Michael Edward Stephens
Finding stillness in uncertain times. By Francesca Gamble.
Updated: May 10, 2020
Wellbeing coach and business entrepreneur, Francesca Gamble, reflects honestly on her Covid-19 experience and the unsettling reality of what she now faces.
A few weeks ago I reached out to Francesca asking her to take part in ‘Create Space, Repeat’, our online self-care series. I knew that it was likely to be a busy and challenging time for her, as the owner of two successful businesses. Little did I know she'd in fact already contracted the virus just days before, and was now bed-bound surrendering to the worst of it. Or so she thought. Now entering her fourth week of physical recovery, she's facing a whole host of new challenges. She's kindly written an incredibly personal, open and honest account depicting her experience so far - how this pandemic has impacted her health, her wellbeing, her positive outlook on life, and her businesses. This article is intended to demonstrate the complexity of the situation we are all in, the various challenges everyone is facing, and the diversity of ways people are coping - hopefully highlighting some helpful tools, practices and much-needed optimism.
Over to you Fran...
As soon as we were told to self isolate, I got hit pretty hard. Unofficially. Like so many, I’ve not been able to get tested for the virus, but I had all the symptoms. It came on so intensely that it's taken about three to four weeks for me to feel ‘normal’. I finally feel able to use my brain again… without falling to sleep that is! There were days when my body ached so much that I felt like I'd been in the ring for ten rounds with Mike Tyson. My temperature suddenly accelerated, and over night my legs stopped working for 48 hours. I was totally overwhelmed with how out-of-control I was. My body shut down completely, and I was forced to sleep.
To start with, I told myself a positive mindset could get me through. I was wrong in parts, very wrong. For someone who thrives off being in-control of running two businesses, practicing a positive mindset had always been part and parcel of my daily routine. But it soon became clear that there was no ‘thinking yourself better’ with this virus. I had to sleep. I had to have help from my partner as I couldn’t do anything myself. He employed a military-like operation to my day, and we continued this religiously for two weeks until we felt I was coming out of it. Taking over 100 paracetamol, loads of fluids and a bucket load of cough medicine. I avoided the hospital by a mere cat's whisker.
Being knocked out so early on at the start of lockdown quickly forced me to surrender. For the first two weeks I was just surviving! My only goal was to graduate to the sofa for the
afternoon. I found myself with no time to think about either of my two businesses and how I was going to manage keeping them alive during this panademenic.
I started my first business over five years ago now, 29 London (a small marketing agency). And since that day my life has never been certain. I’ve continually had to reassess all aspects and maintain a huge amount of flexibility to my environment. I’ve had to make my own money, look for opportunities, convert opportunities and also pay staff to deliver results for our clients. I’ve never had funding to support me.
Now I’m being forced to find a new way to process - digging deep to replace anxiety with contentment. After all there is something much greater at stake now.
I have no idea how I will come out of this financially. I’m not certain on the future of my businesses. But I trust in myself to stop controlling the uncontrollable, and allow things to just be. Just like I’ve always had to.
My new goal is to come out of this with a fresh perspective. I want to break old habits and be dedicated to practicing new positive ones. I want to continue to live with intuition and trust my gut-feeling. Moreover, I want to be able to think more freely, and to live without fear of everything beyond my control. Choosing quality thoughts over quantity means choosing what I decide to take in and what I decide to disregard. This is my creative process.
I’ve always carved out ‘free’ time in my diary, as I learnt early on you have to be disciplined to think differently and you need time to do this. Giving yourself time to have the freedom to think is the biggest luxury in the world.
I’ve felt a huge pull towards creative people during this time, listening to audio books such as Rebel Ideas, Alaine De Botton’s from the School of Life, watching documentaries on Alexandra McQueen, Bill Gates, Manolo Blahnik and many others I admire. I’ve found myself actively seeking out emerging fashion designers and rekindling my love for fashion. I hugely admire the creative process an artist goes through. I love the intensity and obsessiveness of a visionary. I find it fascinating and obsess about understanding the thought process behind their WHY.
I’ve also been revisiting a few books as I feel I can take something completely new from them during this time. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari, A New Earth by Eckart Tolle, WE by Gillian Anderson and Jennifer Nadel and Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer. These are currently the main books I’m circulating through.
When lockdown started, I felt totally out of control. I felt like I needed a lot of grounding. For me, reading really helped this process. In particular, looking back in history at human behaviours to see how we might deal with this pandemic from both an economical and spiritual perspective. I guess this has started to give me back some control in a way. I've always had an active interest in how people and the world work - why we do what we do. It's why I set up my second business Platform Business and Wellbeing Coaching last year, and became an accredited Life Coach.
Before the pandemic I never got sick - ever! I was always up at 6am, straight off to a yoga session and then to a full day's work, and usually out for an event in the evenings. Experiencing the virus quickly changed my usual routine. I haven’t managed to do any exercise now for over four weeks, and I’ve not managed to wake up before 7.30am. My mind likes to tell me it’s not like you to not meditate or do a daily yoga practice. I know it will come back in time, but for now I am content.
Making coffee is a daily activity, talking about food, planning meals, walking the dog, reading books, talking about life, and preparing for our 6pm G&T is a daily focus. We’ve played cards, completed a puzzle, and ordered food from the local fishmongers, green grocer, butcher and bakery. We roast a chicken on a sunday and enjoy it for our lunches throughout the week. We experiment with our evening meals - some successes and some major failures (I won’t mention food poisoning!).
I’m finding stillness in all of this uncertainty, which is indirectly manifesting itself into a meditative-type state I find myself in on a daily basis.
I have finally slowed down. Not just physically, but mentally. It’s a challenge, but If I am ever
going to harness the teaching of spirituality, to grow in myself for the sake of my own future, then this is the biggest personal challenge I can accomplish. The biggest lesson we could teach one another right now is to find stillness. To be calm, to do nothing, is to do everything.
As we find ourselves in a world changing rapidly for a future none of us can predict, now is the time to alter our own habits and patterns, and not be afraid of this. Not to project on others that you have to exercise, bake, or learn new skills. It’s the only time in our lives that we’re all in the same boat and shutting down from a normal way of life. Cocooning yourselves in your homes and being at one with yourself is OK. It’s more than OK in fact. It will be the making of you and all of us together. We’re all starting a new story and a chance to understand what drives us, what makes us human and what matters. This is what’s important when life and death is at stake. We’ve been given the luxury of time to reevaluate everything and we can’t do this whilst we’re still finding activities to fill our time.
Living and working 24hrs in a confined space with two people and a dog is very challenging. I've had to look around and fall in love with this space we have and be grateful. There is very little point being upset, angry or frustrated because it’s all out of my control. It is what it is. I have found new corners to sit in, and made little reading dens. I’ve listened to more music genres than ever before and I’m absolutely falling in love with classical and jazz music - who would have ever thought! Music defines eras, and for me it’s certainly defining this moment.
I am an eternal optimist. I still believe that everything happens for a reason - despite this thought being heavily challenged when I was sick. Yes, I did think at times, "why me?". I am human. I believe in happiness. I believe in love. I believe we need to feel things in order for things to be different. I think the whole world has felt something, like never before we all want to be held in the arms of loved ones and be told everything is going to be OK. These are unique times and we must take forward the lessons we’ve all felt deep inside of us - to make a difference for the future of our lives, and for generations that come after us. We cannot live in fear of the unknown, we have to embrace the very moment we’re living in right now. Because in the blink of an eye, it can all change again.
Life is so so precious, so hold tight onto the messages you're being given. Become limitless. Reassess your internal moral compass. Take time. Define what makes you feel fulfilled, what brings you joy and what you really treasure? Forever be still in your mind and body, for now and beyond it’s all we have. For the lesson we have all learnt, the only thing we can control, is our internal self.
Francesca Gamble is Business & Wellbeing Life Coach, and the Founder / MD of creative marketing agency 29 London.
@francescagamble29 @platformbusinesscoaching @29london platformbusinesscoaching.com twentynine.london
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