A year of big changes: coping with overwhelm, anxiety and grief

Hey there,

Hope all is well with you today.

It’s a little over a year since I left my day job to concentrate full time on starting Emerald and Lime. For this and other reasons, I feel like it’s the right time to reflect on the good things that have happened over the past year, as well as the almighty bumps along the way.

This isn’t all about the business. It’s a personal story – sadly without a happy ending, but with another new beginning and that’s never a completely bad thing. 🙂

Business first, though.

I’d wanted to leave my day job for a long time, but it took years – firstly to figure out what I wanted to do and then to get my plans in place to be able to do it. For me, the main purpose of making such a big change was to live a more integrated life, working hard while having the flexibility to focus, as necessary, on my other responsibilities. With my parents getting older and my boys approaching important exam years, I finally committed to the idea of a future with more freedom to concentrate on everything important to me – looking after my family, building something worthwhile for my children and doing something I enjoyed at the same time.

Before I go any further, I should say that I’m 100% glad I made the leap. It was certainly the right decision for me, I love having my own business and I wish I’d made the change years ago.

But…

It has been the most emotionally difficult year I’ve ever experienced.

Getting Emerald and Lime off the ground was a gargantuan task, the steepest learning curve and a very nerve racking adventure. I firmly believe now that any anxieties, self-doubt or worries a person has will well and truly show themselves if they decide to start a business. On more than one occasion I’ve wanted to close Em and Lime’s doors (the first time being the day I opened them), but I kept going, and will continue to do so, because fundamentally it’s still been one of the best things I’ve ever done.

I said that a big reason I started Em and Lime was to integrate working with my family responsibilities and the freedom to do this became so very much more important recently.

It’s now just over two months since we lost my dad. He died unexpectedly overnight in late February and I haven’t felt able to mention it online until now. We are working hard to get to grips with new routines and to reshape our lives with someone so pivotal missing.

Our wider family and friends were stunned but it is, of course, hardest of all for my mum who spent 60+ years of her life with him.

For my part, I’ve lost an adviser, my best banter-buddy and someone who meant the world to me. I’m still very up and down, but I reckon the only worthwhile way to look at it is that I’m lucky to have had him to lose.

We’re getting back on our feet (ish) but, unsurprisingly, it’s had a big impact on the way I’ll go forward from here, both generally and in my business. I’m going to make sure it does. It’s easy to become jaded and get lost in the day to day minutiae, whether it’s work or life in general,  but I reckon the only way to extract something positive from a sad life event is not to lose the clarity about what’s important that accompanies it.

In light of the whole year’s events, I’ve been thinking about what it would be a good idea for me to remember going into my second year of self-employment. These tips don’t just apply to business and I’ll be bearing in mind variations in other areas of my life too.

  1. Keep sight of the big picture

It’s so easy to get bogged down in some aspects of the day to day (did someone say Google Analytics? zzzzz) and there will always be something that knocks you off course but, if you keep reminding yourself why you started down a particular road, you’ll be able to keep a check on whether that reason is one that’s still important to you.

  1. Don’t let the path to the big picture overwhelm you.

Remember the big picture, but break down the steps to get there. Break them realllllly far down. At the moment I’m making monthly notes of small achievements because it would be too easy to dismiss them on the days when “build something worthwhile for the children” feels unattainable.

  1. Make peace with the fact that everything takes time and stick with it

You’d think I’d have known this already considering the length of time I’ve been writing to be published. I did know it really, but on a day-to-day basis it’s still frustrating. I have so many plans for Em and Lime, but only one pair of hands. Bummer. I’m working hard at focusing on one thing at a time, instead of trying to split my wee self between many different projects.

  1. Make positive changes

It won’t be a good day every single day, but unless overall you feel positive about the direction you’re going in, make a change. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, it just has to be a change for the better.

That sounds easier said than done.

It is, but what’s more important, really, is that it’s easier done than left undone.

  1. People are the most important thing

Not businesses, not getting published, not (*insert deep breath here*) notebooks.  😉

People.

Over the last few weeks, the number of people who have supported mum and me has been staggering. It’s humbling the care and concern that’s been shown for us and always a good thing to be reminded of the fundamental kindness of humans.

These are my reflections on a year of big changes. If you’re still with me, thank you so much for reading.

Onwards.

Elle xoxox

Our story for World Prematurity Day

Hey there,

This week leads up to World Prematurity Day on Saturday 17 November highlighting an international campaign to raise awareness of the number of babies born around the world too early –  and what this means for them and their families.

Fifteen million premature babies are born each year, 60 000 of them in the UK. This is our story.

Hobs and I had long wanted to be parents and were beyond delighted when we found out that we were expecting twins. We expected to meet them one April, but it didn’t quite work out like that.

Our guys were born in January, 13 ½ weeks before their due date. They couldn’t breathe unaided and both weighed in at less than 2lbs each. You’ve likely heard the phrase, they weighed less than a bag of sugar. Well, they did.

1kg

They were born late at night – I caught only glimpse of them before they were necessarily whisked away to be supported by machines and a team of doctors and nurses to try to save their lives. Hobs was able to pop to the neonatal unit after a couple of hours, I didn’t see them until the next day. I jerked awake every few minutes overnight because I imagined I could hear people talking outside the ward and thought they were coming to give me bad news. A nurse came in at one point with a photo someone had taken of Twin 1 for me. He was all woolly hat, wires and had a ventilator tube coming out of his mouth. But it had been a few hours since his birth and he was still alive…

Twin 2 was two weeks old before he was well enough to come out of his incubator for me to hold him. Twin 1 was three weeks and a day before I held him.  We had some very low points and close calls but, because of the skill and care of the medical staff and the technology available to assist them,  the close calls became fewer and further between. Machines monitored my guys breathing and heart rates for months and they had skilled medical attention 24 hours a day. They needed oxygen for a long time. They needed partial blood transfusions. They needed medicine.  They needed operations (we travelled to Glasgow for Twin 2 to have an operation leaving Twin 1 behind in hospital in Edinburgh) and they needed the time that they should have had in the womb, but didn’t.

Our guys were in intensive care for nine weeks and special care for a further ten before they came home to us weighing in at 9½  lbs and 7lbs aged 4 ½ months.

This is them now.

Future F1 champions?

They are happy, healthy and LOUD. Hobs and I are acutely aware of how lucky we are, how different things might have been and we do not underestimate the facilities it took to achieve the result we got.

World Prematurity Day is to focus attention on premature birth, to help improve care for premature babies around the world and try to find ways to prevent this from happening. Just now in many cases (including ours) no reason for it can be identified.

One organisation working for this in the UK is BLISS. You can find out about them here and what they say about World Prematurity Day here. We are forever grateful too for the fundraising efforts of Simpsons Special Care Babies, the charity that helps the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh’s neonatal unit – the unit that saved our guys.

If you can help either of these charities to mark World Prematurity Day, or a similar charity local to you, please do so. There are so many babies and parents not as lucky as us.

Much love

Elle xx

Books from my mother

Hey there,

Hope you are well today.

I was so pleased last week when Twin 2 asked me to pre-order the latest in the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy. Turned out it was to be released the next day and as soon as it arrived, Twin 2 jumped up onto the settee and started reading, forgetting all about football, TV, the Xbox etc. I’m so delighted that he has responded this way to a book.

I spoke here about books that affected me as I was growing up and  it started me thinking again about the books my Mum passed on to me when I began to show an interest in reading. My favourites were those in the Abbey Girls series by Elsie J Oxenham, but she also passed me Adventure for Two by Elsie, the story of two sisters, one with aspirations to be a ballerina, the other who (amongst other things) started a business rowing tourists from her seaside home to a local island. This really struck a chord with me because it involved ballet and boats. What could be better?

I made my way through Enid Byton’s Mallory Towers books (apparently there were only six, I feel as though there were many more) and Mum also gave me Cherry Jam at Glencastle by A. Ruby Forde, which I read and re-read but sadly can remember little about, apart from it involved two girls – one called Cherry, the other Cerise, which I considered kinda clever at the time. 😉

These books were written way before I was born, but they were still a very important part of my childhood. I’m on the case now to see which books from my childhood I could pass down to my guys. They’re still a bit young for my first choice – Fahrenheit 451 – but we’ll get there.

Which books from your childhood would you like your children to read? I’d love you to let me know, either here or on twitter.

Hope you enjoy the rest of your day. 🙂

Elle xx