Archives for posts with tag: celebration

I was meant to be writing about burnout this week. Well, actually, I have been writing about burnout, for the last two weeks. It’s taken up most of my day, and my thoughts and energy, as I wade through books and articles detailing the whys and hows of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion. I’m applying to do a Phd on the very topic, which requires me to get to know my subject, before I’ve even started studying it in the academic sense. And in getting to know it, I’m also confronting it head on, accepting it into my life as a personal experience that I am living.

But before I stray too much into the subject, which I have no doubt I’ll be returning to, I will mentally drag myself back to this present moment. Today I’m having a break from burnout, and I’ve taken a walk in the local park. And as I was walking, I was reminding myself of the importance of attention – of forgetting about what I was doing or thinking yesterday, what I read this morning or what I’ll be doing tonight – and taking in my surroundings.

And there, suddenly, I remembered it was Autumn. Had I not noticed before? Sure I had, but there’s little recognition or appreciation when you’re locked up in a room typing or reading off a computer all day. Beautiful, colourful, glowing Autumn – that brief period that only lasts a month or so, when the trees are rich in vibrant colours of green, orange, yellow and red; when the leaves literally burst out at you, vying for attention. All the seasons are playful in some way, and allow us to remember our childhoods as if they are now. In the case of Autumn, it is the crunch of the leaves under your feet, or the look and feel of a soft, mahogany conker, which prove particularly satisfying.

Getting out of the house and walking around the park is a healing process because amid all the chaos, the busy lives, the self-doubts and fears, it’s a space to breathe. I’ve felt blocked the last few weeks, struggling to write or to find the words to express myself. The thought of returning to more writing on burnout was also too difficult, and too painful. It encourages me to be stuck in my own mind and thoughts, when actually it’s just as powerful and inspiring to see what’s outside myself. The beauty of Autumn doesn’t last long. In fact, the large globules of rain which are now pouring down, smattering against the windows, are a reminder that we have to snatch those moments of pleasure outdoors when we can. So go on, pay attention to the Autumn!

Develop interest in life as you see it; in people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.

Henry Miller

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I cannot restrain myself any longer. Now it’s all over I feel I have to say something. I’m going to join the chorus of adulation, admiration and celebration, and admit that despite all my doubts, all my scepticism, the Olympics really was an event to remember, to savour and to learn from.

I was as cynical as most of the British public, if not more so. I’d never watched the Olympics before ever; except for the opening ceremonies of the Australia and China Olympics, that embarrassing handover to Britain in Beijing with David Beckham on a Routemaster bus, and some distant memory of Daley Thomson when I was about five years old. Like many others, for a long time I was more concerned about the impact this huge event would have on London transport, the economy, and home security. On that last issue, I was particularly disappointed in the run up to the Games to not only read about the failures of that odious company G4S in its security operations, but to not read about its other disgraces, when surely this would have been a perfect time to highlight them; its role in mistreatment, and death, of asylum seekers in this country, and in illegal detention of Palestinians in Israel.

But by the time the Olympics had arrived I, like most of the British population, had grown tired of the customary nay-saying and cynicism that symbolises our culture.

The opening ceremony took us all by surprise, but then so did the entire 17 days: the efficiency of London transport despite the extra thousands of travellers, the cheerfulness of the 70,000 volunteers who were there for the love of it, despite the long hours with no pay….even, dare I say it, the friendliness of the armed forces. I’d rather have them guarding the entrances to the Olympic grounds, dancing to cheesy British pop as I saw two of them doing, than the scowling security thugs that we probably would have been subjected to with G4S.

And of course the sportsmen and women themselves. We were surprised because in this country, in the last decade in particular, we’ve been fed on celebrity footballers and racing car drivers whose lives and personalities seem so far removed from our own. Yet here were hundreds of athletes from humble backgrounds, who laughed and cried in equal hysteria in front of the camera; honest reactions which were a refreshing departure from the monotone responses from footballers under contract and unable or unwilling to divulge anything genuine. We engaged with the likes of Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Laura Trott, Nicola Adams and even Andy Murray, because they suddenly seemed like normal human beings, despite having just watched them being anything but normal. This was also the reason, as much as the medal victories themselves, why this Games was named the women’s Olympics. I watched Gemma Gibbons, Jade Jones, Victoria Pendleton cry with both ecstasy and relief, and wanted to cry with them.

Mo Farah, after winning the 10,000 metres, greets team mate Christopher Thompson, who came 25th.

I’d have to agree with Eva Wiseman in the Observer about this; the Olympic Games has turned us all into blubbering wrecks, but in a good way. I cried when I watched Jessica Ennis accept her gold medal at the Olympic stadium. I cried when Victoria Pendleton lost so unfairly against Anna Meares. I cried when John Lennon’s face appeared at the closing ceremony and his song ‘Imagine’ started playing. In the last two weeks it’s been OK to let go of Britain’s typically stiff upper lip and have a good old cry. This hasn’t been just because a British hopeful failed to win an expected medal, or because they were disqualified from the competition. It’s also because we’ve watched the personal lives of some of these athletes play out in front of us. They’ve talked openly about what they’ve had to go through to get this far, and it hasn’t just been extensive training. The Taekwondo competitor Sarah Stevenson had recently lost both her parents to cancer, as well as suffering a knee injury. Diver Tom Daley also lost a parent last year. I was once again almost moved to tears to see Gemma Gibbons mouthing ‘I love you Mum’ to the heavens as she claimed silver medal victory over her judo opponent. These touching moments are important because they remind us as human beings we are likely to have to overcome personal struggles and tragedy in order to move forward, and that in fact these experiences can only make us stronger.

When I wasn’t being moved to tears, I was just enjoying. I myself had the privilege of going to the Olympic Stadium on Super Saturday, where I watched three British gold medals being won in less than an hour. This was a day to remember not just for its victories, but for the opportunity to be there, at the centre of the action, with my father and brother. For the rest of the 17 days, whether I was lying in bed with my knee on a pillow after surgery, working through a hangover following a euphoric drinking session, or in between writing, cooking and whatever appointments I had that day – I would always get sucked in. Suddenly I found myself taking an interest in taekwondo, or mountain biking, or synchronised swimming.

The Palestinian flag flies at the Olympic Stadium. Six Palestinians competed, including two women.

What got into me I wonder? Olympic fever – the same for everyone else. It allowed me to delight in the grace of gymnastics, or the wonder of pole-vaulting.  Even when there were no British competitors, I found myself admiring the underdogs – Uganda winning their second ever gold medal, unexpectedly, in the men’s marathon; Iran doing so well in weightlifting and wrestling; and Palestine being there at all.

It was great to see the British public cheering them on also. In fact, it was great to see the British public cheer generally, whether it was on the streets watching the marathon or the road cycling, or strangers on a train actually talking to each other.

So there, I’ve said it – I enjoyed the Olympics. Amidst whatever personal struggles I or anyone else have been going through the last few weeks, the Games allowed us to put our lives on hold, to let go of anxieties or disappointments over work, private life, world politics, the economy and embrace the moment. By doing this, and by identifying with the personal struggles of our athletes, we have become more happy, open and accepting. Long may it last.

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