This is me!

I know, and am very fond of a lady who would not thank me for calling her elderly. She is ignoring the fact that her eighth decade approaches; she is funny, smart and always beautifully dressed. For all of her life she has suffered from ear problems, a legacy of a childhood illness, and as well as hearing problems in later life, she developed Meunières disease or, as she calls it, “the Dizzies”. It’s an unpleasant condition, affecting the inner ear and therefore one’s balance. It makes you feel nauseous, as though you will fall at any time, and is very hard to treat. Following a knee replacement, the “Dizzies” became worse and worse, until she felt unable to leave the house. She gave up her voluntary work, preferred not to see friends, and stayed indoors as much as possible, becoming very low.

I wondered whether coaching would help; I hesitated to ask as I knew I wouldn’t be able to affect the condition itself. But she was up for it – being isolated and miserable wasn’t where she wanted to be, and she is lucky in having a supportive family who didn’t want that either.

We did the first two sessions face to face; we were on a ferry sailing to a Scottish island, and noted that, as the ship was rolling about, everyone was suffering from vertigo. How to deal with it? She noted that you plan your route, look for handholds (rather like a rock climber) and above all, you move forward, despite the vertigo, steadily and with a degree of confidence once you have made your route plan. It worked.

Because of her deafness, phone coaching wasn’t a good choice. We decided to carry on the coaching by email and text. It seemed to me that my input was hardly needed. She had already decided to readjust her attitude to the vertigo, to set herself small daily challenges and to “get on with it”, as she said. Bit by bit, she gained confidence. At one point, she told me, an elderly (yes, really elderly) neighbour needed help. There was no-one else around, so my friend went over and did what was needed, only realising afterwards that she was no longer afraid to go out.

She goes out and about now, mostly with her husband or friends, always tackling parts of each trip on her own; she has resumed visits to family and holidays with friends, making me laugh at the image of her “practising” in a hotel corridor whilst everyone else had a nap. She sends me regular updates of the seemingly small achievements that have made a huge difference to her life.

The other day I had an email from her entitled simply:“This is me! “



A tribute to Susan Jeffers

Dr Susan Jeffers died last month; she was a world-renowned psychotherapist and author whose work touched the lives of many people. Those who regularly received her newsletter, as I did, were taken aback by the incoming email entitled “In Loving Memory”.

I first read “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway” a lot of years ago, and it was one of the influencers that moved me towards starting my own business, a move which I have not (often) regretted.

Susan Jeffers wrote 18 books in all – I have still to read some of them – and the title of this first one has become almost a cliche; people quote it to one another, sometimes as a joke . This is a compliment: when a term passes into the language as a cliche, it’s because it strikes many people as containing an important truth. The danger is , however, that its impact can be lessened, its real message diluted. In her book, Susan maintains that being afraid is not only essential to our survival, but also to our growth as people. The avoidance of fear, and of taking risks, diminishes us. If fear is the forerunner to learning something new, to becoming something better, then we should welcome it into our lives. It’s not always easy to do – but it always pays off.

In her final newsletter, Susan speaks of gratitude and suggests 10 ways in which to express it; the letter is dated two days before she died. She says:

“Count the many shoulders you are standing on. Using the simple practice of writing down each day one or more people whose shoulders we are standing upon, we will find how blessed we are! …Not only can we include significant others, but also the ‘invisible’ people who work hard to make our lives better whom we somehow take for granted.”

For many, Susan herself counts as one of the ‘invisible’ people, her books influencing their lives in ways they may not even be aware of.

If you’ve never heard her speak, watch this interview with Audrey Hope: Susan Jeffers’ certainty in the rightness of grasping everything life has to offer coupled with her everyday commonsense makes powerful listening.

Susan Jeffers also said: “When I die, I would like it to be the best party I ever attended. I plan to be there in spirit and I expect to have a great time. I want to hear laughter, and compliments, and see color everywhere … absolutely no black allowed, and lots of balloons.”

I’ll bet there were a lot of balloons…