The end of another year is always a time for reflection isn’t it? As we prepare to say goodbye to 2017 I can’t help but look back on the highs and lows my 41st (gulp!) year on the planet has brought. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions and their sneaky ability to make you feel bad when you inevitably don’t achieve them – but I do like reflecting on the things I have actually managed to achieve and contemplating what another 12 months have taught. That’s not to say I don’t set myself targets and mini goals to work towards – I do, just not on the 1st of January. Targets, for me, can be set at any time of year and not just when the calendar dictates. Starting a bullet journal has been a welcome addition in helping me get on top of my weekly to-do lists and longer term outlook. But to-do lists can get boring, and so for now, let me just focus on the biggest themes to have featured in my story of 2017……
BLOGGING & WRITING
As a blogger, this seems as good a place to start as anywhere. 2017 has been my second year of blogging and so far my affection for it hasn’t waned at all. I love writing regular updates on my Little Loves, my book worm tendencies, our travel adventures and occasionally more personal matters. I am happiest when I’ve been writing, and blogging has helped me establish a regular writing routine that I’ve been able to build into my daily life. That anybody actually wants to read it is a bonus, and over the last few months I’ve noticed a steady stream of new followers on my site. It really makes me happy when people tell me that they enjoy my posts with a cup of coffee – or even look forward to them – that’s amazing! If I can bring a little bit of sunshine, or just a moment for relaxation, into someone else’s day then that’s a lovely thing to be able to do.
Aside from blogging, I also do a lot of other writing. Writing has in fact become so much part of my life these last few years that I have a lot of difficulty imagining myself now being able to do anything else at all. I have short stories and poems hanging around all over the place basically doing nothing. But despite my best efforts in entering lots of writing competitions the moments for anything to actually come out of my writing have been admittedly few and far between.
That last sentence sounds a bit depressing, but I don’t mean it to – in fact, rejection doesn’t bother me – I just keep pushing ahead with things and hoping one day the timing might be right. There may come a point when I have to accept I cannot make a living out of this writing lark. For now, though, I’m prodding that thought into submission at the back of a cupboard overflowing with a lot of dreams.
One thing I did manage to achieve this year was getting to 20,000 words on the book I have been writing for an embarrassing amount of time now. I had to press myself on this and I admit it – the final words were punched into the laptop approximately five minutes before I picked up my children from school for the end of term. I have to say I find the quicker turnaround and feedback loop of blogging much easier than writing longer pieces. However in the New Year I do want to spend more time focusing on my book and trying to get it done. Even if nothing ever happens with it, just the knowledge that I can write a book will be good enough. I always think it’s very sad when people say they should have written a book but for whatever reason never did.
This year I also joined a local writing group and I’ve really benefitted from learning from other writers who undoubtedly have more experience. At times this has really pushed me out of my comfort zone but I think that’s actually been rather a good thing. Writing, like anything else, is improved with practice – and when I look back at the writing I was doing a couple of years ago I can see how regular blogging and workshops have really improved my overall writing style and tone.
Health has been a big feature of my life this year, in fact perhaps the biggest, and when your health isn’t what it could be it becomes a misted window, clouding the image and enjoyment of everything else beyond. A bout of pneumonia late in 2016 left me with a range of autoimmune symptoms, thyroid problems and near-constant exhaustion. Unfortunately these symptoms have plagued me all year and at times have left me feeling very hopeless and a little bit depressed. For the most part, I’ve done all I can to positively fight it, by consulting with a nutrional therapist, going gluten free, going dairy free, taking all sorts of supplements and just about throwing the kitchen sink in there for good measure too. Progress has been much slower than I’ve hoped for though and over the last few months I’ve come to realise that the way I live my life has had a major part to play. As a self confessed perfectionist, moment-maximiser and person who can’t say no to anything I know I’ve done a lot to lower my own immune system. One of the major learning points for me in 2017 has been in the value of slower living, pacing things, saying no to perfect and generally just being a little kinder to myself. I’m proud of the things I have managed to achieve this year at a time when I’ve been feeling, for a lot of the time, frankly pretty awful. There is a huge amount of truth in the saying that health is a crown only seen by sick people, and if I ever get back to a feeling of full health again it is something I hope to never once take for granted in my life.
This round up isn’t getting any cheerier, is it? 😉 But I have to admit that death has been an unfortunate theme of the year gone by. It’s another reason I feel so grateful every day despite anything that might be going on in my own life. There are those who have not been as lucky and we have witnessed too many sad losses over 2017. It has all made me think a lot about the meaning of life, death and the universe (the answer to it all? I’m none the wiser). But I keep coming back to that Philip Larkin poem ‘An Arundel Tomb’ and the line about ‘what will survive of us is love’. Memories, future generations, grief – it’s all love, isn’t it? As we enter into a new year, or any year in fact, the love and care we show to others should surely be the thing that defines our lives the most.
TRAVEL & LEISURE
Talking of defining features, travel has been as defining to our lives this year as it has forever. Our campervan hasn’t had the many weekend outings it’s been used to, but overall we’ve still done well with longer trips and managed a road trip around Scotland, a trip to the Outer Hebrides and our first family holiday abroad to Majorca a bit earlier in the year. Travelling as a family is one of our favourite things to do and hopefully nothing will change that. The chance to switch off, unwind and experience new places is one goal for 2018 and beyond!
Related to the health thing, I’ve also spent a lot more time this year on leisure. For me, this means reading ALL the books, scribbling in notepads, walking, doing a bit of yoga and taking A LOT of baths. Reading (and reading in the bath) has become once of my greatest pleasures. I’ve learned so much about all sorts of things just by picking up a different book every other week . It’s a habit I lost for years when the kids were very little and one I hope never to stray from for too long again in the future. I have lots of books in my to-read pile for the coming months, so for regular readers, I look forward to sharing some of them with you in the year ahead 🙂
What would any sort of annual round up be without mention of my family? They should of course be at the top of any list on here but I wanted to leave the most important, best, and most positive thing to the end. My family are my everything and the centre of the sun from which all the little rays point outwards. That hasn’t changed in 2017, nor will it. Years and seasons change but some things will always stay the same.
With that, all that remains for me is to wish all the best for 2018 to you and your precious families, whoever and wherever in the universe they may be. May it be a year of good health, love and laughter. And may it be a year when your worries are limited but your dreams soar as big as the sky.