I’m having one of those moments in life where it feels like the planets are aligning and I can breathe again. It’s a rare feeling and until now, whenever this has occurred, it’s always been accompanied by massive moments – a big trip, getting married, promotion.
This time is different. It began two weeks ago with my son’s third birthday and certified itself once and for all as ‘next stage in life’ territory today when I found myself sitting on the pavement chalking a heart with ‘EDI’ in it’s centre, smiling like I was the three year old. It’s true Edinburgh, I heart you.
It’s been three wonderful years, watching our son grow into the little boy that he is today. I have cherished almost every minute (there’s a few that I’d happily forget) and with each shot of excitement about the future, there’s the almost obligatory tinge of maternal sadness as my baby grows up.
But it’s also been deeply…me-changing. Not life changing…my home and husband and family and friends are all the same as they were pre-motherhood. But I, I am different. There’s been many challenges along the way. A situation that arose prior to my son’s birth and continued in to his second year knocked the stuffing out of me, contributed to my postnatal anxiety and left me shattered.
I wasn’t broken but anyone with postnatal anxiety will tell you that when you’re scrabbling about trying to find the pieces of you to fit together again, broken is how you feel.
Don’t get me wrong. The wounds have been closing since 2014. I’ve had some incredible times with my son, my husband and my family/friends, and many laughs along the way. If you don’t know me very, very well I expect you’ve not known anything was out of place. That I was out of my place, and I was desperately clicking my heels to get back to where I once belonged.
During that time I set up my own business and – touch wood, fingers crossed, God willing etc etc – it’s going brilliantly. I supported my parents, who have health problems, in a move North of the border. I’m also the main carer for my son and that has been a blessing. Awesome. So many difficult but worthwhile things to thank my lucky stars for, and to help me to appear to the outside world that I was nailing it.
Healing took its toll (not to mention its time). I’ve worked really hard to not be anxious, not to be scared of not being the old me but also not scared of trying to get some of her back. And of course, just like the old saying about how to catch a butterfly, as soon as you stop trying to catch happiness or confidence, it will come and sit on your shoulder. Try to hunt it down and it will run like hell in the opposite direction (I paraphrase).
I did begin to ignore the pursuit of me. I forgot about that wonderful woman that I used to love and cherish, got busy with my family and my clients, upping my game in the baking stakes for playgroup events…and then one day, I walked back in to our home, unannounced but definitely invited!
It was my son’s third birthday. I noticed how much calmer, how much like me I felt in comparison to his christening when it was all that I could do not to fall to the floor (…always scrabbling…always trying to find those pieces). She was there, that part of me that doesn’t care about the small things. The part of me that laughs because I wanted to, rather than because I felt I should.
Last week was the first week I haven’t cried a tear in over three years. And then this week I did it again. A fortnight of not crying – instead I’ve celebrated my wins and coped with my stresses. (Not to say that crying is wrong or inappropriate – it was completely necessary for a long time, but I’ve done my share).
This morning I woke up, wished my family a happy International Day of Happiness (I love a Day of…) and went to Inverleith Park to embrace the Epic Chalk Day. I could not have done this a year ago. Sit in the middle of the footpath with chalk in hand. Exposed.
Today was different. Paul, The Artist organised the most wonderful event where families rocked up at 12pm and drew on the pavement in chalk. By 1pm the path was bursting with life and colour, rainbows and hearts, portraits and flowers. It was one of the most beautiful bouts of audience participation I’ve ever seen and I was sat in the heart of it, in the heart of Edinburgh smiling like a…like a happy person. The energy on the path was incredible. Paul, The Artist – whoever you are- you’re a one-man happiness factory.
I know someone who I think may be feeling the same way I did, going through the same thing that I did. I hid it from her (and everyone else) when I was going through it, so this is a way for me to start a more serious conversation with her.
And for me? What now. Fixed? Mended? Not completely, not ever. That’s what makes me human. The confident, strong, focused, funny, happy, rooted pieces are all reappearing, and bit by bit I’m completing the puzzle. I think I’m 95% there. I may never reach 100% but one things for sure. Those pieces are no longer on the floor, and neither am I (except for when I am chalking in Inverleith Park).
I have some plans to change my site to reflect some of the many parts of me – there’ll be two professional sections, an Edinburgh family bit, writing on feminism and women in the workplace and a random bit. And I’ll actually start to add content regularly, too. Maybe.