Today it is my birthday.
Last year, I was so achingly sad that I wanted to skip my birthday entirely. In the car. By the washing line. As I went to sleep. At least once a day, big salty tears would fall.
Two months later, I lost both my grandparents – just 27 days apart. I wasn’t prepared for the grief that descended and kept swamping me when I least expected it.
The months continued to roll past in a blur of sadness and adrenalin. My business was in a glorious purple patch. I kept saying ‘yes’ to everything that came my way, including creating and starting a new brand, Uncommon People. By the end of the year, I was often getting up at 4:30 and going to bed around midnight just to fit everything in. I was working on the weekends and hanging in there by a thread.
On Christmas Day, everyone came to our place for lunch. I was tense and the turkey was dry.
In the early evening, I decided to head down to the beach for a dip. Alfie was the only other taker. As we walked, he said,”During the holidays I’d like to write and illustrate some books.”
“That’s a great idea, darling,” I said as I slipped my hand into his.
“And then I’ll set up a stall outside our house and sell them so you don’t have to work so much.”
I don’t think any other words have ever cut me to the core like these ones. I knew I had been working hard, but I didn’t think the kids really noticed. What a fool.
In that moment, I realised I was fucking it all up. Royally.
I woke up on Boxing Day and couldn’t move out of bed. I had no energy and felt dull on the inside.
For the next three days I lay in bed, picking apart how I had got to this place. I felt such shame when I realised I had become so tightly strung and preoccupied that I hadn’t been really, truly looking at the kids properly. My eyes were always darting, heart racing as I thought of the 52 things I still needed to do.
And so I pulled the pin and started again.
I took six weeks off blogging and work.
I didn’t open one email during January.
I took message bank off my phone.
I spent the summer holidays slowly unraveling.
In February, I decided that this would be the year of learning to be as still as possible, while I am still moving. I decided that this would be a year of living – because it been a long time since I had lived the life I wanted.
I made some big changes, like only working three days a week and not in the evening or on weekends. Between 5:30 pm and 7:30 pm I put my phone up high on a shelf so I’m present with the kids at the end of their day and the alarm no longer goes off before 6 am. I also started saying ‘no’ and not feeling guilty that I might be letting someone down by saying that small, but oh-so-difficult-to-say word. And you know the funny thing? The more you say no to the things that aren’t truly important, the easier it is to say.
I made a few smaller changes, too. I began trying something new each week (like going to a nude beach and having a go at flotation therapy), not eating lunch at my desk, reading books again and going on solo adventures – to galleries, a city ramble or a run along a track I hadn’t been to before.
My last trip around the sun took me apart and put me back entirely differently. I like who I have become.
It was all worth it.