18 Jan 2017

My Goals for 2017

There’s something about opening a new calendar at the start of the year, isn’t it? Those crisp, white, unmarked pages, waiting to be filled with appointments, meetings, life events and other memorable dates. And 2017 is no different, though I’m always a little apprehensive at the end of each year about what the next 12 months might bring. Silly, I know, because obviously, nothing changes in the night from 31st December to 1st of January. 

And yet, it’s somehow symbolic. And even though it renders me a little nervous, I also kind of like the symbolism of the New Year and the fresh start it brings.

I’ve never been a big subscriber to New Year’s Resolutions. Which is why I almost didn’t write this post, and why it’s so late into January when I’m actually publishing it. I’ve intentionally not called it “New Year’s Resolutions” either; the below is more a loose list of goals and targets – “Life goals”, if you like, because most of these are not just for the next 12 months - or two or three, even, however long you define the new year - but for the long haul.

2017 is a big year for me. A big birthday is awaiting come September, so this year feels very significant indeed. The big 4-0 is looming. *Gulp*. How did that happen? Kind souls often tell me that I don’t look it, and boy, I certainly don’t feel it, but there you go. You can’t escape the numbers and dates on the calendar.

When I first wrote a post like this in 2015 (you can read it here if you’re interested), it was all about the physical side for me; getting fit and strong again after my pregnancy with Alex, losing some weight and finding my physical well-being. 2016, meanwhile, was very much about my emotional well-being, about being kind to myself, being happy and worry less (you can read it here). And while this is certainly  a work in progress, I do feel that I have achieved many of these goals of the past two years (ok, maybe not the weight loss, unfortunately, but I’m still working on it!).

So, 2017 is a little bit more of the same, though my focus is even more on my well-being and finding my emotional and mental equilibrium. Over the last 12 months or so I have worked hard on myself to grow a thicker skin and not let situations, people, circumstances, worries or else bother me too much. A few things happened in 2015 that made me question several fundamental aspects of my life, and I decided at the beginning of 2016 that I would never let anything like this happen and shake me again. 

And I feel that on many levels I have accomplished this. At the grand old age of 39 I feel stronger and more secure in myself than ever before – at least one good aspect of growing old! Apart from things that are beyond my control, like the health of my loved ones for instance, or political factors that affect my life, I now feel that I can take on and deal with most things that might be thrown at me, and that’s a nice feeling.

I am at a stage in life where I know what I want and I have a clear vision on how I will achieve it, even if it may take a little while and some serious effort. And on a few of these ambitions there is no compromise – I know what my bottom line is, what I can accept and live with and what not - whatever the consequences of my decisions may be.

I want this year to be about balance. Firstly, that elusive work / life balance, but also a Mum / life balance. The kids come first, of course, but I want to continue to put myself up there, too, and look after myself more. After all, how does the saying go? You can’t pour from an empty cup. And that means taking some time out when I feel I need to; being less of a control freak and handing over more chores and organisational things to John, which I somehow hog (despite him offering to deal with them) because of my warped view that only I can do them perfectly. 

Asking for help more, when I feel I need it. Listening to my "innser self" (excuse the corniness of this) more and taking a break or a breather sometimes. Doing things I enjoy. In the past two years or so, I have often felt close to burn out and overwhelmed with juggling a full-time job, two kids at different ages and stages and with different needs etc., household, family, life, worries and dealing with plenty of other things that life throws at you etc. and found it overbearing and a bit of a struggle. This hasn’t majorly changed, but the things that I can address, I will tackle.

But it’s not about the big things. It’s also about the small things, like actually taking the time to schedule in that haircut, and not just when it’s absolutely needed and I look like a tramp. Taking time for some pampering. Getting back into a better skincare regime. I used to spend a small fortune on posh cosmetics and skincare products, but since having the kids and living my life seemingly constantly in a rush, this has completely fallen by the wayside, and now skincare is more of a five minute job, using whatever I can buy in the supermarket, bar a few ultimate essentials like my beloved Clinique products. But as I will be 40 this year, I think I am more than justified in making fighting any wrinkles my top priority, don’t you think?

I also want to say “yes” more. Yes, to things that might be out of my comfort zone. Yes to spontaneous things that might turn out to be just what I needed. And yes to my kids, when they ask to do things that I'm not so keen on or when I'm distracted by chores etc. I want to say yes to messy play and not worry about the chaos that this will inevitably entail (though, judging by the shenanigans with finger paint last weekend, I may live to regret this. Go and check out my Instagram if you want to see what I mean).

I want to declutter and minimise my life. We have so much crap and unused stuff stored in the attic, cupboards, under the stairs, in the garage, in wardrobes and drawers – I want to rid ourselves of all this junk and focus on what we really need and create not just physical, but also head space.

I want to take more pictures of us as a family – and me in them! I hate so much how unphotogenic I am, which puts me off being in pictures full stop, apart from a few well angled selfies. But I don’t want to look back at this precious stage in my life, at the kids’ childhood and never feature in any of the images, just because of vanity. So, I will force myself to be in pictures and not just take them; and I will make a real effort to try and get proper family pictures too. After all, I’m married to someone with a professional background in photography, so there’s no excuse, really, is there?

By the same token, I want to film more videos. I’ll never be a vlogger, I don’t think I have it in me, but I am very jealous of the numerous mummy vloggers that I do follow and who have the most amazing, lively memories to look back on. So, whilst I will always prioritise living in the moment rather than just looking on from behind a camera lens, I do want to capture more vivid memories of the kids and what they are up to, so John and I can relive them in years to come, probably fiddling with outdated technology by then, and laugh at how Alex and Becky kept us on our toes (and embarrass them at their weddings, obviously!).

I want to control the anxiety that I feel and that sometimes can be crippling. Things like travel in an increasingly dangerous world, being away from the kids, panic over my future and what my status will be in the country I have called home for 15 years (thanks, bloody Brexit!), and worries over the health of my loved ones have put a bit of a fog on my mind at times and kept me awake for nights on end. But I want to try and not let this consume me, and instead focus on the good things. Like throw myself into planning our summer holiday and hoping that this might help with THE FEAR, complete the lengthy and expensive citizenship application in an attempt to safeguard my future, go back to Germany more frequently and be more present for my parents than I have managed to this year. These are all things that I can actively do and take control of and try to fight the demons of anxiety that can sometimes suck the energy out of you.

I also want to push myself more generally. I’ve made two commitments for 2017; one that will enhance my skills, and one that will improve my overall health, and I’m determined to give them both my best shot.

Finally, I want to stop comparing myself to others. This, too, is ongoing, and I would say I’m actually doing a pretty good job of no longer giving that much of a toss about what other people do, have, look like or think of me. Especially when it comes to social media, as it’s all very warped, edited and curated anyway and only shows off the best bits of anyone’s life.

But there are still times when I liken myself to others and feel like a failure. This blog is one of those things and a prime example. I follow so many great bloggers, many of whom are professional bloggers, and it’s hard not to feel inadequate sometimes. I’ve recently lost my blogging mojo a bit, mainly because I’ve started to look at other people, their stats and figures and started applying this to me. I put a lot of pressure on myself to publish the perfect post, and when I’ve not had the time to write it or take the pictures, I tend to just give up and not post for ages at all. Which in turn makes me feel even worse, which leads to a counterproductive cycle. But my circumstances are very different to everyone else, and other bloggers who blog for a living, which I don't. Ultimately, I write this blog for myself. It’s my brain dump, my diary and my memories, so I have to write when it fits into my life, not appease some imaginary deadlines that increase my stress levels further. Yes, I could sit here and write at 11 pm and late into the night and chase stats and approval, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to watch Newsnight with John then (I am old after all!) or a boxset, and try to enjoy the few childfree hours that I have when they’re asleep before I catch some much needed zzzzz myself. So I will post when I post, not put additional pressure on myself, and if I still have readers and a following left, then that’s a big bonus and I will be humbled and grateful for every single person who takes the time to read my ramblings.

I think I just need to be less of a bloody perfectionist. In so many aspects of my life. Because essentially, this holds you back more than it advances you. Sometimes things might not be perfect, but good enough. And I have to learn to see it.

2017 is a big year for me. And I’m determined to make it count.


2 Jan 2017

My December 2016

I’ve loved December, I really have. And, sat here, on the 2nd of January, the last day of the Christmas holidays, I’m really sad that that’s it for another year. I’m just not quite ready to go back to routines and reality tomorrow. The last ten days off work and in very much a Christmas and festive bubble have been really relaxing and special; I got to spend some much needed quality time with my little family, and it was so nice to just be – the four of us, not many commitments, not many people to see or visit, and being able to just hibernate in our PJs, watching movies, playing games, going out and about, or just chilling.

But December wasn’t just special because of Christmas, all in all it was a lovely month for the rest of the time, too. So here are my highlights:

1.     Early on in the month we went to see Father Christmas on the Santa Train. It’s an old vintage railway, and it was the first time that Alex was on a train (or saw Santa, for that matter), and he was as baffled as fascinated and excited, as he loves trains. We followed that up with a visit to Bath Christmas Market, which is one of the nicest in the country apparently, and it didn’t disappoint indeed. It was a great way to kick off December and the festive season.

2.     We traditionally decorate the Christmas tree on the first weekend of December, and we did just that. It was the second year that we had swapped our usual real tree for a fake one, and I have to say, I am still quite taken with how it looks and how easy it is to assemble and disassemble. I will always have a soft spot for real trees and I’m sure we will have a real one again at some point, but  for now I am so glad I didn’t have to deal with millions of needles everywhere for weeks on end; a fake one is just so much easier! And the kids loved helping to decorate the tree and put the finishing touches to it. Every year I try to pick up some new decorations that will be memorable and personal to the kids, and my little collection is growing. I want to get some personalised baubles for 2017, as this was on my agenda this year and then I left it too late. So if anyone’s got any recommendations, do shoot them my way, please.

3.      Becky had her first karate grading and is now a red belt. She’s really enjoying karate, and she does it with her Daddy, who is also very much into it, so I hope that they will continue this daddy-and-daughter activity for a long time to come.

4.      It’s Becky’s birthday in December, and this year we held a pyjama party at our house for eight girls altogether. You can read all about it here, but it was a lot of fun and the girls – and most importantly Becky – enjoyed themselves (and I only needed one big glass of wine afterwards!).

5.     A couple of days later it was Becky’s actual birthday, which was a lot more low-key than in previous years, because she’s now at school and it was a normal school day. Because we don’t have any family nearby, it was just the four of us on the day, but we still made her feel special and made a big fuss of her – and ended the day with a treat trip to McDonalds (which is what she wanted, as she’s obsessed with Maccy D’s. Go figure!).

6.      Another couple of days later it was our office Christmas party; it’s always in very glamorous locations in London, but not much will be able to top off this year’s venue, the Natural History Museum. The setting was nothing short of spectacular – and even though I don’t actually care about fossils, there’s something about being photobombed by a massive dinosaur, even I have to admit!

7.     On the last weekend before Christmas we went on another Santa visit. This time we saw him in a very atmospheric yurt, and while Alex was more fascinated by the setting and the lights than Santa himself, Becky chatted away to him as if they were old buddies, and ended the session by confidently belting out “Jingle bells” to him. Santa must have been very impressed, because he rewarded Becky with lots of pressies on Christmas day!

8.     The main day itself, Christmas day was mostly spent opening a huge amount of pressies - so much so, that I had accidentally forgotten about three of the biggest pressies that I had hidden away a bit too well, only for two hours or so later to bring them down, muttering: “Oh, look, Santa even left some pressies upstairs!” Duh! Luckily the kids were so engrossed, they didn’t think about it further, they just grabbed them. The rest of the day was spent eating (I made a mean Christmas dinner, if I say so myself), drinking, and being utterly lazy and just chilling with the kids, playing games and watching movies. Total bliss.

9.      On Boxing Day we went to Wales to see John’s parents and for Christmas Part Two. And after days of indulgence and to dust off the cobwebs, we ventured out to Mountain View Ranch in Caerphilly, which is only about half an hour’s drive from their house, and spent a wonderful day exploring the grounds and the brilliant facilities for kids there, on a very crisp and cold day indeed.

We had a quiet but cosy New Year’s Eve, with a bit more hibernating over the last couple of days. I so wish I could carry on. Why can’t December just last a little bit longer? 
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