It’s about this time of the year that I always feel I’m running on empty. There’s nothing in the tank but fumes, calories from too many end of year work functions and an overwhelming sense that I didn’t get everything done I had hoped to and now it’s too late, again. Another working year has slipped by and I can count my achievements on one hand… and have three fingers to spare.
Of course, it’s not entirely true but, as an example, here I am 4 days until Christmas and I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping. Somewhere between January and December, everything just slipped away from me. My personal ‘to do’ list is almost entirely unchecked. I’m not a famous novelist, I didn’t launch my charity, I haven’t progressed my career as I had hoped, I didn’t drop a dress size and there are no marathon medals.
Of course I know what this is. As Karen Carpenter said, what I have is called the blues. The holiday blues, to be exact. Brought about by sudden withdrawal from my self-induced adrenaline-rush of ticking all the work-related boxes 5 days a week, before completing all the yearly tasks in advance of activating ‘out of office’ and shutting-down until the new year. The office door had barely smacked me in the butt on my way out before I was deep in the introspective mind-set of a person with time on their hands.
Don’t worry – I found a cure for the silence in a good bottle of champagne and Netflix, followed by a cuddle on the couch with Sherlock and an early night. The next day I wrote a list, which instantly made me feel better, more focussed, more in charge of the inertia that comes with being on holidays. And at the top was – Word.
Every year I select a word to represent my state of mind. 2016 was “Next”. As it turned out it was an important choice. When the shit hit the fan, and it did, a lot, that one word reminded me that there was always something else, just around the corner. There was always a next. This, what ever ‘this’ was at the time, was not ‘the all’ and it wasn’t ‘the end’.
Of course, I’m aware that my choice of word for 2016 flies in the face of a lot of what I talk about here in regards to being present, in the moment and being mindful. But in 2016, ‘next’ had a place and a purpose – for both myself and for many of my friends who went through storm after storm. As the oceans got choppy and our worlds were rocked, ‘next’ was what we clung too, knowing that this too would pass. And while we’re still a few days off New Year, it was at this time of year in 2015, just a few days before Christmas, that a friend and colleague took his own life and my understanding of why ‘next’ was so important to remember, came to me – and stayed with me.
It’s not that I expect 2017 will be all smooth sailing. The older I get the more I understand life isn’t about ‘fair’ or ‘just desserts’ or quotas of pain and joy. Life is just life. To be lived, experienced and – on occasion – endured. And life is about loss.
I don’t mean to sound all doom and gloom, there was much in 2016 that I am grateful for, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t ready, more than ready, to also kick 2016 to the curb. And, I know I’m not alone in saying that Christmas, with time at last to reflect and quiet our minds, is often when everything we have been experiencing, both good and bad, comes to the surface. The tsunami of life swirling everything into focus.
One of the things I am grateful for, however, was that 2016 also taught me the importance of being in the now. There were plentiful reminders that this moment, this now, was what mattered. There were goodbyes, there were ashes and farewell toasts, and there were endings in all shapes and sizes. And I was grateful for the chance to be there for each and every one, even as my heart broke wide open countless times.
But there is more to the now than grief and loss, there is also love and joy and wonder and opportunity. The now is about creating second chances, opening new doors and finding new paths. The now is about changing direction, saying no, or yes, leaping in, connecting and listening to what your heart is telling you. The now is the moment you realise that you don’t need a life changing moment to change your life – you only need a dose of courage and to be in the now. And you don’t need the new year to know that the future is now.