Reflecting on the last 10 years has required a lot of thought and soul searching. I’ve tried to do it openly and honestly but without oversharing too much. I hope I managed to get the balance right and I hope you enjoy the read.
What happened 10 years ago?
It was 10 years ago in May 2012 that I walked out of my corporate job in the middle of a work day and ultimately (though I didn’t know it at the time) didn’t ever go back (my decision).
It’s confronting knowing that it has been 10 years. 10 years and what have I done with myself? What have I achieved? 10 years and how are things different now?
I know that some readers might wonder what happened 10 years ago to make me walk out like that, but there’s nothing to be gained by rehashing the detailed story of ‘why’ I walked out that day. In a nutshell, it was a toxic environment where my loyal and hard working self was being taken for granted and taken advantage of, and there was a very strong sense of betrayal involved which was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That workplace imploded soon after I left so it was a very good thing that I left when I did.
What happened after I walked out?
I was not well. I had been living a life where I was trying to be everything to everyone for many, many years and I was burning the candle at both ends trying to keep up with it all. After I walked out that day, I remember walking to the train station but I couldn’t feel my feet touching the ground. It was disorienting and I had to really concentrate to walk. I remember sitting on the train with my head resting on the window, sunglasses on, the odd tear trickling down my face, and I was feeling numb. I got home, crawled onto my bed, curled up in the fetal position and cried day after day after day after day. I couldn’t function. Quite obviously there was a problem. There was a deep hurt from a betrayal I had felt, a dreadfully bleak sadness, and an inability to do or even want to do anything. Eventually I went to the doctor and asked to be sent to a hospital where I could be left in peace with no responsibilities so I could heal, and so I went to a hospital but I only stayed there a week. I wanted to be home for my birthday so as not to upset my kids. In hindsight, I needed to be there much longer. The doctors told me that the state I was in was as a result of living with chronic stress for far too long. Once I stepped off the treadmill, I crashed and burned. I didn’t have time to when I was still on it!
Since then, I’ve been rebuilding myself I guess. I participated in a 365 Grateful Project in the hope it would help me find some joy and re-engage/connect with life. I started my first blog in September 2012 to share each of my 365 Grateful photos. I then became interested in photography and did an online course which resulted in a Diploma in Professional Photography. My blogs (first one and this one) have reflected my journey and interests since then – mindfulness; self investment/self care; balance of mind, body & spirit; obtaining a sense of zen (my Gems of Zen series); ageing positively (the Gorgeous 50’s & more); rediscovered a love and talent for crochet; becoming a foster carer for neonatal kittens; and more recently my 100 Day Project and my art. My blogs have also tapped in to most of my life experiences over that time, like turning 50, the loss of my Dad, the global pandemic, etc.
What has changed in the last 10 years?
- 10 years ago when I walked out of my workplace, I was 47 (nearly 48), my twins were at University and my daughter was in Year 12. My Mum & Dad were healthy and well.
Today I’ve turned 58, my twins will turn 30 in November, my daughter is 27, my Dad has sadly passed away, my Mother has deteriorated somewhat and now needs our care.
- 10 years ago I suffered with chronic stress and wasn’t even aware of it. I was constantly BUSY. I was on a treadmill of doing what I thought was expected of me, juggling multiple roles and responsibilities, and trying to be everything to everyone.
Nowadays I’m more selective in how I spend my time and who I spend my time with. I know myself much better and where I can, I avoid situations that will cause me stress as much as is possible. I understand myself better and have adjusted my life to better look after my wellbeing, and I have the tools to help myself keep my stress levels under control.
- 10 years ago I had no time for hobbies and I had no idea what I enjoyed or was good at.
Over the last 10 years I’ve been exploring what interests me, what I enjoy, what I might be good at. I’ve been blogging (it will be 10 years in September), I’ve studied photography, I rekindled a love of crochet, I’ve fostered kittens, and more recently discovered that I enjoy art and am actually quite good at it!
- 10 years ago I had no tools to manage my stress.
These days my lifestyle is very different. I no longer have a 2 hour commute per day, a long day in the office with all the personalities and issues and stressors that come with it. I no longer arrive home late after a long day at work having to cook dinner only to then get on my computer at home of an evening and continue to work in order to help myself get ahead of the workload. I’ve made lifestyle choices to support my wellbeing. What I do have is a daily morning yoga and pilates practice (thank you Merrybody), a good understanding of the advantages of mindfulness and meditation, a better understanding of who I am and what I need to avoid and what I need to do to help myself when I am feeling stressed and/or overwhelmed.
- 10 years ago my parents had each other and were doing well.
On 1 December this year it will be five (5) years since we lost Dad. Since mid-late last year Mum has declined quite a bit, spent a few weeks in hospital, and now needs a lot of our time and care. I spend every second week staying with Mum. I take my yoga mat with me and my morning practice continues regardless. I often take some art supplies too and if I find time I’ll do a little art.
- 10 years ago I was in early stages of perimenopause.
Today I have STILL not yet reached menopause (that is when you’ve had 12 months without menstruation). This has been a very long and difficult experience for me. I’m not surprised though because menstruation has been a painful and difficult thing for me since I was around 11 years of age. A mid-life adult diagnosis of Adenomyosis and PMDD has helped explain this – a little late though!
- 10 years ago if someone had’ve told me there would be a global pandemic I would’ve laughed and said yeah maybe in a movie!!
Today the effects of living through a global pandemic are very real. I’m hyper vigilant about my hygiene when out and about. I still wear a mask if amongst crowds of people in closed in spaces. I choose where I go very carefully and in fact spend a lot more time at home than I ever used to.
What have I learned about myself?
These are some things I’ve learned about myself. There are probably more but these are what come to mind at the time of typing this.
- Where once I was a social butterfly who loved to party and dance and loved crowds and noise and late nights, I now am polar opposite! haha I like quite a lot of time alone. I do get lonely with too much of it though. I like my social activities spaced out. I don’t like going out at night except for a quiet dinner out with friends.
- I am very sensitive to noise and cannot stand loud noise. It actually feels like physical pain to me – like jack hammers in my head.
- I don’t like being stuck in crowds. Maybe the fact I suffer with claustrophobia doesn’t help nor the fact that I’m vertically challenged, but it’s worse now (more anxiety inducing) during these pandemic days.
- I like going to musicals but only matinees (see first dot point). Luckily I have a friend who is exactly the same and we enjoy going together.
- I don’t like having to make quick decisions. I like time to mull it over.
- I’m not shy but I’ve become more introverted as I’ve gotten older.
- Being out in nature, around beautiful views and sunrises and sunsets uplifts me.
- I learnt from losing my Dad that there is a strength within me I never knew I had. I surprised myself. Where did she come from? I couldn’t bear to be with my dogs Shaddi and Chelsea in their final moments as I thought it would be too painful for me to cope with (I hugged and kissed them, said my final words and left the room in tears), yet I was with my Dad right to the end and I provided comfort and love to the very edges and extremities of my being.
- I’ve learnt that I’m a highly sensitive person and most likely an empath. I feel things deeply. I get hurt quite easily. I love very deeply. I’m very loyal. I absorb the moods and pain of others. I worry a lot. It can be exhausting and draining.
- I can have very deep mood dips and need strategies to help me with this. Catching up with a friend, getting out in nature, getting away somewhere, being creative, for example.
- As I age, I can’t do as much in a day as I used to. I need my load lighter and I have done this as best as I can.
- I still have work to do on the voice in my head that tells me I’m not enough. I’m very self critical. I worry people don’t like me. I don’t fit the typical ‘popular’ mould. I’m a little different and I like that actually. And even though someone might say my art is good, I see only the faults. So yes, I do still have quite a bit of work to do in learning to accept myself, not care what others think, and stop being so hard on myself.
- I’ve learnt to accept that change is inevitable. Nothing ever stays the same forever, and I think I’m more adaptable to change than I ever realised, because we have to be!
BACK TO THE QUESTION: 10 years and what have I done with myself? What have I achieved?
I’ve done quite a lot over the last 10 years, but as for what I’ve achieved – well this is where I get hard on myself. I’ve explored my interests. I’ve shared my thoughts here on the blog. I’ve cared for my parents. I’ve run a household. I’ve parented three young adults. I’ve cared for abandoned and vulnerable neonatal kittens. I’ve cared for my dog ‘Ava’ and the two foster kittens that I ended up adopting ‘Axel’ and ‘Amaya’. But … I still do not feel that I have enough to show for those 10 years. Where is the success? The inner critic says I have not been enough.
To be honest, I often feel a sense of panic as the years speed by, that I’m running out of time or that I’m wasting away my life. I have this ongoing need to be productive and to achieve. At the same time, I want to keep stress to a minimum and I know that I don’t ever want to return to the workforce (especially not the corporate world). My wellbeing is top priority – physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.
I often feel a pressure (from myself) to excel in areas where I may have some talent. First it was the blog and photography, then it was crochet and now it is my art. I tell myself I should make something of these things, create a business, earn some money from it. Be productive. Achieve. Succeed. Like others I see! But something always holds me back. What is it? Fear of failure? Fear of getting too busy? I’m really not sure. It’s interesting. It’s frustrating, and it’s something I would like to get to the bottom of.
Grief and aged care is something that wasn’t a part of my life 10 years ago and so I need to consider this when I’m being hard on myself. I’m still grieving the loss of my Dad, and I’m very busy caring for my Mum. These fall into the category of ‘unavoidable stresses’ in life but I feel grateful that I left work when I did so that I had time to heal from the consequences of years of chronic stress and be in a better place to cope with these things. I’m also grateful that I’m not working so that I have been able to be there for my parents.
I think the last 10 years have been great for me but also difficult. I am blessed that I could have this time for ‘me’ – to heal and to explore and discover who I am. It’s not been easy though being the only one in the household who is not going off to work each day. It has meant that I have felt a need to prove my worthiness, and I’ve put a lot of pressure on myself as a result.
In two years I’ll be 60. That is hard to believe but I’m glad I’ve got time to get used to the idea. I hope I can love and accept myself more by then and have put this need to ‘achieve and succeed’ to bed in one way or another once and for all.
Cheers to the next 10 years – may they bring more understanding of ourselves and a wonderful sense of peace and joy – for all of us.
DO YOU RECOGNISE YOURSELF IN ANYTHING I’VE SHARED HERE? I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS & EXPERIENCES!
Ciao for now,
Linking up with Denyse Whelan for #LifeStories