A life well-lived

Will yours have been a ‘life well-lived’?

There’s a homework exercise I sometimes offer to coaching clients who are struggling to work out their next steps in life; I suggest that they draft their own eulogy. Spending a few hours thinking about how they would like to be remembered at their funeral can really help them to think beyond the pressures of today, to see the bigger picture, and make their next life steps accordingly.

Would they prefer to be remembered for the friendship, love and support they offered to those around them? Or is it important that they are remembered for having been hard working and professionally diligent? Where do hobbies and passions fit in?

Each client’s eulogy is different, depending on the life circumstances of the individual, and on their career ambitions. Lines between work and life are often blurred, but the eulogies are always more about relationships than professional achievements. Taking time to work out those priorities ‘in hindsight’, as it were, can help clients gain valuable insight into where they want to put their energies.

Remembering Evelyn McNicol

I was reminded of that exercise this week, listening to the Radio 4’s ‘Last Word’, which features the lives of notable people who have recently died. In an episode featuring ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ author, Eric Carle, the life of Scottish obstetrician and climber Evelyn McNicol was remembered.

Evelyn McNicol. Image from her family

And on Times Radio, Mariella Frostrup’s interview with McNicol’s grand-daughter Tove McArthur is also worth a listen. Tove helped her grandmother write her memoir.

Evelyn McNicol died in inverness in April at the age of 94 and although I met her briefly a few times, it wasn’t until her obituaries started being published – notably in The Times and The Herald – that I began to understand some of what this remarkable woman achieved.

First all-female Himalayan Expedition

A mother of three, she was part of the first all-female Himalayan expedition in 1955 and started scuba-diving in her seventies. I met Evelyn when she came to Inverness to help her daughter, my friend Erica. With the arrival of twins, Erica suddenly had four children under four to care for. Evelyn rolled up her sleeves to help with crowd-control, laundry, and nappy changes. My second child was a few months older than the twins, and we chatted about the mundanities of night-time feeds and the cost of nappies.

I wish I’d known to ask her about her solo trip along the Eastern Ridge between Tibet and Nepal, climbing unnamed peaks and making friends with the Sherpa. I wish I’d asked her where she got her tenacity from, or her spirit of adventure, or her courage in the face of public scorn that women couldn’t succeed in such environments.

I wonder how Evelyn’s own eulogy would have read, had she written one. With career, family and a life of adventure, she seems to have had it all. Hers was a life well lived. I hope that one day someone will be able to say the same about my own.

Puppy wisdom

Daughter #2, living with us since lockdown last March, has bought a puppy. Mr Marr and I, too selfish to own a dog, were sceptical, to say the least. Two weeks on, this is what I have learned.

  1. Puppies are impossibly cute, but they’re cute for a reason. No way would I tolerate anyone or anything else making that amount of mess (or smell!) in my house.
  2. No matter how many dog-toys a puppy has, it will always prefer a cheap plastic plant pot.
  3. Surprisingly, I do like having my face licked. Suddenly it’s an acceptable form of greeting. Just don’t try it unless you’ve got big brown eyes and a red collar, though.

A warm Highland welcome? Aye, unless you’re in a motorhome…

I know there are some irresponsible motor-homers out there but being rude to all of us serves no purpose. Last weekend we’d booked into the wonderful Loch Ness Shores site at Foyers. The weather was amazing – why travel further?

From Dores we were driving at a steady 40-50mph, mindful of single-track twists and turns, when a car came up behind us, horn blaring. We pulled over, sure there was a serious problem. There was – the driver hates motorhomes and told us so in filthy language. We’re not disgusting and parasitic. We’re not c***s. We’re responsible. And we out and about on our doorstep, supporting the local economy.

We’re robust enough to brush off the abuse, but how many holidaymakers does this delightful individual challenge? A warm Highland welcome? Aye right…

This column is published by Highland News and Media in six of their newspapers across the north of Scotland. If you can, please support print media and the future of independent  journalism by buying a paper, or subscribing online. 

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Feedback and comments are welcome, as are your stories and ideas for future pieces. Stay safe and well.