In the aftermath of my wife dying in August 2005, one of the
things I struggled with enormously was thinking of the future.
While we were together discussing our future was something we would do regularly.
We would discuss personal hopes, aims, dreams and aspirations, as well as where we thought we may live, and how our lives would differ as we all got older.
Nothing was set in stone, but we had something of a spiritual rudder directing our collective ship toward shared ideals.
Then she died.
For a good while I could not think any further than my son’s next feed, or what activity we’d get up to tomorrow. And I gave very little thought to my own future.
I can remember being in a grief counselling session (provided by the rather brilliant Cruse Bereavement Care) where we discussed this, as well as the acceptance of my new reality.
There was no reluctance from me to accept that the life I once had, had gone, and was not coming back. Agreement was firm and swift on this.
It was also established that trying to replicate, or repair, my life as it was would ultimately lead to further heartache.
Finding someone to simply fit the ‘slot’ and ‘play the role’ that my wife, Samantha, did was clearly a path better left untrodden.
This would have demeaned everyone, and I believe – as I still do – that I totally got and felt this way, but understand why grief counsellors feel it necessary to spend time discussing this subject – perhaps a natural reaction for some.
Anyway the future I had in my head had gone, couple this to the numbness of grief making prolonged focus difficult, thinking about a new future was painful, distressing, and thus something I simply would not do.
Luckily for me – in an infinite number of ways – I had Max. His routine and activities kept me busy, and as time went on I did start looking further ahead than his next feed.
Planning became a day ahead, then a week ahead, then looking at holidays. I even started thinking about what I would like to do professionally alongside being a full-time parent.
It was a balance I believed I was getting right (and still do) I knew I was avoiding personal development, but as I don’t believe I was using my child as a shield or becoming overly dependant on him, I didn’t see it as problem. Seeing it more as a temporary necessity during a very critical time in my child’s upbringing.
Then at the start of 2011 I decided that I needed to take more time for myself.
Whilst I wasn’t about to neglect my child, it was time I was brave enough to put myself first more often. Teaching my child more realities of the world not revolving around any one person.
So I started saying yes to more things.
I found myself a local baby sitter, so I didn’t have to rely on family and friends.
I found a new hockey club, started training and playing again.
I joined a judging panel for the Football League (something I’m doing again this year).
I discussed, explored and opened my mind to some new and different media opportunities.
I joined my best friend at his village cricket club and also made a successful return to that sport.
I volunteered for The Food Chain at the Latitude music festival. Working the bar and raising money for charity at the same time.
I trained for and completed the Great London Swim.
I went camping and learnt to surf.
I traded our (fairly) reliable family car in for a Land Rover defender and MK1 VW Caddy pick-up truck, both in need of some TLC.
I started dating.
Yeah, there will probably be more on that one soon.
But 2011 was definitely my year. 365 when I put myself first more often.
So what am I aiming for in 2012?
Starting it with a smidgen of re-assessment, a mini self-appraisal of my performance as a parent. But I don’t envisage giving myself anything stronger than a ‘spend a little more time doing such and such’.
I’m confident in my parenting.
No, the big aim for 2012 is to start earning money more seriously again.
I’m far from desolate. But would much rather be a position where I am accruing rather than – occasionally – spending my savings.
Time to address doing what I enjoy versus that which actually pays handsomely.
Wish me luck.