A lot of people have asked me how I’ve managed to get my flat looking so pulled together in such a short space of time, and the truth is I started before I moved.  I got back from the book tour knowing I had to move house and plunged into decluttering while still jetlagged. I also visited the new flat twice so I could measure up the space to ensure my furniture would fit. At one point I drew a diagram of the rooms to help me figure out what would go where — i even decided what would go in the kitchen cupboards beforehand. Yes, i really am that anal organised. It really made all the difference and meant I could get the basics done quickly, leaving me headspace to grapple with the more emotional challenges that come with a big move.

One of the great things about moving house is the opportunity to touch every single thing you possess. It’s like doing a really thorough life edit, scrutinising each item to decide whether it stays or goes. I got rid of a lot of furniture, but it’s the smaller stuff that’s most satisfying to weed out. The last couple of days I’ve been organising my photographs and journals, and have indulged in a few meaders down memory lane. I’ve some photos dating back to my childhood but the majority are from my 20s, when I was in a relationship and tirelessly chronicled our holidays, birthdays and evolutions. I’ll be turning 40 in February and what I am loving most about being older is having proof that I can survive when bad things happen.

I survived the end of that 10-year relationship in 2003 — a very sad but necessary ending that was deeply painful for both of us. We were two people clinging to each other out of fear of the unknown yet were both so fundamentally unhappy. We knew something had to change. I feel proud of 30-year-old me for being brave and making her escape. He went on to find love again and is now married and has two gorgeous kids. For me, it was the first step onto the path I am now on, one that brought much deeper pain with it a few years later, yet I know without a doubt that this is how life was supposed to unfold. How it IS unfolding. I wanted more love, more passion, more thrills and spills. I wanted to become a bigger version of myself, and to get to that place I had to dismantle the safe numbing life I had and re-enter the world like a newborn. If I’d have known what I know now the transition might have been less bumpy, but sometimes you have to go through the shit to find out what you’re made of. To find your true strength. To let the fire of change burn away the old to make way for the new. To have a chance at finding real happiness further along the path.

‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.’ ~ ee cummings

I’ve been dreaming about that time a lot lately… unsurprisingly. Where I live now is not far from the flat she escaped to and I’m planning to take a walk there soon, to step back into her shoes for a while. Memory lane can be a perilous stretch of road, and i absolutely knew that I’d be walking it if I came back to the city, so rather than skip around it I’ve got a compass and walking boots and am striding down that mother at full speed. The only way to heal painful stuff is to feel it, full on, full tilt. I don’t want to push any of this back down. I’m not going to hide from it.

So 30-year-old me made her escape, and because I’d never been on my own before I fell into another relationship very quickly — and you know how that ended. I’ve had a lot of time to wonder why it happened — what my life would have been if he hadn’t died. If I hadn’t met him. If I’d stayed together with my ex. Yet when I look at all the possible paths, the only one that feels right is the one I’m on now. Alone (for now) and more fully myself than I have ever been, knowing I can survive. Knowing that when it all falls apart I really can rely on myself <—- that actually makes me quite teary

It’s all blowing my mind a bit today.

And I know that so much of this is because I’m back here in my beloved city of memories. I am so ready to make new memories here, but right now I want to sink into the past and really taste it. I want to work through this to be freed from it. No more fear or regret. No more sadness. No more what-ifs.

We have to clear out our cupboards for the new stuff we want in our lives. The upgraded even better stuff. The stuff we can’t even imagine right now, but it’s out there waiting for us to bravely make space for it. 30-year-old me couldn’t have imagined I’d be where I am today. Nearly 40-year-old me doesn’t have a clue where I’ll be in another 10 years, though I have some hopes and wishes about that.

A snippet from When Death Comes by Mary Oliver:

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing, and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.