Reflections on 2023 My Year of Yes!

Wow- 2023, what a year that was! To be honest, when it began I had absolutely no idea where I would end up 12 months later… I probably wouldn’t have believed it even if I had been told what was to come.

January was supposed to be the beginning but it felt more like the end of an era combined with a backwards step! I started the year with a combination of sadness and a sense of resignation. I spent my final few hours of postnatal support with a gorgeous family that I had been co-supporting with my great friend and colleague Amy, Birth to Earth Doula, for almost an entire year. We had grown together, cried together, learned lessons together and shared the joys of the first year of life of their twin boys. I couldn’t quite imagine not going to see them each week, yet I knew that it was time and they were ready for the next stage- their mum was ready to not be at home all the time, they were ready to be with other children and it was time to say ‘hasta luego’. Of course, I knew this wasn’t the last time I would see them but life would get in the way and our meetings wouldn’t be as regular as we’d like. As it happens we do still meet up quarterly and we will all be together again in a few weeks’ time as we celebrate their 2nd birthday. Some clients are for life and this family is most definitely one of those!

At the same time doula work was a little thin on the ground, so when I go the call from The Holt School in Wokingham asking me to reprise my role as a Spanish teacher to cover long term sick it was an easy decision to say yes and step back into my teacher wardrobe. It was lovely being back in the classroom but without the stress of planning, assessment writing, meeting attendance, data analysis and marking only happened if it fitted in to my school hours. At 3.30pm I put my pen down and I walked away. No work to take home and no stress to consume me. I was stronger than I had been previously and when offered hours that didn’t fit with my family/doula work I found it much easier to decline than I had before. I no longer felt that I had to people please- I was there to do a job/ to cover a certain number of hours and that was that! It was tempting to get drawn in to an environment that I knew like the back of my hand, after 14 years there before I left to be a doula full time. Many of my colleagues were still there and welcomed me back like I had never been away. My colleagues were the key thing I missed when I left teaching and I have worked extremely hard to build that community that I craved in my new world as a birth worker. It was a conflicting period of time; resisting the urge to be drawn back in to my comfort zone and tempted by the desire to avoid irritating my social anxiety, both elements of my rising sign of Capricorn- a strong sense of duty and my reserve. At times, over the 7 months, I was back at school I oscillated between wanting the security of that safe space in a job I could do with my eyes closed and wanting to break free of the constraints of working for others in a conventional job. Ultimately, the experience of being back in education just cemented in me the intention to never return to teaching in that system. Teaching is in my core, I love it- but I can express that key element of my personality in different ways now, I don’t need to do that at school. I have realized that I teach in so many ways- I teach conventionally during my birth prep and hypnobirthing sessions and I teach by living and leading by example with my clients/family/friends. This is where my teaching soul resides now.

January was also the start of my Year of Yes! I made the decision in January 2023 that I would make a clear change in the way that I approached life- I would say Yes, grab opportunities by the scruff of the neck, run with them and work out the details later. This has manifested itself in so many experiences that have pushed my boundaries, scared the hell out of me at times and also brought me so much joy. The first was starting dance classes a year ago this week. My daughter goes to street dance classes with The Secret Stage school and each year they have a show in November. In November 2021 I watched her perform and was so proud of her strength and bravery. Part of that show was a performance by the adult group. Their dance was so exciting and inspiring to watch that I declared to my friend that ‘I would love to do that!’ A year passed, the show came around again and I hadn’t joined the group. As I sat and watched the adult group perform again, I turned to the same friend and declared ‘I am going to do that!.’ In January 2023 I had the option to book a trial lesson or book a series of classes. I went all in and booked a series of classes- 6 to be precise. By the end of 2023 I had attended every week that there had been a class- 30 in total. I was so scared that first week, I had to hold back the tears as my adrenaline levels ran high, I had to use all my self regulation and breathing techniques to hold it all together… I pushed to my edges and I danced. I loved it! I was still scared at the end of week 1, 2, 3, 4 but I kept going and it was so worth it! When I started the classes I said ‘I am just here for the classes, I am not going to perform on stage!’. Well guess what, I did! In November I got up on stage in front of 250 people and I danced, I remembered every step, I smiled as I caught the eye of the younger students beaming and cheering us on and I felt so full of life, pride in myself and proud of the example that I was being to my children and friends- that we can do difficult things and not only survive but thrive!

Dance wasn’t the only thing I said Yes to in 2023! I would not say I am a sales person; I wouldn’t describe myself as overly confident and I generally I hate talking to people I don’t know but … In February 2023 I responded to a post on Facebook from a doula I had heard of but never met, asking for someone to help her out at The Baby and Toddler Show at Sandown Park, selling the maternity and postpartum support belts that she imports from South Africa. I said Yes! I worked for her 2 of the 3 days of the show in March and even went back and did all 3 days in September! It was hard work, there was a lot to learn, there were selling techniques to master but I did it and I made a lovely new friend to boot! Previously this would have been something that I would have considered and dismissed but I had decided to say yes to all opportunities, so why not this one.

I continued to push my social boundaries by starting birth worker coffee mornings in my area, bringing together doulas, hypnobirthing instructors, perinatal service providers and the Frimley Park Homebirth team. My Postnatal Wellbeing Walking Group continued to go from strength to strength and the connections I have made with and between attendees is directly linked to pushing to my edges, pushing my boundaries and my comfort levels. The Postnatal group hit new records of attendees, with 20 walkers on more than 1 occasion in 2023, as well as celebrating its 3rd anniversary in September. Both groups are such special places of connection and I am super proud of them both! But the connections have not ended there- I have made connections with so many new people in 2023 and I know that they will ripple out in 2024 and beyond to have positive effects for all involved. These connections, though hard to make, remind me everyday that I am in the right place now- this world is where I am meant to be!

In July I was finally ready for Lisa Sykes- The No BS Coach, in my life! I had dabbled a bit previously in Lisa’s posts and stories but the connection was not quite there at the time. Having chatted this over I now know that I was not ready to hear what she had to share with me but in July 2023 I knew that I needed to refocus on my business and I signed up to do Trust fall on a self-access basis and that was it- I was hooked! Trustfall made me realize that I needed to value the time that I work on my business and on myself and that it is as valuable, if not more so, than time spent earning money! This was quickly followed by signing up for Micromind, which was transformational. It was the first time I had spent so much time being intentional about my development as a person and entrepreneur! I truly started to believe in myself as a business owner and the possibilities available to me. But then …. Lisa advertised her Paris VIP days… and again I said YES- obviously! Initially Lisa encouraged me to focus on the positive of seeing an opportunity and being open to it being a possibility for me but not to worry if it was too much of a leap to make right now… but I was in, my heart was set on Paris and finishing my Year of Yes there! They say 'where there is a will, there is a way,' - well there most definitely was a will and I was going to find a way no matter what! In the meantime, I soaked up as much self-development material as I could. My excitement about Paris kept me going through autumn and at the end of November we were finally there. The night before I was due to travel, I was hit with a potential stumbling block, Eurostar were predicting strikes and train cancellations the next day and I was being encouraged to cancel or move my booking- horror! But this was another lesson to learn- Lisa encouraged me to move to an earlier train, in case of delay, but to forge forward with a positive mindset that all would be well because ‘I am really lucky and everything always works out for me.’ This became a mantra for the trip and will persevere into my life going forward. Of course, she was right and everything did work out. My trip to Paris was everything I wanted it to be and so much more. I revisited the me of my early 20s who did things like travel alone, I reminded myself that I can do things that seem scary, I can put trust in the universe that all will work out for me and I need to put myself first sometimes! 12 hours with Lisa flew by in a flash, we ate, we talked, we discussed my business challenges, we ate some more, we laughed, we walked, we talked, we witnessed a proposal, we ate and we walked (17,000 steps or more by the end of the day). It was amazing! The train journey home was a hard crash down to reality- I suddenly realized how much this experience had been keeping me going and how important making opportunities like this part of my life is. There will be more from now on- there must be, this is a promise I am making to myself for the future!

This year has taught me that I can achieve so much more than I ever dreamed, that I need to do things that bring me joy (even if they are not convenient for others) and that I am worthy of that joy! I am bringing all this with me into 2024 and I cannot wait to see what amazing things I will achieve and experience over the next 12 months- it is going to be epic, of that, I am sure!

So, as we all enter a new year I intend to go boldly into 2024- it is going to be transformational, joyous and expansive- just you wait!

I encourage you all to do the same. Take some time to reflect on 2023- the things that went well, the experiences that weren't what you had hoped but taught you lessons that you'll be forever grateful for, the moments that brought you joy and the elements that took you to your edges. You are strong, you are resilient, you are beautiful and you are special- because you are you. The only you there is and the only you there will ever be- so value yourself and share your uniqueness with those around you as you take 2024 by the horns and smash it!

Natalie, The Dragonfly Doula.



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