Learning to live with life’s challenges
“Sometimes you just have to go with not being normal”
My name is Lisa Askem. I’m a yoga teacher, who passionately believes in the importance of enjoying yourself.
I was born in Leeds to a very chaotic family. We were known as the party family. My mother particularly was very wild. She had me young, at just 22 years old, and ended up a divorced single parent in her early 30s. When I was young, I yearned for a ‘normal’ mum but looking back she actually was amazing and worked so hard for us.
As a child, I was a major dreamer. I was always somewhere else in my head which I think was my way of dealing with the craziness of my family. I always dreamed of leaving home and moving somewhere different.
My dreaming was symptomatic of my creativity. I was always making clothes for my dolls and things like that. So at around 15, the idea of going to art school was brought up.
I moved to London and went to art school which all felt very natural. My late teens/early twenties were a great time, it was the 80s so punk culture was rife and I immersed myself in it. I was, and still am an anarchist, anarchy is full of kind people who just want to do good in the world.
After that, I travelled a lot with my job and along the way met my ex-husband. He was working just up the road from me at the time, as a wax moulder at Madame Tussauds. We were together for a long time. I moved into his terrible studio apartment where we lived for 4 years.
We got married, decided to buy a house and had children. They were lovely times but becoming a mother was a massive adjustment for me. I wasn’t used to just being home with a small child. Nothing can ever prepare you for that complete loss of freedom and none of my friends had any children so I had absolutely no support.
My husband and I eventually grew apart, he was always working away and I felt like I had to do a lot of things alone. I didn’t want my children to remember me as a miserable person so I decided the separation was the best thing for my family.
Around the same time as my divorce, things around me started going wrong. My dad passed away and my youngest son had to undergo heart surgery. My house was falling down and I had just lost two contracts with companies because of changes they were undergoing.
People around me kept asking what I was going to do and I didn’t have a solid answer. My yoga teacher offered me teacher training. At the time, yoga wasn’t trendy as it is now, there were only about 3 teachers in my local area, so it was quite a random profession.
I took up the opportunity and began teaching at yoga retreats. They were also retreats for me, as while I was away I could catch up on all the sleep I’d missed out on over the years. The company I worked for then asked me if I would manage their recruitment nationally. They were a new company so asked how much I wanted to work and earn; I went part-time so I could still see my children a lot.
I would say yoga is the longest relationship I’ve ever had. I think I have learnt a lot through yoga, especially meditation and contemplation. I don’t feel afraid of my emotions anymore and yoga has kept me grounded.
Then, when I was about 50, things changed. I opened my blinds one morning and noticed a neighbour had sold their house very quickly. So suddenly, I decided I was going to sell my house, my dream had always been to travel and by selling my house I was one step closer.
My house, being in London, was a fantastic asset. I put it on the market and decided to downsize. I had always wanted to live in Stretton, I felt very at peace there. When I walked into my current flat I knew it was the one’ even though it needed a lot of work. The downsize was significant, so I needed to clear out a lot of memories, choosing carefully what I brought into this new life.
We moved into the property in spring but shortly after we received a bad phone call. My brother, who was in Spain at the time, had suffered around 8 catatonic seizures and was in a coma. Unfortunately, they discovered he had a brain tumour and was only given 18 months to live, even if he underwent treatment.
This was a tremendous shock, my brother was a healthy guy in his early 50s and had 4 children, the youngest was only 10 years old. After something like that you’re never the same, I realised how precious life is and so did my children as they knew my brother’s fate could just as easily have been mine.
Only months later, my mum was diagnosed with lung cancer and was also given just a few months to live. True to her wild character, she decided to move house during this time. Her last few months were utter chaos.
I deal with grief mostly by sleeping. After my mother’s death, I went into a depression, something I had never experienced before. It didn’t last long and fortunately, I still had money from the move to allow myself some time to rest.
Things are much better now. I’m a calm, happy, well-balanced individual. In 2019, after my youngest left for university, I booked a trip to Havana for a month. It was an interesting trip and I realised that when you travel utterly alone you are forced to become entirely yourself and you no longer have the props which make up your identity.
I made lots of friends during my time there, including an antique dealer whose artwork I sold. I returned to Havana later that year and repaid the kindness of my new friends by bringing them gifts.
My life was put on hold, as was everyone’s when Covid hit but I’m hoping to travel more in the future. I have realised it is important to me to always travel when I can.
Overall, I would like to emphasise that life should be about enjoying yourself and everything will work out if you just do what you enjoy.
This blog was written by Elena John based on the interview with Tales to Inspire.