I have long thought that in between the 31st December and 1st January there should be a two-week buffer. January is overwhelming – while you’re still eating the last of the chocolate from Christmas, everyone around you is only drinking juiced kale and seaweed and saying how great they feel. (They’re lying. Hopefully.) There’s a pressure to join in with the ‘one word’ thing that all bloggers do, and all the magazines have suggestions for the ‘new you’.
I like the discipline of reviewing and planning, but I can never quite face it until the calendar clicks over to January. How is it fair to fashion a new you in the space of 24 hours just because it happens to be the 1st of January? (And what if you quite liked the old you?)
In any case, this (and being buried in benefit application forms in January) is my excuse for the considerable delay in announcing my honourable intentions for 2017.
Which one word would I go for this year? Anchored was my word last year, and turned out to be a prophetic in a good way and bad way. I wound up in a relapse situation for about six months of 2016, so was more ill than usual. And yet I also felt protected and anchored in my faith.
It was hard, though, being so ill. The bad months were pretty bad, so much that I told Jon I couldn’t do another winter like that. Well, it’s now 2017, and I’m almost afraid to say it, but because the weather has been so mild in autumn and winter so far, I haven’t caught any viruses since the summer. It’s coughs, colds and bugs that often make the difference for me in having productive and enjoyable housebound life.
So far in 2017 I’m virus-free! This means I want to do All The Things, and experiment with new ventures. In my latest newsletter I wrote about giving yourself permission to experiment (have you subscribed yet? Sign up here). So I want my one word for 2017 to be:
These are the things I want to experiment in and say ‘yes’ to:
I asked my newsletter subscribers, and you overwhelmingly voted Podcast over YouTube. (This makes things significantly easier for me, since you can podcast in your pyjamas without make up and NOBODY KNOWS!) I have a few ideas gestating for a Podcast channel – more to be revealed soon! I’ll start off with 10ish-minute episodes of my musings, but later in the year, I’m aiming to branch out into interviews on different topics with excellent people. I’m really excited! (If anyone feels like helping guide me through the technical steps to getting started, or any top tips, that would be good!)
2) An Instagram Art Project.
I’m so late to the party. Last year, I was on a Skype call, and my friends Jamie and Beth were nagging me to join Instagram. I looked up from my bed and saw the bookcase and wall. This was my daily view. I couldn’t go around taking beautiful pictures of feathers in stones, or city lights, or yoga poses, or art, or any of the beautiful things my friends put up. But they said, ‘why not take pictures of the mundane?’
This got me thinking: what if I took a picture of what I see everyday – would not even the repetition express something about the life of someone housebound with ME? Thankfully in 2017 I have a better view than just the wall and bookcase, which didn’t change much (though the more keen observer would note the growing pile of unread books). Now my bed’s by the window, and it makes a difference. So over on Instagram I’ll be sharing my ‘room with a view’ pictures each day – I’d love for you to follow me over there and let me know what you think of the experiment. Every day, I take a picture of the view from my room. And every time I leave the house, I take a picture of me. At the end of the year, I’m hoping to put the photos together into a video of a year in my life housebound by M.E. Does that not sound Truly Arty?
3) Getting the Waiting Book out!
I really believed it would be out by the end of 2016 – but 2016 was not kind to my body, and I had to wait – hashtag irony – to work on the edits. I’d love it to be in the hands of readers this year, though I’m working through the process with patience.
4) Doing more devotional reading, and keep reading novels.
Last year I concentrated on saying the daily offices aloud, often with Jon. The trouble with that is that if Jon’s not around I tend to forget. So I’m getting back into Seeking God’s Face by Philip F Reinders. If (or, let’s face it, when) I need a change, maybe dipping my toe back into devotional-style reading, such as Amy Boucher Pye’s Lent book on Forgiveness, Paula Gooder’s liturgical books, Sheridan Voysey’s book on the Sermon on the Mount, or reading Michael Card’s commentary on Matthew. Also aiming to listen to more sermons and conference talks, too. I find listening to stuff harder brain-work than reading, but when my concentration is better I want to try this. I read more novels last year, and it was wonderful to lose myself in different worlds. Yes please to more of this.
5) More friends round.
Last year we really enjoyed hosting parties and having friends for dinner. It is in Jon’s blood to bring people together for excellent, beautiful events, and serve them delicious food and drink. It’s just the way he’s built. Last year we were able to host a party for local clergy families, and a neighbourhood bonfire party, and roast a Christmas for the church PCC and staff. This suits me, because I love talking to people at these things. Jon does the creating, I do the talking, and we’re a pretty good team. I’d like for us to do more of this, health permitting.
That’s a whole lotta ‘yes’. But I don’t have any more time or energy than I did last year. So a wise friend asked me, ‘what are you giving up in order to make space for all this?’ You need to say no to the good in order to make space for the excellent. Your ‘no’ is just as important as your ‘yes’.
Even though my body rests for so much of the time, I always, always need reminding to rest my brain.
So my word of the year for 2017 needs to be ‘Pause’.
1) Pause everyday for 15 minutes, and if possible, look up at the sky.
This is in addition to my normal resting rhythms. MORE about this later – watch this space!!
2) In campaigning for ME and disability rights, be a helper rather than a leader.
Being a writer, teacher, pastor is my passion and joy – campaigning is not. It drains me, both physically and emotionally. It would probably be best for my body to not do any campaigning, but my conscience won’t let me. I don’t think any campaigner or activist really starts off thinking, “what I’d really like to do with my life is campaign” – it’s the injustice that drives you. I can’t see the neglect and abuse of ME patients without wanting to do something – but I am also very aware of my limitations. The road to policy change is paved with the casualties of ME patients who’ve wrecked their health by campaigning. I think of one campaigner, who was an outstanding activist in America, but the campaigning was too much for his body. He crashed, had very severe ME (bed bound, in constant pain) for twenty years, and died by suicide.
What would really, really help is to have more healthy people giving a little of their time to support the ME community’s cause. The governments won’t change until it’s the public demanding change. If you could be one of those people, even if you don’t know much about ME, please sign up for MEAction.net’s newsletter (which keeps you updated on petitions to sign and ways to help), or volunteer for them. (NB #MEAction, rather than Action for ME is my recommendation). And I would be inordinately grateful!
3) Be more disciplined about social media.
My goals are one day per week off social media, and only to look at social media in the afternoons. I find that if I jump on social media right away, it either drains me of creative energy that I could have used for writing, or it distracts me from my body’s cues that I’m tired, so that I emerge after two hours realising I should have really just slept for that time.
4) Don’t buy any new books!
The exclamation mark is entirely warranted – I have over 50 unread books on my shelves and kindle. My book-buying habit is out of control. There will be some exceptions (for example, I just can’t wait to read Alice Broadway’s INK, hotly tipped to be the new Hunger Games – except with less violence, more tea and thoughtful integration of stories and folklore.) But other than a few essential exceptions, I want to read at least two books per month that I already own.
5) Don’t pitch articles to national newspapers.
It’s not like I do this on a regular basis, (mainly because I’m not that keen on rejection) but over the past few years I have written a few articles for newspapers which have never been used. One has been picked up. That’s just the way of things in the journalist world. The pace of writing news-responsive stories is exhausting, even for healthy people. Although I’m very proud of the article on ME I wrote for The Spectator, I’m not a natural journalist, and that type of writing takes me much longer to achieve excellence. Although I still nurse an ambition to have an article in print – on paper – in a major newspaper, I need to give myself the freedom not to invest in this right now. My prayer is that doors in the press will be opened to other ME-writers, and they will be able to spread the word in a way that I can’t.
So – my one word for the year is Pause. (With ‘play’, as well…) It’s one and a half words.
When I’m scared to experiment and think I should quit while I’m behind – will you remind me of the freedom to play and try things out?
And when it looks like I’m pushing myself – will you question whether I need to pause a little more?
Thank you – and thank you for coming with me on this journey and for reading my words. It means so much. Happy New-ish Year!
Over to you:
- Do you have a ‘one word’ or resolutions for the year? What are yours?
P.S. Keep in touch! Subscribe to my newsletter, c. 6 times a year, and get your free book, Coming Back to God When You Feel Empty– Sign up here. And please also consider signing up for MEAction.net’s newsletter or volunteer for them. Thank you!