves up about middle lane drivers, someone consistently not loading the dishwasher ‘properly’, people we consider to be ill-mannered, someone not putting the loo seat down, next door’s child constantly kicking their football against your fence. Irritants are something you can do something about because you have three choices of action:

  1. Do something about it.
  2. If you can’t change the situation, or choose not to do something about it, choose to think differently about it.
  3. Continue moaning/feeling frustrated/disappointed/angry.

The thing is, if you choose option number three, know that that is a choice, and that you’re doing that to yourself. Because no one and nothing can make you feel anything. If they/it could, then everyone would feel the exact same thing in that same situation. But they don’t. So, it’s on you.

And don’t we spend too much of our time feeling irritated by a situation or someone else’s behaviour? Feeling frustrated. Moaning and complaining. All that time and negative energy could instead be focused on making exciting plans, watching or reading inspirational content, speaking to friends and family. When we have those thoughts which keep us stuck, ask yourself: ‘Is this thought serving me well?’ ‘What can I do right now to help me to feel better about this?’ ‘How can I think differently to feel differently?’ The choice is ultimately yours. It might not always feel easy, but it is possible.  

School’s out for summer

Our children growing up and moving through the stages of schooling, leaving home, setting up their own home and so forth, well, that’s a lighthouse because it’s the passage of time. We can do nothing about the fact that they grow up. And the note I always add in New Baby cards is: ‘May your child be blessed with roots and wings’ because surely that’s what we want for them? To always know we’re there for them, but that they feel confident, secure and happy as they grow up and make their own way forward.

My daughter is going to be leaving Primary school on Wednesday however I feel – happy, sad or anxious. So, wouldn’t it feel a whole let better if I choose to think thoughts which acknowledge the passing of time, that I can happily reminisce about all those times we’ve both gone to school on World Book Day dressed up, when we’ve skipped to school, when we both rode scooters and so on. Those thoughts don’t mean I won’t feel a tinge of sadness that she’s growing up, but it’s knowing I can choose the thoughts I have which produce those emotions.

Knowing this Winning Edge stuff is a one-way street – that’s how one course participant has described it – once you know it, you can’t un-know it. We get a wonderful sense of freedom from knowing that nothing and no one can make us feel anything. Yes, we might feel frustrated, disappointed, angry and irritated as a result of someone’s words or actions, or we might feel sad, upset and fearful about change we are going through, and all those emotions are valid. But it’s knowing that in order to move through it, we acknowledge those feelings, work out the thoughts behind those emotions, work out what we can and cannot do to change the situation, and think about the way we’re choosing to think about it.

The choice is there. We get to regain the control.

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