Being an Armchair Adventurer and Lessons from Loss

Updated: Oct 21, 2020

What I learned from the most important women in my life, and how the story you tell yourself about loss shapes your reality.

I remember the first time I was asked who my inspiration was. I was only 17. Some 90’s corporate team building exercise. To be honest, coming from a small village with little exposure to anything remotely linked to “personal development” I felt really intimidated by this question. That’s probably why I still remember it so well. Whilst others reeled off famous names and impressive quotes, all I could think of was my Nan.

Phyllis Ruby Joan. She was such a character. Her name sounds quite cool now, but she just liked to be known as Joan.

I would characterise my Nan as an Adventurer. In the 70’s and 80’s my grandparents visited places most people would never dream of going back then. Global travel was relatively new, countries weren’t as open to tourists and money was tight. They visited over 30 countries together, including Thailand, Russia, Japan, China, Egypt, Israel, Nepal and even Greenland! It was so exciting as a child to hear their tales and see photos and videos of unfamiliar lands.

Her day job was pretty normal, working in a warehouse for a stationery company. I had the most amazing pen & pencil collection, perhaps that’s where my love of stationery and writing was born… But outside of that she had a zest for life and loved to try new things. She got a moped. Made her own easter eggs. She had the latest knitting machine. A remote control for the curtains. The spare bedrooms full of experimental grapevines and orchids. She dealt antiques. She had a love of gambling, from entering every single competition in piles of magazines to the slot machines of Vegas. She was 100% convinced she was going to win big. She never did.

We lost Nan 8 years ago.

She’d been in a lot of pain for years. One botched operation after another. A stream of related health conditions. Ever increasing doses of painkillers seen as the solution to the point where if she tried to cut down, it nearly killed her. And then cancer.

But she never complained. Ever. She had the most amazing positive attitude and such a vivid imagination, that even when she ended up confined to her armchair, with a body that wouldn’t do what she wanted, she was still going on adventures in her mind. Dreaming of what she was going to do when she felt better. The trips she would go on, the places she still wanted to see, the new self-sufficient life in Spain she was going to create. Even when she got rushed to a Spanish hospital in severe pain after trying to reduce her painkillers, she told me how she’d seen a lovely area to live in from the ambulance window and went back later to check it out!

This determined, strong, young at heart, ever hopeful woman got up every day, put on her make up and her favourite “bling” (think bright colours, glitter and gold) and embraced what she had. Even though she knew she could only sit in her armchair.

And then there was my Mum. Similar in nature, but more subtle.

She too had a sense of adventure, but her world was a bit smaller, her dreams more tentative.

My childhood was spent enjoying the freedom that growing up in a village brought in the 70’s. My parents both worked day and night and I often looked after my younger brother. Although mum worked extremely hard, she always had time to take us on an adventure, along with many of the other kids in the village.