When I was 19 and nearing the end of secretarial college – eager to enter the big, wide working world – my father helped me write my first CV. It had a mini-biography under my name which began something along the lines of, as a creative individual, with natural flair, curiosity and initiative…. I used that biog for years. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve considered what my Dad was really saying; arty, confident and nosey. Obviously, he meant it in a nice way and my husband would be the first to concede I am nosey but, personally, I like consider it to be observant. As a writer, I do think it’s important to be observant. How else do you come up with believable characters if you don’t constantly dip in and out of people’s behaviour; what motivates them? In a way, I think ‘naturally curious’ sums it up perfectly and it makes me realise that from a young age my Dad really did know me. He knew I was creative and he felt it important enough to mention on my CV when I was applying for boring PA jobs in equally dull and depressing offices. Perhaps he knew my creativity would shine through one day, which brings me onto the consistent piece of advice he proffered throughout life. ‘Whatever you do,’ he used to say, ‘I can’t ask more than if you try your best’. It has always been good advice which has stood me in good stead and has brought me to the conclusion that I am giving up on New Years’ resolutions because I feel I can confidently say that I always try my best.
Last year, I posted this photo on social media, depicting my resolutions for 2016:
Well, I have achieved them all. We now regularly eat meals made from leftovers (turkey curry last night), we still (and it’s a very tentative still) have a puppy, nearly an adult dog now (thank goodness!) and as much as I love him, I will NEVER raise a puppy again, and the biggest achievement of all was to finally achieve a publishing contract. Of course, I still have to wait to be published and receive the reviews, but I think it goes to show that trying your best really does pay off.
And so, next year, I am going to embrace doing what I’ve always done; trying my best. In September I gave myself the goal of losing a stone before Christmas and by Christmas Eve I’d lost 13lb. Not the full ticket but a jolly good show. I know I need to read more, I know I need create more writing time; give my OCD a rest and leave that pile of ironing because I should be writing at least 1,000 words a day. I know I need to spend less time scrolling through Facebook and spend more time playing with my children because in a blink of an eye they will be adults and flown from my nest. I don’t need to set a New Years’ resolution to do any of these things though; I just need to be more disciplined.
With that in mind, I am laying down the gauntlet to myself. I have had thrown at me a lot this year that it’s okay for you. I am not about to go into the context of this throw-away comment but it has made me question (yes, there’s that natural curiosity again), people’s motives for saying such a flippant and, frankly, sometimes hurtful quip and I have come to the conclusion that it is not okay to say it. None of us know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. What is an easy challenge to one individual may be an extremely hard challenge to another. With that in mind, we must always be kind. So – and this isn’t a NY resolution! – I am going to run a half-marathon in 2017, to raise money for my friend Emma. Not many people can say that their friendship bloomed over a burst cyst on their ovary but in my case that is exactly what happened. We were ward buddies in hospital when said cyst decided to explode and although my gynaecological issues have thankfully resolved themselves for the time being, Emma’s sadly haven’t. She has Ovarian Remnant Syndrome and is currently in hospital as I type. So rare is this condition, where an ovary she had removed has regrown, that there are no surgeons in the UK capable of carrying out an operation to remove the reformed ovary. She needs to be flown to the states to have the procedure carried out, something at this moment in time that the NHS won’t fund. You can read more about Emma’s plight here. Now, I don’t consider myself to be unfit but on the other hand, I’ve never ran that far before! But by stating it here, there’s no going back. So, expect me to be pestering you for donations, very soon 🙂
I had originally planned to begin this blog with like many, I suspect, I will be glad to see the back to 2016. I had, for many years, anticipated losing my Dad at a young age and thirty-six was pretty good in the end. However prepared I thought I was for coping with the loss of a father realistically old enough to be my grandfather, the reality was an entirely different experience; a very bittersweet one. Although, the one advantage of having a father so many generations removed from my own was his wisdom. He was often fond of drawing a negative experience into a positive one and telling me to look on the bright side. If I can gain anything positive from 2016, it is to expect the unexpected; you can’t prepare yourself any more than that.
I feel like I have become a proper grown-up this year. I am now without one parent and although I have been a parent for almost 14 years, I feel like my childhood is ebbing away. So many famous people have passed this year; Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, George Michael, Alan Rickman, Paul Daniels, Ronnie Corbett, Caroline Aherne Carrie Fisher, to name but a few. I didn’t know any of them personally, but so many played a significant part in my formative years that I can’t help but feel that a door is slowly closing on part of my life. And that is the one thing I am very sad about on this New Years’ Eve 2016; it is the last day I can use the present tense. My dad died this year. It feels like a final goodbye. From tomorrow it will be ‘last year’, the past tense; old news. As I have already said, however, if I have learnt anything this year it is to expect the unexpected and adapt. So, if like me, you are keen to give up New Years’ Resolutions too, I leave you with the words of JK Rowling, who I think sums it up pretty well:
I hope you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017