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NICKY MARR: Thinking ahead can provide perspective

By Nicky Marr

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Nicky Marr - coach/writer/broadcaster. Picture: Callum Mackay.
Nicky Marr - coach/writer/broadcaster. Picture: Callum Mackay.

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 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.

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.

And on Times Radio, Mariella Frostrup’s interview with McNicol’s granddaughter 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.

Evelyn McNicol.
Evelyn McNicol.

A mother-of-three, she was part of the first all-female Himalayan expedition in 1955 and started scuba diving in her 70s.

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.

More from Nicky

Motorhome owners don't deserve abuse

I KNOW there are some irresponsible motorhome owners 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 responsible. We were supporting the local economy.

We’re robust enough to brush off the abuse, but how many others does this individual challenge? Warm Highland welcome?

Aye right.

And they called it puppy love

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 we have learned:

  • Puppies are impossibly cute, but they’re cute for a reason. No way would I tolerate anyone, or anything else, making that mess in my house.
  • No matter how many dog toys a puppy has, it will always prefer a cheap plastic plant pot.
  • 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.

Read more from Nicky Marr here.

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