I’ve started 2012 by already ticking something off the bucket list: firing a shotgun. Not at DH, I hasten to add; we and the lovely friends we spent New Year’s Eve with fired into the air at midnight to celebrate the long-awaited end to That Bloody Year. It was brilliant! Definitely need to do a shooting day this year. And drive a tractor. And learn to play tennis. And take up fencing, or archery, or hockey. And write The Damned Novel, of course. ‘Such fun!’, as Miranda’s mother would say.
The last night of the year was great. Endless plates of yummy food, during a five hour game of poker. The four of us were at the table all night, with our guests Miss Taittinger and Mr Barolo. Eating, drinking, laughing. Perfick. Well, almost: it would have been great if our four children had actually, y’know, slept during their sleepover, but hey.
Today we took down our beautiful Christmas tree from the bay window where it has sat twinkling for three weeks in exactly the way I envisioned when we first set eyes on this house in July, and started the New Year proper, with the requisite resolutions to be healthier, eat better, exercise more, drink less, go to bed earlier. (We once got to 18 January without wine. I’ll let you know how we get on this year…).
There are two types of resolutions in my book: Habit Changers and Big Goals. My Big Goal you all know about (writing the novel rather than talking about it and going through the synopsis with everyone I meet). The Habit Changers involve the usual suspects, plus: investing in beautiful, matching, comfortable underwear (after my balancing surgery in 22 days, when my boobs will be the same size again, though rather less of a handful); playing more with the kiddies (I have rediscovered my love of Lego this Christmas, and also the searing, Hugh-Grant-style-sweariness-inducing pain of stepping on a rogue two-er stuck in the flokati…); being rather more high-maintenance in the eyebrow/bikini-line/manicure/pedicure department; learning a new joke every day; having a monthly date night with DH; doing more fun stuff with friends. And getting kittens. And maybe a light box to ameliorate the winter blues. And thanking the universe every night for all the wonderful things and people in my life, and the blessings of every day. And worrying much, much less about what other people think. And doing my affirmations every morning (currently: I love and accept myself just the way I am).
There is a theory, of course, that January is precisely the wrong time to be making any sort of lifestyle-changing pledges. It makes much more sense to continue to hunker down, eat comfort food, move slowly, and generally stay in semi-hibernation, and then as the first signs of spring start to emerge, match nature’s exuberant rebirth with our own new start. The number of people running around Guildford this morning was hilarious. Why not wait a few weeks to start blossoming?
I am so looking forward to this year. Today is such a lovely contrast to this time last year, when the side effects of my New Year’s Eve third chemo were beginning to kick in, and the good times seemed such a interminably long way in the future. But now the future is here, and I have a funny feeling in my tummy (and prickles in my eyes, actually) when I think about all the possibilities the year ahead holds.
And it has been quite a wonderful Christmas: for the first time, it was just the four of us on Christmas Day, in our own home. On Christmas Eve we went for a walk in the Surrey Hills with our fab friends Team H, then left a mince pie, carrot and a nice glass of Malbec for lucky Santa.
We had a romantic bit of well-aged sirloin (insert your own joke here), and finished wrapping the waaay-too-many-but-what-the-hell presents for the smalls. In the morning, they jumped onto our bed to open their stockings and have some pretty serious cuddles. We had pain au chocolate for brekkie, then cracked open the prosecco and managed to string present opening out from 9.30am to 11.30, when we had a big American-style brunch (waffles, syrup, bacon, eggs, berries, mmmn…). In the afternoon, DH assembled various Playmobil and Sylvanian Families sets while I got on gradually with the roast, which we ate at 4.30pm. The kids were on great form, we all got on really well, all day. They were delightful company: aged five and three, they are now a real double act and huge fun, and just about old enough to play family games like Connect 4 and Guess Who? (and the ill-advised Doggy Doo, but we won’t talk about that). It was a perfect, relaxed, low-key, family Christmas, polished off with Downton Abbey and a nice bottle of red.
It sort of felt like the Christmas we grew up. For the first time, we weren’t the kids going home to our parents to be fed and watered and hand over the grandchildren. We were the grown-ups. I cooked Christmas dinner for my own family (rather well, I have to say, partly due to a great-quality bird and partly down to stress-free accompaniments from Mr Marks and Mr Spencer). Something shifted for me and DH this Christmas: I have another theory that growing up is not at all a gradual process, but goes in leaps, followed by periods where things don’t change very much. We both feel like we have had a couple of major leaps forward in the past year.
I have to be honest at this point and add that you still get growing pains in your late 30s. As DH has found, it can be hard to not slip into the traditional (sometimes disempowering) roles you’ve always played as a son or daughter when parents are around. I have also found this big leap forward challenging, especially finishing my caaancer treatment on December 1. I was elated at first, but then started feeling a bit weird about it all. I mentioned earlier in the year, between my surgery and radiotherapy, that it felt like ‘God put me down’, as my lovely health creation mentor Kit once said. And I’ve been feeling like that again, except much more acutely.
I couldn’t put my finger on it until I read an interview with my Breast Cancer Hero Jennifer Saunders in December. She ‘fessed up that, actually, there are many aspects of going through treatment that are enjoyable. Being absolutely the centre of everyone’s attention, being showered with love, the laughs and quality time you have with friends on chemo days: what’s not to like? And then suddenly it’s over, you’re fine (thank God), everyone’s relieved, you all celebrate and then… life moves on, for everyone. And the funny thing is, it’s actually a bit lonely and bewildering.
Having moaned about hospital appointments and invasive treatment for over a year, I now feel slightly lost without knowing I am being kept such a close eye on by my medical team. Things get back to normal (and you know how much I have been worshipping at the altar of normal all year) and yet…what is normal, now? I don’t want to, can’t, go back to things being exactly the same, because I wasn’t happy, or fulfilled, or myself. But neither do I know what the New Normal, for me, looks and feels like, quite. I have days where I am loving life, getting on with everyone, feeling good in my skin, and then other days where I feel utterly disjointed and confused, out of kilter, and completely misread situations. My communication skills desert me and conflict reigns, confusingly. I feel like someone’s disconnected the sat nav of my life, or I’m following the rules for a different board game to everyone else.
But I guess these things take time. It’s a big period of adjustment. As always, I’m probably in too much of a hurry. I just need to breathe, drop my shoulders, smile, and go with the flow a bit more. Be myself, and let everyone else be who they are. Now that’s what I call a good New Year’s Resolution. If I can hang onto this particular wagon for January, I might just form the best habits ever. That’s worth raising yet another glass of champagne to, I reckon. When I get over my dry few days, anyway. Happy Noo Year!