Anyone who works with me will realise quickly that I read a lot and love quotes. I appreciate their beautiful language and how they prompt me to pause and reflect. A favourite quote is by writer Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I look back over my life so far and realise how I have become better at shaping my days so that they add up to a life of meaning.
This hasn’t always been the case. For 20 years, I worked in marketing and consumer insights roles in big corporations, and later on the agency side. The work in consumer insights was actually a great fit with my curiosity and love of learning. Within a sea of emails and meetings, it offered little pockets for creativity as I could play with ways of visualising complex data and turning it into meaningful stories. I worked with clients in advertising, innovation, design… all great places for a creative soul. It also gave me the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues and clients – and I loved building trust, working in partnership, and coming to understand specific circumstances, motivations, challenges and opportunities.
Over time, I felt a shift in my values. What inspired me to move into marketing in my twenties began to jar. On weekends, I would find myself volunteering to clean up the local beach but during the week I made my money with consulting brands whose packaging I had just pulled out of the shallow sea. Like so many people, I danced with my values for some time, accepting that there’s never a perfect fit. This predicament gnawed away at me and increasingly I felt I had to leave more of my true self at the door.
Like so many of us, I have been navigating challenging workplaces and experienced toxic cultures and team dynamics that stifled diversity. I’ve encountered the dysfunction of groupthink that undermined anyone who didn’t want to conform and while vulnerability was often talked about as a concept, it was unsafe to show any. I was fortunate to have strong support in my personal life, so I pulled the plug when I felt the impact work had on my physical and mental health. I experienced sleep problems and brain fog associated with burnout. I had definitely lost my spark. I no longer wanted to spend my days like this. I didn’t like the life they were adding up to.
I longed for more depth and meaning in my work, to find better alignment with my values – not untypical for a ‘midlife unravelling’. As a child, I was creative, a daydreamer, in tune with my nervous system which thrives in quiet and calm environments. The joy of creative play was lost in secondary school. I started to believe that I wasn’t good enough, left any creative endeavours to the ‘truly talented people’ and opted for a business degree instead – despite briefly flirting with a career in textiles and pattern design.
I reconnected with my creativity as a hobby halfway through my corporate career. Art journaling became my creative sanctuary and a way to recharge my batteries. It was a treasure trove of patterns, colours, textures, words, everything I had left behind when I chose a career in marketing. The energy I got from this creative outlet inspired me to think about career options that would put creativity at the heart of my everyday work and allow me to work in partnership with people and foster deep connections.
Experiencing prolonged stress sent ripples through my life. I wish I had been able to get compassionate and practical support beyond my close personal network. I wonder how much better I would have coped if I had been taught how to hold myself when I felt under attack. I really missed having someone bear witness as I tried to make sense of it all and find a way forward. I signed up for a Masters in Art Therapy and entered the liminal space of career transition. Having taken leaps between jobs, countries and cultures before, I felt I should know my way round this transit lounge – when one thing ends and the next one hasn’t yet started. That space where we feel we don’t belong, where some relationships slip away before we are able to form new structures of support.
My love of learning guided me through this transitional time. Trying to find my place in the world again, I devoured anything I could find about neuroscience, healing from trauma, shaping meaningful work, integrating emotions and befriending the nervous system. I met inspiring people and built a new network around shared interests and values.
I soon realised that many of my skills were more transferable than I had thought. Having led teams and business units gave me the confidence to start my private practice and run a business. Having facilitated team and client workshops made it easy for me to shift into running group programs. In the corporate world, my shortcomings in the fist-pump kind of energy were sometimes noted; now my clients loved the “calm energy” I brought to sessions. Years of writing meeting minutes and structuring presentations helps me compile session notes that support my clients in their reflections between sessions. I’m the type of therapist who reads the latest research in the fields of trauma and mental health – it makes my researcher heart sing! On my nightstand, you’ll find books about the polyvagal theory, the latest Seth Godin or Brené Brown as well as books on creativity and poetry from David Whyte.
Early in my studies, I knew that my aspiration was to take all this back into the workplace. To find ways of making what I have learned accessible and relevant beyond the context of therapy and healing.
At Sensemaking Space, I combine my solid grounding in trauma-informed practice and mental wellbeing with the often fast-paced and pragmatic world of business. I see a need to support leaders who want to lead in an empathic and trauma-sensitive way. I encounter people who enjoy their jobs but would love to add more depth or meaning. I coach professionals who want to follow their own heart in their next career move, not someone else’s dreams. I read a lot about creativity as a crucial skill for the ‘future of work’, and – curiously – I meet lots of people who tell me they are not creative…
My response is to combine left and right brain processes. In my sessions, I make space for playful, visual or embodied expression as well as information sharing and cognitive integration of insights. I invite imaginative creative processes to build resilience and self-awareness, any inclination to paint is entirely optional. I’ve learned that when words fail us in making sense of life, finding alternative tools of sensemaking can be a lifeboat. And when things go pretty well, these sensemaking tools add richness and depth to what we learn about ourselves.
As we all are, I am a work in progress, continuously learning and evolving. I have arrived at a place where I move at the pace of my body. I shape my work around what is meaningful to me and embrace the importance of progress and resting, doing and being.
I believe that there are a million different ways to arrive in such a place and we all know deep inside what our unique pathway should be.
I’d love to walk alongside you on the path that feels right for you.