PromptWrite about something you know about your family or your history and how might that have influenced your personal or professional philosophy.

My mum and dad loved each other but found it difficult to live with each other, so I grew up in a household that was no stranger to arguments and rows but in which there was also plenty of love.

My father moved to Northern Cyprus in 1982, when he was 70, he’s always had a thing about Cyprus and figured the northern part of the island would be a more economical.

He wanted my mum to go too but she was having none of it. So my dad became the only English speaker in a tiny village outside Kyrenia (known locally as Girne) while my mum continued to live in South Wales. it was pre-internet and with no phone, and no interest in having one, all but the most urgent of communications with my dad were then by letter.

When he died, he left a set of folders, each created by simply folding an A3 sheet over to enclose the contents. Each had a name on it, my mum’s, my sister’s, and mine, and in them we found letters we had sent to him along with carbon copies of his replies. Reading the exchanges felt like a conversation with him, in slow motion.

The details we shared were often funny, mostly ordinary, and sometimes beautiful. I used to send him copies of The New Scientist and occasionally The Economist. I’d get updates on when they’d arrived and questions when none had arrived for a while! I’d mention something that was going on in my life and a question about it would arrive weeks later. Every letter, to each of us, was always signed off with two words, ‘Be Happy!’

After my mum died, my sister and I came across her folder. She had written a few words on the outside to say she was happy for us to read the contents. Much of what they wrote to each other was everyday concerns, health advice to each other as they aged, alongside questions and answers about how my sister and I were doing.

What I saw in the letters, beyond the challenges of the relationship, was love. And that regardless of what was going on for them, my sister and I came before anything else.

My mum encouraged us to leave people in a better place than we found them. My dad encouraged us to treat life as an adventure to be explored and enjoyed.

So what is my philosophy?! Everyone is unique, the world changes when we do, love and laughter matter… and now is usually a good time to ‘Be Happy!’


If you’re curious, and would like to know more about coaching, you can email me lesley@lesleymcdonald.co.uk  or until the challenge ends on Friday, you can schedule a conversation with me here.