The instructions for my recent walking trip to Sri Lanka included buying leech socks. I didn’t even know what these were!
Sri Lanka is beautiful to visit. The warmth of the people, the history, culture, landscapes, flora, wildlife and food, are all amazing. But leeches in wet mountains in monsoon season are something else.
On our first full walking day, two out of the eight of us who had brought leech socks put them on. We didn’t really know how they would help. But we soon found out!
When we first started spotting leeches, some of us were almost hysterical about finding them on our boots, let alone our socks or legs! Our guides were great at seeing them, detaching them; we lined up in a queue to be checked many times. It felt a totally new (and horrible) experience, and not something we could do, or would want to do, for ourselves.
Even with all the checking, many of us had leech bites. Although my legs were OK, (the socks worked!), I didn’t escape the experience. In the shower afterwards I found one attached to my waist. Everyone heard my SCREAM!! Deet came to the rescue to encourage it to detach. And plasters were needed for quite a while afterwards.
On the second walking day, we were still nervous, cautious, and keen to avoid leeches getting on us (this was a strategy doomed to fail!). We would ask our guide to take them off us IMMEDIATELY when the moment came.
Until we discovered that removing them ourselves was possible!
By the third walking day in a gorgeous tea plantation, when offered the choice between a longer route on the road with no leeches, or a shorter route on the grass with the risk of leeches, we opted for the shorter route. Pragmatism was arriving.
By the fourth walking day, we were becoming expert at spotting leeches on each other, pointing them out, and using sticks or leaves to get them off ourselves. The guide had a very minor role.
By the fifth walking day, on a wildlife walk in the primary rainforest, it was, oh yeah, leeches, we just take them off, it’s not a big deal, no need to fuss!
We were even pointing out to the guide when we saw them on his boots!!
Leeches are still not my favourite thing. They probably never will be. However, the group’s changes in mindset, attitude, knowledge, skills and capability over the walking days reminded me of the book “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle.
One of Glennon Doyle’s mantras is that “We Can Do Hard Things”.
In our walking group, we found this to be true.
I am curious about the factors in place which helped us learn how “to do hard things” in relation to leeches.
- Learning in a group; we were not solos or the only one with this experience, we supported each other
- We changed the narrative about leeches and their impact on us; we made them less powerful over us
- It was motivating to see how others shifted their perspective and developed confidence in their skills in removing them.
- We realised that this was a choice we had made, and that we could make different choices in the future (e.g walk in cooler climates!)
Leeches may feel an extreme example, but can you apply anything from this story to anything you find difficult, repugnant or hard?
As Glennon Doyle says, “We Can Do Hard Things”!
Gill How loves to deliver work globally and internationally with managers, executives and professionals to help them to evolve, grow their leadership capability and stretch their strengths. She is a Fellow of the Association for Coaching, an Innovative Leadership Developer and avid walker in beautiful parts of the world! If she can help you in developing the potential of the professionals in your organisation, get in touch!
Thank you to our guides and my group members for a memorable walking holiday, and for a number of the photos and videos!
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