A new life in Hertfordshire

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We moved into our new home just over four months ago, on a rather stressful day involving our car brakes burning out on the motorway and everyone on the road yelling 'your car is on fire!" at us until we pulled over. It turned out to not be nearly so dramatic, but it did involve me getting an expensive Uber to the new house with Rory and the dog while Gav waited for the AA. Instead of being ahead of the movers by a few hours, having a relaxing lunch in our new town before they arrived, they beat me to it by half an hour and were waiting outside. Cue our home being filled with boxes the second I walked in the door, with a cranky toddler who hadn't napped and a dog that kept running out onto the road or freaking out whenever I shut her in a room or outside. Our appliances were scheduled for delivery the same afternoon, as was our internet, so the house was a whirlwind of boxes, strangers, noise and mess and both Rory and I got totally overwhelmed. It took me a few days just to come down from the stress and anxiety that our moving day caused, and then we left for an already planned week away to my in-laws in Berwick-upon-Tweed. It was a lot, to say the least.

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Getting to the point of moving in to our new house was a long, drawn out and frustrating process. I had to repeatedly dig deep to find calm, peace and a trust in the process. We lost two buyers and had one house fall through on us, both things that ended up being a blessing in disguise, but at the time were very sad and stressful. It took us a year from putting our London flat on the market, and six months from viewing our current home to move in to our new house. We ended up in a chain of eight properties, and found out close to exchange of contracts that someone a few properties up didn't yet have a mortgage approved. The next few weeks were full of uncertainty as it looked like everything would fall through, or that we might have to wait even longer for our new life than we had already waited. For the last few months, we lived amongst boxes, never knowing when we would move out or if we even would. Some days we were told we'd move the following week, and scrabble around trying to pack and make plans, only to be told it would be another few months still. The day we exchanged contracts, I actually felt a weight lift from my shoulders. My whole body was lighter, and I knew it was all going to be OK. No more worrying, no more frantic calls to estate agents and lawyers and soon-to-be no more living in this uncomfortable in-between place. I tried my best to be patient, call and grateful, but the stress got the better of me on more that one occasion.

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I haven't shared anything about our move here yet, mainly because settling in has been a slower process than I imagined. I mean, it's been quick in the grand scheme of things, but I didn't account for their being a settling in period at all. That's typical me, always wildly over imaginative about everything, and completely overlooking reality. Mostly that's a wonderful way to live, but I've learned over time that a consequence of that kind of thinking is that the reality of a situation hits me rather hard and leaves me somewhat discombobulated. I have to remind myself that change takes time, even when the change is good and yearned for. It just takes time. Moving house was intense, emotional and stressful. The whole process. There were many moments of joy and excitement along the way, but for sure the overall takeaway was that selling your house and buying a new one at the same time is one of the most stressful things you can do in your lifetime. It ate up a whole year of our lives, with at least the last six months of that feeling like we were just hanging in limbo, not being able to really live as fully as we wanted. I’m proud of the way we handled it, mostly with grace and gratitude, working as a team and dreaming of our new home and new life. But there were days of arguments, heightened moods and difficulty finding space in our home or in our heads to relax. It was a testing time that strained us all, and I’m glad it’s not something we have to go through for a good long while. Maybe never again!

There were so many days, weeks and months that all we did was dream of the first night we would spend in our new home. We talked endlessly about everything we wanted for our futures, all the things we would change when we moved, and how we would live when we had more space and didn't live in the city anymore. Life felt on pause, but since we've moved it has sped up. We started renovations just a few weeks after we moved in, you can read all about our plans in this post, starting with ripping up the old carpets and getting the old wooden floors sanded. We scoured antique shops for the furniture we needed, bought new bedding, another sofa, light fittings, rugs, art work and all kinds of other things that we needed to make our house start to feel like home. There were endless deliveries, boxes and so much mess. We ripped out kitchen cabinets, tore off wallpaper, had carpenters and decorators in to help us with things we couldn’t manage…and not to mention the days I spent prepping and painting walls trying to get rooms ready for guests. It was chaos, completely exhausting and frequently overwhelming. The constant change made settling in take a little longer for us, but we stayed patient and knew it would come with time.

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Another huge change that came for us during that period was that I got pregnant just a few weeks after we moved (more on this soon!). I knew I’d be tired and sick, but nothing prepared me for the fatigue, 24/7 nausea and extremely low mood that I experienced during my first trimester this time around. We had a ten week heatwave that didn’t make things much easier, with temperatures up to 32 degrees it was pretty hard to get much done in the house, or really do much of anything at all. It was such a come down from the burst of energy we’d all had for the first few weeks, and life quickly became about just surviving through the day rather than living this fabulous new life we’d spent so long dreaming up. I managed to do some painting, just very slowly, and finally caved and hired a decorator to do a few bits of it because I just wasn’t able to do it myself. I’m such an active, capable person and I struggle a lot when anything prevents me from being able to do all the things I want to do. My mental health suffered, and I went to a bit of a dark place for a few months.

Now that we’re moving towards our fifth month of living here, everything is falling into place. I’m 17 weeks pregnant, and although I’m tired and achey I’m enjoying this stage of life so much. Rory is settled with the most wonderful childminder a few mornings a week, we have so many new friends that we see a lot, our neighbours are a total dream, and we are more in love with the town and our house as the days go by. I feel settled, and happy, and bursting with gratitude at everything we have in our lives while also being full of excitement about the days ahead of us. Leaving the city has changed our life in all the ways we wanted, and we are always being mindful to make the most of what life offers us here. A change of location doesn’t automatically mean a change of habits, and it’s easy to get complacent once your new life is not so new any more. We try to always see it with fresh eyes, to remember everything we dreamt about and said we would do once we moved, and to live as fully as we can.

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As with anything I do in this life, I have come to understand that it's so much more about the journey you're on than it is about where you're going end up. It's about the lessons all these things teach you, about the gifts that come to you from setbacks and letdowns and nothing ever going to plan. It's about choosing to find things to be grateful for even when you're sad and frustrated and exhausted. It's about knowing that nothing worth having ever came easily, and if you're not pouring your blood, sweat and tears into changing your life then it's probably not the right thing for you. The longer you wait for something, and the harder you work for it, the greater the reward at the end will be. It’s a choice to live your life to the fullest, to seek joy and happiness and to work hard to grow, evolve and adapt. It’s not always easy, in fact when it’s hard that’s when you’re learning and growing the most.

Every morning when I wake up, come downstairs to get Rory from her bed and take her into the kitchen to brew the coffee I feel thankful for this house. This new life. Every day I sink more into it, it feels less like someone else's house and more like my own. 

life & familySiobhan Watts