The start of a New Year feels like a blank canvas. Even though it’s just another day, it feels like everything changes. The end of one year and the start of another. The chance to draw a line under things that didn’t go quite so well last year and move on.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflection at the start of this year. Last year was a mixture of heartbreaking lows and incredible highs. It was one of the toughest years I’ve experienced, and also a life changing one. The start of 2018 was very hard. Not only did we have the coldest winter I can remember in a long time, it was filled with a lot of worry and heartache. My mother-in-law was rushed into hospital on Christmas Day 2017 and there were times when I didn’t think she was going to pull through. Thankfully she did.
Unfortunately, there was worse to come. Just when it felt like we could breath again, our lives were sent into turmoil. My mother-in-law’s partner of almost 20 years was diagnosed with terminal cancer. We were all beyond devastated. It turns out his cancer should have been spotted 2 years earlier, but due to an oversight, it wasn’t. We’ll never know whether that oversight shortened his life.
In amongst all of that, we found out birth mum was pregnant again. So while part of our family were falling apart with an all consuming grief of the inevitable loss of a beloved man, we had to make the hardest decision of our lives. Did we want to be considered as carers for the baby? There were some very dark days during that time.
We decided we did want to be considered and were excited about adding to our family. Our assessment though was far from straight forward. It added yet more stress to our lives and there were more than a few moments when I didn’t think we were going to get through it. But we did and baby sister has now been home with us for just over 3 months. I can’t imagine our lives without her and it terrifies me that it might not have happened.
On top of all of that, my sister and I moved our elderly aunt 200 miles up the country to live closer to us. Moving is a stressful enough experience when its happening to you. Trying to do it from 200 miles away adds a whole new dimension to the stress. My aunty has vascular dementia which meant we had to do everything. I look back at that time now and I really don’t know how we managed to pull it off.
I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last 12 months. So, rather than making resolutions that I won’t stick to, I want to celebrate what I’ve achieved and build on it. I’ve learned:
- I’m a lot stronger than I ever thought, both mentally and physically. 2018 tested my mental health to the absolute limit. But I made it through to the other side. Not keeping everything to myself and talking about it has helped massively. In the past I would have just soldiered on without talking but I knew I wouldn’t get through if I did that.
I have days when I feel about 100 years old and my whole body hurts. It’s still strong enough though to carry my very tall 5 year old when she needs me to. It’s strong enough to let me walk for what feels like hours, pushing a screaming baby in her pram who’s fighting going to sleep. When she does go off and wakes up happy and content, the aches and pains melt away (sort of!). My body has also been strong enough to fight off most of the nasty germs my daughter brought home from school last term. Fingers crossed that continues.
- The world doesn’t end if I say no to something or someone. I hate letting people down and always try and go the extra mile. That often means I end up running round like a headless chicken. I’ve said no in the last few months, or not done what I would normally have done, and it actually felt really good. Those that really matter understand if you can’t go to something because of illness / kids things / life. Those that don’t understand that aren’t worth your time. It’s taken me a long time to work that one out.
- There is space in my heart for 2 children. I really worried about how I’d feel about baby sister. We were very happy as a family of 3 and I worried bringing another child into the mix would ruin what we had. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to love baby sister so I was very surprised when she crept into my heart the first time we met her. There was more than enough room for her there, alongside her big sister.
- I LOVE the Greatest Showman. I’m not a musical kind of person. At. All. The idea of people bursting into song without warning is my idea of hell. A trip to Ellen’s Stardust Diner in New York left me a nervous wreck in case someone tried to get me to sing (thanks Di!). The Greatest Showman is different. It’s taken me a long time to warm to it, but little Miss singing the songs constantly has won me over. The words in “This is Me” should become part of the national curriculum. We live in a world where everyone is trying to be like someone else instead of celebrating who they are.
This is me and this year I want to celebrate that instead of trying to change into something or a size I’m not.