Life choices | The Leap Year

A life changing event

On this day 3 years ago, I found a lump in my breast, it turned out to be cancer and my life changed forever. It got me thinking about how much has changed and I thought I would share it with you.

A life changing event can do one of two things, completely change the way you live your life or nothing changes.

You have no idea which one it will be until you are faced with it.

After my cancer diagnosis, I changed my life from the fast lane to the slow road and this is why.

Life is supposed to be for living but when I reflect back on my life before cancer I wasn’t living life, I was existing. Caught up in the whirlwind of a chaotic life, I was chasing an ideal that was not only unrealistic, it made me unhappy.

Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot to be happy and grateful for, but I was living my life according to what other people expected of me. Bah humbug…

From very early in our lives it seems that there is this unspoken rule that you have to have a university degree, a proper job, buy a big house and accumulate stuff. I totally bought into it all, working crazy hours, not spending time with my children, running around on weekends and spending no time with myself, blah blah, the list goes on.

The life that I had been ‘sold’ is exhausting and unachievable, no wonder I was anxious, fearful and in the end I got sick.

I had to make big changes in my life and whilst that didn’t happen straight away, I knew that I had to commit to a new life, whatever that may be.

To begin with, I didn’t even know what I wanted to do. I had worked in fashion for most of my career, I loved it but it was the usual 9-5 with extra hours commuting, managing budgets and teams of people and working for someone else. I didn’t hate my job but I started to wonder what else was out there for me. Could I really do something else? I was 47 years old, I had a secure job, I was paid good money, isn’t that enough?

The biggest challenge is how. How do you change your whole life, the life that you have known for so long? I couldn’t possibly do it that would be crazy I used to think to myself.

As the months went on, I started to resent my job actually, I wanted to live a different life, and I don’t mean that I wanted to be a different person, it wasn’t that, I wanted my life to be the one that I had dreamt of. The one where I could live life on my own terms.

It became so important to me that I was true to myself, what did I really want, who am I?

Asking myself these questions made me cry, I knew that I had another path, I had been given signs before and totally ignored them. I had been sick before and not taken any notice that I needed to change. I finally stood up and listened.

The universe has this way of just telling you what you need to do. I’m no spiritual evangelist, but I know that I was being guided to where I was supposed to be (it’s not as crazy as you think, has something ever just turned up in your life and you don’t know why?).

I have always loved books and reading, I followed my heart and took pen to paper and quite frankly I haven’t stopped since.

I didn’t know to begin with that I wanted to write books and blog, I just wrote about how I was feeling at the time. I was confused and frightened about my future and anxious about all of the medical treatment surrounding my breast cancer diagnosis. Something had to change or things were going to get worse.

I started to redesign my life into the one that I had only dreamt of. It took over 12 months for me to write my first book, I had no idea how it was all going to come together, I just did it. I took the chance anytime I had to write and jot down how I was feeling. I was still working full time but because I loved writing so much, I found time to do it, it was not work.

During this time I also started to really think about what else was happening in my life. I had the chance now to rewrite my own future. I had to stop thinking about the past and start thinking about a life that was not only sustainable but one that made me happy.

These are big questions to ask yourself, and totally scary to begin with because you know no different and upsetting the apple cart is not what we have been taught to do. Whether we like it or not, we conform to the ideal that we should have this ‘perfect’ life and when we don’t, we feel like we have failed.

I started with making real changes to what I did for other people. I have spent countless hours reflecting on and pondering these thoughts since. I realised with sadness that I had never put myself first, ever. I had lived my life up until then putting everyone else before me. I don’t think there is a working mum out there who doesn’t from time to time feel this way but I realised that it wasn’t just my children, it was everybody. I honestly thought that putting me first was a selfish thing to do but I know now that you cannot be your best self if you don’t spend any time with yourself.

We make friendships throughout our life and sometimes these people are friends for life and some are fair-weather. They all have a place and purpose in our lives but we need to recognise when the relationship has come to its natural end.

This isn’t easy, we continue to see people that we know are not good for us for fear that we will upset them.

The truth is, these are the friends that we need to let go of the most. And this applies to family too.

This was by far the hardest lesson I have ever learnt. I realised that I was caught up in their lives and not my own. I did things for them and not me. This had to stop. Little by little I moved away from spending time with them.

And this included not feeling like I had to live up to anyone else’s expectations. I have uncomplicated my life and I have given permission to myself to live the life that gives me joy.

My world has been opened up and I see things now that give me so much joy that I cannot even believe that I spent years not noticing them.

I am really looking forward to what the future holds.

Big Love Jane x

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