Hello, 2017

Hello! It’s been a little while since I have written here. I can’t tell you why, exactly. Maybe it’s that life has been busy. Maybe I have been conserving writing energy for other projects. Maybe I want to conserve words until I have something burning to tell you. There is a flood of words out there, on our screens, surrounding us and closing in on us. We can turn away, and turn them off. But I feel like, unless words mean something, and actually provide something – a smile, a warm feeling, worthwhile thought – I’ll let them ebb to the edges of my brain.

Home life is good. We have made our little sunshine house cosy, and full of exactly what we need. Nothing more. We have spent nearly every second night with friends or family, filling social cups and hearts with festive warmth.

I hope you too are having a happy, relaxing time.

As 2016 gently folds away, and a new year emerges, I’ve been thinking about what this year has brought me.

Time.

Having just moved to Europe, my paid work slowed in February. I momentarily panicked. But ends got met, somehow, and I realised how wonderful time could be. Time to hang out in English-style gardens, and read novels to my kids by the canal. Time to squander in ice-cream stores, or on long bike trips to flea markets. Time for my children to tell themselves stories, in their rooms or in the garden, without the structure of school hours. Time to get dressed in the mornings – hours, and hours, some mornings, until the day was almost gone.

Money is earned, but time is a gift. The Italians have the right idea. They get to work early, then close up shop by 12.30. They spend four hours eating, drinking and sleeping in the best part of the day, then do a little work in the afternoon and into the evening. The day swivels on time spent together, and soaking up life, rather than being industrious and busy.

What else has 2016 brought?

Flow

Between occasional frantic jaunts, looking for work, cultivating new work or developing would-be businesses, I spent empty hours writing, or drawing. I let myself write anything; in any form, and any length. I started several novels, for various age groups. I tried finishing one. I played with picture book manuscripts, and scribbled ideas.

For about a month, when my eldest was transitioning to sleeping alone, I sat beside her room, with a laptop. ‘Can you lie down with me?’ she’d ask at first. But we had a deal. I had to write her another story about two characters, Florence and Fox. When she woke up, we’d read the story.

‘Are you there?’ she’d called out. ‘I’m here,’ I replied, and tap-tap-tapped a new story for her.

The ritual was a discipline, in kind. Like this blog has been for me, over the years, my daughter’s requirements for new stories helped me write without inhibition. I felt like it opened up my writer’s voice. Words came easily, as I sunk into the characters’ world.

When I had a slice of time, I could have spent it scrolling through Facebook. But instead, I started a new chapter or a new story. May the flow be with me.

And what else?

Grey hairs.

Two, to be precise. And they aren’t sporadic, accidentally born bleached. They are persistent grey hairs. Because this was the year I got older and wiser. It was the longest time I’ve spent away from my parents, so maybe it was the catalyst I needed to finally become an adult.

In 2016, I dumped a box of trophies that have sat under my bed for years, because I no longer need stuff, and I no longer need plastic validation. I write, or do anything creative, because I love doing it. I work on something because I want it to be good, not be awarded. I’ll probably never grow out of that pleasurable rush that comes with receiving an award, or a compliment. But unlike my fourteen year old self, I’m not starting the new year with a wish to win an end of year academic prize.

I also stopped needing others so badly. Years of FOMO seeped away, and here I am at home, on a Friday night (while others are sharing pizza and end of year fuzzies). Happily.

A hang-over from boarding school, I’ve felt the need to be everywhere and with everyone. I have a lot of friends, and nurture each friendship. But this year, I spent time nurturing friendships that nurture me back. With grey hair comes deeper and richer friendship, or so it seems.

And so…

Look through Facebook, and you feel as if 2016 has been the year our idols died, and populism took over the world. But we humans are good at seeking patterns, and finding connections, and making stories. Each famous person who passed away added another notch in the supposedly weird year that was 2016. And yes, some very difficult stuff has gone on.

But I am not wishing this year away. Instead, I am keeping it wrapped up safe in an album of photos, on my mantle.

2016 has been a year of growth for me. It’s been a year of excitement. Depth. Exploration. Experience. Productivity. Time. Pleasure.

And what will 2017 bring? Let’s turn the page, and find out, shall we?

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