Today is the 1st of January 2015, and what a journey this past year has been for me. I’ve never been so hurt yet happy, so tired yet energetic and so ‘old me’ yet ‘new me’ at the same time. Now I’m not going to bore you with a whole list of overused resolutions that everybody makes but very seldom keep. Instead I want to show you the contrasting thoughts that tumble through my mind as yet another year begins and the steam train that is life continues to push its way forward ever faster. And I’ll throw in some thought provoking selfies for emphasis and good measure along the way.
I have come to realise that life is the biggest contradiction going, and people are what fuel the pain, suffering, struggle and emotional torment for us all. Now I know that sounds pretty depressing and Scrooge like, but just give me a second to explain it all as I sit here in my dressing gown with a mug of green tea, my phone flashing with a million messages, the children firing constant questions and requests at me and my cat relentlessly miaowing and head butting my face for more fish breakfast. I’ll get back to my messages in a moment, the children are merrily fed and dressed and my cat has only just burned off his summer bulge, so I’m careful not to let him plump up again as I discovered cats have no cut off point for appetite. But that’s neither here nor there.
So let’s open up those flood gates of my mind and share a little insight into a 27yr old single mother of two. And I suppose the only real way that I can show you the contradiction of life is to compare my life for how it was to how it now is. As a child I was lanky, geeky and tomboyish, not even 1% attractive and bullied severely for being so shy and socially awkward. At the age of eighteen I consulted a surgeon about my uneven, asymmetrical and underdeveloped breasts for which I paid for private surgery to provide myself with the part of my anatomy that I was born without, my femininity, as I had grown slightly odd looking adolescent boy nipples and nothing more. I would never have predicted that I’d go on to become a glamour model for the Daily Sport newspaper, blinged up like a Barbie doll and partying day and night. But life is certainly a surprise. Fascinatingly I became a single parent at the age of nineteen, half way through an undiscovered pregnancy whilst on the pill and under observation for a brain tumour. So I grew up pretty quickly over night; what I wanted, what I needed and what I desired was no longer of importance and I threw myself head first into becoming a personal slave to my beautiful daughter. Much like a 5* hotel, I was her chef, butler, chauffeur, assistant and entertainment all in one, 24/7 without relief, holiday or sick pay. Having left my three jobs to raise a child, I then worked evenings and weekends in order to support her, and zombied my way through the sleepless nights, trapped wind induced days, dirty nappies, snotty noses, tears, fears and tantrums. But every second was incredibly worth it and I’d give my last breath to see her happy and safe.
I changed from a selfish teenager into a selfless mother, and it was out with the high heels, platinum blonde weave, mini skirts, nail extensions and partying, and in with the Pampers, nappy cream, sick cloths and bedtime stories. It was the biggest culture shock a youngster can ever face, to discover freedom and have it taken away, yet I’m so fortunate that I took to motherhood like a duck to water and have shared the most beautiful life and relationship with my daughter ever since. Becoming a parent has taught me to have patience, strength, love, determination and the priceless ability to sleep standing up against a door frame. I’m also rather skilled at removing tomato based sick and muddy tummy tantrums from white clothing, although I don’t like to brag. Naturally my appearance has changed from Tomyboy to Barbie doll, trophy model to sensible wife. Blondes certainly have more fun, but it’s true what they say, a man wants a nice polite and sensible girl to bring home to his mother and tend to his children and needs. And I naturally became that woman. I plaited my daughters hair, baked cookies, bought a sensible family car, smiled politely and worked tirelessly to provide for my ever growing family. Everybody smiled in my presence, opened up their thoughts and lifes problems to me and I had businesses falling over themselves to employ me. With one pair of hands and a limited supply of daylight hours there was only so much I could do, and the days and months whizzed by before my eyes as I became tangled up in routine and order of school runs, cooking, chores and calendars. I didn’t question it, didn’t feel hard done by or make excuses, I just carried on the only way I knew how, with love in my heart and the desire to provide for my family.
It wasn’t until I discovered another undiscovered pregnancy on the pill that the first earthquake hit my life. Thankfully I was cleared of a brain tumour after my daughter was born, but this brought light to a hormone imbalance that I have, whereby my body produces too much prolactin, a hormone to provide new mothers with breast milk directly after birth. Which is rather comical when you think about it, as I never developed real breasts of my own. It also explained why my periods never regulated and why I suffered such painful stomach cramps, as I was able to give birth without pain relief because the reoccurring pain I’d experienced over the years was that of childbirth. Oh how it all makes sense now.
But my second pregnancy wasn’t to be, and just days after discovering I was expecting I began to bleed, and driving to A&E, I lay alone in the bed traumatised in hospital as the staff told me that my ICG levels were failing and I’d have to wait to naturally miscarry. But on the other hand as I didn’t know how far gone I was there was also the possibility that my hormone imbalance was to blame for the low readings as they confirmed I was still pregnant. It resulted in the most fretful few days of testing and waiting on results. And at the time I had nobody to turn to for comfort or support as my fiance didn’t want to face the reality of what was happening so I had to respect that and deal with it alone. Which I did. The day after I miscarried I went back to work and could hardly speak for fear that the sobbing and tears would come gushing out without any means to stop. So I bottled it up, buried it deep and hoped that the pain in my heart would one day ease.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever been needy or attention seeking, but going through the miscarriage alone proved to me that whatever life threw my way I could handle it without involving others. We then went on to plan the pregnancy of our son and I was so incredibly happy. My fiance had moved into my house and we made it our home, he proposed to me and we started planning our forthcoming wedding after half a decade together. Everything was falling into place and I was beyond ecstatic to have a pregnancy within a relationship, to bring a child into the world with both parents present and filled with love. My guilt for being a single parent to my daughter was eased by the blossoming family we had grown over time and I lived in the ignorantly blissful cloud of baby powder and playtime.
My third pregnancy was traumatic, I bled throughout and the midwifes frequently lost contact with my son, no movement, weakened pulse and breathing and I experienced premature labour in hospital on a few occasions which thankfully subsided following steroids, bed rest and monitoring as I went onto maternity leave the week before giving birth. And when I finally held my son in my arms and my daughter kissed him on the forehead with his tiny fingers curled around hers, I was the happiest I ever thought I could be. The love that filled me was indescribable, it filled my veins and drove my heart to beat. I was so incredibly thankful and in awe to have two healthy happy children that I thought I would burst with contentment.
Shortly after I started to experience the most horrendous pain, shortness of breath and tightness coming from my chest. It was excruciating to hold and nurse my son as my breasts twisted up, were burning hot and had trenches and holes across them. Alarmingly similar to the symptoms of breast cancer it was discovered that my breast implants were leaking as a result of being PIP, a worldwide scandal at the time, and not breast cancer. Following an immediate triple reconstructive surgery to remove, encapsulate, replace and reconstruct my chest I left hospital a bandaged and bloodied mess, shaking, wincing with pain and desperate to return to my family to lick my wounds and heal. All I wanted was to be home, and I was utterly helpless for the first time in my life which was horrible as I’m such an active and can-do person. I couldn’t move, stand or eat by myself, so instead of asking for help I asked for nothing so as not to burden or bother others. My mother thankfully cared for the children whilst I spent five days in bed by myself, silently in a haze of pain killers and sleep trips. Five days after my reconstructive surgery my fiance ended our relationship without warning. And that finished off the very last part of my body that wasn’t in pain, my heart. He had been my soulmate, my best friend and somebody I wholeheartedly thought I would spend the rest of my life with. We had everything we could ever have dreamed of in life, but he decided that he didn’t want the responsibility of a relationship and family, as at the age of 30 he was too young. I have never been clingy, needy or attention seeking, so I didn’t stop him and I didn’t push guilt onto his shoulders. If he wasn’t happy with me then who am I to force him to stay?
To those who knew us it was a shock, the couple who were the opposite of one another yet so perfectly matched, finishing each others sentences and continuously laughing and smiling, with a home, a family and a well established life together were suddenly over without warning. His words to me were “It’s not you it’s me” and he said he wasn’t cut out to be a family man, respectfully asking me to let him go without fuss which I did. He told me not to go out where he would be, not to speak to his friends or date anybody he knew, and to go out and meet new people, make an effort with how I looked, to stop being so safe and boring and act my age instead of being old before my time. And although it hurt me to hear it and go through it, it really was what I needed. I wasn’t a helpless fat puppy, more a thriving mother and partner who took the world in her stride and put everybody else first at my own expense. My life before was nice but nothing adventurous, I was alive but not necessarily living, and although I asked nothing of others and went ridiculously far out of my way to please them, I was just used, ignored and unappreciated. And I thought that was normal because it was all I’d ever known.
We basically start each new year trying to be and do the opposite things of the year before. I began 2014 with the desire to find myself as a person and to be both a mother and an individual instead of a drone. Just because I was single with two children didn’t mean that I couldn’t be myself. So I did the opposite, and I guess in a way I reverted back to my late teens where my freedom had ended, and I picked up where I left off. My children did and still do come first in my life, and despite the heartbreak and healing that I was going through at the time I did my best to keep the tears to just my pillow at bedtime, and I clenched my teeth with pain for each hug that I welcomed from their little arms and smiling faces. As visitation was arranged, I then found myself with each Sunday where I was totally alone without children or responsibility, and that’s where I began finding myself.
To start with I didn’t know what to do with my time, like a wolf released into the wild you’re not sure if you should leave the cage and venture into the unknown. I built up my walls and held my chin up with a stiff upper lip. Gradually my life changed, from burying my nose in a book to fill the silent hours and evenings alone, to deciding what I’d like to watch on television when the kids went to bed. I hadn’t watched soaps in years and had no idea of world news or politics. I often over fed myself whilst adjusting to cooking dinner for one and practically closed joint accounts and contracts whilst clearing out the house. After my surgery none of my clothes fitted me, so I had to go underwear shopping once my bandages were removed and the swelling had gone down, and I bought myself some new tops and skirts too. It was the first time I’d worn a skirt since I was a teenager and it felt so strange at first but then I realised that I blended in with people my own age and actually looked quite fashionable. I made new friends, went out and got drunk like it was the end of the world, drowning my sorrows and nursing the hangover from hell each weekend, vowing never to drink again but soon forgetting when the weekend rolled back around. During the week I was a sensible and safe mother and at weekends I was a giggly teenager, trying on my mothers clothes and experiencing the great wide world. I dressed myself up for my first night out in years and looked like an absolute drag queen in heels with a china doll face and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself through pity. Tentatively instead of styling my hair how somebody else always wanted, I chose what I wanted, and I realised that it was far easier to go back to my natural colour before the dreaded grey hairs kick in with age. Instead of painting my nails and caking on makeup I decided to go au natural, leaving my nails short and filed and my face with just a touch of foundation to hide the tell-tale dark circles under my eyes from sleepless nights with my toddler.
And to deal with the hurt, frustration, anger and abandonment that I felt from what had happened, I no longer tried to escape it with partying, but instead I kicked it out of myself with intensive bodybuilding routines and meditation, because if I was utterly shattered at night and collapsed on the bed sleeping like a baby then it wouldn’t be another night of feeling alone and staring up at the ceiling with my mind whirling over thousands of questions, if’s, but’s and maybe’s. The sudden end of my relationship didn’t make sense, didn’t give me closure and couldn’t be put to rest as I still had to be in contact with my ex because we will always share a child. It was and still is so cruel and unfair, but if I live my life hanging onto the past then there is no life and my children deserve better. As each day passed I found contentment in being a single parent and realised it was far easier to look after a family of three than it is a family of four. I found happiness in watching my children grow up unaffected, achieving amazing grades at school and flourishing at home, and once a week I compulsorily had time without the children giving me the space to do anything I wanted. And I guess you’ll never know what you want in life until you go out and experience and discover things and cross off what you don’t want.
I never want to be controlled in a relationship again, I won’t allow other people to change me or use me as I’ve been used in the past, nor to take everything I have to give and leave me with nothing in return. I don’t want the world served to me on a plate because I enjoy earning it and building what I have from the ground up. I respect the blessings of my children, good health, youth still being on my side and life being whatever I choose to make it. I’m not materialistic, I don’t make excuses, money doesn’t motivate me but it’s a welcome bonus of hard work and dedication.
I do however realise that my heart is now guarded, and I have built such high walls around my emotions towards others and ability to trust and love again. I still have the most unimaginable love for my two children who fill my life with sunshine and happiness, but when it comes to thinking of myself as a woman and future wife I am strangely absent and cold inside. I see couples in public laughing together, holding hands and kissing and it makes my heart beat out of my chest with fight or flight. I constantly fight two conflicting views in life as my heart and head are at war with no sign of a truce. My heart sees the beautiful tenderness of love within the world, as I weep at weddings with happiness and crave to be held in a safe pair of arms, to have my forehead kissed and somebody to wake up with each morning, dreaming of marriage and a complete family one day, one mummy, one daddy and as many children as the heart desires. But then my head storms in and quashes it all, those dark memories stir up the pain and hurt of the past, the lack of trust and respect that I could once again face in a relationship, one that I was so ignorantly blissful within and never saw ending until it was too late. So if I never have another relationship then I can never be hurt so bad as I was. My world can never end because I know with all of my heart and soul that I will always be there for my children and I am more than capable of taking care of myself and going through life alone. I ask nothing of nobody and never will.
Yet equally I see how unhealthy that is in regards to a relationship. To be so distant and self reliant that there is simply no place for another. Is love good or is it bad? Will it help me or hurt me? And if I found myself in the same situation as last time could I honestly survive it a second time round? In short I don’t know, so instead I live in limbo. I know that I won’t feel this way forever, as every aspect of my life is thriving as a single parent and I have never been so successful. But my heart is in no mans land and my mind is constantly conflicting. And this is a major part of the contradiction of life and why I think new years resolutions are a double edged blade. So many people are unhappy with their weight, and when it comes to New Years the gyms are suddenly filled with new recruits looking to get slim and fad diets and lifestyle changes are at an all time high. So many people feed off of putting others down, basking in their misfortune and feeling that they are superior. Such heartless people will tell others to lose weight and sort their lives out, constantly pointing out their flaws and weaknesses and running them down at every opportunity. On the rare occasion when somebody succeeds in making a drastic life transformation it mortally offends these people as they’re utterly incapable of complimenting or doing the same themselves. They lose the ability to mock and belittle others, instead resorting to predicting the results won’t last, or suggesting that the person is self obsessed and has changed into something they are not. They don’t want you to lose weight, they don’t want you to look better, earn more than them or do the things that they can’t.
And I’ve experienced this first hand worldwide from millions of strangers, when it was reported in the press that I was dumped and then changed myself to make my ex jealous and get attention. For as many people who supported me and congratulated on my strength and body transformation, just as many called me self obsessed, shallow and attention seeking. Yes I have changed enormously since my heart was broken, but it wasn’t for the benefit of anybody but myself, and oddly enough it was what my ex told me to do, to make an effort to dress up and meet new people. I’ve accepted my body warts and all and myself as a person for who and what I am, I’m not perfect but it’s only downhill from here so I may as well use it or lose it. After all I’m 27 and no longer a child but thankfully yet to reach the scrap heap. My body has been through three pregnancies and I have the scars and stretch marks to prove it, as a single parent to my two young children I’m constantly tired and worn out but stronger than I’ve ever been in my life and I achieved that by myself for myself. I don’t need or want for anything in life because money and material possessions are irrelevant, to me family, health and time is what is priceless. I’m not a millionaire, nor am I homeless, I’m just an average everyday person who has come to realise that it’s what you can’t buy in life that holds the most worth. The Dalai Lama sums it up perfectly for me when he says “Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future, he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
If I went through life always expecting more than what is then I would never be happy. If I expected alcohol to make me more drunk or happy then I’d soon turn into an alcoholic. If I expected comfort eating would make me feel better I’d become obese. If I thought a party would be bigger, better, busier and more exciting I’d never be home. Life is filled with obstacles, disappointments, suffering, pain and ulterior motives from others, but that shouldn’t stop us from living our life how we choose to live it. I see the darkness all around me and I balance it with light, I solider on through the hard times so that I can be free to enjoy the good. Everything that I do I do so with a positive attitude and determination. I don’t hurt others, I don’t break the law and I don’t look to become something I’m not. I’m simply finding who I am, and it’s been the most interesting discovery and journey as I have been led a full circle back to my identity as a child. Natural, honest and organic. As children were are innocent to life, untouched by the greed, corruption and the motives of others. And as adults we come to realise that changing our appearance to please others, biting our tongues on matters that hurt us, putting up with people we don’t like and being made to do things we don’t agree with is never worth the sacrifice. I’ve not become childish, but instead taken inspiration from my children. I am myself, I look like myself, I think for myself and I put my children and myself first in life forsaking all others. Wherever life takes me and whether I have a lobster or lettuce leaf on my table, live in a castle or cardboard box, so long as I’m alive I will never stop living and learning.
My New Year’s resolution isn’t to quit junk food, I don’t smoke, gamble or drink enough, I don’t want to lose weight, find religion or earn more money. But I will continue to be myself, to love my children and motivate and inspire others to do the same. I’m not looking for happiness and success, but if it finds me then that’s a welcome side effect of life. Share love, peace and kindness in all that you do and be thankful for the blessings you have, because nothing is a given and life is far shorter than you realise.