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 Como 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’?
Michelle Twin Mum5 years ago
I’m so glad that 2017 has been a much lighter year for you and the family and that you’ve been able to relax into the Fathers care. Well done and happy new year Suzanne. Mich X
Sarah MumofThree World5 years ago
What a beautiful post. There was a little lump in my throat too. I’m so glad 2017 finished better than it started and you made things happen as you wanted them to.
I am always in awe of the way you plan and reflect and wonder if I’m missing out by not doing it. I live my life day to day as it comes and planning is limited to whether a ballet lesson clashes with a parents’ evening and whether the next football match is home or away!
Happy new year to you and your family. X
Plutonium Sox5 years ago
Aww I’m so glad you’ve had a good year, you certainly deserved it as a family after what you went through last year. All the best for 2018, I hope it’s another good one for you all.
Jess Soothill5 years ago
I am finding this too – as I approach 40 I am feeling more critical about my looks, but actually I am the happiest I have ever been. I think it’s important to be yourself and not to hide away. There’s so many exciting things going on that we should embrace them. I am REALLY looking forward to reading more of your blog this year. Happy new year lovely xx
Suzanne W5 years ago AUTHOR
Thank you Jess. Your blog is an inspiration to me! I think it’s important that us slightly older women (not putting you in my category just yet!) are represented online – it’s a huge market and one that quite often needs help! Thank you for reading my blog this year. xx
Amanda Masters5 years ago
A beautiful reflection of your year, so very glad it ended more positively than it started.
Your strength and faith are so inspiring!
I hope 2018 brings you all nothing but contentment x
Suzanne W5 years ago AUTHOR
Thank you so much Amanda. You’re support online has been amazing this year. xx
Helen Wills5 years ago
“When it involves trying to control whether they live or die, it’s utterly terrifying.” This has been the greatest lesson of my entire life Suzanne, and to relinquish it has taken me 3 years. 3 years of trying to control something I ultimately can only ever influence briefly, if at all. I’m still not quite there, but I’m liking your take on it. Another type 1 mum who’s been there for longer than me told me that you have to confront the unimaginable – your child’s mortality – and come to terms with it, before you can truly start to live your own life (and let them live theirs) again. I actually take my hat off to you – and me – and anyone else who has managed to do that and come out the other side. It’s a huge achievement, and I’m beginning to realise that it’s a massive relief, in a perverse way.
And secondly, you are totally right about the need for older women to be represented – we are often our own worst enemies, but business and the media tend not to be our friends. I’m on bit of a mission this year on that score. Let’s make an army and do this! 🙂
Suzanne W5 years ago AUTHOR
Yes to an army! Helen I know your situation isn’t the same as mine but I’m sure we have experienced some of the same emotions. I can see our situation turning around now (at least I hope so) but I know for you this anguish will likely go on forever. Learning to let go is so important for our own sanity and everyone else around us. You’re amazing.
lorraine5 years ago
Suzanne how hard is it to let our children make decisions and have their freedom, I admire you for being brave enough to do this after your year. My husband works in child bereavement & I over worry knowing things do happen, I am trying to not let my anxiety control me and have given my lovely 17yo some space. On a lighter note (although I’m such a chicken) I am considering a little cosmetic treatment for my benefit, eek!
Here’s to a good, kind, 2018 for both of us.
Suzanne W5 years ago AUTHOR
Oh Lorraine this sounds very exciting! I had my teeth done this year which should probably fall into the ‘cosmetic treatment’ category. Will you be documenting it on your blog? Totally agree on the anxiety around letting children go. Your husband must see so much tragedy, making it even harder for you. x
Tracey Williams5 years ago
What a beautifully written post Suzanne and I am so glad that 2017 has been kinder to you. I really like the sound of that book as I love thinking about the last year and how we can learn from it. You sound very similar to me in wanting to be in control of our kids, and boy this is really hard to overcome as they get older. One thing Suzanne you always look so stylish and gorgeous so keep those selfies coming x
Suzanne W5 years ago AUTHOR
Thank you so much Tracey, I need every word of encouragement on that score! This relinquishing control thing is definitely the hardest part of the teenage years, for me anyway. I’ve definitely been on a learning curve this year and know there will be more to come but we are on the right track…I think! Good luck with you and yours. I know we are in the same Year 11 nightmare! xx
natalie5 years ago
Lovely post – I am so critical of the way I look, I think I have definitely lost my confidence in my appearance since becoming a Mum. I envy people who have the confidence to post pictures of themselves and not care what people may think. This is very much something I am planning to work on this year (no idea how mind!!). Happy New Year lovely lady. xxx
Gail5 years ago
Love this post, Suzanne – it’s so well written and on so many things your mindset is very similar to mine. That workbook sounds fantastic – like you I also like to reflect on the year gone by and feel positive. Wishing you and your family every happiness for 2018 xx
Lauranne5 years ago
Well done you.