People are more resilient than you think

This year has been a challenging one. Not just for me and my family but for so many of us. The beginning of this year was one of the toughest I can remember and things happened that I couldn’t possibly have imagined would. I can’t imagine having got through everything without the most amazing tribe around me, despite having their own stuff going on (for some of them their own stuff was ‘woah, wouldn’t wish this on my enemy’ big), they showed up time and again until everything was ok again.

In October my cousin was stranded in Mexico having had her passport stolen. All she had with her was a bag of party clothes (she was on a hen weekend) and a credit card. It took 5 days of being in one of the most unsafe areas I can imagine, negotiating with the embassy, not knowing whether she was going to be allowed to return to Australia (where she currently resides) or if she’d have to give up and start again in the UK. We kept in touch (thank you WhatsApp) throughout and where I would have spent the time cowering in my hotel room, she took the bull by the horns, went sight seeing, had a couple of cocktails, negotiated with the embassy and bought some more appropriate for the area, clothes. In short, she is much braver (and cleverer) than me. During this stressful time all she asked was that I stop sending her Bitmojis. I may be her favourite cousin but I’m also the most un-cool (do the kids still say that?) one.

Our kids are better prepared for life than we were

This year I’ve written extensively about the kids, whether they’ve liked it or not. Mostly I write about the really funny stuff where they’ve made mistakes, said something cute or rolled their eyes at mine and my partner’s antics, a full 360 degrees. Looking back over the year, all the funny and not-so-funny moments, we have 3 amazing children whom I couldn’t be more proud of.

Naturally I’m inclined to say they get their amazing qualities from all their parents and step-parents. Mixed with their own unique personalities too. Ok they can’t do some of the things I could do at their age; clean up after themselves, cook for themselves or tackle mountains of ironing. However they have amazing, liberal, all encompassing views. My son and I were reading ‘Bedtime stories for boys who dare to be different’ and he couldn’t believe that anyone would be discriminated against for being gay. His exact words were ‘but we’re all people’. I love that the kids haven’t been surrounded by the old fashioned, sometimes homophobic, often racist views that a lot of my generation were subjected to when growing up. To our kids it is unfathomable to discriminate against someone because of their race, disability, sexual preference or gender identity. Ok, none other than my step-daughter would survive in the cooking/cleaning up after themselves stakes but at least all 3 of them know how to make meaningful, non-discriminatory friendships, hopefully with others who have some cooking/cleaning up skills so they don’t all live in squalor when they’re older and flat sharing.

Life is better without alcohol

In July I made the decision to quit alcohol for a year. This was fuelled by a few reasons: all my socialising revolved around nights out drinking, the recycling bin never got a break from empty wine bottles and to be honest, I was just sick of it. Adverts came up on my Facebook feed for ‘One year, no beer’ and one of the bloggers I followed was doing it (she promptly gave up 2 weeks after I started and has posted pics of her drinking ever since). I thought about it, talked to my partner (who doesn’t drink) and friends and decided to give it a go. I thought I’d find it really difficult, that I’d miss drinking, not know what to do with myself on a night out, but I wanted to break the habit and went for it.

I’m now 20 weeks into an alcohol free life and it’s been much easier than I thought it was going to be. Having a goal of a whole year meant I didn’t have a count down until I could drink again, I just got on with life. People often ask me if I’ll go back to drinking after the year is up and whilst I have a ‘never say never’ attitude, I much prefer life without alcohol. I love that I can get in the car and drive anytime I like no matter what time of day or night. No hangovers! I didn’t often get hungover but the tiredness the next day that seems to accompany drinking in your 30s wasn’t fun at all. On the (rare) times that my partner and I argue, I know what I’m saying is because I actually mean it and it matters to me, rather than a feeling that’s been intensified and spoken aloud fuelled by alcohol. The best bit….. no hanging around waiting for busses in the freezing cold, late at night, because I won’t be able to drive later. Oh and life suddenly got a whole lot cheaper. A £5 note now covers a night out.

If you’d told me, even 6 months ago that I’d give up alcohol and consider not drinking again, even after the year is up, I wouldn’t have believed you. Having previously failed at Dry January, Sober October and giving up alcohol for Lent, I didn’t think I could do it. However, I think that life had just moved on for me. I was ready for it and it made quitting alcohol easy. For anyone who is doing Dry January or the First 100 Days (the first 100 days of the year alcohol free), I hope you find it easy, enjoy the perks of being alcohol free and if you’d like some support feel free to look me up.

Self belief is the way forward

I’ve had many moments throughout the year where my self-belief was almost shattered. Where, if I didn’t have my partner and the kids to show up for or my 5 Things to write, I could have just crumbled and hidden under my duvet for long periods of time. There were also many other moments where my partner reminded me that I’ve got this. Life might be hard (at times) but we’re all still moving forwards.

Looking back over the last year, having sometimes wondered how we were going to get through, I now see how much progress we’ve made. This year we’ve managed to get the kids through some really difficult times and feelings, I got a new tattoo I’ve been promising myself for the last 3 years, after 4 years of not leaving the country I got on a plane twice, I incorporated This Demanding Life into an official company, my partner moved in with me, I built some awesome websites, I worked with someone I’ve wanted to work with for years, despite being in competition with other, more experienced web designers. With the aid of my awesome sidekick, we’ve taken Child Contact Centre from strength to strength, I’ve made some amazing friendships and shown up for those who have really needed me and my partner and I pulled off organising Christmas dinner for over 80 people including the homeless, elderly, vulnerable, lonely.

When I look at that list it makes me realise that the times I’ve had self belief, where I’ve had no option but to show up, I’ve achieved everything I wanted to. It all starts with self-belief and is something I’m going to take into 2019 with me.

In a crisis cooking always helps

When I’m having an emotional crisis cooking is what sees me through. It’s methodical, calming, relaxing and somehow my head clears and once I’ve cooked mountains of food the world feels a better place once more. This includes savoury food, baking, anything with pastry but does not extend to desserts. Luckily my brother has picked up the dessert mantle and my sloppy attempts are no more.

Food features heavily in our family – every time I’ve been in hospital with my son (18 times to date, not including when he was born) I phone my mum and she comes over with enough food to keep us going throughout our stay. I can’t imagine having to struggle through one of our lengthy hospital stays with just a Kit Kat and bottle of water. All our family events are focused around some sort of meal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Since giving up drinking food has taken the space where alcohol would be – not all the time, I’d be the size of a house, but catching up over a bottle of wine has been replaced with pub lunches, taking a bottle of wine to a friend’s house now involves a bottle of non-alcoholic wine and delicious food. The kids are eating better because my friends and I are likely to spend more time cooking for them and less time on the sofa with a glass of wine. Naturally the children are completely ungrateful, seeing food as fuel and nothing more, as long as I haven’t cooked something they don’t like.

My partner is also strong on the cooking front, often transforming at the end of the day from tired and (slightly) grumpy to dancing around the kitchen, singing. In the interests of being a good partner I help him to destress via cooking by hiding in the kids room, taking ages to put them to bed, disappearing onto the riverside lands with the dog, all strategically timed just as dinner needs to start being cooked. I’m sure he’ll thank me for it one day and in the meantime I’m off to look up some new recipes to make in the new year.