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Day 21: On our last day

The shortest day is over, and the year turns. I am already three weeks into my new year. I like this way of counting it. No fireworks, no countdown, no midnight stroke; just easing into the long nights, letting time pass, thinking, and watching, and listening. This works.

2014 is going to be MY YEAR because... I'm going to go bravely on, to walk with an open mind and an open heart into the new life that is stretching before me, and reach out and claim everything that is waiting for me.

In 2014, I am going to do... my very best to find an agent and a publisher for the novel that is so very nearly finished. I am going to proceed in my new job with enthusiasm and integrity, and with the joyful intention of moving on sooner or later.

In 2014, I am going to feel... scared, and exhilarated, and eventually, I hope, settled.

In 2014, I am not going to... forget everything that I have learned in 2013 about who I am and how I work. I am not going to pretend that I don't feel what I am feeling. I am not going to be cruel to myself.

In December 2014, I am going to look back and say... thank you.


Looking back at last year, I am impressed by how right I got it. I do know where I'm going next; I'm already half-way there. The novel is all but done (at least in terms of words on paper; it still needs at least two savage edits). I have been scared, and I haven't shut myself off.

And yes: that was a good year; it all makes sense now.
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Day 20: The way forward

Forward is the only direction.

The mirror never lies, but everything in it is backwards.

Look at what you see in the mirror. How does it change if you view yourself with eyes that can only look forward?


Here it is again: go bravely on.

Once this year I looked in the mirror and didn't recognise myself, not really because the face was puffy and red-eyed with crying, streaked with unfamiliar make-up, but because I was tired, and heart-sick, and had forgotten who I was.

Today, I see: ruffled hair, undeniably greying but doing it as if it meant it; a half-smile (has my expression of repose become a smile? wonderful, if so); square-framed spectacles, worn enough of the time now that they've become part of the way I look; blue eyes, rather cat-like in this particular mirror, because of the way they reflect the double lines of LEDs down the sides of it; much nose, little chin. No make-up today - it's Saturday - but I'm enjoying playing with it. Can I see that I was crying last night? No.

This is a hard question, because so much of the work that I have done this year has been visiting the past, talking to the people I used to be, talking to the people I might have been. My future self showed up once and told me I needed some new jeans, which I got, and am, as it happens, wearing today.

Looking forward. Looking forward. Days that get longer. This face. Laughing more, listening more, looking other people in the eye. Looking myself in the eye.
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Day 19: Self-compassion

The Buddha said, “You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

In the past year, I have been on a mission to understand and practice self-compassion, which is sometimes defined as "extending compassion to one's self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering," and what I have learned has made me realize that this practice is at the heart of everything.

How will you practice self-compassion?


Thank goodness: an easy question.

This is not remotely original, but I only learned it this year, and it is remarkably helpful.

The golden rule: treat others as you would have them treat you.

The silver rule: treat yourself as you would like others to treat you.

One can never really know anyone else, but one never knows oneself, either. One doesn't know the full story, and so it is worth stopping, and listening, and finding out what is really going on.
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Day 18: Peace

I am often surprised where I find peace, it is usually in the midst of chaos.

In the midst of living, did you find moments to breathe? Were there moments that held you in the embrace of peace and quiet and pure contentment?

Did these moments catch you by surprise or did you create the space for peace to find you?

How will you make space for greater peace in 2014?



This was a good year for peace. Long strolls at lunchtime; the ten minutes between arriving at choir practice and beginning to sing, while the boys are rehearsing; walking to the station before sunrise; long evenings mid-move, sitting among the ever-dwindling furniture and boxes, with a few good books; wandering around Wells and doing as I pleased, so long as I was on time for choir practice.

Some of that was deliberate; some was inadvertent. Some was experimental; some was taking advantage of situations over which I didn't have much control.

Some things that have worked: Hanging around on The Fluent Self. Making and using a Wreath of Christ. Reading The Cloister Walk.

What I would like for 2014: to find a way to work more peace into my morning train ride. To put things away so that there is space for me between them (thinking here how remarkably peaceful it was at the end of each day during the move). To spend more time out of doors, to get some really good long walks in.
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Day 17: It's your word

What word did you select to be your travelling companion in 2013? What gifts did this word bring?

What word will you choose to guide you through 2014? What do you hope it will bring into your life?


Last year's word was love. I got everything I asked for. I learned how to treat myself with compassion, remembered how it felt to be eighteen, found friends, discovered friends I didn't know I had... There is still work to do - mainly around my relationship with various family members - and of course next year will call for loving readjustments, but even so 2013 has been far more about love than I expected. It has mostly been wonderful and only occasionally painful. I would like to keep on with love.

This year's word is freedom. I have been working, this year and last, on breaking free of the mind-forged manacles, of the shoulds and oughts, of other people's expectations of me, and of what I think other people's expectations of me might be. I want 2014 to be a year where I am free of vicious circles and limiting untruths, free from fear, free from shadows, free from the lies I tell myself about myself. I want to be free for endless exploration and going bravely on. I want to be free to live in the real world.

I want to live in freedom. I want to work towards freedom, for myself and everyone else.
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Day 16: Habits and addictions

Habits and addictions, some are silly, some serious; when we have issues without answers, they can hold us so tight that we stop moving forward with the life we intended.

Were you able to loosen those fetters this year, and if you were successful, how did you manage it? Did you accept outside help, or work alone?

If you still feel that grasp of addiction or hurtful habits, what will you do differently in the year to come?


Cut for discussion of habits in general; also eating habits and deliberate variation of same )
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Day 15: Sensory highlights

Give us a sensory tour of 2013. How would you describe the year that’s passing in terms of:

Sight?
Sound?
Smell?
Taste?
Touch?


Sight
Stars and spots. Blues, yellows, creams and whites, scraps and flounces: a tablecloth, two petticoats, and eight mats.
The late spring, and everything coming out yellow at once: jasmine, dandelions, daffodils, celandine and crocus.
Cyclists, bright in lycra and with long spidery legs.
Cardboard boxes. Flat, folded, full, piled high, taped up, collapsing... Bright-printed fruit boxes, dull brown purpose-bought boxes...
Flowers in winter. Bold scarlet poinsettia, delicate pale-pink cyclamen.
The Pre-Raphaelites, who remembered that colour exists.
Saints and prophets and angels, all the way up the west front, and the sun setting, turning the whole world gold, and the moon rising silver.
Flags and banners and balloons.
The lighted windows of my old office.
Stars again, in frosty December skies.

Sound
Birdsong. Road traffic. Late at night, the impatient trumpet of a train whistle.
The metallic, curse-punctuated twanging of rim tape.
Thunder, and wind, and rain.
Welcome aboard the oh-eight-fifteen service to - London Waterloo. Calling at - Worplesdon - Woking and - London Waterloo.
The thrumming, shouting, whistling, vuvuzeling, laughing din that is a march. Pride or protest. Protest and pride.
Scampering, pattering little kitten feet, all through the house, chasing, wrestling, starting all over again.
Seagulls pontificating on the chimney of the next house down.
The scream of impossibly huge, impossibly old, petrol engines, breaking the silence of a Gloucestershire hillside.

Smell
I said before: oil, dry grass, warm leatherette.
Damp. Mould. Then the wrong, clean smell, and then it wasn't home any more.
Rubber. New bicycle tyres, wrestled into position, and the smell lingering on the hands.
Fresh paint. Then whatever it is they put windows in with.
The pear-drop solvent of suede protector spray.

Taste
Coffee. Strong and gritty, in the office cafetière. Thick and treacly and deadly, in my new little Moka Pot. Milky and bitter, after church.
Cherries, from the market in Wells. (I bought a pair of gloves, a bottle of beer, and a box of cherries. It might have been five hundred years ago.)
Cinnamon. Nutmeg.
Champagne, and other things with bubbles in. Plenty to celebrate, this year.
Red wine, for love.
Fish and chips, hot and salty and greasy - to watch the cycle races - and after the longest work day - and to move house with.
Apples, almost every day this autumn until we worked out how they microwaved best without exploding.

Touch
Sea-water, cold even in August, but salty and calming, swirling around me, holding me up.
The rush of air past me, the juddering of the road under me. Handlebars, responsive, going wherever I tell them, taking me wherever I want.
Needlecord. And velvet. Velvet coat and velvet boots and velvet gloves. Velvet cushion.
The unaccustomed weight of silver earrings.
Scratchy woollen army blanket, laid on the grass for a picnic.
Prayer beads, heavy glass and smooth wood and rough pumice, running through my fingers.
Sinking lower and lower in the air bed. Long and narrow like a mummy in the camp bed. The guest bed, like a cloud.
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DAy 14: Decisions, decisions

What was the best decision you made in 2013? What were the results? How will you continue the good work in 2014?

Decisions.

The one that turned out to be the most significant was a very hurried one: I might as well put this application in, because I can just do it in these two hours, and because I need to keep my jobseeking tab open with the universe.

The one that I put the most thought into, the one that was the most difficult, turned out not to make any difference, and then not to affect me at all. The majority voted the other way, and then I was leaving. I am, however, still glad that I put proper consideration into it.

In actual fact, neither of those two decisions would have meant anything at all had it not been for a decision I made, several times over, earlier in the year: that, if it were possible, I was going to pursue a career with my current employer.

There were alternatives, some more practical than others. Quit my job. Start temping again. I was very tempted by a part-time job with WatCh, but the timing was all wrong. Write. Be very clever with the maternity policy. And the more I thought about it, the more I didn't want to go, but I was equally concerned that there was no obvious career path for me. Of course it was all mixed up with CTony's jobseeking progress, and the question of moving, and the lack of a transfer policy and the knowledge that something, somewhere, was going to have to give. And the decision really came down to what was going to give.

The decision was to stick with it; to keep prodding at things that might let me have my cake and eat it, to move and to stay simultaneously. And it worked. Everything seemed to be very finely balanced. I prodded twice, and it all fell into place. So far, it's working well - but it's all very new.

Into 2014: to do the best job I can, to get my head around how things work at HQ, but to do all this knowing that I do not expect, nor am I expected to, do this job forever. To keep my eyes open, my ears open, for the next step. Because I have decided, I have committed, to go bravely on.
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Day 13: Alchemy

The phrase “It takes a village” is often bandied about, in reference to child-rearing, running a business, just about everything. But if you’re anything like me, you may not be a natural born collaborator.

In 2014, how could you explore what community means to you?

It might be a question of sharing the load, asking for help or signing on someone with a complementary skill set. Or it could be about a creative collaboration that pushes you to explore new ideas and media.

Where might the alchemy be?


'Not a natural born collaborator'. Indeed. One of my aunts, having her hair done for a children's party in 1961 or thereabouts, said, 'I'll do it myself, and go with it wrong'; which is fairly well representative of the whole family's attitude to life. We are a large family, but we are a bunch of loners. We do things ourselves and, often, by ourselves. I can't speak for any of the rest of them, but for my own part it's down to a combination of fear of other people laughing at my thing, and the conviction that nobody else could possibly know how to do it anyway.

At the moment, community means a hangover: the inevitable result of going straight from my new team's Christmas party to my old team's Christmas party. I very much enjoy the social side of work - by which I don't just mean the post-rally pub sessions. Even in the alternate universe where I am a best-selling author or have won the lottery I can't see myself not having an office job of some sort, so that I can go to and talk about Star Wars or Kerbal Space Program or the zombie apocalypse. I like other people more than I think I do, and being unemployed would drive me bonkers in a very short space of time.

But. I still like being the only one who does X, because everybody else will Do X Wrong. My new manager is aiding and abetting me in this approach. The responsibilities of the two administrators on the team, previously one glorious stew, have been divided neatly into two parts, to be crossed over only when one of us is away. My own feeling is that this is going to work nicely, and everybody will know what everybody else is meant to be doing, and that's how I like it. Time will tell.

Having said that, there is one part of my life where I have always been a willing collaborator, and that is in music. My estimation of my own abilities is skewed the other way when it comes to music - cello, particularly, which I never practised enough to be really good at, but I've also always had singers in my life who are 'better' than me - my mother, my husband, my best friend. This has never mattered, because for me music has always been about being a very small part of a very large whole.

I realised a while ago that I never enjoyed playing cello solo anyway. It bores me. I'd much rather be part of an orchestra. Similarly with singing: while I'm now a considerably better singer than I ever was a cellist, while I do have the odd solo at church, while I'm happy to lead raucous parties in Goodnight Irene, Clementine, The Last Thing On My Mind and similar, while I'm confident enough now to know when I'm right and the person next to me is wrong (even when it's CTony), and to ignore them, I still prefer being in a choir to singing on my own.

And music is instant social life. Even for shy retiring types such as myself, music gets you talking to people, and learning who's who, and discussing over coffee or wine how horrible that entry before letter C is, and why don't the basses ever watch. I shall miss my current choir horribly, because they are so very good and so much fun, and also I wanted to sing at Norwich Cathedral and now I won't get to. There will be choirs in Cambridge (ha, that's an understatement!) and I will find one to join. Maybe there will be some kind of amateur orchestra that plays stuff just for the hell of it. (Here is the advantage of playing cello: you can be completely rubbish, and people will still take you, because there are never enough cellos.)

So that's one alchemical set-up, and there's nothing really surprising there; this is really reprising tactics from all my other progressions. My other major creative activity is writing, and this is where community and collaboration are harder to find, and, indeed, possibly counter-productive. After all, every evening I'm discussing the brilliance of Firefly in a pub somewhere is an evening I'm not writing. I'm not Jane Austen, writing in the morning room between callers. I write by turning on the computer and shutting the door. And God forbid anybody ever sees what I've written.

Except that's not true at all. The quantity and quality of my work has increased dramatically since I started taking part in Picowrimo, where one not only talks about writing but shares snippets of one's writing. Three months of Pico and I have the best part of a novel, as opposed to six years simmering resentment and the constituent parts of a novel sprayed haphazardly across at least twenty different ODT documents.

Two scenes to write, about fifteen to finish, at least three very thorough reads-through which will undoubtedly see much changed, and then comes the terrifying part, where other people read it. At least, I suppose they have to. Not much sense in its sitting on my Dropbox forever.

It will be the better for it. I know that. It takes more eyes than mine to pull out the faults, the glitches, the inconsistencies; but this scares me. I have no idea of any strategy, only, finish the damn thing, finish it properly I mean, and then start prodding things, and trust that the right people will appear.
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Day 12: Turning Mud to Gold

I'm a big fan of muddy experiences. They become our greatest teachers when we're wise enough to exfoliate with them; roll around in the deep until we finally feel ready to get clean.

Today, identify something muddy that kept recurring for you throughout 2013, and then ask yourself this: What's the clear truth underneath this damn mud if I finally wash myself clean?


Not mud, I think. Dust. And some mould. But mostly dust. Cobwebs and fluff and hair and all sorts, all of it.

(I am reminded of the poet Bunthorne: O! to be wafted away/From this black Aceldama of sorrow,/ Where the dust of an earthy today/ Makes the earth of a dusty tomorrow! - not that this has anything to do with it.)

2013's recurring muddy, or dusty, experience has been moving house. There has been an entirely ridiculous amount of moving. My father downsized in the grand fashion. I am told that this was just as bad as the last time we downsized - but it had the huge advantage of my not having to do a whole lot about it. Tony moved out of our flat into Tom*-and-Iona's and then to Sawston. I moved out of our flat into Tom's* parents' house and then into Tom's house.

That concludes the moving in which I played any active part, but there seems to have been a lot of it about - friends' moves, colleagues' moves, none of it straightforward.

Despite my gloomy allusions to dust, none of this year's moves have actually been as bad as all that. In fact, I was pretty damn efficient, packed up loads of boxes on my own, coped remarkably well with having a stinking cold in the middle of it all, and did a decent job at everything that didn't require a driving licence. (Tony did everything that did require a driving licence, and was fantastic.)

This mud, this dust, isn't from 2013. It's partly from 2007/8, as suggested yesterday, and mostly from 1999. 1999 is why I will tell you I hate moving house. 1999 was possibly the worst year of my life, though 2000 wasn't much fun either. 1999 went on and on. 1999 was the year we had to move, because. 1999 was the year I didn't get a say in it. 1999 was the year I was powerless. 1999 was the year I could have told you it was going to be awful and not do a blind bit of good anyway. 1999 was the year I had four different addresses, one of them twice. 1999 was the year I left the school I liked, joined a school I hated, left that one, went back to the first one, and found my best friend had moved away and I hated this school too, now.

1999 is why I hate moving. 1999 is why it's a challenge, not an adventure. Washing the dust away, I find a scared, angry, fourteen year old self to whom nobody is listening, who is trying resentfully, self-sacrificially, to just shut up and live with it for the sake of holding the family together. (This does not work.)

I didn't know she was still there. Not until I woke up three weeks ago in Sawston and heard the wind dashing up and down the estate did I realise that I was freaking out about the wrong move, that it was the wind off St Catherine's Point that was chilling me, all the way back from half a lifetime ago.

This move is not that move. The occasional sense that I have now, that I have let the universe back me into a corner, is not the screaming lack of agency that was mine then. In this move (for it's only one, really, no matter how many different ways I tot up our addresses) I have been setting my own terms all the way along. I have been able to go at my own pace, and ways for that to happen have turned up in a most obliging fashion. I have asked for things, and they have appeared.

This is not that move, but part of me is still in that move, and still scared and still hurting. I am trying to let her out. And so I have learned about being kind to myself. I have learned about choices. I have learned about compromise and progress and how to ask for what I actually want rather than what I think I ought to want.

Wash the dirt away, and you can see how deep the wound goes. Then you can make a start on patching it up.

______________

*Two different Toms here, if you were wondering.
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Day 11: Boldly Go

What challenges lie ahead in 2014? How might you meet them boldly?

Cambridge. Cambridge is one hell of a challenge.

My goodness, I'm scared of Cambridge. Or, rather, I'm scared of everything I mean by Cambridge. April, or maybe May, 2014: moving house. Starting all over again.

No, actually, what scares me is the idea that moving to Cambridge is going to be just like moving to Guildford was, back in 2007. That I will not know anybody except Tony who will not have time to see me and that I will take years to make friends and that I will feel as if everybody knows that I am a fraud and Do Not Belong There.

That is a reasonable thing to be scared of, because at least the first year in Guildford was pretty grim. It is also an unreasonable thing, because none of that is true any more.

I will be living with Tony. I have at least three university friends in Cambridge, an uncle in Ely, a cousin in Bury St Edmunds, not to mention all the AFPeople who really count as Tony's friends but who are lovely. I am much better at making friends now than I was then. I will actually notice if I get depression again, because I know what to look for now. And, just as not everybody in Guildford is a millionaire three times over, not everybody in Cambridge will have three degrees.

But.

It is still a challenge. It is probably going to be much more of a challenge than my recent change of job has been, because a lot more is changing. I'm not starting from scratch, but I'm still starting. And we will be moving back in together, and will no doubt both prove to have picked up some foul bachelor habits in the intervening six months, and will have to get over all that.

I am allowed to be scared. I am allowed to be sad.

There was an art exhibition at my church recently, a selection of abstract paintings by a painter priest called Robert Wright. The titles were all, I believe, quotations from Thomas Merton. I was particularly struck by one entitled go bravely on. I liked the echo of to boldly go, and the painting itself was all red and gold and black and white, arrowheads and circles, which felt, yes, very sci-fi. Had I been feeling rather richer and less timid, I might have bought it; as it was, I have carried the title around with me ever since, and turned it over in my pocket when I had difficult decisions to make, and I think it needs to come with me for at least a while longer:

go bravely on

I will wear my cockle shell. I will remember that I am a pilgrim. I will move forwards to keep my balance. I will go bravely on.
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Day 10: Auto-pilot

Living life on auto-pilot can feel disorienting and dull. How did you cultivate a life worth loving during 2013?

How can you turn off your auto-pilot button in 2014?


I'm not sure I had much choice in the matter, actually. This was the year that everything changed whether I liked it or not. I had to move on. Staying on auto-pilot would have meant crashing into the cliff face.

Our landlady wanted us out of the flat we'd been in for four years. My husband got a job a hundred miles away. Everything was changing and even then I was scrabbling for ways to keep everything the same, even though it couldn't possibly be the same. Even though I'd already got fed up with the way things were.

The universe very graciously gave me two shots at everything, and this turned out to be invaluable. Two holidays: one to cry and fight and sing, and one to sing and laugh and write. Two moves: one to grieve the loss of the home, and one to be thankful to have somewhere to live. Two job interviews: one to panic about how I couldn't possibly cope at HQ, and one to get the job and realise I was going to love it. This autumn has almost been a repeat from 2008 - living in a room in Guildford and waiting for something to happen - except it has been so much better than 2008.

Which is all very interesting, but not answering the question at all, because the question is about what I did, not what anyone else did for me. There were four things:

a) insisting that holidays - namely, a weekend at the seaside, and choir tour - were going to happen, no matter how broke we were;
b) identifying four states of being in which I wished to continue for the next year and beyond (alive - sane - married - employed);
c) beginning to make a real practice of looking at myself and the inside of my head and finding out what I was feeling and why I was feeling it;
d) writing.

I promised you a story yesterday. I realise now that it doesn't really answer the question, either, because again we are talking about external events; and even going by my new liturgical year, it happened before the start of this one. But I promised, and it's not a story of what happened, it's a story of what I did with what happened.

The women bishops thing. It hurt. It hurt a lot, and I don't want to tell the story again. I was hurt and I was angry. I was furious. And I knew it was too good to waste. And it was nearing the end of Picowrimo and I had finished everything I had meant to write, and so I wrote about Synod. First, a scene in an oft-abandoned novel that wasn't about Synod at all, really, except now it is. Then, a post explaining why I wasn't going anywhere (still one of my best, I think).

The novel went on. All this year I kept bashing away at it. Three months of Pico and some solo work in between. The plot shrank and fell into place. The characters developed character. I had to rewrite the whole first section and it worked a million times better than I'd ever thought it could. It comes from Synod. It comes from my anger with Synod. It comes from my deciding to use my anger with Synod.

I was angry, and I did something with that. I directed all that righteous fury into something creative, something that might turn out to be good. I am very proud of that.

That, then, is how I turn off the auto-pilot. I must use what I am given, and feel what I am feeling.
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Day 8: What went right

What went right in 2013?

Maybe you didn't quit smoking or lose those pounds or go to Paris, but something did work, did happen, and/or was realized. What was it?


Everything.

Fine. Almost everything. Seriously, so many things have gone right that I am not counting the ones that didn't. I spent months of this year waiting for things to happen and then they did:

- There was the long chain of events, which started with Tony finishing his PhD - then passing his viva, then getting a job, then submitting, then my realising that I actually do like my career, then applying for the Only Job I Would Ever Want, not getting it, and then discovering and almost accidentally getting another one - and which will finish in about April when we move back in together.
- Whatever it is that has happened in my brain, where I am good at stuff and I like myself. This has been gathering speed over the last few months, and kicked in seriously over the past couple of weeks, and I am flabbergasted and so very happy.
- Learning to ride a bike. An actual, honest-to-goodness, two-wheeled bike, on the actual, honest-to-goodness, road.
- Breaking free of the 'you must eat all this food or it will be WASTED' mindworm.
- My novel! It has a plot, and characters with characters, and things happen because of other things and it's sitting at 90,000 words and is nearly done.

Thank you, 2013. You have been a wonderful year.
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Day 7: Reveal your self(ie)

Please post your favourite picture of yourself from 2013, self-portrait or otherwise!



(Can you see that? It is linked from someone else's Facebook picture, and I can never quite work out the permissions...)

Dancing with my father-in-law at his wedding. If I recall correctly, it was the Grease megamix. I love it.

It doesn't really match up with my mental picture of myself (largely, I suspect, because I never smile as broadly as that when I'm looking in the mirror, and also I almost always wear glasses now) but then they very rarely do, and it's very definitely a picture of me.

And:

I am clearly having a fantastic time. I am rocking my chequerboard dress (made for me by my mum years ago) and my two starched petticoats (made by me, this year). I am also wearing very obvious lipstick and not giving a damn. And I am looking out of the picture and am pleased to see people. This is very much a picture of me this year. It was taken almost six months ago, but it might almost be a picture of me from last week. I have come out of my shell over the past month, but now I can see in that photo that it was already happening in June.
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Day 6: Memories are made of this

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.”— E.S. Bouton

There are so many “precious things” that are presented to us each day; discoveries and treasures found in simple moments, memories we wish to store in our hearts and keep with us forever.
What precious things have you gathered in 2013?

Which memories from this year do you wish to keep with you always?


3267 features quite heavily:

A very early morning, chilly and excited, chugging up an all-but-deserted A3 at 25 miles per hour, with the silver birch trees casting long, long shadows in rose-gold light, serving coffee from a thermos in a rag-tag collection of plastic mugs. And the delighted grin of the lorry driver overtaking us, not quite believing his eyes.

The long drive to Cheltenham for the Bugatti La Vie En Bleu weekend, on a hot, sleepy, June day that stretched into a drowsy, perfect evening. The back of the bus to myself, wondering which particular rattling noise was the one that had everyone so - rattled. Standing on the back platform and smiling at the cars passing us. Eating salami and French bread in a layby. Listening for all the birds of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire. Fish and chips in a pub, and watching the last rays of the sunset striking Bredon Hill.

And the next day: sitting in the bus, with scores of beautiful old cars screaming up the track behind us, and the smell of grass and oil and warm leatherette. Just for a moment, nobody on the bus to tell about how it was built in 1935, and ran in Paris until 1970 when my father bought it straight out of service, and how all the smokers had to stand on the back platform, so that was always packed and the saloon was always empty, how the spare seat in the cab is probably for an army officer in the event of the bus being requisitioned, and how the lever on the back platform is an emergency handbrake in case the driver collapses - but, at the moment, none of that. Happy people and hot coffee and this is what we are for.

Earlier in the year, trundling nervously around and around Woking park, determined to get the hang of cycling on two wheels, and, every time, passing a brilliant yellow crocus growing between the roots of a tree, and being startled by it every time.

Singing I Was Glad at Sarah and Rob's wedding. Dancing to Call Me Maybe at Jim and Val's. Laughing at Sarah's inspired choice of postcard for me (we all had book covers; mine was The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism, Capitalism, Sovietism and Fascism.)

Of late, pelting home from Evensong on my scooter, the pavements deserted and the air pleasantly chilly and the thrill of speed.

At the staff away day, playing moral dilemma team-building games, outlining my grumpy, opinionated and somewhat off-the-wall approach to the 'who do we save from the shipwreck?' problem, to find my partner for the exercise proffering a hand to be shaken, having come up with the exact same solution. (The rest of the group thought we were lazy and callous; we were convinced that ours was the only ethical way to do it.)

The interview for the job I didn't get, which I think was the most enjoyable one I've ever had.

And this one: on the M25, Tony driving the in-laws' car back to them after the move. A CD of hymns (from Ely, I think) on the stereo, a showery day. A rainbow over Heathrow, and planes flying over it, under it, through it, and then: Tell out, my soul, and the two of us putting in the pom pom pom pom, and smiling.
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Day 5: Risk

What was the greatest risk you took in 2013? What was the outcome?

I don't know, yet. At least, I have my ideas about the greatest risk, but I won't know the outcome until well into 2014. Perhaps longer.

This whole autumn was about risk. I had a choice of risks. Risking my career, risking my marriage, risking my sanity. (I'm not sure that's hyperbole, either.)

I have a feeling that it looks from the outside as if I chose to risk my marriage rather than my career. I chose to keep doing my job. I chose to stay in Surrey while my husband moved to Cambridgeshire.

As it turned out, I got the mythical 'something in head office' and my job moved to London. As it turned out, I'm still in Surrey and he's still in Cambridgeshire. We're hanging on until April or May. All the while, it's a risk.

I am happy in my own mind that it is a justified risk. I am pretty sure that chucking in my job and starting over again with temping in a new city would have been disastrous, for my mind and for my marriage. I am enjoying my new job and the associated prospects of career progression, although I haven't yet adjusted to the length of the commute and the size of the workforce. I am happy with this risk. I don't think I could have done anything better with what I had.

But.

But I still don't know how it's all going to turn out.
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Day 4: Grieving

This past year, we have all experienced so much loss and experienced so much grief -- in relationships, through sickness and death, from mental illness or abuse, because of finances, even due to the need for healthy change.

It is good to honor those shifts, to fully feel them, so that we can let go of what needs surrendered, and remember what is worthy of our love and gratitude.

What have you lost, what are you grieving?


Today, the answer that is screaming to me is, Guildford. And by Guildford I mean the Guildford office, and by the Guildford office I mean the people in it. It has been three days at HQ, and today was the day that I finally got my head around the idea that I wasn't going back to Guildford. (Which makes sense. I have previously worked at HQ for two consecutive days, but never three.)

I said I would miss them all horribly, and I am. The interesting thing is that when I said that, I had no conception of what missing people actually feels like. (Similarly, I said the commute would wear me out, and it is, and I had completely forgotten what fatigue is actually like.) I have been thinking things like, right about now somebody will be making a detailed plan for surviving a zombie apocalypse, and the rest of the team will be standing around pointing out the flaws in this. Stands the church clock at ten to three? And is Laura asking who wants tea?

I am playing with the idea that I am leaving, not losing, these people. I am remembering that moving on was necessary, and that it will have been what I needed to do.

I'm going to the pub with them next Friday, and then the Friday after that.

Going backwards - I am not grieving for the Woking flat. I might have expected to, had I known I'd leave it this year, but I'm not. It was four years of my life, four good years, but the end was sour, and exhausting. I do get a little twinge of nostalgia when I pass through Woking on the train, but I've moved on from there fairly painlessly.

And Melbury - my father's too large, too crowded, too ruinous house. No, I don't miss Melbury. Brigitte, gone to Nigel. She was going to be my bus, but I don't need a bus. Nigel will look after her far better than any of the rest of us.

Other people's grief: not mine to talk about, so I shan't.

Way back at the beginning of the year: Cousin David, who will be resting in peace and rising in glory. That grief is done, and good things happened. Cousins I didn't know. The assurance of the validity of my own spirituality.

Leaving, not losing. Loving and letting go.
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Day 3: Listen to your heart

Each day for 31 days, I sat quietly for a few moments with my eyes closed and my hand on my heart and asked, “Heart: what do you need?”

And then I listened. Sometimes the answer came in the form of a word. Sometimes an image. Sometimes a sensation.

Try this today. What does your heart have to tell you?


This is a very short answer. Usually I would keep this sort of exercise to my own paper journal, for fear of the entire internet showing up to laugh at me, but really I would be more bothered about this series not being symmetrical because of having one entry under f-lock or completely private.

But I have been out drinking wine and eating chocolate with the church yuppies (well, we're not yoof) and am feeling pleasantly melancholy and uninhibited, and here it is:

free

Apparently my heart didn't think the answer needed to be a noun. Or to have capital letters. Nor am I really sure what it's referring to. But there it is.

Possibilities include: the feeling I have of having been backed into a corner with regard to moving, career, etc; the long-running crush; attempting to do this exercise on the 1730 off London Waterloo.

Or it could be it's none of those. I will find out. Or I won't. We'll see.
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Day 2: Nourishment

The way we nourish ourselves determines our ability to shine our light in the world. And nourishment doesn't just come in the form of food and drink and sunshine; it's equally important to nourish your spirit.

What made your soul feel most nourished this year?


If I said, the sacrament, my parents would probably disown me, and I can't help feeling it's a bit of a smart-arse answer, and I am still not quite High enough to be entirely comfortable saying that. And yet it is true.

I have become particularly aware this year of the way my faith has changed over the past few years, the way it has become less about what I believe and more about just being there. And how by 'just being there' I mean both the actual physical turning up, and the intense conscious mindfulness that I attain for maybe ten seconds. How it requires less effort and more heart. How it is less defensive and more loving. And a lot of that is about there being something that is real and true even when my brain is not working or my heart feels dead. How, while everything is real, this is the most real thing of all.

Just being there. Sitting with myself. Getting to know myself. Unravelling the snarls and the tangles in my history and my present. Goodness knows my brand new 'disentangling' tag has been getting a lot of use lately, and this is about nourishing my soul in that it's about preparing it for nourishment. Pulling the stones out before digging the manure in. Or something like that. I have explored a lot of The Fluent Self this year, and that's helped a lot with all this. Being kinder to myself.

(And then of course I will always say: music. Specifically, singing, which helps me get inside things like nothing else. And interesting things have happened there, recently, but I think I'll save them for the moment.)
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Day 1: On your first day

It is the first day of December. It is the first day of Summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, but it may the first day of Winter where you are.

It is the first day of Reverb13.

How do you feel, on this first day, in your mind? In your body? In your heart? In your soul?



It is the first day of Advent. It is the first day of the year, and it is the first time that I have begun my year here.

This is how things look on the first day:

I am nervous. I have left the safe and familiar and am starting something new. I am tolerably confident that I can make a good job of this, but it is intimidating. At the same time, my mind is singing at an immense compliment that was paid me this morning. I'm also nervous about my solo this evening, or, rather, conscious of the fact that I will be nervous, when I get there.

I am tired. Sleepy. If I were to get into bed, I would fall asleep. My feet, too: I'm aware of having walked, yesterday. I'm pleasantly full, of Spanish cabbage soup, and sour cream and onion flavour Pringles. There is a blister on my left little toe, which is a little bit sore when I wiggle it. I've had my hair cut, and the back of my neck feels very exposed. It's a bit chilly generally, actually, but I will be going out in half an hour. The sun is going down behind the houses opposite, and there is a streak of flame running between two layer of thick purple clouds. But I'm feeling well: at the moment, my body is working pretty well and I'm pleased with it.

My heart is a little apprehensive, too. It takes me (or so I believe) a long time to make friends. I know that I am going to miss my old colleagues. I fear that I will lose touch with them, and also that it will take me as long to get to make friends with the new ones as it did with the old. Both of these fears are unfounded, I think. I am not the same person I was when I joined the organisation; also, half the office seems to be trying to meet up with me for lunch. I am missing my husband, who is nearly a hundred miles away, and still waiting for a crush to dissolve. My heart is trying to love everybody, which is wonderful, but sometimes tiring and sometimes painful.

And in the middle of all of this, my soul is remarkably calm. Ready. Expectant. Aware of progress having happened, and being about to happen, and at the same time accepting itself as is. We had this hymn this morning. The last verse still makes me cry.

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Kathleen Jowitt

April 2015

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