'recalibrate riˈkalɪbreɪt/ verb: to change the way you do or think about something'
As I write this, it is snowing outside, the wind is howling and the temperature has dropped below freezing. It also happens to be 1st March which as any self respecting Welsh native will know is St David's Day; a day when us Welsh folk acknowledge our patron saint via a daffodil or leek proudly pinned to our lapel or children dressing up in traditional costume. I used to love wearing my Welsh lady costume to school on 1st March and I distinctly remember my mum picking a daffodil out of our garden to add the finishing touch to my shawl. The poor daffodils in my garden today are battling against the elements and my facebook feed is dominated by World Book Day costumes rather than Welsh lady ones. I don't live in Wales anymore so I guess it's to be expected that St David's Day looks a bit different for me now but when I conjure up the image of me in that costume as a child, it makes me think of Spring and sunshine and bright colours. The cold, white landscape I see today is totally at odds with that image and I have to remind myself that it's March 1st and St David's Day. I'm recalibrating...
If any of my friends read this they may have chuckled to themselves when they saw the title. I've been banging on about the concept of recalibrating (I can be good fun too) ever since I read the epic 'A Little Life' by Hanya Yanagihara. If you haven't read it, it's a heart wrenching, beautiful, extraordinary tome that explores the depths of humanity in all its glory. One of the many things I took from it was when one of the characters describes how the hardest and most important lesson for all new parents is to learn how to recalibrate. As children grow, parents have to continually adapt the beliefs, hopes and expectations they had about this person they love more than anything but who will inevitably grow into their own person who may well be entirely different from the expectations that in all good faith have been placed on them. I've written before about expectations and how they influence all our experiences and I guess recalibrating is the next process on from this.
Sometimes recalibrating can happen with something as innocuous as becoming someone who prefers Winter when you've always considered yourself a sun worshipper. In the scheme of problems you can have this really isn't a big deal but it can be disarming to suddenly realise that what you believed to be true about who you are and what you think and feel isn't the same anymore. Our instinct is to cling to what we know (better the devil you know and all that) even if what we are changing to appears to be fairly irrelevant or even better than what came before. On the other end of the scale, as a bereavement counsellor, I often see clients who cannot comprehend navigating this new lansdscape where the person they loved is no longer in it. How do you begin to recalibrate when you've been impacted by something as monumental as death?
The world is a constantly changing place and whilst recalibrating often happens on an unconscious level, it's the fear of shifting away from what is familiar and what feels safe that can cause an emotional block and a lot of distress. Counselling is an effective way of navigating the slings and arrows that life will inevitably throw us as well as understanding the unconscious fears that might be making us feel as though life isn't quite how we want it to be and making us resist moving forward. Another of my favourite expressions is 'it is what it is and we are where we are', and that may be so but recalibrating in order to accept the status quo is I believe the key to us achieving our best chance at contentment.
I note that the daffodils in my garden are standing proud despite the weather's best efforts to bury them. Our ability to adapt and change is nothing short of remarkable but having a helping hand along the way makes the whole experience less daunting and certainly less isolating. I hope that as a society we continue to make strides with mental health awareness and with reducing the stigma attached to seeking help. I believe we're heading in the right direction and that, along with the daffodils represents hope and optimism on this beautiful, chilly St David's Day. Hapus Dydd Gwyl Dewi.