It’s international women’s day and thousands if not millions of women will be sharing stories of inspiring women from around the globe. Many of them who have changed the world and their stories reach far and wide. They are incredible women. I on the other hand want to say thank you to the women who have been woven into my life and helped me survive and reach where I am today. They haven’t changed the world in a global sense, but they’ve changed my world. Here’s how….
At the age of 30, with a six-year-old and a three-month-old baby, I became a single parent. My husband and the father of my children moved out and I was suddenly left flying solo. I’m not going to dwell on the whys and wherefores, but in brief there was someone else involved and a huge amount of drama. It wasn’t an amicable separation. My six year old little girl, who was old enough to understand what was going on was thrown into a world of confusion and expressed this through severe anxiety. She would question me 30, 40, 50 times a day about if she was going to die. Then it would become 60, 70, 80 times. It was incredibly draining and no amount of reassuring her, calming her, screaming at her or any other method worked. It was only when I managed to take her to see a wonderful child counseller called Charlotte did things began to change. All the while I was sterilising and making up the next day’s bottles, changing nappies, washing clothes, picking up toys, putting babies to bed, walking up in the night, worrying, crying and surviving. Within another two months my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would be going into hospital for a mastectomy. I had a close friend who supported me through so much and she would ring regularly. I remember hearing my daughter on the phone to her one evening, not long after mum’s diagnosis. ‘Aunty Julia, things have got so bad, mummy is crying out loud’
So that’s how bad it had got. I could no longer contain my tears to when the children were in bed, I was now crying out loud. And this quickly became the family motto for assessing the severity of a situation. If you cried out loud then things had clearly progressed from bad to catastrophic.
My story is very different now, and I am only here because I was loved and cared for by so many and I wish I could thank each and every one of you. There’s a danger that if I try to mention everyone then I could miss someone out and I would hate to do that. But I will name a few, and trust that they are representational of the many, many women who have helped and supported me over the years.
So to Ann, who that first week of my being on my own sent your husband to my house with a silver tin containing spicy meatballs in rice ready to eat. I could still cry now when I think of Steve standing there with dinner ready made and all I had to do was put it on a plate and eat it. (it quite possibly didn’t make it to the plate and was just eaten straight out of the tin!) and Julia, who rescued me more times than I possibly remember, and allowed me to cry on your shoulder over and over again, and Sue, who fed my new born with a bottle because my milk had dried up with the shock and I couldn’t feed him myself. (I can still picture you now, some 17 years on, holding him and giving him the bottle!) and Anna who came away with me as a young women with far better things to do with me so that Katie still got her holiday, and Liz who would cut my grass and always give me the ‘frees’ of her buy one get one free shopping, and Lynne who gave me a beautiful and I’ve no doubt highly expensive winter coat so I could go out with my head held high, and Rachel who never did the school run without her lipstick on and had me in stitches when you had to bend down and use someone’s car wing mirror to see, and Kate, with whom I have laughed and laughed until everything hurt and Suneela for always loving me and sharing a passion for stationary shops, and Verna, my beautiful darling friend who told the nurse when you were dying ‘This is my daughter’ and we all laughed because you were Jamaican and I was pale English rose. (I still miss you) and Jane for keeping me pointed in the right direction and never giving up, and Fiona for managing to find a way to transport a rolled up carpet down a hill in the snow, and Hazel for New Years Eve when I couldn’t face another year of agonising aloneness and Janet and Suzanne, you know why….. and finally to Katie, Miss Lashes, who in spite of severe anxiety which has taken us both to breaking point many times, has managed to emerge a strong, intelligent and captivating young woman who I’ve no doubt will be celebrating International Womens Day in style. Keep going Katie, you’re almost there…..
There have been many friends who have gone before and many I’ve met since. I have to mention Elizabeth B who has flown the flag for me ever since we met and continually support me on the blog. I will be round to visit soon! You have all in some way enabled me to see the beauty in myself. And your kind words and gentle cheering on have all helped to steer and shape me to be the woman I am today. We may not think we’re doing the big things, but you never know how your micro action today could still be remembered by someone years down the line. Keep being amazing women.