I press play on the CD player and the opening bars of Madonna's 'Holiday' suddenly filled the car. Instantly my two sons, Mark, 7, and Stuart, 5 burst into excited song. I sing along too. It's 1991, we're on our way to Majorca, and I've never felt so lost and alone.
I was a year into being single after a painful divorce. To add to the weirdness of singledom after ten years of marriage, at the same time I threw my career up into the air by transferring from Thames Valley Police to the Met. I went from everything and everyone being familiar, to me feeling that I understood virtually nothing in my life. It had been a long, mainly lonely, scary, and pretty empty year.
In ways I didn't really appreciate at the time, my boys had been my anchor. I had them every day I had off and they gave me a focus I otherwise lacked - even if sometimes that was only to spend hours when I was alone keeping ahead of them on the Nintendo. I've found sometimes focusing on anything you can manage, however trivial, is better than focusing on everything you can't. And at that time, life was what I felt I couldn't manage. In the midst of feeling like I was stuck and drifting at the same time, I decided I needed a holiday, and that they deserved one, so I took out a loan, chose a destination, and we were off.
We had a brilliant time. Pizza every day. The same pizza. From the same place. We spent long days on the beach talking boy, playing football, building stuff. And in-between I had time to think, and hope, and dream. They revived me, although, again, I didn't properly appreciate it at the time. At the end of the week I dropped them off and cried the whole way home.
2014. Menorca. I press play on my iPhone, and Madonna sings again. I share a smile with my boys, and we raise a glass. We're in a nice café overlooking a stunning bay. I look at their plates. Pizza. Pretty sure they still had it every day. Stu tries his beautiful one year old daughter Sasha with a crust, Mark pretends to be shot by his amazing two and half year old son Heath. My heart couldn't be more full. We have a week together. The boys, their wives, my wife, Bex, our grandkids, and me. I could almost hear the circle of life turning.
So why am I telling you this? Because what I want to say to anyone who needs to hear it is...keep going. You might feel lost right now, maybe even hopeless. You may feel that you've made choices you can never recover from. I think you'll find you're wrong if you just keep seeking what you're looking for, even if you don't know what that is. Keep looking. As I built sandcastles in Majorca I didn't know I was just months away from becoming an instructor at Hendon training school, where I would discover the calling that gave me a purpose in life that changed it utterly. While I was eight years from finding the love of that life, it needed me to keep going to find her. As Steve Jobs said, the dots only join up when you look back. I agree, but remember that the dots are out there, and you're the pen. Keep going.
And don't let yourself be limited by anyone, including those you love. Especially those you love. Many times I felt trapped or held back by a feeling of responsibility to my boys. But I wasn't, I was trapped and held back by my lack of belief in myself and just blamed them for it. And I proved that when I threw my life in the air again by starting a new career as a hypnotherapist while the boys were still at school. Life feels so different when you make yourself responsible for your choices. And I know how much more free I was to love my kids when I stopped making them a burden.
Things will work out if you keep going, just not how you might have expected or dreamed. I had no idea that one day I'd be sat watching my sons being fantastic fathers, or feel my heart melt at Sasha's smile of recognition or Heath's giggle when I tackle him in beach rugby.
As the saying goes, everything turns out ok in the end. And if it's not ok, it's not the end. My only caveat to that being, take action, keep going, keep looking, keep learning, and make your life your responsibility. And eat pizza on the beach with anyone you love, as often as you can.
If you're interested in finding out more about Cognitive Hypnotherapy, here's my website www.questinstitute.co.uk