I’ve been crying going through my blog. While most of the stuff I share is raw and real, it is so rare it hurts. I wanted to find a link to share on my Instagram page (which I keep up to date daily) and I had to go so far back I burst into tears. I’ve lost me. No. That’s not right. I ran away from me.
We moved house on 15 February 2019
One of the biggest moments in my life. My life goal has always been to have a real forever home. Growing up we moved every few years. It had all kinds of knock on effects on the person I’ve grown to be. Insecure. Anxious. Homesick for a home that was never mine. It’s also why I “hoard” (or collect as I prefer to see it). I’ve carried things with me since I was born.
Favourite toys, letters from friends, a friendship bracelet that broke from constant wearing, an old fashioned camera with a spool in it that is too old to ever be developed. And books. So many books. Each one more a memory of where I was at that moment in my life than the stories within them.
I love our house. It is beautiful. And so well laid out that it feels enormous. You can close a door and not know there is anybody else there. The area is a real neighbourhood, with people walking their dogs and going for runs and waving to greet everyone. There is a neighbourhood watch and we get updates on any issues of security. People look out for each other here. It feels safe. And it is SO quiet!! I adore the stillness of it.
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Every day at least once I stand outside with my bare feet in the soft green grass, close my eyes and connect with my body – the wind moving my hair, the sun warming my skin, the rain dripping down my neck… I listen to the birds and the trees and breathe deeply like Shelley taught me to.
In the first two weeks I felt deeply changed. I was awake every day before my alarm. I was nesting, cleaning, finding a place for everything. And I was letting go of things too. Things that had traveled through my life with me, house to house, for over 30 years. Somehow I didn’t need them anymore. I didn’t need to carry my home with me anymore. I could let it go if it didn’t find a place in our forever home.
And then I lost #Evie.
For those confused, Evie was the Ford Everest that I drove for 18 months while #CarseatFullstop was a brand ambassador for Ford South Africa. Evie changed everything for me when I was about to give up on #CarseatFullstop in 2017. I was in so much debt from running the campaign that year, I was contemplating having to return to an office job. And I can promise you, even though I work three to four other businesses simultaneously, #CarseatFullstop when done properly is more than a full time job. It was late in the year, and I had decided to admit defeat.
And then Maja, an incredible woman from Ford South Africa, agreed to try push a sponsorship of an Everest through for us. She fought hard for me and in November I met and fell in love with Evie. She was a loaner actually, my Everest due to arrive in January… And then February and then a few more months, so I asked if I could just keep Evie and use her for the campaign. The final yes was received in May last year and I had planned to get branded as quickly as possible and get onto the road. And then our world fell apart.
Somewhere in the haze that followed, getting Evie branded became a light for me. Something to achieve, a visible symbol of recognition of the work I had been doing for 2 years. A vision in my head made real, engaging everybody who saw her, from kids mouthing out the words to read, to parents ducking their heads or avoiding my gaze, to people approaching and asking for more information on car seats and keeping their kids safe.
(As an aside it was around this time as well that it was announced that Ed Sheeran was coming to South Africa. I become possessed with the need to get tickets, begging publicly for somebody with a Discovery card to buy the tickets for the prerelease. I was more than happy to pay any amount, because I HAD to go… So I offered to buy box tickets to go with me for whoever could secure them. I had nearly died, I felt like I needed something to aim for, something to survive for. I watched every interview, listened to every song, watched hours of music videos. This becomes relevant again a little later in the story.)
Having Evie meant we could sell my Ix35 and finally clear the debt. Brett worked not far from home and could affordably use Uber most of the time, and very occasionally I would let him have Evie. He worked in a prime building for young families, so Evie was doing her job of raising awareness every day no matter what.
I had such an amazing connection with the Ford South Africa team. They believed in the work we were doing completely. I couldn’t have asked for a more supportive and inspiring partnership. They fought for me to keep Evie until the very last second I handed her back. But there was a major international level restructure, new rules were implemented and no matter how fiercely these women fought for Evie and me and what we do, in the end it was unwinnable.
I found out late in December that there was a 90% chance I was losing Evie; the team were still fighting, still asking what we could all do to make it work. I had to start looking for a new partner though. Because I could feel it in my gut that Evie was gone.
I wanted to run away and hide, but that wasn’t an option…
I wrote proposals for every car brand in South Africa, for car dealerships, for second hand dealers… Tapping into every connection I had made in my time working with Ford. I very very nearly managed to secure a partnership with Subaru, but it got all the way to the top before being declined. Everybody was so impressed with the work we’ve done, with everything we’ve achieved. They encouraged me, admired me, and in the end rejected me. I was shattered.
I KNOW logically that the humans I was dealing with were not rejecting me, were not questioning #CarseatFullstop’s value or my own. But logic had nothing to do with it at all. I was reeling from rejection after rejection. So when the day came in February when I had to take Evie and leave her in a lot at a dealership, I was broken. I was personally devastated at losing Evie, who was part of my family, adored by everybody from Charly to my grampa. She was the most incredible car to drive. I never felt as safe as when I was in that car and I probably never will again. I am still grieving. And that isn’t considering all the other symbolic meaning she held for me.
We had moved house, miles from Brett’s work. And we had no car. I had failed my husband. My child, who sobbed clinging to the front the seat on the day we had to return Evie. And I had failed all the children and families that #CarseatFullstop should have been reaching. It was the first time since I was 16 years old that I didn’t have my own car.
So I ran away
Working on #CarseatFullstop seemed pointless. Of course I still maintain the groups and answer parent questions and write when asked to. But my passion, my belief, the goals and dreams I had, they were all just sharp agonizing reminders of the fact that nobody saw enough worth in them to make it possible for me to do any of it.
I took on a client for the first time since I started #CarseatFullstop in 2016. It was meant to be a few hours a month, but I lost myself in the work. In having a purpose. In being acknowledged and recognized for being really good at something. And the client is a place of healing and personal growth, of rebuilding broken dreams and lives. I found I could pour my broken self into the writing and it resonated with others.
I began imagining a different life for myself. No more fighting with parents about keeping their kids safe. No more feeling too old and irrelevant for the blogging space. Maybe a move away from Cape Town altogether. I think I had a momentary mid-life crisis.
My best friend, Katy, came down to Cape Town to see the Ed Sheeran concert. I was so excited for the concert, it seemed like a light in the dark, getting to see Katy for the day made it that much more special. And then the concert was over. And Katy went home.
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I don’t drink. This has been a thing I’ve said for years. Not as in I never take a sip of alcohol, but I have maybe a single drink every 3-4 months. The week after Ed Sheeran I drank enough to have my first hangover in around 10 years. And I cried. A lot. All the goals, the things I had been reaching for, waiting for, were over.
We finally bought a car for me as I realised that a huge part of the spiral was a complete lack of control over life and not being able to do anything car seat related. We had bought a very old and damaged car but it needed a huge amount of work and i didn’t feel it was safe enough to drive with Charly… And Brett and I had to share it. Buying the car was both me giving up and setting myself free. I don’t owe anybody anything, so the next step I take is my own.
I went with a 2011 Subaru Forester. Subaru was one of my potential partners twice, but they couldn’t commit for various business reasons on their side. I was tempted to get a Ford Ecosport because of how amazing Evie had been, but as lovely as it was to drive, the space was just completely impractical if I wanted to continue with #CarseatFullstop. I had done a ton of research of cars in SA and which ones offer the best safety and quality for family cars. Subaru really does come tops. It also offered ISOfix, top tethering and very impressive boot space.
I adore driving the car. She doesn’t have a name yet… I’m afraid to attach and have something happen. Mostly because whenever I drive it for any distance there is a distinct smell of burning, from no identifiable place. I need to take it to the specialists next week to figure out what exactly is going on with it. I’m not attaching in case I get told the car isn’t safe and I have to return it. I’m not sure how well I will cope with that. That’s what therapy is for I guess.
In the last few weeks I’ve been coming back.
It really does feel that way, like I’m moving back into my body and my life. I ran away and completely disconnected for a while. Living on alternative timelines of my life. “What if I had…” was the question replaying itself in my head. Traveling back and forth in my head and dreams through my life and taking the different paths. I even properly ran away, going to Plett, where so much of everything started… To be with my Katy and my girls, to get some work done for Oasis, but mostly to breathe through an alternative reality.
This weekend I think I may have figured out some of why I ran away… Friday was our 6 year wedding anniversary and our 13 years together anniversary. Charly is our honeymoon baby. And this time last year we came back from an amazing soul-healing getaway to Plett. And conceived our second baby… In just over a month, it will have been a year since I thought I was miscarrying… And then discovering it was an ectopic pregnancy… And emergency surgery and almost dying and blind devastation.
Maybe part of me was taking as many different paths in my life to avoid ending up there… here… With vivid nightmares of losing a baby, feeling pain and fear… Or of not losing a baby and where we would be right now.
Where would we be?
Probably not in this beautiful house full of love and happy memories… One of the first times I ran away was leaving our old home. The “where” we ran away to was due to the school decision for Charly… But the “when” was me needing to put as much distance between myself and the place I went through the worst time of my life.
Maybe I would still be working with Ford, my blog would be full of #newmommyproblems, the magazine would be full of baby item reviews… Because I had so many story ideas around preparing for a new baby, the importance of a car like #Evie, sharing my journey as I tried to be healthier and more fit through pregnancy and beyond. Because if I hadn’t lost the baby, I wouldn’t have lost 4 months of my life to PTSD and physical recovery…
Charly would be an amazing big sister. I wouldn’t have received a school report last year saying she suffered from massive anxiety and that she needed more playdates because she was an only child. Our girl wouldn’t have needed play therapy at age 4. Her face would light up when she got home from school and ran stright to kiss her baby all over his perfect little face.
I would be about to celebrate my first Mother’s Day as a mommy of 2. My baby boy would be 3 months old. I would be exhausted and hormonal and have sore boobs. But my heart would be full and not haunted.
But they are just dreams or nightmares now.
Our life is good in the now. Brett and I are closer than we have been in years. Charly rediscovered her joy at her new school and has blossomed as the pressure on her eased off. She is happy and loves her teachers and friends and she adores her potential school for next year (which we hear back on in the next few days). I love our home. I love everything about it.. And the security of knowing it is ours and I have a safe space to belong.
I am no longer the me I ran away from.
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I received this gloriously luxurious soft grey gown as a #mothersdaygift from @woolworths_sa 💞 They must have some incredibly good spies to know that this goes perfectly with the equally soft grey heart pajamas I bought for myself there last week 🥰 I am loving the cooler weather at the moment, you all know that #winterismyseason and that I consider my life a success because I can run my businesses in my pajamas, right? 😂 I am speaking at a careers event at my old high school tonight and this is going to be mentioned 😁 I work my butt of pretty much 24 hours a day, I always have a million deadlines and our Charly girl keeps me on my toes both night and day, but I get to do it all in super snuggly #WooliesPjs It’s worth mentioning that if you scroll back through my feed over the past 5 years you will find that every year is a #wooliesmothersday for me and my mom and that at least 4/5 last years have been new #winterpajamas or gowns 😂 @wrathzaza is going to have to work a lot harder now that Woolworths and I beat him to the punch 😁 He’s lucky that there is a never-ending selection of things that I love available there, so he won’t have to go too far out of his comfort zone 🤣 Thank you Woolies for the spoils 💞 (The gown is #sponsored my obsession with all things Woolworths is sadly not 😂)
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I’ve made new friends, through Instagram and #CarseatFullstop. I am launching a new car seat into the market in the next few weeks. I’m loving the work I do with Katy on Oasis. I am forming ideas for where I want #CarseatFullstop to go. I’ve been working on building my brands back up by going back to where I started – sharing my whole self exactly as I want to.
I am working on my health and fitness with my cousin’s husband, Gavin, who is an awesome personal trainer with 14 years of experience. (You can follow the journey on @ProjectMeZA on Instagram or Facebook.) I’m finding joy in working with brands that I connect with or that bring Charly or I happiness. I am exploring who I am in therapy, recognising patterns in my life that I would really like to avoid repeating. And I am wanting to write again…
Sending you all the love xxx