Back in February, amid the stress from school closures, the uncertainty of work, the disappointment of cancelled trips and plans to see our family and friends, and a lockdown that seemed to be dragging on forever, I found myself at a really low point.
One morning, Casper, my four-year-old, and I were on our daily walk. Somehow, we got talking about the day my husband Greg proposed to me. After listening to the story Casper blurted out, "Wow, were you so happy you started twirling? Were you so happy you started jumping?"
And something just clicked. That's exactly how happy I wanted to feel again. I realised then and there I needed to take responsibility for my own happiness. Instead of looking left and right for something or someone to blame, I needed to focus my thoughts and actions on what I could control. So, kind of like when they say smiling 'tricks' your brain into feeling you're happy, Casper’s words inspired me to jump and twirl my way into feeling good again.
My 40th birthday was coming up, so I thought I'd use my daily hour of exercise to cycle around London and take pictures in some of my favourite spots around the city. One for each year of my life (you can check out the whole series @nicoskinner). It was meant as an excuse to get me out of the house for a bit of fresh air and a change of scenery. But I ended up having the best time and learned some valuable lessons along the way.
1. Practice makes perfect.
I started with my phone propped up on a backpack, running back and forth as 3 seconds ticked away on the self-timer. A few weeks in, I bought a cheap tripod (gamechanger!) and a phone clicker (total gamechanger!). I started spotting the best locations much quicker and mastered the art of changing from jeans into a dress in the middle of the street. Overall, my technical, creative, and jumping skills really improved in 6 short weeks. It was a brilliant reminder that if you put in the time and effort, if you do something consistently and challenge yourself, you’ll be marveled at the progress you can make.
2. Attitude is everything.
Except for a few times I had Casper with me, I was mostly on my own. I love exploring London and I love taking pictures (mostly of my children). But this was completely out of my comfort zone. Every time I’d arrive at a new location I’d feel awkward and self-conscious. But a couple of minutes of jumping around and it all kind of melted away. So you’re twirling around the Millenium Bridge? So there’s a bunch of people looking at you? So what? Once I acknowledged I was just being silly and a bit ridiculous, I became completely empowered. It's very liberating and I’d honestly recommend jumping around for the sake of it to everyone!
3. Take care of yourself first.
I’m sure I’m not the only one out there, but after becoming a mum I started putting everyone else’s needs before mine. I’d give and give and end up feeling drained and empty. Sometimes I wouldn’t even recognise myself. It was almost as if I’d lost the essence of who I was. But I can now see the importance of taking care of myself before I can take care of others. If I listen to my needs and prioritise my happiness, it ripples positively into every area of my life. Setting some time aside each day to do something that brought me joy has been invaluable!
The last post of this series was a few weeks after my birthday, on the day we started easing out of lockdown. Looking back now, I realise how precious it was to do this at such a unique moment in our lives. For a brief period of time, I had some of the most crowded parts of London pretty much to myself. I got to see the beauty of its streets and alleys and monuments with renewed eyes. And I talked and laughed with strangers curious to know what I was up to jumping back and forth.
It’s been a really tough year for all of us. But I now feel happier and more hopeful. Forty pictures later, I’ve reconnected with myself, rediscovered my spark, and have a tank full of energy, empathy, and resilience to get me through whatever may come next.
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