I know it’s a bit late to write a review of 2013. I want to say it’s because of the flurry and happy madness of Christmas and our annual two-night trip to a nearby hotel (courtesy of saved-up Tesco tokens), so I’ve not been able to write because I’ve been resting from these things. But the truth is there’s a part of me that has been dreading this post and putting it off. The real review of 2013, ‘my year of anyway’, will come soon: this is just something I had to write first.
This year I signed up for an excellent online Advent-Epiphany spiritual reflection course, hosted by my friend Tara. As a result, I felt spiritually prepared – and rested, somehow – when Christmas came, and I really enjoyed the festive season.
Towards the end of December, I logged onto the course Fuze Call (like a Skype conference call) for the next reflective exercise: we were reviewing the year. I like reviewing things. I was looking forward to it. I smiled at the other faces popping up on the call, and settled back in my bed, my head propped up with pillows and cushions.
Start with January, she suggested. And immediately, the memory came: in January 2013 I was rushed to hospital in an ambulance because it looked very much like I was having a heart attack or pulmonary embolism.
I tried to think beyond that, to February, March, but they were all blank, and all I could think of was January and the ambulance ride. Last year I said I would write about it sometime but not now, and after a year on I am still not ready to write about it.
I tried to move on: April – blank, May – the ME relapse, the tachycardia, collapsing in the corridor, the fear.
June, July – blank, August – the fight to try to get an appointment with my ME specialist.
I watched my face in the computer screen sink lower down into the pillows and I hoped that the others wouldn’t see my tears. I tried again – but I couldn’t get past it – January, the ambulance; May, the relapse, the fear; August, the fight, the weariness.
If you think about it, Christmas and New Year are pre-disposed to make you somewhat emotional. (There’s nothing like a season of enforced jollity to make you feel miserable.) This year I actually loved Christmas, and I was well enough to eat dinner with the family and able to watch my boy open all of his presents, and I was thankful for these precious gifts. But if Christmas doesn’t get you, New Year will: a time where you are obliged to identify all your sparkly achievements for the year and make resolutions (again) that this year things will change.
On that particular evening, I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t think about 2013.
I avoided it for a day or so, tried to focus on the good things, told myself it was about the time that everyone was writing their blog posts on 2013, and I ought to do mine too. Still I couldn’t write it.
Eventually, having failed on the ignoring-and-counting-blessings tactic, I gave into the sadness. On the 30th December I took a good look at the hard parts of 2013. I felt them again, I cried. A lot. I even told God about it: “Dear Lord, that was kinda hard. I’m tired.” I let the cloud and gloom envelop me.
That was a rough day.
It didn’t feel great, but the tears were cleansing. Even as I wiped the tears away, the positive memories and things I was proud of started to trickle in.
Sometimes you have to grieve a difficult year before you can celebrate it. Sometimes we have to feel it all before we can move on.
Sometimes we have to acknowledge that huge black cloud and let it purge all its rain before we can see the rays of the positive and precious memories, glinting and glistening.
Because I had given good attention to the black clouds of 2013, I didn’t have to work to count my blessings. I felt them pour into my mind, the happy memories of 2013, bright fireworks breaking up the darkness.
This was my year: hard, painful and full of goodness.
This is life: hard, painful and full of goodness.
I wrote them all down: the dark memories and the glints of gold. I kept writing. I kept finding things to be thankful for. There were so many glints of gold that in the end all I could see was the goodness sparkling against a dark background.
And somehow it’s the goodness that stays with me.
As I sit and read through my list of all that happened in the year, that verse pops into my head: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, to him be the glory…” I exhale deeply, wipe tears of thankfulness, and look with a smile to 2014.
Over to you: