Tag Archives: New Year

2017 feels like the year for a different kind of resolution

Do you get the feeling that resolutions aren’t quite in vogue at the minute? I’ve seen a lot this week about chucking out the diet plans and exercise regimes in favour of cozying up on the sofa, without trying to hang your sense of well-being on a set of tick boxes or numbers on a scale.

With all this I heartily, heartily agree. I am always anti-diet: why anyone would add voluntary self-deprivation to a month that is already going to be cold, dark, wet and hard work without any of your input, I have no idea; also I am especially anti-diet now I am shaped like a cheeseburger and basically fuelled by them too, but let’s say that’s my issue rather than yours.

And I know what the tyranny of the tick-box is like. As though powering through an arbitrary list of tasks/getting a certain number of likes/seeing the number I want on a weighing scale somehow gives me permission to be happy. It’s seductive (because it pretends to be controllable), and it’s also bull. I am more complex than any sum of my parts, worth more than a list of conditions anyone has set, even when I’ve set them – and so are you.

Still, despite all that: I believe in the power of writing things down.

It’s because some things are true but easy to forget. It’s because writing things down makes them audible, ordered, and always within reach. I was reading the other day about the earliest example of the written word – it’s a 5000-year-old clay tablet from Mesopotamia about beer rations, which only shows that human beings have been interested in the same things since always. (The tablet is the size of a computer mouse, and the British Museum has loads but has to keep baking them in a SPECIAL ANCIENT TABLET KILN to preserve them properly; I mean, the whole piece was wonderful.) Anyway, a professor of philosophy talks about how writing not only enables complex thought but calls things into being that didn’t exist before. Writing things down made it possible for us to create, and more, more vitally and wonderfully: to hold onto our creations when human chaos barges in to foul things up. As it tends to.

So I spent last night’s episode of Silent Witness (SILENT WITNESS IS BACK, YOU GUYS) carefully putting my intentions this year into writing. Nothing too prescriptive or number-driven. Pinned between ink and paper, my resolution to be kind to myself, and my husband, and my multiplying children.

Take your small kindnesses. Carve them deep into clay. Bake them hard and fast.

Until you can see them. Until they’re something real.

Why I won’t be wishing you the ‘best year ever’ in 2016

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via westcoastmama.net

Happy new year! (Yes I know it’s too late to say that, but I’m still asking people about their Christmas, because my small talk regularly wins awards.)

It is the new year, but I won’t be wishing you the best year ever. And it’s not because I don’t like you, because I do. Very much. Look how lovely you are.

It’s just that I don’t think it’s helpful. I’m already so seduced by new beginnings, I tend to think that a fresh start means everything will be different and better, all the time. And I don’t think it’s just me. The First of January! I think, putting in mental capital letters and exclamation marks. Farewell to my weaknesses and crappy circumstances! Hello to a shiny new life! 

I find it incredibly touching actually, this human willingness to try harder, to be better, that comes about at the beginning of a new year. But. A couple of weeks later I’m stuck in the middle of January, knowing that after that comes February, truly the wrinkled old backside of the natural year if ever there was one, and the flowers still aren’t out and Spring still isn’t here and it will be cold forever and ever, amen.

So I am disappointed. I abandon my grand plans for change. Life carries on very much as it did before.

I am not saying that deciding to change is a bad thing. No, it is the best thing. But life doesn’t turn into one great upward spiral towards the sun just because we’ve turned into the new year. Or, in fact, because any big change has come about. If I expect that it will, I’m going to be disheartened.

Life is like the British weather.

One sunny morning followed by one blustery afternoon followed by one wet evening followed by a night so clear you can see galaxies of stars, pinpricked against the heavens.

One breathless, beautiful moment after insanely difficult moment after moment of unbearable grief after moment of transcendent joy.

Darlings, you do not need a Best Year Ever, you need to be happy. And you need to change for the better in a way that you decide. And happiness (and change too) comes in tiny portions, one after the other. Interleaved with sadness, boredom, weakness, fear, and every other emotion we cram into our expansive selves.

You are too miraculously complex to boil down to A Good Year, or even A Good Day. There is a universe in every day you spend breathing. Some days – some weeks, or months – will just feel awful. If you’re there now, I’m so sorry. I hope you have people around you to lift you, and that you know you have my sisterhood and sympathy too.

But I know this: life is like the weather, and you will come into a sunny morning again soon. There will be light and warmth on your skin. It will make you feel hopeful for sunny mornings to come.

So let’s not wish in years. Let’s wish in minutes.

To you brand-new mothers, I wish you a minute where your sore boobs and sleep deprivation quiet down in the face of your baby’s breath against your skin.

To you women who juggle work and babies and far too many other things, I wish you a minute where you realise what a significant role model you are for your children, and how badly the world needs more kids raised by mothers who Get Stuff Done.

To you mothers of toddlers, I wish you a minute of calm with a chubby, sticky cheek held against yours. I wish you an enthusiastic reception of a dinner that would normally be rejected. I wish you a quiet night.

To you women and mothers alone, I wish you minutes of powerful friendship with people as strong and brilliant as you are. I wish you minutes of weakness where you accept that you don’t have to be brilliant all the time, and embrace yourself anyway.

I wish you a minute where you realise how perfectly acceptable you are. I wish you sisterhood. I wish you self-love and self-motivation, in lots and lots of minutes.

Let’s do this together.

 

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Off the wagon: some thoughts for 2014

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I downloaded a new to-do list app. One of the great quests of my life is to find the perfect to-do list app, one with colours and sections and the perfect cathartic scribble. This new one isn’t my life partner, but I rather like it on my home screen, because it’s called ‘Do!’

It makes me feel all resolute, seeing it there. I have a lot of big things to get done, this January, and I’m frightened to death about at least half of them, but I flick open my phone and it shouts ‘Do!’ So I do. I bring up a mental image of Heath Ledger slamming down his helmet visor in A Knight’s Tale (this is an image you should always have on standby for emergencies), and I slam down my visor and flip my medieval hair out of my face, and flipping well DO.

The busyness and scariness are two reasons I haven’t done much in the way of resolutions this year. Usually I’m all over resolutions, because I love the sense of starting again, the grip on possibility that it gives me. This year, I have an idea that it would be better for me to concentrate on one task at a time. But there is one thing I want, very much, aside from Heath Ledger’s fabulous medieval hair.

I want to be kind.

Because it is so easy not to be. Because you can’t move on the internet without tripping over piles of sarcasm, boxes of angry reaction blogs, stacks of passive-aggressive Facebook comments. I’m not very good at being out-and-out mean – too much guilt, and I can never think of something snappy in time – but when it comes to crabby irritation and sarcastic asides, I’m a ninja.

Lately I have been feeling that it would be so much more restful to stop leaping on the judgement wagon every time someone opens their mouth. If this were better worded, I would make it my mantra for 2014:

people do things for their own good reasons.

They are sat in their own set of circumstances, working with what they’ve been given, and trying their best. I don’t have to agree, or even like it much. But I do, yes, I DO have to be kind.

That applies to my toddler, too, who is doing his best to help me remember what my angry voice sounds like.

And it applies to me most of all. Someone I love once said to me, ‘the only voice in your head you should listen to is the one that speaks with compassion’. I think about that all the time. We were made to be works-in-progress. We were made to create and soar and love, and also lose tempers and slam doors and forget to take the rubbish out. Sometimes I’m standing, arms wide, at the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and sometimes I’m picking a baby’s nose with sick in my hair. The whole of my experience has made me who I am. I want to embrace it for what it is, and forgive it for what it’s not.

I just want to back off, and let it go, and pause before I say something, especially if that something is to me, in my head. And, well, be kind.

I will really try. Maybe then the rest of my list will start taking care of itself.

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The year of magical thinking

I looked this morning at my 2011 retrospective. So much happened that year – big, tumultuous, never-the-same-again life events – that I could hardly fit it all in one post. But 2012 hasn’t been the same: mostly just the growing of a boy, and our normal lives, and a lot of thinking and writing. As it stands, one of our most intense moments has been just now, when Timothy bet me a bottle of Coke that I couldn’t keep nine marmite-coated Twiglets in my mouth simultaneously (I WON, SUCKAS).

In some ways it’s been quieter. In a lot of ways it’s been louder. I have loved it.

Indulge me, then. This year we:

ate our Shrove Tuesday pancakes with fire-engine lipstick;

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celebrated six months of boy;

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fell in love with New York sidewalks and Florida sand;

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paid homage to the original Henricus Rex and his adventure playground;

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wished Shakespeare a happy birthday;

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watched as Henry crawled, and then walked, then broke all of our things;

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completely lost our heads at the Hay Festival;

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captained a narrowboat down an Oxfordshire canal;

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met Jasper Fforde, and showered him with raisins;

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totally fell in love with the Olympics;

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held a first birthday party;

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camped the heck out of Dorset, and loved every minute;

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gaped at Winchester Cathedral;

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and introduced Henry to Sprucey the two-headed Christmas tree.

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In between, I wrote about big things and small: resolutions, and the problem of chipping a Facebook-shaped hole out of my heart. Anniversaries and wedding wistfulness. Finding things holy, and facing outwards. Choosing my work. I formulated the drawbridge theory, the Sunday night breath, and the blog-browser’s call to arms. I wrote about the terrifying rubbishness of making adult friends.  I wrestled with babies and body image (more than once), and wrote sincere love letters to food. I communed with my inner polar bear mother, cleaned off my parenting slate, found my reset button, and took my boy out of the box I’d made for him. I got very, very cross about bookshops. I realised that writing things down was the best possible way of clearing my head, and I worked out where I stood on all sorts of things. I was comfortable with my opinions, and felt like I became more of myself.

And then, of course, there was much cake and even more stories to read.

(I did some actual work too, in case you were wondering.)

Appropriately, in a year that started with a celebration in the cheese aisle, we’re finishing it off with a cheese-themed New Year’s Eve party. I hope to be kissed at midnight and consume an entire slab of Wensleydale. And if that’s the case then, 2013, you have my full attention.

Jam-packed as a suitcase full of jam

Happy new year!

As we watched the New Year’s fireworks and clinked our glasses together in bed (rock on, little party demons) I felt really quite quivery-lipped to let the old year go. It’s been a humdinger.

In 2011, we:

received some startling news on New Year’s Day;

ate our own weight in raisins and rice cakes;

had a swordfight in the Forest of Dean;

got bigger;

and bigger;

and bigger;

graduated with a tassly hat;

started work;

stopped work;

lost our trousers in public places;

sailed down an Oxfordshire canal in a narrowboat;

did far too much DIY;

went in for a hospital appointment, and came out with a baby

…and pretty much thought he was the greatest thing we’d ever seen…

…even when he made it his mission to throw up on everything we owned…

…and especially when wearing a bear suit by the seaside.

And just in case that wasn’t enough incident for twelve months, we spent December going on a heck of a lot of dates (read: eating a lot of food) and introduced Henry to Christmas.

Hope you’re able to look back on last year and count the positives – or at least, look forward to a brighter 2012. Hey, the world’s supposed to end this year. The Mayans said so. Better make the most of it.

Fare thee well, 2011. We miss you already, you jammy devil, you.

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