A good clear out

There’s something about this time of year that triggers the desire to have a good clear out!

Perhaps it’s the tangible transition of the seasons. Here we have confidently moved our of winter. Nature wakes up and has a good spring clean. Getting ready for what’s to come.

The activity of our pair of Canada geese on the lake is most telling. But it’s mirrored all around the valley in species large and small.

Or maybe it’s that I’ve just had a birthday… And know it’s time to face a new era…

These seasonal clear outs are both practical and therapeutic. Sorting out the vestiges of the winter – and indeed past years and lives – is necessary if we are to respond to the new growth and fresh opportunities before us.

Intuitively, I think we know when the stuff we have around is no longer fit for purpose. Yes, it might have served us well in the past, but will it enable us to be our best selves going forward?

Some of this is intensely practical. Putting away winter clothes – deciding what to keep and what to pass on. Cleaning the windows – the spring sun is much less forgiving. Weeding the garden ready for the new growth.

But it might also be the ground of our inner being.

I am probably more attuned to this as it was a big birthday. And comes almost exactly a year after my first surgery for breast cancer. So it’s not the kind of milestone one can skip over lightly.

But given all that has happened over the last 16 months was there anything left to have a good clear out? I didn’t think so and was pleasantly surprised.

Healthy space

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to… “

We are familiar with the ancient refrain from the author of Ecclesiastes, whether as a song, a text or a saying. The fourteen couplets cover virtually the whole of life and living and offer an invitation to engage with the rhythm of the season, without having to comprehend its entirety.

And that’s the thing. We don’t have to understand everything. We just have to be prepared to be present in what’s happening now. Recognising that it is part of a much bigger cycle. Wheels within wheels.

We also can’t force them. They will happen when it’s time, including when we’re ready.

Nearly 160 years ago those who had responsibility for the health and well-being of the people of Swansea took courageous and farsighted action. They decided to build reservoirs in the hills north of the town to provide fresh drinking water to the densely populated, industrialised and highly polluted area, which was a hotspot for diseases like cholera. What they proposed had never been done before and the impact was huge.

Our valley is the site of one of the reservoirs – the Blaenant Ddu – which was decommissioned years ago. We didn’t know the full history when we came here in 2006 but subsequently discovered that it was my predecessor (when I was chief exec of the health board) who had initiated it’s building over a century ago.

So why is this relevant now? Last week when preparing to lead a quiet day here, I remembered this connection as part of setting the scene. Having left my job in 2009, I was happy working across a wider range of sectors, but this was a reminder that maybe there was unfinished business for me.

It’s also made me more alert to other requests for health-related work which suddenly started coming my way.

If this had happened earlier, I probably would have resisted it. I had laid down my health mantle and wasn’t ready to pick it up again.

Internally, I also wasn’t ready to see what a new season could look like. The past months of exploring what it means to be a quiet disruptor and find my voice – including by writing these posts – has been part of clearing the ground.

I needed to come to a place where everything else was stripped away so that I was free to be who I am now. Not what others have told me. Or choosing less demanding roles so that my fear that there is nothing there wouldn’t be exposed…

This isn’t a violent dismantling, but a tender washing away. Layer by layer, with time and grace. The whispers of encouragement. The words of poets, ancient and current, who subtly penetrate my defences when I wasn’t looking, depositing seeds of hope. Friends who do what friends do, and believe.

This is a healthy space. And I’m grateful.

And what about you?… Now is a great time for a good spring clean, metaphorically of course!

Thanks for reading


This week

Another seasonal change with the clocks going forward from GMT to British Summer Time in the UK last weekend. Unfortunately, our email delivery didn’t quite keep up and in trying to sort it out we inadvertently paused our mailing. Sorry for the hiccough. Here are the links to the whole week as usual.