Welcome to the series People Who I Find Inspiring guest interviews. Some of the people I interview are featuring in the book Soul Journey – The Greatest Secrets To Living The Life You Want. Let me introduce you to the inspiring Jackie….
During a stressful working life, the pressure finally got me about 10 years ago and I had a year off. Once recovered I decided that working for myself would be best for my temperament, while not being as lucrative. So I resolved to do what I enjoyed, which was training people to use computers, and I chose to focus on the older generation. This has proved very rewarding. At the same time, I decided to catch up on the missed years of learning, having left school at 16, a route which is immensely satisfying. Now I have returned to writing and art, while coaching and supporting small businesses.
What motivates you?
Curiosity and a desire to know more; I should be motivated to lose weight and redecorate the house, but that seems less important than taking a walk with my camera, or drawing a flower, or reading.
Who inspires you and why?
Older women, such as Diana Athill who is in her 90s and as interested and vivacious as any young woman. She had a fulfilling career as editor with publisher Andre Deutsch, and in retirement has published extraordinary memoirs; Jeannette Winterson for her dazzling intellectual ability; Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, and other great gurus of meditation and mindfulness, such as Jon Kabat-Zinn and Mark Williams. Their teachings are life-transforming, if you allow them to be and I think of these people daily. They gently lead the depressed and troubled mind in a way that creates a new mental habit – an awareness of the moment – making life more fulfilling and positive.
What are your 3 top tips for living a purposeful and ‘well’ life?
Be mindful, be curious and generous of spirit. And an extra one, don’t let technology take over your life, use it but don’t let it abuse you.
What part of your journey to where you are at right now, have you found the most difficult?
The recurrent depression, which started post-natally 45 years ago. Much of the time, I was almost too busy to notice, but once the dam had bust, which it did some 10 years ago, I became more vulnerable to repeated bouts of deep clinical depression. I found that it inexplicable that someone who, on the face of it, had lots going for them, could feel so bad and waste so much of their potential on the debilitating condition. My guilt at the effect this had on my family only made things worse. Divorce was traumatic but my choice, and I began to take charge of my life, but the depression kept returning. Now, my kind and thoughtful husband tries his best to understand, and succeeds but at what cost to him? The fact that I never knew my father, who was killed in the war when I was only 9 months old, certainly has played a huge part in making me who I am. I’m told that I have his sense of humour!
What part has been the biggest revelation?
Mindfulness. I will not apologise for repeating this constantly. It has changed my way of living in a way I would not have thought possible. Last year I did the recommended 8 week course, with Hugh Poulton. He was, and is, a generous mentor. Who would have thought that someone as chatty as I could sit for the best part of 6 hours in silence, meditating. Now, that is a real revelation!
In what way do you interpret the concept of ‘giving for the sake of giving’?
Somewhat selfishly, I am afraid. Any gift is repaid in so many ways. So, giving comfort, practical help, guidance, love – all these things make the giver feel as good as the beneficiary. I think that making people laugh or smile is a great gift. It sounds so trivial, but I know myself how everything lightens and changes when I smile or laugh. I had a wonderful elderly friend who always wanted to know everything I was doing and would not talk about herself. It felt very self-centered, but she insisted that it was a way for her to live through me. I believe I gave her stimulus and interest and in return she gave me unconditional love and friendship.
At an age when most people want to retire, what plans do you have for your future?
Keep learning and creating. I have recently returned to painting and have completed an OU creative writing course, which was a joy! To make up stories and live in a fantasy world was completely absorbing and fulfilling. The past few years I have been studying art history and recently finished an Advanced Diploma with Oxford’s Continuing Education Department. Maybe I will do the extra needed to get a degree, or maybe not. Life is not without considerable pressures for us, but whatever happens I feel that with a wonderful partner and with our mental capacity and desire to acquire new knowledge, despite financial worries and the inevitable physical saches and pains, we will get the best out of life.