Lesson 10: appreciating mums

Capture1 Capture Shopping with mum

When I was seven, my nan was in a pretty horrific car accident. She swerved on ice in the pitch black, crashing into a tree that quickly crushed her car. By complete chance, two kind men found her in the dark and saved her life. She had reconstructive surgery around her eye. I can still see it now. I drew pictures of her because her poor broken face scared me so much. I remember, quite clearly, climbing into bed with my mum and sobbing with her when we heard of the accident. For the first time in my short life, it dawned on me that this person, Nanny, was my mum’s mum. And for the first time, my mum was no different to me. We were just kids together. She was vulnerable and scared. I wanted to protect her the way she protected me. I felt like it was my duty because suddenly, we were the same.

Whatever way you choose to look at it, our lives form complete circles. We start by being completely dependent on our parents, before our parents eventually and rightfully often become heavily dependent on us. From start to finish, we are connected by a beautiful bond as old as humanity itself. So, whatever my mum has given to me, I vow to give to her. Maybe this is why I feel I can tell her everything? Or maybe that’s just because she is so patient and understanding. When my mum goes to cross the road, I reach out to take her hand. I open the marmalade lid for her, I help her choose an outfit for a night out, I do her hair, I take her to fun new places, I tell her how beautiful she is, I laugh with her when she says something ridiculous, and I do these things because my mum has dedicated her life to doing them for me. I say ‘do’. I don’t actually live at home anymore, so these things have become planned events rather than everyday occurrences. Can you imagine how it must feel to bring someone into the world, someone that is entirely yours, and then one day have to let them go? Well, my mum did. And to me, that’s the most amazing thing of all. The purest act of selflessness; something nobody will fully understand until it happens to them.

My mum gave us the best childhood. My strongest memories consist of weekends spent eating packets of crisps on park benches, chasing chickens around farms, making sandcastles, constructing elaborate dens, painting pictures, nursing dolls back to health, sleepovers with friends and family, 100s of presents on Christmas day, birthday parties, zoos, ice cream, bouncy castles, dance classes, books and games. I wasn’t spoilt, but I was given everything a child needs to have the very best start in life. My parents didn’t have a great deal of money when my sister and I were young. When my mum was my age, she did a lady’s shopping for £5 a week, walking for miles into town and back again, pushing me in the buggy. My mum quite literally went the extra mile.

It’s weird and difficult to say this, but growing up, my family unit was so close I thought nothing could change it. Not ever. How privileged we were to be able to depend on something so much. Some people never have that. Recently, I’ve come to appreciate two major things: one being just how much my mum has sacrificed for us, and the other being that my parents, like all parents, are human. My mum has just turned 50 (sorry Mum) and more than anything, I want her to start doing things just for her. She is free, for the first time in 25 years, to do whatever makes her happy. I can categorically say that without my mum, I would be nothing like the person I am. Not in the slightest. Everything good in me is because of her, which makes her kind of magical. If she has the power to do that, she can do anything. Only when she feels that powerful will I have come close to giving her everything she gives to me.

Lesson number 10 is completely and utterly dedicated to my mum, because near-enough every lesson I’ve ever learnt has been shaped by her. So, when you think about it, not only is the motherly bond an eternal one, every individual mum kind of lives forever in some beautifully unique way too.

I would love to hear about the lessons you’ve learnt from your mum… Please feel free to comment below.

Lesson 9: living in the moment

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It’s a strange time of year, March. We are so well and truly over Winter. A ping of excitement surges through me when I leave work in daylight, my once-loved jumpers, boots and coats are starting to look a bit tired and I find myself scrolling through all the festival line ups, daring to imagine how it feels to dance in a field with mud in my hair. The thing is though, and I hate to put a downer on it, Summer is quite far away. We have an entire season to get through first, and it’s a temperamental one at that. I’ve decided that this year I’m not going to spend every day from now counting down to the sunshine, because it’s not a healthy attitude to have in general. Yes, it’s great to have things to look forward to, but what about today? The journey to the destination is sometimes the most significant part. A bit like when you go round someone’s house to pre-drink before the main event – quite often this is more fun than the place you end up.

The main reason I’m adopting this frame of mind is because for a while now, I’ve been looking forward to just being in the future. It’s a dangerous wish, to fast forward time – like that film, ‘Click’. I’ve become so preoccupied with dreams of owning a home, having a more senior job, travelling the world, that I’ve started to lose sight of all the positive things in my life right now. Looking back at me three years ago, I thought all I needed to be happy was to live and work in London, rent my own place and write with a purpose. I have all of those things now and I’m ashamed to say that I no longer appreciate them. The same way we often don’t notice how beautiful or fun Spring can be because we’re too focussed on the fact it’s not quite Summer. If we are forever chasing more, how will we ever feel satisfied?

Yesterday I moaned to Joe about our flat not having a bath. I never have baths, but at that precise moment I wanted one and felt hard-done by. I then complained that the sofa wasn’t big enough before staring miserably into our tiny excuse for a garden. Joe completely shot me down. As he quite rightly reminded me, I moaned about not having a place of our own when we were living with his parents last year. In a house, I might add, that had a bath I never used and a huge garden I didn’t always appreciate. I know I’m not alone in this. Ok, sometimes we’re just venting our anger or frustrations at house-hold objects rather than people, but that doesn’t make it ok to constantly want more than what we have.

I do it with clothes all the time. I tell myself that if I just had one more pair of trainers, or one more jacket, or one more bag, my wardrobe would be complete and I would be happy. Then I see something looking amazing on someone else and instantly assume that a) their life must be wonderful, and b) if I buy it I will be happier. Obviously, I’m wrong. We are often so preoccupied with chasing the dream that we don’t even acknowledge the feeling of that dream coming true – we’ve already moved on to the next hole in our lives that needs filling.

Whether we choose to admit it or not, there are people in the world who have very little. There are people with no friends, no family, no education, no source of income, no health, no home. In our quest for leading perfect, possession-filled lives, we’re starting to lose sight of the things that really matter, the things some people would do anything to have.  There is nothing wrong with being optimistic about the future, so long as it doesn’t cast a big shadow over everything you’re doing right now. It’s ok to let the future take care of itself sometimes. It’s not going anywhere, unlike today – tomorrow, today will be gone. ‘Look after the pennies’, my nan always says. If you appreciate the small things, the big things will fall into place.

The next time you feel hard-up, take a moment to note down all the good things in your life. Think twice about whether your job is really that bad, or your wardrobe really needs updating, or your life really sucks. Chances are that it doesn’t. It’s just some cruel trick of the mind that’s inherent to human nature telling you it does.Whatever the future holds, just be glad that you made the most of today. That’s all we can ever do.