Goodbye 2022 – lessons from a difficult year

Arguably, significantly more people bid 2022 good riddance than lamented its end. As Big Ben struck midnight on December 31st, I’m sure it wasn’t just Liz Truss who was glad to see the back of a turbulent 12 months. For many reasons, 2022 is unlikely to be remembered as a wonder year. The cost of living crisis, strikes, conflict, there was plenty to be gloomy about.

It’s been a year of challenges on a personal level too. Many lost loved ones. I lost my beloved father – Pops – to cancer toward the end of November. Then, in December, I suffered a miscarriage, my fourth. It was particularly cruel as, after four years of unsuccessful IVF, it was an unexpected natural pregnancy. A ‘miracle baby’, as the midwife team described it.

Before Pops died, I was able to tell him my good news. In his final days, it was one of the things that made him happy, the thought that as his light exited the world, another was preparing to enter. The promise of new life. I was devastated when, a month later, that promise went unfulfilled.

  1. Laughologists aren’t always happy, and that’s okay

Laughologists aren’t always happy, and when difficult things happen, it’s easy (and understandable) to get swept up in negativity, spiral into despair and focus on the injustice of it all. It’s okay to be sad and upset; sadness, anger, and grief are important emotions for healthy minds, well-being and happiness.

One of the things that helps is having positive people in your life, and my lifesaver these past few weeks has been the positive lessons and memories that Pops left.

To understand this, you need to know a bit about him. Colin Davies, aka CD, aka Colky, was a force of nature. Some people drift through life silently like ghosts and leave no trace when they go. Pops was not one of those people.

As a young man, he’d been a travelling salesman, or ‘demmer’, selling everything from tights and knives to questionable handwriting analysis reports delivered from a machine of dubious origin. He had run-ins with the law, with the Krays and with a monkey named Pedro, who lived in his car for a while.

He didn’t always play by the rules, but his sense of humour, resolve, and a glint in his eye ensured that he generally got away with things.

These were the qualities I built Laughology on and pass on to others through our work – humour, doing things differently and breaking the rules (I’d like a Laughology monkey, but I don’t think Barry the Laughology cat would be too welcoming).

  1. Share your wisdom and learnings from life, no matter how tough those learnings are

Pops lived life to the full and left a gaping hole in our lives when he passed aged 77, at home on the Isle of Man, looking out over the Irish Sea. He not only left a hole in our lives, but he also left endless wisdom.

Pops was a teacher from the university of life. His lessons were delivered as cryptic sayings, some profound, some utterly baffling. “Look for the exits”, “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”, “People who take chances end up in ambulances”, and my favourite, “Don’t be surprised by people, be surprised if you see a man walking down the road with a penis on his head.”

He taught those lucky enough to know him life skills, like: always keep an emergency £10 in your car and cite Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 when attempting to get a refund.

Back in 2019, Pops was diagnosed with stage four bowel cancer that had spread to his liver and lungs. He was told there was nothing more that could be done and that, at best, with treatment to slow the inevitable, he had a year. He accepted this diagnosis in the same way he accepted menus in restaurants. He considered it briefly, didn’t fancy what was being offered and chose something else instead.

In this case, he chose life, defying expectations and carrying on through chemotherapy and immunotherapy for several years. He never once took a day off from his job as a sales director for Everest Windows during treatment. He instilled this work ethic in me and my brother and sister. It’s so strong that sometimes we carry on when we should stop, not listening to those around us telling us to take time out.

In the month of his death, when he was in and out of a hospice, I tried to balance work, pregnancy and visits to see him. After all, he still managed to be the company’s top salesman. If he could work through what he was going through, so could I. I told myself that the severe morning sickness I was experiencing was nothing compared to what he was going through.

  1. Others can only help you when you let them in

Throughout life, he taught my siblings and me about resilience, determination, and the value of hard work. But towards the end, he also was vulnerable and relied on his family to support him physically and mentally, a lesson I understood after he passed. Others can only help when you let them.

I talk a lot about psychological safety within organisations. As Dad neared the end and the following weeks after he died, psychological safety became very real for me.

My team wrapped around me like a protective shell, ensuring I felt cared for, loved and supported. Love isn’t a word you associate with the corporate world, but it should be. With my team’s love and support, I could take a step back for a while and focus on the bigger issues affecting my life. I could trust that decisions made in my absence were made with consideration and care.

Dad’s final days were filled with tears and laughter. He was a joker to the end. At one stage, as we all sat around his bedside, looking at him drifting in and out of consciousness, he exclaimed: “What are you all staring at? If I’m going to cark it, I’ll ring the bell.”

  1. Strive to be healthy and happy; it’s as simple as that

Of all the lessons he taught me, one of the most important was saved for last. In an increasingly rare moment of lucidity the day before he died, he said: “No clever words. Be happy, be healthy.”

It’s easy to get caught up with everyday life’s pressures, compare ourselves to others, hanker after things we need and don’t have, worry about things we can’t control, and dwell on the negative. That is the human condition, to yearn to be and have more. But all we really need is health and happiness, right? Shouldn’t those be the starting points? Without them, everything else means nothing.

2022 changed me. There’s no doubt about that. I suffered loss more acutely than I could ever have imagined, and I’ve chosen to learn from it. I have more empathy and understanding and have learnt to show vulnerability and to listen to others.

Present day remains a confusing, unstable place. It’s easy to get swept up in negativity and pessimism. Instead, I’m going to focus on the simplicity of the world according to Pops: happiness and health.

If you have them, you’re doing okay.


Article by Academy Member, Laughology.

Share this...
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *