I have always hated New Year’s Resolutions, because I have always failed spectacularly at them.
The trouble, I think, is that too often our resolutions are to change ourselves. A diet. An exercise regime. A new hobby. A new outlook. A new philosophy.
And change is hard.
It is even harder when the foundations upon which you are trying to build that change, are crumbling.
About this time last year, though, I started to think. Not about changing myself – but about trying to strengthen my foundations. Trying to find myself again.
No, no! Not that way. I didn’t feel the need to go on a pilgrimage to Nepal or to explore the wilderness’ of Borneo, to seek refuge with Tibetan monks or Swedish yoginis. Travel has never been my thing. (I get homesick after a week in Devon).
I felt the need to write.
I have always best processed my thoughts and expressed my emotions in text. Words are always where I have found solace, succour, sanctuary. It started with novels as a small child. Each book had a self-illustrated cover and back-blurb about it being one of my ‘best ever books’. Inevitably this escalated into astonishingly bad angsty poetry in my teens, and then became the focus of my studies and even my work.
Not writing had become – quite honestly – physically painful.
I didn’t lose myself because I stopped writing. I stopped writing because I got lost.
Parenthood was part of it. Miscarriage was part of it. Infertility was part of it. The physical trauma of ongoing procedures. The obsession of it, the tunnel vision. The all-encompassment. Sleep deprivation. The impact of all that on my relationship, my job, my friendships – the stabilising factors of my life. All the things I’d carefully constructed around me to allow me to cope, all of the things that had tumbled down around my ears one by one. And I couldn’t write any of it down because I got lost in the middle of it all. And by the time I realised how lost I was – by the time I could look up – I couldn’t find my way back. To the life I knew, to the ME I knew.
So last January I didn’t make any resolutions to change. I simply make a decision to try and be me – and do the things that make me feel like the best version of me. That would help me to think clearly again, explore hurts, expound on the ridiculous, and express – something. Anything. Everything. Whatever was blocking me from me.
And that’s where Mumonthenetheredge was born.
I worried – and still worry – that some people might think I’m trying to be the next Unmumsy Mum, Peter and Jane or Hurrah for Gin – or any one of the marvellous parent bloggers I personally follow and love, and who have blogging awards or book deals or millions of followers. I honestly don’t think I’m any of them. The point is – and has always been – to be me, to find me – not someone else. I don’t need to be the biggest, brightest or best fish in the pond. I just needed to to swim again. I just needed to write it all down.
What’s more, if I was suddenly struck with notoriety and ostentatious success I would be both alarmed and terrified, and either run away or sabotage it, as that’s basically what I do whenever I’ve sniffed any kind of personal triumph or success, because yes, for unknown reasons I am apparently that fucked up. (I really wish I could blame this on some set of interesting personal trauma, but I can’t. I’m just a drama queen knobhead with astonishingly low self esteem, OCD, and a fulfilment phobia.)
Anyway, instead of just talking about it, or thinking about it, or persuading myself out of it, or second guessing it, or worrying what other people might think of it, I actually did it. I started a blog.
My first posts got about 14 likes. But gradually, people started responding. Not in vast droves, but in dribs and drabs. And whether placing value in the validation of strangers is sad or desperate or not, each one FELT like a connection. And suddenly I wasn’t lost. Suddenly I found something.
And I think – I think it was me.
Not all of it has been great. I’ve struggled with not feeling good enough. The posts that bombed. The friends I told about it who haven’t liked it, or haven’t found anything to connect with (I quote, and it still hurts). The people who have taken the piss when I’ve been vulnerable, or taken me seriously when I’ve been taking the piss. (Shout out to the guy who thought I seriously wanted to garotte farmers over the October clock change).
But actually, all of that, all of that I’ve needed, in a way. Because actually it’s good for me. I need to question myself. I need to check when I’m being an eejit. I need people to tell me to lighten up, or to knuckle down. I need to grow a thicker skin. To stop letting doubt freeze me. To stop being afraid.
In many ways I’ve gotten off lightly – I’m sure if I carry on blogging the negative bits will get worse. But so far, so far the good bits have very much outweighed the bad.
Because it turns out the thing I needed most of all, was simply to know that I wasn’t lost alone.
Oh I’ve got people I can call on, but the truth is I don’t, not when I most need to. And even when I do I can’t really articulate what I want to say, or why I want to say it. It’s like I need to write it down to think it through. To process it. To understand my own narrative.
And like any story, it has two halves – teller and listener. And it is the act of listening that really brings life to any story – that really completes any narrative.
Writing wasn’t enough – I needed to be heard, too.
So I’d like to say thank you, to everyone who’s listened. Anyone who’s read something I’ve written, and liked it, or commented. I really, really appreciate it – more than you can know.
I would like to say a very special thank you to the people who’ve got in touch in private – especially after my Rainbow Woodlice post. I’ve talked to some wonderful women, also struggling, also lost, also trying to get back to themselves. One new stranger-pal in particular talked about needing to write things down to get them out – something I totally, totally get. So I told her how ridiculously easy it is to make a start – so easy even I could do it – and her first blog appeared on Selfish Mother the very next day. It’s a hell of a read. And for me that’s been a rainbow woodlouse in and of itself.
In fact, it’s been one of many.
Mumonthenetheredge has helped me connect with all sorts of people, in all sorts of ways. It’s helped me reconnect, for instance, with some old friends – people I’d lost a bit when I lost me.
Then there’s the wonderful group of mummy mates I talk to about writing, including a writer who works on a grander scale than I, and who is infinitely better than she thinks she is. There’s the brilliant Kate over at Little Sheffield (a fantastic resource for Sheff parents – go check it out) and the other pals who support the blog willy nilly, good or bad, and boost my Facebook ratings whether they’ve read the bloody thing or not, because they know the algorithms kill me if it doesn’t get out and about fast enough.
It’s also helped me find some other creative Sheffield types, of which there are quite a few. There’s the poetry guys – check out Lyrical Events and Verse Matters, and then there’s the fabulous Sophie over at Imogen’s Imagination (seriously stylish retro hats and hair stuff) and lovely Lydia at Studio Binky (cute designs, cards and prints) and all the other Sheffield Etsy folk. These are all people who also need to create to be themselves, and I’ve found a foot-hole in a community I never knew existed, and I never knew I needed.
So if you are thinking about making a resolution this year, I’d implore you to make it about you. Not someone you want to be, one day. You. Now. And whatever makes you the most you. The best of you. The real, authentic, bone-deep you.
Whatever makes you feel the most like yourself, do more of it. And do it for you. Not your kids, your employer, your partner. Just you. If you can’t remember you, find the people that do and spend time with them to remind you. Avoid those that drain you, or bring out the worst in you. Spend time doing the things that are special to you. It might be something creative. It might be learning, or sport, or fashion, or music, or walking – or just laughing – or ANYTHING. Find it, and do it.
Don’t reinvent a new you for the new year – recognise and reinvigorate instead. Regenerate YOU.
Go get ’em tigers. Or woodlice. Or fish – big or little. It really, really doesn’t matter. Don’t compare yourself. Don’t compete. You don’t need to be the best. Just listen to yourself. Just stop for a moment, and think about you for a change. Nobody else.
Because come February you really can’t fail at being you – the true you. You are uniquely qualified. And you can rock the shit out of it.
And maybe you can join me in stepping away from the (Nether) edge, wherever or whatever yours may be.
Cheers all. Happy new year.