Since starting to build a business online, I’ve been told many, many times, that it’s important to tell my story — which is good news really, because, like most people, I love talking about what makes me, me.
My problem always lies in deciding where to start and what to tell, because there are so many parts to the story. I guess that is because our stories are like big balls of wool, made up of so many different threads, all important, all different, all entangled, and it’s difficult at times to know what is at the origin of what. Each thread is a story of its own, and is important to the whole story…
The first thread in the ball of wool of my life is “the beginning”: the story of my birth in London, my mentally ill but intensely lovable father, my critical mother, my parents’ rocky marriage and traumatic divorce, my broken childhood, my battle with depression and a severe eating disorder… All this contributed to make me the determined, hard-working, never-giving-up person I am today, and I am grateful for that. The first 20 years of my life were hard; I went through things no child should have to go through, but I learnt to fight to survive, to look for solutions and help, to believe passionately that something better was possible and never give up on my dreams.
The second thread is the story of my recovery when I was about 21, my meeting of John and discovery of unconditional love, my years before going to college, doing horribly boring jobs during the recession in London. Those years helped me grow a bit of self-esteem and get well again. They also taught me how very important it is to do something you enjoy and how mind-numbing many occupations are. They made me determined to “find a job I loved, so I would never feel like I was working”.
The third thread is the story of my children. Now that thread is very colourful and deserves that I go into more details, because it’s a huge part of why I am building a business online. You see, when our eldest son Frank was born, 20 years ago, I was 29 — a young psychologist, training in psychotherapy and just starting to work with private clients. I loved it. And I thought I had it all figured out: I was going to be this modern woman who would do it all; nothing would change, I would just keep on working and raise our children at the same time. I had it all planned out: we would have four kids, they would be born about two years apart every time, they would go to day care, and then to school, we would go for walks on Sundays as a family, and on holiday once or twice a year with the money we managed to save up. It all seemed so simple and so clear to me.
Except that it didn’t work out like that at all.
After Frank was born, I very quickly discovered what it is to be torn all the time. It broke my heart to bring him to day care when he was three months old; I loved my work, but I loved my son even more; I didn’t want to be away from him, I didn’t want to miss out on anything. Then he started getting ill, catching every virus that was going around, and I was even more torn. Whatever I did, I felt guilty: if I kept him home and cancelled work with clients, I felt terrible because I was letting them down; if I brought Frank to daycare when he was unwell, I felt even worse!
Then my plan of having four children, with a two year gap every time, didn’t work out either. I hoped and waited and prayed and cried and despaired. For years it seemed that Frank would be our only child. As time went by I questioned our choice of “doing it all” more and more. We were always stressed. We were always torn. We were always tired. Yes, we had a few holidays, but were those two weeks away in the year really worth the price we paid the other 350 days?
Frank grew and I started to see that whatever moments I didn’t spend with him were just gone, and could never come back. Was this really what I wanted life to be for us as a family? Then, one autumn evening, after a long day at work, I discovered that a miracle had happened and that we were going to be parents a second time. Frank had changed our life forever… and Clara changed it all over again, even before she was conceived, by waiting so long before coming into our family… I had longed for this child so much, that nothing else mattered any more. When she was born, I quickly realised that there was no way we could carry on the way we had, “doing it all”. I was not prepared to go through all the heartache, the impossible choices and the guilt again. There were many discussions, calculations, debates and a few arguments — but in a nutshell, we decided that I would “stop working”, a choice that we have never, ever regretted. My dream of having four children came true after all: Anna and then Benjamin, were born, changing our lives yet again, bringing even more joy and happiness each time. We went through all kinds of adventures with all of them, including beginning to homeschool, in 2011. We had less money, but so much more peace, and things would probably have continued just like that, had it not been for the sudden reappearance of someone in my life…
This brings me to the fourth thread — the story of the tsunami that changed my world around again in 2016, when my dad came back to Europe after spending nearly 20 years living in the USA. He had a stroke, and was “sent back” to his only family — his daughters, my sister and I. The story of my dad is long and fascinating in many ways; I hope to write it all down once, but it would take days to tell, so I’ll try to keep it very simple for this article. Let’s just say that he is intense, impossible, delightful, infuriating, exhausting and inspiring… he can be any one of those depending on the hour of the day and the day of the week; it changes all the time; it’s exhausting and a constant roller coaster of emotions. Add to that the physical and neurological changes following his stroke and the onset of dementia, and you can probably imagine that the first year after his return here was intense and beyond anything I had ever imagined I would have to experience again. Going through this was another wake-up call for me. I have always been acutely aware of the fact that this life is short and that we are not eternal. But seeing it all unfold in a parent really hit me hard and shook me to the core. If there were more dreams I wanted to pursue, I had to do it now, or it would be too late!
So… all this — and more — contributed to make me jump in, and start trying to earn a living online in January 2018. I had had the desire to create something online for years. I remember looking it all up way back in 2008. I had many ideas, but every time self-doubt crept in, paralysing me into inaction. My dad’s return here, and all the challenges it brought with it, made me realise once again how strong and determined I really was. If I could look after him so well, even though everyone told me he was a lost cause and an “impossible case”, then surely I could build something online. Something changed in me: I started not caring so much about what other people might think and I just went for it.
In the beginning, honestly, I didn’t know what on earth I was doing. I bought some courses, made some mistakes, was scammed once, started things and stopped… it felt very much, for a long time, that I was walking in the dark, barely seeing where I was going, feeling my way around and just hoping that I was vaguely going in the right direction! Then things started to be a little clearer and two real projects were born: Millionaire Mum, and Easy and Gluten Free. I will talk about them more in another article, but let’s just say for now that they are both still very much in the early stages of infancy. I have a huge amount to learn and to create, it is all very imperfect and incomplete, but I have a lot more than I had 18 months ago, and of that I am extremely proud.
So that’s it, that’s my story:
My traumatic childhood gave me tremendous strength and the ability to believe in the impossible…
My young adulthood made me realise how important it is to spend our lives doing something we love…
My amazing children taught me that I am not in control and how essential it is to follow my heart…
And my very difficult Dad gave me the courage I needed to go for it online, finally.
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