I have been following an extraordinary woman on Twitter by the name of Dr Nadia Chaudhri, a neuroscientist who is dying, in her forties, of stage four ovarian cancer. Her immense dignity and courage as she has been tweeting her thoughts about her illness and its terminal phrase have been exceptional and inspirational. She has now many thousands of followers.
What has been so evident is how many people have reflected upon their own lives through her postings. She has also been preparing her six-year-old son (with her husband) for her death in the most moving and creative ways imaginable.
One recent tweet announced she was now in a palliative care ward and preparing for the pain to end. I, like many, posted pictures of flowers, moons, and gardens in support and comfort. On my walks, I was searching for the appropriate photograph to post and my eyes settled on a field of corn, ripe for harvest. Hence, this blog was born. I thought about her final harvest of tremendous triumph and good. What a legacy she was leaving to her son, her family and her medical community. She is now raising money for financially struggling students for minority and underrepresented groups studying neuroscience. She has named this the Nadia Chandhri Wingspan Award.
See here her shuffle page as she walks up and down the palliative care ward. A Tsunami of donations and a flood of immense respect has been the result. Please consider your support to her.
(Note: I do hope this links works as I am still getting used to the widgets and layout of this updated site).
So linking this extraordinary achievement, I am using the analogy of the harvest to illustrate how every one of us has our own fields of corn and this blog attempts to discuss this briefly.
The days where a single career or field of work defines us are long gone. Forty years of working in the same job is no longer an accepted rule. Many of us now have multiple careers, where one skill set is woven into another, complementing each other, which results in a new crop.
Sometimes our fields lie fallow, as adversity, personal misfortune, redundancy, or wrong decisions result in a period of either decline or intended and enforced rest as we evaluate where we are.
Then, as fortunes change and new decisions are made our fields (lives) germinate again with new vigour as we have had the time to rest, reflect, reprioritise and move forward.
At the age of 48, my field, laboured upon for 28 years, was put to one side for pastures new. Planting in a new section of that field some 18 months earlier (midwifery training) left a crop that was a partial failure and I did not want to return to my main field (Nursing) as I had tolled that long enough and my health was suffering.
Ten years on, my new field of work (Education and now Medical English tuition) has been rewarding. However, many parts of this field still need to be tendered to grow and prosper. The fertiliser of a growth Mindset needs sprinkling liberally, but sometimes weeds (the fixed Mindset of doubts) still try to strangle the new growth. Ongoing work continues so that my crop can yield results both for individuals in healthcare and supporting others (peers) in education. I wish this to be my one final and lasting harvest of exceptional quality and sheaves of corn. I am committed to working hard through the rain, sun and storms to see this outcome.
But what about when other farmers stop us in our tracks? The close relationships, friends and sometimes colleagues that for whatever reason think we are ploughing the wrong field or who want to sabotage our efforts through fear for us, envy or because they don’t understand what we are trying to do. I expect you have come across such people. How do we manage them? Do they stop us or make us more determined to keep going?
Today, the news reported on a woman named Lily Ebert, aged 97 and who has just published a memoir as a Holocaust survivor, having met the family of the soldier who helped save her life. A shining example of a pensioner achieving something great at an advanced age.
Historically pensions helped provide people with financial means to rest and have a few years left to live their lives with some form of income. However, now retirement has been turned on its head. Pension pots are being used to create new businesses, hobbies and leisure, yet there is still an ageist culture. Questions like when are you going to retire? And a workforce where energy and drive are still associated with youth are commonplace. Retirement is a very personal thing. Here are two questions I would like you to consider:
Do we ever retire from life?
And if we don’t retire from life until we die then what kind of harvest do you want to leave behind?
Every field has relevance. There is no one size fits all of course. Do you want your field to be a colourful and rich (creative and artistic) staple and hardy (practical and reliable) full of warmth and sunshine (emphasis on family relationships), or have you yet to form some idea about what kind of field you want? My further questions are what tools do you need to plough your soil? Do they need to stay the same? Do you need to sharpen the new blades, or even replace them, as the old ones become rusty and worn with lacklustre, apathy and boredom?
The lady I mentioned will leave a harvest of such magnitude her field will never be forgotten, certainly not by me as I survey the corn each year from my window here on Earth. She has taught us all so much and I think many lives she has touched will never be the same again.