Saturday, 31 December 2011
Everyone is abuzz with it being New Year. Strangely some people like it better than Christmas, despite the lack of presents and roast meat. I don't much care for it myself. Not only does it tend to be a time when people get maudlin and more pissed than normal, I find it more pressured. There are resolutions, grand declarations of forthcoming intentions and looking back to count up achievements. It always feels like time is ticking by to me. I prefer to avoid it if I can.
This year is a bit different. I'm still not keen to go crazy and embrace Hogmanay like someone who is half Scottish might be expected to. But not because I'm being anti social. I'm just sorry to see 2011 go. It's the first year in a very long time I've had any fondness for. Not only was it not unrelentingly crappy, it was surprisingly good. I feel like I achieved real things. The kind of things I can tell other people and have a conversation about, rather than have them smile indulgently at me when I mention managing a trip to the Post Office as if I'm a delicate and slightly batty old lady.
Obviously I don't live my life solely according to what other people think, but sometimes it's nice to be able to join in the big people conversations and talk about stuff everyone can relate to. Years of being single, unemployed and ill mean a lot of people feel they have nothing to talk to you about and when you add in being depressed and having had bad things happen, they are practically running away. It's a big confidence boost to be able to join in again, especially as I have more than one achievement under my hat this year.
I'm not quite sure where it all started to change. Possibly when I yelled at Naomi Wolf. Being able to withstand that level of unrelenting patronising and bullshit seemed to buoy me. I certainly took the confidence with me to my new volunteer job, leaving the attitude behind and calling on my reserves of empathy instead, trying to turn my own experiences with the DWP into something that would help others. Getting up and getting out of the house within a set time frame was a challenge, but seemed to come together a bit after some practice and lots of support from my ever patient boss. In fact, I took to being back in the world of work (oh how I missed you!) well enough to apply for a proper paid job, be offered it and decline it in favour of some more work experience.
Frankly, I haven't had time to have a job. I've been too busy. I got a bit further toward my gold badge for the person in the UK to have the most therapy (and it really seemed to help.) I went for a walk on more than one occasion. I learned that wearing make up wasn't the be all and end all. I bought some clothes that weren't black. I showed my knees for the first time in ten years. I socialised without having five excuses to get out of each event (just one or maybe two...). I went on more than one date with a man, who although not interested, wasn't a total bastard. I met lots of new people, both connected to the internet and in real life. I learned some new skills and how to put other people first. I made bread. I discovered my life had been lacking an ice cream maker. I spent an entire year away from Belfast and realised homesickness can get stronger after a decade. I had a couple of days that felt normal and anxiety free and reminded me that there might be more round the corner.
So why am I so nervous about seeing 2011 go? Why aren't I embracing 2012 with gusto? Partly because it means seeing Seb Coe on the TV almost indefinitely for the next few months, but mainly because for all my progress, change still scares me. I'd got 2011 all worn in nicely, like really well loved flannel pyjamas. What if 2012 is more like a pair of shoes that never quite get comfortable? I might not achieve so much. I might be disappointed again. I know there are bad things coming this year with the introduction of the Welfare Reform Bill for example. I just don't know if any of them will touch me directly. But I feel unsettled and tense about the change of year. I plan to circumvent this though. Not with the marvellous CBT based coping strategies I've been taught this year, but with some good old fashioned avoidance. Depending how I feel after a nap, I'll either go to bed at 9pm or open a bottle of Cava and be too tiddly to care what time it is.
I'll see you all on the other side. Thank you for helping make it the best year in a long time. I look forward (albeit tentatively) to keeping it up next year with you all too!