I went for a swim in the sea this morning, in my new wetsuit, cosy swimming socks, neoprene gloves and cap. And I wasn’t even cold.
On the way down to the beach, I had one of those ‘I think I need to pinch myself’ moments. I was driving my little Mini Cooper S (cream with black bonnet stripes), I had my swimming gear in the boot and I was thinking that this time next week, my partner and I will get the keys to our new house. Our first ever home together. The first house either of us has ever bought with anyone else. Our three bed semi with wood floors and decking onto a sunny garden, walking distance to the harbour and a bike ride to the beach.
How did I end up here? How did I end up in love, buying a house, living by the coast, writing my blog in a cafe while looking out to sea?
I made it happen. I made choices. I took risks. I pushed through my wobbles.
Remember this blog: The life I want to lead from October, 2012? I do. I was single, unhappy and staring at a box of unopened antidepressants tucked away in my tea drawer. I’d just done my motorbike test – driving a scooter on busy roads through disgusting weather as big lorries sped past – and it felt like I’d just sentenced myself to many more years of living alone in London. How on earth did I end up here, I asked. I pulled myself out of it, taking myself off to Mexico for five weeks, realising that if I want my life to change, I have to change it, but while I had a fabulous time away, I felt sad and miserable again when I got back.
So what changed?
I made some choices.
In October 2015, a few weeks after taking my first anti-depressant and then deciding I didn’t want to go down that route, I took a few big decisions and resolved to stick to them.
I committed to giving a relationship with my partner my best shot – no more wavering, no more one foot in, one foot out, no more looking over my shoulder or his to see if there was someone else around. I also committed to writing my book and to spending money on a writers’ retreat to prove to myself that my book was worth investing in. And I committed to putting my health and happiness first. That was the Rescue Remedy I blogged about. And it worked.
Not long after that, I made another choice – to move out of London to the sea, something I’d been talking about for years but hadn’t had the courage to do. And that’s where I am right now, writing this while looking at the beach, my wetsuit in the back of my little car.
It hasn’t been plain sailing, as you well know. How could it be? I’m prone to my ups and downs whether I live in Islington or Poole, whether I’m in love or lonely. And I’m prone to overdoing it, working too hard at things that don’t nourish my soul, not getting to the beach enough. But on balance, I’m a lot more balanced down here. I can thank the sea for that, as well as all the work I’ve done on myself and the steady, solid, oak-of-a-bloke I love.
So if I want things to change, I have to change them. If they don’t work, I can always change them back but I believe choosing to change is the answer to being stuck.
Change is tough, especially if you carry around several bags of anxiety like me, but I’ve seen over the past few months, much more than ever before, that Mark Twain was on to something when he said: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
The difficult things that happen to us often come out of the blue, with no warning, knocking us for six. But the things I spend most of my time worrying about, trying to anticipate, rarely come to pass. For example …
All being well, my partner and I will complete our house purchase next week, saving us a huge amount of money in extra stamp duty. I didn’t think we’d manage it. I’ve worried about it for weeks. But the whole thing has flowed, with only minor hiccups. It’s not entirely clear whether I needed to stress so much, to intervene, to make so many phone calls, to stay on top of the process every minute of every day. I wonder if it would have flowed just the same without my control freakery. I certainly would have slept better if I’d have believed it would all work out in the end. Who knows?
And take our recent ski trip. I thought I’d be miserable. I thought my hands and feet would freeze and I’d poke my eye out with a ski pole. I thought I’d be lonely since all my pals can ski and I can’t. I thought I’d hurt myself when I fell and it would be a painful, expensive week.
But no. I absolutely loved it. The sun shone every day but one, I was generally too hot, not cold, I enjoyed learning with the ladies in my ski school, I adored dancing in my ski boots as the sun went down and I didn’t hurt myself, not even when I slid backwards down a red slope for quite a stretch.
Fabulous. When can I go back?
So how did I end up here?
I used to ask that question in tears in the bedroom of my Islington flat or at the end of that horrible motorbike test. I still ask it, but the tone is different now and I’ve got a smile on my face. How did I end up here, living this wonderful life?
The answer is I made it happen.
So if you’re feeling stuck and want to change, why not give change a shot? Move towards it, grab it with both hands. Discover the patterns that get in the way of your happiness and do the opposite of what you’ve always done.
The worst that can happen is that you have to change back.