Be kind to others but most of all be kind to yourself…
Last Saturday night we attended a surprise fortieth birthday party. It was for one of my school friends and her family had organised and were lovingly hosting it in their family home. Obviously she had no idea as we had carefully avoided her for many weeks, dodged whatsapp messages and hidden under the bed when she questioned what anyone was up to for the weekend. As someone with a great big mouth, I was mindful for once, not to be the weakest link and discuss any plans. This proved intensely challenging as I was unable to reveal my outfit choice nor post my carefully angled pictures to Facebook prior to departure.
I had also spent much of the week fretting that she would arrive for the ‘intimate’ family dinner, sans make-up, with her hair thrown up in a scrunchie, wearing a Gola tracksuit.
My fears were quenched, as we all packed ourselves into the kitchen, sweat dripping off us, trying to be quiet, shushing each other. As she swung open the back door, her jaw dropped to the floor, we yelled ‘SURPRISE’, she nearly died, slammed the door to collect herself, only to re-emerge a few moments later looking absolutely stunning.
Thank goodness for older sisters, hair appointments and a well invested in wardrobe.
But me being me, while tossing and turning in bed on Sunday night, willing all the practically neat gins to sweat out of my body, so I could succumb to a peaceful slumber, got to thinking…
…well about life! (Ah jaysus, here we go)
About moving into the dreaded fourth decade and towards middle age, about family and friends and ourselves. She had mentioned throughout the night how excited she was for the curtain to finally fall on the challenging thirties and to be advancing towards what I hope, will be a phenomenal era for her. A time that she deserves, more than anyone. A time that I know will bring her happiness and possibility. I hope she won’t mind me revealing, without giving away too much, that she has had a tough few years. As have I, but for different reasons and it immediately struck me that she was so willing to enter a new phase while I was hanging about clutching tight to a time that actually, has not been all that kind to me.
Or a time during which, perhaps I have not been all that kind to myself.
And I began to ponder my addled state and my hesitation to embrace what lay ahead?
Why was I so reluctant of the future?
I already know it’s not really the age, which is after all just a number. I’ve alluded to the fact that I have perhaps not achieved all I set out to. I’ve goaded myself as to why I didn’t start writing years ago, why I was letting life pass me by, why I was ‘arseing’ about trialling various careers, searching for ways to make money, while staying committed to the only role in which I’ve ever really experienced success in; being a mother.
I had always known that I wanted kids, aside from a brief spell in school where I would nonchalantly declare that I would remain childless and single, with a fantastically promising career, a lover and a convertible. But as soon as they were born, all I wanted was to be with them as much as I could and I’ll openly admit that if finances had of allowed, I would never have worked again. I probably still wouldn’t have become an accomplished cook, but it’s what I wanted. And it seemed so unfair that the very thing that came easiest to me was unachievable.
I know there was an easier path I could have taken over the years. I am well educated. I used to earn a decent enough salary doing my pretend Marketing job and I’m good with people and of course we could have done with a strong second income. But I chose a more difficult path. I chose to try and be home with the kids, working in areas that were probably not really for me, so I could work around their needs, which of course we all know are unrelenting.
And it was bloody hard. Being a mother is bloody hard. No matter what way you chose to do it. If you choose to continue working full time, it’s hard. If you choose to give up work, it’s hard. Or if you choose to attempt both, it’s hard. I chose the latter. I chose to try and do both, well more out of necessity but it was the only way I could see to try and have my cake and eat it.
Do I regret it?
Maybe a little. I was running about like a headless chicken, probably doing everything at half speed. It would have been easier to be in an office, on a salary, utilising childminders and taking favours from family where I could get them. It would have been easier not to be self-employed, to be able to get a car loan and a people carrier and be time poor. It would have been nice to have guaranteed holidays and time off, secured through the dreaded holiday request form submitted in January before Mary from accounts takes all the good days for her yearly trip to the brother’s pad in the Algarve. To pay into the pension and possibly have the Vhi covered, to keep my parents happy and off my back and yes it probably would have been easier.
But it wouldn’t have been me.
Instead I did it in my usual non-conformist manner, facing criticm from those who had already experienced life. I’m not saying it was the right way but it was my way. Always a little bit scatty, always a little bit erratic, probably frustrating to watch, but never dull.
I recently had a lengthy discussion with a friend, during which I scolded myself at my stupidity for not putting the head down years ago and chasing my dream, for not having started to write, for not having six books published by now and my face on the cover of Woman’s Way and she simply said…
‘…because you just weren’t ready, it wasn’t your time.’
Yes I suppose our time comes just at the right time. Just when we are ready and it is the precise moment you begin and endeavour to continue. What made me open the laptop that day after talking about it for years? What was the feeling that made me decide I was ready to open my heart up to the possibility of a possibility? Was it the fact that I was thirty-nine and sitting on top of an invisible ticking time bomb? No.
It was just my time.
And was everything that came before that a great big failure?
No. I was doing what I needed to do.
Why was I so bloody hard on myself?
Because I am me.
Why couldn’t I see what I’ve achieved so far?
For the last thirteen years I’ve been a loving mother. I’ve so far produced three relatively well adjusted humans. Three humans that now have little lives of their own going on and The S.O and I are slowly coming out the ‘other side’, into a time where we can once again pop to the shops, or go for a drink, without multiple babysitters, ‘Nana intervention’ and many moving parts. I’ve worked alongside my husband to keep the ship afloat, at times sacrificing my sanity. We are no great success story but we’ve worked hard, taken the heat from the few bad decisions, carried on regardless.
I built up a business and ran it with dedication for five years, until someone bought it. Yes, I sold a business. (For bog all money mind you but none the less somewhat of an achievement, no?)
There are least twenty people in my life who may jump in front of a moving vehicle for me and probably two that would push me under one, but I’m pretty happy with those stats.
I am fit. About six years ago, I took up running. I had never even ran to the car and I now I run, so very slowly but it is none the less a faster movement than a walk. I am a wunner, a walking runner!
I am honest and kind. I have never set out to intentionally harm anyone or bring them pain and I have huge empathy for others. I care about what people think because I care about people. My heart is permanently affixed to my sleeve.
I love my husband.
I love my kids.
I love my family.
I love my friends.
I love my dog.
And for the past while I have forgotten but I’ve suddenly remembered…I love me.
I have been so hard on myself lately. So down on myself. In fact if I treated anyone else that way they would surely run (very slowly) away from me.
Two weeks ago on the day that was my time, I started my first book. I sat down and I wrote. I created characters and a story and gave it the title ‘Evolve’ and it started to pore out of me, like I had been holding my breath for years. And then just like only I could manage, I somehow deleted the whole blasted thing. But then I shocked the shite out of myself because after a high volume panic, (very in character) I did something most out of character. I sat down the next morning and wrote solidly for eight hours until I was back to where I had been before the moment I forgot to press save, because I want this.
It’s my time.
I know it won’t be easy to complete this book and I’ve probably tainted it by telling people prematurely, but I don’t care. I want you all to ask me. I want you all to push me. I want you all to come along for the journey.
The story I am ready to write, is not about me, or anyone I know in particular, but I hope you may see a little bit of yourself somewhere in it. It’s about three women and their evolution, it’s about discovering that our circumstances are not what defines us. It’s a story of trying to be more, trying to do better, fighting for the person within. It’s a love story I suppose. Of learning to love yourself. And I recognise that perhaps the likelihood of it ever getting published is probably quite slim, as I trowel the internet at night on how best to get a publisher on side and how I need an agent and that it’s a cut throat business and I have no idea really where to start, except to sit down and write and maybe let some greater power take care of the rest.
On Saturday night, I stood in my friend’s childhood home that had plenty of memories for me and a trillion memories for her. I looked around at a beautiful home largely unchanged from our childhood, at my school friends and their partners, my husband, her family, all a little bit older, all looking the same but different, as if a very talented make-up artist had quickly added old people make up to our faces. It was like 1994 but in many ways better.
I’ve had a few months lately that I’d love to forget, a few challenges that came along unexpectedly and for the first time in a long time, in amongst many people who I love and admire, I felt a little bit of excitement for the future, a little bit of sunshine creep into my soul. Maybe it was my terribly chic yellow dress, maybe it was the barman who was obviously using a measure from Spain to pour those gins, maybe it was because there was a whole pile of love in that room or maybe like her, I’m just finally ready for the future. Whatever it holds.
Maybe it’s my time to Evolve.
Sometimes you care so much
You want the flower to grow,
You smother it with water
To nurture what you sow
You shine your light upon it
To make the roots glow,
But the rays are so strong
That the growth begins to slow
You wonder what is wrong
Why the blossom does refuse,
You did what you promised
Why is this flower obtuse?
You try a different tact
Leave the flower alone,
And suddenly the flower
Starts to blossom on its own
Be kind to yourself
Remember you know best,
Believe in your dreams
And leave time to do the rest.
To Lou. Wishing you the happiest decade yet. Ready if you are! Ju xx