Happy New Year

I hope you’ve had a good time over the festive season. Or at least that you’ve had time to pause and take a rest. If it was a difficult time for you – then I wish you peace and hope that 2018 brings better things.

I had planned to write a blog post at the beginning of the week. I really like the start of a year; beginnings have power and I love the potential contained with the start of a thing. For the last 20 or so years I’ve made it a habit to use the time between Christmas and New Year to reflect and plan. I think about what I want to do in the coming year and write them down. At the end of the year I can look back at them and see what I did or didn’t do, why that is, whether it still applies. I find it useful. I don’t beat myself up for what I haven’t done. Nobody else sees these and I’m accountable to no one for them. In the years when day to day life was a challenge in itself, I dropped this habit.

“You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?” Rumi

I suppose I was going to write something along these lines. But before I did, I got taken aback a bit at various conversations about New Year Resolutions and that actually made me a bit uneasy about writing in public about New Year.  I’m in total agreement with those who say you shouldn’t feel pressured to be something you are not, to give yourself unrealistic goals that will only set you up for feelings of failure if you can’t keep them up. Who needs that?! And on reflection I think perhaps this was what was meant; so as to defend people who feel undue pressure from others or from commercial sharks waiting to take your money in exchange for your self esteem.

But that tone also had the effect of making me personally feel uncomfortable about the long standing habit of using this time of year to channel my life in a direction I’d like to live. Am I setting myself up for failure? If I write this down, in all innocence, will it make someone else feel bad somehow? I confess I’m tripping off negative comments recently and I’m finding it hard to filter out things which have value and things that do not. For me, writing is a way to process thoughts and clarify them. If I write privately it is sometimes cathartic, but usually chaotic. If I write publicly, it makes me accountable and I weigh words more carefully.

“Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” – Rumi

So having felt I’d “silenced” myself for a few days, I now feel I can sit down to this post again, so this is why it’s late. One of the beautiful things about life is that we are not all the same. We don’t have to approach it in the same way. And being afraid to speak your truth is no way to live.

One of the good things I’ve found about growing up is feeling more comfortable in your own skin. There can be few woman who have not felt the pressure to shed a few pounds. To be a bit “prettier” somehow, even if it would mean shaving off parts of your skeleton to achieve the impossible. Denying your own imperfect beauty to replace it with a blandly conforming ideal. For others, and perhaps more perniciously, it’s to be smarter, richer, more witty, more likeable, more interesting. More of everything. For every confident woman, there must be dozens more who maintain that publicly, whilst still trying to drown out the siren song inside coaxing your self esteem closer to the rocks waiting below the surface.

Does this really come from outside? Or is it something we do to ourselves?

When I turned 30, I fretted about the number. My mother – wisely – told me not to and that your thirties can be the best time in a woman’s life. Old enough to know who you are, young enough to enjoy it. For the first half of my thirties, life was difficult for a number of reasons and in a way that was outside my control and that in itself took some working through so I never really felt I understood what she’d meant. In my last year of this decade however, I think I now do.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi

Nevertheless, at the start of this year that I begin my forties, I really want to be sure, more than ever that I’m living with intention as best I can. I’ve walked and talked with several people in the past year who have suffered a great deal or a great loss. It reminds me, life is a gift not a right. I don’t want to waste those precious moments, days, years on things that don’t really matter. I don’t want to leave the world in a worse place than when I entered it.

So yes, I want to sit down with clarity and take time to look at the things I am doing and see if and where they can be changed for the good. Am I nourishing my body with the right foods and activities to keep me healthy and strong? Am I feeding my mind with the right words and thoughts or am I filling up on junk? Am I spending time with the kind of people with whom together you make a better society than you could as individuals? Are the habits I have building up or destroying the spaces my life touches?

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

One of the blessings I am continuously thankful for are the beautiful souls I am privileged to have in my life. Having the kind of nourishing friendships that let you be authentic allows everyone to grow. Maybe feeling comfortable in your own skin comes from this kind of acceptance. When the people you trust “see” you and you can reciprocate that for them, it gives space for more than just merely existing.

To make time for the things that matter sometimes means pruning away others though. We all get 24 hours in a day. Nobody has time; you have to make time. I think this more than anything is what I’ll need to take forward into this year. The challenges and goals I’ve set myself will, as always, remain private. But to get the most out of them and to avoid stress, I’ll need to let go of and channel other things.

I’ve heard various people I know say how they want to deal with this themselves; de-cluttering material “stuff”, spending less time online, focussing on mutually rewarding friendships and letting go of toxic ones. I don’t feel pressured by these statements, instead I find it inspirational. I’ll be taking a leaf or two from other’s books and stealing a little of their courage for myself.

I don’t know how much I’ll blog this year because of that. I’ll see how it goes. I enjoy it and the process but how essential it is to everything else, remains to be seen. In the meantime, I thought I’d freshen up the look of it just in case I do keep up with it!

However you feel about January, New Year or anything else, I really hope 2018 will be your best year yet.

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