A little understanding might be nice. Before you form opinions and judge me, maybe take a little time to find out what lies behind the loud, brash and confident councillor. Perhaps take a look at your own life and wonder what makes you qualified to have an opinion on mine.
It’s not for me to say whether I am a nice person or not, or whether what I do is right or wrong. I don’t think of myself in those terms at all. What I do know, is that I am not a terrible person, I am not a terrible mother because I leave my kids to go sailing, I’m not a terrible person for being a Conservative or anything else that I am.
I’ve been known to freely admit to being a little crazy, or maybe to doing some crazy things, but I’m not crazy. I can at least see why other people might think that though. I do have my own personal brand of craziness, although I think ‘unconventional’ might be a little kinder description. I refuse to be judged by other peoples ideas of normality. Being who I am and doing what I do, means my life is very much on display for everyone to comment on. Sometimes those comments can be useful, sometimes they inspire me to do great things and sometimes they leave a scar. You need to have a thick skin to be able to cope in politics, but to be able to care about other people, you need to have a heart and if you have a heart – things hurt, even if you hide it.
I have two children who while they are an absolute joy, are difficult and time consuming. I gave up a career in business to care for them when they were younger and sometimes it was hard. Endless appointments with paediatricians, teachers, therapists and educational psychologists. It was a constant battle to get them first a diagnosis,then the support they needed to thrive in school. It still is. I am stubborn and bloody minded, which has helped no end as I’ve been quite successful for the most part in getting what my children need. However I lost myself in that for a long time. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore – Mum, advocate, carer, mediator, where was Sandra in all that?
The more involved I got in that world, the more I saw the injustices, the prejudices and the bigotry. All things I cannot abide. Some children don’t have parents who are willing to go to war for them; the more I saw, the more it made me angry and so my attention turned to politics. Instead of sitting back and moaning about how terrible things are and how “someone” should do something about it, I decided there was only one way to change things and that was from the inside.
I’ve found that I love being a councillor. I find it frustrating that I can’t always get the outcomes that I would like, but that doesn’t stop me trying. It is immensely satisfying to be able to give someone a voice, to be able to help them when they can be at their most desperate. I hope my residents always feel they can come to me and know that I will do my best to help them. They might not always appreciate it when I can’t wave a magic wand and fix things how they would like, but I will do my best. Everyone loves to hate a politician but we are just people like everyone else. With the same hopes, dreams, worries and problems as you, except we take on yours as well.
Sitting on my son’s latest set of paperwork are the words “Mother is away sailing for weeks at a time”. An entirely true statement but still annoying nevertheless. Would they have thought to have commented if it was his father that was away? Probably not. Just the same as everyone who says “but what about your children?” when I say I’m doing Clipper or the Fastnet. Or “oh you’re out at another meeting tonight then”. Yes I juggle a family, work and some serious leisure activities. It’s not easy but I manage it. I run a house, I cook and clean and wash and iron, I turn out to important school events, I pick my kids up from school myself most days, I’m here when they need me and if I miss something I will be wracked with guilt. But I knew I could do more and I don’t expect to be criticised for that. All Mums juggle and feel the guilt, those that work feel guilty they’re not at home, those that are at home feel guilty because they’re not working. What’s with all the guilt? It is what it is and we’re all doing our best. So next time you want to berate me because I’m abandoning my children, remember that. I’m doing my best and believe me, no-one is going to be harder on me than I am.
I have a very work hard – play hard attitude. Everyone has a life but how many people actually live? How many really and truly follow their dreams, regardless of what the doubters and cynics say. I make rash impulsive decisions, which to some may seem illogical but I’ve learnt the hard way to trust my heart – it’s rarely wrong. If you tell people they’re stupid and can’t do something for long enough they go one of two ways – they’ll start to believe you or they’ll set about proving you wrong. I’m in the latter camp, having lived long enough in the former.
I love life, I see the beauty in the little things. I’m passionate and easily excited about whatever the next opportunity may be. Life is short and precious, I’ve seen enough to know that it can all be taken away in an instant. There might not be a tomorrow, a next week, a “when the kids have grown up”. You must play the cards you’ve been dealt and play them when you can. I don’t want people at my funeral saying what a lovely house I had, I want them to say “Crikey, I can’t believe she did all that”. So I’ll sign up for adventures that push me way outside of my comfort zone, I’ll learn new things all the time, I’ll make the most of every single minute because I’m very lucky to have them. So many don’t.
For the friend we buried on her 18th birthday, for my cousin who left us at 21, for my uncle and my step dad neither of whom made retirement age, for my friend’s husband who deserved more time with his wife and daughters, for my friend who didn’t think she had anything to live for and finally my friend whose last moments were on a country road at night, alone. For them I will never take a day for granted. I’ll push the limits, I’ll follow my dreams, I’ll do the crazy things everyone else is too afraid to try. I’ll rush headlong into life, meet new people and take them along for the ride.
Along the way – maybe I’ll teach my kids that life is for living, that anything is possible and the only limits we really have are self imposed.
I may be difficult, loud, brash and impulsive to the point of recklessness, but there’s still a scared little girl in there somewhere. Afraid of what everyone thinks of her or worrying whether she can actually do this, but she learnt long ago that the best way to deal with fears – is to face them and conquer them.
My family and friends are central to my life and I wouldn’t be able to do the things that I do without their unending support. They give me the confidence to be able to fly. When I’m having a crisis of confidence, it’s to them that I turn. When I’m not sure I can do it anymore, when the guilt and the pain gets too much, it is them who say “you’ve got this, you can do this and you will”. I’m very grateful to be surrounded by people who understand, the support always goes both ways and I love them all.
When my son proudly tells people that his mum isn’t like other mums, she has an important job, helps people, does amazing things and isn’t scared of anything, I know I’m not doing too bad a job. He might not be terribly accurate in that, but if it inspires him to dream a little higher, so be it. As someone said yesterday “how many people do all the things that you do?”. There really should be more.
I may be different to other people, you may think I’m a little crazy but I refuse to be judged on that. I’ve been through so much and refuse to let it break me. I am sensitive yet also incredibly tough. it’s easy to hurt my feelings, I will take your comments to heart but I’m strong enough to be able to leave them behind. I know who I am, I know where I’m going and what I want to do. I just haven’t told anyone yet. But for me, it’s the journey not the destination. Maybe I’ll get there, maybe I won’t, but I will have enjoyed the trip either way and I don’t think that makes me a bad person or a bad parent.
I don’t do the things that I do for me, for the glory, the recognition or to make anyone think I’m special. I do them because I believe if I can help, I should. I can’t sit by and watch injustice, I have to try and change things for the better, because someone should. If I can use my adventures to raise money for charity, then why not? If I have to shout very loudly to make that happen, is that really such a bad thing? I can’t campaign on big issues and get huge investments in my area, by being quiet about things or hiding away. But the public me and the private me are very different. If you want to get close to me, you have to accept both and work through one to get to the other. I started out wanting to change the world, I really should have known better.
So if I decide you’re special enough to let you into my crazy life; if I tell you my hopes, my dreams and my fears – please don’t feel that gives you the right to criticise, to judge or to throw it back at me. I’m doing the best that I can. Maybe my best isn’t good enough, but are you qualified to judge?