Doing Ok

So, my posts lately, as well as being ever so slightly erratic, have not been particularly cheerful, have they? Apart from the Saved by Cake one. Cake is always cheerful, unless something goes horribly wrong. Well, I thought I might pop in and say, I’m doing ok.

What inspired this? I was hanging washing on the line, the children were playing with abandon and joy in the garden, the sun was shining and warm and I had one of those really special moments where you stop and realise “right now, I’m happy’. Actually happy, properly, daft-smile-on-your-face-for-no-reason happy.

A few weeks ago, no matter what anyone said, I couldn’t have counted my blessings if they jumped up and hit me in the face with a wet herring. I could reel of a list of things that were going well but that just didn’t translate in my brain into ‘These are things about my life that tell me life is good’. Now I can see them for the gifts that they are: my kids are happy and healthy (now that Daniel has got over the horrible tonsillitis that spoiled his last fortnight of term) and sun-kissed and soaking up fresh air and sunshine (yes, even in the north-east of England! Well, it’s all relative) and clever and inquisitive and loving and, most important, they know they are loved. My husband is tired but seeing real success and fulfilment through his business. I’m throwing myself into cooking and learning to enjoy being a housewife for the first time since taking on this, frankly, terrifying and exhausting role. And I am letting my brain tick over; I’m not saying I’m writing again but there are rusty old cogs beginning to turn again. Today’s blog post is tangible proof of that (can a blog post be tangible? The metaphysics of the internet!). I’m getting closer to my family and closer to my real self. Once I find my real self again, the Real Becca (scary, eh?) I can begin to reconnect with the world again; I’m starting, in my own little way.

One of the tv shows the Best Beloved and I enjoy together is Outnumbered, the semi-improvised sitcome about the Brockman family.. It’s mad, chaotic and messy, and funny and true. One of the ongoing character traits of Sue, the mum, is her we-all-so-do-that tendency to compare herself to all the other mums. But you know, I think the Brockmans have things pretty well-cracked. Sue has a job and her house is untidy but not dirty, more a ‘lived-in’ look, she has a stable marriage and they have a secure income and a gorgeous house. More importantly, their kids are hard work, yes, but they’re intelligent, sociable, conversational, curious and they have a strong bond to each other despite the frequent spats. I think Sue’s doing ok.

I think I am too.

Finding Me, Now

So, our daughter has been with us for over seven weeks now, and seems to have fitted into our family so well it is difficult to remember life BE (Before Emily). Our son is nearly three and is becoming a happier, cleverer, more confident little boy day by day. He’s also more challenging day by day, but that’s part of him and we love him too much to quibble at the odd quarrel. My husband is settled into a new job that finally seems to stretch him in all the right ways, matching his talents to challenges, and he’s thriving on it. We’ve had some tough times over the last few months, but things are looking up and we look set to be a happy, secure little family.

Except I’m not, quite. I can’t put my finger on anything specific, but it’s like I haven’t quite found my groove. In lots of ways I’m happier than I was, say, six months ago. I was pregnant, uncomfortable, and suffering from hormones (although probably not as much as my husband was suffering from them), and felt very conscious of all my shortcomings as a wife and mother. Lately I’ve started to get over lots of these. I get the odd moment when I feel like I’m losing the plot, and get a bit freaked out by the state our home gets into. But overall, I’m getting a grip. I’ve started to cook properly much more often, I’m keeping more or less on top of the mess and laundry, and thanks a great deal to a book I’ve been reading lately I’m feeling far more chilled about my parenting skills (This is The Parenting Book by Nicky and Sila Lee, I will probably put a review up when I’ve finished).

Trying to focus a bit more precisely on the problem, it’s me. I have the usual issues – I need a hair cut, I could do with new clothes, I need to lose weight. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Girls reading this know what I’m talking about, guys reading it also should as they have OBVIOUSLY been listening attentively to their partners and reassuring them appropriately. Those things I can deal with fairly easily, little by little. The issues run a little deeper and are probably a sign of some mid-life crisis (ok, mid-life-ish, I’m only 29).

I’ve always had self-esteem issues, right from my early childhood. It helped, having a plan at school. I was going to be a top-class Interpreter, walking straight into a job at Strasbourg or Brussels for some obscene salary. That plan kind of went off the rails after the first year of university when real life entered the equation. A few years down the road, and I am lacking a goal, a focus, and my confidence issues are flooding back. I am aware of every one of my shortcomings, my lack of achievement. There’s kind of a hazy figure where a defined Becca shape should be. So I made a list in my journal the other day of things I needed to do to get control of my life back and that’s kind of helped. Now I need to decide what that life needs to look like.

So here’s a few things I think should go into the Becca-shape, things that I know are part of me, and hopefully these things can act like a kind of road map for finding me.

I am:

  • A wife and mother. Maybe those two things should be separate? After all, as a wife I am still Becca. As a mother I am Mummy, and there should be parts of me that should be separate from Mummy or I will lose myself completely. I know a lot of mothers worry about losing their identity when they have children, and I sort of envy the ones with a career, as there is a separate life there that is only them. I know they probably envy me, being able to spend as much time as I like with my children. I guess the grass is always greener.
  • A writer. Yes, I am not published (although I have a children’s book out doing the rounds at the minute, keep everything crossed for me!) and I don’t write as often as I would like but I am gaining the confidence in myself to call myself a writer. This is the closest thing I have to a career goal, although I’m not sure it counts as I will keep writing even if I never get published. Not that it’s a ‘hobby’ but it’s something more than a career too. Goodness me, this is a whole blog post in itself so I’ll cut it short here.
  • A Christian. Atheists reading this, feel free to skip ahead. I am still struggling with my faith, it will be a life-long process to put God as firmly at the centre of my life as I know He needs to be, but when I do I feel so much happier and more settled. There is a song by a group called Addison Road that I try to remember as it was written for situations like mine:

My life comes from the one who made the stars and brought the sun

He loves me more than these, so I don’t need another identity

I do believe that I am given some specific gifts by God, as well as some specific ministries. I think my writing is a gift, and I know my family and my life with them is a gift. I am still wondering what my ministries are, yet not spending enough time praying or thinking about them to get any answers.

Ok, Atheists, welcome back. I am also:

  • A person with hobbies and interests. This might sound obvious or even irrelevant, but a) some people genuinely don’t have any particular hobbies or interests and b) I have lots, which I always feel a bit guilty about when I move on. I need to realise, I think, that it’s fine to have an interest in various different things and to keep coming back to them. A hobby doesn’t mean a vocation, and I sometimes have trouble remembering this.
  • A bit of a hypocrite. I talk a lot at home about the injustice in the world, I have several large soap-boxes which I stand on at regular intervals. But I do very little about it. I need to practice what I preach a little more and focus on one or two causes that I really care about passionately and can espouse wholeheartedly, to the extent of taking action and spreading the word about them. It takes 2 minutes to send an email to an MP or Tweet about a campaign.
  • I am very definitely in need of a challenge. This may seem absurd when I am still getting to grips with caring for two young children etc. I mean more of a mental challenge. I like puzzles, I like using my brain, and while writing feeds that to a certain extent, I need to stretch myself more. I want to do a degree. I want to expand my horizons – I guess that’s one reason for me having so many hobbies and fads, at various points I’ve looked into astronomy, mandarin chinese, aromatherapy, history, amateur dramatics, the list goes on.

There’s a start. I think it’ll take a while. But it’s time for finding me, now.