Thank you so much to everyone who commented on my last blog about my father. I hugely appreciate your kindness, your sensitivity, and your readiness to share your own experience of the loss of your parents or others whom you have loved. It was good to be reminded that everyone will go through something like this at some time in their life and that, ulitmately, we all cope in our different ways. It was also good to hear in your responses that you had understood what I was trying to say about my father. I felt somehow that in reading and responding people were honouring him and his life. Thank you. It meant a lot to me.
And so here we are now in 2016. I am not a great maker of New Year's Resolutions. When I used to make resolutions, I would find that they were pretty much the same every year: the same losing weight, taking more exercise, eating well, drinking less. Not a great advert for the efficacy of resolutions really. Clearly if they worked, each year would bring new ones! The only ones I ever got anywhere with at all were the positive ones, the ones where I resolved to wear my more glamorous clothes or cook interesting new recipes from my battery of cookery books or to have more time with friends.
But there is something about the turning of the year that does make you look both forward and back, like Janus facing two ways at once.And looking both forward and back seems to be just what I want to do right now. We have had a lot of loss in the last couple of years. My mother, Ian's father and now my father have gone. I have often felt over the last year or so that the sheer energy, time and determination required to support my father through the last year of Motor Neurone Disease might just have been so huge that it got in the way of understanding the enormity of the loss of other people. It was just too difficult. There was only so much of us to go round and while Dad needed us we had to get on with doing what we could. Now it might be time to reflect a bit more, to see where we are now and what we want to do with the time which we suddenly have in abundance.
Over the period of loss we have also gained three new grandchildren, now sixteen months, four months and three months old. So life itself is demanding that we look both backwards and forwards. No doubt it is sheer coincidence that the number of family members going out and coming in match. It feels good though. It feels right. Reason to look forward as well as to look back.
I have read a variety of blogs in which people look to find a word for what they aspire to do or to be in the coming year and this seems to me better than making a list of resolutions. It focusses the mind on the big picture, the important stuff rather than on the weight on the scales or the sessions in the gym. Laura at Tell Tale Therapy blogged about her word, compassion, and I liked it a lot. As I said to her I think I need two words and here they are: reflection and adventure.
Reflection seems obvious. I need a bit of time to slip slowly into my new life, not simply looking backwards as in remembering but also reflecting on how my parents and my father in law lived their lives and what that has to teach me about living mine. Much of it seems already very clear and it is about loving and living very fully, balancing doing things for others, particularly family, and doing things for oneself that keep you sane, balanced, happy and true. I loved the way my parents lived their own lives with such energy and enthusiasm. It freed me to live mine in a way which is very difficult to do if your parents live vicariously through you. So there is a lot to think about in terms of loving and supporting our family, our children and grandchildren and the wider family, while at the same time living my own life, living our own lives, properly, deeply, with enthusiasm and commitment.
And that is why the other word is adventure. Life has been constrained in recent years by the care of my father in law and my father, even if those constraints were necessary and accepted without rancour. Now there are possibilities and a sense that the time and energy we have now are not going to be limitless. I am sixty, not thirty. Now is the time to climb the mountain, to sail the sea, to navigate the rivers both physical and mental. Now is the time to take the photographs, write the stories, lie on the sand and take up the sun. I don't want to be perpetually on the move because I love my day to day life at home. I don't want to have some kind of super bucket list and tick off the continents of the world. But I do want to drive across Europe, to learn a new language, to wake up in a new city. I want to see New Zealand again. I want to cook things I have never cooked, knit and make and write things I have never tried before. I want to live the life that remains as well and as fully as my parents did even though I will make my own choices as to what that means. And I want to keep my balance, to walk the tightrope, using the stick which is reflection to make meaning of the adventure. I want to do both: to stay still and to move, to be silent and to sing.
Reflection and adventure, that is what I want for 2016. I wonder if it can be done?