I might be alone in this, but New Year never seems a huge deal to me. Just because we switch the calendar from one number to another, why does that give license to burn thousands of pounds (or dollars) of fireworks? And what is the deal with getting so drunk you don’t even remember seeing those fireworks?
Okay so I’m a big wet blanket these days. I wasn’t always. I do remember the excitement. One year in particular sticks in my mind. Or at least the sparklers do. We were in a nightclub and the guys who ran it gave everyone sparklers just before midnight. That was fun.
The year I was sixteen, I went “first footing” with my Dad and older sister. First footing is a Scottish thing, where you go to visit people after midnight – in theory to be the first person through the door that year, but really it’s just a way to party. If the first person is tall, dark and handsome that’s supposed to bring luck, and you’re also supposed to bring a lump of coal and some whisky.
Hardly anyone took coal, even way back when I was sixteen, and as far as I’m aware, the whole tradition is dead or dying. This year, the German supermarket Lidl has given out lumps of coal to customers to try to revive the Scottish first footing tradition. Given that hardly anyone burns coal any more, I can’t see this idea catching fire.
Unlike Lidl, I’m not particularly nostalgic for first footing and lumps of coal, and nor do I have much desire to go out into wind and rain to yell, “Happy New Year” at a bunch of tourists.
Perhaps that’s what took the fun out of New Year for me. We live in a celebration city, and people fly in from all over the world for the street party. The only time I’ve been to it was twenty years ago. I’d had a miscarriage a few weeks before, and was possibly more depressed than I’d ever been in my life. My husband and I wandered around crowds of people with beer cans, our feet crunching on discarded and broken bottles. We couldn’t get near enough to any of the stages to hear the music properly, and the whole thing just felt artificial and pointless. Shortly after midnight we went home.
Depression can make you feel like shit, but it can also show you where your life isn’t working and point you to what you need to heal. For me, that was not partying, but finding authenticity.
Fast forward three years, and while most people were toasting the New Millennium, I was sound asleep. However, a few hours later, while most people were sound asleep, I was in the kitchen with my toddler, and through the window, I saw the first dawn of the New Millennium. It felt a special moment.
Those are the moments I think are worth celebrating – the moments that matter to us, whether they are at New Year or at any time. I don’t need someone else to tell me it’s time to celebrate. I can feel it in my heart.
For me, if New Year serves any purpose, it’s as a time of reflection. It is a time to pause and notice how far I’ve come, and where I’d like to go.
2016, by any standards, has been something of a shocking year, particularly when it comes to politics. We all know that, so I’m not going to add to the commentary apart from to say that like my depression of years ago, we can either say no good can come of it, or we can let it show us where life isn’t working and point us to what we need to do to heal. I don’t entirely know what that is, but I have a feeling it starts with allowing authenticity. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in this brilliant article, authenticity isn’t being “brutally honest.” However, it is allowing our true feelings and my posts on How to be your own friend during sadness and disappointment and When someone you love is suffering – be real were two of the more popular ones on my blog this year. The latter also featured on Hasty Words. I also had a few posts featured on the Good Men Project this year, including the one I wrote Post Brexit.
One of the highlights of the year for me was visiting Sedona in Arizona to take part in a Sedona Method retreat. This was a completely awe-inspring trip. The Sedona Method is a process “that shows you how to uncover your natural ability to let go of any painful or unwanted feeling in the moment.” It was created by Lester Levenson over half a century ago after doctors had given him months to live. He began to question his way of life and to let go of emotions and his desire so change almost everything. Lester lived for another 42 years and then Hale Dwoskin took over the Sedona Method and developed into a process that combines mindfulness, compassion and deep releasing. As well as relishing the opportunity to deepen my practice, I made some lovely new friends on the retreat and was totally stunned by the beauty of Sedona.
As far as writing goes, it feels like a good year for me. I won an BlogHer 2016 Honoree Award for the post I wrote inviting people to join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion. I’ve had a few essays published in places I’m proud of, such as the HerStories Project anthology: So Glad They Told Me, and Motherwell Magazine. Both those essays were about some aspect of the early days after our second daughter was born three months prematurely. She’s now seventeen and I’m finally getting round to writing about that time.
Digging back even further into my past, Where is home? – a post I wrote while visiting my mother and listening to the wind howl around my childhood home was also popular with this blog’s readers. I was genuinely surprised by the lovely comments this post received.
Talking of home, this year, I began editing Cotswold Eco-Build, a blog where my friend Pam Bennett is recording the eco-renovation of her 17th century Cotswold cottage. It’s an incredibly ambitious and exciting project and Pam is truly an fore-runner in the race to save our planet. If you haven’t yet checked out Cotswold Eco-build, you are missing out!
So now, it’s almost 2017, and though there are a few hours to go, I can hear the sound of fireworks already. What does the new year have in store? I can tell you I plan to finish the novel I’m working on, and the book about those early days with a premature baby. Other than that – I can’t tell you! I haven’t got a crystal ball – but I do have a feeling it will better than many people dread. I also have a feeling that if we are more willing to be authentic, and less willing to be “brutally honest” then 2017 could turn out just fine.
I’ll drink to that! (Though my drink will probably be a cup of herbal tea – sorry!)
I’d love to hear from you – are you a celebrator, reflector or both? How do you mark the New Year, if at all?