Dear Leo and Miller,
So Something for Syria is actually happening. It’s real and we know it’s real because it’s in a newspaper. The event has been picked up by The Journal newspaper who have run a feature on it. It’s brilliant publicity and will hopefully kick-start some more ticket sales. And we could do with a run on sales because at this point there are more organisers than paid-for ticket holders – which I suspect is not the ideal ratio, a month before the night.
The downside to all of this activity is that I have been totally neglecting the other important things in my life. Every spare second I have, I am on my phone or the lap-top. Your Dad is not happy. He made a list of what my priorities should be and they went like this: Family, Work, Charity. Which is absolutely correct but this period of time reminds me of something your Granny Ellen told me when I found out I was pregnant with you Miller and I was worried (as I’m sure everyone about to have baby number 2 feels) that I couldn’t possibly love another child as much as I loved Leo.
She said to me “The child you love most is the child that needs you most and that always changes” which completely makes sense.
And right now, if Family, Work and Charity were babies, it’s Charity that needs me the most and so it takes precedent. I don’t mean I have left my family to starve but my mind is certainly elsewhere a lot of the time and I am constantly breaking my own rule of not having my phone out when I’m with you both. But it won’t be forever and I think it’s important that you both know how crucial it is to spend time and energy on a good cause that in no way directly benefits yourself or your loved ones. Because anyone can say they help other people but usually they’re just talking about their nearest and dearest and I just don’t think that’s good enough. If we don’t widen the net of who we lend our help and support to – how does anything really change?
So hopefully you will understand and look back at what my friends and I spectacularly pull off on February 27th (fingers-crossed) and be proud that you took a back seat to let something wonderful happen.
Dear Leo and Miller,
Since I started writing these letters, I am now constantly thinking about advice or words of guidance that I want to tell you. There are lots, of course, or this blog wouldn’t last very long. Every day I hear or read things that I want to pass on to you both. But if there was one lesson above others I would ask you to hold on to it would be this “Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about: so always be kind.” It more or less sums up everything that is important, everything you need to know about life is in there – it is the To Kill a Mocking Bird of advice. I can’t remember who said it to me or where I read it but if you only follow one instruction from me, let it be that.
A close second, and one I have been conjuring up a lot recently, came from the most unlikely of sources. It was stuck up on a wall in a conference room at a business seminar I attended last week. (The very last place I thought would provide inspiration for these letters.) However, it said “If everyone likes what you’re doing they’re probably lying.” I think it was aimed at employers trying to manage their staff effectively in the work place but it has become my current favourite mantra. It suggests the time to worry is when you aren’t getting any criticism and is much better than something similar “You can’t please all the people all the time” which just sounds vague and defeatist.
You will encounter criticism in your life, it’s unavoidable. And people will show a lack of encouragement towards what you’re doing that puts doubt in your mind. But you don’t need everyone to think you’re brilliant: you don’t even need many people to think your brilliant. What other people think isn’t that important: only your attitude towards it. So ignore the negative and don’t buy into the positive too much either. You just need to battle on regardless with whatever it is you think is worthwhile.
Dear Leo and Miller,
I think I need to reassess the frequencies of our letters. I didn’t think it would be too ambitious to write one per week but it is certainly proving so. So instead of once a week it’s going to be when I have something worth sharing with you – then I know I will find the time. I am finding Instagram a better place to stay consistent and connected with the project – it’s much more immediate and practical. But I won’t abandon the blog, I promise.
Christmas went over in a blur. A beautiful blur but a still a blur. The tree stayed standing, no presents were tampered with before the big day and tempers remained at reasonable levels throughout the entire festive period. I think this was mainly due to the fact we didn’t do half of the things we planned on doing. Parties were missed, loose arrangements weren’t kept, half-made commitments were cancelled but I think it was a welcome relief to everyone. From the 28th of December we just hid. Hid in our house and only left it when we absolutely wanted to and completely on our terms. The four of us walked into town and went for dumplings at the market, sometimes soft play. All your normal favourite things. We didn’t even go to Beadnell. The weather was freezing and the advantages weren’t weighing up the disadvantages so we just didn’t go. The last time we went up for the day (sometime in early December) I forgot that you Miller had never stood in the sea before. I led you by the finger, I let go and then you fell in. You were soaked to the skin and so we all had to race back to the house and change you into the only clothes I could find, which weren’t many. When the work is finished to our house, I promise we will go up more, regardless of the weather. But this winter was not the one to spend by the sea.
I do have something worth sharing with you which is taking up a lot of my time but I want you to know how important it is. I touched upon it in my last letter and now there is a real plan. Some friends and I are organising a fund-raising event for Syria. We are raising money for the International Red Cross who are doing incredible work out there. This event is becoming a much bigger thing than I first imagined and to think it’s only 8 weeks away makes me nervous. We’re calling it Something for Syria. It needs to do justice to the cause and I just hope we can pull off something very special.
The picture with this letter is from The Economist and it shows Syrian children play next to a destroyed building in the rebel-held town of Douma, on the eastern outskirts of the capital Damascus (January 9th 2017. Credit AFP/Abd Doumany.) I saw it on Instagram last night and at first, it made me think of you both and then, it made me even more determined to make the event a big success. It’s a good image to hold on to.
Barack Obama gave his farewell address last night, his last speech as President of the United States of America, and, regardless of politics, something he said was also worth holding on to. “Show up. Dive in. Persevere.” Useful to conjour up when a task seems impossible or hope is losing.