As is usual at this time of year, I’m spending quite a bit of time thinking through the past twelve months. Although I don’t ever think that you should wait until January 1st to make the changes you want in your life, there’s something about the last few weeks of a year that always puts me in a reflective mood. I’ve started joining in with a lovely hashtag project over on Instagram – Susannah Conway’s December reflections prompt (see #decemberreflections over on IG for more ) which is making me happily and peacefully contemplative. And, as the year comes to a close, I’ll be doing Susannah’s Unravelling workbook again.
But I already know, even before writing my way through the workbook, that 2015 has been what an old friend of mine would describe as ‘character building’– tough, but with plenty of life lessons. So, what have I learnt this year?
The world is an unfair place.
It’s so tempting, when things go wrong, to find someone or something to blame. A way of being able to say ‘it’s not fair’. Because, as humans, we look for fairness. My children are so keen on fairness that they count everything. Every sweet, every bedtime lullaby (which are still demanded every night, even at the age of six and nine…) every minute of online game-playing time. And you can bet your last penny that Father Christmas will deliver the exact same number, size, value of presents to each of them…
But the truth is–as I do mention to them–the world isn’t fair. Bad things happen to good people, all the time, every day. And so, when things go wrong, focusing on the unfairness of it all doesn’t really help me to live through it. I’m trying to learn to put my fortunes, good and bad, into perspective. To be happy when things are going well (without expectation of more) and to try to work through things that are less great. Without pointing a finger and moaning to the universe about how rubbish everything is. I have to be honest with you–it’s still a challenge for me. Sometimes the peace and acceptance only surfaces after a little bit of stomping around in a ‘Hulk SMASH’ fashion…
Because life isn’t fair. But there’s another side to this; I know that whatever trouble I’ve been going through this year, there has always been someone going through far worse. Without question. You only have to catch a bit of the news to know this. What a terrible year it has been for our world, in so many ways. Remembering this helps me to practice a bit of gratitude that my problems are solvable. Then it helps me to bloody pull myself together and get on with solving them. Because, as anyone who has been on a plane will know, you have to put your own oxygen mask on first, before helping others. Sorting my problems out will help me to create a better future, not only for myself but for my children.
I’m tougher than I think I am.
Honestly, I’m really surprised at myself. The first time that a series of really challenging things happened to me, I ended up off work with stress and anxiety for six months, with longer term medication and therapy. Then, after the birth of my daughter, I had lots of mental health issues to work through. The silver lining of being so poorly before is that I know what that feels like now. I know what the signs are when I’m on the verge of being really unwell. And I know some great coping mechanisms. As long as I take the time out to listen to myself, to take note of what I’m doing, what my behaviour patterns are and what my body is trying to tell me, I know how to treat myself. So, I’ve managed the last three rollercoaster years with a combination of solutions, none of which have been sick leave from work or taking medication. So, that’s progress. And I’m proud of myself for that.
There’s fun in the unplanned.
I am the least organised I’ve been in my whole adult life. I have the fewest plans. And the ones I do have are pretty vague. Raise my kids to the best of my ability. Get a house at some undefined point in the future. Make some skincare. See the world. Reduce my debt to less than the GDP of a small country. That’s it. And even though that last one is rather at odds with the rest, I’m feeling optimistic.
When I moved in with my parents, I wrote a list of ten little things that I wanted to get sorted, from building new raised beds on my allotment to paying for Christmas without getting into more debt and, importantly, I’ve been able to make them happen, slowly and steadily. You’ll note that these plans are small and pretty short term. Just a few months or so at a time. That’s all the detailed planning I’m doing. The rest of my life is an unwritten book. A map with many different routes. Being a bit more open to spontaneity is good. I’ve already had opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been rigid in my planning. Including saying yes to a man on a dating website who lives outside of my self-imposed dating radius of 35 miles from my house, just because he convinced me that he was the right man. And I think he is. Definitely a good decision…
Not having a great big ‘Things I Must Do With My Life’ list actually makes me feel like less of a failure. The fewer things on my list, the fewer things to not actually get done when life gets in the way of the planning. Which is the absolute opposite of what I’d expected to feel. This is a big lesson for me really. Huge. A handful of vague ‘life’ plans is all I really need. Although I noticed on today’s allotment visit that I do need to add ‘rebuild compost bin’ to my small plans list, so it’s possible that my small plans list needs to be a Small Plans List. Capitalised. With some kind of colour-coded spreadsheet… Old habits die hard, but at least small, short term plans can easily happen and there’s no great sense of failure if they don’t.
It’s really never, ever too late to start again.
I feel as though I’m moving forward in a huge way, emotionally, financially, romantically. And, damn it, it feels really good. I’ve worked hard to look after myself over the past six months. Allowed myself time to grieve for a lost relationship and the lack of a home. Taken responsibility for putting my mess back in order. With the help of my parents who have been amazingly supportive. I’ve also been looked after by some wonderful friends. They continue to inspire me with their huge love, empathy and general brilliance.
So, it’s never too late. Not until they carry me off in a woven wicker casket (which is my actual tree-hugging funeral plan) will it be too late. And so I shall keep on trying. Every single day that I get to be alive.
2016 is going to be great.
This clearly isn’t something that I’ve learnt. But it’s what my gut instinct is telling me. And listening to my instincts, my intuition, is something that I’ve started to do more this year, with really pleasing results. I’m so optimistic about 2016, I can hardly hold myself together. I’m not expecting great big changes. More of a steady increase in the good stuff that life can bring when all my metaphorical stars align. I’m ready to put lots of effort in, because I really do believe that it’s going to be such a good year. I turn 40, for a start! And perhaps, just believing that is enough to make it come true because I’ll work hard, be open to new things, be ready to notice opportunity. A self-fulfilled amazing year could be just around the corner.
And that makes me so incredibly happy, I could out-grin the Cheshire Cat.
See you in 2016! It’s going to be aces…
I did Unravelling last year too – see here for more.
Visit Susannah Conway‘s site for more on Unravelling. I love it.
The learning from this post comes from some of these favourite posts of 2015:
And finally – I also learnt that the Folklings tribe are as brilliant in real life as they are online…