It’s Sunday evening. I’m curled up on the sofa writing this post, favourite dressing gown on and listening to the ‘A Star Is Born’ soundtrack. Life feels pretty much perfect right now. And yet I spent the best part of 8 months dreading every Sunday evening, dreading the weeks that I wouldn’t know how to get through. It’s been just over two months since I left the place that drove fear and sadness into my soul. Imagine being 38 years old and seeing emails pop in to your inbox that make you physically shake. That make your stomach churn. That make you, one of the strongest people you know, who’s navigated two of lifes great sadnesses in parental estrangement and unexplained infertility, wish that you could run from the building and never come back.
Survival is an interesting thing isn’t it? That place we go to where we just have to eke out every hour, to get through another day, to get through another week. Because when you’re in the middle of it you don’t realise just how bad it is. The impact you have on those closest to you when your bright and bubbly personality has all but disappeared and you just bury yourself under the covers for another night, wishing you didn’t have to wake up.
If someone had said to me when I walked away for the very last time on December 19th 2018 that in just two months’ time my life would have completely turned around, I would have given them a weary look and burst into tears. I couldn’t imagine knowing happiness. I couldn’t imagine the kindness of strangers. I couldn’t imagine having touched the lives of so many people.
And yet here we are. I did this crazy thing a couple of weeks ago which means I’m now officially known as some variant or other of ‘that mad kitchen woman’. When I started planning the kitchen makeover to surprise Pete whilst he was away on a business trip, I felt excited. For no other reason than our previous kitchen just felt depressing and I didn’t feel like cooking in there or even spending any time in there. And I mentioned on Instagram that this is what I would be doing and people started wishing me good luck.
Then it began. And I decided to story my way through the process. Just to keep my sanity more than anything else. After the first couple of days someone suggested I saved it all to highlights. Each day I woke up I had messages from all over the world, from the US, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, France, Sweden. People watching me, willing me on, to finish this kitchen before Pete came back. People despairing with me when I unveiled the floor of horrors with just over 48 hours to go. People messaging me saying I’d encouraged them pick up a paint brush. People saying they weren’t going to wait for their husbands any more. That I’d shown them they could do it. People willing me on with messages of ‘girl power’. My story was shared again and again across Instagram. People saying they’d had a crap week but watching my stories helped them get through it. That they were off work sick but I’d helped them get through it.
Strangers. The kindness of strangers. I cried that week. I cried A LOT. I cried because I turned my ugly kitchen into a beautiful swan. I cried because I couldn’t believe these messages that kept coming in and continue to come in, from people I’d never met, wanting me to do it. I cried because I went through a journey that I’m not sure I’ll ever go through again. I found myself again. Instead of one person telling me I couldn’t do it, calling me out, making me feel worthless and small, I had hundreds, maybe even thousands of people, telling me that I WAS worth something, that I COULD do it.
I’m weeping even now writing this post. Because I believe again. I’m happy and no-one is ever going to make me feel like I’m not worth it. Pete always says to me “make sure you can look at yourself in the mirror every day and know you’re a good, kind person, because very few people can”. That’s all I ever want to do. Be kind. Be happy. Help other people and make them happy. I come from a long line of caring professions, teachers and nurses and social workers and conservationists. And me, 16 years in customer service. I may not do that any more but I have so much I want to share, to help, to inspire.
Now I surround myself with positivity, and happy people. Kind people. All of you, taking time to read this post. I appreciate every cuddle with Boo that I wouldn’t be able to do in the middle of the day if I had to go out to work. Every quirk of our beautiful home. Every single bean on my beans on toast. I appreciate all of it and if the first two months of 2019 are anything to go by, the only way for me is upwards. Thank you to everyone who has been here for all the hard times. Thank you to everyone who has recently joined my journey and sends me messages to say how much I brighten your day. You’ll never know how much the kindness of strangers means to me.