In 2017 I landed a promotion which came with more of everything - people, travel and bosses. Looking back, I was already projecting a flickering image of invincibility, baking cakes for the PTA, being a school governor, throwing epic kids parties, all while answering emails within hours. But behind the scenes my life was glitching. I was trying to manage the impact of a partner slowly sinking under the weight of depression and drinking a bottle of wine a night myself to anaesthetise the pain.
Then three things happened.
First, my youngest daughter had a terrible accident. I found myself holding her small, limp body in my arms, silently screaming and praying for her to just live. She did, thank god, but had to endure months of recovery in a wheelchair.
Then I found myself holding my dad’s paper-thin hand as he lay dying, tearily whispering how grateful I was for his unconditional love.
Finally, and not unsurprisingly, my marriage collapsed in the smouldering wreckage of this trauma and grief. So, within six months I found myself a carer, a single mum, and having a moment of serious reflection about my own mortality.
It made me realise you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Working for a big organisation, I was lucky to find a job with minimal travel. I started taking small, but revolutionary steps to look after me. I made ‘selfish’ decisions, based on listening to my gravitational pull, not where I was being pushed. Slowly I started to strip back the layers, discovering the woman who had lain dormant under the calcified sediment of motherly duty and corporate ladder climbing.
By the beginning of 2020 I was accepted onto a competitive novel writing course. Since then I have prioritised one precious hour for writing a day, a sacrosanct 60 minutes to create.
In June, I typed ‘The End’ on my first 100k word draft. Given where I had come from, it was an emotional moment. I don’t know if my novel will ever get published, that’s the next step. But I bloody did it.
And do you know what? Being a little bit ‘selfish’ has made me a better mother and a better communicator. I’m far more emotionally available for my kids, I’m role modelling valuing myself and my creativity to them, and I have developed bucket-loads of empathy. Something I consider a special kind of super-power in today’s market, as brands search for ever more authentic ways to talk.
Rachel is a writer who helps leaders to communicate more effectively, you can follow her novel-writing journey on Instagram at @rachelblackmorewriter and her views on leadership comms on LinkedIn.