One down, fifty-one to go. I’ve got a week of 2017 under my belt and I finally feel like I’m warming up, or thawing out at least.
I didn’t party like I did in 1999 to ring in the new year (that would just embarrass my kids, and myself), but I did make sure I was awake to see 2016 had left the building. Okay, I’ll be honest, at 11.45pm I declared “that’ll do!” sloshed the dregs of my cuppa tea down the sink and crawled into bed. Rock on! But the moment I heard the familiar “pop, pop, pop” of fireworks in the distance I smiled, relaxed, and thought to myself “screw you 2016, I am so done with you”.
Last year was a monster. We saw our daughter diagnosed with cancer, lose a kidney and undergo eight months of chemo. I closed the door on my career in an industry I’ve worked in for fifteen years. I spent countless nights in hospital by my daughter’s side, made major parenting fails like completely forgetting parent-teacher interview night, had to miss my son’s school performances, and took stress out on my husband – more times than I wish to admit – who was struggling as much as I was to keep our lives and our little family together. Did I mention that we are partway through major house renovations and haven’t had an oven for 12 months? Having a quiet year and chipping away on restoring our new family home in the sleepy ‘burbs didn’t quite go to plan.
Dulcie was declared in remission two days before Christmas. All year I’d had my eye on that finish line and on that very outcome. Strangely enough, this wonderful news didn’t jolt me like the news of her diagnosis did. The mood that morning in her specialist’s clinic was jovial and from the moment we were seated the small talk began; I knew we were home and hosed. We drove home quietly from the hospital, the kids fell asleep in the back of the car, later we had a champagne because it was the appropriate thing to do and then realised we’d better start thinking about what we should have for Christmas lunch. Being told of Dulcie’s diagnosis made me want to scream and throw up and feel like my mind was going to explode. The realisation that she was better crept over me gently. It felt like I was stepping very slowly into a beautifully warm bath and I wanted to stay in this space, silent and still, for a very long time.
Everyone was ready to celebrate our win; we’d just received the ultimate Christmas gift after all. So many people had supported us throughout this year and were waiting with bated breath for her test results too. I also expected that as soon as we’d been delivered the good news that I’d be throwing high-fives around, keen to party and to move forward with our lives again. But instead I discovered that sometimes you just can’t pick up from where you left off.
So, where do you start?
This week, nursing the hangover of 2016, I read an article about New Year resolutions. Or more specifically, not making them, and choosing a word instead. Easy – or so I thought. Bugger getting fit again, I’ll find my word! Much like when I shop for bras (surely the most irritating things to shop for) I tried on a hundred of the bloody things and nothing quite seemed to fit. ‘Create’. ‘Kindness’. ‘Give’. ‘Stretch’. ‘Open-minded’. ‘Dare’. Blah, blah and blah. I felt too tired, too uninspired, too old, too cranky, too much of a tight ass for any of those words to be my word. The words rolled around in my head for a few days and as I started to feel stuck, stagnant and increasingly frustrated, I realised I didn’t want to pick up from where I’d left off. I wanted to burn the ragged, heavy baggage that remained of last year to the ground. And then, I could begin.
I’d found my word: BUILD.
Some thirty odd years ago, my parents, with some serious vision and tenacity and grit (no pun intended) built house from dirt. They took a dry, empty paddock, dug it up, mixed it with water and straw and built us an incredible family home. Not only was it a beautiful space to grow up in, but all the experiences that went with have help shaped who I am, still to this day. More recently, a dear friend gave me a little gift that I keep by my bedside and refer to every now and again. It’s a box of cards with inspiring quotes on them. My favourite is “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Like the rest of us, I don’t know what the universe will throw my way this year, but I’m ready to sink my toes into the bare ground beneath my feet and use what I have to build what I can.