How to begin again

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The passing of time. It still catches me by surprise, even though it's what makes us. Sometimes the rawness of life, the growing pains of my four-year-old's legs or the changes in my toddler as he is becoming such a little boy now, startles me to the point that I just need a second to take it all in. And now, just like that, it's my thirty-seventh birthday next week. Thirty-seven. So much has happened in the last twelve months, I have felt a need to catch my breath, slow down and take stock.

Since my last birthday, I had my third baby, who is now eight months, and I also created this little world that you're in right now, Our Story Time. I took it from an idea of a beautiful world full of imaginative creations, an idea floating in my head, and managed to make it real. Our Story Time is only six months old itself and is still just beginning but I'm quietly astonished at the way it is unfolding, at the promises it hides. Our Story Time is a place to come to to be inspired, to escape your every day, and this blog is a huge part of that. I never dreamt that I could be brave enough to start my own creative business. And so I thought I'd share my journey with you, a journey I am still on but am so excited about taking.

So settle in. Gather near. This is the story of how I began again, and how if you want to, you can too. 

I don't remember everything about last year. My pregnancy was accompanied with severe morning sickness that hit me with such aggression. There were many slow, painful and never-ending days. I knew our family would be complete and the birth of a healthy baby would be the most precious gift - but it was hard to hold onto this at the most horrendous of times. 

By the grace of God, my baby was healthy and well. But the physical turmoil of my difficult pregnancy echoed in my emotions. I was up, down, inside out. I cried for my past, for the career I had built as a writer, for the name that once upon a time was well-known, respected and sought after. I cried for my future, not knowing if I'd ever again get a byline or another book deal because I had willingly stepped out of that world to have my babies.  I never expected that I would never find a way back in, that the doors I'd worked so hard to open might close. And it hurt me, like a gaping cut. Pieces of me felt interchangeably heartbroken and useless and so I cried for my present, too, even though I had two little boys who meant the world to me and another on his way. It sounds selfish, now, but it's the truth of how I felt. It's the conflict of motherhood.

I spent most afternoons bedridden from the severity of sickness. By this time, I was supposed to have been working on the first five chapters of my second book for my agent. My deadline came and went and I had nothing to show. I cried, inconsolably, again. My husband, who felt helpless for me, did what he could. He worked more flexibly and also organised childcare so that I could rest or, truthfully, simply have the dignity of being sick in the privacy of my own home. It was during one of those afternoons that I re-discovered Instagram, which I'd only ever used before in the vaguest and most private capacity. And I began to notice a whole world out there - a world of mothers, walking their own way. Not taking no for an answer. Not even needing to ask. Simply doing. Making, creating, building connections. Establishing themselves. Re-establishing themselves. Pursuing passions, turning dreams into successful businesses. All of them, beginning again. I was so inspired.

I began to see that perhaps it wasn't too late. Perhaps I too could begin again. And so I did. I began to search inside myself for strength. I questioned myself hard. I began to write down all the things that would make me happy, creatively. I began to believe that the sickness would end. And then I began to make a plan. 

Starting a new business when heavily pregnant and debilitatingly sick was possibly the craziest idea I have ever had, but pregnancy and creativity are so entwined. For me, the promise of what Our Story Time could be pulled me through. It gave me purpose and creativity. I began reading, planning, researching, pouring over How to Style your Brand from my bed, and then, as I felt better, the garden too. Somehow, I began to pick myself up after bad episodes - not every time, but most of the time. The idea that I could do something for myself gave me energy when I desperately needed it.  I began to be excited about creating a future for my boys - all three of them, the new one on his way, kicking inside me, punching out a secret code that only the two of us understood. 

Our Story Time came to me much like a story. I could picture this little hideaway tucked in the undergrowth, one you had to pick your way through the branches to get to. And once inside, it was as if you had stepped into another world. A place full of tiny treasures. A place full of shimmering beautiful things you couldn't help but reach out and traced with a finger. A place so full of mesmerising finds that it took your breath away. that was the place in my mind when I dreamt of Our Story Time.  

Looking back, it makes sense that this was what I was craving while I was physically going through so much, my days so slow and so long. Out of a dark space full of contradictions - happy, sad, sick, healthy - there were golden promises of beautiful things to come. My beautiful baby boy and his brothers.. But also Our Story Time. I no longer cry for my future, for losing my place.

I can't wait to share the rest of this adventure with you. 

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Six ways TO BEGIN AGAIN

Free yourself of the person you think you're supposed to be in order to find your true self And then, put your true self first. We all fall into roles, preconceptions of the people we think we have to be because other people, society or culture expect it of us. Mother, daughter, sister. So much is expected of us but the truth is there are no rules. You can still be a good mother and aim high for your own personal fulfilment. You can still be a good daughter and not call your mother every day. You can be who ever you want to be in all of your relationships. Let go of preconceptions and you'll free yourself from the limitations that you and others have placed on you. And then you'll be so much more open to receiving inspiration and all the new ideas that you need in order to begin again.

Accept that nothing is wasted Just because you used to be in what some might consider to be an academic, or professional, or respectable job, doesn't mean you can't change direction or start afresh. It can be hard to swallow this, to justify it even to yourself, especially if you're switching from a traditional or seemingly professional job and pursuing a dream or creative pursuit. But you don't have to justify anything to anyone. Not even yourself. Remember that. Every choice you've made, big or small, good or bad, has led you to this turning point. Every choice has made you brave enough to even consider starting over. So no, nothing has been wasted. Not your education, not your years of experience. All of it is part of you anyway. Nothing has been wasted at all. 

Be open to change Go with the flow. Accept that life will change, and when it does, so too will you. It is so liberating when you come to terms with this. 

Find a way to recognise and then ignore your inner critic Self-doubt led me to endless panic in my previous career. All this negativity would bubble up when I least expected it, leaving me hot and prickly and angry, and it stopped me from doing what I was best at. But back then, I had no sense of mindfulness so I couldn't tell when it was about to happen. Now, thanks to small habits like practicing daily yoga and slowing down my rapid thinking to take a moment before I act, I can recognise when my self-doubt is coming to the surface. I can recognise the triggers (like endless scrolling which serves no meaningful purpose at all). So I also know that if I act quickly enough and remove myself from whatever negative or unhelpful situation which is making me doubt myself, then I can silence it and shut it down before it hurts me. 

Make a plan Commit to your dream of starting over, in order to turn it into a reality. If it's work related, break down every step that you'll need to take to get to your goal - if you can, consider a business coach to help you get there with clarity. If it's a personal start-over, write down everything you want to change. Keep a journal. Be accountable to yourself, your partner or best friend.

Seek out inspiration Don't wait for inspiration to find you. Be active in pursuit of it. If you want to begin again, whether it's work related or something meaningful to you on a personal level, then you have to look for it. Look for the magic in the everyday. Ask yourself what makes you happy. Look deep into yourself to find your strengths and desires. Find out all there is to know about what you want to do and jump straight in. There's a time to be tentative but it's not yet. Feel energetic. If you live and breathe your dream to begin again, you'll suddenly see shades of it everywhere and from there, inspiration will flow. You'll find it in the faces of people you love, and in those you don't even know. You'll see it in the way the sunlight hits your bedroom wall. Inspiration will surround you. All you really have to do is be brave enough to let it in.

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If you liked reading this and would like to know more about the Our Story Time way of looking at the world with a drop of whimsy and magic, then read more About the store and about My Story