I would like to think otherwise, but the truth is that I am a creature of habit. I like my little routines, the tick tick of everyday life: morning coffee, watering my garden, reading before bedtime, morning books with my daughter and husband at the weekend (we used to read the papers in bed, now Meg and Mog, Maisy and Alfie are our bedtime companions), croissants for breakfast on Saturday at my parents’ house. In truth, I feel discombobulated without these things. So change. Change I hesitate to embrace.
However, I was thinking today that some of the best things have come from enforced change – when I have been forced to take leaps into the unknown. Witness.
Four years ago I was properly poorly. As in spells in hospital and a big op ill. Nothing life-threatening or dramatic, but ill enough to knock me off my feet for weeks. It coincided with my grandmother’s last illness. It made me do two things: stop and reassess. (Enforced rest does this to you.) I had been running around full tilt for years, flinging myself into my career, social life and relationships – having a lovely time and a lot of fun, mind you, but not – I realised – moving forward with the really important things.
So I stopped running. I thought about what I really wanted. What was really important: my husband; my family; having a family of my own, my health. (Side note: who cared how thin I was or that my thighs will never look like a supermodel’s? As long as my body is healthy, that works for me.)
I had a baby I adored. A job I loved and was keen to go back to. And then things changed. The job wasn’t the same. It was great, it just wasn’t great for me, for where I wanted to go, for the life I now had. I agonised over it. I wept. I felt sick. And then, mid-procrastination/agony, I met a delightful friend of Alex’s who said, in conversation, something which stuck: never make a decision or – more pertinently don’t make a decision – based on fear. I realised it was the fear of change, of the unknown, which was stopping me. I resigned the next day. Two weeks’ later, I was offered a maternity cover at Glamour. Hurrah.
Obvious, I know. But I mean it in a sense beyond the expected. Of course it changed everything. Of course having a daughter and being a parent has been a revelation in myriad ways. But it was the other things – the deepening of my relationship with my parents, the all-round amazingness of my husband as a father which has in turn deepened our relationship (he will hate this – I can see him shuddering at the gush now), the way it puts pretty much everything else into perspective, the way that your children expose you, your rawest self – sometimes the worst of it (I have sought to govern my quick temper, my impatience), often the best.
In one of my favourite childhood books, Anne of the Island (the third in the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery), Anne only realises that she loves Gilbert Blythe (um, the rest of us knew from BOOK ONE, Anne; Gilbert is HOT) when she thinks he is dying. The line is, “There is a book of Revelation in everyone’s life…Anne read hers that night”. Learning to be a mother has been my book of Revelation. Yep, it can be hard and stressful – at times being a parent is the toughest thing I’ve ever done – but it’s also the best adventure ever.
I came across this on Peonies & Polaroids’ blog aeons ago. (I love her. She and her husband photographed my wedding. I bumped into her in Holland Park, whilst she was pursuing her new venture, Bird & Bear and now I really want A Proper Catch-Up with her and her little girls. They can keep mine in line.) It says everything far better than I ever could.
From ‘Poem for a Daughter’ by Anne Stevenson
Poems 1955 – 2005
©2005 Bloodaxe Books
Now, faced with change, I may not run to take the leap into the unknown – but I’ll be ready to jump.
Images via Conflicting Heart, Pinterest