5 years-ago my life spectacularly imploded. I lost my husband, my health and my career in quick succession, everything I knew and had worked hard to achieve, gone in a matter of weeks. Indeed, my then 4-year-old nephew said to me, ‘Auntie Lollipops (aka me) now that Uncle Chris has gone, you have nothing’. Back then, I did feel like I had nothing.
Reflecting now, having moved 90 miles around the M25, bought a house in a town I did not know, renovated that house into a home, requalified and started a new business and made friendships far deeper than before, I realise, nothing became the basis on which I rebuilt my life, because I was not nothing, and that was a good enough place to start.
In despair, and driven by the desire not to return to my past ‘coping strategies’; eating disorders, addictions, alcohol abuse, working harder, controlling more; having all but eradicated them from my life, finding them to be less than helpful, as a long-term strategy for coping with loss. And after falling into a relationship soon after my husband had died – which ultimately broke down, because he said he ‘couldn’t replace my husband’. I flew myself off, 5000 miles away, to the beautiful, sunshine of the Caribbean. The irony of Aruba being called ‘The Happy Island’ by the locals, was not lost on me, as I cried my eyes out while sat on a sun lounger, I wondered how I was going to cope, now my life had been reduced to nothing.
As the weeks passed, and the tears began to give way to thought and reflection, I noticed the question I was now asking myself, was not how was I going to cope, but what was I coping with? ‘Project Me’ was born on that beach in Aruba, May 2016. At its’ core, were 3 questions I asked myself. Who am I now? What is important to me? What makes me feel alive, because most of all, I wanted to feel more than nothing – I wanted to feel alive.
Feeling alive and energised by ‘Project Me’, I returned home, and began to get to work.
Has it been easy? No. A neighbour served me an ASBO because he mistakenly believed I had disturbed his sleep; that was not easy! Have I wanted to give up? Many times. When the builder declared he was bankrupt, as I stood in the empty shell of my ‘home’, my dream felt a million miles away. Each time, I took pause, and reflected on ‘Project Me’ and the work I had done and found my strength to carry on.
Through ‘Project Me’, you see, I realised, I was not nothing, and this was enough to start, to truly setting myself free to feel truly alive.