Deafening fireworks, suffocating crowds, excessive booze, and the almighty queues for everything from bars to taxis – this is how many in our culture choose to celebrate the entirely arbitrary flipping of a page on the Gregorian calendar.
I prefer to stay at home, on the couch, in my pyjamas, scoffing chocolate, and cuddling my firework-frightened feline friends.
Call that boring if you will. For me it creates space for contemplation, and that’s precisely the space I want to be in as I prepare to flip that calendar page. I don’t want it to be arbitrary or mindless; I want it to be significant and mindful.
The period between Christmas and New Year is my favourite time of year: it’s summer round my way, and that means lazy days in the sun, and even lazier evenings under the stars; pretty much everyone is on holiday, so expectations of productivity evaporate; and I get to be a fly on the wall for Silly Season as I don’t celebrate Christmas, what with being a grinchy heathen whose whole family lives on the other side of the world. All this adds up to some concentrated me-time.
I find this somewhat arbitrary marker in the sand useful for punctuating a period of reflection. The symbolism of entering a new year implies a liberation from the old – a time when we can shed a skin that no longer fits right, make new choices that fit us better, choose to become our deeper selves.
I don’t share our culture’s general cynicism toward New Year’s resolutions. For me they’re an important part of making progress in life – the kind of progress that can only come from honest reflection and realistic contemplation. So I spend the period between Christmas and New Year reflecting on what’s been, and contemplating what’s to come. Taking life in one-year chunks is one way I choose to get perspective and put some timelines on the changes I’d like to make.
As the door swings shut on 2015 I have a lot to reflect on.
2015: the hindsight perspective
2015 was a pretty challenging year – for me it’s right up there with 2007, and that one ended with me couchsurfing between homes after walking out on my husband with little more than the shirt on my back.
But amidst all the change and challenge I’ve kicked some pretty significant goals, making good on all of the most important promises I made myself on the cusp on New Year 2015.
JANUARY: Becoming an Aussie
I started the year on a high note, finally becoming a citizen of Australia – on 26th January, Australia Day.
Mixed feelings flooded my day. It is too obvious a fact to ignore: this was one day of the year when I could not expect to be welcomed to country by its first peoples. Dispossessed as they are, and rightly offended by a celebration of sovereignty on the very day that marks the beginning of their subjugation, these are the people whose welcome matters to me. Instead, I and a couple of hundred other migrants were welcomed to Australia by a bland band of local politicians – all Liberals – and one former paralympian. Our welcoming committee didn’t seem to be aware that we hadn’t all simultaneously just got off the plane – that we’d all been there a minimum of four years, as is the standard waiting period for newcomers, complete with its series of fiery hoops through which we are not all expected to sail successfully. Perhaps they don’t know any migrants, as Liberal party policy generally seems to allude.
The ceremony was sponsored by Coles. I hadn’t realised the application fee I’d paid didn’t stretch to cover the ritual itself.
I hope to never again attend a pageant of condescension where the host is a supermarket and the entertainment is a bunch of corrupt councillors with most of their fingers in corporate pies. But I felt something as I swore my oath, and I teared up when the high school girls sang the national anthem… so there you have it: I’m officially Aussie, whatever that means, and that made me feel good.
After nearly ten years living in Australia my citizenship was more to me than just a symbolic representation of my ironic welcome to the country I call home. It was more, even, than a milestone of vindication to mark the hard yards I’ve done to carve out a life for myself as a migrant – and there have been some seriously hard yards, complete with legal battles.
To me, citizenship is something far more practical – a large missing piece of my life’s puzzle, now found: the gateway to new opportunities.
FEBRUARY – JUNE / JULY – OCTOBER: Going back to school
As soon as I had my citizenship I applied to go back to school. I was accepted into Monash university (Melbourne) as a distance student, which gave me the flexibility to study on my own schedule, from home, and also change where that home happens to be. I started my Master of Journalism on my 34th birthday, four days after I’d ended a four-year relationship with the partner I’d parted ways with spiritually long before.
I’d wanted to go back to school for most of the previous ten years, and over that time I’d entertained an embarrassingly wide range of possibilities from nutrition science through international development to political science. But the writer in me screamed out to be heard, or, rather, read. So journalism it was, and I dived in with a ravenous hunger built on anticipation.
It was hard-going, not because the course was especially difficult, but because I let upheaval get in the way. Life’s never really been smooth sailing for me – I relish change too much. True to form I made the waters choppy enough for a real test of my endurance. My first semester shaped itself into three distinct chunks: the first month was one of turbulence while I waited for my ex to move out; the second month was one of disruption while I moved from one end of the state to the other and started a new life; and the third month was one of upheaval while I dealt with the fallout from my abandoned relationship.
But I passed the endurance test, and with flying colours. I’d never been an exceptional student, but I suppose twelve years spent on the other side of the educational fence as a teacher paid off: I know how to navigate my way through a course of study, and I was hungry for every morsel I could get out of it. But after a semester of distinctions and high distinctions I called it quits. I’d come to understand that a career in journalism just wouldn’t work for me. I love to write, and I love to investigate, and I even love to work under pressure; but I cannot sell myself to the highest bidder for a job where I’ll be unable to tell the truth. Journalism is propaganda, and there’s very little space for truth in any media owner’s agenda, and I knew I’d never be able to just suck it up. No matter, I’d proven myself to myself, and that helped me regain a great deal of the confidence I’d lost over the previous few years.
But I still wanted to study. I needed a major life change, and a career change just made sense as a means of getting the wheels in motion on a new pathway that might lead somewhere more fulfilling. So, with a little help from a new love I’d allowed into my life, I landed right back on my original career pathway: psychology.
So, here I am now, one semester into my Master of Counselling, with one year to go. And it feels right – it feels like I’m making up for lost time at precisely the right time in my life. I had to simplify life dramatically to be able to do it justice. I’d been swimming against the current, playing catch-up on everything but sleep, juggling my full-time study with a full-time teaching job on top to make ends meet. Eventually, after much overthinking, I had a meltdown and quit my job on the spot – a decision that was as frightening as it was liberating, as I ventured once again into financial uncertainty. But once again I’ve proven to myself that I’m capable of smashing the odds and giving myself what I deserve, and for many reasons that’s been just the confidence boost I needed.
FEBRUARY and beyond…: The breakup
The citizenship and return to study were both on my list of New Year’s resolutions for 2015, but an end to my relationship wasn’t. It occurred to me to point this out because perhaps it should have been. For me the relationship was over for quite some time before I finally brought it to its inevitable end, but, like many, it was difficult to get out of – not least because I felt guilty about leaving someone who had stood by me through my darkest depression.
Except he didn’t really. He wasn’t capable of nurturing me through my worst; he needed healing himself before he’d ever be capable of giving in that way. And I knew that. But I’d been too long in the kind of slump that erodes your self confidence to recognise our toxic dynamic for what it was. And I don’t think he was able to see it either.
I’d had doubts for some time, but lacked the confidence to act on them. But a moment of clarity arrived out of the blue in the latter half of 2014. I’d been helping with the hosting of a small local event, and was in an unusually good mood for someone recovering from burnout – and it probably showed that my partner wasn’t on the same wavelength; he was moody and detached, all business and no fun. When I got an opportunity I slipped outside for a few minutes to be by myself and look at the stars. In under a minute I was joined by the event’s cameraman, a Kenyan migrant who I’d met for the first time only thirty minutes earlier. He was forthright in a way I’ve never come across before or since, and he said to me: “that man you are with, he will never touch the person that is you.” Those words have stuck with me verbatim because they were so raw and precise. So I told him he was right, that I knew it. I had finally admitted it to myself. It would be another six months before I had the conviction to act on what I knew.
After a few tense months and a decisively bad road trip over the Christmas holidays I knew something had to give. The road trip had been my idea – I felt I needed it, and persuaded him to join me because he needed time out too and I thought it would be good to spend some quality time together. He insisted he’d rather work. He couldn’t agree to it if it was just holiday – there had to be some work involved. So we went with the intention of scouring Queensland for a better place to live, somewhere we’d move to in 2015. Despite the exciting prospect of a seachange, he seemed to be committed to having a crappy time, and me trying to change that only made it worse. By the time the trip ended I’d decided I wanted to move to Far North Queensland to live out my dreams of the perfect tropical lifestyle to match my (intended-to-be) perfect work-life balance. And I’d decided that I’d go with or without him.
When we came back from the trip I couldn’t settle back into the old groove. I was excited about a change, and that drove us further apart. He clearly wasn’t into it, and I started to plan to do it by myself. I was finally starting to think in terms of my own life plans and dreams, and no longer in terms of sustaining our relationship at all costs. As things worsened between us I managed to persuade him to take a two-week trip to visit his family interstate so we could get some time apart. It was the day he came back that I ended it. There’s nothing like not missing someone – and not being especially glad to see them – to drive home the truth that it’s over.
The next four weeks were turbulent. Part of me didn’t want it to be over, but my self-preservation instinct was stronger than my guilt, and stronger than the remaining shreds of my love for him. I still haven’t found the words to properly describe the complex mix of feelings around leaving someone who needs you when they have nothing. I’d been financially supporting him for some time, and he had no savings when he finally moved out. I reasoned with myself that he had the support of family in Australia, which I do not. He was at least able to stay with family while getting back on his feet, which is not a luxury I’ve ever had – I’ve always had to support myself, and frankly I was tired of having to hold someone else up, always sacrificing the things I wanted out of life for myself.
APRIL: Moving on
A month after breaking up my ex finally moved out of our former home, leaving me with the cats and a lot less furniture. It was then that I finally felt liberated to plan the next steps of my own life. Returning to my list of New Year’s resolutions, I started thinking of where I’d go, now that I was no longer tied to a place I’d never have chosen to live had it not been for my former partner. The penny dropped for me quite slowly: first I allowed my head to rule, thinking up practical options, places where I had lots of contacts and where finding work would be easier… then I allowed my heart to explore, returning to parts of the world I’d felt most at home. Within a week I had my answer. I’d already had my answer for a while: I was moving to Far North Queensland. First Cairns, as it’s easier to get work in the city; I’d think about moving out to the Tablelands or Kuranda later on, after at least a year or two.
The move was complicated, but once I’d made my mind up it was just a matter of logistics. I packed up what I could fit in the car, and sold or gave away the rest. I cleaned out three years’ worth of traces of the former life I’d shared with my partner in the home we’d only intended to stay six months in, and prepared for the three day drive from the Sunshine Coast to Cairns, with two cats in tow.
I complicated things further by asking my ex for a favour: to accompany me on the three-day drive from the Sunshine Coast to Cairns so that I could have some help with the cats. I offered him an all-expenses-paid road trip, and a bit of a holiday from his difficult family while he decided what he wanted to do with his life.
The trip was pretty smooth – we got on well, and we didn’t have any dramas. And I was immensely grateful for his help with the cats, as they were pretty freaked out by the whole move, and would have been difficult to handle had I been tasked with moving alone.
In hindsight it was a bad idea to ask for his help. I should have asked someone else, but the critical voice inside me that always tells me I shouldn’t have to ask for favours if I’ve got my shit together told me the only person I could ask was someone who owed me something. My ex owed me a lot of money, but he needed some time to get back on his feet and I wasn’t desperate for it myself. It seemed to make sense to trade the debt for a favour.
Problem was, once we arrived in Cairns he’d convinced himself I needed more of his help, and he stuck around – ostensibly to help me get settled, but really to find work and set up home, which he did very quickly. We shared claustrophobic space in a studio holiday apartment for three and a half weeks before I found a rental that would accept the cats, a flat-hunting process that was complicated by the fact that I’d been blacklisted by an agency I’d rented with years before – a listing I’d never known about until I took a high-stakes leap into the unknown.
Things went from bad to worse when I allowed my ex to stay with me in my new apartment while he got back on his feet. I tried to make clear that he would need to move out as soon as he could afford to because I wanted to get on with this new phase in my life, and living with my ex wasn’t part of the arrangement. My hospitality had its limits, and those limits were reached quickly by an increasingly erratic and volatile, overbearing ex. Things spiralled out of control, and I realised I needed to take drastic action to be able to move on with my life. Sparing the gory details, the chapter was finally closed when the court granted a two-year protection order on 20th August, nearly six months after our breakup drama had begun.
MAY: New love
It was exactly two days after I moved into my new apartment in Cairns that I met the love of my life.
I hadn’t really given much thought to attending the annual LETS conference, this year held in Malanda in the Atherton Tablelands, just a stone’s throw from Cairns. A handful of friends were planning to come up for the conference, however, and I’d run out of ideas for a documentary package I was supposed to put together for one of my assignments for uni. So I decided to go, camera, tripod, microphone and voice recorder in tow – the full journo. I went with my friend Simon, the only one who ended up actually visiting for the conference. We got up at the crack of dawn to be at the conference for breakfast, so with too little sleep and too much on my mind I trudged into the conference hall in my flimsy Havaianas, wishing I’d at least brought a pair of socks for the cold.
I made a quick scan of the thin crowd, searching for familiar faces. It’s always easier to kick off the social side of going to events when you actually know someone, and I was lucky enough to see a few flashes of familiarity in this crowd. But the first person I remember seeing – through the window as I picked up my name badge – was a young man, about my age, attractive, alone.
I mostly just concentrated on the job of filming, photographing, and interviewing for the sake of my dreaded assignment. With very limited opportunities for social interaction, I started to feel as though I was missing an opportunity to make local connections by looking at the whole event through the camera lens. But then, I’d still have to filter my conversations carefully to be able to sort the locals from the non-locals – too much time with non-locals would clearly give me too few opportunities to make local contacts. I’d have to be strategic.
At morning tea I toddled over to join Simon, who was chatting with a small group, including the guy I’d seen through the window when I’d first arrived. Turned out he was German, articulate in English, and talked a talk that resonated with me. When I spoke, he looked, and I saw a lingering flicker of interest in his eyes. I asked him where he was based, and he said ‘Cairns’; I smiled; he asked me where I was based, and I told him I’d just moved to Cairns, I was new in town and he was literally the first local I’d met outside of real estate agents and checkout assistants.
Our opportunities to talk more were fleeting, a series of non-starters, interruptions, and near-misses. I met other interesting people, mostly non-local. I didn’t want to leave the conference without at least one local contact. But I hadn’t even caught his name.
Simon decided he wanted to bail early. I was torn: part of me wanted to stay longer, get more footage to work with, and have a bit more social time over dinner, but a larger part of me really just wanted to curl up in my new bed and catch up on some much-needed sleep. I did one more sweep round with my camera, and met Simon out the front of the building where he was chatting to the guy I hadn’t got around to introducing myself to. I took the opportunity then, and as I was about to leave spontaneity grabbed me, and I asked for the guy’s number before I could even think to do it. As he tapped his name and number into my phone I chatted with Simon, unsure what intentions the guy had read into my request. As Simon and I were leaving I nodded to the guy and awkwardly told him I’d call him up if I got bored, to which Simon scoffed, “you’re way too busy to ever get bored!”, and I shrugged, “well, busy doesn’t mean I never want company!”
I didn’t know whether I should get in touch with the guy, whose name turned out to be Robert, in all caps. We hadn’t chatted much, and I didn’t have any hook to hang it on other than the fact that I was new in town and just wanted to meet people. In the end I decided to go out on a limb: it didn’t matter whether he got the wrong idea and thought I was trying to hit on him, especially if he wasn’t interested – what mattered was that I was new in town, and I did want to start getting to know people. So two days later I sent him an sms asking whether he’d like to go for a coffee and catchup some time. I clarified that I was just reaching out as a newbie in town.
We set a lunch date for Saturday, exactly one week after we’d met. By then I couldn’t properly remember what he looked like, and wondered whether he’d think me a bit forward, whether he’d assume I was interested in more than friendship. I couldn’t guarantee that I wasn’t interested in him; I didn’t know. And I didn’t know whether our lunch date was a date.
Turned out it was.
When I saw him walking towards me two things struck me: he wasn’t much of a dresser, and he looked really pleased to see me. Maybe it was that look – the ‘pleased to see you’ look – that set the tone for the day. He smiled at me, hugged me, and proceeded to be the perfect gentleman.
We lingered long over lunch, talking about everything you could imagine. I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed someone’s company that much in my whole life. He’d forgotten his wallet in the car, so I ended up paying the bill. He was embarrassed, and I reminded him that I’d asked him out, so lunch should be on me. He let on that he felt it was his responsibility to treat me, which was flattering. Since then he’s always had his wallet 😉
After lunch neither of us was ready to part ways yet. We continued our conversation while swimming in a secluded rainforest waterhole, and then we cuddled up under a blanket, where he told me he wanted to kiss me. And we shared the most magical first kiss I’ve ever had, and I felt like a teenager again. Three dates merged into one as he invited me to his place for dinner, and it wasn’t until two in the morning that he finally drove me home. And it was less than twelve hours before our next date.
We’ve been all but inseparable since then, and for all he’s seen of my crazy, complicated life, at least he knew what he was getting himself into!
OCTOBER: A painful goodbye
On 25th October I lost a beautiful young friend to an accidental overdose. Anneke Vo was one of the most gifted writers I’ve ever read, and without a doubt the most thought-stirring, soulful writer I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. She was also one of the few people who I could always be completely myself with, who knew everything there is to know about me.
And because of my life dramas I hadn’t been in touch for a while before she died.
The universe conspired to bring together a complex series of unfortunate events, oversights and omissions that led to Anneke’s death, and I couldn’t help thinking that if just one thing were different it wouldn’t have happened. That if I’d been more present for her then she wouldn’t have made the mistake that cost her her life.
It hit me like a steel toe-capped kick to the chest. And I choked on the shock. I couldn’t breathe. I thought that only happened in movies, but in real life there are things that hit you so hard that your body can’t catch up with your mind, and words just don’t come.
And then I cried all the colour out of my face. Like a metaphor. I didn’t know you could do that.
And I was left, numbed and shattered all at once, reaching back in time with slow-motion wishful thoughts that can never conjure the presence just lost. It’s too late to put a protective arm around her shoulder and remind her to love herself.
I wanted to do her justice with my goodbye, but my heart had stolen all the words from my mind and turned them into tears.
I don’t think it will ever be ok, but we accept what is, we move on, and we try our best not to forget our dead as their image in our memories fades like the stars at dawn.
OCTOBER – DECEMBER: Shedding excess baggage
Punctuated by poignant reminders of what’s really important, 2015 has been a tough tour guide on this leg of the journey of life. With so much mental clutter to sift through it’s been vital to downsize.
Through moving and setting up a new life for myself I’ve downshifted even further. All of my stuff fits comfortably into the car I moved to Cairns with: Bruce the Pajero. And since settling into life in a small tropical city and acquiring a bike I’ve downshifted even further: I am no longer a car owner, finally coming good on one of my sustainability goals for 2015.
I’ve also downshifted my weight. Two years ago I was a good two dress sizes bigger than I am now, and those two sizes make a heck of a difference on a body only 5’3″ tall. It was a little over two years ago that I finally realised I deserve to have the best life I can possibly give myself, and that meant I was going to have to treat my health as a priority, no longer triaging it out of the picture while focusing on the endless – and largely thankless – task of trying to fix the world. I learned to love running again, awkwardly at first, and with a great deal of self-loathing for my cumbersome body; now with ease, and a sense of empowered joy. My target was to reach my goal weight by the end of the 2015; I reached it in October, and passed it in November. I’m finally happy to rock a 53kg size 8 body that I feel comfortable slapping a bikini on in public. It may seem insignificant to anyone who hasn’t temporarily inhabited an unhealthy, overweight body, but for me it’s been psychologically liberating to get back to my old self – my twenty-one year-old self, if I may take a moment to throw humble out the window.
2015 ended with the tying up of as many loose ends as I could manage, and the decision to trim a lot more complexity out of my life. With Robert spending the past week meditating on the mountain (finding some answers to his own life questions while at a Vipassana retreat on the Sunshine Coast), I’ve had the time and space to reflect on the past and contemplate the coming year.
With the door firmly closed on a year of change and challenge, I’m ready to step into a new phase of life.
2016: the unfolding of promise
My promises to myself for the year ahead give direction to my plans, just as my plans give shape to my promises. If the last year has taught me anything, it’s that I need to slow down, build in a buffer zone for potential crisis, and that if a crisis does come up, I can cope.
With my improved sense of priorities, here’s what I’m promising myself for the year ahead…
I’ve finally grasped that I need to prioritise my health if I’m to make it to a ripe old age without too many complications.
Although I’ve reached my goal weight and have no more to lose, I still want to use my relative youth to my advantage, and get fitter, stronger and more toned. I love feeling strong and capable, and the sense of empowerment I get when I’m in the flow of a run is exhilarating. It’s not going to be hard to keep it up so long as I avoid injury. Plus I’ve got a teeny bit of leftover belly blubber to shift before I’m completely satisfied. The next twelve months should see to that 😉
I’m downscaling the frequency of my run this year so I can avoid injury by giving myself days off. My body has dished out a few warnings this year, and the message is that I’m not invincible, apparently. So the plan is to do a 10km run plus park workout (I love that they have gym equipment in the parks round here!) three times a week, and settle just for meditative walking on the other days, allowing myself to explore the tranquil tropical beauty of the botanical gardens and walking trails that are just a stone’s throw from home.
And that’s it. My entire health ‘regimen’ is just exercise – no fad diets, no supplements, no obsessing over finding the elixir of eternal youth. I just eat real food – as in unprocessed, mostly made from scratch by me. From within the wide parameters that allows, I basically eat what I want, when I want, and in the quantities I want (and as Robert will attest, I can eat – especially if the item in question contains
liberal industrial quantities of garlic, chilli or tahini). Perhaps it’s just sheer luck that I happen to love fruit, leafy green veg, and lentils… or maybe that’s what the human body actually craves when we stop filling it with the crap that interferes with its natural signals. It just happens that I don’t want to eat any animal products, or anything that comes in plastic, so that rather narrows the range of bad things I can fill my belly with 😉
My 2016 food resolution is to keep munching, and keep never getting sick 😀
2016 is going to be a year of connection. After a tumultuous 2015 I feel I’ve neglected friends and family too much, and I need to make more time and space for both.
I’ve been slow to make connections in Cairns due to juggling too much work and not having the time to get out and meet people much. Carrying a lighter load in 2016 will mean I’ll have more time to invest in meaningful new connections, as well as nurture existing friendships that I’m fortunate have outlasted my neglect.
Robert and I will be visiting Europe in April, and I look forward, albeit a bit nervously, to seeing my family again for the first time in seven years. I feel like we’ll finally be able to connect on a deeper level now that I’ve worked through a lot of the baggage I carried around in my teens and twenties, and I think Robert will be the perfect ice-breaker as I’m certain my parents will approve of my choice 😉
Learning new things
As we’re headed to Europe in April I have a little over three months to learn German before being plunged into real-life practice with Robert’s family in Berlin. I’ve decided I need to make a good impression on his mum, and that means I have to learn more than just market phrases – I’m going to need to be able to hold a conversation that goes beyond pointing and smiling at embarrassing baby photos. And I desperately don’t want to be stuck in a corner at his best mate’s wedding, drowning myself in champagne and unable to communicate with anyone.
So, I’ve started… slowly, and not very surely, to immerse myself in the language of efficiency and order.
By the end of 2016 I will have a Master of Counselling, and be licensed to practice. Watch out world!
In all seriousness, though, that gives me one year to figure out where I want to go with my new career pathway, and to feel out the various options for fit. All I really know for now is that I need to prepare to launch within the next year, so I need to have a fully charged set of batteries, and a plan. Both are works in progress.
A more challenging goal I’d like to kick this year is a major writing project. It’s time I finally got down to business with the book I’ve been not-really-writing for too long now. I’ve been bursting with things to say, and have had too little time to write. That’s going to change, and I’ve set myself a timeline for finishing the book. The challenge after that will be to find a willing publisher – someone who’s willing to take a risk on a relative unknown with controversial stuff to say.
Although those are a few pretty sizeable goals I’ve outlined, the biggest changes I feel I need to make are very personal – they’re the innerchange sort – the kind of changes that are hard to pin down in terms of process, but which make the greatest difference to how everything else pans out.
I’ve always felt a strong drive to live life on my own terms, and according to my own intuition. 2016 is going to be the year of authenticity for me, a year in which I finally allow myself to be unashamedly me. That’s harder than it sounds, as it means having the courage to be vulnerable, to express my needs, knowing that they won’t always be met, and own up to my insecurities, knowing they won’t always be understood or accepted. And of course that means being frank with myself: I have needs – a need for affirmation, a need for emotional security, a need for unconditional acceptance and space to grow; and I have insecurities – I’m afraid of not being good enough, of messing things up, and of letting others down. Those needs don’t necessarily go away whether they’re met or not, and those insecurities don’t magically disappear once admitted to and challenged – the key, in my view, is to accept them for what they are: a part of my authentic self.
Having spent so much of my life attending to other people’s work, needs, causes or dramas, I feel the need to embrace a fuller and more self-centred mode of living in 2016. I plan to simplify my life by trimming out the extra activities, which, though noble, take me away from myself and my loved ones. I’ll be committing to taking weekends and evenings off to unwind and share time and space with loved ones, or just spare some quality time for myself. And I’ll be going offline one day a week to get away from the constant buzz of activity.
I need to dedicate more attention to self-care, as it’s as true a maxim as any that we cannot give what we do not have. I’ll be keeping my to-do list short, and spending more time on the things that help me to love myself more: attention to health and exercise, meditative headspace, and creative uptime. And I’ll be spending more dedicated time with the people who help me to love myself more. You know who you are, so expect to hear from me soon! 😀
Actually, scratch the to-do list. I’m going to experiment with not having one at all. It took me until my late twenties to establish a sense of organisation, order and planning in my generally chaotic life, and I was bowled over by how much mental space it cleared out for me, enabling more focus and higher productivity. But this year I want to experiment with scheduling windows of time for certain types of activity – like having a 30-minute window every day for email, and then not touching it again until the next day; or a 1-hour window for all domestic chores and errands – to hell with whatever doesn’t get done in that space of time; or a 2-hour window for creative work so I can knuckle down and do some solid writing. So it’s bye-bye lists, and hello Google calendar… we’ll see whether it works to bring a little much-needed balance into my life.
In order to live more fully I also need to make space to reflect on my blessings. A little time out every day to mentally check off all the things I have to be grateful for makes the world of difference to my satisfaction and peace of mind, as I can already testify to from the few occasions I’ve actually made space for it in my always-hectic schedule.
I think the hardest challenge for me in the year ahead is precisely what Robert tells me is my greatest weakness: I don’t love myself enough. This will be the year that I learn to accept myself unconditionally, to let go of the need to be perfect, and to forgive my flaws, for one thing is certain: no matter how hard I try to eliminate my flaws, I’ll always find something else to find fault with. The task at hand, therefore, is to learn to stop finding fault. I need, then, to honour myself more – to take time to reflect on self-appreciation, and tell self-loathing where to get off. Comparison with others, or with ideals of perfection, is unfair – I have my own qualities and charms, and it’s now up to me to treat those as valuable in the way that I would the qualities and charms of someone I love. It’s time to stop discrediting myself for everything that I am not, and start giving myself credit for everything that I am.
A toast to the new year
So now that the New Year is upon us I’m feeling a new sense of excitement for the future. It’s going to be less exciting in many ways than the last year – more stable, more grounded, more secure. But it’s precisely the stability, the grounding, and the security that will pave the way for new adventures and discoveries, and it’s those I’m training my sights on. Life is an adventure, if you dare to make space for it.