At the weekend I shared how the time had come to address my flagging energy levels and boost my wellbeing after a tough year and embedding survival strategies. This revelation and my thinking behind it seemed to resonate with many of my friends, family and colleagues. It’s great to open up and be met with positivity. I want to share how I have done the hardest part – getting started and all those immediate lessons learned from my Better: Gen programme.
Time is my greatest luxury, my greatest resource and my greatest challenge. Time is something I have blogged about before. Time works in two spheres for me – the weekly plan we get through and the long term. I’ve been living in the here and now and neglecting the bigger picture this last year – and that’s ok – it had to be that way. I have a baby who was very premature, has needed operations and is facing developmental challenges. Survival meant taking a day at a time.
Survive we did. In fact, Leo is thriving. We navigated his first day at home, first night in his own room, and his first birthday. We managed mummy’s first day back at work and are now in a great routine. Leo is thriving. But I am not.
Spending some time in the city centre last year, I was jolted back twenty years as I overheard a conversation.
“You want that? For school? Hmm. You know what. Fine…”
As a teenager gleefully carried the zip up tunic dress to the cash desk I had a sneaky smile at the mother and daughter doing battle over school uniform. There were similar discussions going on all over Dundee city centre last week as debates were had over sweatshirt or cardigan, shirts or polo-shirts and of course trainers or shoes!
I remember a love-hate feeling about the Back to School shop. I hated that it was advertised from the minute the school bell rang on the last day of term when all I wanted to think about was sunshine, watching ‘Saved by the Bell’ and eating Pop Tarts for breakfast. I did not like the queue in Clarks Shoes when I was at primary school, or the over-heated schoolwear department of Marks and Spencer. As I got older I took more of an interest because it became much more important to get it just right – grey or black skirt (never trousers!), fitted shirts (my mum hated those) and of course backpack or tote bag?! I think I usually got it right – but for the year before and everyone else had moved on. Never mind, it wasn’t a fashion show as I was always reminded. The real place I could show flair was in Woolworths.
Ten months in… A while since I wrote my last blog. What does prematurity look like ten months on?
When we first brought Leo home. He was like any newborn – just smaller. He fed, he cried, he slept, he pooped, he thrived on cuddles. In a matter of weeks that would change as he underwent neurosurgery but soon we were back on the ‘normal’ newborn train. Eat, sleep, poop, cuddle and repeat.
In the last ten months Leo has grown, he sleeps all night, he makes adorable sounds, he kicks and wriggles, he enjoys porridge and purees and he puts things in his mouth. He is alert, aware and one of the cheeriest souls you will meet.
At ten months I see the distance with Leo and other babies widening. I know, I know. Don’t compare. All babies are different. They all do what they want and when they want. Leo doesn’t sit or roll… yet! But boy are we working hard. We’re filling 3-6 months vests now so we are on our way.
#PrematurityIs being told your baby is on his way into the world, foot first, at 25 weeks in the wrong city.
Friday 17 November is World Prematurity Day and the charity, Bliss, is doing a great job of raising awareness of prematurity. Prematurity is the leading cause of death in children under five around the world. One in ten babies is born prematurely.
I have had some experience of prematurity in my life so far. I was born five weeks premature. My youngest sister, Taylor, was born ten weeks premature. There were no signs during the pregnancy that my son, Leo, would be born at 25 weeks and 6 days. It had been plain sailing before that.
I am 16 weeks pregnant, and despite the subsidence of morning sickness, I am feeling increasingly sick. I thought pregnancy would mellow me. I thought the hormones would make me all warm and gooey and peaceful. I thought I would learn to choose my battles wisely and create a relaxing environment to cocoon the little one. But no, I’m even more angry and agitated that normal. My husband calls me the ‘little agitator’ which is a moniker first thought up for Lisa Simpson. She happens to be a role model of mine so I don’t mind. Lisa always stands up for what she believes in. She isn’t afraid to rock the boat. She certainly doesn’t mind disagreeing with the adults around her.
The topics that are getting me particularly animated at the moment are the number of people who are increasingly using the differences between us for political or economical capital.
I don’t remember enjoying the period between Christmas and New Year so much for a long time. I was working parts of it for the last two years but even before that, I didn’t seem to count it as a proper holiday. I’ve really gotten into it this year. We haven’t made plans – no travelling, no nights out, no shopping sprees, no madcap schemes for self-improvement. We have embarked on absolutely guilt-free resting, listening and reading. I’m not entirely sure we should feel guilty about those activities anyway. Rest, listening and reading being essential ingredients for curing the modern mania of 24/7 living and connectivity.
It occurred to me while watching the ‘wrong’ Scrooge. That is the one from 1970 with Albert Finney. The 1951 film with Alistair Sim is the ‘right’ one. Obviously, The Muppets’ Christmas Carol is the best of the genre. Some things about Christmas can be disappointing. Maybe the Dickens book that pertains most to Christmas is actually Great Expectations.
For the week before Christmas I get excited. Child-like excited. I get butterflies in my stomach. I enjoy the ‘to do’ list of festive things. I want to make it all perfect. Then I start to think about the supermarket ad version of Christmas. The big, bustling family. Games. Champagne in a big ice bucket. A perfectly fitting velvet dress. A handsome husband – OK I get that one, but no chance he’s wearing a suit. Snow falling. A puppy with a red bow around its neck. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s a work of fiction. It’s a nonsense spreading to make us feel like somehow we are failing so we buy stuff and feel like we are winning.
This Saturday was Small Business Saturday in the UK. This annual non-commercial campaign does good work highlighting the contribution small businesses make to the economy and the character of our town centres. Held on the first Saturday of December, it’s also a key day in the retail calendar. The day many people flock to the shops to do Christmas shopping after the all-important November payday.
This time last year, I was running a small business, Time Lifestyle Boutique. It was a gift shop in Dundee city centre, on the street that connects the civic centre of the City Square to McManus, the city’s current star museum ahead of V&A Dundee opening in 2018. I closed the business for good in March this year after a whirlwind adventure where I chased my dream, achieved what I always wanted to do and learned very valuable and hard lessons. Ultimately the business was not to be sustainable one but it was the start of a new chapter for me where I faced fears and made things happen in life. It’s in this spirit I have continued on my journey.
The reason I bring up Time this week is because I thought about the shop more this weekend than I had for the last few months. Small Business Saturday was the day we would take the most money each year. I did a lot of promotion of the event and wrote and spoke a lot about how important it was. In 2014, I also coordinated a campaign for other city centre businesses to get involved with. We offered discounts and shared information about the other participating businesses in the spirit of collaboration, rather than competition. I hope that this awareness campaign has at least resonated with a few people who include small businesses in their buying habits to this day. It might just save other small businesses from the same fate as my own.
My Dad has a saying, ‘time solves everything’. When I am feeling cynical I think that’s because I will probably die before I get to the end of my to-do list and then I won’t have the to-do list anymore. When I am feeling more optimistic, I get it. The thing that is causing you to worry today will probably worry you less in six months’ time. The exception to this is DIY. Putting off a small leak will not be less of a worry in six months. It will lead you to the event that happened to me earlier today… getting a joiner in to replace the part-rotten bathroom floor.