If we do not rise to the challenge of our unique capacity to shape our lives, to seek the kinds of growth that we find individually fulfilling, then we can have no security: we will live in a world of sham, in which our selves are determined by the will of others, in which we will be constantly buffeted and increasingly isolated by the changes round us. — Nena O’Neil
Oooooh how I ‘lurves’ me some New Year’s vibe! Even as a child, the magic of the holiday season was always a little bit more about New Year’s Day than Christmas Day. As I got older that feeling got stronger particularly after having lived in a capitalist state where the incessant hype and materialistic focus of Christmas just got a tad weary, and after I discovered through my pursuit of knowledge that Jesus probably wasn’t born on December 25th, and that many of the symbols associated with Christmas Day may be of pagan origin, and that Santa was probably not a very nice jolly old man…but I digress…
It’s really only in the last 2 to 3 years that I have been able to articulate and define verbally and spiritually what that magical feeling means to me. I have of course gone through the rituals of always being in someone else’s company at a big New Year’s bash or at a house party or having people over to mine or going out for dinner. Like everyone else around the world, I have also gone through the ritual of setting my resolutions, bigger and better and more unattainable each year, some years written in one of many brand new pretty notebooks, others on some random piece of paper. Of course, by the summer time those resolutions were long forgotten and if I was lucky I may have found the written evidence of my failings during an annual clear up, have a good chuckle at how ridiculous they sounded and tuck them back just where I found them. I admit though that somewhere in my late 20s I think, the magic of a New Year fizzled for me and I stopped making any resolutions – I had a man, I was near the top of the career ladder – it was only a matter of time ‘till I got to the top – I had stuff, I had travelled, I had a life so I thought why bother – not much else to do right? So I stopped.
But something brought it back. I’m not sure what it was – being a Mummy? Possibly it was. But dare I say it, I think it was something a little bit bigger than that. Becoming a parent meant that I had pretty much ticked all the boxes that we are led to believe really matter. Theoretically, I should have been satisfied. As I emerged out of the haze of sleep deprivation and loss of control over my life that comes with being a new parent, I think some sort of rebooting must have taken place without my knowledge. Was I really supposed to stop here? Wasn’t there another checklist or something to go through and tick off? Well I looked at my completed check list over, and low and behold, there was space for more, but no one had filled it out. I can’t say that there was an ‘OMG’ moment when I figured it out – but I thank my God that I eventually worked out that it was now up to me to add to that list.
Now this discovery may seem obvious to many; maybe I am not as clever as I think I am – but it was news to me. It really was my turn to make the rest up as I went along, to set my own agenda – anyone else’s agenda was really only going to take me so far. I mean what else was I supposed to do with the next 36 years of my life presuming my Creator had granted me that amount of time, or any amount of time for that matter. So I set about changing the mindset, the attitude, and drawing up a new agenda.
That agenda is a work in progress that I won’t bore you with now. But I am glad to say that that magical New Year’s feeling is back, but instead of being all up in your face on January 1st and fizzling out after about 2 months, it is more of a steady, slow burn that lasts all year round with a big sparkle in January of course but also at random times throughout the year. A big part of the magical new agenda is the importance of setting myself new challenges either as the goals I strive towards, as motivation pieces to help me get those goals or tas he resolutions I have started setting again, but with a twist. My first challenge set nearly 3 years ago was to run the London Marathon. If I were honest, a big part of setting that challenge was to prove to myself that I still had some ‘mojo’ after having felt like I lost control of my life with the juggling act that is parenthood. But it was also about doing something seemingly impossible to reacquaint myself with what it takes to get to the next level, to start a new checklist. I had used running to get and stay fit since I was a teenager, and though I had no intention of becoming a world class athlete, surely there was something else I could do with it. So I trained first my mind then my body to get through the months of running in the dark morning or night, or both, in snow, ice, rain or sleet. I got myself so in the zone that it didn’t matter that I was working full-time at work and at home as well. I must give thanks to both my Dad and my son’s Father for being such inspirations having both run the marathon before – my dad about 25 or so years before and my other half 3 years before and on the day with me (though he was showered, saunad and dressed when I finished). Marathon Day 2010 came and in 5 hours and 26 minutes, 26 miles were done, no stopping and no walking till the last mile when I paused for just 20 seconds to stretch out some cramp, and completed with full sprint for the last 400 meters. My sister who was there as my cheerleader said she couldn’t believe I did the marathon and that amazement on her face when she said it told me I had done some crazy s*&! right there. I was paralysed from the top of my head to the tip of my big toe afterwards, but I went to work the next day – a medical miracle I know, walking whilst paralysed. Mind you I had to wear flip flops as my feet refused point blank set foot in any shoes. But a week later, I entered for the next year.
So what this, in my eyes, one life defining moment did for me was help to re-define what that New Year feeling is about…for me and how I interact with those near and dear to me. It now means the opportunity to extend the good we do that little bit further. Can we make the couple of hours we have with our children between school/nursery pickup and bed-time a little bit more quality, because let’s face it, for many of us for the time being, we can’t make it more quantity…! Can we apply that skill we excel at in the workplace to a community project because heck, the problem with some of our young people is not going to be fixed by someone else, and to top it off, our very own toddlers will be ‘young people’ someday. Or even apply the same to our own enterprising project. This may just be the year we can really become our own boss – forget what the economists forecast. It also means a time for true reflection on and total acknowledgement of the events that put us here, and most importantly patting ourselves on the back for the good we did and the not so good we got through. This helps us to own up and not be ashamed of our shortcomings, and prepare for the journey to being the best we can be in all our different roles.
With that let’s make 2012 the year we set a new resolve that puts all the other years to shame. If your previous years have been great, good for you because that can only mean that from now on they will be fabulous. If your other years have been far from great, even better because God is really quite fair and forgiving especially when we are not and has given us a New Year to do it in a New Way.