If you’ve been a part of Reverb before, you know that this is the bit where I invite you to share your favourite photo of yourself from the year (selfie or otherwise).
For bonus points, give us a montage of the photos you have shared during each Reverb you’ve participated in. (Throwback Thursdays #tbt are also welcome!)
For some reason, there haven’t been many photos of me this year. In fact, I was going to put up a glowering selfie in atrocious lighting that I took a few days ago, but then I remembered that my friend Anne had sent me some pictures from my 30th birthday party. Here’s my favourite:
This is what they call a ‘basket’, and it is the most amusing move in the Cumberland Square Eight. There are two men and two women (or people who have assumed those roles for the duration of the dance, whatever). The men put their arms around the women’s waists; the women put their arms over the men’s shoulders. Then you start spinning. If you go fast enough then the women take off, as we have done in this picture. I’m the one on the right, in the black-and-white chequerboard dress. You end up with very achey arms, but it’s tremendous fun.
I was wearing that same dress in my photo from two years ago, I remember. I can’t show you that, or 2012’s, because Facebook is down. In the meantime, however, here’s last year’s:
As the year ends, and we look back at the joys, achievements and disappointments of the past twelve months, it’s worth taking some time to recognise what our efforts have demanded of us and where our resources have been depleted.
Whether you have spent 2015 bringing some long-cherished project to fruition or simply trying to keep your head above water, it’s likely that this has come at some cost to you.
I feel slightly diffident writing to my own prompt. I’m also amused, both by my own foresight in knowing that I’d be feeling like a wrung-out dishcloth by this point in the winter, and by Kat’s timing in putting it up today, when I am feeling much like a wrung-out dishcloth that I was sent home sick from work, and have spent most of the afternoon asleep.
What have I spent 2015 doing? Editing Speak Its Name and preparing it for publication. (I’d rather hoped that it would be out in the world at this point; it’s getting there, but slowly, slowly… I’ll take stock at the end of December, and hope to be able to give a publication date then.) Planning and executing what one of my colleagues calls a ‘birthday parade’ – a succession of activities and celebrations to mark my 30th birthday. In my case, it was a four-day walk from Reading to Winchester, which I am intending to write up on this blog before too long, a birthday party with a ceilidh and a ride on a 1935 Renault TN4F and a 1959 Leyland Tiger Cub (both buses, if you were wondering!), and seeing Joan Baez at Cambridge Folk Festival. Replaying an old work pattern, where I get bored in a quiet period and then over-commit myself for a busy one. Working through some fairly mind-blowing mental revelations.
Yes; it makes sense that I am feeling a little run-down! And I’m still in this over-committed pattern: coming down with this bug today has meant that I’ve missed two social activities already, and am likely to miss at least some of the four planned for the long weekend. The first day I have that’s completely free, where I have nothing planned and no obligations to anyone, is 22nd December. I’m not going to let that happen next year; I’m going to fight for my free weekends.
This year I’ve also come to notice just how much of an introvert I am. The week where I had two conferences, a leaving do, a 60th birthday party and a huge family lunch was a bit of an eye-opener; I ended up hiding downstairs crying on that last day. I am reluctantly realising that I just can’t cope with that many people for that sustained a length of time. I need to build much more solitude into my life.
So how to replenish my resources? I wrote yesterday about a two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off cycle. I would like, without burdening myself with yet more obligations during this over-committed Advent, to start thinking about things I can do during my recovery weeks to refresh myself. More: I would like to start doing those things now. I would like to find blissful gaps in all this bustle and charivari. Why not? I need replenishing now.
Take long, warm, baths. Shut my study door. Read poetry. Wander around parks and museums in my lunch break. Read old, familiar books. Read new, exciting books. Lie on my sofa and listen to grand opera. Go for long walks. Notice things.
What do I need most of all at this moment? To go to bed. Good night, all.
This morning, wheeling my bike out to the road, I looked up, above the houses opposite. A pink-and-blue morning sky, and a crisp, clear-edged half moon, with just a few hours to go, I suppose, before it became a perfect semi-circle. ‘Moon!’ I said, but I was tired and grumpy, and didn’t wait for a reply before cycling off.
Of late, I’ve been paying more attention to the moon than I used to. I’ve been noticing where in the cycle we are. I’ve been looking at the little circles in my diary and at the app on my phone, so that even if I can’t see the moon, I know what’s going on. I can tell whether it’s waxing or waning by looking which way the curve faces.
I’ve also been noticing my own rhythms. Not those rhythms – I’ve never had a regular menstrual cycle, and, if I’m honest, really don’t give a toss – but the less obvious rhythms, the ones that only become obvious when I pay very careful attention. This year, I noticed that every time I participated in a month-long writing activity, I ran out of steam after the first two weeks. I noticed that engaging in social activities on adjacent weekends leaves me feeling exhausted and anti-social. I read Slow Time. And I started wondering.
This year’s experiment is going to involve the moon. I’m going to see how a two weeks on/two weeks off cycle works for me. I’ll begin work on my projects at the new moon, working as intensely as I feel moved during the following two weeks, and then take stock at the full moon. After that I’ll wind down; I’ll tie up loose ends, but I won’t expect my productivity to be nearly so high. I’ll pay particular attention to rest and recuperation. I will make sure to leave every other weekend clear.
My day job will continue as normal. There are some things over which I have no control! But even there I’ll pay attention to the peaks and troughs, and where work eats one weekend I’ll make sure I get the next one to myself.
I have, of course, a whole chorus of objections in my head:
“What The Hell Is This WooWoo Hippie Shit”
“You Know You Don’t Believe A Word Of This”
“You Realise Your Coffee Cup Exerts More Of A Gravitational Pull On You Than The Moon Does”
(These three are slightly mollified by my assuring them that I’m treating the moon more as a clock.)
“You Are A Disgrace To The Sisterhood”
(This one thinks that actually I should be attempting to align my menstrual cycle with the moon, to which I say, blow that for a lark)
“What Is Wrong With You Why Can’t You Just Push On Through”
(To which I point out that this approach has been working so well of late, hasn’t it?)
So perhaps that’s what the moon’s got to say to me today. Two weeks of waxing, two weeks of waning, is enough for anybody. I’ll let you know how it goes.
The magnolia in our front garden went crazy this Winter. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t think it worthy of mention — even though it stopped me in my tracks every time I walked out the front door — but, to be honest, up until that point I had given up on it.
It had been looking so straggly the past few years, I just assumed it was past its prime and that it would be just a matter of time before we needed to make a decision re: chopping it down. The wild blooms felt like a beautiful reminder that things we’ve given up for dead may still surprise us with a new lease of life.
I turned thirty this year. That wasn’t the surprise.
What surprised me this year? The capacity for my ridiculous plans to work out surprisingly well. Walking fifty miles in four days and then throwing a party the next day in a place I’d never seen before in my life? Why the hell not? It turns out that I’ve still got my walking legs, and it was a brilliant party.
What surprised me this year? Just how much time I need to recuperate between events where I have to interact with large numbers of people. Now that I’ve started paying attention to what tires me and what helps me recover, I’m discovering that I get worn out remarkably quickly, and that even people I know well and love dearly can become too much of a good thing. Next year I’ll be better prepared for that; I’ll be ruthless with my calendar and make myself a hermitage or six.
What surprised me this year? A whole lot of developments inside my own head. The discovery that I wasn’t nearly as accepting of LGBT Christians as I’d thought I was – at least, not when the LGBT Christian in question was myself. My ability to forgive myself for that. The realisation that actually I do believe that we should be dismantling the institution of marriage. The mind-blowing epiphany that I’m allowed to make choices based on my own preferences.
What surprised me this year? How strongly I suddenly feel about things. How intense my sense of right and wrong has become; how frustrating I find hedging and politicking.
What surprised me this year? My own confidence. It seems to have grown exponentially since last December, and I thought I was doing pretty well then. But over this year I’ve been letting go of my need for outside affirmation.
(I should note, for honesty’s sake if nothing else, that today is a bit of a wobbly day. Today I am wondering if other people think I am terrible, and, if so, whether I will ever find out about it. But I’m aware that this isn’t real, that it’s a symptom of an illness, and that it will recede in a little while, and leave me with this groundedness, this trust in my own competence, that’s there underneath it all.)
I haven’t quite got to the point where I genuinely don’t care what anyone else thinks, but I am able to take ownership of my own actions, principles and decisions in a way that I used to find terrifying. Perhaps this is part of turning thirty. Perhaps it’s a by-product of work I’ve been doing elsewhere. Whatever the facts, it’s a wonderful surprise.