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Imbolc

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.

LAO TZI

New Year’s Eve is often considered the time for new beginnings. We see out the old year and chime in the new. Big Ben and fireworks along the Thames lighting up my front room in phosphorus tones through my telly screen as I sing along to the first couple lines of Auld Lang Syne, with still no idea of the rest in spite of the annual reprieve. Resolutions are pondered then set, some kept if lucky, some broken. Some never stood a chance. Never a good idea to dress a wish up as a resolution, that only ends in disappointment. For example, the language I resolve to learn during the year knowing full well that I won’t be able to dedicate the requisite number of hours it will take to master the task. The book that I believe will be written through the sheer act of churning out words, mostly shit words, ignoring the reality of the world building that takes places off the page. Of the fact that the book in my head will take more time to get right than the rigid deadlines that I set myself. In any case, January is a difficult time to begin anew when we are still braving the harshness of winter.

That is why the beginning of February, marked in ancient times by a celebration called ‘Imbolc’ to welcome the beginning of first spring is the time of year that I look towards in terms of new beginnings and renewal. Even on heavily shrouded mornings that barely acknowledge the dawn, the promise of sunlight and warmth to come can be found in early budding daffodils and narcissus, in the rich saffron petals of crocuses. Bulbs that lay dormant all winter awaken, emerging from the dark belly of the earth toward the pale light of the sun.

It’s a reminder to me that whilst the stillness of the winter appears barren on the surface, that the stirrings of life and creative potential are happening where we can’t see it.

This is the time of year when I breathe a huge sigh of relief for having survived another winter. Or when I pay the price for having not coped well at all. 

In the past, my strategies for controlling obtrusive memories of growing a child I never got to take home manifested in my diet. By restricting it. I was led to believe that time heals, that it dulls the ache, that pain fades. And I was disappointed to learn that trauma kept the edges of my grief sharp enough to cut deeply where no one could see. I reasoned I could only eat ‘safe foods’, that somehow this would help. There was no logic to what was considered safe. A Kit-Kat would be safe of the same day that an apple was not. Anxiety and trauma play by very strange rules that I didn’t bother to acquaint myself with, I just went along with them. That is why there is such a big emphasis on food within my seasonal projects. I need to make sure that when old triggers flare up, that I don’t fall into old coping habits.

At this time of year more than on New Year’s, I think about looking ahead. Rather than make resolutions, I am taking a leaf out of Charlotte’s book and choosing a word for the year. 2019 was a year of transition for me. Switching from teaching to writing full-time and getting more work published. I started yoga and continue to reap the physical and mental benefits of this, learning to make peace with my body. I started to dance again for the sheer joy of it. I finished an AWFUL first draft of my book – it needs to be completely rewritten – but it exists! I managed to keep our potted Christmas tree alive giving me hope that I can shed my persona of House Plant Killer.

Moving forward, I don’t want a complete overhaul of my life. I don’t want to be a ‘new me’, I want to build on what I’ve started and continue to live creatively, nurturing the positive intentions set last year. That is why my word for the year is ‘Grow’. 

That is not to say I am not goal orientated – having goals is great! But viewing them under the umbrella of a word of the year means I can examine how I set goals and ask myself how well they serve me. I found that picking a word that is a verb works quite well as it can relate to both abstract and concrete ideas in our lives as well as feeling dynamic. If you want to join me in selecting a word of the year, you may want to sign up to Susannah Conway’s emails to help you discover your word.

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