As 2011 reached it’s end, I decided to write an end of year post which reflected back on the highs and lows of the last 12 months. Since then, it has become a personal tradition to write and publish my “That was the year that was” post on 31 December every year. More than anything, this post is a personal opportunity to look back as a year a draws to a close. 2016 has been another life changing year with my Maternity Leave reaching it’s an end, seeing me become a working mum. Little H has changed beyond belief in the last 12 months and is rapidly approaching the big 2. It’s been a whirlwind of a year but a fantastic one.
Thank-you to everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on my blog. I have loved hearing your thoughts and feedback on what I’ve written. I am extremely grateful that you all spare your valuable time to stop by. I have also enjoyed reading all of the wonderful posts you have written this year! I can’t wait for some more fantastic reads throughout 2017. I wish you all a very Happy New Year!
But 2016 isn’t over until it’s over. So let’s dive right in…
These questions are getting tougher by the ‘day’. I’m not even a quarter of the way through and I’ve hit a tough one:
6. Something you’re proud of in the past few days
I’ve been considering lots of different things in my head and I keep coming back to feeling proud because “H did x” or “H said y”. But they aren’t things I’ve done that I’m proud of, which is what I think the question really means. But sitting down now to write this post, I’ve realised what I’m really proud of sitting here on the sofa, right here, right now. I’m proud of getting through this week!
A few years ago, Sam and I learnt the value in taking two solid weeks off work. We now do it annually, usually in September. For 2016, that fortnight has just come to an end and we had a lovely time. “Where did they go?” you might wonder. Well actually we didn’t go anywhere. We took the term ‘staycation’ very literally and stayed at home for two whole weeks. Two. Whole. Weeks. It was wonderful!
Last month it was my birthday. Whilst I was still awake early, Sam got up and went downstairs with H so I could have a lie-in; For breakfast we had some delicious pancakes and H decided to play ball and not throw any of it anywhere; We went out for a nice morning stroll in the sunshine; Then over H’s nap time I had a quiet read and opened a few presents (so they didn’t get pinched by little hands); When H woke-up we had a late long lunch in town where H enjoyed the people watching and ate all her food; A lazy afternoon followed where Sam and I watched a film as H played quietly; Bedtime went smoothly and then we had a delicious dinner before an early bedtime. The ideal birthday! The birthday that is absolutely nothing like what actually happened.
Last Wednesday I left work feeling very chipper. I was off work for over a week, my first holiday since going back to work from Maternity Leave. SO EXCITING! We were all scheduled for a long weekend break with my Dad and Sister in Lisbon – somewhere I had always wanted to go. It was to be H’s first trip abroad. I had planned for most eventualities. But the reality was even more stressful and exhausting than anticipated – H spent the majority of the holiday crying, sleeping on me and refusing to eat. I cannot remember the last time I am felt so anxious about her.
2015 has been another challenging year, but more for happy reasons that sad, especially when compared against last year. Whilst the losses of 2014 are still very much felt, the arrival of H at the start of the year brought a bit of sunshine back in to life again. It’s pushed me to many extremes but it’s ultimately been a wonderful year so here is the summary!
Tomorrow is my first day back at work after 16 whole days off (18 out of the office if you include the two days I was working in the store) for Christmas and New Year. This is the first time I have had such a long period off in one run since 2006 when Sam and I went driving round the Netherlands and Belgium. Since then we have typically taken single weeks of annual leave, 10 days tops – even when we got married.
What I have learnt from this break is that you really can switch off with two weeks to clear your head and re-group. People have continually said it to me and I always nod in agreement, but this is the first time I have managed to do it. Of course, Christmas does immediately provide a distraction that makes it easy to switch-off; But on the flip-side, Christmas comes with it’s own stresses so in the round it’s no different to any other time of year.
Whilst I am not looking forward to getting-up early tomorrow, battling the un-ending wind and rain to commute to London, I feel (for the first time in a long time) well rested, well organised and like I don’t have lots of outstanding things to do. That’s a nice feeling and I only hope I can make two week holidays a little more of a common occurance than once every 8 years!
We spent the bank holiday weekend visiting a friend in Paris. Yesterday, we went for afternoon tea at another friend’s. But about 7:30, the friend we were staying with started to get a bit restless. Shortly after, we bid our farewells and headed home. Whilst walking back, she explained that even when she has the Monday off, she feels restless when she is out on a Sunday evening. I found this interesting to both hear and observe because I am exactly the same.
Since starting my ‘Year of Calm’, I have been much better on Sundays, but I still find them quite an anxious day of the week. There were times when I would get progressively more irritable as the afternoon progressed. If I cooked dinner late I would get hot and flustered, only to then subconsciously rush the meal more. A little bit of ironing could push me over the edge, even if everything else was done and I had an hour until ‘bed time’. Don’t even get me started on the Sundays where we were away. The sad thing was, I even felt it on holiday; whilst in Italy last year, mid-way through out break, I was very tetchy on Sunday evening, despite being a world-away from my work.
I feel it all stems from childhood were Sundays were the start of the school week. Many people I know still bow out of things during the week because they are ‘on a School Night’, despite neither being at school nor having children; Sunday, in effect, is The Daddy of School Nights. With that in mind, there seem to be two categories of people: those who want to be refreshed and prepared to take on the week in contrast to those who prefer to remain in denial and make use of every last second of weekend. Neither is right or wrong with both have their own merits. But it does seem that perhaps the curse of the ‘prepared’ group is that unsettled feeling on a occasional Sunday night out. Apart of taking the calm approach I have been taking this year and both admitting and accepting your neuroses, I am not sure there is much else to be done. It did make me happier to know it wasn’t just me though!
One aspect of my personality I can never avoid is the fact I become quite ‘addicted’ to things. I don’t mean that in a very bad alcohol / drug sense, rather that when I get in to something, I tend to get a bit hooked on it. Most recently, it’s work: I start getting in to things and despite the stress I sometimes feel, there is a part of me which still wants to keep going when I get home – it’s more the feeling of getting things done often rather than the work itself. (I would like to add here that I don’t keep going when I get home – the company I work for is not that kind of company and I still have some will power!) Other times it is rowing that reels me in – once I get in to my training, I want to keep training harder and harder to see what I can achieve. These are just two examples (cooking more, keeping the house neater, doing more DIY, practising my Spanish more and seeing friends and family more often are others) and the problem is, it isn’t possibly to do all of these things to the extent I want all at the same time. It’s not even possible to do more than two or three of them! The more I train, the more I need to sleep so the less I can work and see family, or the more I work the less time I have to train – vicious circles!
So, it got me thinking about the people I know and I think these obsessive and compulsive personalities are more common than we might realise. I look at so many people at work who are driven to work more and accomplish more. Then I look at the people I know at rowing, many of whom train 5 – 6 times a week as well as having jobs and families. The thing is, how many people do it because they want to, or because they feel compelled to. What I mean by that is, how many people work longer hours and often in the evenings because they genuinely take pleasure from it. Or is it because they want to be seen to accomplish more? How many people at rowing train more and more because, even though they will never get where they desire to be, they just daren’t see their name slip down a score list. Neither of these things are bad, if you do them for the right reasons, but sometimes I fear people don’t.
Knowing what I am like, as I get older (and hopefully slightly wiser) I try to keep myself in check. When I am on top of everything, I work as hard as I like, I train as hard as I like and I do whatever else I want / need to do. But, when it starts getting on top of me, I often find myself continuing at the same pace because it’s what I expect of myself and believe people expect of me. Perhaps that is true, but if you already push yourself quite hard, there is always some room for slack. So, when times get tough and I feel like the ‘addiction’ is turning sour, I drag myself home or let myself have a night off training. Because, quite honestly, there is enough in life to cause you stress without piling more on yourself! With that in mind, tomorrow I have a day off to, quite frankly, do whatever on earth I want!
The first week back at work after a holiday (even if that itself were only a week) is always tough. This week has been even tougher after our week off in early April coupled with all the bank holidays and last week meant that I haven’t done a 5 day week for about 6 weeks. I quite liked the shorter weeks too if I’m honest. If only it were possible to do those full time but without taking a pay cut… Can’t see my manager being up for that though! One can but dream of course.