Lacing Up

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For most of my adult life I have wanted to be a writer and illustrator and it never occurred to me that I would ever become excited about getting my teeth into anything else.  However, as my children began to near school age the idea of getting a “job” was a thought I realised I could not put off for much longer.  I wrestled with the prospects out there for a mum who has been out of employment for almost a decade, and declared,  in a somewhat spoilt Little Miss Middle-Class attitude to my husband that  having had numerous “bad” jobs in the past I was not planning on going back down that road.  I argued my case that we could afford for me to continue to try and become a writer and illustrator whilst remaining on hand for the kids, and so this was what I was going to do.  The unexpected response?  “Yes dear”!

When I first heard my father-in-law explain to my husband before our wedding that this phrase (“Yes dear”) was something that would come in handy throughout our married life I felt true Emeline Pankhurst indignation.  Of course as a bride of 23 I naturally expected many Yes-Dear moments but in my mind these would only be because my husband knew me to be absolutely right at any given time and so would wholeheartedly be agreeing “Yes dear” to my brilliance! Rather than distractedly offering up “Yes dear” in a hen-pecked, “I’ve been married and worn down for too long”, kind of way.  Yet suddenly, eight years later, this somewhat old fashioned phrase completely played to my advantage!  My new job description: stay-at-home-mum, pursuing a career in writing and illustration.  Nice one.

However, whilst wanting to remain a stay-at-home-mum and race between coffee mornings and frantic kids-activity-relays, something continually gnawed at the back of my mind.  It was just not quite enough.  I constantly felt under appreciated and under valued whilst believing that there had to be more to life that washing pants and socks.  I remember watching the last Olympic games and hearing about a female athlete called Fanny Blankers-Koen who, during WW2, competed in the London Olympics Games in 1948 and won four gold medals and not only this, but she did it whilst secretly being pregnant.  Moments like this made me look at my life and wonder at how I spent my days and the discontent and lack of direction would seep back in.  Sometime later however I did get a job working for a jewellery and accessories company, for whom I still work.  It was just before my youngest started school and it allowed me to work flexibly around the children whilst earning money and owning beautiful jewellery-I can’t lie, they had me at “free-jewellery”!  I am not saving the world each day but I enjoy my job immensely.  I get to meet new women all the time and socialise with them whilst chatting about fashion and motherhood and I have never once had to miss a school event or not take the children to school-its a privileged position for me to be in.  However, it has not filled the hole inside that aches to do something more worthy.  But I believe I have now found where that ache is coming from and I am beginning to understand how I can turn that ache into something great.

A few months ago a missionary came to our church to tell us about the work that she is currently doing in South Sudan.  Her talk was very powerful and the thing that was most powerful was the way in which she spoke to us.  When she first stood up it took her some time to even speak-you could see the emotion overwhelming her as she struggled to make eye contact with us all.  It turned out that being back in a fully developed country was a painful and overwhelming experience for her.  Every time she saw a new car or a shop with available amenities, every time she passed people walking down the streets with warm clothes and shoes, she was overwhelmed by how plentiful our lives are here.  Even for those who are struggling at the lower end of the financial scale, there is still so much more here than in a country like South Sudan.  She told us about the violence and the fear, the lack of food, clothing and housing and as she spoke I felt a great knot start to form inside of me.  Where was it coming from?  I knew these things already.  We sponsor three children through Compassion and so I (up until this moment anyway) felt like I had a good understanding of what poverty looks like.  But listening as she spoke to us that Sunday Morning I was overwhelmed by my privileged life and how I do very little on a day to day basis to do anything for anyone else.

The next morning was a usual Monday break-neck attempt for us to get up and out of the house to school on time and mid-chaos my daughter told me that she couldn’t find her new pants (i.e the ones that actually fitted her), only the old ones (i.e the ones that didn’t fit her).  I explained that unfortunately I had not purchased enough new ones and they were currently all in the wash, and she would have to suffice with an old pair for this one day.  This was apparently unacceptable and catastropic news and she fell apart, wailing and exclaiming at the unfairness of it all, and refused to wear the old ones.  I would love to say that in this moment I kept my cool Christian patience and loving attitude towards my only daughter but alas, I’m not that strong, and we had a pretty mega argument.  I am pretty sure that at some point I yelled something along the lines of “there are children starving in Africa right now”.  However, I regained control!  And once everyone had cooled off, and the old knickers were in fact put on, I decided to explain to my children over breakfast what the missionary at church had been teaching us about and to my utter surprise and shock I started to cry.  That knot from the previous day reappeared and I stood in my warm kitchen, with my warm coffee and toast and cried at how lucky we are and how unlucky the people of South Sudan are.

Moments like this have continued to happen to me since then.  When the recent devastating tornadoes and storms struck America and the Caribbean I watched, as I am sure we all did, completely aghast as those peoples homes and lives were taken from them.  On the night when Barbuda was reeling and charities and NGOs were working together to provide them with support we were staying over night at a hotel.  We had the television on as we got ready for our night out and I cannot quite explain the pain I felt as we watched, it was overwhelming.  Straight after this story the news switched to the Arianna Grande concert that was taking place in Manchester and how all the proceeds from the event were going to be used to create a monument for the Manchester bombings.  ALL the proceeds.  I was so angry!  Quite literally I went mad.  By the time we were being served our first cocktails of the night I was still going!  My poor long suffering husband-what he puts up with sometimes!  11 years of marriage and the first date night we have in far too long and I go on the war path.  I just couldn’t help myself.  (NB I would like to clarify firmly that I believe Manchester should have a monument after the awful atrocities that they suffered-it is an important part of their lives, their city and their future.  Those that died should be honoured and remembered and no one should ever forget what they went through or forget how Manchester pulled together as a united city.)  What I went mad about was that as we all watched American States and whole countries be swept to smithereens the concert was planning on spending all of the money raised on the monument.  My brain was sputtering and stuttering like Herbie running out of gas-surely part could be spent on a monument and part could go to helping the people of Barbuda, Antigua and Texas?  Surely it would make sense for the sufferers of one tragedy to help sufferers of another tragedy? I am not saying that I am right in this little rant of mine and the fact is that this concert was organised way before the tornadoes and storms started to wipe out landscapes.  Of course the planners could not forward plan for any other atrocities that might take place but nevertheless I still wanted to hear the news reporter say “Due to the natural disasters taking place right now the planners of the Manchester Concert are planning on donating x-amount to help those who have lost their homes and livelihoods in Barbuda and Antigua”.  (NB If I am misinformed in anyway here please feel free to comment and set me straight). Rant over.

I think what for me is important about this story is how I was effected by these situations and the passion it stirred inside me to want to help.  If it hadn’t been for the children I would probably have got on the next plane out there.  As we sat sipping our cocktails and I continued to rant my husband suddenly said, “I think you should work in Human Rights”.  Bam!  And there it was, my calling.  I knew it was the answer, I knew instantly it was what had been aching inside of me and here was my husband putting a name to it.  Suddenly I realised how all these events and moments had been leading towards me taking up a torch and starting on a new path.  Not only that but I also realised that various other things leading to this moment had been preparing me for it.  For instance, public speaking is something I loathe and fear.  I avoid it at all costs and when I find myself in a position to do it my voice falters and my legs shake and I feel ill.  However, with the work I do with the jewellery company this is in fact something I need to do on a weekly basis and not only can I manage it without thinking I might collapse, I dare to add that I think I’m quite good at it.  It has brought me a new confidence and helped my waining self esteem and without this change I don’t think I would have even had the confidence to decide to move into Human Rights and believe that I can make a difference of any kind.  But now I know that I can.  Maybe it will only be a small difference but right now that is good enough for me.

These past few months I think I have been lacing up my running shoes as it were.  Today I found out on Google that not only is the way you tie your laces highly important to your performance but there are also about 6 difference ways of lacing them-who knew?!  So what is today about?  What is this blog about?  For me, today is the day I am finally tying a knot in my laces and for extra measure I think I will double knot it.  It is my seal, my promise to God, that I will run this path He has set before me, and I will do it with immaculately tied laces.

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