Today, I asked myself:  “What was my life 5 years ago?  How much has changed and evolved since then?  What have we accomplished?  What do I have to be thankful for?”

As it turns out, I have a LOT to be thankful for…

Here’s a few examples:

Personal Stuff & Self-Esteem… (then)

5 years ago… well, let’s just say that I don’t even recognise “that” Heather… the Heather from 5 years ago.

At the time, I struggled with life-suckingly horrible low self-esteem.  I couldn’t even raise my eyes to look at my reflection in the mirror.  I battled with a binge-eating disorder which infected every part of my personal life (and especially the way that I viewed myself).

I didn’t love (or even like) myself… and it showed.

I didn’t take care of my body or my health.  I didn’t bother about what I looked like or how I dressed.  Whenever I went out, I would slink about self-consciously… hoping that I could slip by the world – completely unnoticed.

And, I almost always wore black.

Here’s a photo:

I wore holes into this all-black outfit...

I wore holes into this all-black outfit…

Surprisingly, I'm wearing a blue top in this photo... not because I liked wearing blue (or any colour, for that matter) - but because the blue top was long and baggy and I tried to "cover" my body with it...

Surprisingly, I’m wearing a blue top in this photo… not because I liked wearing blue (or any colour, for that matter) – but because the blue top was long and baggy and I tried to “cover” my body with it…

Personal Stuff & Self-Esteem… (now)

It’s about 5 or 6 years since the photos (above) were taken.

And… everything has changed!

For a start, I no longer play the shame-game.  In fact, I flatly refuse to shame myself – or my body.  I refuse to heap self-loathing and self-criticism on to the person I see in the mirror every morning.

That ship has sailed and disappeared over the distant horizon.  Those days are over.

I have re-styled my hair… and dyed it pink.  I have purchased a new pair of glasses.  I love buying bright, unique and colourful clothing that show the world that there’s a Creative Creature lurking within (and not a dowdy misery).

I no longer binge eat.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ate food from Mac Donalds, Wimpy or Kentucky Fried Chicken (all of which used to be my favourite haunts).

I haven’t eaten fried chips for years.  I don’t haven’t drunk coke, sprite (or their diet counterparts) for many, many months.

That being said, I still enjoy a great cappuccino and a yummy slice of cake – and I REFUSE to guilt-trip myself (for enjoying the cake!).

I am happy.  I am healthy.  My husband loves my body.  I love my body (fat, flaws and all).

I have been for all the health tests, blood tests, heart tests, boob tests – and, in spite of all the abuse heaped upon my poor, long-suffering body in the past… it remains healthy – and these days, I treat it with the love and respect that it deserves (and aim to steadily improve my health – in fact).

I look at myself in the mirror and heap gratitude and affection on to this strong, beautiful body that has carried me so faithfully through life.

I used to hate my body – and criticise it… and punish it for all it’s perceived faults and failures.

Now days, I look in the mirror… give myself a big grin… puff up my pink hair… and I’m happy to greet the world – exactly as I am!  🙂

Here’s the most recent pics of the Current Me:

I'm wearing a lot of pink these days...

I’m wearing a lot of pink these days…

I like these curls! The hairdresser made them (unfortunately, I can't seem to replicate them!)

I like these curls! The hairdresser made them (unfortunately, I can’t seem to replicate them!)

Work… (then)

5 years ago, I ran a business from home.   It was a graphic design studio and below-the-line ad agency called COPS Creative Corporation.

I worked… (how can I say this politely?)… like a rabid dog.

Days… nights… weekends…. holidays… were CONSUMED with work.

Work, work, work… and more work.

Sometimes, the stress became so overwhelming that I felt as though I would keel over and die.   And I was miserable.  And resentful.  And bone tired.

I remember one particular business trip when I was staying in a very beautiful seaside hotel in a very luxurious hotel room.  It had a huge, 2-person bath tub with gorgeous views of the sea.  But, Nick wasn’t there to share the tub with me.  He was overseas on a shoot and our kids were with their grandparents.

I was on that trip, stressed… exhausted… and alone.

I remember sitting in that beautiful tub… and just crying and crying.

And I asked myself:  “WHY am I even here?  WHY am I doing this?  WHY am I putting myself through this?  Is this all there is to life?  Is this what I wanted – to own this business?  And, if it was never my dream, how did I end up here?  And… is it possible to escape this lifestyle that I’ve created for myself?”

(as it turned out – it WAS possible to escape the lifestyle that I created myself… and I have since escaped!!!).

Here’s some pics:

This photo was taken during a shoot for one of my corporate clients. You can probably tell how remarkably "enthusiastic" I was about my work... (hehe!)

This photo was taken during a shoot for one of my corporate clients. You can probably tell how remarkably “enthusiastic” I was about my work… (hehe!)

Work followed me everywhere...

Work followed me everywhere…

Work… (now)

Now… I do what I LOVE, and I LOVE what I do.

I do what makes me come alive.  I do what I’m passionate about.

I write.  I blog.  I speak.  I write poems.  I sing.  I draw.  I design.  I compose.

I’m an artist.  I’m a storyteller.  I’m a musician.

Some of my creative works earns me an income.  Some of it doesn’t.

At this stage, I don’t earn nearly as much money as I used to (when I designed campaigns for large, corporate clients)… BUT… my current situation also doesn’t come with the same bills, the same expenses, the same stress, the same terrible drain on my health and sanity.

And I can’t begin to express how much happier I am now.

My health has improved.  I don’t get sick as often as I used to.  My stress levels are very low.  Life is good.

To sweeten the pie… it delights me to report that Nick is also loving his work these days.  Word has spread in the film industry – and he’s finally starting to be recognised as the ridiculously talented filmmaker that he IS.  These days, HE can choose his projects… and work according to HIS fee.

He no longer needs to take on every TV project, doccie, campaign or music video (for the sake of money).  These days – he can afford to be picky, and only works on the projects he wants to work on.

I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of him…

It's a bit of a crappy photo... but this is Nick and I at this year's SAFTA's (South African Film & Television Awards).

It’s a bit of a crappy photo… but this is Nick and I at this year’s SAFTA’s (South African Film & Television Awards).

These days - I LOVE the work I do... and I get to spend many blissful hours working at coffee shops and other random, interesting places. :-)

These days – I LOVE the work I do… and I get to spend many blissful hours working at coffee shops and other random, interesting places. 🙂

Finances… (then)

Jeez!  It’s no wonder Nick and I had to work like pig-dogs!  We had to make an obscene amount of money every month – just to cover the bills!

We had to pay monthly salaries for 10 people (for a start).  That, alone, kept my feet firmly planted on the life-sucking Treadmill-of-Duty.  My biggest dread was not being able to afford to pay my staff at the end of the month – so I took on monstrous portions of work in order to ensure that it never happened.

On the months when we struggled with cash-flow issues, our home-loan took the flack.

And… as much money as we made, it would all disappear just as quickly:  gobbled up by salaries, bills, expenses, rent, petrol, software upgrades, phones, more expenses, more bills… and… and… and…

I remember feeling a bit resentful about that.  I remember wondering:  “Why are we working these crazy hours when we’re still counting pennies at the end of the month?  What’s the point?  Why can’t we seem to get ahead?”.

Finances… (now)

The best thing we could have done for ourselves (and our financial wellbeing) was simply to downgrade.  To drastically downgrade.

And so that’s what we did.

It started with the television.  That was the first thing to go:  the TV and our monthly subscription to DSTV.

This was followed closely by the gym membership.

Then we shut down COPS Creative Corporation (a game-changer… in so many ways)… and we took the kids out of school.

We paid off credit card debt, paid off the car (we share one small car between us)… closed all of our clothing accounts, downgraded our cell phones to a much cheaper plan (we both still use really old phones).  We also downgraded our medical aid to a Hospital Plan (with a small savings).

We purged as much debt as we possibly could… and downgraded in every imaginable way.

I can’t being to adequately express how much these decisions have resulted in such a huge WEIGHT being lifted off our shoulders.  We no longer feel enslaved to the bank (or to huge corporations).  We no longer feel… beholden… to others.

Our largest remaining debt is the outstanding amount on our home loan which is actually quite a small amount – and very manageable.

Our largest expenses (currently) all have to do with the house.  Water, electricity, rates & taxes, security, bond repayment, gardener (once a week), housekeeper (twice a week) and telephone.

All of these expenses will fall away (in October) when our new tenants take occupation of our home.  Once that has happened, we’ll only have the following bills to pay:

  • Medical Aid
  • Cell phones (a really small amount these days)
  • Internet access for the road
  • Monthly living expenses (food, petrol, accommodation, etc).

Nick and I have made a decision:  we want to spend our money on making memories with our our kids.  We want to spend our cash on EXPERIENCES – not “stuff” (or the accumulation thereof).

Obviously – all of these decisions (and this process of getting rid of debt) has not happened overnight… but when I think about the state of our finances 5 years ago… and when I think about our finances now – I heave an enormous sigh of relief (and I whisper a silent prayer of gratitude).

Children & Child-Care… (then)

5 years ago… Morgan was almost 3 and Joah was a little baby.

At the time, we employed a full-time, live-in nanny & cook (and another lady – a full-time housekeeper).

In the mornings, our nanny arrived early… woke the kids… fed them breakfast… got them dressed… and packed Morgan’s bags for daycare.

I would drive Morgan to daycare at around 7am – and would fetch her again at 4:30pm.  The nanny would care for baby Joah during the day (while I dedicated my life to work).

In the afternoon, I’d fetch Morgan from daycare and our nanny would knock off work.  We’d all eat the supper (that she had cooked).  Nick and I would bath the kids, play with them a bit… and put them to bed.

Then we’d collapse in front of the TV.

If I had deadlines, I’d watch some TV and go back to work (until late).  If there were no deadlines, I just settled myself in front of the TV until I was tired (or bored) enough to go to bed.

During the early years – I didn’t spend much time with my children.  The nanny and the other kids at daycare saw more of my kids than I did.

I told myself that this was normal.  This is what working parents just had to do.  There were no other options.  And I told myself that it was for-the-best anyway… because surely, if I spent too much time with my kids… they’d eventually start to irritate me…(?)  And how would I get anything done?

I told myself that daycare was also for my sanity.  I told myself that too much kid-time would make me irritable and resentful… and that daycare, in the long run, made me a “better” parent.

The early years. This photo was taken on a Saturday morning in Spring... about 5 years ago...

The early years. This photo was taken on a Saturday morning in Spring… about 5 years ago…

In the early years, this woman spent more time with my kids than what I did!

In the early years, Adelaide spent more time with my kids than what I did!

Children & Child-Care… (now)

These days – our kids are educated at home (or on the road)… depending on where we are.

I’m with my kids all the time (except Wednesdays – which are my ME-Days).

All of my worries and doubts about whether it would simply be “too much” for me (to have my kids around all the time)… have fallen away.

I LOVE the company of my kids.  They make me smile, they make me laugh… I LOVE the conversations that we have.  I LOVE their many questions.  I LOVE looking at the world through their eyes.

I count every day (in their company) as a treasure and a pleasure.  And (in spite of my fears to the contrary) – I still have a lot of time to get my own work done and to invest in projects and work that fulfil ME (as a person).

All of this has come as somewhat of a pleasant surprise.

  • I never expected to home-school or un-school my kids… and yet, here I am!
  • I never expected that I would so thoroughly enjoy learning WITH my kids.
  • I never expected that I would hunger for knowledge as much as they do.
  • I never expected to spend so much time with them.
  • And I never expected to ENJOY spending so much time with them.

I assumed I’d be exhausted… irritable… and resentful of their demands.

On the contrary – I couldn’t have been more wrong!

I love these little people!!

I love these little people!!

Fun with Jessica the hippo - during our 6-week South African Road Trip...

Fun with Jessica the hippo – during our 6-week South African Road Trip…

Dreams… (then)

Dreams?

Ha!

5 years ago, the idea of dreams didn’t even EXIST.

We were too busy too burdened… to think about dreams.

What dreams?

Life was about “surviving”… and “getting by”… and “making do”… and paying the bills on time!

Life was about the house… the car… the businesses… and making sure that the clients were happy.  Dreams were just… not… a priority 5 years ago.

Dreams… (now)

Everything has changed.

Life is just too damned short and precious to fritter away on meaningless, nothingless-nothing, purposeless CRAP.

It is too precious.  And too short.

And the older I get – the more I realise how precious and short life actually is.

Now days, we don’t just give ourselves permission to dream (big, crazy dreams) – but we make it a priority to follow those dreams!

One of our Big Dreams (birthed a year and a half ago on a short Easter break)… was to purge our stuff, simplify our lives, get out of debt… and travel the world.

I’m proud to say that we are just 3 month’s away from achieving that dream.

Our house will finally be rented out in October… and we’re leaving on a jet-plane in early November (what a perfect birthday prezzie for me!).

We aim to travel… and spend our money on experiences and beautiful memory-making… for half the year.  The rest of the year, we will relocate ourselves to wherever Nick is shooting his next film (looks like we might be back in the Cape & Karoo in March next year).

We have deliberately created very flexible lives and careers… so that we can live our lives on OUR terms… instead of just slotting in to the Status Quo… or Marching-to-the-Matrix.

No more “making do!”.  These days – we live life on purpose… deliberately.

These days, we CHOOSE (even if those choices sometimes take a while to come into fruition).

No more drifting along… rudderless… allowing life to simply carry us along on currents of its own choosing.

No.  The drifting days are over.  We’ve climbed off the aimless, rudderless life-raft… and we’ve boarded a small yacht.

There’s nothing flash or fancy about our yacht.  It’s small, it’s simple – but it has everything we need.  Best of all… it has a rudder… and it has sails… and it has a compass.

Now – the course we decide to chart is up to US.  🙂

cape celebration