I know you will all join me in saying “Where on earth did 2017 go?” I think unfortunately, in hindsight, I wished the year away.
I knew in January that we wanted to move. The organisation and planning required for a house move in those first six months of the year was a forced distraction from how unsettled I felt in myself and of course, as soon as you have a buyer for your house, it’s all you can do to wish away those agonising months as you wait for solicitors to do whatever the hell it is they do.
In amongst the highs of Chelsea Flower Show this year, I lost my beloved 100 year old Grandma. I remember my husband calling me at 9pm as I sat on the bed of my hotel room eating the worst fish and chips I had walked a mile around near my London Premier Inn to find. I quietly sobbed. I threw my chips away, went to sleep and went back to the flower show the next day, desperate to just have a good cry and grieve for the loss of a charismatic, stubborn woman full of stories and with a social calendar far better than anyone I know.
Can you believe my Grandma’s was the first funeral I’ve been to? At 29 I recognise how sheltered I am not to have experienced much loss.
And within a few months, I lost my Godfather who had succumbed quickly to a particularly aggressive form of dementia. How sad it is for a person not to know themselves and for their loved ones to bear witness to it.
I took two memorable holidays. Iceland in March was magical and unlike anywhere I’ve ever seen. Majorca was a much needed break from a busy events season but both holidays were tinged with an unknown feeling of discontent.
I have experienced some of the most unhappy times this year and completely lost my confidence in moments when I really needed it. But it’s only when we are faced with the fear of change, or, the opportunity for change that we find strength we didn’t know we had. Simply because we have to. We have to carry on, in really utterly shit, hard times because, we have to have that faith that if we carry on, it will get better.
That change came in the summer when two weeks after our house move, we separated. Time does heal and it’s never quite as bad as we imagine. Those fears that we have do dissipate and are replaced with a more realistic future that we have more control over. It just takes a lot of strength not to get overwhelmed. If I stopped now and thought about everything I must do and prepare for in the coming two months, I would cry. But taking it day by day, methodically has helped me no end.
I am the Queen of organisation so I’m using it to my advantage in the weeks ahead when some of the biggest changes are coming.
Such loss and grief does not, I have learned, go unnoticed by our bodies. In November, having been surprised I hadn’t been hit by so much as a cold during those first few months, my body stopped me in my tracks. I developed what I thought were cold/flu like symptoms which a few days later I thought was a sinus infection. Naively, at the doctor’s I told him that’s what I thought it was so I think he didn’t thoroughly examine me to know it was something else entirely. My puffed up sinus face soon developed into the worst tonsillitis I have ever had. But each day I thought I would probably turn a corner and that bed rest, antibiotics and fluids would sort me out. I stopped sleeping, I didn’t get out of bed and eventually in the early hours of Sunday morning, a week after first getting ill, I realised that something was really terribly wrong. No longer able to swallow, talk or get liquids down me, I sent an SOS to my mum who took me into hospital. My tonsillitis had turned to sepsis and my body just couldn’t fight it anymore. Essentially it was shutting down. After a few attempts at getting a line into me, the IV antibiotics and fluids began to work almost immediately and I was transferred to a hospital with an ENT department. The doctor said I had arrived at the right time to prevent any chances of the sepsis spreading. Ironically I had been reading a leaflet in the doctor’s surgery about signs of sepsis just a few days prior. After a day in hospital and the strongest dose of antibiotics to continue with at home, I was on the road to recovery. My blood test results showed glandular fever which is probably why I was so susceptible to the severity of the tonsillitis.
I’ve found my road to recovery frustrating at times. Glandular fever requires a lot of rest, even when you feel ok. Netflix kept me sane as I watched it on my iPad in bed for a whole week after. I didn’t even have the energy to watch TV in the lounge. I felt exhausted when I first went back to work (part time for a few weeks) and was in bed by 8pm. But how wonderful my friends and family were, bringing me wholesome food I could just cook easily, cleaning my house, bringing supplies and get well cards, holding me when I just needed to have a cry because I felt so low. It lifted my spirits to know I wasn’t actually alone. In that moment on that Sunday morning when I woke up and realised how unwell I was, I’d never felt quite so alone or quite so scared. I’ve realised however that it is ok to ask for help. When people offer their help they do actually mean it. It’s really ok to lean on people when you’re stumbling or in my case, collapsing on the floor of the A&E department.
And so here we are on the verge of a new year. I feel back to health and am finally allowed to exercise again. This time I have now between Christmas and going back to work and beyond is about renewing strength; emotionally and physically, of reminding myself that it’s ok to be sad at times but also, despite a really shit year, I feel quite happy.
And what I do want to acknowledge is that I know there are so many others quietly struggling with their own pain and loss and uncertainty. I think I’ve said before how taken aback I have been at times at what friends and strangers have shared with me. Some pain we know about and can see, and so much of it we choose not to share for fear of burdening or oversharing. More so than ever, kindness amongst us all is so very important.
I really have got some wonderful friends who have each uniquely been there for me, without fail. I’m discovering me and I quite like her. So many people have commented how happy and at ease I am these days. I’ve made new friends from Instagram. True, real friends who are in my life for the better. And I’ve found new love. Unexpected, new and exciting.
That’s not to say I haven’t faltered and I don’t ever want to have to go through this pain and uncertainty again but I am going into 2018 with hopes and dreams and a vision for what I want and need. Like for so many of us, this time of year is a chance to nurture new opportunities and dreams and watch them flourish and develop throughout the year.
I can bet you they won’t all go to plan and some things will come our way we never could have imagined but I can tell you I think it will all be ok. We will be ok. You might even discover something even more wonderful along the way.