Sunday, January 5, 2014

Looking back at 2013 (The Good, the Bad and the Weird)

I'm reluctant to classify 2013 as either a 'good' or a 'bad' year, because things are always more complex than that. As always, it has been a mixture but I think overall I have a lot to be thankful for.

The Good Stuff

Holiday in France
Top of my list is our Eurocamp trip to the Vendee region in France. I love France and was yearning for a return trip after our mass family holiday a few years back. The weather was good, the food was great and the kids were relatively easygoing despite long journeys and unfamiliar surroundings. One major highlight was JKY learning to ride a bike which was a stark reminder that he's growing up fast...

Ed turning 1
Related to that last point, number 2 child passed the 12 month mark and it really made me think about the previous year and how life has moved so quickly. Still weary from life with two kids, as I looked back through the fog of exhaustion and tiredness I kept telling myself that things would eventually get easier.

People's Book Prize
A bittersweet one this (my entry in the 'weird stuff' will hopefully make this obvious). One of our authors from work won the prestigious 'People's Book Prize' which was a big deal for such a tiny publishing house coming from Cardiff. It's not quite the Man Booker Prize, but it's a start. Her books are still selling and even though she's pushing ninety, she's still working hard to publicise her titles.

JKY on Channel 5
In December, JKY appeared on Channel 5 with some other school children thanks to his dad working for a company that was making TV sponsorship ads (i.e. me). We were hired to do our first piece of TV work (albeit very small) for one of our clients at short notice, which was a bit nerve racking but quite exciting. Hopefully it will lead us to do more of the same in the coming year.

The Bad Stuff

Lack of sleep
For the first part of 2013, we rarely got more than four hours sleep at a time thanks to Ed and his inability to sleep for extended periods. Summer, however, was a bit of a breakthrough when he finally started to settle better and sleep through the night. Having endured over a year of broken sleep it came as a welcome development. Ed has wavered on a number of occasions (thanks mainly to illness), but generally he's better at sleeping through than he ever was. 

Unfortunately, just as it felt like we'd turned a corner with Ed's sleep, new neighbours moved in to the upper flat next door and created a whole new sleep-related problem. With no appreciation of the fact that their living room shares a very thin wall with our bedroom (despite repeated attempts to explain this to them), they regularly stay up into the small hours keeping us awake. They don't have wild parties or play loud music as such, they just talk very loudly and laugh randomly at stuff. This makes it particularly difficult because was can't just ask the council to stop them hanging out in their front lounge. If they were having parties until three in the morning, it would be a different story. Even so, we've taken advice and have something of a plan (which, unfortunately, involves spending £1000 on soundproofing - erk!).

Ongoing battles with (mild) depression
I've found myself at my lowest ever point emotionally this year, which surprises me because I've usually always been quite a chilled out kind of person (at least, that's what I thought). I could pick out a number of possible reasons: lack of sleep, my work situation and the fact that I'm getting closer to the big four-oh. I've concluded that sleep really does affect my mood, and if I'm not getting enough I become incredibly irritable and miserable. Work has been stressful in different ways and even though I've made decisions that will change the situation it doesn't mean the stress will go away completely. Finally, as I've written before, I am fast approaching forty and I think two things are nagging at me: I feel like I haven't achieved much in my life so far, and I'm anxious about the implications of getting older (i.e. my chances of remaining in good health are slowly diminishing as I get older). Depressing stuff, eh?

Of course, I'm not actually depressed in the clinical sense. I appreciate that feeling down and suffering from depression are two different things. I can function normally pretty much all of the time and don't harbour suicidal thoughts or anything, so at the very worst I'm experiencing a very mild depression (for want of a more appropriate label). I just hope I can shake it off and get a bit more joy into my life over the coming year...

The weird stuff

Deciding to move on
I've been co-Director of a company for almost four years but have become increasingly unhappy about my involvement for various reasons. In the summer I came to the conclusion that enough was enough: I made the difficult decision to move on to new things and work for myself once again. This had been brewing in me for some time and was excruciating to implement – mainly because of the impact it had on those I worked with – but I didn't have much of a choice. What I was doing, and more importantly the way I was doing it, was having an extremely negative affect on my mental state. Slowly going crazy and frustrated at everything, I wasn't much fun to be around (just ask my family).

You don't just walk away from a company Directorship, however, and so I'm sticking it out for another eight or nine months, depending on how things go, so that it's more straightforward for me to step down. There's still work to do and I don't want to leave anyone in the lurch. I admit that had I made a different decision back in the past, maybe things wouldn't have ended up this way, but there's no point living in regret. I really believe that this is the right way forward for me and ultimately will benefit both myself and my colleagues in the long term.

Doing up the house
We've done loads to the house, even though we'd never really planned to at the start of the year. First of all, we had to have the entire kitchen ceiling replaced thanks to a leaking pipe. Then we had to completely redo the whole bathroom because of another leak. Lastly (and we haven't actually started work on this yet), we lost some roof tiles in the recent storms so have to get those repaired. Apart from the emergency stuff, we had some decorating in the two front rooms, and had an epic time ripping out the fence in our back yard so that we could add a new trellis all around the top of the wall. So it's been quite a lot compared to previous years, but there's still plenty more to do. Eventually, one day, we may actually get to finish the house (!).

Summing Up
So, it's not been the greatest twelve months in my life. Admittedly, it's been great to see the kids grow and develop and I think that's been one of the things which has kept me going. Also, Wifey has been a terrific support and I feel our marriage remains steady and strong.  I hope, however, that I haven't written a post that sounds like I'm whingeing about all the bad stuff that's happened to me – there are plenty of people out there who have had far worse 2013s than me. Knowing this certainly keeps my experiences in perspective.

At the moment I feel optimistic about the year to come and I'm looking forward to a number of things in 2014.

Who knows what the year will bring? Let's find out ....

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