he makes all things beautiful

Four and a half years ago my youngest son, Ed, was born.


I have worked since then, but not much.

Seven weeks after he was born I had him with me in the rehearsal room, simultaneously breastfeeding and giving notes. Feeling like superwoman one minute and like a fool that was about to collapse the next. The work-in-progress storytelling with live music and illustration we created (less up its own backside than it sounds) was good … Well it wasn’t that good actually, it was ambitious and conceptually brilliant, and the people I was collaborating with very talented, but finances and time were not our friends and so instead it ended up a glorious failure that I am very proud of.


There have also been a couple of great experiences working on rehearsed readings of plays that have been in development. Great learning experiences with talented young writers. But never more than a couple of days… something to whet the appetite but not really satisfy.

And there were other projects that never got off the ground, the funding didn’t come through, or I didn’t get the job. Dealing with that disappointment was tricky. And a number of other jobs I had to turn down, as practically, mentally or emotionally I wasn’t robust enough to do them well… that stung a bit.

For four and a half years work, it’s not much.

But three kids, a crazy busy-ambitious husband, three house moves and a side measure of post-natal depression are not massively conducive to the furthering of my career.

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Being a Mum is great, but sometimes I have felt like I have been disappearing.

Like the Cheshire Cat… but all that would be left of me would be a pile of dirty laundry and the school run.

At times my confidence has been very low. And the longer I have gone without working, the worse it has got.

Learning to wait is not been an easy road. It involves being fine with feeling like all your peers are overtaking you. And coming up with witty answers to the inevitable question i get every time I go to the theatre “So…. what are you working on at the minute?”

(I have found there is nothing that stops someone in their tracks more than… “writing a blog about my battle for mental health”, but when I have not been feeling quite so brave “Raising three small people” also works).

I don’t generally keep a journal but for the first 6 months of last year, I did. I happened upon it yesterday. Here is what I last wrote in it – last June:

“… Finding waiting really hard… Hard to wait and not know what is next, and when. Hard to feel unvalidated. Hard to not be experiencing what I perceive as success, and to be feeling on the outside.”

This time was difficult, but so useful. Pain with a purpose. I rolled up my sleeves and got up-to-my-elbows in analysis of what was going on in my head. There is nothing like a battle for mental health to give you the compunction to take a good long look at your life and be brave enough to make some changes. To stop living and thinking on auto-pilot.


I realised that I don’t want to need to feel validated by what I do. I don’t want to get my sense of worth from my successes. I want failure to be okay.

For most of last year, I got off the ladder. I wasn’t climbing anywhere. I wasn’t looking for opportunities, or pushing for work.

It was hard and then it was so so good.


I started learning to find my validation just from being. I began to revel in doing less, started learning to empty myself of my need to find my worth in my output.

Society is obsessed with success. We talk about it. We applaud it. We follow it. But, so often, the interviews I have read with people who have achieved great things (money, fame, awards, critical acclaim) remark on how it didn’t satisfy them. How they regret missing out on their children growing up because of the hours they put in at work. How vast wealth and riches, or plaudits and accolades ultimately didn’t fulfil them… but left them wondering what it was all really about. Why had they been so driven, so set to strive-mode? The fulfilment they had been searching for – they had not found.

It isn’t at the top of a ladder, or at the end of the rainbow. Being fulfilled, finding satisfaction is not about doing. It can’t be.

It is my aim, and my hope, to remain resolutely committed to not getting back on the ladder. Because I am not so sure it leads anywhere I want to go… if it leads anywhere at all.

A few months back i was walking by the river and I was thinking about the internal monologue that accompanies me. The subconscious voice-over narrative I use to make sense of my life. It was all about ‘achieving’. I only felt I was moving forward if I could clarify it through my success… through me winning. Being top of the class, winning the argument, doing things quickest and best. This suddenly appeared very flawed.

If it was going to be okay to fail I had to find a way to factor that into the narrative of my life.

Seeing it clearly for the first time, I began to use a new language to write my story.

It is called ‘growth’.

Being less concerned with how I stack up against someone else’s view of what I have achieved, and thinking more about how I am growing.

Growing as a listener. Growing as a wife. Growing in my ability to laugh at the days to come. Growing in my knowledge of the plants in my garden. Growing in my ability to fail, and not to care when I do. Growing in my patience. Growing in my strength. Growing in my ability to sing loud along with the radio, and do some pretty spectacular dancing in the kitchen.

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Sometimes I will train and learn and through this I will grow.

Sometimes I will bounce on the trampoline with the kids and through this I will grow.

Sometimes I will experience pain, and things will not go my way, and through this I will grow.


I still have dreams, and goals, and schemes for the future.

But the success of these ideas, and the fulfilment of these plans will not be the things by which i gauge my worth.


And now is the time to put all this into practise. Where these ideas about who I am and why I matter get road tested in the environment that, if I am not careful, makes me want to go running for the nearest ladder just to prove i can climb it.

In an unexpected turn of brilliant timing… 

I have a job.

(For seven weeks. Doing what I love to do. And I can’t wait.).


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