Hello my dears! Here we are at the start of a brand new year. I hope the past few weeks have been good for you......
May I tell you a story? For the last few years I have been on a journey of discovery that started back in the summer of 2012, when we visited my home country of Malawi. Holidays for me are always a time when I think a lot......I mull over things more than in my day to day life. In fact a holiday doesn't feel quite right if I haven't managed to dream, plan and review things.
To be honest, friends, I was struggling. For the first time ever I was questioning my job as a doctor. I felt unhappy and unfulfilled. Colleagues were getting ahead, doing research, being published, while I was working part time and spending my home time with my children, sewing and baking, instead of reading the medical journals. My boys were getting older and more independent, and it was hard for me to let them go. I was living far away from my parents, and wondered how I would help them when they needed me in the future. I was living in London with only a paved courtyard the size of a postage stamp......... yet dreaming of the country, and longing to keep chickens. I wanted to be creative, but I was a scientist...... how could those go together?
That holiday I decided to sort myself out. Over the next few months, I started watching TED talks and discovered Brené Brown, a qualitative researcher who believes that stories are data with a soul. She has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame. I watched her famous TED talk, 'The Power of Vulnerability' and was completely blown away.
Reading her books totally changed my life. I cannot tell you, dear friends, how enlightening and affirming it was. She started off studying connection, how it gives purpose and meaning to our lives. How the thing that unravels connection is shame, which she defines as the fear of 'I'm not good enough'. She listened to thousands of stories, and analysed them. She realised that there were people who knew they were good enough, and she called them Wholehearted. What did these people have that the others didn't? The courage to be imperfect, the compassion to be kind to themselves and then to others, and the willingness to be vulnerable.......to let themselves be seen as they actually are, not as they thought they should be seen. To love with their whole hearts even when there were no guarantees, and above all to believe that they were worthy of love and belonging.
I realised that in many ways this was how I lived my life, but I questioned it. Why, when many female colleagues felt they should be tough and bullying to get ahead, was I the touchy, feely one? Was loving my children so fiercely setting me up for heartache? Would people lose respect for me because I wore my heart on my sleeve? Brené Brown made me understand although those things might happen, it was the only way I could be my most authentic self.
As part of this journey I decided to choose a word for the year. Something to aim towards, to focus on, to guide my path. A theme gently reminding me now and then of what I am trying to achieve. And when times are hard, I think of my word and ask myself if I am living up to it.
2014 was the first year I chose a word. That word was 'grace'. What do I mean by grace? I have looked up many meanings, and the closest I can find to what I mean is 'a disposition to kindness and compassion'. This is how I want to live my life.
For 2015 I decided on 'serenity'. Although I felt I had come a long way, I still didn't always feel at peace. I decided to focus on what I needed to make my life serene. It was not an easy year for me. I had health problems, there were exams and my oldest child left school. At the lowest points, I remembered my word and glumly wondered how I could possibly achieve serenity........ But because I had spent time jotting down the things that brought serenity for me, I was able to find something, small or big that got me back on track.
And so to this year. I started wondering what the word would be a few weeks ago. I tried out a few words, but nothing felt right. And then on the morning of 1st January I was reading one of our favourite blogs, Foxs Lane. And there it was, right at the top of her post. The word 'grow'.
And it just suddenly felt right. I didn't need to find a new theme. I needed to further those things I was already doing.
Grow as a person, a mother, wife, sister and friend. Grow the exciting business Lu and I are planning. Grow in my senior role at work. Grow a house that makes me happy.
And by the way, I will add this word to my other words! I will consciously keep hold of grace and serenity, and I will start to plan how I can grow........
Hoping this next year brings you all you dream of, dear readers