Is it me or has 2016 just been a bit good?

 

Is it me or is 2016 a bit shit?  || raeritchie.com
Because caramel apple pancakes help to make *everything* a bit less shit || raeritchie.com

*As a Brit, I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving but it just occurred to me that this is a totally apt post to coincide with the big US holiday.  Nice bit of good timing!*

Now we’re quickly heading to December, I can’t help but look back and think it has all been fairly rubbish on both a micro and macro level.  Over the last several months I’ve written on here and elsewhere about the mental health struggles which have dominated my year, while two weeks ago I shared my lament for the post-Trump, post-Brexit world.  Things have not improved in the meantime.  On the contrary, even the mere suggestion that Nigel Farage should be the next British ambassador to the US shows that a whole lot more s*** could hit the fan in the months and years ahead.

From my perspective, probably the most redeeming feature about this year is that it has flown by in a flash.  2017 in already looming and it can’t come quick enough – but where has the current calendar disappeared to?

With only five weeks left until January, I was bemoaning the general crapness of this year when my partner gently pointed out that it hadn’t been all bad.  We had been travelling around Japan, he reminded me.  We’d also had other lovely adventures, like our impromptu weekend at the Cheltenham Literary Festival.

What if 2016 has actually been a bit good?  Is this a totally crazy notion or can I actually find evidence to support it?

So I had an idea.  What I need is a visible aide-mémoire that focuses on the good bits of 2016 so that I don’t write the entire twelve months off in one dramatic swoop.  In particular, I want a list of good things about this year which includes personal highlights, global good news and lovely events from others’ lives.

I asked around on social media and here’s what we came up with, and *huge* thanks to my lovely friends and readers for their openness and generosity in sharing.  It is certainly some list.  You people are amazing!

 

Good things about ’16

Me

1 Our amazing trip to Japan

2 My relationship with my partner grew stronger in both adversity and joy

3 Went on a beautiful and powerful retreat

4 I’ve seen lots of my friends, old and new, and we’ve had some great times together

5 New work direction and purpose

The World

1 The Planet Earth II series – how amazing is the natural world despite all its challenges? The craziness of the snakes ganging up on the baby iguana is grizzly but awe inspiring too.

2 The fairytale of Leicester City Football Club winning the English Premier League (and their lovable, slightly eccentric manager Claudio Ranieri – his ‘dilly ding, dilly dong’ catchphrase being just one of his great moments last season).

3 The excitement of the UK Women’s Hockey team getting their first ever gold medal after a penalty shoot out at the Rio Olympics

4 The Chicago Cubs breaking their 108 year wait to win Major League Baseball’s World Series (and this moving tribute to fans who didn’t live to see this success)

5 And an important headline from Australia (thanks Rachel!): Melbourne firefighters save tiny black kitten from Rebels bikie gang clubhouse fire

Others’ good news

‘I sold my house and all of my belongings, moved into a van, traveled around the world, and met you Melissa and Jennifer at a little coffee shop in London. ❤’ Alicia

‘This year WAS total shit.  And yet.  Antidepressants, which changed my outlook and lifted the grey fog that had dulled life for so long.  Breast self exams, which found my cancer in an early stage, insurance to pay for surgeries.  17 years with the best doggie ever.  Finally founding the best panties ever.’  Amie

‘I’ve been inspired by your piece on alternative advent calendars to buy an assortment of inexpensive makeup and toiletries and will have a DIY alternative advent calendar!  Another one: Stu, Joey and I had a wonderful trip back home to North America, and I didn’t even feel very depressed when I got home’ Anna HM

‘I got to marry the love of my life – something still illegal in many parts of the world.’ Anna K

‘Now that’s a challenge indeed! Thinking…. Oh! Went glamping then camper-van camping. Not news, but good’ Catherine

‘My little sister’s wedding four months after a successful op to remove tumours on her kidney and ovaries.  Passing my PGCE and getting a part time teaching job with a charity on my own terms’ Claire

‘2016 has been a tough year.  The good news I have is the wedding of my grand daughter, was beautiful’ Elisabeth

‘Predictably, mine is a much longed-for baby. He’s a constant source of delight and antidote to the year’s otherwise awfulness.’ Elizabeth

‘I got to swim with (& learn about) the dolphins in Hawaii for a week over my birthday…. 🐬🐬🐬’ Kate

‘I had a healthy, bonny, beautiful baby in January, after a difficult and (towards the end) quite risky pregnancy.  I recovered completely from the liver condition I developed during pregnancy and got better quickly after my C section.  I am thankful for her every day – even on days (like today) when she gets me up at 5.20am….Zzzzzzz.’  Laura

‘I took / was given the opportunity to put down everything that I was holding and I have been so discerning about what I have chosen to pick back up.  I think I learned more about friendship and listening this year than I ever have before.’  Melissa

‘Saying good bye and good riddance to my gall bladder was very good news for me in 2016’ Miriam

‘I found the job that I had been seeking, that supports me financially, intellectually, and with the perfect work life balance.’ Stephanie

‘Being home after 8 months away last year was the best thing ever – loving the simple pleasures of being home and quiet’ Terri

 

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Week  Ten: The ordinary pleasure of bathing

Let us begin by going back in time several years to a cold,
dark winter’s afternoon much like the ones we are having now…

The hot water was beginning to steam as I emptied two capfuls
of expensive oil into the tub.  I
stripped off my clothes, climbed over the side and slipped under the
surface.  After a long walk beside a
frozen river, I could feel the warmth ease my tightened muscles.  I squeezed my eyes tightly shut, hoping for
the water to have the same restorative effect on my mind even if deep down I
knew that no elixir, however fragrant, could cure my psychic woes.  But nonetheless I hoped.  I lay there in the stillness until my fingers
wrinkled and the water turned cold, half-believing that when I stood up and
reached for a towel, I’d be cured – my troubles washed away, my soul as clean
as my skin, a fresh start all round.  

Of course the act of bathing provided only the clean skin
part.  Once I got out, I was still as
worn out, run down and miserable as I had been before I turned the taps
on.  Now I was shivering and disappointed
too, despondent that the transformation I’d imagined hadn’t taken place.  I had invested that eighty or so litres of
water with a powerful combination of magical and baptismal qualities and then
felt indignant when all it did was give me a wash.  Why didn’t it save me?, I wondered.  Where was the answer to all my problems if
not in the mythical relaxing bath time so highly recommended by women’s
magazine advice?

Let us now skip forward in time.  It is just last week.  Again I am running a bath but in another
bathroom and what seems like an altogether different life.  I feel the bubbles tickling my chin and the
hot water stinging the tops of my thighs.
The temperature soothes the small of my back, easing away the lingering
remnants of a chill that has kept me housebound most of the week.  I enjoy listening to the stillness, albeit with
an ear half-cocked to possible scuttling mouse noises from the loft above.  I relax knowing that I cannot do anything but
lie here until I decide to get out.  When
I make that decision, I have a tingle of anticipation as I step onto the mat.  Getting out the bath means that moment has
arrived – the one I’ve been waiting for and looking forward to since the
thought of having a bath crossed my mind: the time has come to trim my
toenails.

Was that the statement you were expecting, dear reader?

Perhaps not, but that is the truth of my bath time last
Friday.  Things have changed so very much
since the first scene I described, and one aspect of this is my perspective on
bathing.  I used to believe that I could
live at break neck speed, surviving variously on too little (sleep) or too much
(alcohol), with a food intake that swung rapidly between the two poles.  As a periodic crash hit me, as it inevitably would,
I’d take to the bath as if that would solve everything, a kind of self-care
cure-all to call upon in times of emergency.
Little wonder the experience was always a disappointment.  

Now I enjoy baths for just what they are: the opportunity to
lie in warm water and let the world drift by for a short while.  Nothing more, but nothing less either.  A simple pleasure, one to be grateful for
when the world outside is cold and dark.
And when the world outside is also in full throttle party-shopping-party-eating-party-drinking-party-visiting-party-hosting-party
mode (as it is for the next five weeks or so), perhaps it time to be especially
grateful for baths.  They can’t
counteract all the damage we can inflict on ourselves over the festive season
but they can offer a brief period of respite.

Whenever you need some kind of relief either this week or in
the month ahead, take a bath (or a long, luxurious shower is an equally good
alternative).  They won’t fix you, or the
world.  But you can enjoy it anyway, just
for what it is.

You don’t have to share your bath time pictures, but you can
if you like!  You can share any other
thoughts on the joys of bathing too – either via the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on Instagram and/or
Twitter.

“The present moment is filled with joy & happiness”: Lessons from tidying the cutlery drawer

Five months
today, I’ll be holidaying in a seaside cottage with my partner and his
family.  I keep picturing the scene, envisioning
myself taking a bracing walk along the beach before curling up with a hot mug
of tea, a good book and some tartan trousers (fantasies about my future
*always* include details about what I’m wearing).  I’ve also been checking out my availability
in February 2016 as a friend is organising a girls’ weekend away.  Most dates are fine but I want to avoid
clashing with a few work commitments already pencilled in.

I’m very
excited about these future plans but have to keep reminding myself that they
are some distance away.  Imagining good times
ahead is healthy and normal, but what if they distract us from the here and
now?  I don’t want to be so caught up in
daydreaming about winter escapades (and planning my capsule wardrobe to take
with me) that I overlook the treasures that summer still has to offer.  

The future
can pull so strongly on our minds and our hearts.  Throughout childhood we dream and scheme
about ‘when we grow up’ and somehow that hankering for all our tomorrows never
really leaves us as adults.  We picture some
time ahead of now and yearn for what it promises: holiday, new job, Christmas,
baby gets older, kids grow up, teenagers leave home, retirement…then I’ll be
happy / get more sleep / go travelling / relax (delete as appropriate).  Or worse we postpone living our lives to the
full whilst we await some event that we hope will happen but have no guarantees
about: when I lose two stone / get married / make enough money / am less busy.

The future
tugs and pulls and distracts us with all its tantalizing allure.  How much easier it is to look ahead to an
imaginary time that we can mould to our exact desires rather than embrace where
we actually are in our lives right now.
My mythical future home looks exactly like the place I’m living in now
only the boxes in the hallway have been replaced with beautiful bookshelves,
the worktop doesn’t need linseed oiling and the unknown source of all the dust
in the bathroom has mysteriously vanished.
Oh, and I never, ever, ever have to sit at my desk completing a tax
return.  

As this
example illustrates, our future-focus is not always a useful psychological tool
for getting through tough times and traumas.
Sometimes we use it to avoid the kinds of problems that come with
frankly pretty privileged existence.  It
simply gives us some time-out from being responsible for our lives.  In our dream worlds, we don’t have to
organise solutions, actually do any work or other unappealing things like save
money or start pensions; in fantasy future land, everything we want just
magically happens.  Small wonder it’s an
attractive place to mentally decamp to whenever we want to be absolved of
adulthood.

Yet one of
the many dangers of spending too much time in this comfortable place in our
heads is that it can overshadow the here and now, which is a great place to dwell
if we really look at it.  We lose sight
of all the goodness around us.
Feverishly craving the next stage in your child’s development can
obscure the joys of whatever it is they are doing today.  Fixating on a particular decorating project
can blind us to all the stuff we love about the home we live in.  Too much daydreaming about future adventures
almost stopped me appreciating the treasure to be found in a quiet Saturday
afternoon at home, tidying out the cutlery drawer.

Living
for the weekend makes us overlook everything we have to be grateful for from
Monday to Friday.

Living
for the holidays makes us wish away months and years of our lives.

Let’s not
forget everything we have to be grateful for in the here and now.  Whenever it is that you’re reading this, stop
for a few minutes and think about three good things in your life right
now.  And I mean right now, in this
moment.  Perhaps it’s sunny.  Perhaps it’s raining – but you’re inside in
the dry.  Perhaps you’re on holiday.  Perhaps you’re at work – but you’ve got a
brew and a few minutes to read this blog post.
Perhaps you like your nail varnish.
Perhaps your kids are playing in the garden.   Perhaps you’re eating a good lunch.  

If you can’t
think of anything, go to the nearest tap and turn it on.  You have access to running water!  That is something to be very glad about.

Think of
three things that you are grateful for right now.  Then next time you are drifting off into
fantasy future land, come back to the present and do it again.  

And again.

And again.

Rather than
living for the future, let’s live for our lives today.  I’ve heard that Thursday 30th July
is really rather a great day to be alive J

Three
things that I’m grateful for right now:
The
sun has just come out again!
The
peace and quiet of where I live
The
Orla Kiely notebook on the desk beside my laptop – a beautiful present from a
friend.

Share what
you’re grateful for right now!  You can
comment below or on social media: there’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or the A Life Of One’s Own
Facebook page
.  And of course you can
also email me (rae@alifeofonesown.co.uk).  

If there’s
a topic that you’d like to see me write about in future posts, send me an
email.  I’d love to know what you’re
interested in and to explore ways that I can help.

Spent the morning holed up in this beautiful space exploring the next steps for my coaching practice, A Life Of One’s Own (link in profile). Definitely got the inspiration flowing – so excited by the new ideas!

#coaching #lifecoach #lifecoaching #inspiration #creativity #window #georgian #georgianhouse #saturday #saturdaymorning #saturdaymornings #dreaming #scheming #play #sunshine #warmbreeze #summershere #gratitude #excited #excitement #flow #flowers #leathertrunks