If life were a busy train station, and you were stood still on the platform, unable to move – not an inch, not a centimetre – thoughts of personal failures come flooding back in. “Why didn’t I leave sooner?”, “Why didn’t I say this or that?”, “Why didn’t I…?” “Why did I..?” Why, oh why indeed! The body tenses up with worries and your feet won’t move in any direction. You want to but things just feel too heavy, too hard…too much. You make promises to yourself, set up To-Do Lists, set up Ta-Da Lists, sign up to courses, read books, read THE book, listen to podcasts…But still, still, life stands unstirred on that exact spot. The ground feels frozen, the air is cold from the swish that comes with speeding trains on tracks and that pigeon with missing toes flying over your head; you are surrounded by urban life, movement all around. And yet you are that dot that remains unmoved.
MMXX shows up, has a look-see around the station and says, “Listen, I will stop the train for you, so get on it, and get on with the things you’ve always wanted to do”. I guess MMXX got the memo from previous forsaken New Years’ resolutions and didn’t want to deal with people’s frustrations this time around. Quit daydreaming and actually do might have been this year’s motto. Luckily for me, I got on that train and things started to happen. I still resist it but things are happening nevertheless…
How many items of your New Year’s resolutions and wishes actually came through to you? Have you checked?
Following the tradition in Portugal of making a list of 12 wishes, accompanied by a dozen raisins to be eaten – a wish and a raisin for each chime at midnight – I made sure to put that post-it with my top 12 on the inside of my diary and forgot about it until now. After analysing my list of wishes for MMXX made at a friends’ New Year house party back in 2019, when indoor gathering with people outside your social bubble was allowed, I realised that, quite surprisingly, I managed to achieve many concerning personal growth. That’s a first! I thought the point of making lists of wishes was to look back at them and feel a sense of defeat for not being a better person with some ambition. Indeed I wrote more. Indeed I made new connections (truly magical ones at that). Indeed I gained confidence. Indeed I gained insight and knowledge. Indeed I did! Like everything else in the Universe, there’s the need for balance. I had plans. I had planned to travel for family. I had planned to dedicate more time to tango, that bad boyfriend of mine. A change was needed if writing, magical connections, confidence, insight and knowledge were to be done, made and gained. No point in keeping one foot on the platform and the other on the train – you need to go full in!
MMXX started like all the previous years: friends, food, music, dancing. It also featured a new commitment from me to keep writing blogposts, although I had no idea where it would lead me. I was going to go where the river would take me. And like those coots and other birds swimming in lakes and canals, when there’s a sudden swell in the water, you go in, go as far as you can handle, dive deep and swim away. Sometimes the way to leave a situation is to not resist it and let the solution find you. And so I started to write, found my tribe, and rediscovered my love for performing. Away from social dancing, my creative soul needed to find a home and found it on a virtual stage with The London Writers’ Salon and their Open Mic sessions. Poems and monologues have spawn from me usually through my newly acquired journaling practice of morning pages. The river has swollen and I followed its lead until it was time for me to swim away.
It was choppy waters out there, missed train stops, the lot. While the Earth travelled nearly 30 kilometres per second (67,000 miles per hour), we stood still. The social animals that we are had to stand still and at arms’ length. That’s not to say nothing happened, quite the contrary – lots have happened. Out in the world, people were being the agent of change: social justice, climate justice, political justice…We were not silent. We queued, we marched, we protested. News cycles with different versions of truth. Political divisions. Scientific consensus. Masks On/Off. For/Against Vaccines. Statues Up/Down. All of these with Brexit and US Elections overtones. It has been the Year of the Storm so the Calm is coming soon. I know it is. Despite the turmoil, a sense of community rose and showed up. For some, it has been a senseless year. For others, it has been a year of heightened perceptions. I lost my sense of smell and taste in late March and now they are unlike they were before. MMXX bears the scent of sweet-smelling burnt wood and a metallic aftertaste on the tongue. In a twisted way, MMXX has scorched the land and is ready to build a new world from the ashes of our making.
While we wait for what the future holds – the future we cannot entirely control or shape – I have learnt not to plan for tomorrow but act today because in pandemic times, things change at an eye-blinking speed; read the books; find your tribe; keep connections alive; celebrate your friends’ achievements, especially when they are not near you; it’s okay to say no; it’s okay to say yes; it’s okay to be vulnerable; claim your personal space; claim your personal time; be grateful; be kind; be brave; find your voice and learn to trust it; write; sing; dance; exercise; rest and sleep; do in moderation; breathe; live.
Plans for next year? I have yet finalised my top 12 but I have a brand new diary to project my hopes for the 12 months ahead. The cover features an iridescent peacock with beautiful blue and green plumage. It’s a wish for healing, the rise of the phoenix from the ashes – an mythic version of the peacock. Once the ashes and dust settle, things will come back to life, a new way will be found. As this awaits to be unfurled, I shall howl at midnight on the first day of the year to rid the old and make space for the new – fill my lungs with air as I fill my heart with hope.
“As you start to walk out on the way,
the way appears”Rumi
So what happened this year that has marked you? What would you have mended? Prepare your list of wishes and let’s see how things change next year. Don’t forget that while the Earth travels nearly 30 kilometres per second, make every second count…Every journey starts with a first step and the way will reveal itself.