Charlie Was Here by Suzie Jay

Suzie Jay

For five years, Suzie Jay worked as a documentary event photographer before taking a break in 2016 to embark on her biggest job yet, Motherhood. She then went on to set up My Little Muse Photography, capturing the beautiful and subtle moments of family life.

In 2015, Suzie and her partner experienced the devastating loss of their son Charlie. This letter is written to Charlie, in support of Baby Loss Awareness week. 

 

Dear Charlie, 

Two years ago today I was getting ready to meet you for the first and last time. 21st October 2015, a date made famous by Marty Mcfly in Back to the Future. Growing up, I’d always wondered where I’d be on that day. I never could’ve imagined something so awful, that I’d be giving birth to a beautiful baby boy whose cry I’d never hear. 

Though you were born sleeping that day, you were still the most precious thing to us. We couldn’t wait to meet you, to hold you, even though we knew we’d have to give you back. The hospital agreed that you deserved the very best and everyone was so kind and compassionate. When you arrived, our wonderful midwife, Joanne, handed you to me for the first time. She looked me straight in the eye, smiled her big smile and told me you were beautiful. She never faltered for a second. My heart swelled with a mother’s pride. The most bittersweet moment of my life. 

That night in the hospital was a drug-fuelled haze of devastation. Surreal and desperately sad. We weren’t ready to say goodbye and thankfully we weren’t rushed. You lay in a cold cot by our sides while we tried to snatch moments of broken sleep. My dreams were cruel, wandering down a maze of hospital corridors looking for you and calling your name. Of course I couldn’t find you. Waking up to the banshee-like screams of other women in the labour ward felt like the cruelest reminder of what we had lost.

Charlie's feet printsDuring that terrible time, your Dad & I talked and talked. We cried and clung to each other. We planned your funeral. We became closer than ever. Eventually we laughed again. We reached out to anyone who’d listen. We experienced some of the most extraordinary kindnesses, all because of you my boy. We feel proud and privileged to have known you, if only for the briefest of times. You taught us to be open and honest with our feelings, that talking would save us. Through you we learned that life is as messy as it is beautiful, painful as it is incredible. 

And to my darling daughter, our rainbow after the storm, we are so eternally grateful for you. Every laugh, every cry, every sleepless night, every cuddle. There are no bad times. Just a rich melting pot of all the feels. And it’s glorious. Did you know that during a pregnancy, cells from a growing baby cross over into the mother? They become part of her. So even after that baby is born she carries them with her wherever she goes. I love that idea, that we’re always connected, even when one of us can’t be here. 

Love you forever my babies x 

October is pregnancy & infant loss awareness month and there are so many wonderful charities who do incredible work in supporting bereaved parents. Shortly after we lost Charlie, we set up a memorial page to raise money for ARC (Antenatal Results & Choices), a charity who gave us amazing support. If you’re able to make any contribution at all to Charlie’s page we’d be so grateful. All money raised will be donated to ARC. Thank you so much x

For Charlie’s memorial page please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/charliewashere

Advertisements

A Letter To… My Daughter, Hattie by Katie Southgate

FB_IMG_1503300696241
Katie and Hattie.  Photo credit: Anna Southgate

Katie Southgate is the founder of Happy BobKat studios.  She designs and sells prints with life affirming messages for children which she launched this year.

Mother of two children Dexter (7) and Hattie (4), Katie has become what’s called an ‘Oncology Mum’ since the diagnosis of Hattie, then 1, with a rare blood cancer.  In 2014 Hattie became unwell with an ear infection, then a little more unwell with a chest infection, then sleepy and pale.  3 months before her second birthday, she was slowly filling up with Leukaemia. It took 2 full years of chemo treatment at Great Ormond Street to rid Hattie of the cancer.  Katie and her family live with the reality that it could come back at any day.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month and special limited edition prints will be available throughout September from http://www.happybobkatstudios.co.uk to raise money for Hattie’s Heroes, the charity that was set up in Hattie’s name during her treatment.

This is a letter to Hattie from her mum, to read when she is 18.

 

FB_IMG_1503300993480
Hattie during her treatment at GOSH.  Photo credit: Anna Southgate

 

A Letter To My Daughter, Hattie in 2031, aged 18

Dear Hattie,

I write with the pure hope that this letter reaches you at age 18, healthy and lively, but with the full knowledge that this could easily be taken away.  So I write every word with “hope” sandwiched in-between each letter.

You won’t know how brave you were. Or how damn hard you fought for your life. Or of the many little friends that passed away around you. What I can guarantee you will know though, is how loved you are. You seemed so small when they told me your body was filled with cancerous blood cells. Doctors told me it was in every organ in your body, yet at times in those early days of diagnosis, it was hard to believe, such as those days when you were screeching ‘DUCK’ at the top of your lungs for a plastic toy that was in fact a chicken!

Since that day, when I pressed Start on your first of thousands of doses of chemo, fear has filled me. I want to tell you something about fear. Living with an enormous level of fear can have two outcomes. It can cripple you, it can make you hide, run and bury your true self. Or, my darling daughter, it can enable you to become more you than you’ve ever felt. It can wash away grey areas and make things feel so clear. The answers become yes or no.  The tasks and trials you face are more easily and lovingly overcome. The sun can shine more brightly, because of the fear inside of you.

In times of true and painful fear I find it can be just a small sentence that can change the outcome of how you begin to cope.  I just hope I have equipped you with those words, those phrases.  I hope that when something big comes along, and at some point it will, you can stand in the face of whatever it might be and feel the power swell inside you.  Because my mighty little girl, you were born ready to fight. You are so fiercely tough.  All I hope for you is your health, because the rest I know you will excel at – regardless of what path you take, what decisions and roads you wind down as you grow up – you have a greatness in your tiny body that is entirely extraordinary.

I am proud to be your mother.

Lovingly, yours forever.
Mummy

IMG-20170811-WA0006
Hattie today.  Photo credit: Anna Southgate
Find the signs and symptoms for childhood cancers on http://www.bechildcanceraware.org if you know the signs a child will have a better chance of early diagnosis and potentially life saving information.

Limited edition prints will be available throughout September to raise money for Hattie’s Heroes.  The story behind these special prints is based on the quote “Even the tallest oak in the forest was once a little nut that stood its ground”.  This quote is perfect for Childhood Cancer patients, they really do have to stand tough against the odds.   Happy BobKat Studios has collected beautiful illustrations of acorns from incredible artists who have all exclusively donated their designs for Hattie’s Heroes.

For sale from 1st – 30th September.  Come and take a look: www.happybobkatstudios.co.uk 

1504039160969

 

Right now I’m listening to: Milo Greene

Pass it on:
Sarah Barlow: @wealdhandmade (mumma to two young kids and perfect bag designer/maker – Weald Hand Made)

Linda Tait: @lindahamrintait (mumma to four lovely kids and OtherLetters co-founder)

Mollie Bond: @bunched.flowers.rectorygrove (mumma to gorgeous toddler and owner of  Bunched, the most beautiful flower shop)

A Letter To… My 11 Year Old Self by Abbey Craig

 Image-1.png
Abbey is freshly 40 and preparing to move back to Scotland with Barry the husband and Stanley that cat (after 17 years in London) so that they can share happy times with family.  Abbey and her dad, Rikki, are writing and illustrating stories for children with life limiting illness, drawing on Abbey’s experience of having terminal breast cancer as well as her lifetime of working with children through drama.  Abbey hopes to create stories in which children can recognise themselves and their medicalised lives but through fantastical, magical tales that will give light to darker moments.

A Letter to my 11 year old self

Dear Concorde (me),
No one is going to remember that type of aeroplane by 2017. No one will have called you that for YEARS, you’re not going to be defined by your big nose. Or your buck teeth. Or your long face. Or your fat arse. Or your cellulite.
You won’t be defined by any of those things because I’m giving you this letter with this almighty tip, the best tip you’ll ever get…
Be kind to yourself.
Don’t be your own worst bully, don’t call names at yourself in the mirror. Please don’t start because you’ll never stop, not until you realise you’ve wasted so much time and now your time’s nearly out.
Right now, you’re 11, you’re at the top of your game, about to be school sport’s champion, fabulous story writer, muscular, a dancer, a keen learner, honest (ish), confident, chatty, popular and a ribby tangle of big teeth and jagged bones.
19250865_433463213677890_3212414426962408103_o
The school is going to allow a book company to come and sell books to the class and without having to get parental permission you’re going to sign yourself up for some Judy Blume books. That’s when it’s going to start in earnest, the total preoccupation with being sexualised and alluring.
Don’t buy the books, or the Sweet Valley High ones, don’t instigate the BBP CLUB (Boys, Bras and Periods).  Keep winning the races against the boys and giving them kiddy backs. You really don’t need to wear that bra you’ve been given by your older friend. Stop hoping the boys are going to notice it and don’t be thrilled when one of them does and gives it a ping.
Don’t see the other girls as competition. They are your sisters.
19452921_433464883677723_1297182478368666862_o.jpg       19441697_433465043677707_6315345604990186086_o.jpg
I’m not trying to deny your burgeoning adolescence, but please listen to me, don’t turn your back on that plucky pre-teen, she’s the better woman.
You are a better woman at 11 years old than I am at 40. Nearly 30 years of telling yourself that you’re not good enough takes its toll.
If becoming a woman is like emerging from a cocoon, you are the vibrant, bright green, juicy caterpillar and I emerged, a drag queen of a butterfly with antennae extensions and streaky tanned wings.  I suspected I was a fat moth but I wanted to be a pretty butterfly so badly!
If someone bullies you everyday saying the same things over and over again, you’ll start to believe them, without question.  So why didn’t I ever grow out of bullying myself? Why didn’t I stop judging myself as if I was a pubescent boy, obsessing over the biggest breasts and the prettiest face?
I feel such a fool for falling for the beauty myth that I told everyone else to be wary of!
Image.png-2
When I got married (yes, that happens, but he’s Barry, not Morten Harket), I had fake hair added to my own, I had eyelash extensions, a padded bra, a corseted dress.  Nothing natural was good enough. I wanted to look natural, but with the help of fake things.  I wanted to be able to dance with abandon but I didn’t want my ankles to look fat, so I got heels. I battered my skin with an onslaught of sunbeds to get a tan, I got acrylic nails. I dieted, I got thinner.
Then, just a few months later, I got cancer.
Overnight, everything I’ve spent my adulthood cultivating, went.
My hair, that I’d always thought was my good feature (although not good enough for my wedding day), all fell out.  Then ALL my hair, head to toe.
15318021_334615580229321_8912700709356147817_n.jpg
A childish, hairless landscape but with lumbering, adult curves and waves.
The eyebrows I’d thought were woeful and my long, thick eyelashes had enough of the insults and left too.
Without hair for coverage I noticed my vagina seemed to have acquired a ledge over the years.  My face puffed up and I looked pale, undefined and ugly.
My breast was taken away, the good one that had always been bigger than the other one, “Not so smug now Mrs Left” said Mrs Right. All my very expensive and hugely padded bras were made permanently redundant, push-up only works when there’s something to push.
Lots of scars from complications.  Radiotherapy tattoos, crispy, scorched skin.
Then keyhole surgery and my belly fell onto the mattress that night for the first time in my life and it’s never got back up.
An instant menopause and weird comfort eating has made things rub and chafe and I waddle.
But guess what? I don’t care.
I asked everyone to avoid putting photos of me getting married on social media because I suspected it would kill my happy memories of the day. When I got in from having my first head shave I put the photos on Facebook.
img_0937-e1502702211225.jpg        IMG_1052
I presumed no one would find me attractive anymore so I didn’t care about trying.
I decided I didn’t want to medicalise my body any further and I didn’t have reconstruction on my breast.
I took myself right out of the running and I gave myself freedom and honesty for the first time in a very long time.
For one whole year as my body recovered from the acute treatment I rejoiced in the feeling of being alive and unburdened of the black cloud of regret and bitterness at not being good enough.
I had to be brave and face the world feeling completely naked and plucked. You haven’t started to build all those layers of self consciousness yet, so don’t!
I am sad for what I’ve lost, the body that I couldn’t tolerate before but that I’d love and cherish now.  I miss flashing some cleavage, I miss squashing one breast up to the next.
I miss wearing necklines lower than my clavicle.
I miss being trussed up in ‘sexy’ underwear.
I miss my thick eyelashes that never grew back. I miss long hair.
I miss the body that was able to conceive.
I miss having no scars.
But I love being free from that need to be seen as attractive, sexy in particular.
20449141_452102295147315_7756171754105546812_o
Abbey and Barry
I was so proud of myself for getting to this point, I planned how far my new outlook could take me in life.
Then after a year of the new me, the new me that reminds me of you, I found out that I’m not going to get the opportunity to make this more than just a test drive. The cancer is back but this time it means business.
But it’s not a waste, it’s a realisation and awakening that I’m so glad happened.  I feel more fulfilled and open to happiness than I have done since I was you.
So please learn from my mistakes and be bold, like you are now.
Wear flat shiny shoes that can keep up with your strides into adulthood.
Let yourself off the hook, don’t sweat the small stuff.  Be well, be healthy, be happy and be free.
It’s the hardest thing to do, but tell yourself you’re brilliant as you are and you’re more than good enough and then make sure that’s true.  Live! Make me proud to be me.
If they call you Concorde then fly with it.
With all the love I have,
Me xxxxxxxx
P.S. I should tell you, because I forced myself not to care, I now smile and pose for photos and I laugh at the bad ones and keep the good ones. Everyone around me is thrilled I want to record our moments together with a photo.  I still see the things I didn’t like but I also see good things and I focus on those,  instead of beating myself up.  I’m no longer ashamed,  I actually like what I see, a happy photo is always a good photo.  A clever photo might be a pretty one but nothing can beat a happy one.


Abbey is currently writing books, which her dad is illustrating, for children with life limiting illnesses.  
Until recently she has also been running children’s drama workshops in London: http://www.stripeysocksdrama.co.uk

 

A Letter To… my mum by Jo Olney

 

mum68
Mum (right), 1968
It’s been one year since The Muse launched and almost everyone I have mentioned the blog to has given the same reply… “You’ve got to feature your mum! Mother to seven women, SEVEN!”.

So, Mum, here goes…

A Letter to my mum

Dear Mum,

There’s nothing quite like treading your own path as a mother to make you reflect on your own dear mum. As you lay your head on your pillow only to hear the baby start up again, as you breastfeed whilst enjoying the spoils of norovirus, as you wipe another bum, another tear, another yoghurt splattered floor and think, my mum did all this – and she did it in days before dishwashers, iPhones, Ella’s Kitchen, disposable nappies and wipes (and yes, I know many people manage fine without these things, but I am not one). So first off, let me say thank you. When I think of all I do for my babes and think of what you did for us, THANK YOU! Lord knows it’s a largely thankless experience, but let it be known that I am SO thankful – for the birthing, the feeding, the clean clothes, the nursing, the teaching, the encouragement, the love.

In so many ways you set the bar high; you made our school dresses, you won every mothers’ race on sports day, you read to us every night even though you nodded off mid-story, you returned to work after raising us all and caring for your mum and you can turn out a mean roast for 20 people at the drop of a hat.

Mama G
Mum with six of us, that’s me at the bottom.
But do you know one of the things I am most thankful for? It’s that you let us see you lose it, that you got cross, and told us to shut up when we were bickering and later apologised for it. That you got stressed driving us around when we were scrapping furiously in the back! Every day there are moments when I regret the way I handled something with the kids and I am so glad you kept it real. I know that it is fine not to love every minute, to lose it, and to believe that when things get bad, it’ll get good again.

I can’t talk about my thanks to you without mentioning the birth of my sweet firstborn. What a long old night that was. That shock of your first. You gave me the confidence to believe I could have my baby at home and you were the one by my side as the seemingly endless night became day, telling me I could do it, and I did. And as we went off to the hospital to check on our poor meconium ingested babe, who stayed home to restore order? You, dear mum. Leaving a clean tidy home to return to and a note I will always treasure thanking us for letting you share in that experience. From that day your greatest gift to me has been to trust my instinct and make my own way.

Mama G and me
Me and my mum
But I feel it is selfish to keep all the wisdom of Mama G to myself, so I have a few things I’d love to ask if you’re game:

Going back to work – back at my desk after my third maternity leave, trying to find my feet and my voice again, I am even more in awe that you returned to work after a 15 year break. Was that hard? Did you struggle to find the confidence? If you did, I never knew.

I always had in my mind the idea that, at some point, I would like to return to teaching in some capacity. I remember walking as a new first time mum past a noisy school playground and thinking that I missed that environment. I didn’t think then that it would be seven children and so many years later before I took that step back to work!

To build my confidence I initially worked as a teaching assistant, gradually building my experience by working in three different schools, with pupils with a range of needs. So it was a gradual process back to teacher status and finally to coordinating the special needs provision in one of the schools.

Then it was the juggling act with which so many women are familiar, trying to run a home, meet the needs of family (including my elderly mother) and go to work!

2017 vs 1977 – I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on my generation of parents, so many books to read, so many labels to give yourself and rods to make for your own back depending on whether you choose to sleep train, baby led wean, bottle feed or cloth bum, work or not work. I love Instagram, but as a parent you have a much wider circle of women to compare yourself to and we are not always the kindest on ourselves. Are we all overthinking it? Did people just get on and raise their kids back in the 70s?

I think your last comment is quite accurate and there was really no option but to ‘just get on and raise your kids’ back in the 70s’. You are also right that there is a lot of pressure on parents now for the reasons you give. It was such a different world then. When we brought our eldest home from hospital in 1972 there were no car seats. I sat in the back of our tiny Austin A35 with her on my lap!  We had no phone or television in the house. There were no disposable nappies and most babies started off wearing terry towelling nappies and soft cotton nighties, as babygros were only just starting to appear.

Hugh Jolly Book of Child CareThere were a few child care books to which people referred. Probably the most well known was ‘The Book of Child Care’ by Hugh Jolly. (So very dated now!) There were clinics that babies were taken to where there were health visitors, but I didn’t find them very helpful. Unlike you, I was not bombarded with a confusing array of ‘methods’ on how to raise your baby and decided very quickly that no one knew my baby like I did and rightly or wrongly, followed my instincts. I didn’t have use of a car at home in the day time, so just got together with friends in a similar situation, or visited my parents who lived nearby in the early years. There were no baby classes to attend.

I’m sure that there are good things about the vast array of baby activities that are available now and indeed the choice of equipment. You are right, however, that there is the danger of feeling inadequate if you don’t join in all these things, or can’t afford to. Similarly the range of baby equipment is overwhelming. I certainly did not have the pressure to be seen with the ‘right’ pram of an acceptable make.

When does it get easier? – With a 5 year old, 4 year old and 1 year old, I’ve never felt more in the thick of it. This stage of motherhood is so physically demanding and exhausting, but is this the hardest bit? How do different stages of motherhood compare? My fear is that it is harder when they leave home and you’re just left worrying about them.

A dear friend said to me in my early days as a mother that ‘every age has it’s compensations’ and I have found that to be true.

There are many advantages of having a large family one of them being that you learn that challenging phases actually pass very quickly. The demands of a new born or the challenges of a toddler are gone in a flash and that recognition can change the way you approach things. You can even learn to appreciate and enjoy these aspects of a child’s development!

I certainly remember having four children aged five and under as being the most demanding time! Getting a five year old to the school bus stop at the right time every morning with three others in tow was very challenging!

In some respects with young children, it does get easier when they are old enough to play cooperatively. When subsequent children arrived there was more choice of playmates, which may be easier than having two who can’t stand each other! I felt that falling out with others within the security of a family was a good preparation for the harsher elements awaiting at school and beyond.

I never did find the teenage years to be the ‘terrible teens’ (although the ‘A’ level years had their challenges!). Perhaps there was safety in numbers and I watched with pride as you all became the wonderful women that you are today. Does it get easier? No it does not! Being in control of things when you were little was probably the easiest bit. Then you have to let your adult children go with love. Once you are a mother you are a mother for life and their pain is your pain whatever their age.

The sisterhood
The sistehood
Your village – One thing I observe in our generation is that there’s a well-trodden path for a lot of parents on leave – NCT to make friends, playgroups, baby sensory, baby swimming, baby signing, baby yoga. How did you meet other mums? I guess we are making our own urban village now, whereas maybe you had an actual real village of support!

In the absence of all the baby classes and groups, my ‘village’ consisted of family, friends and good neighbours. Sunday lunch was often a way we got together with our friends who had young families like us. After lunch we would all visit a local playground or park or walk in the woods.

No one really had a large network of mum friends and I was content to be in touch with our friends who were in a similar situation to us at that time. There were no mobile phones of course and not everyone had a phone in their house. It could be quite an effort to be in touch with people if you had to walk to the local phone box!

Raising women – Being a mother to seven women, did it feel like a big responsibility at the time to be our role model as a woman? Did you have a sense of how you wanted us to grow up?

I don’t think that I actually focussed on the fact that I was being your role model. Had I thought of it like that it would probably have been rather overwhelming! I was always aware of the times when I fell short of my own standards of parenting and I hope I always apologised at the end of a bad day for being a grumpy old cross patch!  Fortunately children are very forgiving and always seemed to forget about these things long before I did.

In answer to your question, yes I did have a sense of how I wanted you to grow up. I am sure you would all have a different take on how successful I was with this!

As you became adults I did try to dissuade you (not always successfully!) from making permanent changes that you may regret.( e.g. hair dying fine, but tattoos to be avoided!) Also, to be blunt, I really hated the idea of one of my daughters being someone’s one night stand. I decided that you have to have faith in the effort you have put in when raising your children and I would tell them that I trusted them to do the right thing. I was told years later that that approach had been more effective than threats!

I wanted you all to feel good about the amazing women that you are, although sadly there were inevitable wobbles along the way. Self worth is so important.  I knew that if you believed in yourselves you could achieve your ambitions, do a job that you wanted to do and you would also know that you deserved lovely friends and a kind respectful partner.

I am so proud that the sisterhood is strong and that you will always support each other.

I also wanted you to grow up secure in the knowledge that the love your dad and I feel for you all is totally unconditional. While we are able, we will always be there for you all and our beautiful grand children.

I will always consider my seven amazing daughters as my greatest achievement in life.  I love you all.

Mum and Dad with two of their nine grandchildren
Mum and Dad with two of their nine grandchildren.

A Letter To… Kate Atkinson from Zoë Sanders 

 Zoë Sanders is a writer and editor, helping people and businesses express themselves and get heard.  She’s happiest with a pencil and pad, doodling and scribbling. Or, if it’s a hot day, swimming in the sea.

A Letter To… Kate Atkinson from Zoë Sanders

Dear Kate Atkinson,

Sometimes a gentle nudge is all we need. Sometimes it takes a big glaring neon sign that says “Exit” or a bottle that says “Drink me.”

In the late 1990s my sign to quit came via the way of your first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum. It was actually just a couple of your well-crafted lines; lines that conveyed a wealth of meaning to me; lines that tipped me over the edge (in a good way).

At the time I was working in a job that I had slowly come to realise was making me really unhappy. I had started with the company shortly after leaving university and got stuck there. On the surface after all I wasn’t having too bad a time — Friday night drinks after work, wandering around Greenwich Market at the weekends, hanging out with friends. But after a few years working at a facilities management company in the City of London, I was becoming increasingly frustrated. I couldn’t see where my professional life was going. I felt stifled and unfulfilled. And worse. There were times when I had a sense of standing at the edge of an abyss. It wasn’t a good feeling. I knew I had to make a change. When you are enmeshed in a way of life however it’s often hard to take the leap.

Then by chance I read your novel. In the story, a character realises she is living the wrong life. Reading it was like a slap in the face. That was me! I was living the wrong life! Those words were my sign to jump ship and take control again.

It was time to live a life that was true to me.

I saw a new job in a paper, passed the interview and was so excited and overwhelmed at the prospect of starting again. But a big problem — my life as it was — required a big fix: it needed something radical.

The job was teaching English in Japan. I gave in my notice. A month or so later I was off on my first solo overseas flight, laden down with a couple of bags and a load of nerves.

On my first training session in Yokohama, I met Diane. She was my age, Scottish and had a great no-nonsense attitude. She’d started at the English language school shortly before me. Walking out of the building after a day of asking myself “what have I done?” she gave me some brilliant words of advice — just hang on in there for three months and then decide if it’s for you.

Zoe and Diane in a Japanese convenience store
Diane and I in a Japanese convenience store.

So I did and it was — I lived for fourteen months in my very own version of wonderland. Diane and I became close friends. I was privileged to teach some brilliant, funny, warm students based above a fish shop in Zushi, a small village on the coast, a 40 minute train ride south of Tokyo.

image
Temple, Kyoto

My experience in Japan had given me a complete boost. Before I’d left home and travelled halfway around the world I had been feeling low. Those deep, dark feelings? Well I haven’t had them since.

Kate Atkinson, your book at the very least changed my life. It may have even saved my life. I owe you a big thank you.
Now, many years later I look back and see the twists and turns of my life. What would have happened if I had stayed at my job in the City — would I have ascended the ranks, got a good job, been at the top of my game? My life hasn’t taken a straight path at all and I often wonder if that is OK, if that is right and sensible?

My “just stick it out for three months” then turned into a three year adventure. After Japan, I headed to Australia which I travelled around before settling in Sydney for a bit. I was fortunate to get a job at BridgeClimb, the tour company that runs tours over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

image

Me, Ange and Nicola on a New South Wales wine tasting trip.

After my return to the UK I had a couple of jobs back doing general office-based work again. Then in my thirties I had a desire to do something more meaningful and useful with my life. I retrained as a hypnotherapist. And one thing I have learnt (out of the very many things) from hypnotherapy is about fear and how it can hamper us. Fear of what others think. Fear of failure. Fear of not living the life true to you.

And now again, I’m moving on. Hypnotherapy was an amazing journey, personally and professionally, but it’s a hard gig with a young family. I have loved hypnotherapy; it’s given me so many great insights and whatever happens next, I will always have these insights and understandings to help guide me.

Whilst running my own hypnotherapy practice, I also worked with my husband Ian, helping with editing and writing projects. Now I’m expanding my writing and editing in new ways, focusing on my own clients. I feel all I’ve done, whether here or in Japan or Australia feeds somehow into what I do now. I bring all of me to work, all the lessons I’ve learnt, all the experiences I’ve had to inform and help my writing.

In my life choices I am carving out a life that suits me, and my family, and that really is the most important thing.

Chopping and changing professionally might not be for everyone, but the world of has changed so much from that of our parents and grandparents. There are few jobs for life – most of us will have to go on working much longer. Adaptation and change will be a necessity if we are potentially going to live to 100.

So perhaps more than just changing my life at a point in time, perhaps you, Kate Atkinson, gave me resilience for the future. You helped me quit something destructive in my twenties; perhaps I now have courage to face the future with a sense of adventure. I’m hoping that that fearless mindset where I embraced such change in the past will help see me through. Perhaps that adaptability will help me navigate the changing job landscape. Perhaps when I’m 80 I’ll be back at school learning new tricks.

I’ll keep you posted!

END

Pass it on to: 

I’d love to read some of Sam Lieren’s writing in letter format! @SamLierens.

Also Laura Jayne Lawrence @workitleigh has interesting things to say and I think is looking to expand her writing.

Irene Brankin @IreneBrankin is an older woman, a psychotherapist, who is warm and nurturing and has a lot of wisdom to share.
Zoë can be found on Twitter: @ZESanders or Instagram: @doodlezoe