As I write it is 11am the day before new year’s eve and I’m tucked up in bed next to the Little Chap, still in our PJ’s. All three of us have succumbed to our regular winter lurgy, coughing in unison like a frog chorus. Social plans have reluctantly been rain-checked and the hatches have been battened down.
We’re remaining pretty chipper as the enforced downtime has given us is an opportunity for reflection on the past year and to think about the year ahead.
Last new year’s eve I had an epic meltdown, a tidal wave of tears and realisation that I was living some kind of weird rehash of my childhood with Vince and I in the roles of my mum and dad. It was overwhelming. At the time it seemed like our worst New Year’s Eve ever (let’s just say the champagne did not get opened), but as a dear and wise friend recently quoted ‘if it’s hysterical, it’s historical’ and indeed it was. The following day when the squall had calmed and we sat there examining the flotsam and jetsam from the night before, Vince concluded ‘we have to commit to not being in the same place this time next year’. I remember in that moment I felt an upward shift in my body at the thought that we could live a different life, and that a year felt like the perfect timescale – long enough to make significant changes but short enough to light a little fire under us.
And so here we are, ‘this time next year’ and we are most certainly not in the same place. We couldn’t have predicted what would unfold, but in hindsight that one sentence from Vince was definitely the ball-bearing ‘drop’ on our Screwball Scramble of 2018.
Last year tested us to our limits, our stress levels at times were through the roof, but we’re definitely where we want to be, and we’re looking forward to shaping our new lives this coming year.
I love the new year for setting intentions and for the past three years my New Year’s mantra has been ‘simplify’, I suspect it will always be a key mantra for me and it was certainly the guiding light for all the changes we made this year, but today a new word presented itself: ‘pace’. I’ve mentioned it here before but it’s come up again having had to cancel much-looked-forward-to social engagements in order to try to get better.
As a mantra ‘pace’ fits really nicely for me as I contemplate the year ahead. We have some big projects in the pipe-line, a major remodel of our house and two businesses to launch, alongside continuing to settle into our school and village communities, forge new friendships and stay connected with our established nearest and dearest. All very exciting, but it’s a lot. Hopefully by keeping a mindful eye on how we pace ourselves we can enjoy all of these things and not become too stressed, stretched or rundown.
The Oxford Dictionary has a variety of definitions for the word ‘pace’ but the one I found most interesting is:
Pace: a unit of length representing the distance between two successive steps in walking
We often think of pace as being a measure of action, ‘he set a fast pace’, ‘she decided to pace herself’. Fast or slow, in our mind’s eye we tend to see the momentum of pace, but in the definition above we are invited to look at it as a measure of the space between the action. Debussy is quoted as saying, “The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them”; a favourite art college a tip was to look at the ‘negative space’ between two objects and draw that more abstract shape. Slightly counter-intuitively this shift in attention allows the objects to emerge more accurately than if our sole focus were on observing only the objects themselves. Considered (s)pacing creates a place where the vital interplay between action and quietude sits. If music was all notes and no spaces it wouldn’t be beautiful, if running was a fast shuffle it would lack speed and grace, and if the artist neglects to attend to the space between objects she fails to fully convey the relationships within the painting. One informs the other and when the balance is right art happens.
Culturally we fear being seen as lazy, productivity is king and thus all too often we get caught up saying ‘yes’ to everything and filling our diaries, writing lists of actions (and boy do I LOVE a to-do list!) and darting place to place in a flurry of ‘productivity’. We feel guilty if we take time out. These activities in and of themselves are fine and are the notes, the footfall, the brushstrokes of our lives, but this year I’d like to set an intentional pace to all that I take on this year, through the introduction of space. Being more mindful about how full we allow our weeks and months to become, asking ourselves ‘do our commitments nourish or deplete us?’, ‘is there balance between the energy we offer and expend and the time we take to restore and replenish?’, ‘have we booked some space into our calendar?’ I’d like to see if it’s possible to have a productive, useful year and remain topped up and fresh.
I wonder what is your mantra for the coming year? Are you hoping to introduce new things or looking to reduce commitments? Are there projects in the pipeline and how might you find balance?
Whatever your year looks like, I hope it’s all you truly want it to be. Here’s to a joy-filled 2019!