Updated: Jan 24, 2021
As I raised my glass to 2020 last year, like many, I had no idea what lay ahead. I didn’t know the whole world was about to plunge headfirst into a pandemic. That we would lockdown. That I would watch video footage of a police officer murdering a person. That I’d learn more about equality, or the lack thereof. About the ugly deep-seated beliefs of far more people than I’d thought possible. Nor the beautiful ideals held by others and the passion and resilience which enabled them to express these. I had no idea the terror I’d feel as I awaited the US election results.
I had no idea we’d witness our carbon footprint decrease by so much and yet willingly return to ‘normal life’ for a couple of months of respite, not seeming to have changed the way we treat the earth at all. There was so much I did not foresee. Yet, I also had no idea what was behind me either.
2019 was a fog and I’d spent so much of it trying to keep up, trying to glue all sorts of fragments of my life and other’s lives together, that there was no time to digest any of it. Here’s where I was in 2019.
In 2019 life looked great. I lived in the biggest most modern house I’d ever lived in. I’d given up my small business and was free to choose what I wanted to do with my life as I was generously supported by the person who would become my fiance halfway through the year. My days were free to attend meditation classes, yoga, have coffee with friends and regularly eat expensive meals out at fancy restaurants. I was also surrounded by family and friends.
Despite all of this, there were many occasions when I would slip out of busy rooms and find a bathroom in which to cry. I found myself in perpetual need of validation. I started to feel myself disappear. Yet, all the while I’d tell myself and everybody else that I was the happiest I’d ever been. Because I thought I should be. How, when I was surrounded by people, too many people often it seemed to me, could I possibly be lonely? But I was. I’d lost myself and in doing so I couldn’t make this seemingly perfect life work for me. Couldn't fill all the roles I was required to fill. No matter how hard I tried. And tried I did. Until it near made me ill. Fast forward to January 2020 and the world that I’d worked so hard to build got dismantled. There wasn’t going to be a wedding. My relationship, as part of a mutual decision, was over. Half of the connections I’d made in the past two years scattered into the breeze, as did my security. No business. No income. No house. Shit! Yeah - Shihhhiiiiiitttttttt!
I’ll be honest I spent the first two months of 2020 in crying fits that I thought would never end and having panic attacks which left me unrecognisable to myself and those still close to me.
As the world plunged into lockdown I locked horns with my estate agent as I was forced to stay another month in a property I couldn’t afford. I home-schooled surrounded by both boxes of my possessions and those of my ex-partners that I’d had to pack up due to him being unable to enter the house after he’d left, because of the pandemic.
The former struggles I’d had being a single mum with a small business were nothing compared to the new situation I’d found myself in. The single mum and small business-owner life I’d given up for a chance of a blended family, love and security had left me instead, in a far worse position than I could ever have imagined. How the hell did it happen? I wondered. Surely everything I’d risked was supposed to pay off? It always does in films. It does in books and in the life lessons that we teach our children. What the actual fuck?
And the real kicker was it wasn’t anyone’s fault. I could pick at it for weeks and assign tiny portions of blame to all those involved but at the end of the day it was just a gamble which didn’t pay off and no one wanted to see it end the way it did. Which, in truth, was fundamentally worse for me even though I partook equally in the decision to let the pieces all fall. By mid-April, my daughter and I were in a new home. Still in the midst of a national lockdown. I set to making our small house a home and ensuring my daughter was doing ok in all this upheaval. Once I had moved the tears and the panic seemed to subside. It was done. It was time now to get on with surviving. This I’d begun back in January when, despite all that was going on and how torn I’d felt, I’d written a business plan, launched a website and gone back to freelancing as a Marketing Consultant. Initially, I took any work offered and kept my rates were low because my self-esteem still lay in a puddle on the floor unsure if I was capable of anything aside from totally fucking up my life. As I worked I began to believe in myself again.
Yet, something else happened in Spring 2020. Like many others, I began to walk in nature. It had helped somewhat that I’d moved to a place where the South Downs were on my doorstep. I took my cloudy head up into the hills a few times a week and I walked and I looked out and I realised that the world was far too big for my little problems to matter. That which weighed in my head like iron slabs on a scale seemed to break up into pieces tiny enough to be carried off in the spring air. My body, so weary and tired, found my mind and they each agreed to be kinder to one another.
After each walk, I’d return home and smile because I might not live in the largest or grandest place but it felt like mine. Mine and my daughters. And she was happy too. I think she felt her mummy come back to her. She told me so. She didn’t miss our period of trying out a new kind of life at all. She didn’t mind it either, but she had missed me.
After the summer I became pickier about who I worked with. I wanted to help small businesses. To work with people who were conscious of environmental impact. Whose values aligned more with mine. It was probably going to wreck my business, I thought. Because I was not in the financial position to be turning away work. Yet, something inside me, something which had grown louder in the silence of the world, told me to be brave. So I decided I would align myself with, and work only with, businesses and people I really believed in. I rewrote my website content. I was selective in who I followed and supported on social media and I even turned away work when I felt like it might not have a positive impact on my life or my values.
Imagine that. Somebody who was having panic attacks about being able to support herself and her child just a few months before, now turning clients away. It sounds crazy! I know. But it worked. What I lost was minuscule and what I gained was amazing. In the later part of 2020, I worked with so many inspiring people building businesses and careers focused on making the world a better place, and I’ve loved every minute of it. Aside from which, I’ve also produced the work I’m genuinely proud of. I’m about to enter 2021, by no means rich, but self-sufficient once again. No small thing, given the trials of the year. And I’m not here to shout about my achievements because many this year have lost livelihoods, struggled and deserve a round of applause for just keeping their head above water. Why I feel it is important to share my story now, is that I believe it shows you can go from feeling totally hopeless to feeling freer and more powerful than ever before. In just a few months. This isn't a sucess sroty becasue that implies I fought to stay above the water. The truth is, t’s not as easy as it can seem to go under at times of struggle. Especially not once you’re a parent. Yet there’s a period of time, shortly after things fall apart when we all deserve to put our head underwater and feel the intensity of it all. It’s this moment where we really face our terror and it is that which enables us to kick up to the surface again. In the later part of 2020, I have regularly discovered a smile upon my face for no apparent reason. I have breathed deep and I have sat in moments and absorbed them knowing they were unremarkable and yet they were to be treasured. For the first time I seem to be living in a feeling that I haven't felt since I was a little girl - joy. Either I’ve unlocked some kind of secret or I’ve lost the plot completely. In the past few months though, I feel I’ve found some answers.
I know now that many of the decisions I made in the last few years, those which led to becoming engaged, moving and giving up my business, were made out of fear. Fear of being alone, because the world tells us we all need a partner to be happy. Fear of not being a real family because there were just two of us. Fear because a single-parent family sometimes seems so fragile. Fear of the risk I was taking being self-employed.In the later part of 2020, I have regularly discovered a smile upon my face for no apparent reason. I have breathed deep and I have sat in moments and absorbed them knowing they were unremarkable and yet they were to be treasured. For the first time, I seem to be living in a feeling that I haven't felt since I was a little girl - joy. Either I’ve unlocked some kind of secret or I’ve lost the plot completely. In the past few months though, I feel I’ve found some answers.
Yet, all the time I was so sure I was being driven by desire. Truthfully, I was being guided by should, which is what made it so easy for me to lie to myself all that time. To tell myself that I was making the right decisions for my happiness. Ironically, it was the tiny voice inside which kept whispering, ‘this isn’t right for you’, that I’d mistaken for fear. The voice I’d disregarded for so long. Whatever you might call that smaller voice - the child inside, your intuition, your instinct or even God, our busy bustling world is accomplished at drowning it out.
It hasn’t been easy to tune into and trust this new voice, but every time I have it’s steered me right. Dare I say it, I’ve been happier and more fulfilled than ever.
As for fear, it’s not gone. It cannot be drowned out in one massive tidal wave. It’s taking time and space and quiet for the sea to die down and for the shore to being to feel settled. Every now and again the waves wash over me once more, but I can hear my other voice now. And I recognise it. It was around when I was a child. It told me to dance down the hallway because that was way more fun than walking. It told me that I was loved. It told me to dream big.
Over time, many of us learn to distrust this voice. Over time it is replaced with louder, more aggressive voices. Those which tell us to work harder so we can afford the holiday we need to recharge, after all that work. The voice which says it is better to have lots of people in our lives even if they take more from us than they give. The voices which tell us if we are unhappy it’s because we don’t have as much stuff as our friends. Or our house is too small or we are still carrying that extra half a stone.
This is the voice that keeps us sheep. Keeps us afraid enough and satisfied enough to keep us from realising that somewhere, there’s a wolf inside of us. An animal with both instinct and endurance.
The wolf is not what the world wants you to be. But if you find yourself, as I did, feeling things aren’t right, that you might be something other than the world is telling you to be, then you may need to embrace the wildness in you.
I urge you all to live as much in peace as is possible in 2021. But if you feel you need to fight, then fight for that voice within to come to the surface and be ready to listen. Fear may only survive so long as it is nurtured. So starve the fuck out of it and connect again with the part of you that is truly there to serve you. Find the wolf within.
Happy New Year Sweet Potato Soup Readers!