It must be something to do with the fact that over the Christmas break I have time to stop, reflect, and review. The fact that it will very soon be the new year adds to the spirit of retrospection. It's the perfect time to look back and take stock. What has the year held? Did I achieve what I wanted? Did I challenge myself? Did I learn?
This time last year I was a bit lost, rudderless in the world of parenting, working, being an active community member. Bogged down in the quagmire of needing to be a good wife/mother/person (and not just "good", the pressure I put on myself to be the "best" was unbelievable! ) it was very hard to find any enjoyment. The most important things were slipping by unnoticed as I waded my way through the gargantuan laundry pile while worrying that Child A would only eat raw pasta and was therefore was on the brink of malnourishment (in fact she ate a lot of other good food too, it just seemed that way to my paranoid brain) and that Child B was growing up to be a delinquent after having to sit on the dreaded "Bench" at school one lunchtime, snapping at anyone who got in my way as I mechanically trundled my way through a endless, thankless cycle of clean and messy. Good housewife or bust.
It was not a happy time, for any of us.
The realisation that I might have been hiding behind the metaphorical laundry pile hit as soon as I had time to stop, sit, and think. And of course that time was Christmas. It isn't hard to know that something is wrong - what's hard is working out what that thing is, and then fixing it.
And so, at Christmas last year, I sat down and wrote a list of all the things that I really wanted to include in my life, and currently wasn't.
Not once on the list did Must keep the house spotless appear. Neither did Force children to eat what I cook no matter what. Concentrate all my efforts on everyone else and ignore the things that I really want to do was also conspicuously absent. That's because those things - the clean-house-or-else things, the care-what-everyone-thinks things, the fit-yourself-into-a-category-so-you-are-easy-for-people-to-classify things are not, in fact, the things that matter.
The truth is simple, and once said out loud it seems so obvious that people hear it and call it a cop out before they stop and think.
The truth is that You Only Get One Life.
Life is a thing of undetermined length and endless potential, and what goes into it is Up To You.
If you want to sit on the couch and watch TV and never have a thought in your head that someone else hasn't put there, then that is your choice.
If you want to grab life by the balls and ride that bitch like a rodeo bull, experiencing all the ups, downs, and side-ways that you can, that too is your choice.
My list was a clear and conscious effort to make sure that when my life flashes before my eyes I don't get a vision of years-worth of dishes in the sink.
Reading the list back a year later, I'm proud to say that there are a few things I've actually achieved.
Item 12 was Do more painting, and Item 11 was Have an exhibition of my paintings. Item 9 was learn to use a chain saw - and I am learning, slowly.
Some of the items on my list no longer seem so important - Number 31 was "Get Photoshop and learn to use it" , and some I am just left thinking WTF???
(Incidentally, the list was something I wanted to remember and be able to refer back to so I typed it, and this is exactly how number 26 appears : "Get a wax job done professionally. Home jobs are so difficult as I lose my conviction as to WHY (why, god, why?!) this is a good idea half way through, and instead of a sexy little landing strip I end up with something that resembles Adolf Hitler's moustache on a bad day." ) I can honestly say that as of two seconds after I typed it I scrapped the desire and am much happier (and much more pain-free) for it.
Some of the items just make me laugh now.
This year the list will be amended. Wax jobs and tattoos will not feature, but laughing more, listening to new music, challenging myself, being proud of my family for exactly who they are warts and all, and riding that rodeo-bull bitch with an open mind, embracing the lows as well as the highs, savouring all the moments, learning the lessons, and actively and mindfully living life in such a way that when it all flashes before my eyes at some point in the future, it will be something I will enjoy watching again, one last time will feature strongly.
Somehow, there will always be the art . . .