How on earth did I end up here?
This is a question that unites so many of us.
It’s a question I asked repeatedly through my late 30s and early 40s.
And it’s a question that comes up all the time in my conversations with coaching clients, retreat attendees, followers and friends.
Where exactly is here?
The answer may differ depending on the individual but amongst my audience and social circles, here tends to include one or more of the following elements: singleness, childlessness and career confusion, none of which we’d expected to experience at this age and stage of our lives.
We’d expected to have it all sorted by now, right? You know, a partner, maybe a few kids and a fulfilling career.
This may not have been everyone’s dream but it was the dream – the now shattered dream – of many women I know.
Before I go any further, an aside: singleness is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not something that needs fixing. Singleness is wonderful – if we want to be single, if we’re happy being single.
My single years included many experiences that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been in a relationship, adventures I went on around the globe, deep friendships I formed and tonnes of recovery, personal growth and healing work. I transformed thanks to my single years.
But there came a time when I’d had enough.
I’d had enough of travelling alone, of seeing amazing sights but having nobody to share them with, of cooking for myself and of doing all that tedious life admin stuff that’s so dull on your own but can actually be fun with someone by your side. (My husband and I always have a giggle in B&Q).
And this is what unites many of the people in my circles and in my audience – they are done with being single, tired of doing life on their own. They are also bemused as to why their relationships haven’t worked out and their dates continue to end in disaster.
Other areas of their lives may have gone to plan. They may not love their career anymore but they are smart and determined and they’ve done well in the workplace. Maybe their finances are in pretty good shape, and they’re healthy and fit too, although perhaps with some struggles around emotional overeating, just like me, or other mental health challenges.
Yet their love life has not gone to plan at all.
Childlessness is another common denominator amongst the women in my circles, both friends and clients, and it goes hand-in-hand with the unwanted singleness.
Of course, we can or we could have tried to have children on our own, but most of us imagined having kids within a loving partnership, and while there are many paths to motherhood, most of us had set our heart on having a biological child.
Some of us find ourselves single, just as our fertility window is closing, which makes dating trickier than ever. What do we say on our profiles or on dates? Do we put our cards on the table, say we want kids, or would that scare the date off? It’s a minefield – a minefield I first explored on this blog 10 years ago, with a series of posts expressing my own dilemmas, including Dating with Baby Goggles On and The Baby Gap.
Or maybe our fertility window is now tightly shut and we are grieving that shattered dream at the same time as trying to date, while managing the peri-menopause or the menopause.
Or perhaps we are unsure about motherhood, ambivalent to the core. If that’s you, you’ll find good company on this blog (read my posts on Ambivalence about Motherhood and Why I Don’t Have Children).
Then there’s the career. The career we gave our all to, especially all of our fertile years, coming home exhausted, too tired to date, too tired to join a dance class or go to a comedy club, too tired even to put the ready meal in the microwave, resigning ourselves to a bowl of cereal instead.
The career we excelled at, rising to the top, only to get there and question what we’d been striving for because we now feel soul-dead, lost, depressed even, yearning to do something else, something more creative, more authentic to us, but we don’t know what or we don’t have the courage or we don’t have the money because we’re mortgaged up to the hilt.
Yes, I’ve been there. I’ve been in all of those places.
But I’m not there anymore. So this blog is to give you hope.
If you are asking, how on earth did I end up here?, you are in the right place.
You are in the right place because you are awake, no longer sleepwalking your way to unhappiness. Instead, you are looking around at your life, eyes wide open, knowing that you want and deserve more.
You’re in the right place because you’re a little bit angry or very angry and you are ready to harness that anger, ready to use it to light the fire that’s going to power your transformational process.
Yes, dear reader, you’re in the right place.
And you’ll look back on this moment, on that question and you’ll see it for the catalyst that it was and ultimately, with time, you will see that you ended up here for a reason, perhaps even that you were always meant to end up here.
That doesn’t mean that we don’t grieve our losses. It doesn’t mean we sweep our shattered dreams under the carpet, never to think of them again.
But it does mean that we eventually find a place of acceptance.
We accept ourselves and we accept our path.
We forgive ourselves and we forgive the choices that we made, consciously or unconsciously. This is important – some of us are very hard on ourselves.
We find our courage and we face our fears.
We do the necessary work to process our past hurts and clear the way for new dreams.
And we build a beautiful life.
Perhaps we become part of a wonderful partnership, if that’s our heart’s desire, and we see that the pain, the dysfunction and the healing have brought us here – to this precious gift of a relationship.
Perhaps we change our careers. We allow our creativity to come out of hiding and take up its rightful place or we find ways to turn our pain into a passsion.
As for the parenthood question, well that depends on our age and stage, but whatever our situation, I believe we can, in time, make peace with whatever place we find ourselves in, even if it isn’t exactly what we wanted.
From my experience, having the other elements in place – the loving partnership and my own version of a family (I have a family of three now because we have a gorgeous pup) and a career I’m passionate about – helps me to deal with the losses.
Having my health helps too and feeling grateful for my health, because I’ve had a few challenges in recent years and I have friends my age with massive health challenges now.
Living by the sea and swimming in the sea help too. The sea has been a Godsend – a real tonic for my often addled brain.
So dear reader, if you are asking, how on earth did I end up here?, as I did on many occasions, I encourage you to ask an even more critical question: what am I going to do about it?
And then to do whatever it takes to find your answer, as I have done.
Some of you will be reading this from the other side – you’ve asked the first question, you’ve made your peace with your past and you’ve done something about it – you’ve changed your life in some way. Yay!
Some of you will be part way along that path. Well done for starting out – the first step is the hardest.
Others will be right in it, right in the middle of the confusion and loss, railing at this life that didn’t go to plan, bemused as to how things have turned out.
I hear you. I see you. And there is hope.
But it’s going to take courage. It’s going to require courageous action.
With courage, we’ll be able to accept the past and to change the present and the future.
With courage, we can start making different choices.
We can start today.
Wherever you are on your journey, if I can support you, please get in touch. This blog, my book, How to Fall in Love, my courses, workshops and retreats are for people like you – people who have asked or are asking, how on earth did I end up here? People who are ready and willing to do something about it.
Sending love and strength,
How I Can Support You
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Online Courses – Reconnect to Your True Self, How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations and Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence. My courses can be taken in your own time in the comfort of your own home. They can also be combined with 1:1 coaching. Small group courses for women will resume in due course.
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Great article Katherine, I really see myself in it. I ended a good relationship in my mid-20s as I wasn’t able to commit. He wanted a family.I have really regretted it. Then in lockdown I had a clear out and threw out all the letters from him, without reading them. I thought i was ready, but now I really regret that, I’ve lost his voice, a sense of what was happening (was it really so great?)and part of my story. I’m trying to be self-compassionate (very hard) and focus on what you said, what am I going to do now? Thank you for being so honest. x
Thank you Fiona. And I hope you are able to forgive yourself for ending that relationship – you were very young and who knows how it would have gone – and to show yourself compassion for clearing out those letters, which, perhaps in time, you may feel more resolved about, as it feels like a self-loving thing to do, a way to move forwards. Thank you for reading and commenting x