I looked in the mirror recently and the person I saw looking back at me was almost a stranger.
She looked knackered. hair scraped back, little make-up on, clothes decidedly too tight with all the markers of a muffin top under the jumper, thankfully no camel toe.
The woman in the mirror looked beaten by life.
That is not how I see me in my mind.
In my mind I am strong, people tell me I am strong. I know in some respects I have faced more challenges than others, I also know that many, many, more face more challenges than I.
When the twins came along, people told me I was the ideal candidate to be the parent to two, because I was strong, because I had my mother’s coping spirit. I coped, I thrived even on the challenge. I love to defy anything that threatens to unnerve me.
When I lost a baby, everyone told me I would get through it, and I did; and when Libby-Sue was born a year later I knew I would love being mum to three, because, despite all the trials in raising any children, I was a coper.
Then the conditions came along in quick succession, epilepsy, hip dysplasia, hearing loss, uncurable ear infections, type 1 diabetes, hypoglycemia, complex regional pain syndrome, complex ear surgery, and a few others I think I forgot.
I left my job and became a freelancer, I became a pro at injecting my even stronger little girl. I taught myself medical terms, I learnt about conditions I had never even heard of.
People told me I was strong, and marveled at how I coped.
It became harder to cope. The telltale signs were there that I wasn’t coping, my waistband expanded, my ability to care for myself started to fall by the wayside. But my extrovert personality remained and to the outside world I was coping, I was strong, (just a little bit fatter.)
Then I talked to myself, yanked myself out of the rut, built a new career, lost the spare tyre on my middle, learnt how to weight lift, discovered a whole new use for the phrase snatch, I even managed to master the art of burpees (sort of). I listened to those who told me I could be anyone, I read the motivational crap on Facebook and thrived on it. I became the woman I wanted to be.
Then my marriage failed.
And suddenly I felt so very alone.
Not immediately, not all at once. But a build up over time, on the twelve night of checking blood sugars at 2am when sleep refused to come back easily, I felt alone. When one child needed taking into A & E and the other two had to come along for the ride, I felt alone. When the kids did something great and I told myself the story again over tea, I felt alone. When the kids did something rubbish and I anguished late at night if I had spoken to them about it in the right way, I felt alone.
I don’t feel all that strong at the moment. In my mind I want to be the athlete, the single mum who keeps her shit together, I want to be the one who doesn’t hear the wine calling from the fridge after a stressful tea with the kids. I don’t want to be the one who has a muffin top regrowing under her shirt.
Because I am not really alone.
I have the best support network of friends (both offline and on) who are always there when I ask. Trouble is, whilst typing comes easy, talking can be more of a chore. I have a family most would envy, who turn up when I need them, call all the time, and help out in every way possible. The problem is they are in the north, I’m still in the south.
It is time for a change.
I’m going home.
I love my life in the more southern end of Britain, I love my friends, probably more than most of them realise as communication is not always a strong point of mine. The kids have a good school, lovely friends, but their family is so very far away.
And there is no place like home.
I’ve bought a house, back in God’s country, Yorkshire will be my new address, up the road from my parents, near my brothers, near a network of people I have known since my youth.
Even the thought of knowing that I am back on the property ladder and not renting anymore makes me feel that little bit stronger.
It is hard to be strong on your own, life has taught me many things, and one is to know my limits. Right now, as a single parent, I have hit my limit. I need help, a mum to pop round for a cup of tea, cousins to play with the kids, a dad to give words of advice, security in the knowledge that my money is paying for a home, not a landlords pension. Someone to help with the insane amount of hospital appointments my beautiful children manage to accrue.
But it will be so hard to leave.
This place where I found myself living 12 years ago, when I birthed my babies, made my friends, and secured my work. This place has been my home.
But I want to be me again, to fight the malaise that seems to wrap itself around me like a scarf at times. I think I need a fresh start, a chance to be funny once more.
Because my friends will still be my friends, no matter how many miles lie between us.
It it time to change my reflection.