2017 has been the year I woke up from a deep sleep. The year I found my mojo again – which had been lost under a pile of dirty nappies and snacks that never got eaten. They say that the only way one makes a change is if the place in which they find themselves is no longer sustainable – and this time last year I think that’s a bit how I was feeling. Not unhappy, but depleted. Devoid of any more to give. So 2017 was the year of the overhaul – and I’m loving life’s new look at the end of it.
Change was necessary, and so changes were made. Small changes which made big differences.
2017 was a year of sunrises – of realising that the best things happen early in the morning. So in January I started setting my alarm for an hour before anyone else in our house would wake up, and the transformation was almost immediate. Instead of being pulled reluctantly to consciousness by insistent little voices ready to start their day running, I began my days on my own terms. Usually with a workout and a cup of tea in the blissful silence before shaking my eldest awake to get ready for school and relishing the crumpled up little faces she makes as she opens her eyes to the light – exactly the same as the ones she made as a newborn being woken for a feed.
It has been a year of planning. I finally woke up to the idea of a weekly meal planner on the fridge door with a shopping list attached, and suddenly dinner time didn’t take me by surprise any more! I may have been massively behind the curve on this one but better late than never, and being more organised in this area of life has helped me in so many of the others – most importantly, in being a mother who doesn’t lose her cool at 5pm and reach for the bottle of sauvignon like a drowning women for a life vest.
It has been a year of celebrating the marvellous things the body can do. Mine performed the ultimate miracle of bringing two small people into the world but ever since, I’ve been resenting it. 2017 was the year to put a stop to that. I’ll never look as I once did (there’s nothing as humbling as a photo of oneself on a beach in a bikini on Boxing Day to confirm that!), but my body has done everything I’ve ever asked of it and this year I decided to return the favour.
So in January 2017 I put on my running shoes and hit the tarmac. Progress was slow going and frustratingly incremental, but every week I saw and felt a small improvement in my fitness and it was enough to keep me moving. Mile by mile, sunrise by sunrise, one foot in front of the other, I’ve reclaimed my body – and with it, my power. I lent it out gladly for a while, but it’s mine again now and I’m not going to resent it any more. I don’t think the bikini silhouette has changed much, but the way I feel has. I love that I can now easily keep up with my girls – I can run after their bikes and scooters without getting out of breath; I can climb the jungle gym with them and dig holes in the sand and chase them up the stairs and swing them up in the air. I hadn’t even realised that these were things that tired me out before, that I couldn’t play with them as much as they wanted me to. What a gift to have given myself in this year!
2017 has been a year of date nights. My dad said to me after my youngest was born, “Get the babysitter. Go out! One day you won’t feel like it and you’ll wish you’d done it when you were young.” And how right he was! So this year we did that. Once a month or so, even when it wasn’t particularly convenient, we got a babysitter. I put on heels and makeup and sat across a table from The Boy I married and we talked about our dreams for the future and who should put the bins out (because, balance) – and we’re happier for it.
It was the year of a girls’ trip to NYC instigated by my BFF and reminding me who I used to be before my name was “Mummy”. It also reminded me of the deep, uncompromising necessity of friendship; of surrounding yourself with people who understand you, who know you well, who remember you when you were young and like you anyway. Who will help you choose a pair of jeans and tell you when you have lipstick on your teeth; who care about your children and your life even if they aren’t in it on a daily basis. These friendships are both the bedrock and the cherry on the top and I would be adrift without them.
2017 has been a year of vocational fulfilment – or at least, progress towards it. I don’t know how I went on breathing for so long when writing was missing from my life, and this year it has been back where it belongs, right at the very centre of who I am. Why would the woman raising her own girls abandon the girl child of her past, the one who scribbled stories on every scrap of paper she could find and dreamed of being a writer – not realising that in fact, she was one already. Never again. May none of us forget the things we love. But if we do, may we know that even if we’ve set these things aside for some time, they will still be there waiting for us when we turn back to them again. Our passions don’t abandon us – it is we who abandon them.
2017 has been a year of gratitude. A year of scribbling down in a book kept beside my bed the perfectly ordinary moments that made me smile that day: the little hand in mine as we crossed a street, the “one last kiss” at the classroom door, the smell of the grass as the lawnmower hummed or the call for “mummy” in the dark of the night. All these things are unremarkable, entirely forgettable. But, I’m convinced, they are where the magic is – where the secret to happiness lies. The perfectly ordinary everyday… This year I’ve taken time to notice it and it’s made all the difference.
It has been a year of falling down and then standing up again. The years are short but the days, weeks and months are long and within them has been ample opportunity for failure and disappointment. There were the weeks when the toddler started waking four or fives times through the night, inconsolable as I rocked and cuddled and sush’ed her, nauseous with my own exhaustion. There was no 6am alarm on those mornings, no running, and plenty of yelling and eating of All The Cookies as I sleepwalked through my days wondering if I’d ever feel human again.
There were the weeks after we came home from South Africa and the jet lag seemed never ending. How exhausted we were, how impatient. How we snapped at each other and how I raised my voice at the girls, reaching for that bottle of sauvignon desperately at the end of the day and then wishing I hadn’t when my head pounded more than it should have the next morning.
There were the illnesses (thank you island living in a tropical climate) and rounds of antibiotics, the inhalers and trips to emergency doctors while on holiday.
There were all these things and more – but they were followed by standing up again, dusting off and carrying on – because tomorrow is always a new day.
2017 has been all the good and plenty of the bad and – vitally – everything in between. Most importantly, it has been a year of trying to be better than the year before. And one day, when more of my life is in the rearview mirror than lying out on the road in front of me, that’s what I hope I’ll see, again and again.
So thank you 2017. It’s been a pleasure. I can’t wait for what 2018 will bring.
Happy new year to you all!