Rain, rain, go away,
Come again another day.
Rain, rain, rain. It’s been falling for days. I look out at the leaden sky as huge raindrops pound the windowsill and bounce heavily on the grass outside. Will it ever stop?
I’ve been indoors for weeks. OK, two days, but it feels much longer. I give up waiting for it to clear and go out for a muddy walk. Wellington boots, full length raincoat, woolly hat. The rain is diagonal and blinding. I can’t see my way or hear much either. Cocooned in my mac, hood zipped up, hands deep in my pockets, I feel very alone.
I slip and slide on the muddy path. The fields are saturated from days of rain and the puddles grow bigger every minute. The pale light has given up now that it’s pitted against the grey clouds.
This is Britain in January – what did I expect? It’s not in any way enjoyable being out here. But there is one upside – getting to the end of it. Arriving back home to warmth, bright lights and a hot cup of tea.
Does the walk sum up 2020? Hard graft, grit your teeth, get through it. We hope seeing the back of the year will bring some relief. Like the soil, we are saturated. It’s been such a long haul and there are times when it feels hard to cope. The smallest of challenges, the tiniest of setbacks, can send us over the edge.
This happens to trees as well. After weeks of rain soil can become so wet that it loses its oxygen. The deeper tree roots then start to die, new roots can only grow at the surface, which creates an unstable base. If the soil remains water-logged for too long the tree might topple over in the next storm.
We are the same as the poor trees. We can adapt to low levels of stress over time. We can deal with big shocks, if they don’t last too long. But stress that is chronic and acute at the same time? That’s hard. And that’s 2020 in a nutshell.
This past year has been one of a series of foundational shocks that kept going. Lost a loved one to Covid-19? Unable to see friends or loved ones? Been made redundant? Increasing financial worries? Been stuck in a confined space with too much family? Worried about physical or mental health?
Yes, we can grow and develop during traumatic times, but we must heed our stress levels as well. We need to look at the context of our lives and check if we need support. If soil is saturated from months of rain, then a small puff of wind might blow a tree over. We might believe we can keep going and going and going, but then something small tips us over.
We are not machines that can whirr on forever. We are flesh and blood. So, let’s give ourselves a break. I had planned to do a myriad of things over the holidays – get fit, update my website, write my Spoon by Spoon book, watch 20 hours of presentations from a coaching conference (this one has been on my list since July). What I didn’t factor in is that a) I might not have the inclination, b) I might not have the energy, and c) I might feel like watching Strictly Come Dancing and Gogglebox on repeat. This last one was the biggest surprise.
And now we’re in 2021. A Happy New Year to you too. It’s an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. To start again with another year. A time to set our new year resolutions. To be a better, faster, healthier, happier, kinder, cleverer version of our 2020 selves.
In the past I might have given myself goals like – get fit, lose weight, write my book, develop myself. But this year I’ve decided to be more ‘tree’. I’m going to pause to let the water drain from the soil. Now is not the time to develop since the foundations are still shaky. I’m going to hold off extending my roots or lengthening my branches.
Instead, I’m going to keep an eye on the weather forecast. I’m going to wait for a break in the rain. A few days of sunshine so everything can dry out. Then I may set resolutions to develop and grow.
This is part of a series called Spoon by Spoon — a project I’ve run interviewing 100 people going through career, relationship and wider life changes. If you’re looking for support with your own career or life change find out more here.
Photos copyright of Charlotte Sheridan