Do you ever have days when you are so low, you feel like you have hit the floor? Divorce is one of life’s most stressful experiences, ranked alongside bereavement and debt. As a family lawyer I have noticed that the clients who find it easiest to move on are those who are able to concentrate on the future, rather than the past.
Like every other human being, I have my bad days too. I have had some major life changes this year and some of these have been tough to accept. I try not to wallow in negative thoughts, and it helps that my work keeps me busy. Occasionally I come across something in a case that doesn’t seem right – an unjust decision, perhaps, which needs to be corrected – and the fight is on.
Whenever I need to gain a little extra strength, to reassure myself that what I am doing is right, and that I am right to care so much about a given client, case or situation, I find inspiration and courage in a tiny, peaceful churchyard in Oxfordshire.
It stands some distance from the magnificent Blenheim Palace at Woodstock. This stately home was built in the reign of Queen Anne and presented by a grateful nation to the first Duke of Marlborough for his valiant services saving the nation from the French at the Battle of Blenheim. It is hard to think of a more romantic building, set as it is amidst stunning parkland and lakes. Blenheim Palace is dominated by the 40 metre “Column of Victory”, on top of which stands the Duke’s statue. It can be seen for miles around. I have used that statue as a makeshift compass when running in the stunning Blenheim parklands, which were designed by Capability Brown. It looks as though His Grace is pointing towards the little church of St. Martin at Bladon in the distance.
The churchyard is as inspiring as it is humble. Buried in a modest grave there is one of the Duke of Marlborough’s descendants: Sir Winston Churchill. The statesman was born at Blenheim Palace but, at his own request, his final resting place is far more modest.
St. Martin’s churchyard stands at the top of a hill, reached by a small windy path from the road. Every time I have visited, it has been raining! Churchill’s tombstone is surrounded by the tombstones of other members of his family.
He is often regarded as the 20th century’s greatest Briton and the Quintessential English Bulldog (although he was half-American). When you consider his triumphs and achievements, in the face of adversity and daunting odds, he is also a great inspiration.
This is a man who fought depression – which he called his “Black Dog” – throughout his life. But he did not let it defeat him; nor did he let it pull him away from his ambitions. Instead he devoted himself day after day, year after year, to the preservation of Great Britain and the free world against tyranny.
Whenever I walk through that windswept churchyard, my head clears. It is all too easy to become mired in difficult situations, but life sets challenges for all of us. What matters most is not what those challenges are, but how we face them. Churchill said, “We will never surrender”. He meant it – in more ways than one.
I am interested to learn what others think. If you draw inspiration from a particular place or person when you are feeling low, please share your thoughts in the comments.