Scenes from life
Jack was 45. Married for 20 years, he and his wife and three teenage children had settled into a familiar sort of routine, with nothing more than the usual stresses involved in mid-life and adolescent children. In other words, home life and marriage were reasonably settled for Jack; neither overly exciting nor especially dull. He had not thought about it much, but if he had, he would not want to make many changes.
Work was stressful for Jack. He had been in the same job for some time but the company had been restructured around him several times and on each occasion he had worried about keeping his job and then found that he was having to work even harder afterwards. He was just about managing but finding that he had little time for anything else. For the last year or two he had also been steadily putting on weight and was becoming quite portly. As a young man, he had been reasonably sporty, but now his activity seemed to be restricted to mowing the lawn at weekends and getting up and down from the couch during the week. He had recently noticed that he was short of breath simply from walking upstairs to the bedroom.
Having, by chance, seen a magazine article whilst waiting for an optician's appointment, Jack decided that he had to take matters into his own hands. The facts and figures quoted in the magazine worried him and he realised that if he continued along his present route, he might not live much longer. He was still smoking, not often, but a few every day. No one at home liked him doing this, but he felt a great release from it. Now, suddenly, he saw himself as heart attack material. He discussed this with his wife and they worked out a good programme of healthy eating for him. The children were amused by this but rallied round and helped. He started to exercise, getting up an hour earlier and going for a walk. After a few weeks, the walk turned into a slow jog and he even bought himself a tracksuit. The children were even more amused but, again, continued to
be supportive. And he had stopped smoking immediately after leaving the optician's room. He simply threw his packet of cigarettes into the first bin that he saw.
Two months later, Jack weighed 7 kilos less than he had, his belt was two notches in, his children were looking at him in a new light and his relationship with his wife seemed to have improved. He had also become slightly less attached to the various stressors at work; somehow, he seemed to be treating it all more lightly than before. In general, Jack felt very good about himself, almost that he had taken on a new lease of life.
Rosie was 23. She had left school, never quite coming to terms with academic work, although doing reasonably well at it when she could stay relaxed. She had worked for a few years in minor office jobs and then decided that there was more to life for her. So she had begun training as a teacher, a career she had often thought about. She liked young children and enjoyed dealing with them and helping them to learn to see the world from varying perspectives. She very much enjoyed their freshness and enthusiasm.
She was in her second year at teacher's training college and had been doing very well at all of the practical work, especially the placements in schools. Everybody said that she was clearly 'cut out' to be a teacher. However, the academic side of things was not going so well. She found the material easy enough and could learn it readily enough, but as soon as a series of assignments were due and examinations were looming, then she started to become so anxious that she found it difficult to concentrate.
It was coming up to the busiest time of year for assessments and they were all beginning to crowd in. To make matters worse, she seemed to have developed a cold, or perhaps it was even a variety of influenza, that she could not shake off. It had been waxing and waning for some weeks, never quite disappearing. It made it very difficult to concentrate on her work and even to sleep at night. She was becoming more and more lethargic, her energy seeming just to be disappearing by the day.
Rosie could not stop thinking about her physical state and how it was interfering with her work. She was desperate to do well; she so much wanted to be out there, teaching. But she was also beginning to feel physically unable to do things, bumping into doorways, knocking things over and forgetting her keys or her bag. All the while, the assignments and the exams were looming ever closer. Each time she thought about them, so she became panicky and her cold seemed to worsen. The really frustrating thing for Rosie was remembering being in a similar state in the previous year and then all of her physical ailments clearing up after the last exam was over. If only she could keep going and keep doing the work until it was finished again. It all seemed impossible.
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A lot of us run through the day with so many responsibilities that we don't have even an instant to treat ourselves. Coping with deadlines at work, attending to the kids, replying to that demanding client we respond and react to the needs of other people. It's time to do a few merciful things to reward yourself and get your health in order.