The guests have gone, the decorations are down, it’s time to contemplate 2017. For the last five years, I’ve been kicking a new year off with the help of a workbook called Unravel Your Year by Susannah Conway. For someone who likes to reflect and plan, it’s an excellent tool that I would highly recommend.
Before considering the new year and any goals/plans, the guide encourages you to reflect on the past year. I know some people prefer to kiss goodbye to a year (or kick it out the door!), especially if it’s been a pretty horrific one, but in my experience there are always treasures lurking in there somewhere. If it’s been a good year, then stopping to pause is essential for cultivating a life of gratitude.
So what was 2017 like for me?
2016 was one of those years that I mentioned above, the ones most of us would choose to erase. As a family we ended the year incredibly fragile and unsure of what lay ahead. But if I learnt anything from those dark days, it was this: you might not be able to change your circumstance but you can change your attitude.
When I looked back at my notes in the Unravel Your Year workbook, words that I had written at the beginning of 2017, I was astounded by the transformation from where we were, to where we are now. I had cautiously written some hopes for the year and every single one had come to pass.
Susannah Conway also encourages you to pick a word to shape your year. For 2017 I chose the word Release. Having started the year by reading the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, I had some firm ideas of what I wanted to achieve:
- Releasing others and myself from the ridiculously high expectations I set.
- Releasing myself from guilt by removing the word ‘should‘ from my vocabulary and embracing self care.
- Releasing my children, who are all now well into the teenage years, to make their own choices.
Looking back, although I haven’t got them 100% sussed, I have made massive progress in all areas and that’s more than good enough – perfection is so overrated (see numbers 1 and 2)!
One thing I hadn’t dared to hope for, or even realised that I needed to work towards, is releasing control of the future.
The moment a mother (who is more of a control freak than she would care to admit *cough*) discovers that she cannot control her child or their future, is a scary one. When it involves trying to control whether they live or die, it’s utterly terrifying. But what I learnt in 2017, is that desperately striving to remain in control is fruitless, not to mention exhausting.
Handing the reins over to God this year has left me feeling lighter, less pressured and I think even my shoulders have dropped a little – all things I had written down as a ‘hope’ for 2017. Of course I try to pick up control again from time to time but I can now see the signs and know I am far better off letting the master take over.
Two other ‘hopes’ I documented in my Unravel 2017 workbook were: ‘to fall in love with my home again‘ and ‘to be less critical when I look in the mirror‘. I think with all the stress in 2016, I had inadvertently shunted my own interests and desires to the bottom of the pile.
I firmly believe however, that a large part of self-care is giving yourself permission to dream and follow passions. I therefore set about planning some room makeovers and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of making them happen (bar the bit where I had to ask the decorator to come back as he had missed a bit ? – still working on my assertiveness skills).
With regard to the latter goal, prior to this year I would never have posted a selfie anywhere on social media. Then this summer, I bravely shared a picture of me in a bikini on holiday!
I would be lying if I wasn’t permanently plagued by thoughts of other people sniggering behind my back, wondering why on earth I’m posting pictures of myself, but I think it’s important to embrace who we are, don’t you?
Just because we are getting older (well you might not be but I am!), it doesn’t mean we give in to society’s pressure to shrink back. Firstly, society needs middle-aged women who are going to stand up and represent this age group and secondly, I want to show my children that I like who I am (and yes, what I look like).
I’ve enjoyed sharing a few more interiors and fashion posts on my blog in 2017.
I am well aware that I have a tendency to stay in the ‘safe’ zone. Buying our own apartment in France has meant that we don’t need to go anywhere adventurous if we choose not to. Going away can sometimes feel like a hassle (especially when you’ve also got two dogs to organise) but 2017 was the year I decided to live a little – seriously out of my comfort zone here, people!
The world is a huge place and there’s so much of it yet to see! Obviously we can’t do it all at once and we are working around school holidays and everything else but I did make it to two places I’ve never been to before: Lake Garda in Italy and Lisbon in Portugal.
I also continued my commitment to this cause by booking a four day break to New York in July 2018 – somewhere that has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember.
The last page of the Unravel Your Year booklet leaves space to write a letter to yourself one year on, representing what you hope will happen. Back in January 2017, I remember being tempted to skip this part, feeling a little awkward writing to myself. But I am so glad that I did! Here’s a little snippet of my letter to me…
‘No matter what life threw at you this year, you tackled it head on. Yes mistakes were made but you didn’t bury your head in the sand or let guilt take over, you made amends and asked God to help you move forward.
You’ve grown into yourself this year, learnt to love yourself, tried out new looks and haven’t been afraid to be a little bit adventurous. Bravo!
This year you’ve invested time where it matters, you’ve shown kindness to people who needed it and in that way you’ve truly made a difference.’
Reading this letter at the end of 2017 brought a tiny lump to my throat, mainly because I wrote it in faith and actually, it’s all true. Just goes to show what a little bit of self-belief can do.
2017 has inevitably had its ups and downs but without the darkness, we wouldn’t notice the colours, would we? I hope that 2017 has been kind to you. Whether it has or not, why not spend some time reflecting on the ‘treasures’?