Significant markings of time require acknowledgement. Or not, as the case may be – it’s a personal choice. I like to be attentive to certain times; birthday’s, full moons, when to plant seeds, the holidays and the start of a new year.
We were so certain, Sadie and I, at the outset of 2020, that it was going to be a better year than 2019 – we just had to wait for March for the shift. It wasn’t what we anticipated; I think is the simplest way of putting that.
2019 was fraught with the pain of drastic unveiling and change. Mostly in the form of relationships ending. It was also the year I turned 50 and I have treasured memories of my birthday party, on holiday in Spain, with 12 close friends. I was touched they had chosen to spend their holiday with me to celebrate my significant birthday.
It wasn’t long before my birthday that I’d discovered the first sign everything was not as it seemed (to me) in my marriage. My ex (then husband) was in the grip of a midlife crisis and alcohol-induced, sleep-deprived mental trauma – much of it coming to the surface from his past. All brought on by himself. He preferred to take it out on me, rather than deal with it healthily or like an adult. His behaviour was extremely erratic and volatile. I was doing my best at the time to get him to go speak to a doctor. He was toing and froing on everything including our marriage but as it was fresh he’d still ended up coming on my birthday trip. Most of the time he went off separately with his best friend who’d come too (and is also a friend of mine). Being a more adult man, he’d realised it was best to keep him away from me and the group or he’d ruin things.
On my actual big birthday party night, at a Western Bar, all of us in cowgirl and boy outfits – his behaviour was more and more crazy until he yelled at me out of nowhere in front of some friends at the beach bar after-party drinks. I knew he was feeling jealous I was surrounded by friends who loved me and I was getting too much attention for his liking. I just walked away, down the beach promenade, making my escape. I knew there was no calming him down in that state (he’d been drinking all day) so caught up with a couple of friends who’d just left moments before, Trixie and Xavier. They were angry I’d been yelled at – on my birthday to boot. Xavier announced, “You look like Dorothy” (I was wearing a red gingham 50’s dress, cowboy hat and boots), “the boys in the old town are going to love you! I’m taking you both out for a night you’ll never forget in the gay quarter.” Well he did and he was right – it was one of the best nights of our lives – we partied until the sun came up, our jaws hurt from laughing and our feet from dancing. As we swayed, arm in arm, along the promenade back to our hotel, (after a quick pizza slice detour) our hearts were full of happiness and our heads full of Madonna and Kylie songs.
I’d been told I was literally shinning with joy that holiday, playing pool games during the day, or swimming in the sea and then enjoying tapas and sangria by evening. There was constant joking, fun silly games and love. Nothing better than spending time with the people you love. I was happy and having enormous fun, even though I’d been very recently stabbed in the heart by my (then) husband. That proved to me, no matter what else is going on – if you choose to enjoy yourself when you can – you can. That knowledge was helpful for 2020.
Back in lockdown now, my friends and I weren’t able to celebrate the usual ways for New Year’s – boat parties on the Thames taking in the fireworks from the water or house parties full of people of all ages, eating, drinking and linking arms to sing Auld Lang Syne come midnight. None of that, we were all home alone – no fireworks on the Thames this year. We did have a champagne toast on a group video chat and shared our wishes for 2021.
It’s a reflective and contemplative new year. I sat in front of the fire new years eve and thought about how I could distil down into one word my wish for 2021, when I had my one word I wrote it down and put the paper in the fire and lit a good-luck candle.
It’s so easy to write off 2020, instead I thought about each month and what I’d done. Doing that, I realised I’d achieved a great deal more than I’d thought. The achievements were small battles won making the final disentanglements from my marriage, finalising the divorce – those I’d expected because I had to hold on in faith that it would ultimately all come out alright. It took longer than I’d anticipated but ultimately, I got those things done, one by one and feel lighter for it. Freedom, freedom from power he once had over me and freedom to just be me has been my prize. Far more than that though, I’ve learnt so much the past year and thanks to taking up yoga I’m stronger too. The instructor (Myra) I’m tuned into at the minute explained that yoga is so much more than just for your body – it sets you up for life so that you can handle the “curve balls” with grace and dignity. Well, it that isn’t a fantastic goal and wish for the future – handling everything with grace and dignity. I can say I handled the end of my marriage with dignity and I’m proud of that.
It’s clear the world is evolving and we’re all feeling the growing pains. Getting lost in “what’s it all about?” and evolving too is an honourable ambition. I suppose also necessary, we’re constantly evolving – best to embrace it. My prayer for the new year I’ve found in a song, it brings it back to the simplest and true, Stay Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw. I’m just going to add “Thankful” – Stay thankful, humble and kind, that’s my new years wish for myself. P.S. it’s a beautiful song, with wise words for lyrics so do have a listen.