Hello 2013. Yes, I know, I'm a little late to the party but there's plenty of time left in the year!
I am going to say upfront that this will not be a post about my New Year's Resolutions. I'm not a fan, you see, of New Year celebrations, never have been. And I have spent too many years making and breaking unattainable and ill-timed resolutions: it's a bad habit I have now officially given up.
Instead, I have developed a kind of periodic review habit where I look at my overall goals and my more pressing requirements and tinker as I go along. I also learnt a few years ago that it is good to take a look at how things have been going - good or bad. You can then lay anything to rest that you need to let go and take forward the good things in life.
Sound a bit weird? I promise you it's pure therapy and everyone should give it a go! Here's a few examples to illustrate what I mean. I won't do the whole year as I don't normally do a year at a time, and this has been a humdinger of a year which needs a lot of processing.
2013 - A year of a few key highs and some massive lows which will make us stronger
January - financial meltdown
Put bluntly, we came very close to going under. If it weren't for the help of my amazing parents we would have been in trouble. Business has really been hit by the recession, much more so than previous years and we were hit by some unexpected bills. Turns out our financial management skills were far from useful and we'd gotten into some very bad habits.
Since business did not really pick up throughout the year, it has been incredibly hard to keep things going but we have just about pulled it off with some ongoing support from my parents and some in depth self-taught lessons in thrift. That part I have actually enjoyed and seeing how little I can pay for things has turned into a satisfying hobby.
Need to let go: what's done is done and guilt about past actions can be crippling. We got into a mess and we are slowly getting ourselves out of it. It will take a long time, but it wasn't completely our fault. Turns out this is our recession.
Good things: thrift - I love it! New financial management skills are slowly bedding in and we will continue to work on this. A new openness with my parents has been an unexpected positive.
Carry forward: building up other income streams is the top priority.
April - adopting a plant based diet
This is definitely a high, though not one I anticipated. Turning vegan was a long time in the making and I had no idea how much I would love it. I feel much more positive about food these days, I am maintaining a good healthy weight, and I am learning loads about nutrition and connections between food habits and health which I love.
Good things: everything! This is my diet. Plus it has given me the strength to sort out two bete noirs - caffeine (gone for good) and sugar (running scared out of my kitchen). I feel very positive about this.
Carry forward: learning about nutrition and food options as a vegan family, which can be a little complicated and expensive. Just needs a little effort though.
March & October - Healthy me
Three years ago I discovered I had a malignant bone tumor in my upper arm. There followed lots of scans and biopsies and a couple of operations, first to get the tumor out and then to get the metal supporting plate out. Throw in a frozen shoulder, some full on physio, being told you had a year to have a baby or potentially wait at least four years (it worked - yay!) and then more scans to see if the operations worked and you have a rather scary and stressful three years. But I had two healthy scans in 2012 and if I have another in the spring, they may leave me alone for two whole years.
Need to let go: me having cancer knocked us sideways and impacted hugely on our ability to run our business and our life well. We weren't just being useless.
Good things: It doesn't get better than this.
Carry forward: Being healthy, just be happy.
August - Flat renovations finished
This is another high. After four years on and off renovating and 2 years hard core renovating we finally had the whole of our flat back (the main part anyway...long story). Living in two rooms for so long was no fun, and we are reveling in the space (even though it's a modest flat it feels huge to us ). Again, I have to say a huge thanks to my parents as we would still be living in a building site if it wasn't for them.
Need to let go: guilt over how much money we had to borrow from my parents. We budgeted hard to get the best value for them as possible.
Good things: a lovely home for our little family. Warmth in winter is a huge step forward!
Carry forward: as my dad says to me, enjoy it and be happy otherwise what did we do it for?
Autumn: a local tragedy
I live four miles outside a little town called Machynlleth. Sadly we shot to the headlines in October when April Jones was abducted. The man suspected of taking April lived in my village so we have had a particular and horrible perspective on the whole thing. Two months of living opposite a police camp and having your garden and all your favourite countryside haunts finger tip searched is not good. Nor is knowing something dreadful may have happened so close by. Seeing your village and home on Sky News Live as part of a murder investigation report is hard to comprehend.
I never realised, when hearing about things like this elsewhere, how much of an impact it has on the wider community. I didn't know April or her family, and I can't imagine their grief, but I know my village and it has been devastated.
Need to let go: dwelling on what has happened which is easier now there are not police vehicles constantly in the village. Also anger and helplessness that after going through so much, and having our business under siege from so many different angles, we now became the village no-one wanted to go to.
Good things: a community pulling together despite some wide differences. Christmas lights for the first time in the village which have united us, lightened our hearts and has made me personally very satisfied for organising something that has genuinely helped my friends and neighbours.
Carry forward: strength to stay positive this year during difficult times like the trial. Hope that April is found and found soon.
This has turned into an epic so if you are still with me congratulations and thank you for reading. If you have found this an interesting read I can heartily recommend having a go at this exercise for yourself. It is a very powerful way to look at key events in your life and understand how they have affected you and what you can learn from them. There is nothing like writing things down to see the truth in them.
Happy New Year!