“take the road less travelled and simply open your eyes” – Laurence Shelley
The end of a year makes most of us consider all sorts of things: what we have achieved in the past year; what we have learnt; how next year will be different; how this year compares with those that have gone before. As we approach 2017 I am looking in to setting up my own business, continue to try to promote my singing and writing, and am also trying to get extra work. More importantly I am in a different place emotionally (calmer, happier and more accepting) to where I was this time last year or even a few months ago. I have become aware that I just can’t do everything: and blogging is one thing which may need to take a back seat. I don’t feel at the moment as if I can add anything useful or enlightening and I am conscious that I have started repeating myself. It feels as if this blog has now come to a natural end (unlike in Febuary, when I thought of finishing but actually was only at the beginning of an emotional journey).
I started blogging in April 2010 with UnemployedinCumbria on Blogspot. It was intended to be a blog about getting a new job in a rural county which has a small, low-density, population and not much of a commercial property market (I’m a Chartered Surveyor by profession) – though I also wanted to change career. I had more of a career change than I expected as I found to my surprise that I was pregnant with a third child – at age 48. The blog ended up being about being pregnant in my late 40s, having a baby at age 49, and having no job and therefore a much-reduced household income. We had also moved into a house which needed a bit of TLC so there are bits about my coming to terms with sorting out the garden as well – the children still remember my poisoning the fish in an attempt to rid the pond of algae…!
Once child no. 3 was lustily here I began to think about doing triathlon again, and started a blog which was meant to be more or less a training diary – Supervet-Sarah. As this second blog developed I stopped the other, but the aim of once again competing regularly in triathlon and at ‘supervet’ (50+) age still hasn’t been achieved. However it did track my training for Kielder Marathon at age 51 including various micro-adventurous training runs I did with Kerry, who also did Kielder, and during that time I did Kendal sprint triathlon – though very badly (I was slow on the swim and fell off my bike: First Triathlon in How Long? ). That blog ends rather abruptly in August 2014, shortly before David left. The final words of the final post are “I’m very proud of my little girl” – something I need reminding of from time to time as she’s also very feisty and wilful so I frequently get cross with her, sometimes quite unfairly.
In early 2015 I started this blog. There’s a hiatus between David leaving at the end of August 2014 and the start – a time when I adjusted to being ‘young (at heart) free and single’ again and to being without the children every other weekend. By the end of the year I had come to the conclusion that 2014 was the year of broken things – my marriage, my washing machine and my dishwasher but on a less frivolous note sad ‘broken’ things happened to a lot of people. They always do but I guess it’s how the year has been for you overall that remains in your memory.
By contrast 2015 was then a year of freedom, joy and passion. I relished my new-found freedom and realised who I truly was. By the middle of the year I was on a high – I got a new job; fell deeply and whole-heartedly in love with a man who had fallen passionately in love with me; and my singing seemed to be flying too: I had more confidence and performed solo more than I had previously, including arranging concerts for my group Eight + 1. I flew high – but like Icarus I perhaps flew too high – too close to the sun – and like Icarus I crashed.
Unlike Icarus I had plenty of people to catch me before I hit the ground, and to support me, but it led to a challenging time and made 2016 a challenging year. It has also been a year of farewells – obviously the usual round of celebrities have died, including David Bowie and Alan Rickman – but also people who were briefly part of my everyday life have moved – my lovely neighbours Margaret & David, who moved to Cornwall; and Capernaum restaurant, which was one of my favourite restaurants ever – the children still judge food by ‘the Capernaum scale’ with few restaurants beating it. It was also farewell to my friend Clare’s husband, Bob. He had suffered from severe COPD for several years but hung on strongly for so long. I am incredibly glad that Deborah and I went to sing Songs for Bob at their house in April, accompanied by Martin Johnson; I am sad that I missed the funeral; and I shall always appreciate the fact that he called me ‘Pocket Venus’. Clare and her family at times have had more faith in me than I have had in myself.
At the same time however there were plenty of hellos and I got to do some travelling in a minor way, which is something I love and hadn’t done for ages. I was pretty reclusive for the first part of the year, barely even going into the town centre where I live in case I bumped into anyone I knew and most of the time feeling desperate to run away abroad and ‘hide’. Six months ago (June), just as I was finally coming out of my depression, I wrote “I want to learn Italian; do lots of long bike rides and write them up; travel; sing; write… and of course there has to be time for my surveying work, which is what, after all, pays the bills. And I want to fit in some time for trail running out on those lovely hills or along by the sea; for yoga; and for meditation.” I have in fact managed, to a greater or lesser extent, to do all those things.
As I look forward to 2017 I hope to travel more (I still have a yen to go abroad to do some voluntary work, but it’s difficult with children and needing to earn money to pay for things for them); to write (I need to finish my long bike ride and write it up); to sing (there are four gigs coming up for Bellissima and we now have our own Facebook page as well); to run and cycle; and to earn enough money, ideally doing things I love (fingers crossed for the job I have applied for, but for keeping doing surveying as well, as I have a great boss and I don’t want to let him down) and to perhaps start my own business. And, of course, to spend time with my kids – if I can earn enough then I want to be able to take the whole of August off to spend it with them – my dream is to tour Northumbria in a camper van. But who knows what the new year will hold – I learnt long ago that you can’t plan your life. Things you want do happen, but rarely in the way you expect.
I learnt a lot of lessons in 2016. One was about being true to myself, which I already knew I should do but which, I learnt, means that sometimes I need to swim against the pack and follow my instincts and my heart despite what anybody else says (I’ve done so in the past and proved people wrong… and if you don’t try then you never know, do you?). Another lesson, again which I already knew but which was reiterated, was that there are different outlooks on life and none is right or wrong. David and I separated; we are happier separated but we still get on. For us – and for our children – that works, but it’s not the solution for everybody and not everybody can manage to be as amicable as we (mostly) are (we had an argument today – he came round to make peace, we had a chat and he gave me a brief hug. We no longer love each other but we can at least get on and not use the children as emotional blackmail against each other – which I hope is best for the children too. I guess he’s sort of a friend – which is what he was before we got together so there’s a sense of resolution in still being at least on friendly terms).
Finally, I learnt that I can’t do everything. Emotionally, physically, mentally or even in terms of time. I have had to accept that Child Tax Credits may need to bolster my income if I want to spend enough time with my children as well as, importantly, allowing the creative side of me some outlet; I also have to accept that there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do. I tried to do it all: to be a mother (teacher, taxi service, cook, housekeeper, gardener…), a writer, a singer, a lover, to keep fit, to work full-time and to commute, and it didn’t work. 2016 as much as anything has been about getting some balance back. I’ve even said ‘no’ to some things – I didn’t sing with choir this term and I’m not going to be touring with them in May (I can’t afford to but more importantly I don’t want to go abroad without the children). I have learnt over the past few years though that allowing the creative side of me some outlet is hugely important: it’s a fundamental part of who I am. It’s not about being self-gratifying however but about how you can make it fit into a life where you have to provide for your children and do the washing up as well.
This blog has been great for getting my head straight and I hope I will look back at my posts and still enjoy reading them. People have criticised me, mostly when they have felt criticised by me, but writing has always been a type of therapy for me. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so public (though the maximum number of readers I have had for any post has been 210, which really isn’t that many) but if just one person has felt better because of a post I have written – if just one person has thought ‘yes, that’s how I feel too’ – then this blog has not been in vain.
From time to time there may perhaps be another, but for now this, my 99th post in this blog, is a farewell – with best wishes for the New Year to you all.