Every year I used to try and send a Christmas card to everyone I had ever known; all those auld acquaintances I had shared a certain period of my life with – school / university / playgroups / drama company / various periods of angst or struggle or marriage / far flung relatives / work colleagues / fellow volunteers … And even when I’d moved on to pastures new and the next phase of life, there was always that annual greetings card, that attempt to keep the spark alive, to somehow try and keep up with the comings and goings of increasingly divergent lives.
I do have a few friendships whose thread has persisted – you know who you are! But mainly of course it’s the family ties that survive the ebbing and flowing of the years – the ties that bind, so to speak. For the rest, I gave up trying to keep up with the Christmas cards quite a few years ago – there comes a point when it really is time to let go, mainly of the person you used to be, and thus liberate yourself. Anyway, we’ve got the internet now haven’t we? A different way of communicating.
Funny thing is, writing this blog – ostensibly all about the past, the history of my family – is NOT about clinging to that past. It’s much more about looking at it as clearly and honestly as possible and figuring out what I feel about it now, understanding how it has made me who I am today and embracing that person. Not in a way of harking back to the past, but of celebrating it as part of the fabric of the present, the here and now.
In a similar spirit, I don’t write New Year resolutions any more – I’ve finally realised that I’m really only setting myself up for failure by the end of January! Much better to start afresh EVERY day of the year, to move forward without regret and without beating oneself up for one’s many faults and failings. I try to say to myself – if you COULD have done it better you WOULD have, but you did the best you could at the time. I’m with President Obama when he said that rather than make resolutions it’s better each day to do a little better than the day before. That’ll do me!
However, one can’t escape a bit of the spirit of out with the old, in with the new. I’ve been clearing out my kitchen cupboards in preparation for the New Year, something, you’d think, that you do regularly anyway. Well! I was somewhat shocked to discover quite a few packets of dry goods (flour, pulses, etc) that were not just years but actually DECADES out of date! The worst offender was a jar of gravy powder from the year 2000! I mean, I’ve moved house at least three times since then! But I know that’s probably part of the problem – when you’ve had as many moves as I’ve had over the years, sometimes you’re just boxing up an old life and carting it somewhere else without having the chance to really consider what your new life in a new place is going to be. And what it should consist of, possessions-wise. Especially if it’s the wind of circumstance that has forced the relocation. I always felt when I moved house that I was leaving a little bit of myself behind and would feel rather lost in the new place until I’d found ways of settling in and reclaiming those lost bits so that they could be expressed, albeit in a different way. Or perhaps just letting them fade away into the past.
One thing I always used to take with me on these moves was a current knitting project. I think I knitted from about 5 years old and I’ve always loved the process of making things by hand, stitch by stitch, though I have to confess that I eventually fell out of the habit and haven’t made anything for years. However, I still feel very inspired by beautiful patterns and designs which are posted on Facebook and I save them even though I never actually undertake the projects. Why do I do that? Maybe I’m just not ready to give up the idea of myself as a knitter. It was a deeply ingrained part of me for at least half of my life if not more, and even though it’s years since I knitted or crocheted anything, maybe 2018 might be the year when I start up again. So I want to keep that little light of inspiration alive, just for the time being.
We go into reflective mode as the New Year approaches, don’t we? Radio and television bombard us with retrospective musings on the year just gone by and speculation on the year ahead. It’s a fun game, and very entertaining. So I’m not averse to a bit of light-hearted retrospection myself while I prepare to celebrate Hogmanay and “the bells” with, this year, daughter Sarah visiting from New York.
It’s time to tak’ a cup o kindness and look back fondly on the friends of yesteryear. Friends who are no longer a part of my everyday concerns, or even still with us in this life, but who retain a place in my heart and who, I suspect, if I could meet them tomorrow, would slip as easily into those familiar moulds as if it had been only moments since we last met rather than more years than I care to remember. So, Gemma, Marie, Iris, Gloria, Colette, Mary, Barbara, Shuggie, Robert, John, Marian, Stevie, Sue, Kathy, Harry, Mrs Duffy, John, Cathy, Frances, Bob, Gerry, Father Ken, Brother Jim, Pat, Betty, Pam, Beryl, Dot, Nancy, and so many more – I salute you, and I wish for 2018 to bring you and yours only unbounded peace and joy.