A Rejoiceful Return…

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Dear Comrades, 

My apologies for being absent in weeks of late. A quick explanation summary before I continue. I caught a kidney infection which managed to spread to a lymph node and the large intestine. I was hospitalised for a little while to let antibiotics try and clear it and in the meantime I’m due to have further tests to try and sort out my kidney function as they are…well put it this way, they wouldn’t win any awards for efficiency! 

I haven’t been doing any writing and was written off work for quite some time while I recovered. My husband suddenly had the role of Mum, Dad, bread winner, bread baker, bread cleaner upper, had to take on my role in the business, look after me, whilst also trying to keep on top of everything else with 50% less the people usually involved. As a couple whose lives are very busy and chaotic, I am unendingly grateful for the incredible job he’s done keeping everything together.

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When ill, I am quite the disappear-er, I try and be a lot to many, and often want things to be completed or achieved ‘right now’. This pace of life is difficult to keep up with when healthy so when I break, I tend to retreat completely. It’s a flaw, I am not proud of it. I worry so much about letting people down when I’m not on full pace, I feel so guilty if I can’t be 100% involved. It’s a ridiculous standard to try and hold myself to and I have often in the past got to a point of burn out because of it. Becoming a parent only made it clear to me that I did so. I tried to continue to say yes to a number of nights out in London for friends birthdays even though being a Mum now meant that realistically, nights like that would be fewer and further between and 99% of people understand that when you have a little one your life adjusts; the 1% that didn’t understand that was population me! So I tried to remain in all the roles I held before also adding ‘Mother’ to the list and consequently I have learnt that 1) I am ridiculous and 2) Re-arranging life to fit does not make me a terrible friend/co-worker/wife/mother, it makes me sensible. As anyone who knows me will tell you though, being sensible is not my strong point! 

So I missed out on going zip wiring with friends a couple of weeks ago and reluctantly handed over my ticket to my brother, but I’d imagine zip wiring won’t be outlawed in the next year! I avoided going family events because I felt I wasn’t ‘presentable’ enough or that I’d be a disappointment, despite the fact that as they are too all living life, they know and understand that being a working Mother isn’t easy and I won’t necessarily always be in perfect makeup with a Stepford wife house!

For many years, as a teenager, I wanted to portray a perfect life that I was 100% on top of, I never admitted to my parents when I was having a hard time or would try and hide any mistakes I’d made because I always had some pathological fear of getting into trouble. The result of this is I ended up with bigger mistakes beyond my control and I look back on my teenage years and cringe. You’d have thought I would have learnt! The fact remains that I still have a pathological fear of letting people down and disappointing anyone, over the last few years I have tried to get better at it all, but my knee jerk reaction is always to say yes if someone asks something of me. I hate to think I can’t please them or help them. (Even if it then means that I end up letting them down worse by taking on too much and not being able to help properly, that’s when I would end up burning the candle at both ends trying to sort everything!)

What’s changed is that I am now not the most important person in my life. Scarlett came into my life and I realised that she needed to be my priority and I realised how important it would be for me to learn to say no. Not an easy lesson to learn. My core urge is still to be as involved and as helpful to everyone as possible, I still assume that if I’m not able to do certain things, people won’t want me involved. A lifetime of being an organiser I suppose, you start to wonder that if you weren’t organising things would people still want you in their life. And realistically for some people, no they wouldn’t. And that’s fine. As you get older you start to realise very quickly that it’s much more important to have quality friends rather than a high quantity of friends, especially as when you get older, you barely have time to catch up properly with everyone you’d dearly like to, let alone give time to people who probably aren’t that fussed about you in the first place. And in family and friends, we are blessed. We recently attended two of my closest friends wedding and I caught up with friends I hadn’t seen in ages; that old adage is quite right you don’t have to see people all the time to maintain meaningful friendships. We’re all busy and have lots going on in life and on those occasions you get to catch up, it’s magic! That’s not to say I still don’t convince myself when I’m not 100% that moon thinks I’m not a good enough Wife/daughter/Mother/friend etc etc etc! Such is life, none of us are really ever ready to adult! And just when we think we’ve got it down, something will happen to rock our self image or confidence. 

If you think similar to me I urge you not to follow celebrities! I have nothing against them and certainly don’t envy them their lifestyles but the media presents us with these perfect people with perfect bodies/careers and make followers look forward to when they can be criticised. How many magazines have you seen with one celebrities perfect beach body diet on the same cover as someone with a circle of shame round a ‘disgusting’ imperfection. Any woman who eats a burger can be expect to be asked if they’re pregnant, any man who hugs a woman will be instantly scrutinised and accused of sleeping with her. It is cut throat and it is horrible. Sadly with the advent of social media, our own lives are now under almost as much scrutiny, “ooh did you see that post Jane put up yesterday, something tells me there’s trouble in paradise.” And in a perverse way, as we’re all trying to find our way in the world and we all want to believe that we’ve made the best choices for us, instead of communities working better together; we look for reasons that we’ve at least made better decision than the person to our left. My husband and I ashamedly sat smugly in a cafe a couple of weeks ago while this little boy was screaming and acting up, we smiled at ourselves as if we were so above that. HAH! Scarlett’s still troubled with her teeth and she’s a BABY, therefore, if she’s in pain, she cries, she doesn’t care about our public appearance. And that is sometimes such a refreshing reminder!! There’s such a pressure to always be on top, to be ‘winning’ as if anyone ever really ‘wins’ at life! As a teenager, I used to compare myself to others and I would think, ‘oh god they’re so good at guitar/they’re so much slimmer than me/they can do their makeup so much better.’ Now I realise that ok they could play the guitar but I could learn if I really wanted/I may always have a little extra round my bum but that’s got nothing to do with health and my husband loves the junk in my trunk(!)/I still can’t do makeup like a celebrity, I’m more likely to be doing stage makeup and the natural look is much easier to maintain! 

My little girl has brown curly hair and big green eyes, and I GUARANTEE at some point she’ll come home and cry because she wants straight blonde hair, or she doesn’t like having an unusual colour eyes and I will sit her down, wipe her tears and tell her that whilst she’s jealous of those things, other people will be envying her. It does not matter what we all have, it’s human nature to seek out those things we don’t have, which is equal parts ridiculous and self damaging. 

Those of us doing slightly left field careers, or making any decisions that are slightly different to the ‘norm’ HAVE to develop a thicker skin because, as if trying to follow the crowd doesn’t invite enough criticism, choosing a different path is bound to attract criticism from, often well meaning people who don’t understand your choices. It makes you stick out, if you’re doing things differently, you almost have to justify why you’re breaking the mould. I have ALWAYS broken the mould, for someone who is a people pleaser, I’ve managed to do almost every big life event in a slightly off the wall different way. A-Levels? I did them through home learning, same with my degrees. Career? (I’m referring to the Forensic Psychology side of my career) I spent a decade learning and forging my way in sometimes experimental trials (not in a take an unknown pill type of way, in a taking risks and travelling with companies who sometimes didn’t make it!) to get where I am today. For years I even just didn’t talk about my qualifications, I somehow thought it was really braggy to ‘big myself up’ by talking about it, I played the idiot so people didn’t feel threatened. Don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t doing work on assassinations or anything actually threatening, I literally just thought people would think I was full of myself if I ‘showed off’ my qualifications and that turned into not even talking about the interesting things I was working on. My husband and I upset people with our original wedding plans so we changed them. And any parent will know that here’s no such thing as an un-judged parenting decision, there will always be SOMEONE who disagrees with you! And we have certainly made some decisions that people have questioned, we stayed travelling out and about in Scarlett’s first year and she spent a lot of nap times in theatres whilst techs were going on around her (as she lay there asleep completely oblivious!). Luckily, we have a beautiful healthy, happy little girl and that’s reason enough for us to carry on confidently in who we’re raising her! But it’s a running joke in my family that if there’s a roundabout route to do something I will find it and do it with my very own ‘weird’ flair! 

The two main things i’ve spoken about are linked, it’s not just (as it may seem!) an antibiotic led ramble (well not totally anyway!). At primary school I was equally determined to do things my own way and also terrified of ever getting into any trouble. It still makes me feel sick to my stomach if I think someone’s mad at me, a fear so bad I would be more likely to walk away than face them if I thought I’d upset them I’d always assume they’d rather I just weren’t in their life anymore! However, there’s something inside me that has always been a bit different, and it’s always led to awesome things. And believe me in my early twenties I tried to live ‘normally’, it doesn’t suit me, at all! The only times I’ve done things traditionally, are the only times I haven’t really succeeded or been happy with what I’m doing. But as you can tell, being worried about upsetting people and taking the roads unwritten is not necessarily the most comfortable combination!!

My main aims are to learn to say no, and to learn that I can’t live up to my own expectations. And the other aim is to learn that first aim significantly enough to be able to pass on a confidence to my daughter who I certainly don’t want to inherit this strange form of self doubt; it’s more important to me that she choose her own path (whatever that may be) and if I don’t understand all her decisions, I want to make sure she can argue with me without worrying she won’t have my approval. 

These past few weeks have been really tough for our little family, we don’t really have space in our life for being ill! Although that’s probably a lesson in itself. So over the next couple of weeks; we are going to get on top of the email backlog, try and get on top of sorting through some of our stuff at home (oh yes side note, we’re looking to buy a house at the moment!), as well as making sure a very busy upcoming period goes well (which will be much easier now there’s two of us in action!). It will take a little time for me to get back to full speed, but honestly, this last month has been a huge and worthwhile learning curve. 

I’ve learnt that my husband is someone I can rely on and lean on when I’m not feeling my best, I don’t have to try and deal with things on my own to try and ease other people’s stress. I’ve learnt that actually when you admit to people that you’re not invincible, a) they’re not surprised and b) they don’t actually expect you to be. I’ve learnt that things won’t fall to the ground if you take a rest and I’ve learnt that although sometimes I feel like it’s mainly admin I usually spend all my time doing, the spaces left without me filling them, were valued and important spaces. However, I have definitely learnt that I’m not a very good patient, I get restless and frustrated and feel useless and I miss being able to play with my little girl! 

I’ve also missed blogging but have found it difficult to get any writing done when I was feeling so ill, so I’m pleased to be back, as it’s a sign for myself that I’m getting back on track. I’m by no means back to my best and it’ll be a real test for me to prove to myself that I won’t start trying running before I’m properly back on my Bambi legs! To be honest if I try to get back to full speed too quickly, I’m going to end up taking one step forward and falling four steps back so to a certain extent I’ll be helped out by my own current limitations. One things for sure, I want my daughter to grow up in a (albeit it slightly weird and different way of life) but confident, happy, healthy and doing a variety of different things before being able to make her own decisions on what path she wishes to travel on. I want her to not look at other people and see what they have with envy, but instead with interest and support. Since my teenage years I’ve learnt that being critical of other people or envious of where they’re headed is pointless. I find life much more rewarding to admire others, only use friends as inspiration and it’s much easier to do that when you’re carving your own way and are happy with your choices. Scarlett will no doubt have many times where she questions whether she’s making the right choices for her, and she’s bound to make mistakes along the way; but I hope that with our support and examples, she will be able to admire blonde hair without hating her brown hair, or smile at others achievements instead of comparing them to her own. Life is not a race, none of us get out alive. Sometimes we will be ahead of the game, sometimes we’ll be behind, but as long as you’re enjoying the journey as much as you can, the rest is one massive learning curve.

I’m hugely grateful for the support I’ve received in the past few weeks, I’d felt like since being pregnant with Scarlett, I’d had quite a few bouts of low health which has bugged me, but thankfully we now have a better idea of the root cause we can hopefully avoid future periods of illness! My apologies for being away for so long, I hope you are all well and here’s to a happy healthy autumn for us all!

Much Love,

Danielle

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