This Is Me

I‘ve just stumbled upon my very first original draft of a blog post, written late one night about six months before my ‘official’ first blog post, and then forgotten about entirely. I feel like I should share it now, in all its vulnerable authentic glory (although I have corrected a couple of grammatical errors that just didn’t make sense), so you can see a glimpse into the mind of a mother who should have been asleep hours before, but who was staying up late starting a blog in an attempt to feel like herself again.

Here it is:

HERE WE GO A BLOGGING

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog for a little while now, maybe 6 months or so, but I keep putting myself off and talking myself out of it, telling myself I just don’t have the time, that I’ve got two small children at home with me full-time and don’t need to make more work and stress for myself and so on… It’s always ‘Not now, maybe later…’.

But then I happened to come across an article entitled ‘You Can Write Your Way Out of an Emotional Funk. Here’s How’. I thought “This sounds interesting”, and just about managed to read it before I was called away by another toddler tantrum. This article really made me think about my general emotional wellbeing and mental health, and the importance of writing/talking to other people. Before reading it I wouldn’t have thought of myself as being in an emotional funk, but I guess there’s hardly any way I couldn’t be. You see, I am the proud mother of two very small humans, ages three and one-and-a-half. Ever since having children it’s like my emotional filter has been cracked right open, and I find myself laughing, crying, getting frustrated with life and overflowing with love and joy all in the same day. Sometimes all in the same morning! So here I am, not necessarily trying to write my way out of an emotional funk, but to write my way through it, embracing all the craziness along the way. Maybe this is the right time to start writing a blog after all…

So without further ado, let’s crack on with the introduction…

My name is Sarah, and I live in Gloucestershire, England, with my husband and my two young children. I’m American by nationality, and British by nature. I’m a creative person with a love of textiles and natural materials, and I love throwing myself into projects and getting my hands dirty. I have a love of the outdoors and a great sense of adventure, but I also love being at home, growing vegetables in my garden and knitting and embroidering by the fire (I’m 26 by the way, not 100, in case some of you were wondering). I’m excellently enthusiastic about starting new projects, but less so about finishing them (let’s see how this whole blog thing pans out, shall we?). I am easily overwhelmed by clutter, but really good at creating it. I love Marmite. I hate scary movies. My favourite film is Amelie. My favourite song is (probably) Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits.

I haven’t talked about myself this much in a long time, and it feels a little strange.  Kind of like a first date or something… Maybe I’m reintroducing myself to myself here, is that weird? Am I totally nuts? This all feels rather self-indulgent, going on about me, me, me…

The thing is, over the past 3 years I have really let myself go. What I mean by that is that I have let my SELF go. While surviving on broken sleep and a diet of toast crust and a LOT of coffee may make me feel a bit hard core, the real challenge is that when your whole world suddenly starts revolving around a tiny and very needy human (shortly followed by a second tiny and very needy human in my case) you can end up turning into a caregiving machine, forgetting what it’s like to feel like an actual person sometimes. Every now and then I catch sight of myself in the mirror and think “Who the hell are you?” followed by “How long have the bags under my eyes been there?”.

This whole parenting journey has been such a rollercoaster, such an unpredictable and exciting ride, with so many ups and downs. Some days I’m whooshing along and I feel like Mary Poppins, other days I feel like a Dragon Lady and then feel so bad I wish the ride would stop so I can get off because actually I’m a bit scared and I really want my mummy. Talk about emotional funk!

Anyway, welcome to my blog! Hopefully you’ll enjoy bouncing around from one thing to the next with me, as I share with you my love of many things and try to make time to be me a little more often.

So, there you have it…this is me.

Finding this blog post has brought up a number of things for me, not least of them realising how long I struggled through the early years of parenting before I figured out I needed to look after myself. I threw myself into mothering with such enthusiasm and committment, and I gave it everything I had. I was determined to do the best job I could, and thought the only way to do that was by putting my children above everything else, all of the time. I put my own needs at the bottom of the list, and hoped I might eventually find time to look after myself if I ever finished everything else on my list first. I never got to the bottom of my list, I felt like I wasn’t achieving enough most of the time, and consequently hardly ever got round to looking after myself until I was completely burnt out. It seems like the most obvious thing in the world when you’re rested and have had time to think (which I do sometimes get to do these days), but so hard to recognise when you’re sleep deprived and trying to do all of the things all of the time. It’s impossible to give from an empty tank, and you cannot possibly look after other people without first looking after yourself. I wish I had found that out a lot sooner.

Finding this forgotten post also sparked my enthusiasm to follow through with other abandoned or forgotten projects, and I recently spent some time FINISHING something that is now in a frame and (almost) on the wall. For years I have been saving little scraps of paper, pictures from magazines, inspiring quotes from the little paper tags on Yogi Tea teabags (not kidding!), interesting stamps, etc, to eventually turn into a large collage. Inspired by the idea I saw somewhere of an ‘identity collage’, it is essentially a little collection of things that I like, put together purely for the joy of looking at them and making me smile. It even made me happy setting aside time to sit down and make it! If only I could travel back in time and hang it on the wall for three-years-ago me to see, I’m sure it would have helped.

 

Here’s to looking after yourself and giving yourself the love and care you deserve, whether you spend much of your time looking after others or not.

Sarah x

I’m Back!

Hello, and welcome back to my blog. It has taken quite a bit longer to write my second post than I had originally planned (over a year in fact) but I have finally scraped together the time to put fingers to keypad and here it is.

The reason it has taken so long is that almost a year ago we spontaneously leapt into a new project, one which has shaken up our lives and taken all our spare attention and energy up until now – we took over a business! Allow me to explain…

There was once a very lovely sewing shop called Herringbone in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire. It had beautiful fabrics, sewing patterns and haberdashery, and just the right colour blue paint on the windows and doors. I haven’t done much fabric buying or pattern following since my children were born, but I used to go in from time to time with one or both of them in tow to swoon over the beautiful fabrics and buy a bit of ribbon or something. Earlier last year I saw that the business was up for sale, and for about half a second I thought that in an alternate life perhaps that might be fun. At this point my nearly 2-year-old wasn’t sleeping through the night, life with two small children was pretty crazy and there was no chance of me even considering the idea of running a business.

Fast forward to 6 months later, and the right buyer still hadn’t come forward. An advert was placed on our local Facebook selling page (oh, the power of Facebook!) and my husband saw it. He emailed me immediately to tell me the news, with lots of capital letters and exclamation points, to which I said something along the lines of “Yeah, I already knew the business was for sale”. His reply was “Well, you could do that!”. Oh…could I? Instead of feeling excited about the idea, my initial reaction was one of absolute terror, alongside a large dose of not feeling good enough. I had a small freak-out, but decided it probably wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the owner and find out a bit more, and we scheduled a meeting for the next day. I expected to spend a while weighing up the pros and cons, but as soon as we walked out of the meeting I looked at him and said “I think we should go for it!”. At some point in those 24 hours something had shifted, and I had somehow found my way from feeling scared to feeling excited. A lot of it is down to my husband Luke. Besides being very handsome and clever (he didn’t even pay me to write that!) he is practical, good at fixing things, thinks about things logically and generally has sound judgement. I trust him, and usually if he has faith in something, it ends up turning out ok. This time, what he had faith in was me, and it finally dawned on me that if he believed in me, perhaps I should believe in me too. Once I thought about it that way it was like a switch had been flipped, and I was being proactive, making important phone calls that I would normally be too scared to make, and starting to sort out childcare logistics. It was a whilrwind two weeks between deciding to take on the shop and opening the doors to customers as the new owners, and I still can’t quite believe it actually happened!

Here we are nearly a full year on from making that exciting and life-changing decision, and I’m sad to say that we are going through the final motions of closing the business down. We took it on knowing that it wasn’t making huge piles of money, but had great potential for growth. I was all-in with the ideas and the enthusiasm, and got stuck into the challenge of helping the business grow and evolve. Unfortunately the reality of juggling running a business with parenting two young children was a far greater challenge than we ever could have imagined, and we eventually came to the realisation that something had to shift. We didn’t have the time or energy to make the business do anything other than break even, and in the end we decided it just wasn’t worth breaking our family over. It was such a hard decision to make, even though it felt like the right thing to do. I felt so at home in the shop, surrounded by beautiful fabrics, inspiring patterns and all kinds of trimmings and equipment, and it really was like a dream come true.

At other times though, it did feel like a complete nightmare. We didn’t have the budget for our youngest to go to childcare every day of the week, nor did I want to give up looking after him myself all the time, so I brought him to the shop with me. I was determined to have it all and to do it all. We had some great times there together, my little boy and I, and in the mornings as we would park the car and walk hand in hand to open up the shop I would think to myself “How lucky am I, to be able to do all of this?”. We happened to have a bakery two doors down, and it became traditional to pop in and buy an iced bun as a treat/bribe to keep the peace for as long as possible, and I would watch him happily munching and think “I can do this!”. Towards the end of the day however, after meltdowns and tantrums and feeling like I wasn’t able to run a shop or be a good mother all at the same time, my thoughts would change to “Why am I trying to do all of this at once?” and ”I CAN’T DO THIS!”…

I think the ultimate truth is that before taking on the shop I never fully appreciated the role I already had. I was the primary caregiver to two small children; I was full-time, full-on mothering, and I really had more than enough to be getting on with. I think the reason the idea of running a fabric shop seemed so attractive at the time was because it offered me some variety, and time to focus on my own interests again. I jumped at the chance! It seems like quite a dramatic way to come to this realisation, but on reflection I think a regular day off or working one or two days a week somewhere where I wasn’t in charge of the whole show would have done the trick. What I needed was a break, not a second full-time job!

“What will you do now?” is a question I have been asked more times than I can count over the past few weeks, and the truthful answer is “I don’t know”. I am kind of enjoying this ‘not knowing’ though, and feel confident that I’ll soon figure it out. Right now I’m busy closing down a business, getting my children settled at school/playgroup and tying up loose ends. I am on a mission to finish off abandoned sewing projects and clear out stuff I no longer need, to give myself a clean slate and some available headspace. I do know that once I’m no longer pulled in so many different directions and trying to do so many things at once, I’ll be able to focus again and think clearly. I do know that I’m looking forward to working on my own projects again, and I do know that I’m really excited to be able to pick my children up from school/playgroup again. I also know that regardless of the debt, the stress and everything else that went with it, I’m still glad I took on Herringbone. I have met so many creative and lovely people, learned so much and challenged and surprised myself along the way. Before we jumped onto the rollercoaster this past year has been, I wasn’t completely convinced I could actually do it. Now I know that I can do it – I just can’t do it right now.

So to all of you who have supported Herringbone over the years, and to all of you who have supported our family and made this crazy juggling act work for as long as it did, thank you. We absolutely could not have done it without your help!

Challenge Accepted

Wise words indeed, but certainly difficult to muster up the courage to put into action. I’ve been sitting on a bunch of different creative ideas for a number of years now, waiting to feel like I was ready, or to feel like I knew which direction to take, before putting myself out there and laying out my work for everyone to see. I wanted to feel in control, to feel like I knew what I was doing, to have a well thought-out and cohesive collection to unveil to the world with a big flourish, as if to say ”Here I am, I am experienced and confident and I’ve got it all figured out”.  I wanted to play it like a game of poker, keeping my cards close to my chest, not giving anything away until I had a winning hand and could confidently slap it down on the table, sure of victory.  If I carry on like that I may never be ready, and I could end up spending my life hiding from the world. I’ve only just started to learn that there’s no shame in being a work-in-progress (personally or professionally) because if you’re not progressing or changing or growing in some way, then what is the point?

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