Inside my head, there lives what I fondly call my OCD Beast. It makes me straighten pictures, plump cushions, hoover rugs so that the pile stands upright and generally do what I can to make my family neater and tidier. But it can’t prevent the messiness of life.
In a few weeks, my journalist husband’s current freelance contract stops. Brought to an end by a stranger, whose financial needs outweigh ours. When it happens, half our household income will disappear. Naturally, he’s looking everywhere for something to fill the hole, but by rights, I should be a shivering, nervous wreck.
This, however, is the latest in a series of ups and downs my brood and I have endured during the past five years - and I know I am strong, smart, resourceful and woman enough to cope.
I am the sum of all my recent experiences: I am enough.
Five years ago, my husband and I moved, with our daughter, from the UK to France.
Little did I know at the time that a) my husband, who had spent a month here before us, was thoroughly miserable, and b) the job that brought us to this new life would take us to the brink of divorce.
There were other surprises, too. A few months after emigrating, I found out I was pregnant. After having struggled for years to conceive our daughter, this was amazing news. Our little boy arrived hale and hearty, but things around him weren’t so hot.
Problems at work made my husband distant and grey, and I wasn’t sensitive enough to understand what was happening. It took three years of near-constant arguments for me to realise the man I loved was being ground into the dust.
In hindsight, it was an easy decision to quit - the relief was unbelievable. But then came the real rollercoaster. In France, if you are sacked or made redundant, the state will help out financially. If you quit… not so much.
We spent four frantic months applying for every job we could find, set ourselves up as freelance journalists and formed our own little business, and sweated blood trying to make what little money we had go as far as possible.
We were granted access to our town’s food bank, after a pride-swallowing interview with a woman from the council. I didn’t want to ask anyone for help, but I had no choice.
When we were told we could feed our children for 5 euros a week until our unemployment benefit came through - three-and-a-half months later - I was grateful and humbled beyond words.
We downsized from a three-floor, four-bed house with garden and garage to a three-bed apartment, shaved everything we could from our bills and learned to live on very little.
Throughout, we kept talking to each other and to the children, making sure they knew about - even if they didn’t understand - each decision and why it was being made.
They adjusted, as only children can. Last June, I landed a part-time cleaning job and we were given unemployment benefit. Things were finally settling down. I was happy enough.
Then, one Sunday came another sideswipe. For months I’d grumbled absentmindedly about having a cyst or something on my ovary. I’d been gaining weight and getting tired. ‘Joy’, I thought, ‘the menopause’. But that day, hands on my stomach, I felt unmistakable movement.
A test was instantly, insistently positive - I was pregnant at 42! I was devastated - we had no money!
My husband asked what I wanted to do - I knew I was more than a few weeks gone, but I couldn’t consider a termination. It wasn’t possible anyway - it turned out I was five months pregnant with our second boy.
The most difficult year of our lives ended with me staring into the beautiful eyes of our third child. I have never felt so complete.
January 2014 felt like a new chapter, and as regular freelance work started coming our way, I was settled enough to relax after what felt like the longest time…
Now we face a fresh challenge: a likely return to austerity and uncertainty, unless we find something quickly (and we’re looking, pitching and trying like mad); and perhaps needing to rely again the kindness of strangers and the social security system.
But do you know what? I’m strong, resourceful, clever and imaginative enough to take this setback, too.
I am happy. I am enough.
Inspired by this post? Join us in this month's activity: I AM ENOUGH.